Friday, December 16, 2011

Not Your Grandmother's Amaryllis

Before we dive into the world of these stunning "new" amaryllis, let's talk for just a minute about names.  While I have used the word "amaryllis" in the title and again in the first sentence, it's because I'm writing for you, the gardening public, and not because it is necessarily accurate.  In fact, amaryllis has become the accepted common name for a group of bulbs technically called Hippeastrum.  These are the bulbs that we all know and love as the Christmas bloomers, often with giant red, pink, or white blooms (or multiple variations on that theme).  The truth is that Amaryllis (capital "A" and italicized) is the name of an entirely different genus (group) of plants and is not at all what it is sold in stores around the world at Christmas time.  That said, we all refer to these holiday beauties as "amaryllis", so in keeping with what we all understand, I'm using the same terminology.

The amaryllis I'd like to introduce you to are a newer group of bulbs with extremely unusual and exotic blooms with often spidery petals and an almost otherworldly appearance.  These unusual blooms come from a species known as Hippeastrum cybister, pictured below in a print made around the time of the species' discovery in South America.

In the past two decades, hybridizers have been working with Hippeastrum cybister and crossing it with other species and hybrids to create an entirely new group of bulbs known as the Cybister Group or Cybister Hybrids.  Some of the best include stunning new introductions such as:

Hippeastrum 'Evergreen':

Hippeastrum 'Rio Negro':

 Hippeastrum 'Merengue':

And one of the most unusual of all, Hippeastrum 'Double Merengue', a full double-flowered form of the variety pictured above.

So there you have it!  Some new, unusual and out-of-the-ordinary amaryllis to add to your Christmas collection.  You may not find these in every garden center you walk into, but they are becoming more widely available through various online retailers and a quick Google search should help you locate several nurseries and bulb suppliers who offer them for sale.  I hope this post finds everyone well and enjoying the holiday season and I wish you the very best in the coming year!

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