amaryllis flowers for the christmas table
Amaryllis flowers are perfect for Christmas with their rich colours and eyecatching style. Amaryllis flowers will transform a room in an instant. Here I will show you how to arrange them.
Amaryllis have replaced poinsettias as Britain's favourite Christmas plant and that's a great thing.
These huge South African bulbs make brilliant winter house plants and are the longest-lasting winter cut flower you can buy. As cut stems, treated right, they'll last nearly three weeks. And, if you take care of your bulbs, they will bloom again and again, putting on an extra inch in girth and producing an extra flower spike every year you keep them.
Taking care of cut amaryllis
To get the most out of cut amaryllis, choose carefully from the word go. Buy stems in tight bud and don't just shove them into the car any-old-how. Get them packed in a box or lay them out on a cushion of tissue paper on the back seat.
They are less vulnerable in bud, but even then the petals bruise easily. That also applies when you get them home. Don't lay the flowers out flat on a table – the stems can lie there but the flowers are best left hanging over the edge. Before you arrange them, insert a cane into their hollow stem.
This sounds like a palaver but it will double their vase life. Without internal support, the weight of the huge flower tends to break the stem as it ages. They will crash in half and the flowers will bruise. Stuffed with a cane, the stem can't bend.
When you push in the cane, it should jam just below the flower. With most stems, it will be held inside. Some have a wider diameter and the cane plops out as you lift the stem to put it into the vase. Just add a plug of cotton wool to hold the cane in place.
The cut stem ends also tend to split and curl like pigs' tails. This looks ugly and the stem will gradually collapse, so twist a thick rubber band around the very bottom to prevent cracks forming.
To get the best amaryllis for your Christmas decorations, order early from your florist. Try to get a white ('Mont Blanc' or 'Ludwig Dazzler') or one of the latest glamorous varieties such as 'Royal Velvet' or 'Tinto Night' in deep velvet red, several steps up from the more brazen pillarbox tones of 'Liberty'.
Do not arrange cut amaryllis on their own. Their tall straight stems can all too easily look formal and rigid. Mix them with silver birch branches or pussy willow to create a fuller, more generous arrangement.
Usually, you'd put your foliage branches in the vase first, but not with amaryllis. Their stems are soft and bruise easily as you poke them through woody branches. I always arrange my amaryllis first and then add the branches later for extra support. One last thing – deep red amaryllis can look a bit sombre on their own, so add dazzle to your vase with plenty of brightly-coloured or mirrored decorations and a string or two of white fairy lights.
Adapted from an article published in The Telegraph in 2007.
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