If you need a less than ordinary gift from the garden, try surprise lilies. These North American cousins to the traditional holiday flowering gift Amaryllis bloom mid-July through August and have a colorful arsenal of names - glory lilies, resurrection lilies and the more provocative naked ladies.
Bulbs are planted in fall so they can get established through winter. Once spring starts to unfold, the long, rounded leaves sprout out of the ground to collect energy in the bulbs.
About mid-July, the flower buds pop out of the ground without any greenery around them.
Within days, the flower stalks are 2-3 feet tall with unfolding buds at the top. Some stalks have only a couple of flowers, others may have several.
My surprise lilies bloom in waves, starting mid-July through early September. The ones southwest bloom first. The bulbs on the north side of the house bloom last, giving me almost a one month blooming season.
To give as gifts, place a small bouquet with long stems in a flower vase with water. Add a card explaining what they are. "Enjoy these naked ladies" always gets a response.
You can also dry surprise lily bulbs once they have finished blooming and stalks turn yellow. Once dry, store in a cool place until you can either gift them or plant them in the ground.
Most garden centers offer the bulbs for sale in the fall along with other spring-flowering bulbs.