Wednesday, April 13, 2011

What's That Smell?

While I was listening intently to Melinda Myers show me how to spruce up the small spaces in my garden at the Proven Winners Outdoor Living Extravaganza in Milwaukee last Friday, my husband was putting in a frantic call to me. At the lunch break, I listened to his message and as he whined and complained his way through it, I got more and more amused.

"I opened the utility room door this morning and you would NOT believe the SMELL in there!! I thought maybe one of the cats made a mess, but it doesn't quite smell like that. Is it one of your plants??"

At first I couldn't imagine what it was and then I remembered the voodoo lilies I'd planted up a couple of weeks before. I'd bought the bulbs at the Chicago Flower and Garden Show - three of them - and a couple of weeks ago, I noticed them shooting out of the bulbs while still in the plastic bag. In fact, one of them was nearly a foot tall already!

When I got home, Romie had banished the voodoos to the conservatory and asked me to go out there and smell them. He wanted to know exactly what I thought they smelled like.

Two words: cow manure.

I'm no stranger to that smell, and it took me back to the days on my grandparents farm. I was transported to the big white barn, with its resident kitties, smelling of straw and... cow manure. While those memories are nothing but pleasant, the voodoo lily fragrance isn't. But there's a method to God's madness.

The voodoo lily, like many of its relatives, emits an odor when it blooms that some say smells like rotting flesh. Not having had that sensory experience, I can't say, but the smell attracts flies, its main pollinators.

There are several varieties of voodoo lilies, but I believe mine to be Typhonium venosum. It's only supposed to be hardy to zone 6, but being in zone 5b, I'll risk it outside. I've now planted them out, in a very protected location on the east side, right next to the house. I might lift one of them this fall, just in case, but I'll mulch well and hope for the best for the other two.

Gardening is very much a sensory experience. In spite of the rank odor these things put out, I'm happy to have them, because it's things like this that spice up my gardening life. Yeah, that's it. Spicy.


Alison said...

They are scary-looking!

themanicgardener said...

That was hilarious. I'm not sure, though, that I'd have put a plant that smells of manure and attracts flied just below my windows...

Kylee Baumle said...

Alison ~ I actually think they're weirdly cool!

Kate ~ Good point, and I did consider that, too. But they only really smell strong for about a day. After that, you have to get your nose right down on it to smell them.

The odor isn't as strong outside, although Lily (one of the cats) walked over to them right away and started sniffing. (Beef! It's what's for dinner!) In an enclosed room, however, it's a different matter!

Shawna Lee Coronado said...

Loved this.

If you mulch heavily I would think that might help you "stretch" to a zone 6. Let us know if they survive through the winter. I love the idea of building our own zones in our yard!


Aimee said...

Wow! Great name for these plants - they do look a little they should be in a Tim Burton film or something.

What a funny story - love the call from you husband. I could just hear mine..."we've got a situation over here..."

I can't wait to see what these beauties (beasties?) do! I sure hope the mulch will do the trick and insulate them well.

Looking forward to seeing more photos of them over the summer!

Lisa at Greenbow said...

This is so funny Kylee. Poor Romie. You should have warned him. Tee hee... I didn't realize that these were hardy so far north. I thought they were more of a tropical. Hmmmmm I might have to try these if I ever run into them.

Matt DiLeo said...

wow that is absolutely amazing. i'd never heard of voodoo lilies before.

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