Mark Ballard

Spring brings new hope for a reluctant amaryllis

Since childhood, I have always been fascinated with plants and blooms. To me, there is something exciting about watching something grow and produce beautiful blossoms.

My interest in plants began years ago, when I was a child. Since then, my thumb has gradually become a little greener each season.

My grandmother had a lot to do with the green coloring of my thumb. She had one herself, and unselfishly shared it with me. During the warmer months, you would always find her outside tinkering with all of her flowers, plants, shrubs and trees. She taught me the art of “rooting” and how to care for and maintain all kinds of plants. I loved being outside with her.

Her porches were virtual greenhouses, with terra cotta pots perfectly lined up like tin soldiers.

Each one overflowed with something green and blooming. We always started our annual planting assignments in the spring. And, for that reason, I always think of my grandmother at this special time of year.

Recently, I had cause to doubt the magical powers of my green thumb. I planted a large amaryllis bulb to force during the cold winter months. I do this almost every year, and I love to watch the dull and unattractive bulb produce such large and colorful blossoms. This one produced healthy green leaves immediately, and you could almost see them grow a half inch or so every day.

A month turned into six weeks, and my amaryllis bulb had the largest and most healthy foliage you have ever seen.

Granny would have been so proud of me. I had to even stake the leaves up to keep them from falling over. But, there was no sign of a bud. Every other day as I watered it, I carefully peeked into the center of the plant to see if a bloom was coming.

To this day, one never came. I don’t know what could have possibly happened with my bulb.

Luckily, springtime came even though my amaryllis bloom didn’t. That’s what I love so much about spring. It softly nudges all plants and trees out of their long winter hibernation. From brown bare branches, the breath of spring brings new growth. And from certain trees, blooms also come. Right now, this process is happening everywhere you look in our town. So, I sat my potted, bloomless bulb outside to see if spring could work her magic on it. As my grandmother used to tell me, “Have patience! Time will tell!”

Our world famous Cherry Blossom Festival officially begins tomorrow. For more than a week we will celebrate their beauty in our town. Every year about this time, all of us locals get a little antsy praying that the blooms will come on time. This year, it appears to be timed just perfectly. Over the past few days, the cherry blossoms have been popping out like popcorn everywhere, up and down the streets of our town. It is a glorious sight!

Our city is not only blessed to have more cherry blossom trees than anyone else, but also a colorful array of other trees that bloom. There is a dogwood tree I can see clearly from my kitchen windows. That did not happen by accident. I planted it there after much consideration. Since I spend so much time in my kitchen, I knew I would always be able to enjoy it from there. You see, it’s a special dogwood tree.

Someone gave it to me when my daddy passed away almost seven years ago. With it came a note that read, “I hope you enjoy watching this tree grow and bloom as much as your daddy did you!” And, I have. Season after season, it has become a little larger, and this year it is a pretty good sized tree and filled with blooms. I never pass through my kitchen that I don’t think of my daddy and the person that gave me such a wonderful and lasting gift.

This year I have had all kinds of bushes I couldn’t wait to see bloom. You may remember that my wife presented me with a camellia bush I had looked for and wanted for years. I have watched it for the last few months, patiently waiting for the first bloom to open. When it did, I smiled. Now it is in full bloom. See, that’s another gift that will keep giving for many years to come.

So as spring officially blows in this weekend coinciding with our famous Cherry Blossom Festival, take some time to really enjoy all the beauty and gifts with which our city has been so richly blessed. Open your eyes, go outside and look around. The gift of springtime is there waiting for you. That’s exactly what my grandmother used to tell me. Who knows, maybe my amaryllis bulb will bloom after all.

More FROM MARK

Ÿ Mark will be at the Mulberry Street Arts and Crafts Festival on March 28-29. Visit him at his booth both days, where he will introduce his new design for spring on T-shirts and aprons. His cookbooks and other merchandise also will be available. He will be glad to personalize any purchases.

Ÿ Check out Mark’s Web site, www.markballard.com, for current projects, recipes and lots of other fun stuff for spring and cherry blossom time.

Ÿ “The Mark Ballard Show” is on Cox On-Demand.

Ÿ Mark is on www.macon.com 24 hours a day. Videos, columns and articles are featured.

Mark Ballard’s column runs each week in The Telegraph. Send your questions to P.O. Box 4232, Macon, GA, fax them to (478) 474-4390 or call (478) 757-6877.

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