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?
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.