The Wrong Lilies

The Wrong Lilies

Sunday, April 27, 2014


Awhile back, I wrote a bit entitled No More Crying Over Crinums, because I was thrilled that a particular clump of crinum had finally bloomed after a few years’ wait.  And indeed that particular crinum was, and is, lovely.   And we still love it.

However, to balance all that out, another variety that we grow, variety powellii album, Powell’s white for you and me, is one of the most vigorous plants we have ever grown, and we put two in an area where the conditions were very welcoming for it, perhaps too welcoming, and first thing you know, we had a Problem.  Yes, with a capital ‘P’!  The two bulbs between them took up a huge area, and one of them threatened our flowering quince.  Now flowering quince is a glorious plant that we have (almost) always had with us wherever we were and why we planted one of those crinum bulbs so near the quince we shall never know.  What we do know is that it took us four days of digging, and three of us and a six-foot pry bar to dig that clump up, and three of us with rope to remove it from the bed, and quite a bit of time to find a home (actually homes) for it.  The remaining clump of this variety is still in place and will remain there until possibly the end of time, because it would take a backhoe to remove it, so we have simply arranged to accommodate it.   To be fair, this powellii album is pure white and fragrant and blooms freely.

The last bit of accommodation came day before yesterday, when I took a spade and dug around the smaller variety, the one that inspired my previous article.  This variety is smaller, less aggressive/strong, and it has white blooms, also fragrant, but with a scarlet center that is just gorgeous in its own right.    Knowing that the big clump was going to completely overshadow this smaller variety, yesterday two of us completed the removal process, a much simpler one than the other experience, and potted it up, and now have a measure of control.

The point of all these words is that while crinums are incredibly wonderful plants, some of them are bigger than a small garden area will comfortably accommodate, and so I urge everyone to be aware, and beware!

Thursday, April 24, 2014


Thanks to two different friends we have these lovelies blooming right now.  The flowers on the left are Japanese roof iris; when we moved plants back to Texas from Arkansas, we forgot a start of these and Micki, a dear former neighbor there sent me some plant divisions.  We cherish both the friend and the flowers very much.  The other flowers, Louisiana wild phlox, came as a start from our friend Julie.  They are beautiful and resilient, much like our friend, and she is always in our thoughts but particularly when these are blooming.  They say a gardener spends three years acquiring plants and the rest of their life giving them away.  We just know that the best plants are those that come from friends.

Saturday, April 12, 2014


In the world there are many ‘Souths’; there is the south of France, South Africa, the South Pole.  In this country, there are also many ‘Souths’.  There is the mythologized antebellum South, of plantations and so-called ‘genteel’ society and slavery. 

There is the South we grew up in, of home gardens lush with tomatoes and melons and other wonderful vegetables and fruits, of home-made jams and jellies, of peach pies, and fried chicken with gravy.  The South with warm summer nights filled with chasing fireflies (we called them lightening bugs).  The South with hot summer nights filled with lying on old quilts on the grass, seeing the millions of stars now invisible because of street lights and all the other ambient lights of modern life.  The South of clean sheets drying to sweet-scented freshness on clotheslines.  The South of crape myrtle trees of amazing fragrance and vivid colors that bloomed all summer long.  The South where the mothers made up a magic potion of sugar and fresh eggs and milk and cream and vanilla and sometimes peaches or strawberries, and the fathers chopped ice from big blocks from the ice company and layered that ice with rock salt in ice cream churns and then turned the handles to make frozen magic.  The South of porches and rockers and great aunts and uncles and grandparents, everybody keeping an eye on the children while they played hide and seek to the last possible glimmer of day falling into night.

But there was also that other South back then, the one where restrooms and water fountains separated black from white, where some folks had to ride in the back of the bus and some did not, where some folks had to live in a different part of town.

After years of hope, now again we have a South that is hard for some of us to see, where old wrong ways seem to be coming back.  Where guns are brandished and voters are tricked and women are diminished and education is no longer valued as it once was and bigotry runs rampant.  We have a South where industries such as coal and oil companies are damaging the land and the air, where heat and drought have replaced rain and warmth.  There is a sense of meanness now where once there was friendliness and neighborliness.   Oh how we miss the kindness of the South we knew as children.  Oh how we wished we knew how to get it back.

