The rewards of research

My website has pictures to accompany each of my articles. Since I am an amateur photographer as well as writer, I enjoy having an outlet for what I “capture.”

Surrounded by birds and plants (not to mention loving pets), I am delighted when I can share part of what I see.

I stubbornly refuse to get a cellphone (insisting I lack the time needed to learn how to use the danged thing) while downloading from my camera (but, yes, I have moved into the digital age) causes the pictures to disappear. Consequently, I do a lot of back- and forthing to get prints made. (I’m sure I have enough for decades of columns.)

What I feared I lacked, however, was shots of the amaryllis in enough varying stages to accompany all the columns I wrote on Bill and his insight into Al-Anon. I kept learning more and so writing more until he moved across the country. I didn’t expect to hear after he left and could only wish him well starting a new life.

I believe I ended up doing five columns. Were there even that many stages to the growth of an amaryllis? Whatever pictures I had came, in this case, before I wrote any of the articles.

So when I saw plants marked down after Christmas, I tossed one in my shopping basket. Oh, I know the old ones don’t die. They might even occasionally flower but most, as I write in February, sit in their pots with rangy green leaves flopping over like some bunnies’ ears.

Checking, I find this is a native of South Africa that also does very well on our west coast which boasts a similar climate. It does produce leaves but at a separate time from the flowers. (That required a second look. ‘Tis true.) Those leaves will die back and then the plant goes to sleep. Once it pulls out of its dormancy, then one can look for new flowers. So, in my case, soon the droopy leaves will be heading back to the attic or is this the plant that really wants a dark bedroom for its sleep? In that case, off to the basement.

While they reproduce slowly, obviously they don’t mind cross-breeding for one can find them in shades of deep red (like mine), white, cream, peach, magenta plus stripes and other variations of their centers and/or edges.

I read further that the name comes from a shepherdess in Virgil and means “to sparkle” and/or from “amerella” for the bitterness of the bulb. That may be the only time someone decided to taste it though, certainly, most plants do end up being useful in some kind of medicinal way for our ailing mankind. I gather this is the exception.

The U.S. National Arboretum has a good website on how to keep these growing year after year. They say nothing about having it in the dark but suggest it spend the summer outdoors before entering that dormant stage. Something else to try!

As I write I recall the pleasure these plants gave my father who would receive one every Christmas. It sat on the dining table as does mine. Only Dad kept a yardstick nearby, along with a pad and pen (as I do), and measured its dramatic growth at least once a day. That anything could grow so fast absolutely flabbergasted him. (I’ve thought of that so often when looking at some of my weeds.)

I was too busy in February measuring the snow to turn to a flower. But, that said, I am obviously in awe of its magnificent wonder for I stop to appreciate its beauty countless times a day. As more flowers open (I had seven), the sight just gets better and better. (A pretty good deal for five dollars!)

And, yes, I do know I now have more pictures than I could ever use.


Susan Crossett has lived outside Cassadaga for more than 20 years. A lifetime of writing led to these columns as well as two novels. “Her Reason for Being” was published in 2008 with “Love in Three Acts” due this month. Information on all the Musings, the books and the author can be found at