Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Rain Lily

I love a thunderstorm.  I wake to the drop in pressure that precedes the storm, when the sky darkens and the screens bang and the cat tears around the house yelling because her kitty senses tell her that change is imminent.  I'm startled by the flash of lightening and, what seems like minutes later, the roar and roll of thunder in the distance.  When the first, fat drops of rain hit the roof, I feel relief that, yes, rain is really falling.  Then the sky opens and all of the rain that we have needed for so long falls all at once, in a huge rush of raindrops so close together that I can't help but look up and wonder how I can even hear drops within the roar, which gradually subsides into a steady drumming of raindrops on the roof.  That's the part I love most about a thunderstorm – the steady sound of rain on the roof, the steady draining of water from the eaves, the steady burble of water flowing down the hill and down the street and all around me.  The sound of the world being soaked in water.  At that point, in the midst of rain that has been falling, that is falling, and that will continue to fall, I go back to sleep and sleep more soundly than I have for weeks.

A thunderstorm does more for my plants than I could with 10,000 waterings.  Because it's not just the water in the ground that makes the difference, though the thorough soaking that a good storm gives to all of the earth surrounding my gardens has got to help.  A rain day is like a spa day for the plants, a day of cooler temperatures, cooler moisture in the air, and lots of water in the ground.  In that state of ground saturation and 100% humidity, the relentless pull of water, from the ground into the roots then through the stems and out of the leaves, finally stops.  Relaxed and at peace, with all their leaf pores open and no worries of losing water, is how I think of my plants on a rain day.

The proof of how beneficial a thunderstorm is to the garden is in how good the plants look in the days following the storm.  Even if I have been diligently watering my garden twice a week, or hand watering every two or three days in the worst of the heat, the plants always look so much more alive after a thunderstorm that I feel a bit jealous of nature.  All those weeks of watering just to keep the plants alive, then a storm rolls through and each plant in the garden emerges looking like it's just back from a wellness retreat.  The leaves grow bigger and greener, new flowers and fruits form, and existing fruits swell to full size and ripen in a matter of hours.  Obviously, with sufficient rain, I'm not much needed in this early-production stage of the summer garden.

Even the ground seems happy after a long-overdue thunderstorm, erupting in a blanket of white flowers.  The white flowers that emerge two to three days after a thunderstorm are rain lilies.  In central Texas we have two species of rain lilies, a spring and early-summer blooming species, Cooperia pedunculata, and a late-summer to fall blooming species, Cooperia drummondii.  Rain lilies are perennials in the Lily Family that regrow from bulbs in the ground.  I'm more familiar with the spring-blooming variety because it grows wild along the south side of my house.  The spring rain lilies have long, strap-like leaves, much like their relatives, the daffodils, and fragrant flowers with three sepals and three petals.  The tepals (sepals and petals together) are white to light pink.

Spring-blooming Rain Lily (Cooperia pedunculata)

Spring rain lilies (Cooperia pedunculata) are covering lawns, roadsides, and vacant lots all over Austin this week, singing the praises of last week's thunderstorm and encouraging the universe to send more rain in our direction, to give us a wet early summer where the creeks flow and the trees put on a second set of leaves and the tomatoes are plentiful.  But, in reality, that's just my wish, leading me to see the rain lilies as an offering to the gods, a request for thunderstorms to come.  The rain lilies bloom because the ground is soaked through now, because of the rain last week, and, in that, the rain lilies are offerings of thanks.  So, universe, thanks for the rain.

P. S.  Please send more.

1 comment:

  1. I love the cleansing effect of thunderstorms too, especially once the heaviest part is about done and the clouds are making way for the sky. The steady beating of rain drops on the roof during that moment is always the best. I don't like getting wet in the process though.

    - Adam Waterford