Thursday, August 26, 2010

Surprising Beauty

Oh boy, was I ever surprised!  I knew that one of the common names for Lycoris squamigera was "Surprise Lily," but when one cropped up in my garden this year, I was stunned speechless by this clear pink beauty. Right in the midst of the recent month-long drought and heat cycle, this plant was developing right under my nose and then it exploded in color while everything else in the garden was looking tired and worn.

 I can't recall now that I have ever planted or purchased a Surprise Lily. I'll admit that I do recall considering the purchase of a Lycoris bulb last Fall, but I also recall rejecting the idea because I'd have had to take out a 2nd mortgage to pay for it since it seemed to be priced by its weight in gold. I even missed seeing the daffodil-like foliage that must have been right there in front of my eyes during the spring and early summer. Maybe I thought it was a clump of daffodils and overlooked the lack of bloom. Regardless, someone obviously has snuck into my garden in the dead of night and planted a delayed present for me. It vaguely worries me that this pink alien plant has been placed into my garden without my knowledge, and I guess I need either a louder dog or I need to install tripwires and claymores in my garden to prevent a recurrence of the vandalism. It certainly can't be that my memory might be showing its age. Nah, I must have had a surprise benefactor. 

For those who haven't grown one yet, there isn't a much easier plant for Kansas.  Buy a large bulb, plant it, forget about it, and up it will come to brighten a dreary August day.  Lycoris is supposed to be adapted to regions with wet springs and long summer droughts and if that doesn't describe the Flint Hills, I don't know what does. The Surprise Lily is also known by a number of other quite descriptive names, my favorites of which are "Resurrection Lily" and "Naked Ladies."  The first of those names seems very appropriate since the foliage of this member of the Amaryllis family sprouts and grows in the spring, dies in June, and then the tall stalk and 4 inch trumpet-shaped flowers appear in just a few days in August.  The second name, "Naked Ladies," obviously refers to the lack of leaves around the solo stems when the flowers appear. Gardeners aren't generally a group of hopeless reprobates, but we do have our little giggles, don't we?

I do have one bias about Surprise Lilies that may surprise you.  Recently, every day as I go to work I pass a yard with a couple of beds filled with nothing but Surprise Lilies (think how differently that sounds than if I said I passed a bed of Naked Ladies).  The in-mass effect of these lilies in the bed doesn't have the effect on me that clumps of Surprise Lilies spread out among other perennials and shrubs do, so I think I'm going to spread mine out in clumps over my beds.  Better to have a little less of a good thing than to overdo it.

I've got to go out this Fall to find more of these bulbs to spread around my garden.  But first, does anyone have any suggestions regarding what I should tell Mrs. ProfessorRoush when the credit card bill shows up in September with multiple entries for "naked ladies?"

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