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Annie in Austin
Welcome! As "Annie in Austin" I blog about gardening in Austin, TX with occasional looks back at our former gardens in Illinois. My husband Philo & I also make videos - some use garden images as background for my original songs, some capture Austin events & sometimes we share videos of birds in our garden. Come talk about gardens, movies, music, genealogy and Austin at the Transplantable Rose and listen to my original songs on YouTube. For an overview read Three Gardens, Twenty Years. Unless noted, these words and photos are my copyrighted work.
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Thursday, August 31, 2006

Is My Name Fred?

Long before I moved from Illinois/Zone 5 to Austin/Zone 8B, authors like Elizabeth Lawrence, Henry Mitchell and Stephen Lacey/The Startling Jungle fed my zone-envy by talking about Crinum and Amarcrinum lilies. Now I have some!

Above is the crinum that’s in bloom now, showing its colors, lovely and even fragrant, but I sure didn’t pay one hundred dollars for it, as Pam/Digging has read. I found the Plant Delights receipt from February 2001, for one bulb of Amarcrinum x ‘Fred Howard’ at $12. A journal notation mentions that in Fall 1999, I bought a potted bulb from the Austin Men’s Garden Club. The cost was $5; the donor wasn’t sure of the name, but wrote “Jersey Lily” on the pot.

Both bulbs grew and were repotted several times before we moved here. In October 2004, I was amazed to realize that the two original bulbs had become eight, but they were mixed up when they were planted in a holding bed. In Spring 2005, the 8 bulbs found permanent homes in 4 locations, varied as to sun/shade and moisture, so I could see what worked best.

For comparison, here’s a photo of Amarcrinum x ‘Fred Howard’ at Plant Delights. My flower looks just like their ‘Fred Howard’, don’t you think?

In June, another of the bulbs, planted in a hotter & sunnier space, bloomed with Evolvolus ‘Blue Daze’ around it.

This one looks like a ‘Fred Howard’, too. So my investment has doubled already!

What about the other six? Was “Jersey Lily” a possibility? A search for ‘Jersey Lily’ pulled up many sites on Lillie Langtry, the beautiful actress and mistress of King Edward VII, named for the flower growing on her home Isle of Jersey. [Did anyone else watch Francesca Annis as ”Lillie” in the old Masterpiece Theater Series?]

Google found a few botanical choices for Jersey Lily, including Nerine bowdenii, and Nerine sarniensis. In photos these Nerines seem fluffier, with long stamens hovering above pink flower petals splayed outward. Hortus Third says Nerines are tender below Zone 9, with “lvs. strap-shaped, basal, usually absent at flowering time”, and both species are described as rose-red. Other authorities insisted that Jersey Lily is Amaryllis belladonna, a kind of Naked Lady, with reddish stems and leaves that disappear in April.

The disappearing, strap-shaped leaves seem to rule out both Nerines and the Amaryllis belladonna. I may have mixed up the bulbs when they were separated and replanted, but every one of the eight bulbs produces semi-evergreen leaves. The foliage never disappears, although some of it turns brown if the temperature dips below 20º F, then regrows when the freeze is over.

So I’ll wait and see if the six remaining bulbs ever bloom. A couple may also be ‘Freds’, but the others? My guess is that the guy from the Austin Men’s Garden Club was growing some kind of Crinum without knowing what he had; I hope it is another variety of these lovely flowers.


  1. What beautiful surprises, Annie! And how interesting that you can't find a single plant to fit your "Jersey lily" name... it will be interesting to see what good garden surprise will come up there. :)

  2. Gorgeous! I'm glad to hear they can be found for reasonable prices (I wonder where that article I quoted was coming from, when it said they were so expensive!). I'll have to keep an eye out for crinum bulbs at my favorite nurseries.

  3. I think I've just come down with a case of zone-envy!

  4. Pam, I've seen them at Barton Springs Nursery in the past...I haven't checked this year.

    Annie, I have some I rescued from a construction site...I don't what they are. I thought they were Crinum gowenii. Here's a photo.


  5. The $12 bulb took 5 years to bloom, and people don't want to wait that long. Maybe if you pay the big bucks you get a huge bulb that blooms immediately?


    Oops... Wow that was weird - MSS made a comment and it sort of flashed on above the comment box. M, I looked at your photo, which is clearer than mine and the coloring is similar, but in person, there's something different in the shape of the petals and the way the individual flowers are attached.

    Here's a link to a woman with an enormous collection of crinums, and a lot of them look alike. After seeing hers I wonder if mine really is 'Fred Howard', or just a cousin with a family resemblance.


  6. That women has a lot of Crinums.

    Believe it or not in Hawaii we do not have very many varieties of Crinums in cultivation. Most of them are the very very large asiatic kind and I find their small flowers are not worth their mammoth size and the space they take up. They can't be beat for ocean front planting though.

    Seeing all those large blooms on smaller plants makes me think it would be nice to have some of those here. I bet they wouldn't wait five years to bloom either in our climate.

  7. I love crinums!
    My father seems to think they are as tough as nails though.
    Says you can't hurt them.
    Kind of like this article:


    Doesn't say anything about how long they take to bloom though.
    He gave me a couple of them and now I'm wondering
    if I'll actually get any flowers this spring.

    Oh yeah, my original comment,
    I didn't know they had different bloom times.
    Looks like there are a wide variety of criums though.

  8. Hey - I love crinums too, and there is a guy in SC that grows them (and ships) - here's a post I did about him (http://talesfromthelaboratory.typepad.com/tales_from_the_microbial_/2006/06/augustus_jenkin.html) - sorry about the long link, I forgot how to do it right in a comment! Anyway, yours look beautiful! (Go visit the lady in Texas and report back! How fun. She seems obsessed).

  9. Oh, I love all the links! Thanks Pam/SC and Amy. I'm not too sure mine are planted in a spot that will accomodate a 20-pound bulb!

    Christopher, one of Pam/SC's links shows the Crinum Lady with an entire research team! The guy nicknamed Conroe Joe is a frequent poster on the Texas forum of GardenWeb.

    Pam in Austin/Digging, I'm not nice enough to hand over one that's blooming, but if you want to try one of my 'mystery' bulbs, it's yours once Austin gets a little cooler.

  10. It may not be a hundred dollar bulb, but it looks like a million! I'm having zone-envy here too.

  11. Okay, I need to look into these!


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