“The calla lilies are in bloom again …”

“The calla lilies are in bloom again.  Such a strange flower … beautiful for any occasion.”
Katherine Hepburn, Stage Door, 1937

I have no idea what Katherine Hepburn was thinking about when she so famously branded the calla lilies, ‘such a strange flower’, but I too think it a bit strange.  Strange, and Beautiful, and … Exotic.  And, in my own experience, for such an exotically beautiful flower, it is strangely hardy, and easy to grow – for once it has established itself, like a stubborn weed, it is difficult to discourage it from returning, no matter how much you try.  I guess what I’m saying is that one may look at the calla lily in bloom and assume that it is delicate, and fragile, or in some way difficult to grow – Nope!  Quite the opposite.  Callas, here in Oregon, often display their hardy character by holding their green leafy foliage right through the moderate winters of the Pacific Northwest, but suffer most during the very dry summers, unless given sufficient irrigation – with just a little help, callas can be persuaded to bloom several times a year, even all year long.

The calla lily has quite an interesting background and history – its origins have been traced back to the wet, wild areas of southern Africa, but it eventually was established throughout the African continent, where it acquired the common name, ‘Lily of the Nile’.  It has become associated with weddings, no doubt due to its exotic, pristine look – however, that innocent look masks the flower’s quite toxic character  – if consumed, any part of the plant or flower can bring a painful death.  Callas are also commonly found among funeral bouquets, and as one of the lilies most commonly associated with Easter religious services – and strangely again, the calla has long served as a badge of, and a commemorative symbol of those who died in the service of, the IRA (Irish Republican Army).

When we moved to our present home in 2001, there was quite a nice bed of callas and rhododendron growing almost right where our new septic tank wound be going – all of those would have to be moved.  The guys who dug the hole for the tank were kind enough to move the rhodies for us, but they left the smaller callas for us to deal with.  Since the callas were only about two feet tall, I thought they’d move easily – Ha!  These babies must have had at least 10 years in this location, and they obviously felt that this was their permanent home – what an extensive root system!  I remember having to use a machete on them to separate the huge plants into smaller parts for replanting – and I remember thinking at the time,  ‘Golly, I bet I’ve damaged these so much that they’ll die in their new homes.’  Ha, what a joke!

I’m here to tell you that what I’ve learned is that the calla lily is SO HARDY, that if I had subjected these calla roots to a tree shredding machine, before transplanting, they’d still have reappeared the next season.  Each year, I go back to that previous home of the callas, and there’s several new callas popping up!  From what?  How is this possible?  I practically sifted the soil there, so, what’s the source of these new plants?  I’ve determined it’s magic.

I’ve now moved the callas three times – and rather than suffer shock from the transplant process, these plants have -in their first full year in their newest home – responded by giving their most magnificent display of blooms ever!

I love these things.  I needed something in the corner of my lot that would be low maintenance, but give our neighbors, who were picking up their mail daily, something nice to look at  (the callas fill a bed directly behind a long row of mail boxes).  They’re more than perfect here – the bloom rises about 4 feet high, just high enough to show magnificently behind the mail boxes – and the heavy mass of leafy foliage at the base of the plant combines with enough of its kin to block out any other unwanted plants in the bed.

I love them – and I hope our neighbors do too -it’s a magnificent show.


About drfugawe

I'm a guy with enough time to do as I please, and that my resources allow. The problem(s) are: I have 100s of interests; I have a short attention span; I have instant expectations; I'm lazy; and I'm broke. But I'm OK with all that, 'cause otherwise I'd be so busy, I'd be dead in a year.
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19 Responses to “The calla lilies are in bloom again …”

  1. Frances Quinn says:

    Love the Callas, Dr. Lucky you. We have tried to grow them to no avail. C’est la vie. Happy summer.

    • drfugawe says:

      Well, apparently all you need is several feet of rain, and lots of gloomy, nasty weather each year! I was thinking that callas might be one of nature’s easiest plants to grow – but maybe it’s just that our climate is weirdly perfect for them.

      Thank you much, Frances – trusting that your summer is a winner.

  2. Tupper says:

    Nice pics Doc- It’s almost summer here and by gosh it’s time. Heading to camp next week- Can’t wait. You should take a trip East!

