As an avid gardener, Susan Metzger gets a ton of plant catalogs in the mail.

Late last fall, as she was looking through some of those catalogs, an amaryllis bulb caught her eye. The bulb had been dipped in colored wax. It was priced at $30 or so and supposedly would bloom indoors during the colder months without a container.

“I was fascinated. I was like, ‘Gary, we have to get one of these for your mom,’” Metzger told her husband, Gary Hauschulz.

Then it dawned on her: “Wax. I use wax. Lots of wax! Maybe I could dip them and paint them,” the batik artist thought.

Metzger did a bit of amaryllis research online and ordered bulbs, including one that had been dipped in wax so she could take it apart.

It was the start of an unexpected art project that began with Christmas in mind and that has continued into recent days as Valentine’s Day approaches.

Hauschulz, who also is an artist, usually makes original Christmas cards by hand each year. For Christmas 2020 Metzger suggested, “what if we send out amaryllis?”

Those who received a bulb could admire the artwork while waiting for their bulb to shoot up stems. Besides, in 2020 all anyone has been doing in 2020 is waiting, Metzger said.

And then, when each amaryllis unfolds its blooms, it would be “happiness,” she said.

So Metzger and Hauschulz began making art pieces out of the amaryllis bulbs Metzger hand-dipped in wax.

They created collages, batik images and painted “all kinds of stuff,” Metzger said.

There were little penguins for a nephew, a Scottish theme for a friend, sunflowers for someone else. “I didn’t get bored with them,” Metzger said. “It was so much fun.”

The couple packed up the bulbs and sent them to friends and family.

They even took a number of the bulbs to The Blue Pig Gallery in Palisade to sell, and the bulbs became a hit with patrons.

“It’s been fantastic. We couldn’t keep them in stock before Christmas,” said Kay Crane, gallery director for The Blue Pig.

Crane had read about wax-encased bulbs, but hadn’t seen one until Metzger brought hers to the gallery.

“They’re lovely even without the blossom,” Crane said. “It’s a real pick-me-up. They’re so dramatic.”

“She gave one to me and it bloomed beautifully,” Crane said. It’s the “perfect mid-winter plant.”

Fortunately, Metzger and Hauschulz didn’t stop at Christmas and have continued to create the bulbs, recently delivering more to The Blue Pig in advance of Valentine’s Day.

Three were sold before Metzger could even get the bulbs to the gallery, and Crane expected the rest of the bulbs, which are priced at $38 each, to sell quickly.

As enjoyable as it has been to discover and create a different kind of art piece, it has been even more fun to hear from the people who have the bulbs, Metzger said.

“We have a family Zoom and everybody has theirs,” she said.

The colors and sizes of the amaryllis flowers are different and amazing, and “they’ve just surprised people over and over again,” Metzger said.

Hauschulz even received two thank you notes from one friend, the first after the bulb arrived and the second after it bloomed.

“It has been so rewarding knowing that people have enjoyed them so much,” said Metzger, who is experimenting with cutting the wax off of the bulbs and getting the bulbs to grow so they can be salvaged for other years.

The bulbs have been so successful and so popular, “I think I’ll do it again next year,” she said.