You’ve all seen them — front yards of neighbors surreptitiously adorned during the night with flamingos, crows, cows, and mules to mark to arrival of an auspicious day. But as for Grumpy, you can save those things. When I open my eyes on birthday morning and look out from my window to the dawn’s early light, I want to observe one thing — the garden filled with naked ladies.
I understand that will be difficult. My birthday is in January and it’s cold. But if I wish — wish very, very hard — something magical may greet me.
Of course, Grumpy isn’t talking about human naked ladies. He’s a happily married man and, except for episodes of “Game of Thrones” that he watches through the cracks in his fingers of his hands pressed tightly to his face, never thinks of those. No, I’m referring to special bulbs passed along from friend to friend and gardener to gardener that decorate our gardens every August.
Named for their habit of popping up in the garden as leafless stalks, naked ladies (Lycoris squamigera) stand about 2 feet tall and open whorls of lavender-pink trumpets in late summer. Folks also call them magic lilies and surprise lilies, because they emerge overnight without warning, usually following a good rain.
Don’t confuse naked lady with its cousin, spider lily (Lycoris radiata), another heirloom favorite in the South. Spider lily is red, appears about a month later, and is better suited to warmer climes (USDA Zones 7-9). Naked lady likes less heat and more cold and does well in USDA Zones 5-8. Both send up foliage in fall after the blooms fade. The leaves hang around in winter and disappear in spring.
This explains why both are such carefree, long-lived plants. They only need water when their foliage is present, which just happens to be the wettest time of the year. After the foliage dies down, they need no care at all.
Left to itself, naked lady spreads to form ever-expanding colonies by way of bulblets that calve off from the mother bulb. When you come upon sweep, it either means they’ve been there since Madonna was queen of the charts (circa 1880) or someone has compulsive trowel disorder (CTD). Send Grumpy any amount of cash you can afford over $1,000 as we search for the cure.
Speaking of searching, this dissertation on naked ladies undoubtedly has you panicked over where to procure them. (I’m talking about bulbs here. Sorry, Senator.) Southern Bulbs is an excellent source and is shipping now. Fall is the time to plant. Surround yourself with naked ladies.