Waiting For The Naked Ladies

By Anita Garner

Naked Ladies show up in the oddest places in Northern California in July and all through August.  Clumps of them, pink and fragrant, with up to a dozen beautiful blooms on each leafless stem. They’re  energetic.  They’re sturdy.   They’re random.

They scatter all over the countryside in Napa and Sonoma and Marin in places where no one would have thought to plant them.  All of a sudden comes this magic in a distinct shade of pink, from a bed of weeds, a crack in a sidewalk, along fences, lining a country road, and in no particular formation. You have to smile at their tenacity and because critters don’t like them, they stay around a while.

There’s something mysterious and charming about them so I had to look it up.  Read on if you want to know too.

They’re in the lily family, starting life as a bulb. During the winter a plant with leaves appears, looking like any other plant.  Then the leaves die away and you can easily forget about them. A few months later during hot weather, up pops a bare stalk then another and another.

I wanted to know how they get scattered all over the place. Turns out they drop seeds which insure surprise sightings in years to come.  Once a bulb’s planted, you’ll never know how many will show up next season.

People say Naked Ladies are practically indestructible, but I assumed I’d lost the ones in my yard in Mill Valley a few years ago. A tree had to be removed right next to where the Naked Ladies bloomed the summer before.  Along with the tree and its roots, everything went.  Only dirt was left.

Then came the summer and overnight one bare stalk started pushing up, then another, beautiful and fragrant and naked.

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Here come the Naked Ladies.

By Anita Garner

People say Naked Ladies are practically indestructible, but I assumed I’d lost mine. Earlier this year in my yard, a tree had to be removed right next to where the Naked Ladies bloomed last summer, and everything around the tree got uprooted.

I like it best when Naked Ladies show up in unlikely places. At the edge of town there’s a strip of land alongside the road and that patch of earth, unlike the rest of this mostly manicured area  (Mill Valley is a very well kept little village) remains inexplicably overrun with weeds. Last summer, a gorgeous line-up of feisty Naked Ladies popped up in the midst of the weeds. I wonder how they got there. Hope they’re back this year.

Driving in Sonoma County to visit friends in Sebastopol, I turned off the freeway to take a parallel road through the beautiful countryside and Naked Ladies nodded at me all along my route. I arrived at the driveway of my Sebastopol friends and admired the profusion of Naked Ladies along their fence. My friend, the only person I’ve ever heard say a discouraging word about a perfectly harmless pink flower, said, “I don’t like them. Never have.” I asked what does he have against Naked Ladies and he said, “They make me sad. They have no leaves and that’s no way for a flower to be.”

I, on the other hand, applaud their fortitude. Within the last week, the Naked Ladies have started marching all over town, so just now I checked the bare spot in my front yard and sure enough, four of them are poking through. Soon, these little shoots will once again resemble the grownup Ladies in the picture above.

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