The Cahaba Lily Festival

West Blocton, Alabama is a rural town with a population of 1240, according to the latest census. However, every May hundreds of people from far-flung places descend upon the community to admire the Cahaba Lily, which blooms at nearby Hargrove Shoals within the Cahaba River National Wildlife Refuge. This is the largest stand of Cahaba Lilies in the world.

There are about 60 documented patches of the rare, stunningly beautiful perennial bulb that grows only in Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina. This flowering "Ode to Joy" has become an exaltation of spring and a special symbol of nature's fragility and resilience.

Growing about three feet tall, Hymenocallis coronaria has striking fragrant white flowers made up of six long narrow petals surrounding a membranous corona. It is easy to see that it is a type of Spider Lily.It has very specific environmental needs, including full sun, swift-moving clear water, and rocky shoals. It begins to flower in mid-May and continues to bloom sporadically for about a month. After pollination and fertilization, seeds ripen until they drop and are swept into rock crevices, where new plants soon germinate. 

On May 21, I attended my first Cahaba Lily Festival, which included live music and updates by various environmental groups. Dr. Larry Davenport, professor of Biology at Samford University, presented an interesting and informative lecture about the Cahaba Lily. I was shocked to learn that the Cahaba Lily has no federal or state protection.Then there was a free lunch, an old-fashioned, lip-smacking, pot luck type meal provided by the community. Everyone agreed it was all delicious, most especially the desserts. 

After lunch, shuttle buses carried participants out to the river, where we got to wade in the water and enjoy close-up views of the Cahaba Lilies. It was a fun way to work off our excess lunch calories.

Walking over somewhat slippery rocks could be challenging. Some of us were more graceful than others.

Here I am, just returned from a journey to the center of the river. I was smiling because I didn't fall in:

And here is my vote for cutest Cahaba Lily Festival attendee:



The Jim Scott Garden, a Secret Paradise

It takes a good GPS system and some nerve to find the Jim Scott garden, down a plunging, twisting dirt road on Lake Martin in central Alabama. However, at the end of the harrowing drive, a paradise waits, removed from the world. Enter the gate, and you are welcomed into a land of whimsy and magical beauty. It has taken Jim Scott nearly twenty years to create this masterpiece. It is a private retreat for his family and friends, but Mr. Scott also opens it to the public at various times through the year.

You must savor the journey as you explore the secret paths and private niches within this stroll garden. There are multiple levels with elevated bridges and streams and waterfalls throughout. Take your time; walk too fast, and you will miss something wonderful. There are many seating areas placed so that people can relax and enjoy the vistas through the trees and over the lake. It is a playful garden, for the young and the young-at-heart.

A team of five caretakers works full time to maintain this botanical wonder. When I visited, everything was perfect, healthy, weed-free and gorgeous. Here is a sampling of the photos I took of Jim Scott's unforgettable garden. This post is longer than my usual posts, but I hope you can take time to appreciate the details.  

A winding path around huge boulders and across a little stream leads to an amazing wine cellar.

This is the entrance to a secret cave behind a waterfall.

I hope you enjoyed the tour! You may want to look at this post more than once to take it all in; I am already planning another visit to Jim Scott's garden!

Addendum: Thanks goes to commenter Linda,, who found this wonderful short video about Mr. Scott and his garden, Absolutely Alabama Story Jim Scott - YouTube. The video really brings his garden to life!