Monday, September 27, 2010

Spider Lilies In Spite of Drought

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Spider lily and surprise lily are both good names for this trusted favorite of fall gardens. Spider lily, because of the numerous stamens radiating from the flower, gives the inexact idea of  a spider. Surprise lily relates to it's  custom of springing up when you might least expect it, that is, after a long dry spell that has seen the demise of most other late summer flowers. The flowers spring up from hard dry earth without a leaf to show their presence underground. After the flowers pass, the green striped foliage will appear and persist for the winter, dying back after the weather begins to warm. (So don't forget where you planted them.) It is best to plant them somewhere that you will not be digging to plant annuals or otherwise disturbing them. They do best when left undisturbed for years at a time. In fact, digging them up and replanting may cause them not to bloom for a year or two afterward. Be sure to plant them when they are dormant (no flowers or foliage) if possible. Sometimes you may have no choice such as when you are offered some that are in foliage or flower and must get them at the time, or when you buy some cheap in the store when they have already started to sprout. These are great pass-along plants because they persist with almost no care for years at a time. And when they jump up to surprise you, you will think of the person who generously shared something they loved with you.
In August and September when it has been so dry, like this year, and you think maybe the lilies will skip a year with their cheery red blooms, here they come , marching along toward cooler weather at last.
They make nice bouquets for the house, too. They last several days in a vase and to my eye have no need of foliage or other flowers to enhance their beauty. Just stick them in a tall enough vase so their stems have several inches of water, and let them remind you of how they grow outside on bare beautiful stems. I like them in a clear vase so you can get the full benefit of those stems.

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