    • drfugawe says:

      Go easy, amigo – and eat well this summer. Somehow I know you will, and still manage to lose a few pounds in the process. The secret is to put in at least 30 minutes of exercise a day, and fill up on plenty of veggies and fruit.

      Good wishes go with you.

  3. These are my absolute favourite flower…have always loved them for their elegance and beauty and porcelain like appearance…the same reason I love magnolias trees…a beautiful sight in Spring here.

    When I was a kid in Portugal they grew wild everywhere and because of this they were seen as cheap flowers and no one used them to decorate their family graves in the village cemetry..which is a very important thing to do when you care about what others think of you.

    Instead people would buy carnations because they were seen as the more expensive flower and therefore worthy for the “show off” flower arrangements, and perhaps use the cala for indoor use.

    Now times have changed and they are not so abundant and have earn their place in public displays!

    Gorgeous display you have there.

    • drfugawe says:

      Thank you, Azelia. Well, regardless of the ease with which they grow here, they have not naturalized, to my knowledge. Therefore, they are not seen as ‘common’ by the masses – and I have seen them selling in markets down in the Los Angeles area for outrageous prices. I love them for their simplicity and perfection of design – another example of nature as the ultimate designer.

  4. What a great sequence of photos Doc, you’ve really captured their beautiful curves and lines; like some wonderful bit of modern architecture. I think I have some relation of these tucked away in the garden, smaller than yours, prone to being eaten by snails, I think the person who gave me a piece of hers, called it an arum lily, she said they had taken over her garden, but they are not as grand and impressive as yours 😀

    • drfugawe says:

      Hi Jo,
      I’d like to think this beauty has occurred as a result of my expert gardener prowess – but even at the best of times, I know that’s not possible. For the moment, we’ll have to chalk it up to a plant that loves its environment (wonderful pure yellow clay – go figure!) and climate. You have exactly the same plant, just a different name, but it may be a smaller variety – another interesting fact about this beauty is that the white part is not really the flower, but rather a portion of a leaf that has turned white – the real ‘flowers’ are the tiny yellow things on the yellow rod in the middle of the white sheath – fascinating, and strange!

  5. So elegant, Doc! I’d be really happy to pick up my mail to such beautiful flowers every day!

  6. adnelg says:

    Really gorgeous, Doc! I enjoyed reading about these lilies which I wish I could grow too, but that’s the beauty of different environments. I always say that nobody gets it all…I can’t grow callas, but yours are BEAUTIFUL! Thanks for sharing.

    • drfugawe says:

      Much thanks – but I assure you, it has nothing to do with anything I’m doing – frankly, I’m a bit amazed that you can’t get these to grow in your area!

  7. Pingback: Calla Lilies « Blog Archive « Photographer Will Travel …

  8. Frances Quinn says:

    Hi, Dr. It’s me again. I am trying once again with the Calla Lillies. Wegman’s had them in a pot for 6$ each. Bought two, yellow and pink. Planted them in my little backyard. Keeping my fingers crossed. Your are an inspiration. Thanks.

  9. Misk Cooks says:

    Spectacular! Your eye for photography is certainly well refined. I am also very taken your row of mailboxes. I have a springer spaniel who attacked and mauls anything dropping through the postal slot in our front door. I’ve often wanted to solve this problem of racing her to the door before she can grab it with a mailbox like you show in your photo. I wonder if our postman would know what to do with it. Sometimes, bless their hearts, they’re not terribly bright.

    • drfugawe says:

      When I started using this camera, I saw that it was identified as a ‘point and shoot’ camera – and that’s what I do – if anything looks refined, we must blame the camera.

      Are there no mailboxes in the UK? I think the mailbox in the US must be a cultural institution -there must be a clause in the Constitution that the Post Office has the right to decide if mailboxes will be located on your property line – it doesn’t seem to matter if you have other plans. Everyone is supposed to care for their own box, some do, some don’t – I suspect some are not even weatherproof anymore.

      • Misk Cooks says:

        What camera do you use?

        We don’t have mailbox as you’ve shown in your photos, no. I’ve seen in DIY shops (HomeBase, etc.) that you can purchase postboxes that you fix to the outside wall of your house, but I’m not keen to drill more than necessary into our SW facing brick facade. It’s just another avenue for rain to find it’s way into the structure. I’ll eventually find a solution. 😀

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