Right now all over Ohio, tall, slim, cotton-candy pink “naked ladies” are enjoying their week to ten days of glory. You won’t find these blooms at fancy nurseries or in the manicured, landscaped gardens around our neighborhood – but part of the fun is going for long drives in the country to spot them. You can most often see them growing near old farm houses and in the shade of dilapidated barns.
I’m obsessed with these slender beauties and have been ever since I first laid eyes on them and heard their story in the Ohio Proud tent at the Ohio State Fair several years ago. These wonderful “heirloom” flowers are also known as belladonna lilies, Pentecost lilies and Resurrection lilies… but my favorite story about these lovely, unusual flowers is the one told by Will Dewees, the gentleman who sold me my first amaryllis belladonna bulbs:
The women at Mt. Herman church, if they mentioned them at all, said surprise lilies. But they looked away when they said it. The Alter Society matrons called them resurrection plants. Even THEM old hens cackled when they answered, because they was thinking about the real name of them tall pink flowers, what they all knew they was really called. And Almira Balcom should know.
You got them from family or neighbors like Almira who had a lot of them near the pond, hardly ever from those rascal peddlers coming by with supplies. Tall Almira. Their house was set back, the lane curved so you couldn’t see her if you minded your own business and didn’t look. The pond was behind. People say from the time she was a little girl in that house, she run out and dove in every morning, and the winters get cold here. That’s how she met Mister Balcom. He let himself get caught hiding in the flowers watching her. Soon as they married, he wanted her to stop, cleared places where people might try to watch, cut down the naked ladies.
‘Til SHE was an old lady, every once in a while, people admitted to watching long Almira’s trim pink body break the water.
Isn’t that a wonderful story? Will is quite a salesman. He sold me more bulbs than I had more money to pay for – and do you know what he did then? He wrote down his address on a piece of paper and told me I could mail him a check. He let me walk away with the bulbs and a promise to send him a check. Who does business like that anymore? I was so captivated by his Amish appearance, charming storytelling and simple yet stellar customer service.
I planted my nekkid ladies happily, but alas we sold our house and moved before their glorious week of blossoming in early August. I would love to buy some more belladonna bulbs from Will and I hope to run into him again at my favorite farmers market! (In the meantime, since I absolutely cannot wait to have more nekkid ladies of my own, I found some on Ebay, too.)
What do you think – have you noticed naked ladies growing where you live? Are you a fan of these wonderful Appalachian flowers, too? I’d love to hear in the comments below.