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November 26, 2012 / Rae Spencer

The Ginger Lilies (arachnophobia alert!)

I don’t remember when the ginger lilies arrived. Years and years ago, long enough that I can’t remember what the yard looked like without them.

We started with eighteen bulbs, which I naively planted in pots because I didn’t know what a ginger lily was. I only knew that Mother had fallen in love with a vase of cut blooms given to her by a friend. She said the flowers smelled like warm cookies and looked a little like large, exotic orchids.

Mother’s friend gave us a box of beautiful pink-tinged bulbs, which I divided into three pots. Then I waited for spring to deliver a crop of cookie-scented flowers.

Instead of flowers, I got something that resembled corn. Each lovely bulb produced a green spike that quickly shot up into a leaf-wrapped stalk, taller and taller as summer wore on. In May they were knee high. In June they reached my hip. By August, they were head high with stalks as thick as chair legs. I had to brace their pots against the fence and support their weight with stakes.

Finally, September brought flowers, which were every bit as fragrant as promised. Less than half of the plants were able to bloom, constricted as they were in the pots, but it was enough to make me a life-long fan.

In November, my husband and I broke the pots with a hammer, because the bulbs had grown so tightly packed that we couldn’t get them out any other way. We cleared three beds in the yard, divided the tangled bulbs, and covered them with deep layers of mulch. After an anxious winter, we raked away the mulch and found dozens of spikes sprouting in all three beds. And so began years of delight…

2 Comments

  1. Gillian / Nov 26 2012 8:00 PM

    Not only are they beautiful, they seem to attract lots of insects, too! Love the moth hovering in front of the flower.

    • Rae Spencer / Nov 26 2012 10:20 PM

      The sphinx moths are part of why I love our ginger lilies so much. I had never seen one until the ginger lilies’ second season, and I didn’t know what it was at first. Now I spend all summer looking forward to fall’s first moth sighting.

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