Once the Elephant Ears were cleaned and planted, it was time to turn my attention to Canna. Like their large-leaved companions, Canna are also over-wintered in brown paper bags filled with peat moss and then stored in the cement bunker at a steady, cool temperature. (One year, I stored them in the garage, which was too cold and too moist. The result was a smelly, mushy mess.)
For this demonstration, I’ll use my absolute most favorite Canna, “Black Knight.” The leaves are big and bold and bronzy red, with hot red blooms. And the rhizomes, well, they’re meaty. That’s right. Meaty.
1. First, be prepared to get dirty. I first shake and brush off all of the excess dirt and peat moss. Remember, when these were dug up in the fall, the soil was not washed off. Once cleaned, you can see the structure of the rhizome and the previous year’s growth. Now, it’s time to take a good look and decide what stays and what goes.
2. As the rhizome grows, segments become very dry and woody. These can be cut off. Actually, some of these areas will naturally want to be removed from the healthier tissue of the rhizome, and can be manually separated.
3. I then clip off last year’s stalk. That “eye” will no longer sprout. Instead, I am more interested in the fuller eyes, which have a warmer color tone.
4. Finally, it’s time to snip off last year’s roots. Their work is done.
5. This leaves me with a firm, plump rhizome – ready to be planted. I hope you can see not only the warm color tone, but also the meatiness of “Black Knight.” Eventually, these knights will be the kings of the garden.
6. Just like with Elephant Ears, I use a potting system. This gives me greater control to protect the rhizomes from any freeze, and also to make sure that those that don’t sprout won’t leave a gaping hole in the garden. The rhizomes are covered with about a ½ inch of soil. I do tend to pack them into pots – I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s a lack of space. I just don’t have room — or a pot — for every rhizome. But I like to think that I’m creating a ready-made clump when it’s time to add them into the garden.
7. And what will these rhizomes grow to be?
Next Post: Spread the word! Nitty Gritty Dirt Man is turning one, and in honor of the occasion I’m conducting my first giveaway. Details will be revealed in a few days!