There’s a study that says those who decorate early for Christmas just might be happier. I’m not sure how they truly measure these things, but I’m pretty happy and I started being even happier a few years ago.

While not being a big fan of winter, I do like Christmas. I like the little lights that brighten the night. I like walking by our tree and having memories evoked as a meaningful ornament catches my eye. And being a big Amy Grant fan, I never tire of hearing her sing some of my favorite holiday songs.

Last year, I had my tree up and decorated in late October. We had the grandkids for the weekend and they turned a chore I used to hate into something rather fun. Seeing their excitement as they unboxed each ornament was like Christmas morning all over again. This year, we had them the first weekend in November and yes, the tree was up and decorated before they went back home.

There’s something about the holiday season that makes most people feel a little kinder, gentler, more generous, and overall good. So why not experience that for as long as possible? I’m not advocating year round Christmas decorating, but if early decorating can have this effect, why not do it? It just might enhance Thanksgiving, making us even more aware of blessings to be thankful for.

Another element of the Christmas season for many is the growing of an amaryllis bulb or two. If you want blooms for Christmas, it’s certainly not too early to pot them up for that. They’re in the big box stores now and every year it seems there’s a larger assortment of varieties to choose from, including the old standbys, ‘Red Lion’ and the striped ‘Minerva’.

To increase your chances of having an amaryllis bulb that performs well, check the bulb itself before buying, if possible. You’ll want the largest one you can find that feels very firm when you squeeze it. Check the top for signs of new green leaves emerging and if you see a fat flower bud just starting to appear, all the better.

This time of year, I always try to buy one that has growth just beginning, rather than inches already up. As the season progresses, bulb growth will continue, despite not being watered, so the later you wait, the more growth you may see. In the last weeks before Christmas, I’ve seen bulbs actually flowering inside their boxes, poor things.

Once you’ve selected your bulb, which likely comes with a container and growing medium, pot it up, making sure the top third or fourth of the bulb is showing when you’re finished. Water well, and then wait until you see it growing before beginning regular watering. Amaryllis like it on the dry side, so be sure you don’t keep it too wet, else the bulb may rot.

Depending on the variety of amaryllis you have, you may see a flower stalk appear first, and the foliage after, or vice versa. As the flower stalk stretches ever taller, keep in mind that it will become top heavy. A wire support goes a long way toward stabilizing the large bloom that eventually opens. Many years ago, I had one topple over and don’t you know, pot and all fell smack on top of the screen of the back of my digital camera and broke it. So, be warned.

Once growth begins, it takes an average of six weeks for full bloom. If you’re lucky, and your bulb is large enough, you may get two flower stalks before all is said and done. You may also see small spears of foliage appear at the outer edges of the bulb, which means it has produced an offset that will later be large enough to separate and grow on its own, if you keep the bulb year after year.

Keeping your amaryllis bulb after it’s finished its grand floral display couldn’t be easier. Treat it as you would any other houseplant by watering and feeding with a general purpose fertilizer. When it’s done blooming, it will begin forming next season’s flower deep within the bulb. Again, don’t overwater. When in doubt, hold off.

In the spring, after all danger of frost has passed, you can plant your amaryllis bulb outside, again keeping the top of the bulb exposed. Make sure it has good drainage and you’ve put it in a location that ideally gets at least six hours of sun a day. Grow it on and then dig it up just before frost in the fall. Store in a cool, dark location for about 4-6 weeks before potting it up and starting the whole bloom sequence over again.

If you don’t want to bother keeping your amaryllis bulbs from year to year, you can dispose of them, of course, but it seems like such a waste, as they just get better and better as they age and the bulbs grow ever larger over the years.

For those who’ve never grown an amaryllis, it couldn’t be easier. Try one this year and you might find that it will become a holiday tradition at your house, too.

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