Fall Comes Dancing In!
Our yard is full of “Naked Ladies.” Or you may know them as “Pink Ladies.” Their name in Botanical Latin is Amaryllis belladonna- “belladonna” meaning “beautiful woman” in Latin. These flowers shoot up like flamingo-colored signal flares from bulbs buried in the hard, dry dirt of late summer and announce the onset of fall. I welcome the sight and scent of these voluptuous creatures and they remind me of my childhood.
My father was a botanist who specialized in native California ecology. We lived in an old ranch house in upper Carmel Valley that had rows of these flowers planted outside. Dad told me that the Naked Ladies were originally from South Africa and that they’d originally been imported into the US in the late 19th century and were much appreciated by gardeners at the time. The overwhelming, sweet scent and almost lurid colors were in sync with the overblown Victorian mentality of the era. Since the Amaryllis bulbs are so hardy the plants can persist for years with no care. My dad taught me to look for seemingly stray patches of these flowers in the woods. “When you see these flowers out in the middle of nowhere,” he used to say, “you know there was once a homestead with a gardener.” We’d look around in the grass and sometimes find the bricks of a broken chimney or the outlines of an old foundation.
Our house is newer but my family has been on this property for over a 100 years. The Amaryllis here were planted by my great Grandfather. But as much as these plants are a signpost to the past, they also act as a prompt to remind me of how much work I’ve got to do now. The Amaryllis always bloom here in the first week of September. We’ve got the heaviest harvests of the season to gather, the dry weather means we have plenty of irrigation to do—- and we’ve got the fall plantings to get into the ground. The crops we plant now are the harvests that we’ll make from November thru March. So we’re really busy now and crops are getting planted almost every day of the week. Romanesco cauliflower is in the ground for later in the fall, as is broccoli. Beets and radish are going in this week as soon as the oldest plantings of basil are turned under.
The lovely photo of Naked Ladies in our yard was taken by Starr’s niece, Jenn, who is visiting from the midwest and helping Starr compose and package the gift boxes of preserves and dried herbs that we’ll be offering in mid October as we head into the holiday season.
—© 2021 Essay by Andy Griffin. Photo of Naked Ladies by Jenn and photo of Gift Bag by Starr Linden.