“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.
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 recent heat wave may have been a bit extreme, but at this moment I’m sitting inside with a blanket pulled up to my chin. It’s not that I’m feeling under the weather. Instead, I’m feeling the weather. I think when the heat wave broke, it also broke summer. Clouds, rain, and cool temperatures have been the order of the day. The last few days, actually.
What’s a cold gardener to do?
Okay, maybe not in the entire world – but certainly in my world.
This is the first weekend where fall really feels like fall – as in leaf fall, temperature fall, and mood fall. As much as I would love to live in denial and believe that I can still put on a pair of shorts and sandals and play like it’s July, the cold front that came in last night has proven that the calendar is indeed correct.
Today was a day to begin cleaning up the fall.
The first order of business was to hack and dig the tropicals and prepare them for winter storage. The sensible voice in my head knew that this was a mercy killing, a necessary evil so that the canna and elephant ears may live to see another summer – at least in my zone 6/7 garden. But the emotional voice inside of me said, “Waaaaaahhhhhhh.”
There is a certain sadness when I look about the waning October garden. So many blooms have faded and turned to seed; so many leaves have dulled.
And then there are the red hot flowers, looking a bit out of place and overly made-up amid the first flush of autumn’s golds and yellows and rusts.
And that’s when my imagination takes hold.
I know. This is a gardening blog and this post will not exactly be a gardening one – but I will try and find a connection. It may be a stretch, but it will be a gardening connection of sorts. Besides, how often can anyone say that they’ve had the chance to meet themselves – or at least their 20-year-old self?
In past posts, I’ve explained that there is a cement crawlspace behind a closet in my house. It’s my winter storage bunker for elephant ears and canna. What I never told you is that my perfectly dry and evenly cool space also holds some boxes and crates filled with my past.
I’ve always thought about cleaning things out, but whenever I’m in the bunker, I’m either loading or unloading plant materials – and gardening, like time and tides, waits for none. So, my past has remained undisturbed for the 25 years that I have lived with Joe.
Until the other day, that is, when a local cable guy arrived to rewire the house and I had to empty out the bunker – without the excuse of elephant ears and canna. My personal time capsule would, at last, be opened.