"Pay attention to the world." -- Susan Sontag
Red and Pink Amaryllis (1 of 3)

Red and Pink Amaryllis (1 of 3)

From “The Amaryllis” in The Canadian Horticulturalist, Vol. 22, No. 1 (January, 1899), published by The Fruit Growers Association of Ontario:

“The Amaryllis belongs to the bulbous class of plants, and under that name is generally included, for commercial purposes at any rate, the numerous family of Hippeastrums, as well as the Vallota and other species closely allied to the amaryllis proper, all of them belonging to the natural order of amaryllis.

“The first record we have of the introduction of amaryllis to European gardens gives the date as being early in the eighteenth century, about 1712, it being indigenous to the Cape of Good Hope, South Africa, where so many varieties of these beautiful plants have been introduced. These were herbaceous in their character, the foliage commencing to die down soon after the flowering season, followed by a period of rest…”

From “Amaryllis in the Maze” in The Story of Amaryllis and Other Verses (1908) by Viola Taylor:

In the dead winter comes a thought to me
Of Amaryllis in her maiden days,
Threading her way along the winding Maze
Of close-clipt yew and stunted myrtle tree —
A leafy fortress where her heart was free.

Green was her dress, with billowy skirts that made
A gentle rustle when the nights were still;
The misty dawn of many a hidden frill
Shot from the turnings of the puffed brocade
And mossy velvet bound with twisted braid.


As is often the case with my posts and their photographs, I went hunting for some new quotations about my subjects — in this case, I searched Google Books for title references to “amaryllis” to see what I could find. That’s where I discovered Viola Taylor’s book of poetry, The Story of Amaryllis and Other Verses, which includes nine poems (of 39 in the book) about amaryllis:

Amaryllis in the Maze
Amaryllis and the Faun 
The Defence of Amaryllis 
Amaryllis in the Faith
Amaryllis in the Shade
A Memory of Amaryllis 
The Passing of Amaryllis 
The Last of Amaryllis
Hic Jacet Amaryllis

After reading all nine, though, it wasn’t clear to me what (or who) “Amaryllis” in the poems referred to. Not that there’s anything wrong with that — poets do like to be obtuse, don’t they? — and most of the poems could be interpreted as metaphors for the life cycle of amaryllis plants and flowers, or maybe references to a person known to the author as Amaryllis, or even symbolic references to the Amaryllis of Greek mythology.

None of these possibilities satisfied me that much, so I tried some additional rabbit-hole digging on Taylor and her books — only to blonk my head against gated research sources (the scourge of the internet!) and very little else. While this may have suggested some (paywalled) academic interest in her, I then discovered that Viola Taylor also published using her married name from her first marriage (Viola Woods); her married name from her second marriage to British journalist and newspaper editor James Louis Garvin (so, Viola Garvin); that J. L. Garvin had a daughter also named Viola from his first marriage; and that that Viola Garvin wrote and published poetry too. All this of course made it very difficult to zero in on the correct “Viola” — even as I thought about paying for a couple of journal articles to learn more.

With the rabbit-hole having expanded into too many tributaries(!!), it seemed best to crawl back out and just enjoy the little book of poetry. It’s available for free, if you would like to take a look, here: The Story of Amaryllis and Other Verses.

This is the first of three posts featuring amaryllis from Oakland Cemetery’s gardens whose flowers were predominantly red, or — with a little extra light or by adding a bit of white — exhibited strong pink tones. I separated them from the mostly-magenta amaryllis (see Amaryllis, Mostly Magenta (1 of 2) and Amaryllis, Mostly Magenta (2 of 2)) for that reason, and it was quite a bit of fun to see how most of these could be rendered as deep red or intense pink by playing with Lightroom’s hue and saturation sliders for red and magenta. It was another kind of rabbit-hole I spent some time in, I suppose, before I settled on whether or not to finish these as red flowers or pink flowers, because any of them could be completely shifted from one color to the other, with no distortion.

Funny story (to me, anyway): as a tyke I dyslexically thought the word “magenta” was actually “magneta” (pronounced mag-KNEE-tah) — perhaps from some formative exposure to the Marvel comics Magneto character. It took me quite a few years to pronounce “magenta” correctly (luckily, it’s not a word you actually use a lot in daily conversation), and even now, half a century later, I still sometimes catch myself reading the word as “magneta” instead of “magenta.” Weird how things get stuck in your head and seem to stay there forever, eh?

Thanks for reading and taking a look!


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