This episode of Plain Gardening takes us to a vacant lot in the middle of town, where we found some of the grand old lilies of Mobile—the Grand Primo, sometimes called Mardi Gras lilies. The flowers are beautiful and the fragrance is strong and sweet.
At the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century, everyone on the Gulf Coast was growing them. Nowadays they’re hard to find, but you’ll still see them in some of the older neighborhoods and abandoned lots. They don’t grow well up north—which may be one reason why they fell out of favor—but they do wonderfully well here.
Bill Finch of Mobile Botanical Gardens says one of the last places still selling Grand Primo bulbs is oldhousegardens.com. Neither Bill nor I (nor WKRG nor MBG, for that matter) have any affiliation with this site, so just consider this an unsolicited testimonial. Or a good tip.
But Bill says Grand Primo isn’t our only great bulb. It’ll be followed soon by blooming Campernelli, Carlton, and a whole bunch more that do well here!
If you already have some great bulbs, you can divide them easily to make more. Don’t do it now, though; wait until after the foliage dies down…usually in late April. Just dig them up and gently pull apart.