In the Garden:
By any name, these blooms are divas in the August garden.
Magic in the Garden
I would like to warn you that there might be Naked Ladies in your garden if you don't watch out. Well, not really, that is just one of the charming folk names for Lycoris squamigera, a late-summer blooming bulb.
Other names include Magic Lily, Forgotten Lily and Resurrection Lily, these reminding us of the unusual seasonal patterns for this particular bulb. The bulb sends up lots of big bold foliage in the spring, but the foliage soon withers, dies back and disappears without producing any blooms. "What a dud!" was my impression of these the first year I grew them.
But Wait, There's More!
Fast forward to late summer, in August, usually after a nice rain storm. Suddenly, the bulbs send up slender 2-foot stems topped with purply pink buds, each the size of a crayon. And then these burst open to reveal fragrant pink blooms. Voila!
This particular lycoris is a hardy (zones 5 to 9) member of the amaryllis family, so the plant may remind you of those spectacular winter and holiday season indoor plants. If you grow lycoris, you should mulch it for the winter. Left undisturbed, this bulb will eventually multiply by offsets and naturalize into an eye-catching clump.
The Great Cover-Up
Since the lycoris is not a constant presence in the garden, it's a good idea to plant something else along with it to round out the display. In the photo, the lycoris ladies are surrounded by another great late-summer bloomer, Ceratostigma plumbaginoides or hardy plumbago.
Hardy plumbago (zones 5 to 9) emerges late in the spring and forms a low-growing, spreading ground cover during the summer. It keeps down weeds, helps conceal the fading spring bulb foliage, and is easy to grow in sun to part shade.
Yet it also puts on a show of its own. Starting about now, it sports electric blue blooms for months on end. These are in turn followed by bright maroon and red autumn foliage for yet another season of interest before it goes dormant for the winter. Not bad for an undemanding, low-maintenance plant that's so handy -- almost magical, in fact -- for keeping certain ankles demurely covered.
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