In the Garden:
Coastal and Tropical South
September, 2004
Regional Report

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Shop now for crinum bulbs (several are called milk and wine lilies) to plant this fall.

Intrepid People, Intrepid Plants

Hurricanes show us what we're made of, and what our plants are made of, too. Some plants rise to the occasion, surviving every conceivable hardship and blooming on.

Precious Heirlooms
For a plant to become a classic, it must have been a successful favorite for several human lifetimes. Once it is popular enough to be hybridized in search of progeny with superior qualities, that plant becomes part of the web of garden life. Crinum bulbs, known widely as milk and wine lilies, date back to the early 19th century in our region. In fact, the crinum was so beloved and such a survivor, there were 30 hybrids by 1837. Most members of this strap-leaved, trumpet-flowered family are hardy to 20 degrees F., have no pest problems, and bloom for months.

Overlooked and Lovely
Freesia is not the most commonly grown bulb, but its fragrance makes it worth the search and cultivation. Its "bulb" is really a corm, like a gladiolus; plant them 2 inches deep and 2 inches apart.

Rain lily, a.k.a. zephyr lily and fairy lily (Zephranthes), has a reputation for reliability, often popping up after a rainstorm from otherwise nondescript, green, leaf clumps. Plant bulbs 2 inches deep or slightly less.

Care for Years
Some hardy fall bulbs, like spider lilies or naked ladies (Lycoris), grow on for decades with no care. But even the best of them will thrive longer and multiply sooner if you improve the soil before planting. Work up the soil, amend with organic matter, and if your soil is particularly heavy, consider a raised bed. Add granular fertilizer to the bed, or bulb food to each planting hole. Water whenever the bulbs have leaves and nature doesn't cooperate. Keep mulched, and work whatever rots into the ground around the bulbs. When plants get crowded, dig them up carefully and replant. Unlike the resilient people in our region, bruised and battered bulbs don't usually recover.


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