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Archive for the ‘Pastels are for Naked Ladies’ Category

Did Margaret, my mother-in-law, ever favor pastel colors?  My memory holds images of her attired in earth tones except for pajama bottoms.  Pinkish pigs and Carolina blue sheep decorated the cloth with crescent moons and stars scattered throughout the pale yellow background with snooze time, sleepy, let’s go sleep, and Z Z Z written around the animals.   I inherited the pajamas and wear them, even though pastels don’t dominate my wardrobe either.  I’m always hopeful they will offer a restful night of sleep.

Margaret saved pastels for the naked ladies.  In the sultry heat of Southern summers, naked ladies are adorned with a cool, pink color as their fragrant perfume permeates the humid air.  Margaret’s naked ladies stood as sentinels in the partial shade of her pecan trees and near the front door of her home on Holden Road in Greensboro.  Each spring, tightly wrapped leaves emerged from the earth in her brick planter box.  The long leaves unfurled and for a few months captured the sunlight, storing food in the bulb below.  Until one day, the leaves become limp, faded in color, and completely died back.  For several weeks, the plant is dormant and hidden below the earth’s surface.

Gardeners forget about the plant since it’s out-of-sight and out-of-mind until shortly after the fourth of July.  Next, hollow green stems burst through the soil, grow rapidly, and reach for the sky.  A cylindrical flower bud forms on the tip and slowly opens to reveal three petals and three sepals, all the same color, thus called tepals.   The light pink tepals cool the soul on sweltering days.

The leaves and bulbs of naked ladies are similar to an amaryllis whose bulbs are often forced to bloom during the Christmas holiday season.   Naked ladies belong to the Amaryllis Family and are a hybrid between Lycoris straminea and Lycoris incarnata, called Lycoris squamigera.  Other common names are resurrection lily and surprise lily.  However, I prefer naked ladies because I learned that name from Margaret who enjoyed sharing and receiving garden flowers – both horticultural ones and wildflowers.  Zoonomia, Margaret’s mother, who lived on Mendenhall Street near Buffalo Creek in Greensboro, also grew roses and other flowers.  Certainly, Zoonomia and her daughter delighted in sharing old-time southern favorites called “pass-along-plants.”

Naked Ladies and Native Grasses in Moni’s Yard

How did Zoonomia instill the joy of growing flowers to her daughter?  And why did Margaret’s grandmother name her daughter Zoonomia?  In 1789, Erasmus Darwin, Charles Darwin’s grandfather, wrote a poem called “The Love of Plants” and the last couple lines introduced the concept of evolution.  Later he published a book titled, “Zoonomia: The Laws of Organic Life.” Was this the derivation? I don’t know but Zoonomia Davant loved plants and I imagine her as a woman full of organic life.

I gifted many plants to my mother-in-law: Soloman’s seal, Lenten roses, May-apples, trout lilies, bloodroot, among others.  The plants passed from my fingers with dirt under the nails to her shaking hands.  With a sparkle in her eyes, she expressed comments like, “These flowers will look nice along the stone walkway by the garage,” but never a thank-you.  With the first plant that Margaret offered me, she taught me an Appalachia superstition:  Never thank a friend when they give you a plant for that will guarantee the plant’s death.

Today, I wonder if Margaret’s naked ladies came from Zoonomia’s garden.  If so, the naked ladies have passed through three or more generations.  When Margaret offered the bulbs to me, I gladly accepted with, “Oh, I’d love to see naked ladies in my yard.”  Of course, they survived and every year John and I, dressed in earth tone shorts and shirts, enjoy the pastel naked ladies scattered about our Burnt Oaks garden with thoughts and memories of a colorful lady.

Margaret and Family Celebrating Her Birthday by Gardening Together

Naked Ladies Flowering in Margaret’s Brick Flower Bed

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