Giant excitement from a Cardiocrinum giganteum

Credit: Carolyn Jones

Cardiocrinum giganteum, or giant Himalayan lily, teaches patience and the absolute necessity of enjoying life’s fleeting moments

Seven years ago, I got this magnificent perennial as a tiny seedling. I kept it a pot so I could protect it from slugs. After five years, it went into the ground and grew for another year. Two years ago, my giant lily lived up to its name: it threw up its first flowering spike, which ascended to 10.5 feet and, in early July, produced foot-long trumpets of white streaked with burgundy. It perfumed the entire area and then, after a short 10 days, it began to drop its flowers. After the flowers fell, the ripening pods turned upwards; the reason for this became apparent with time.

Through summer and fall, the pods ripened to deep brown. At the first frost, they popped open, each pod like a goblet of seeds. Then the first big wind storm came, and I was astonished to see seeds flying over the rooftops and away. Last year my lily took a break, only growing a rosette of huge heart-shaped leaves. This year: four flower stalks, the tallest of which was 9.5 feet tall. I knew how swiftly they would fall, so I made it a point of sitting outside in the evening and enjoying their heavy aroma. I imaged the wonder of these extraordinary plants sending their seeds flying from mountain top to mountain top in their native home of the Himalaya Mountains. I feel lucky to enjoy them without a two-week trek!