The green shoot on the amaryllis I won in the garden club raffle, that I thought was an emerging leaf, has turned out to be a flower bud. It is such a long time since I grew an amaryllis that I'd forgotten what order they did things in. Now I have one I suddenly see amaryllis everywhere, even in the Marks and Spencer food hall alongside the Christmas chocolates and Prosecco, and it's clear that flowers before leaves is the normal order of events.
The bud is one of a cluster, still held tightly together and pointing upwards so that I can't yet see how many flowers it contains. The flower stem is lengthening by the day after a slow start, and must be six inches tall by now, while at its base a second bud is emerging from the top of the bulb. Now I am starting to get my eye in I can see how from the first moment it appears it is subtly fatter than a leaf would be. At the very bottom of the new bud, just clear of the bulb itself, is what might finally be a leaf. Although a third flower stalk would be even more exciting.
None of this has anything to do with my efforts as a gardener, beyond the bare fact that I gave the bulb some water while managing not to let it rot. The embryonic blooms were packed away inside the bulb when I got it, all down to the efforts of some (probably Dutch) grower. The challenge for me will be to persuade the plant to ever do it again. I shall have to ask the bulb merchant who donated it to the raffle the next time I see him, would it prefer clivia food, nerine food, agapanthus food, or something else? And does it ever want to be dried out, or once in growth would it rather keep its roots all year round like a Crinum? He would probably rather I didn't ask so many questions and simply bought another one next year, but he is an amiable chap.
Meanwhile the day was so cold and raw that I couldn't face attempting to garden. The Systems Administrator went out briefly to move more of the fallen ash from the far end of the meadow, and clear my bits of overhanging hazel branches and dead rhododendron off the lawn, but I stayed by the Aga writing Christmas cards, only venturing out to go to the post office and in the hope that the Chatto gardens or Budgens might sell Christmas cards, since I was half a dozen short. They didn't, and the post office counter in the garage had a sign up saying the Post Office was closed until further notice. That's rural life nowadays, driving two miles to a post office that turns out not to exist any more.
Wherever Mr Fluffy disappeared to the other day I think it was definitely an error, and not a prelude to moving out, since he spent most of today lying on the new cat bed on top of the cupboard. It has an elliptical base of faux sheep skin, just the right size for a largish cat to fill it completely, and a rim like a squashed, furry life belt, low enough for the cat to look over it but tall enough to curl up against. We've put an old wicker cat bed at the other end of the cupboard, but on a cold day like today that still left one cat over, as Mr Fidget didn't get a bed and sat staring enviously at his brothers. I am going to have to buy another fake sheepskin, and the Systems Administrator has had to find a new place for the electrical chargers that used to live on the cupboard.