Sunday, December 25, 2011

And In Christmas News...

Early on this Christmas morning, while the family is still asleep, I thought I'd share a bit of the week's good news with all of you.  I want to thank each and every one of you for following along!  Gardener Cook (formerly Garden Notes) will officially reach 25,000 views before year's end!  This is no small feat and is thanks entirely to you.  No readers, no blog.  It's that simple.

As I have alluded to in many Facebook posts and the occasional blog post, I've been wanting to share some exciting news for several weeks, but was unable to until the official word came and I was 100% sure it was going to happen.  I didn't want to jinx it!  So today, I can tell you with a great sense of pride (and a certain amount of relief!) that my first book proposal has been accepted by Timber Press and that I will be spending much of 2012 writing and photographing for a new book tentatively titled In A Southern Garden--Lessons From 20 Years of Gardening in the South.  This is only a working title and may (will, likely) change, but you never know.  Regardless, the proposal has met with all levels of approval, has been officially signed off on and I will have a contract in hand the first week of January!

On the same day--almost at the same time, in fact--a second project that I had been approached about working on also came through.  If all of the stars align and we can work out any "conflict of interest" concerns, I may actually be working on two books in 2012!  The second would be a distinct departure from my gardening world, but an easy step into my second passion--food!  (There was some logic behind my changing up the blog earlier this year!)  I can't say much more than that for now, as many of the details still have to be worked out, but keep your fingers crossed and perhaps by year's end I'll have some further news on this exciting second project.

I hope this brief post finds all of you well this holiday season!  Regardless of which holiday you celebrate, I hope it brings you joy, happiness and peace.  From my garden to yours, Merry Christmas and I'll see you in 2012!

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!