You know the weather has shifted when I’m inspired to make a living centerpiece for our dining room.
We enjoyed watching our Amaryllis grow so much last winter, that I decided to start one early enough to enjoy over the holidays this year.
The Great Big Greenhouse, near Richmond, carried some of the largest Amaryllis bulbs that I’ve ever seen . They also have the largest selection of varieties I’ve found, anywhere. Some of the ‘specialty’ varieties normally only found in catalogs, with exorbitant price tags, were right there in their bulb display at grocery store prices.
And so I selected a huge Amaryllis bulb last weekend, and four tiny ferns, for this arrangement. A bulb this large would be expected to give several stalks of flowers.
The ceramic bowl has no drainage. It is much deeper and wider than the Amaryllis needs, which leaves room for a couple of inches of aggregate in the bottom to afford drainage for the roots. I’ve used a fairly coarse pea gravel to leave pockets for air or water. Use only new, good quality potting soil for a project like this. I’m using a lightweight mix of mostly peat and perlite.
Amaryllis need only their roots in soil. The ‘collar’ of the bulb, where its leaves emerge, should be visible above the soil line. In addition to the four tropical ferns, I’ve planted a tiny Strawberry Begonia and a tiny tender fern division, both rescued from an outside pot. The soil is covered with sheets of moss lifted from an oak’s roots in the upper garden.
Maybe it is an odd idiosyncrasy, but I don’t like looking at potting soil in a living arrangement. Who wants to look at a dish filled with dirt in the middle of their dining table, anyway?
Rarely do I leave a potted plant ‘unfinished,’ without at least a mulch of fine gravel over the soil anymore. It is easier to water neatly, the plant needs less water, the plant stays cleaner outside in the rain, and it just looks better to me.
Since moss has no roots, it won’t grow down into the potting soil. It will continue to grow only in the thin film of soil where it is already anchored. Press it firmly into the surface of the potting soil as you place patch beside patch. I drop fine stones around the edges to help meld these pieces together, and to help retain moisture around the patches of moss.
Moss will live indoors so long as it remains hydrated. You can mist it, or pour a little water over it every few days. Keeping the mix evenly moist keeps the moss and ferns happy. Watering occasionally with diluted tea (no cream or sugar, please) makes the moss happy, too, as it appreciates soil on the acidic side.
When I eventually break this arrangement up, in a few months, the moss should be transplanted back outside. It can also be ground up and used to start new colonies of moss, even if it appears dead at that point.
This is a simple project which gives weeks of pleasure. It would make a nice hostess gift over the holidays.
If you’re ever tempted to order the glitzy Amaryllis gifts from your favorite catalog, consider making your own instead for a fraction of the cost. Even a non-gardener can enjoy an Amaryllis bowl such as this one.
Simply add a little water, and enjoy!
“If nature has made you for a giver,
your hands are born open,
and so is your heart;
and though there may be times when your hands are empty,
your heart is always full, and you can give things out of that-
-warm things, kind things, sweet things-
-help and comfort and laughter-
-and sometimes gay, kind laughter is the best help of all.”
Frances Hodgson Burnet