Featured Flower: Naked Ladies
I love Naked Ladies! —And no, that’s not a statement about a lifestyle choice, or even a reflection on my time photographing the human form—I love Amaryllis belladonna, locally referred to as Naked (or Pink) Ladies. They very well may be my favorite flower, and certainly my favorite floral scent.
Every year since childhood I would eagerly await the return of these glorious beauties. They were the one good thing about the end of summer. A former teacher told me that the teachers used to see these flowers blooming and know it was time to head back to school. It is funny that I and many other locals so deeply identify these flowers with SonomaCounty at this time of year, since the flowers originate in South Africa where they bloom in the Spring.
The common name of the Naked Lady stems from the way that the plants shed their leaves in the late spring, remain dormant in the summer, only to sprout stems with blooms but without leaves in the early Fall. But really between you and me, I think it has something to do with the shape, color and perfume. Naked Ladies have the most heavenly scent, and a delicate captivating form, and a deliciously intense pink color.
How do I describe the experience of this flower? The pink is beyond ballet pink, somehow transcending the color itself. The stems are tall and stately, crowned by a circle of large, trumpet-like blooms arranged artfully as if by Alfons Mucha, each opening up to a graceful star and playfully curious and curling tendrils. Oh, but the scent…the scent is what makes this flower worth waiting for! It is one of the lushest and captivating scents ever; so fruity and decadently sweet that is almost like a distillation of all the fruits of summer.
According to flowerinfo.org, the Naked Lady is a symbol of “intense beauty, timidity and determination.” Sometimes, Naked Ladies are given to express how stunning the giver feels the recipient to be, or to tell him or her that they are determined to make their relationship strong and long-lasting. These flowers can also represent a hard-earned achievement after a long struggle, and thus they make a fabulous present to someone who has persevered.
Naked Ladies, in their season, trump the rose as the most romantic of gifts. They can transform a whole room with their sweet presence. It seems sad that they can only stay for a short time, but it is that same coy disappearing act that makes us long for our next glimpse, next year, when they brashly sprout from the ground and shout in all their glory “I’m here!”
by Nadja Masura