If the transition from winter to spring in South Florida is subtle, the one between summer and fall is practically invisible. While autumn is already a few weeks old — according to the calendar and posts from northern gardeners — the weather forecasters in Zone 10 say that anything resembling fall (temperatures below 70) will not arrive until sometime in November — and that will most likely happen while I’m fast asleep.
I think I have fall envy.
That thought first occurred to me as September 21 was approaching and all of the local and chain coffee shops and microbreweries started touting their pumpkin donuts, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin beer, pumpkin everything.
Part of my education process as a northern gardener living in southern Florida is trying to understand the subtle changes of the seasons. In a subtropical world, where seasons are marked as warm and hot, wet and dry, that is no easy task. Seasonal changes are much — MUCH — more subtle.
“You spend an awful lot of time agonizing over leaves,” Joe, my partner, said to me the other day as we drove around the neighborhood. His statement was in response to my noticing that some homeowners had bagged their leaves in plastic bags while others had bagged them in recyclable brown paper bags, which the township now requires.
In the last post, I left the garden for a music-themed writing prompt from WordPress. This week, it’s back outside — or rather, it’s back to the photos that I originally had taken if I hadn’t come across that writing prompt. And it’s a good thing I snapped these photos when I did — because a week of wind later, where once there were leaf-laden trees, there now stands bare branches.
I admit I have a hard time letting go of summer.
Even with leaves changing and falling and blooms fading and browning, I’m still reluctant to clean the beds and put them to rest. Even the weather is having a difficult time falling into a seasonal rhythm. There are days that are windy and evenings that are slightly frosty, and then there are the times when it feels mild and balmy.
So, with camera in hand, it’s last call in the garden, one last chance for flowers to bask in the spotlight before a hard frost takes them away.
Changing leaves and cooling temperatures can only mean one thing. It’s time to complete the saving process. By now, elephant ears and canna have been drying out for about a week — and now I have to get them ready for their long winter’s nap.
The final step is pretty much the same for both elephant ears and canna. You will need peat moss, some kind of storage containers (like brown paper bags), a shovel, and a room that stays relatively dry and evenly cool so that the plants can be lulled into a deep sleep without freezing. If the final storage location is too damp or warm, the plants never get a chance to rest and they are at risk of rotting away — and after so much work getting to this point, that would be a shame.
I’ve had to make a difficult decision this year about my collection of canna. What started with a few corms has, over the years, become an overwhelming amount of plants — even after giving corms away. And the increase in plants also means an increase in labor, and I’m reaching a point (for several reasons) where I have to cut back. So, I’ve decided to not save canna and to instead start fresh next year. In the meantime, though, I thought it was still important to repost the steps that I’ve followed to keep the canna coming.
The October weather has been strange. There was a moment when it felt like autumn, but then it became more mild and humid — and so I let my tropicals stay in the ground. But how much longer will I be able to get away with that? At some point, it will become cooler and frost will arrive — and these tropicals need to be stored for the winter.
This will be my weekend project — and since I’ll be a bit busy, I thought it was the perfect time to re-visit a previous post that chronicles the process. Up first are the elephant ears.
Let’s be honest. Gardening is fun — but is it always a good time? Is there anything about gardening — like certain chores, for example — that isn’t enjoyable? Anyone care to share?
Okay, I’ll go first.
I’ll begin with my second to least favorite chore because that will lead quite nicely to my absolute least favorite. I despise trimming shrubs. I’ve done it, of course, usually with one of those old-fashioned handheld clippers. No power tools for me.
Apparently, though, I learned how to trim from the same school where my father was taught how to cut my sister’s bangs when she was a kid. First, you cut this way — but it looks uneven. Then you cut again. Still uneven. And so on and so on — eventually leaving my sister with a row of fringe at the start of her hairline.