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Digging the Mystery Daffodil

Sunday, March 29, 2015

A fine spring day. The temperature hit 70 in the afternoon. Chet and I had to get out and see what was up on Dean's Fork, put a few more miles on the chassis. Just the sky alone would have been enough, but the warmth was intoxicating. To run in a tank and shorts, feel the warm wind on my skin.

A couple days later, it plunged to 18, and we got an inch of snow. Such is spring. 
This is why it's good to live in the moment, and grab it when it comes.

When there's almost nothing green yet growing, green catches the eye. I fixed my binoculars on these clumps across Dean's Fork. They look like daffodils, but there's no explanatory tumbledown homestead near. Odd. Could they have been washed out and deposited here by a flood? I don't know. Mystery abounds.

I picked my way across the stream. These are worth examining.

They're plucking at my memory. It's a daffodil, I think, but I can't recall what kind has such broad, round-tipped leaves.

You know what I'm going to do here. I'm going to go all Stone Age.
I search the stream bank for a trowel, and find a stone that's bladelike but cupped. 

Those bulbs are really in there, with long strong roots going down about 8". I have to dig for quite awhile to encompass them. Finally I can dig no deeper and am forced to pull the bulbs as gently as I can. Luckily, the roots come with them.

This takes awhile, and Chet settles down to bask and stand guard.

 She does this from time to time. Hunkers down and digs and mutters for a long time. I just wait it out. I have nothing else I have to be doing. This is what I do.

 Voila! I have my specimens. I take only three, and leave dozens of others in the two clumps to grow in peace.  Another cool thing about can take a little piece, and if you're patient, it'll replicate the original plant in time. You don't have to pillage the whole thing.

 I bundle them in wet leaves and leave them in a puddle, because I have several more miles to run. Well, traverse.

On down the road I come on the Peony House, the tumbledown structure where I found my beloved Dean's Fork heirloom peony years ago.

Here's how it looked in situ on May 15, 2014. This unexpected shot of white in front of a barely discernible structure. Once a proud part of someone's garden, now just persisting there because that's what peonies do best. Everything else has been subsumed by ragweed and ironweed and star chickweed, but the peony stands strong.

It makes me happy to see it prosper, even if no one but me ever sees it or kneels to smell its heavenly bouquet.

 Four years ago, in the fall, I dug two small eyes, planted them in my asparagus/rhubarb bed, and waited three years for them to make flowers. They finally bloomed in 2014. They should be wonderful this spring. 

P.S. It smells like roses in heaven.

Near the tumbledown house I see a small bulb sending up shoots. I crush a leaf, note its oniony scent and find it's an allium, decide to leave it grow. It's probably a little yellow one I already have. These are the places you find heirloom plants.

I pick up my bulbs on the way back up the road, bundle them in wet leaves and sandwich them between a couple of slabs of bark. I know if I root around Harold's weekend mancabin, I'll find a cup that will work better as a transport system. 

C'est voila!

I bring them home and plant them immediately in one of my terraced beds. I can't wait to see what they'll be. If these small bulbs don't bloom this year, I can still find out.

Because the next morning, I pull up at my financial advisor's office in town and find the same plant growing in a clump by the parking lot.  Ah! I knew it looked familiar. It may not turn out to be anything special. But then again it may.

Of course, there's always the chance mine are different. That's the fun of plants, and the mystery of finding them, digging them out and spreading them around. Someone years ago planted them at a homestead now long rotted and gone. And there they are, still fixing to bloom in the middle of the woods. Whatever they are, they've probably lived there a hundred years, winter after dry summer after winter.

The shadows grow long and we turn for home, thinking about spring and clouds, daffodils and dinner,  the enduring wonder of plants that persist. 

**So before evenfall, fellow gardeners on blog and Facebook have all decided that what I have here are NAKED LADIES! I'm so excited! This perennial amaryllis makes leaves in spring that die down by June. And in August, it sends up a surprise stalk of pink fabulous.  Hence the name. Surprise Lily is another common name.

This photo takes me back to a lovely time in 2011 when Nina and Tim came to roll around in August on Indigo Hill, and Chet was only six.
Thanks, everyone, for chipping in on the ID. I hope mine have a dusting of blue on the end of their pink petals. Divine!


They may be Naked Lady lilies. Those send up leaves first, which die back. The flowers will be up in May/June, if I recall right. I have some heirloom ones that have been moved several times, from my great-grandmother's farm to my grandfather's house, to my mom's house and to my home twenty-some years ago. Still going strong and so beautiful.

Posted by Sarah Dalton March 29, 2015 at 6:57 AM

I'll be watching this with interest. We've had a clump of these coming up on our property since we moved in 24 years ago and nothing has ever bloomed from them, and yet those same broad,round leaves push up every year. We have lots of different kinds of daffodils and a clump of Naked Ladies nearby but these have puzzled me for years. Interestingly enough, our Naked Ladies bloom in the beginning of August!

They look like my Mom's magic lilies.

Yep, Naked Lady, Resurrection Lily, Surprise Lily. I found mine at an abandoned farm too.

Not a book thief, but rather a bulb and tuber one. Awesome. A way to honor and preserve history!

Nice photos!

Naked Ladies, aka, Surprise Lilies, is what you've got.

I enjoyed UR blog! I too, Luv finding heirloom plants & roses I abandoned homesteads! Like the way you take only a few, knowing they will grow back! And letting the rest naturalize,..

I would like to follow UR blog? How to sign on?

Such great photos! Love the one of Chet beside the single bloom. My grandmas and mother (all from the Marietta/Noble Co. area) always called them Phantom Lilies.

Posted by Alli Shaw March 29, 2015 at 3:31 PM

Yep, i agree with everyone that your mystery greens are Naked Ladies. I have several clumps of them that came with this place, as well as a bunch of old reliable daffodils. And your lovely white peony looks to me like Festiva Maxima, an old cultivar that made me fall in love with peonies because of its beautiful shape and scent and hardiness.

I've considered myself a gardener since I was 5. When I was a child, my adult gardening friends told me that you MUST steal your flowers to get them to grow best.

But I consider dividing found plants, gathering seeds or cuttings just spreading the love and possibly helping a heirloom plant live on.

I love those naked ladies too. I had them in my Houston yard.

squirrels steal and hide bulbs.... so now, though more highly evolved, you are just carrying on the activity..

A lot of my plants came originally from various nearby woods. I dug a small clump of marsh marigolds and they have since spread all over a boggy area next to my pond. Also some ferns in the same area, and some may apples under our pine trees. When my husband used to go running through various parks, I would accompany him and go hunting with my trowel, collecting plant samples or some river rocks for our pond.

I agree. Naked Ladies. I ought to call mine Wandering Naked Ladies because they seem to be in different locations year to year. Could the squirrels be moving them around? I don't think my memory is THAT bad! And I think mine bloom in July in Kansas. Wish I could find such a fragrant peony as you did!

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