By Sharon Beasley
Wow, is this August? I could have been in Buffalo, New York last weekend for the garden writers five-day conference I have attended for twelve years straight. I passed this year for various reasons, one being that it is so darn hot in August, it is not a good time to leave my yard. That would have been no problem this year. Previous to the wonderful rains we got last week, I was getting further and further behind on keeping all flower beds watered. I am happy that I can take a break from that watering task for a while.
To offset my missing the conference, I am going to Dallas this weekend to a landscapers’ tradeshow that will be my “kid in the candy store” experience for the year. There is a small tradeshow of mostly plants at each garden writers conference I attend, and free plants for testing are given to all attendees. The landscapers’ tradeshow is much larger (I have been told) and, as a member of the garden writers group, I should be coming home with some free plants from it also. I have a friend coming along to share the fun and we will meet up with other garden writers for a while.
With the recent rains, the pink surprise lilies (Lycoris squamigera) have had no problem popping up. These are old-fashioned bulbs that literally surprise you when they pop up on long stems with no foliage. It takes them three days to go from beneath the soil to full bloom stage. A large clump is a stunning sight. The foliage appears in early spring and then dies down long before the flowers appear. It is a good idea to mark the places where you have them planted so you don’t dig into them.
The stems grow to 24 or more inches tall, topped by seven, trumpet-shaped blooms (4”x4”) that resemble a type of lily with very long stamens. The light pink flowers are sometimes blushed with blue, which makes them even lovelier. They have a scent, but I don’t find it particularly pleasant. Sometimes, it smells like mothballs to me. They make great cut flowers.
These pink lycoris multiply quite well. I am always surprised at what they cost to buy at nurseries or online. I don’t think I ever see them for less than $4 each. An online check recently showed prices for as much as $15 for one bulb. I have sold mine at times for $2 each. I also have a red one (Lycoris radiata) that does not multiply as fast. It blooms in September and has a more delicate look.
Check out Plant Delights online catalog and you will see other colors of this beautiful flower. Be prepared for sticker shock though as most of them cost over $20 – almost $30 for some. I splurged on a double-petaled red one three years ago, and have yet to see it bloom. I saw the foliage in the spring, so it is still alive. Lycoris don’t always bloom the first year after being planted, so I have been patiently waiting. There is still a hope that it will bloom later like the single red ones do. Be sure to check for zone hardiness if you buy an unusual lycoris, because some of them are not hardy in our zone 7. If my double red one ever blooms, then I will order another pricey one from that company. They have white, yellow, and orange colors as well. I have googled in hopes of finding a company with less expensive bulbs, but I had no success finding at all that sell the unusual ones. If you have no pink lycoris, think about adding them to your garden. They are very carefree.
Garden care tip: You might be noticing mildew starting to appear on tall phlox and zinnias, and black spot on roses. Thanks to the humidity, wonderful rain, and cooler temperatures lately, fungal problems will appear. I hope to get my plants sprayed soon so they continue to do well. A general use fungicide spray will take care of such disease problems.