Many years ago, when my mother was living with us, my husband went to the Home Depot for something innocuous like a screw or a nail and returned with a bulb that was about the same size as a grapefruit. He said he’d found it in a bin next to the check out stand on sale for only fifteen dollars.
For those of you who aren’t gardeners, that’s a lot of money to pay for a bulb! Needless to say, mother got a big kick out of making a daylong fess about Joel’s foolishness. “Oh, they saw you coming alright! I could have gotten thirty bulbs for two bucks at the Walmart … ” (you get the picture). Then she sat at the window and watched him plant the thing in the middle of the garden. “You can’t let him go to the store alone again or you’ll end up in the poor house.”
Spring arrived. Mother decided we didn’t provide enough entertainment and moved into one of those fancy places with a bar, beauty parlor, gym and theater. But in the backyard, nothing emerged from the ground where the magic bulb had been planted. In fact, years went by and nothing emerged until last August. Fire season had come early. We had massive fires to the north, east and south of us. The air quality hovered between unhealthy and hazardous to your health. The apocalypse had come to Northern California and with it, the penis plant.
I have to admit, it was more than just a little spooky. It grew and grew and eventually blossomed and was spectacular. After the blossoming stalk fell to the ground and died, foliage emerged and basked in the sun until January. After the foliage died, I wondered what would happen August 2021.
Well, nothing happened. The blossoming stalk never emerged. Perhaps it was the coolness of the summer or the lack of rain. I certainly hope it wasn’t the unhealthy air that the plant needed! However, after a couple atmospheric rivers rolled through the area, I went out into the garden and here’s what I found:
I have no idea if the foliage will be followed next August by a blossoming stalk. I guess we’ll have to wait and see.
Maybe it only blooms once in a lifetime. One look is all you get.
But it’s green here in California which is always nice and the Mexican lavender is happy.
I do wish Mother could have seen the Red Quill in all its glory. I doubt she would have apologized to Joel but he’s good with children and old folks. Even if he’s somewhat of a sucker for a magic bulb.