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article imageOp-Ed: San Francisco Florist notes the 'naked lady' lily is a survivor Special

By Jonathan Farrell     Aug 23, 2012 in Lifestyle
San Francisco - On the popular and upscale Union Street in San Francisco's Marina District there is a flower stand at the busy corner of Union and Fillmore Streets where the #41 and #45 MUNI bus stops.
Stepping off the bus or simply walking byThe Bud Stop floral shop at that corner of Union, the fragrance of fresh flowers greets foot traffic. In one of the most prime locations of San Francisco where renting a one-bedroom, one bath apartment can be more than $2,800.00 per month, it is crucial local businesses in the Cow Hollow/Marina area keep business going. Despite its fashionable and well-to-do atmosphere, Union Street and surrounding streets are constantly changing. A new generation emerges every five to 10 years to make their mark upon the City and of course upon the world. This "transient" aspect to the upwardly mobile young professionals moving to the City can be stressful for business owners, especially those that work hard to stay and help to make stable a sense of community that seems lacking in a big city environment. "When I first started I shared this space I am in with a bank, now its a real estate company," said owner Catherine Cowman.
She noted the other shops and businesses that have left the area like the popular John Campbell's Irish Bakery that was on the corner of Filbert and Fillmore less than four years ago. It downsized to just one location on Geary Blvd out in "the Avenues." That storefront is still vacant. The Bud Stop is among only a very few like the landmark and legendary Perry's that have remained as an anchor on Union Street.
To emphasize her point about the frequency of change along the posh shopping corridor, the real estate office was Coldwell Banker only a few years ago, now its Better Homes and Gardens - Mason and McDuffle Real Estate. She considers the realtors there among her most frequent. Yet she is always pleased to attend to the passerby.
This reporter got a chance to chat with Cowman and I was curious to know what the pink lilies were called. Commonly referred to as Amaryllis or "naked lady" she told me, they often grow wild and are seasonal for summer and fall. Officially called 'Lycoris squamigera,' horticulturist Dr. Gerard Klingaman of the University of Arkansas referred to the prolific flower as "Magic lilies" because they are easy to grow. And, yes they do appear in August. Yet as familiar they are, they are not native to the west or anywhere in the United States. Surprisingly they are originally native to South Africa, this particular variety we know is home to and highly cultivated in Japan.
They are called "naked" because they have no leaves, "just blooms and stems," said Cowman. "These are the types of flowers that our grandmothers used in their floral arrangements," she added. That would make sense since according to Dr. Klingaman who now works for the Botanical Gardens of the Ozarks in Fayetteville, Arkansas, the lilies began to be introduced into American gardens around 1880. Since that time they have become a fixture in the front yards and backyards of American homes nationwide. Yet, they grow best in dry, non-tropical climates as far and wide as Australia, as The Australian Gardener Plant Nursery of Monbulk Victoria verified in detail. They refer to the flower as "Amarygia belladonna." Not far from Melbourne, The Australian Gardener Plant Nursery, established in 1953 explained that the lilies have been hybrid into other varieties such as the "belladonna" and "Brunsvigia Josephinae," of which they specialize. The lilies should be watered sparingly as they do best in sunny warm weather. This explains why they are so abundant in California.
Cowman had a bouquet of them at her stand. Yet she pointed to the vast array of other flowers and plants at her shop which were more elaborate than the simple slender pink lilies.
"Naked lady lilies, Mums, Carnations, those were the popular flowers of the day, for our grandmothers," said Cowman. "Now the styles and tastes have changed to include things people never considered before, like artichoke blossoms, fig branches and such," said Cowman. Eager to please, and specializing in custom designs, with the ever changing tastes and styles and competition too, pleasing as many customers as possible can be daunting.
She noted many dramatic changes in the more than three decades she has had The Bud Stop on Union Street. Not only in floral designs but in society and of course the economy. Something familiar and reliable like the simple pink lily is always welcome no mater what the style. The lilies are a constant in a world that can be uncertain.
"Those lilies not only say it is the closing of summer, she said. Taking a moment to reflect Cowman went on to say, "but I when I see those lilies, it reminds me of the passing of Lady Diana Spencer." "The lilies were in bloom at that time back in late August, she said. And, Cowman noted that Spencer had a profound effect on many people, despite the controversial aspects of her life and death. This August 31 will be 15 years since Lady Di's tragic death. "There will never be anyone else like her, she was a unique person," said Cowman.
"I cried she said, it was such a shock and it took me by surprise because at the time she was so prominent, in her prime. All the charity work she was doing, she seemed invincible. I thought she would bounce back from the injuries from the car crash." But she did not. Spencer's death sent shock waves around the world. "And there were lots and lots of flowers everywhere in tribute to her, even here in San Francisco," said Cowman." The British Embassy in SF (Consulate-General on Sansome Street) had thousands of tributes and there was a make-shift shrine to the Princess of Wales on Castro Street. "She definitely had an impact on us (Americans)," she said. "Those Amaryllis lilies are a reminder of that time," she added.
Yet the lily's ability to endure the intense heat of summer as well as resilient to frost when the season changes from summer to autumn and then reappear the next year, indicate they are survivors. "I consider myself a survivor, and that is what is special about these lilies," said Cowman. "We all must continue on and adapt no matter what the season, in good times and bad," she said.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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