WORDS & PHOTOS Schoolhouse lilies

Schoolhouse lilies began to bloom this week in my yard. It means a new year begins, a new school year that is. As I look back on my youth, the New Year did not begin January 1st; it began the first day of school. Everything began all new and fresh- new pencils and pens, new notebooks, new blue jeans, a new football season. Glorious! The school year beginning afresh is wonderful. Who knows what will happen? Summer has worn on long enough,  it’s time for a new beginning  in the fall

It’s the same in gardening.

If you will, think about the gardening year with me for a moment. Winter is cool, wet and sleepy. Unappreciated by the world, its virtues go unnoticed in spite of the fact it’s the perfect time to plant trees, shrubbery etc. In winter, everything in the garden readies itself.

And then there’s spring… Springtime in Texas is pure youth- full of colorful, blooms and effervescent verdure. But in a moment it’s over, gone, and forgotten, leaving at our doorsteps Texas summer.

Summertime in Texas is surly. It drags on endlessly; pausing only to shout orders out at us like a drill sergeant,  “Mow the grass!” “Weed the flowerbed!” “Trim the shrubs!” “Water the lawn!” (Though thoroughly bad tempered, summer at least stops and smiles at us in the midst of the wavy heat and tips his hat with a smile in the bloom of crape myrtles.)

Then there’s fall. Fall in Texas is… What can I say? It’s wonderful. Everything seems to change. The sun and its light shift to the southern part of the sky, and there is hope that the air will cool. Our summer turf grasses (St. Augustine, Centipede, and Bermuda) can be perfect this time of the year. Our summer perennials (phlox, salvias, roses, etc,) are preparing themselves for their last bloom cycle as if all that came before was the mere warm up act for that perfect time of the year- Autumn. Then come the trumpet notes of the chrysanthemums proclaiming autumn’s pageantry (how bright and cheery). And don’t the feathery blooms of the ornamental grasses look perfect this time of the year? No, fall is the perfectly splendid. To me it’s the beginning.  As a school boy or a college student or even a gardener , for that matter, I’ve always looked forward to the fall.

I love the plants that come into their own in the fall of the year. Sweet Autumn clematis, spider lilies,etc. And then there’s the trees: hickories, blackgums, sweetgums sassafras,and maples. As you read this column, think of them out in the woods. They’re not tired out by summer. Producing summer’s greenness is nothing to them; it’s effortless. Ah, it’s the color of fall that’s tricky. That’s when the trees, talented showmen that they are can upstage the rest of the gardening year. The house lights dim (the green fades), the foot lights come on, and then the show begins. That great stage play “Fall’s Foliage in the Garden”. Gardening critics ask themselves “What will the show be like this year? ”  Somehow in my mind, the greenness of summer is just merely a rehearsal for the beginning of the season- Fall.

So, when the little schoolhouse lilie began to bloom in my garden this week, I said to myself, “Ah, the year begins.” Literally, Monday the blooms sprouted, children tromped off to school, bands marched in preparation of the first game of the year, football players collided in practice. And though I’m old and all that’s past (I don’t get to play football anymore) and I think about new notebooks and pencils and pens with only a wistful smile, today I see time moving through my garden with the bloom of schoolhouse lilies. This week was the beginning of a New Year.


Rhodophiala bifida or schoolhouse lilies bloom in the fall of the year. Originally from Argentina, they’ve made themselves at home here in Texas where they announce the beginning of each school year with their blooms.

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