Their leaves sprout and grow in early summer and then die back. Around mid-August, all of a sudden, the stems shoot straight up and each stem has between five and twelve flower on it. They die back after a week or so, and then the leaves sprout for a second time.
My friend Stiles loves the Naked Ladies especially because they were a favourite of fellow Marylander and gardener, Harvey Ladew, whose incredible gardens we so admire.
There’s a great old story about Harvey Ladew and a friend who were discussing acquiring Naked Lady lilies probably in the 1930’s or so. “Ladew had admired the lilies in his friend’s garden,” says Ladew’s chief gardener Tyler Diehl. “The friend cabled to say he would send 50 naked ladies to Monkton if Mr. Ladew could handle them. Mr. Ladew cabled back, saying that he could easily handle 50 naked ladies if they were disease free. Of course he knew the message would scandalize telegraph operators on both ends, which was part of the fun.
When I was talking about the Naked Ladies to some friends the other night, one of them grabbed my hand and pulled me out to the then-dark garden. “Are these Naked Ladies?”, he asked. He’s spotted them in the garden of the house where they’d just moved, and had sworn that they weren’t there the week before.