I am a big fan of surprises (when they are good ones). I especially enjoy the surprises that I know are coming. There are birthdays; you know the date and nothing new or surprising there, but then someone cares and you received something special on the special day. Christmas is always a biggie on my calendar. I love the anticipation, seeing the presents all wrapped and tied up in ribbons beneath the tree so that you cannot know what is inside. The buildup until time to open the presents only serves to make the contents more, well, more. The Easter Bunny usually manages to surprise me with a few chocolate treats each year. If the price were not so high, I would even enjoy surprises awarded by the Tooth Fairy.
Put the two, garden and surprises, together and what more could mortal man desire?
In the past it has been September that brings my surprises, but this year surprises have appeared in August. As I work and walk my garden, I know where and when to look, but I remain surprised when blooms make a sudden appearance seemingly out of nowhere. One day there is a bare spot in the garden, next day the supposedly empty location is filled with colorful blooms. My magic wand has had a kink in it for some years now, so I know they have their own magic.
The year I purchased my home, some thirty-plus years ago, my first surprise popped up. There was a neat and orderly row of foliage along a path that very much resemble a daffodil of some kind. Looking back I now see the foliage was much more coarse and tall than Easter Lilies (Daffodils, Jonquils) but at the time I had very little knowledge of plants. There was also an abundance of Daffodils on the property and while they bloomed, the row of foliage did not. They waited until September to bloom, and only after all foliage had disappeared.
Resurrection Lily, Magic Lily, Naked Lady, Surprise Lily is just some of the names for the old pass-along bulb Lycoris squamiger. The strap-like foliage emerges along with the Daffodils in spring, but no blooms until August of September, so foliage and bloom never appear together. When it does bloom there is a leafless stem that shoots up almost overnight to about eighteen inches in height. At the very top of the stem will be six or eight trumpets of pink which account for another common name of Pink Flamingo flower. Over the years I moved some to my garden in order to enjoy the up close fragrance.
Hymenocallis occidentalis is our native Spider Lily that behaves much like the Surprise Lily. Strap-like foliage of heavy substance emerges in spring eventually reaching about two feet in height. Come mid-July or so the hot dry weather here seems to be the signal telling it to go dormant above ground. Come mid to late August, or first of September, a nude scape arises topped with large pristine white flowers. Flowers are made up of long narrow petals with a webbing between each petal forming a “spider web”. Of all the lily and lily-like blooms in my garden this species is by far my favorite.
The Ivy Leaf hardy cyclamen is a different kind of surprise when compared with the other two. One day I walk by a raised bed and I am rewarded with only mulch and overhang of a dwarf Hemlock. The next day I walk the same path and there are pink shooting stars headed toward earth on four to six inch stems. Flowers are first to appear, and just as they are almost all up the leaves begin to make an appearance. And what lovely foliage the Ivy Leaf, hardy cyclamen has. My favorite patterns are leaves with pewter-silver outlined with a green border having a dark blotch in the center in the shape of a Christmas tree. And, I get to keep the foliage almost all winter. Come spring until August nothing will be going on above soil level.
All three store up energy for bloom with the previous season’s foliage, so nothing seems to hold back the present season flowers, or my delighted surprise at seeing them perform again in my garden.