All of a sudden they rise up unannounced. No leaves, no warning, just long narrow stalks out of the ground. First a bud on top, then another, then another, until there’s a cluster on each stalk.  Lycoris squamigera is back again.

Every year these lilies arrive as a late-July/early-August surprise, just when the garden needs a cool burst of color.  I planted the bulbs at least 20 years ago, and they keep coming back.

Also called surprise lilies, resurrection lilies, magic lilies or naked ladies, these late summer jewels are members of the amaryllis family, hence their strappy grey-green foliage that appears besides the daffodils each spring. As with daffodil shoots, it’s best to let the foliage turn brown and ugly before removing it. I always forget about the lilies after that, until tips of their stalk pop through the ground months later.

My surprises are at the back of our garden near the hostas. Their naked stalks would look better if I had more hostas skirting them, giving them some modesty.

The mauvish-pink, slightly translucent clusters of blooms atop long stalks resemble nodding lanterns. At the center of each blossom, a funnel of yellow adds to their glow.

When weeding it’s easy to break off a bloom, as I did the other morning. Years ago a friend gave me a tiny ceramic pot, perfect for holding one lily.

 Their fragrance comes as a surprise too, akin to that of stargazer lilies but not as overwhelmingly sweet. More subtle, the fragrance is fine at our kitchen table, where I’m not one for overpowering sweet smells, especially at breakfast.

The surprise lilies have lasted only a few days in our garden this summer. The heat is too much. Before I trim their stalks, I’ll mark their spots. In the fall, I’ll divide the hostas and move some closer, to give these pink ladies green skirts next year.

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