September 07, 2022
I vamoosed from the Texas heat last week for the drier, cooler, high-desert climate of Santa Fe. It was a great trip, but the whole time I was away I fretted that I was missing one of my late-summer favorites at home: the eruption of oxblood lilies that pop up virtually overnight following a late-summer rain. I dashed outside as soon as we returned and saw dozens of blazing red trumpets clustered amid the soap aloes. Perfect timing!
Oxblood lily (Rhodophiala bifida) is an Argentine bulb that thrives in Austin’s hot, humid subtropical climate. It lies dormant all summer until the days grow shorter and a triggering rain arrives, and then boom! — there they are.
Like the Texas bluebonnet, they are small in stature but pack a punch when massed together.
You can increase your bulb count by digging them up and dividing them in late fall or winter, after they’ve bloomed but before the green leaves (which sprout later) disappear. I never think to divide mine, however. They’re now growing under spiny aloe arms, so that also dissuades me. They don’t seem to mind. The trumpets blaze on, year after year. I’m happy to have seen them, these heralds of fall.
Datura has also responded to the rain with its gigantic white trumpets, which unfurl at night to scent the garden in sweetness.
After exploring Georgia O’Keeffe country in New Mexico, the datura, which she painted, reconnects me to that glorious landscape. I’ll have pictures for you soon.
For now I’m luxuriating — as is the garden — in the gradual relenting of summer. It ain’t over ’til it’s over. But it’s a start.
The hummingbirds that visit my garden daily surely appreciate the bounty of reawakened flowers too. We made it through.
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