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Milberger's Nursery and Landscaping
3920 North Loop 1604 E.
San Antonio, TX 78247

Open 9 to 6 Mon. through Sat.
and 10 to 5 on Sun.

Three exits east of 281, inside of 1604
Next to the Diamond Shamrock station
Please click map for more detailed map and driving directions.

Click here

The St. Joseph's Lily
(Hippeastrum x johnsonii)

In her book Through the Garden Gate (1990), published posthumously, the late Elizabeth Lawrence tells of famous early horticulturist, Henry Nehrling's unforgettable experience of seeing the St. Joseph's lily in a Houston garden:

"I love Dr. Henry Nehrling's description of seeing Johnson's amaryllis for the first time, on a April day in 1879. He had just come from the still-wintry streets of Chicago, and was wandering about in the flowery fragrance of Houston, Texas, "half dreaming, half in joyful rapture," when he saw two long, glowing strips of red in a distant garden. "In the background, surrounded by magnolias, there was a low house with roses and jasmine climbing over the veranda. On both sides of the broad path, leading to the house, there appeared broad beds with great, beautiful, trumpet-shaped flowers, which glistened and shone in the light of the southern sun as if strewn with gold dust. There was not a hundred, no, a thousand of the flowers, which rose about two feet high over the somewhat short strap-shaped leaves that came forth in thick masses. The flowers showed a broad white stripe on every flower-petal, and gave off a very lovely aromatic fragrance."

This experience had such a profound impact on Henry Nehrling that he changed occupations from being a minister to that of one of the South's foremost horticulturists and Amaryllis breeders.

The amaryllis is most likely my favorite flower on earth. Each year as a child I would receive a Christmas present fit for a budding horticulturist. One year my mother gave me a boxed Dutch amaryllis. I'll never forget the magic as the stalk emerged from the seemingly lifeless bulb. I was so impressed that each year I requested and got a new one. Eventually, the collection grew so large that I had to have a greenhouse to keep them in, as I realized the bulbs weren't cold hardy in northeast Texas. I also came to realize that there was some kind of amaryllis growing in many of the yards out in the country that did not freeze. It was spring blooming with more narrow flowers of bright red with white stripes inside them. I began to ask nurseries what it was, and where I could buy them. Nobody knew. Finally my grandmother secured some bulbs from a friend for both of us. I'm still multiplying that stock today.

It wasn't until I went to work for Texas A&M that I found out what the plant truly was. Unbelievably, it was Hippeastrum x johnsonii (formerly Amaryllis johnsonii), commonly referred to as Johnson's amaryllis or the St. Joseph's lily. It is acknowledged to be the first hybrid amaryllis ever produced. Typical of a first generation hybrid, it is very strong growing and sets little or no seed. It was developed by a watch maker named Johnson in England around 1790 as a cross between A. vittata and A. reginae. Without a doubt it is the finest amaryllis ever produced for garden culture in the South. The combination of the brilliant red flowers, the spicy fragrance, and its unbelievable toughness makes it a bulb without equal. Although many early nurseries and catalogs offered this plant, it is unfortunately no longer in the trade. It still thrives however throughout many gardens and cemeteries in the South.

Amaryllis and its relatives are of easy culture. Although not particular about conditions, they grow and multiply best in a well drained loose soil with at least part to full sun. Propagation is by division or bulb cuttage.