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Helen Chesnut's Garden Notes: Outdoor amaryllis flowers fuel for optimism

If there’s one mindset that most gardeners live by, it is hope

An email last month sent me back in time to a small outdoor gathering of friends. It was June. As we chatted and nibbled on mango slices, I glanced across the lawn and spotted a pot bearing an unlikely plant — a blooming amaryllis. The thick flower stalk topped by a cluster of imposing red flowers was joined by a few little offset bulbs with their shiny green leaves.

The container’s owner had not fussed over the plant. It was kept in the garage over the winter and brought back outside and watered in the spring.

I remembered too a potted Red Lion amaryllis that I’d missed bringing back indoors after its summer outside. It survived the winter and re-grew in the spring.

The bulb’s survival would have been unlikely in this winter’s prolonged period of freezing weather. And now I’m wondering about the survival of an “outdoor” amaryllis that Linda wrote to me about last month.

“In most years, I have an amaryllis in our home at Christmas. A number of years ago the amaryllis bulb was dumped in our side flower bed, where it grew for at least two years as just a lovely green plant with no flowers. I left it there, as it was bright green and trying so hard to live.

“This spring, I saw the green growth again and one day (June 19, 2021) I was surprised to see a red bud with the shiny green leaves. I was delighted. Within a week two lovely red flowers opened.

“I think of that amaryllis as my little miracle plant. It has brought me such pleasure.”

Linda’s outdoor amaryllis bulb is snuggled up against a short rock wall edging the driveway. The wall is unfinished, still topped with concrete. The plant was otherwise unprotected, but the wall may have served as a sort of warmth reservoir and buffer against cold winds.

It will be more than a minor miracle if Linda’s amaryllis bulb survives to grow and bloom again after the onslaughts of this cold winter, but if there’s one mindset that most gardeners live by it is hope.

William Dam Seeds. This 73-year old Canadian family seed company has long been one of my favourites. The large selection includes European vegetables and award winners like the Fleuroselect flower varieties I have always found to be superb.

Among the new vegetables in the 2022 catalogue, the one that stood out for me is Little Napoli, a compact Roma tomato that I grown in pots on my patio. Now I can access the seeds from a source that I order from regularly.

Little Napoli yields surprising numbers of substantial, oval tomatoes for the small size of the sturdy plants. I’ve harvested enough of the fruits at a time to make a nice batch of tomato sauce. I grow extra plants for friends with container gardens on decks and balconies, because I know they will produce well.

More new and interesting listings:

* Mascotte, a short pod filet bean bred in France for growing in planters.

* Eliance, a new broadleaf endive (escarole) and Benefine, one of the best frilly endives I’ve grown. I relish these beautiful green leafy vegetables for the flavour they add to salads and for their digestive benefits.

* Miami, a carrot I grew for the first time last year. The seeds produced a profusion of strong, healthy top growth and beautifully shaped, bright orange carrots earlier than my other varieties.

* Apricotta, a new cosmos in shades of blush with yellow and pink accents.

* Baby Orange, a new Fleuroselect award winning nasturtium with intense orange flowers against dark green foliage on compact plants ideal for edging and growing in containers.

* Profusion Red & Yellow, a Fleuroselect Gold Medal zinnia awarded for the blooms’ attractive colour change from red and gold through rose and salmon as the flowers fade.

* Blue Splash, a trailing lobelia that adds airy blue and white accents to container flowers. The plants are early and long to flower, blooming well into autumn in my container plantings.

* Delft Blue, my favourite viola. I’ve never seen one so vividly lovely. Each deep blue and white flower is like a work of art. And yes, it’s a Fleuroselect Gold Medal winner.