Saturday, August 16, 2014

Surprise!


Surprise! Every year I forget about these Surprise Lilies.

Every spring, the first green foliage to emerge from the earth on my property is the Surprise Lily, many of which were growing here when we moved to our property in 2008. Lycoris squamigera is the scientific name for this bulb, which has numerous common names: Surprise lily and "naked ladies" (due to the lack of foliage covering their stems) are the names I've heard around here, but it's also known as spider lily, magic lily, resurrection lily, August lily, pink flamingo flower and hurricane lily, among other common names.

But by any name, they are a beautiful flower with an interesting growth habit: As I mentioned, the foliage is the earliest to emerge from the ground each spring, in early March -- their green leaves truly a sight for winter eyes.

This photo from early March a few years ago shows the Surprise lily foliage poking out of the ground.
I love spring!

By the end of March, the long, strappy leaves can be more than a foot in length. Sometimes these leaves annoy me if they flop all over, so I've been known to trim them down by one-third to one-half. This doesn't seem to hurt the flowering (but if you removed all the foliage, the bulb would probably not store enough energy to flower later).

The strappy leaves in late March.

After six weeks or so, the leaves turn yellow and eventually shrivel up and disappear. "How disappointing!" one might think. All those annoying leaves and then nothing. But by this point, so much else is happening in the garden that the lilies are forgotten, lost in the mists of garden time. Tulips bloom, followed by peonies, irises, roses, delphiniums, Asiatic lilies, coneflowers, shasta daisies, phlox, Oriental lilies and of course, the numerous glories of summer annual flowers. Each has its moment, like the ages of man.

But as late summer brings us back to school, suddenly, out of a bare spot where nothing visible existed before, appears this:

Hey, that wasn't there yesterday.
Oh, yeah, I totally forgot about those!

Just when the sunflowers and zinnias and cosmos are looking great and the vegetable garden is yielding its full bounty, up pops a tall shoot, overnight! And the next day, it flowers.

They manage to take me by surprise every year, although their beauty
should be unforgettable.

With peony foliage behind, and four o'clocks and roses in the background.

Lovely and fresh, just what is needed in August.

I greatly enjoy my surprise each year when they bloom again. I'm so glad they were here when we bought this property, and I highly recommend them to you as a fun flower -- they do well in partial shade and full sun, are virtually maintenance-free, and they multiply, so you can dig them up and divide them to have more every five years or so, but only if you want to. But who wouldn't want more of these beautiful lilies?

Thanks for reading! -Beth

14 comments:

  1. They are beautiful, and I enjoy your visual story. Our surprise lilies are doing awesome this year. We had a few years where only foliage appeared, then last year there were a few blooms, and this year, abundant blooms. They are indeed gorgeous flowers! Hope all is well with you. Take care, Beth

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Beth! I'm glad your surprise lilies are finally blooming for you. And I'm glad you liked my little tale of my forgetfulness and surprise. Hope you are well too. Thanks for visiting! -Beth

      Delete
  2. Never heard of surprise lilies over here, but very interesting and beautiful flowers. I have made a note of their Latin name Lycoris squamigera, so I can find out if we can grow them too.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Janneke, Thanks for reading! I don't know why surprise lilies wouldn't grow in the Netherlands. They seem to be sold by Netherlands bulb companies and are hardy from Zone 5-9 (down to -20F/-29C), and Netherlands are Zone 7 or 8. They need somewhat well-draining soil, but I have mostly clay here and they do well anyway, so they must not be too picky on that account. Good luck finding some bulbs! Thanks again for visiting. -Beth

      Delete
  3. I've never heard of them either, but I will be looking for them now .... they are gorgeous!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for reading, Nettie. I wish you good luck in growing them! -Beth

      Delete
  4. I love these lilies but they only bloomed once for me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Donna, how disappointing! Could it be that they were planted in an area that is too wet during the summer? They tend to rot in wet places and need at least somewhat well-draining soil (although I have clay soil). I moved some from my front border to a spot next to my garage, right on the drip line from the garage roof, and those ones never flowered and then disappeared after a year. If you want to try them again, perhaps choose a spot with good drainage? Thanks for reading, and good luck! -Beth

      Delete
  5. Oh how beautiful...I'm going to have to try some of them in my garden! Love your blog and I'm your newest follower! Thanks for your sweet visit!
    Miss Bloomers

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for visiting my blog too, Sonia! I'm so glad you will follow, and I'm looking forward to reading your posts as well. Take care, -Beth.

      Delete
  6. Such a beautiful surprise, Beth! My friend gave me some but I think I planted them in the wrong place, among tall, aggressive plants. If they came up they are hidden in the obedience foliage. I wonder if my friend has more to spare ... P. x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for visiting, Pam. I hope you find your surprise lilies, or are able to get more from your friend. Luckily, they do multiply, so she likely has more! Good luck! -Beth

      Delete
  7. How interesting, thank for the information! I love lilies for their smell, is this one also fragrant?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think they might be fragrant (according to online articles they are), although I've never actually noticed their smell myself (maybe I just don't get close enough to them?). I mostly admire their form and color, as well as their quick appearance. :-)

      Delete