When I saw a picture of the amaryllis bulb, as big as a pomegranate, as pale as parsnip, posted on Jon Carloftis’s Instagram feed, I knew I had to have it. To think that I could own the giant, splashy flowers that grew out of it, that I could watch them bloom year after year, at Christmas time, no less, was just too glorious to resist.
It would be for sale at Rockcastle River Trading Company’s Christmas Open House. And baby, that was terrific news indeed.
If you haven’t been to this charming gift store, complete with gorgeous gardens, you’re missing out. The writers of “Southern Living” have actually likened it to Eden, and it’s only about a 25-minute drive from London.
I have a hunch, though, that most of you have been before. And so, you’ve met gracious Lucille. And her son Jon, who went to New York City and became a fantastic success there designing rooftop gardens before opting to move back to Kentucky.
When I indicated I “follow” Jon’s Instagram feed, I’m downplaying my level of commitment a bit; I’m actually quite addicted. Jon Carloftis has a way of making Kentucky feel like the most luxe place on the planet, whether he’s writing about riding with his hunting club, walking with his Labrador retrievers, decorating a fireplace mantle, or hobnobbing with the rich and famous in their horse barns.
He also happens to be arrestingly handsome.
In fact, my girlfriend Jessica and I joke that Jon Carloftis and Jesus Christ have much more in common than just their initials. At least to the women of the Somerset Garden Club, Jon is Jesus.
Anyway, being firmly in love with J.C. and then after seeing that amaryllis bulb, I made my way to Rockcastle County.
I was alone because I hadn’t had luck in recruiting any of my girlfriends to attend with me. This has happened to me before, too. For some reason, RRTC is a hard sell to women in their 30s, unless they’re attending with their moms.
However, to women in their 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s, “Southern Living” got it right: this really is their Eden.
I walked up the stone front steps, decorated with planters stuffed with holly berries, magnolia, and pine, and opened the door to the gift shop. The atmosphere was positively jubilant, the space packed with well-coiffed and -heeled ladies wearing sweater-ponchos, wraps and fashion scarves. It was like being in a room full of Julie Andrewses.
Aside from chatting and tucking into gourmet cupcakes, everyone was holding things they couldn’t wait to buy: bars of soap shaped like horseshoes, leather dog collars, cowbell wreaths, picture frames, candles, and, of course, J.C.’s sleek Louisville-made pottery.
You know when you walk into a place and your wallet starts singing? In the back of your mind, you know if you answer its Siren song, you’ll be dashed against the credit card rocks, but you don’t really care?
That’s how I felt the minute I stepped into this place.
I picked up a pinecone, priced at $6, and knew that my life would be better if only I could own 30 of them. I managed to pick one up before being gently moved forward by the crush of Julies behind me, who were anxious to make the rounds.
But that was OK. I was here for one reason only: my amaryllis. I glanced desperately around at first, worried that the bulbs might have already sold out. It’s then I made eye contact with Jon himself, who was standing calmly in the middle of the fray, looking like Robert Redford post-safari.
Confirming that I haven’t graduated from being the girl I was at age 14, I offered him an awkward, longing stare, feeling acne start to bubble on my skin. Luckily, his gaze had immediately moved to the door, where more women poured in.
I slapped myself with my pinecone and moved on, finally seeing where the buckets of amaryllis were. They were being sold by Three Toads Farm (based in Winchester, Ky.), who had staff on hand to educate the shoppers. A few of the bulbs had already been planted in lovely terra cotta pots, which had somehow been aged so they looked straight from a moody Tuscan portico.
I saw one whose amaryllis had already bloomed and knew she had to be mine. She was a true queen, tall, blood-red and unapologetic. Then, with my wallet warbling, I picked up another pot filled with a flurry of paperwhites and got in line to make my purchases.
So that’s how Anastasia the Amaryllis came to live in our home. She’s slightly high maintenance (she droops when she pouts), but she’s worth it.
So, thanks for the beauty, Dreamy Jon. And reminding us all how lucky we are to be in Kentucky.
Rockcastle River Trading Company is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Saturday.