Bloomin’ Update 31: The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly


Before I get into this post, I wanted to send out a special thanks to those of you who took the time to add a caption to the previous post.  Your creativity and humor were  wonderful treats after I arrived home and logged in to catch up on blog duty.  I’m still smiling and LOL-ing!

I’m not a fan of the Western.  I have always found the film genre too gritty, too violent, and too filled with underhanded, unsavory characters.  I like comedy, drama, melodrama, a soundtrack, and always a happy ending.

But when Joe and I arrived home at 3:00 a.m. after a marathon drive from Fort Lauderdale, we entered the house as if we were a couple of sun-baked cattle rustlers in our own Western.  Unshaven.  Sweaty.  Delirious.  Exhausted.  Even our mouths were tired as we spoke to on another with jaws that were just shy of clenched.  Ironically, our newly repaired covered wagon — I mean the car — was in better shape than we were!  Any thoughts or worries about my garden would have to wait until daylight — or at least until I was prepared to see daylight.

The forecasters, however, had other ideas about daylight.  It seems that the next few days would be filled with heavy thunderstorms, strong winds, and possible hail.  What’s a gardener in search of a happy ending to do? 

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I Canna Believe It’s You!


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.

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Saving Elephant Ears & Canna — Part 2


For the sake of saving time, I thought I would combine the final packing practice for Canna and Elephant Ears.  Besides, I don’t think I can actually type the words Canna and Elephant Ears one more time.

The process is pretty much the same for both plants.  You will need peat moss, some kind of storage container (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.

Step 1: Where Canna are concerned, I double up two brown paper bags and label the outside.  I then put a shovel or two of peat moss in the bottom of the bag so the corms have a nesting area.

Step 2: I then place the corms (stem and all) into the bag.

Step 3: I tend to really pack the bags.  I’m not sure if this is correct, but it’s likely that I do this for the sake of space, since I have so many corms to pack away.  Once the bag is full, I then add more peat moss to the bag, shaking the bag so that the peat moss settles and covers the corms.

Step 4: Finally, I have something that looks like this.

Now for the Elephant Ears.  Last year, I stored the Elephant Ear bulbs in a plastic crate lined with a plastic bag.  I’m not sure if this had to do with my loss of energy and wanting to finish the task, needing to save space, or just running out of bags.  Either way, it worked.   By the way, don’t be surprised if your Elephant Ears have continued to grow since you dug them up.

Step 1: Once the crate is lined with a plastic bag, add a few shovels of peat moss into it to give the bulbs a place to rest.

Step 2: Load the Elephant Ear bulbs (stem and all) into the peat moss-filled crate.  Again, I tend to pack a lot in there.  Then add peat moss to cover the bulbs.

Step 3: Ultimately, this is what I am left with.  All that’s left to do now is carry everything into its Safe Room.

The Final Step: Here is the Safe Room — a cement bunker/bomb shelter hidden behind Joe’s  closet in the bedroom.  Now, anyone who knows me or who has read previous posts understands that I have an active imagination.  As my summer plants continue to live, enclosed behind the closet, my mind races back and forth between Edgar Allen Poe’s Fall of the House of Usher and the classic sci-fi film Invasion of the Body Snatchers.  So far, the Safe Room is protecting Joe and me.  So far. . .

Saving Canna — Part 1


Now that the Elephant Ears are out of the ground, it’s time to turn my attention to the Canna forest that is my yard.  The truth is, I never intended to have a Canna forest — things just got out of hand over the years as corms grew and became easy to divide, or I found new leaf patterns or bloom colors and I thought I needed to have three of each. 

I live in Zone 6 and I have tried to overwinter some Canna in the ground, but I have had no success.  I’ve mulched them and planted them along the south-facing side of the house, but to no avail.  So whether you have a few stalks or a forest, this is what you will need if you live in a northern climate and would like to save your Canna for future summers: garden clippers, shovel or pitchfork, stamina.

Step 1: For the sake of this demonstration, I dug the Canna first.  You could also trim the stalk and then dig out the corm.  Either way, pry up the plant, being careful to not damage the corm with your garden tool.

 

 

 

  

Step 2: Leave about 8″ – 10″ of stalk.  Actually, Canna can grow quite large, so for ease of trimming, it might make more sense to leave the corms in the ground, cut the stalks, and then dig out the plant.

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

Step 3: As sad as it is to do this job, there is a thrill each time I remove a corm from the ground.  See that white bulbous shape and the group of purple-tinged tips peaking through the roots?  That’s where next year’s growth will occur.  Ah — the promise of next year’s garden!  By the way, this is also a good time to remove any excess dirt.  Don’t divide the corms; that’s a task that’s safer to do in the spring when you unpack them from their hibernation location.     

