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Naked Ladies

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The surest sign of the dog days of summer here in the Russian River valley are the naked ladies. Out of the parched earth, just when most wild plants are gasping for moisture, pale green spears of amaryllis belladonna push skyward to remind us that our native plants are adapted to this Mediterranean climate. Further research reveals that they are in fact native to South Africa, and have spread throughout the temperate regions of the world.

In the wet winter the amaryllis bulbs produce abundant green foliage that dies back in May, almost as if the plant has forgotten to flower. Finally in mid-August, as the stalks reach about 2 feet high, dramatic pink blossoms explode with aroma, a welcome treat for my hungry bees. I find naked ladies a perfect color contrast and blossoming partner with lavender: just as the bees are exhausting the purple lavender, the naked ladies are ready to visit.

The fact that amaryllis belladonna is poisonous comes as a mixed blessing, because that makes these hardy beauties also deer and gopher resistant. Go for a drive around west county this month and enjoy them in unexpected places.

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Written by Paul Berg

August 11, 2009 at 2:49 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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