Home & Design

Green Acre #213: Calla Lilies? Maybe.

A concatenation of calla lilies. / iStock photo.

THE PRINCE has scattered three clumps of calla lilies behind the anemones. At least I hope they’re calla lilies. I’ve always wanted to waltz into the garden in something swish, wave a martini about and say, “The calla lilies are in bloom again.” Katharine Hepburn, Stage Door, you know? 

I’ve been practicing that line my whole life, it seems. And the moment may yet come. Next year even, should the flowers bloom. 

The reason I’m not sure of what we have is that I uprooted the plant, with permission, from someone’s garden and then promptly forgot what the flowers looked like, as they immediately drooped and died. This left me with some knotty-looking bulbs and some strappy green leaves that several folks on one of the highly intelligent Facebook gardening groups I follow rather tentatively insisted were calla lilies.  

How thrilling if they’re correct! Though, absent that line of dialogue, they’re still pretty flowers, as I vaguely recall.  

At long last, the front garden is coming along. Nothing around here happens too speedily, so it’s no surprise that this took only 38 years. 

Its most important element was inspired by a garden that is several blocks over. I suppose I should say was, because the young men who now live in the house installed AstroTurf in the front yard, among other horrors—though I say this fondly since they were throwing out their 32-inch TV last weekend and held it for me while I got the car. It’s shiny and almost new and shall go in what we grandly call the Guest Suite in the basement, where I shall move a little this and that and create a space for a mat and shall perform yoga or Feifferesque dances, all angles and drama. We are a two-TV family at last. You can pretty much find anything on these streets. 

All of that was an aside. 

The young men’s yard is situated like ours, along an alley. The plot is a little smaller, though ours is not particularly large, maybe 15 x 20 feet.  Before the boys destroyed everything, there was a small tree planted toward the rear, between the house and its neighbor, which had the effect of setting the home apart, as if it were freestanding. 

At the time, we were living next door to an unloved, unkempt, mildewed horror of utmost decrepitude. One Christmas we were shocked to see a large inflated plastic Santa on the porch roof—what jollity! But there it remained, slowly losing air, week after week, month after month, until it completely deflated and puddled over the edge. Years passed. At last, the house was flipped, renovated and sold for $1,385,000 to a Republican and a Democrat,  which, I imagine, makes for an exhilarating life.

That was another aside. 

Anyway, pre-flip, the tree trick was a brilliant way to hide the neighbors. To create that freestanding-house effect, we put in a pink dogwood, which straggled along for several decades. It always started out the year well-budded and promising a fine display, which never quite happened. In August the leaves would start browning, the edges crumbling, and it looked like hell until winter, when its bare branches seemed almost attractive. 

Eventually, we gave up and planted a Japanese maple, a lovely small tree that seems content and looks attractive all year with a minimum of fuss, while giving our house the stand-alone feeling I wanted. Ah, the sweet smell of success.    

Next week: what worked this year, what didn’t, and what to plant for a glorious spring. 

—Stephanie Cavanaugh

LittleBird “Stephanie Gardens” highly anticipates next year, when she will find out whether or not she has calla lilies.


2 thoughts on “Green Acre #213: Calla Lilies? Maybe.

  1. Carol — Your chamber awaits!

  2. Carol Roger says:

    So many takeaways from this excellent piece! Calla Lilies, dogwood, and a Guest Suite television, and hope which springs eternal!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.