Step 4: After the corms are out of the ground, I keep them in the potting shed for about a week.  The setting is warm enough for them to dry a bit before packing away, but not so hot that they cook.  Since I have several varieties, I group them in large plastic containers.  I also store them upside down — mostly because my gardening bible, Better Homes and Gardens Complete Guide to Gardening, recommends doing that.  I’m not sure of the reason, but I do as I’m told — and my gardening good book has never failed me. 

Next Post: Saving Elephant Ears and Saving Canna — Part 2.

 

 

Book Review: 1493


When children recite, “Mary, Mary, quite contrary, how does your garden grow?” perhaps a more appropriate question would be, “From where does your garden grow?”  That’s the question I ‘m asking myself this Columbus Day weekend after reading the best-selling new book 1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created, by Charles C. Mann.  This meticulously researched book examines the world after Columbus set foot in North America. 

While Columbus certainly has his critics, there can be no mistaking that his arrival in the New World placed the entire world on the globalization frontier.  The author’s position is that much of what we enjoy today can be traced back to what he calls the Columbian Exchange, a means of moving plants and seeds and animals from one part of the world to another part.  It is why, for example, that tomatoes arrived in Italy and citrus arrived in Florida.  So much of what we take for granted wasn’t always so; and much of it would not be if Columbus had not set the process in motion. 

I myself am a bit of a mutt: English, Scottish, German, French, and Italian.  My paternal ancestors arrived in North America in 1675; my maternal great-grandfather entered through Ellis Island.  While this is my gene pool, I wonder just how diverse and worldly is my garden? 

Thanks to the Internet and Google, I learned that what I plant has traveled a long way to be planted.  In fact, my garden could be a lesson for world leaders seeking peace.   Although it heavily favors Asia and Central and South Americas, there is little conflict in plants from many lands successfully sharing common ground.   (Note to self: bring Australia into the mix, but wait until full-out global warming for Antarctica to come into bloom.) 

And to think my melting pot only took 518 years — and still counting — to plant. 

Happy Columbus Day — and enjoy the weekend in the garden.

Not-So-Wordless Wednesday: My Roots Are Showing


This is the end result of a day spent digging and removing Elephant Ears and Canna from the garden, and preparing them for their long winter’s nap.

It’s probably my least favorite day in the garden, and each year, I dread its arrival.  The chill in the air is my signal that, “It’s time.”  Armed with a pitchfork, clippers, and nerves of steel, I apologetically approach each plant.  I want to say, “Believe me, this is going to hurt me a lot more than it hurts you.”  I want the plants to understand that my actions are for their own good, so that they may live to see another summer.  But in the end, I fear that they’ll see me as a Viking, pillaging and ransacking their cozy beds.

Gardeners, I think, must have a bit of masochism in their blood.  Who else would try to trick Mother Nature by planting wrong-zone plants, nurturing them into blooms, and then hacking them down, ripping them from the ground, and storing them over the winter — only to start the process all over again in the spring?  Oh, to be content with zone-appropriate material!

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Bloomin’ Update 10: Autumn Joy


My plan was to have a post featuring the blooms of the waning days of summer.  With camera in hand, I captured bees tending to their chores on a day that felt more like July than September.  If you could see their bee faces, I’m sure they were aglow with autumn joy.

 Then, in a matter of hours, a cold front roared through.  The clouds thickened and darkened, the wind grew stronger, and fat drops of rain splattered everything.  And all the while, the temperature plummeted — so much so, that by sunset, it felt like late October.  When I looked out of a window, I saw the last canna bloom (was that a shiver?) glowing.  I again grabbed the camera, this time to capture the canna’s last stand — and I was blown away by the vividness of color.

 
I wondered what other flowers and plants would look like surrounded by chilled darkness and then the glare of a flash.  I was limited in my selection because of the time of year, but I did (surprisingly) capture a noisy cricket in the ivy that climbs up the maple tree.  He’s resting on the large leaf at the bottom of the photo.
 
   
Now the Zinnias, a little battered and chewed up, but still holding on to their color.
 
 
 
This Blanket Flower is probably wishing that it had a blanket.
 

A few of the old standbys:  a faded Hydrangea (take that Madonna!), Liriope spikes, Coleus “Tartan,” and a Caladium close-up.

 

The Sunflower Sisters, one streaked with orange, the second like a faded version of the first, and the third looking more like celestial eclipse.

Finally, another glimpse of “Autumn Joy” Sedum.  The bees were probably in a state of suspended animation at this hour and temperature.

My late-night expedition into the garden was a wonderful way to close-out summer.  (Note to self: Next year, don’t wait until the end of summer for a nighttime photo shoot.)  Looking back on this growing season, it was exciting to enter the blogging world and to share my life and garden with you.  I appreciate greatly all of the comments and encouragement.  Now, it’s time for cleaning up, digging and storing tender bulbs, protecting terracotta pots, and the never-ending raking — in other words, the joys of autumn.