Jean Allsopp, Van Chaplin, Joseph De Sciose

Crinums: Real Survivors

Native they're not, but like many naturalized Americans, the crinum has legendary grit. "I've heard folks say, 'I've sprayed them with Roundup and run over them with my lawn mower, but I can't get rid of them,'" says South Carolina grower Jenks Farmer. Mississippi radio personality Felder Rushing recalls extracting his first crinums from the ground outside a tavern in Jackson. "I had to dig through 6 inches of broken beer bottles to get those bulbs," he recollects. Twenty years later, they bloom freely in his garden.

Given the obvious merits of crinums, why did they fall from favor? Greg Grant, an East Texas horticulturist, traces the decline to the ascent of the Dutch bulb industry, as crinums didn't grow well in Europe. Plus, established crinums are hard to transplant, as old bulbs can weigh more than 20 pounds -- but most bulbs you buy weigh one to two pounds.

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