Surprise Lilies, and the Weekly Photo Challenge: Narrow

Here’s a favorite flower that I just can’t seem to grow in Georgia. In the midwest we called them “surprise lilies” aka hardy amarylis.  Here’s a close-up —

Surprise Lilies/Hardy Amarylis

Surprise lilies, photo taken last week on a trip home to Northwest Missouri

And what’s so narrow about surprise lilies? You judge —

Surprise Lilies/ Hardy Amarylis

This clump is just beginning to bloom. And, they are fast growers. When we walked by the following day most of the new stems had shot up to the height of the old blooms.

Look Ma, no leaves. The foliage comes up in early spring and dies down shortly after, all about the time spring bulbs bloom. Then, surprise, in July or August the narrow flower stems pop up.

One reason I can’t grow them is that I can hardly ever find them for sale. But even when I think I have, I plant them and they never come up (and that’s no surprise any more, since I’ve tried several times). To me they’re an heirloom plant, a childhood memory and symbol of home.

I can’t complain too much, since right now I have a backyard full of phlox and four o’clocks and black-eyed susans, but a few surprise lilies in the mix would be comforting. Like the peonies and lilacs I got from my mother and grandmother, they don’t grow well here, and they’re now a potent memory of the yard I had in Kansas City. And, speaking of hoarding (which I hadn’t got around to mentioning yet), that yard was full of plants I hoarded, er, collected, all my life. I need to remember that even though I had to move on, the plants-of-my-life are still going/growing strong in yards all over the midwest, and I can still drop by and enjoy them.

Are you missing some favorite plants?

More on the Weekly Photo Challenge: Narrow

More on Surprise Lilies


30 thoughts on “Surprise Lilies, and the Weekly Photo Challenge: Narrow

  1. Surprise lillies. How apt for plants that fool you into thinking they are gone for the season and then spring up again almost the very next day. Hope you had a lovely trip home. Always nice to go home and see how things still are. Looks like the flowers were eager to see you.

    I don’t hoard plants. But my parents seem to. Each time I come around, their garden has an extra flower…or a bit of tree that has started growing. It is like a flower and plant party in their yard, as in the plants’ party 😀

    • I see today that what I was told was a shrub (by the landscaper I consulted, who gave me a cutting) and has grown into a small tree already, suddenly has flowers for the first time. Another surprise. He said it attracts pollinators, so I’m hoping for butterflies and hummingbirds.
      And yes, home is always a great trip. I look forward to it. And, good for your parents and their plant party. You may want to party with them one of these days!

      • That would be nice to have butterflies and hummingbirds as visitors there. Maybe they will make that shrub their home and you could drop off some food for them each day then.

        My parents do have quite the flower garden. They have even grown vegetables like capsicum and chillies beside the plants. Veggie and plant parties in their backyard!

  2. The Surprise Lilies are lovely. I have never heard of them before. I am a lover of Roses,Forget-me-not and Bluebells. The Roses remind me of Home as a child, my Dad was fond of Roses. The Bluebells remind me of Mum. She gave me a few bulbs years ago and they come up every spring. I love them. I used to have lots of for-get-me nots in the front garden, but I seem to have lost them, now. I love Buddleia – its always a good one for attracting butterflies. My garden is very good at growing weeds though.

    • Oh yes, my yard is especially beloved by weeds. Your plants sound wonderful. I have never had the right climate for forget-me-nots, but always wanted them. The bluebells here are Virginia Bluebells. I got some on a plant rescue several years ago and they have multiplied in the woods, and bloom beautifully in April then disappear for the rest of the year. So, they are a kind of surprise plant too.

  3. I always wanted those surprise lilies! I love them but never had any. I am missing all the plants/ flowers you mentioned and more since we moved to Texas. Everything I try that says full sun burns here. I am learning what grows here but by the time I have it down I’ll be back in Wisconsin and I can get some surprise lilies! 😊

  4. Nerines are quite common in Australia. Not sure if they’re the same. I remember seeing photos of bright pink nerines flowering above a sea of black ash after devastating bushfires north of Melb in 1983. Having no leaves in summer helps some plants survive in Australia as long as the fire is not too hot. Same happens with some orchids.

  5. Really nice contribution to the “Narrow” prompt. And I finally looked up to see what phlox is!

    I like the thought of your flowers growing all over the Midwest.

    • One other thing I’m sorry I can’t grow here – peonies. I loved the deep red/almost black ones that people used to have in my hometown. Also sorry to leave the garden of violets that I had in the midwest. So many people think they’re weeds, but I remember picking them in the woods with my mother when I was little, and how we loved finding them. Thanks so much for commenting!

      • In the midwest they needed quite a lot of sun. Here in Georgia they burn up in the sun, plus, they don’t get cold enough in winter. I do love them. Maybe a week-long trip ‘home’ around Memorial Day is almost as good as having some in my yard, since the bloom time is brief. I saw a peony bouquet in a nice store here not long ago and ran to breathe it in — such wonderful scent! I hope yours does well in the move.

      • I don’t know how the peonies will do but when I did that with a dahlia plant that had only produced one flower per year for many years. When I moved it, it changed into a plant that had endless flowers for four to five months.

        I had to separate the tubers once already and need to do it again. It takes a great deal of space and the many stalks are about two inches in diameter. It is more like a tree!

      • I’m trying to get the ajuga to carpet my back yard. A few years ago we had a terrible drought (lasted 2-3 years) and watering was banned. The grass had to be replanted there every year anyway, since it was too shady for it. I used to plant extra clover to keep it going. But during the drought when I couldn’t water so couldn’t plant, the little ajuga bed on the side started to colonize the yard with underground roots. It lived! So I gave up on grass, and it’s getting close now to being all ajuga. I need to tidy it up though, there are phlox and other flowers that seed themselves in it. I like it sort of wild, but will have to tidy it when I want to sell the house. So – have you tried ajuga? (nice blue blooms in spring!)

      • I’d say yes, since it survived the drought here better than grass did. But it can get a bit wilty with weeks of drought. It’s also called bugleweed, I have seen white blooms as well as blue (I have blue). Have also seen variegated foliage. Hope that helps! I see there’s a caution that it could be invasive. For me, that was a good thing, since not much else will grow in my dry shade.

      • Oh, that is what it is. That’s funny. I saw it at the nursery when I was redoing my back yard this past spring. I was very attracted to it and put in six plants. I will watch it the rest of this year and maybe plant more of next spring! Mine is blue/purple. I’d love to see it in more of the yard. The plants grew this year but hasn’t spread to other areas.

      • I noticed that the text said it’s a few inches tall. I think that must include the bloom spires. It fills in nicely, makes a good mat, but takes a bit to get started. I hope you like it — I love blue flowers best of all.

      • Wow…. it is sounding better all the time. To have that beautiful dark green color year round would be wonderful. You called it a mat, does that mean you walk on it?

      • I’m watering mine right now, as it’s so dry here, weeks passed with only about 1/2 inch of rain. It did survive that other years-long drought when we were unable to water, so maybe I don’t need to, but it starts to look a little wilty and I’m a push-over. I will try to get out and take a photo for you in the morning. (major trauma with my bathroom remodeling, so I may forget but won’t forget for too long) Thanks so much for your interest, it’s good to hear from you!

      • Wow…. it is sounding better all the time. To have that beautiful dark green color year round would be wonderful. You called it a mat, does that mean you walk on it? I think I’ve seen photos where the spires were taller than a few inches.

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