Amaryllis Centerpiece

November 19, 2015 Amaryllis 007


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.


February 12, 2015 Amaryllis 006


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.


November 19, 2015 Amaryllis 002


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? 


November 19, 2015 Amaryllis 001


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.


November 19, 2015 Amaryllis 003


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!

Woodland Gnome 2015


November 19, 2015 001


“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



Jewel Orchid In Bloom

January 22,2014 004

The world outside is covered in snow, but the Jewel Orchid has come into bloom inside on the window sill.    Once again, it has covered itself with sprays of delicate white flowers.

Jamiaru 23 prcjod 001

This beautiful orchid, Ludisia discolor, first came home as a casual impulse purchase  soon after we had moved to this home.  The long window sill in the living room was not yet home to a colony of plants, and I thought the little orchid, with such beautiful burgundy leaves, would brighten this window.

Jamiaru 23 prcjod 002

The foliage of Jewel Orchid holds this beautiful color year round.

I had not yet seen Jewel Orchid in bloom, but fell in love with the foliage.  If memory serves, the little 4″ pot was  among the display of flowers  right inside the door at Trader Joes.  I chose it, tucked it into the shopping cart, and headed off to the banana display.

And this plant would be a welcome member of the houseplant family if it never bloomed. 

Much like a Coleus or a Rex Begonia, it is colorful enough when not in bloom to hold interest.  Large striped leaves and burgundy stems grow luxuriantly all year round.

Jamiaru 23 prcjod 003

Rose of Sharon shrubs and a hazel tree growing just past the window offer some afternoon shade during the summer. Jewel Orchid prefers medium to low light, and should never be subjected to strong direct sunshine.


The flower scapes begin growing in late November or December, promising bloom in the weeks ahead.  It takes a long time for them to grow, and then for the individual flowers to finally begin to open.

There is a long season of bloom, with new scapes forming along the way, before the flowers dry and wither in early summer.    Even dried, the flowers hold their form.  It is a sad day when we must begin to cut the faded flower scapes away.

January 22,2014 003

For at least the first year, I simply allowed this little orchid to grow in the nursery pot in which it came.  It gives the impression, as do many orchids, of enjoying a snug fit in the pot.  The following Thanksgiving weekend, we had an unusually warm day.  We had opened the window behind this window sill a crack before heading out for the day. Later, in closing the window that evening, our beautiful Jewel Orchid somehow jumped from the sill and landed in the floor- hopelessly broken to bits.

I was upset, but bit my tongue and headed to the garage for a fresh nursery pot and fresh potting soil.  I gathered up all of the broken bits, dipped them in a bit of rooting hormone, and gently buried them in fresh soil.  After watering both pots, and expressing our deep apologies, we left both pots in the windowsill, side by side, and hoped for the best.  Within a day or so we brought home the larger, oval pot you see in the photos, and plunked both 4″ nursery pots into this larger one to improve appearances.January 22,2014 006

This orchid appreciates a humid environment. I believe it was actually happiest while growing in the nursery pots on a layer of gravel in this larger pot.  It lasted that way for another two years, without skipping a beat.

The “cuttings” rooted, and both pots of Jewel orchid bloomed that winter, effectively doubling our display from the previous year.  I’ve learned this orchid roots easily and is far more hardy than one might expect.

Although traditional culture directions indicate that it likes warmth and doesn’t respond well to drafts, it has managed just fine on this northwest facing window sill for a little more than 4 years now.

Finally, both little nursery pots were bursting with roots when I finally turned the orchids out and repotted both plants into the larger oval planter in early summer.  At the same time, I trimmed back some of the longer stems and stuck them into the soil as cuttings.  All rooted, and the plant continues to grow.  I almost expect to find cracks in the pot now that the orchid has grown so large, and know it is time to pot up once again.

This caladium is thriving across the room from the orchids.  We must have enough plants in the room to keep the humidity at acceptable levels for our Jewel Orchid.

This Caladium is thriving across the room from the orchids. We must have enough plants in the room to keep the humidity at acceptable levels for our Jewel Orchid.

I’m reluctant because the orchid loves this spot, and the windowsill won’t support a larger pot.  I will have to find another good spot for the parent orchid,and start a new plant in the old pot from cuttings, to continue on in this corner of the window.

A terrestrial orchid, Ludisia, grows on the forest floor in its native Burma, Indonesia and Malaysia.  Although they prefer high humidity, Ludisia are  not particularly thirsty.  There is no drainage hole in this pot, so I water infrequently and lightly.  I begin giving a dilute feeding or orchid fertilizer in early autumn, and continue giving that once or twice a month until the bloom is past its peak.

Cane Begonias, also growing near the orchid, help maintain humidity in the living room.

Cane Begonias, also growing near the orchid, help maintain humidity in the living room.

Since I have a grouping of orchids in this area of the room humidity is perhaps a little higher than it might be.

This has turned out to be an excellent impulse purchase, and has allowed me to learn to love a new genus of plant.  Rooted cuttings can be found from time to time wherever orchids and houseplants are sold.  The cuttings are unassuming, and might be overlooked, except for the beautiful leaf.

Cane Begonias can also be enjoyed as much for their leaves as for their beautiful flowers.  This photo, taken today, shares their beautiful winter bloom with you.

Cane Begonias can also be enjoyed as much for their leaves as for their beautiful flowers. This photo, taken today, shares their beautiful winter bloom with you.

Should you see one, I would encourage you to take a chance and purchase a Jewel Orchid. For a very small investment, this very tough and easy to grow orchid will fill your home with winter flowers for many years to come.

All Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

Snow and frigid temperatures outside, orchids inside.

Snow and frigid temperatures outside, orchids inside.

Jewel Orchid Care

Appreciation For Windows  (Forest Garden)

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