Garden Diary - August 2022

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Rhodophiala Returns with the Rain
Thursday, 25 August 2022

Wal-Mart has pots of chrysanthemums for sale. Say what? Summer's ending. Days are noticeably shorter. It's not yet autumn. Just that the very long, dry, weather has tipped trees and shrubs over into an early false autumn. Leaves are turning brown and dropping. With strong rain forecast for Monday, 22 August I quickly made sure to move my pots of oxblood lilies outdoors. Because . . . it's like this.

Rhodophiala bifida requires a dry hot summer dormancy. Give it
the proper name of aestivation (as opposed to winter's hibernation.)

There's been no rain for three weeks, and little enough before then.

Monday's rain brought precipitation back to average for August
but such uneven distribution stresses plants. And gardeners.

So when a promising forecast offered rain within 24 hours it had me shuttling the pots of Rhodophiala bifida outdoors. Winter green, they have been dormant for months. Water from the tap has never triggered their hysteranthous (flowers before foliage) flowering. It takes rain.

I'll provide an update when buds begin to appear. It doesn't take long.

UPDATE: 25 August Three days later, they are starting into growth!
The smaller bulbs are sending up leaves and the larger ones have flower stalks.

UPDATE: 28 August Three additional days later, they are in flower.
I do admire these sturdy bulbs. They'll winter in the greenhouse, where they'll stay green until
late spring when I stop watering and let them rest until a late summer rain works its magic.

Native to Argentina and Uruguay, oxblood lily or schoolhouse lily thrive, even naturalize in Texas. How did they get there? During the 1840s, central Texas attracted immigrants from southern and western Germany. Among them was Peter Henry Oberwetter, who migrated to Texas about 1849 and settled first in New Braunfels, then Comfort, and later moved to Austin. He moved south into Mexico during the Civil War, as did many German colonists who sided with the North during this conflict, leaving Texas to avoid persecution. While in Mexico Oberwetter continued to collect and export bulbs. When the war ended, he moved to Austin and it was then that he introduced oxblood lilies to America. His legacy lives on in the oxblood lilies flowering each autumn in countless dooryard gardens throughout the South.

from Scott Ogden's Bulbs for Southern Gardens

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