Friday, April 11, 2014


Over fifteen years ago, maybe more, I went through a phase of finding and planting amaryllis.   There were several varieties which caught my fancy:  Apple Blossom, pink and white, Scarlet Baby, smaller and a vivid red, Amoretta, medium-sized and pink and white but different from Apple Blossom, and the most exquisite rose-colored Amaryllis, Laforest Morton.  Both the name and the color of Laforest Morton fascinated me.  I dutifully planted and grew and admired all of these, then family demands plus work demands overtook me, and I simply planted them out in the flower garden to fend for their selves.  A few years later, when we moved, I went out and found the bulbs, potted them up, and took them with us.  A few years after that, we moved again, and this time, still in pots, along came these faithful plants again. 

Having had more time eventually to learn more about growing amaryllis, and having continued a passion for different varieties, we now have several different kinds, including the butterfly amaryllis and one of the exotic type that looks nothing like the others, and we simply enjoy them all.  One of the most recent discoveries I have made is that while the butterfly amaryllis is evergreen and does not need the procedure of putting them into a rest period before starting them up again, it seems that all of the other amaryllis we grow are modern hybrids and also do not need the rest period.  This has simplified growing these plants so much.  From early spring through fall, these plants all spend their time in their pots outside in a sheltered flower bed, getting plenty of water and food; in the winter they are moved into our garden room, which is unheated except for enough from an electric space heater to make the room habitable for the plants and our cat during bitter winter nights.  This prevents our being able to time the amaryllis blooms for specific events such as Christmas, but we were never much good at that anyway, and as long as we can count on blooms appearing somewhere along the way in spring, we are content.  The butterfly amaryllis have just finished; within four pots of bulbs they produced twenty-two scapes.  Fabulous.


All this leads up to the fact that today Laforest Morton (and no, I do not know where that lovely name came from) opened its glorious rose-colored blooms and lifted our hearts again, just as all the other varieties will do in time.

Thursday, April 10, 2014


So from the far-away state of Texas, we have been following, somewhat, the many stories about Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey, particularly the George Washington Bridge closure story, and the questions about Sandy money story.  We have followed these stories for several reasons:  the Hurricane Sandy money went to New Jersey from tax monies we contributed to as tax payers, we have seen several videos where Governor Christie has been rude, arrogant and dismissive to his constituents in public and on camera, and finally, Governor Christie may actually manage to be a candidate for the Presidency in 2016.

And here, for what they are worth, are some of our conclusions.  As regards the GW Bridge closure, we figure that either Governor Christie was totally inept at choosing his staff and instructing them and being aware of their performances and in addition totally unaware of critical events within his state (the actual closure, which went on for days), or he was totally involved in the mean-spirited, perhaps illegal events and is now being ruthless in his distancing himself from his staff and associates in the effort to maintain his political aspirations.  Either way, there’s nothing there to respect.

As to the Hurricane Sandy money and all the accusations of poor administration, we find it absolutely unacceptable that those funds have not been handled in a transparent, efficient and timely manner, and that Governor Christie and his administration have not yet disbursed those funds to the people who need them and for whom they were given.  It appears that it will now take a federal investigation, involving more taxpayer money, to find out where the money went and where any remaining funds are.  Unbelievable and definitely not Presidential.

Friday, April 4, 2014


There are a lot of ‘truisms’ in gardening, but first and foremost is the reality that once a leaf has turned brown, either through neglect or change of season into winter or lack of water or absurd heat – whatever the reason, that leaf is history.  Now, it doesn’t mean that the plant itself is gone.  The plant may be dormant or may be in temporary distress, depending on the situation and the total number of brown leaves.  But sometimes it seems as though we find a brown leaf, don’t bother to figure out the cause and just keep waiting for that brown leaf or those brown leaves to miraculously ‘heal’, to resume their normal color (green or grey or whatever).

This is true in gardening but also a kind of metaphor for other areas of our lives.   And on a larger scale, it is also true for our planet.  We can neglect this wonderful sphere we call home, expecting it to absorb the excesses and toxins that we are dumping into the air and the oceans and onto the soil, and expecting damaged areas to heal and revert to health, but sooner or later, just as with an individual plant, with an individual leaf, the damage is permanent.

It’s simple enough to find another plant, but another planet, at least another comfortable planet, might be another story.