As much as I love coming home with a new plant for the garden, I really appreciate plants that stay bought, especially if they do so with little effort on my part.


I was reminded of that recently by these lilies, which have been faithfully putting on a summer show with their pink blooms since 1996. I had stuck them in a pot with some tuberose, which were supposed to be the star of the show, and certainly looked -- and smelled -- spectacular, while they lasted. But they petered out early in the season, and only a few tried to come back the next season.

Admittedly, I didn't do much to help them. I just dragged their heavy terra cotta home inside to the basement for the winter, tucked them away where they got little light and a little water, and never got around to digging them up for the season. Given how little effort I'd made toward their preservation, I was surprised to see the lilies sending up shoots in the dim basement corner the following spring. And the next spring, and the next one. Since they seem OK with their treatment, I've just repeated the process ever since, with their only attention being a bit more amended soil when the soil level dropped from years of watering.

I don't know how long the fairy lilies will continue to reward my negligence, but I'm grateful to them. They may not be quite as long-lived as Grandma's peonies, but they're off to a good start.

It reminds me of one of my favorite New Yorker cartoons where a shopper at a garden center looks over the annual and perennial sections and asks about the eternals.You never know unless you ask, and in gardening, as so many things, you never know until you try.

What's your favorite candidate for "eternals"?