Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Oxblood Lilies - Sign of the Season

The first blooms of our oxblood lily (Rhodophiala bifida) opened on September 4th. Folks in these parts call them Schoolhouse Lilies because they bloom the week that children go back to class.

The original bulbs were brought to the Texas Hill Country by German settlers well over a century ago. It's amazing to think that the bulbs survived the journey, the planting in alien soil and then over one hundred years of volatile Texas weather. Now every September, the older Hill Country towns light up with lilies, red waves of friendship flowing from neighbors dividing and sharing decade after decade.

What a present our blooms were after so many months of drought! I originally planted the bulbs in a front bed three years ago--before I knew the books were wrong, the books that said deer don't eat lilies. Mine were regularly grazed and never had a chance to bloom. But amazingly, they didn't die.

So this year at Easter, a time before we knew the coming months would be a blast furnace, we renovated the front bed and transplanted the lilies to a bed where they got better soil and were surrounded by plants deer don't like. The lily-snacking ended. But in the scorch of summer, the foliage died to the ground. And I knew the lilies had finally given up. Too much too hard too long.

Then on September 4th, when we walked out for our first sunset-porch-sit since May, we found the flowers radiant in ruby glory, testament to the power of life.


  1. I like this story of survival. The life of nature is a amazing thing.
    Thanks for sharing.

  2. What an amazing flower! I haven't seen any of these in N. California.

  3. I think of the work of cultivating family as a garden. Just when you're dog-tired, bug bit, thorn stuck and ready to give up, you look away for a moment and look back, and there is a beautiful bloom. Had a sweet conversation today with a step-child, and your observations resonated. . .

  4. I love oxblood lillies. I think my mo-in-law, raised in the Sisterdale area, calls them school house lillies. They are stunning and always after a rain.

  5. Oh thank you for telling me about this lily! I just had one pop up at my country home near La Grange TX. It's all alone, year an old picket fence of an 1880's farmhouse, in Waldeck, an old German community. I am going to have to decide whether to dig it up and coax it to divide, or leave it where it's been happy for over a hundred years.


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