Repost: Saving Elephant Ears, Part 1


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.

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The House That Joe Built


Potting Shed

Over the past few months, I have been inundated with emails about my potting shed.  Most people want to know where they could purchase the same kit.  When I explain that the shed is Joe’s original design, they want specifics.

So with a lot of help from Joe, here is a post that has been a long time coming.  Additional photos and information can be found in “The Potting Shed” tab above.

Before there was a potting shed, there was me — on a mission to start seeds in advance of the planting season, and Joe — on a mission to reclaim the kitchen and dining room from trays and flats of new sprouts.  Surveying my long and leggy seedlings, I said, “If I had a potting shed, I’d be dangerous.”

Little did I know that that sentence, a seed traveling on waves of sound, would eventually settle into one of the folds of Joe’s brain, taking root and springing into action.

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Repost: Water for Elephant Ears


A year ago, April temperatures were warm.  This year, it’s been cool — especially the overnight temps, which have approached the freezing mark.  As a result, my patience to get my hands dirty and to get my tropicals into the ground has grown thin.  My solution?  An experiment.  

Since I did not start any seeds in the potting shed this winter, it’s quite empty.  My plan is to plant the Elephant Ears and Canna in pots, place the pots in the potting shed, and then let the heat get their juices flowing.  And that’s the purpose for this repost — I’ll be doing exactly as I spelled out a year ago.  Happy gardening.

Elephant Ears Dried

Attractive, aren’t they?

The last time I saw my Elephant Ears, they were clipped back, packed into peat moss, and stored in a cement bunker.  With the very warm April temperatures, I couldn’t resist opening up their winter palace.  But unlike Geraldo Rivera and Al Capone’s vault, I found my treasure.

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Repost: Ladies & Gentlemen, Start Your Seeds


Joe and I made the drive from New York to South Florida, and in 24 hours, we experienced three seasons.  We began our journey in winter and then arrived in spring by the time we reached South Carolina. Once in Florida, it was all-out summer.  

This trip is why I didn’t start any seeds in February.  There would be no one to take care of my seedling babies during the final week of March.  Needless to say, I missed working in the potting shed and watching geraniums and impatiens and petunias make their debut onto the world stage.  

It’s the main reason why I’m taking this walk down memory lane, a repost of last year’s seed starting experience and a chance to reminisce.  By the way, seeds will be started when I return to Long Island: zinnias, sunflowers, cosmos — seeds that like to be sown where they’ll grow.  Now that I read that sentence, I like to think of myself in the same way.  I like to be planted where I can grow.

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I’ve Got A Lovely Bunch Of Coconuts


Florida?  In summer?  Are you nuts?

If you’ve read any previous posts, you already know the answer to that question.  But in this case, there is a reason to the madness.  In a nutshell — a coconut shell, that is — South Florida will someday be our new home.  About one month before Hurricane Andrew arrived in 1992, Joe and I purchased a house.  Each year since, we have traveled to Fort Lauderdale several times a year to do the most relaxing of vacation activities: yard work.  And as we go about our palm tree trimming and bundling and bagging of debris, we do a lot of planning and dreaming.

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Celebrating Mother’s Day — The Hydrangea Way


It’s Mother’s Day, and in my part of the world, it’s the day when every homeowner is given the nod to go ahead and start planting.  In honor of the day, I thought I would make some Hydrangea babies that would make any mother — including the mother plant — proud.

 

1. In addition to a mother plant, you’ll need the following items (left to right): a dish with rooting powder, clippers, water, sandy soil, and a stick of some sort.

 

2. You’ll next have to select what parts of the mother plant you’d like to root.  Tender green stems, preferably ones that are not ending in a bloom, work best.

 

3.  Once cut, immediately place the stem in water.  You can continue collecting stems for rooting — but always place them in water right away.

 

4. At this point, get the root starting cells ready.  Sandy soil tends to work best because it’s not heavy, which is easier for developing roots.  Use a stick (a chopstick or a pencil works great) to make a hole where the stem will be inserted.

 

5.  Remove a stem from the water and trim off the larger leaves. 

 

6.  You will be left with something that looks like this. 

 

7.  Dredge the cutting, which is still damp with water, in the rooting hormone. 

 

8.  The rooting hormone should stick nicely because of the water.  Make sure that the stem is as covered as possible.

 

9.  Place the stem into the prepared soil, being very careful not to brush off the rooting hormone as you insert the stem into the hole.  Once placed, gently tamp down the soil.

 

10.  When all of your stems are planted, water them in and leave them in a sheltered location.  I usually keep them along the back of the house, sheltered by the eave.  Hydrangeas are fine with shade, but it’s important to protect these babies as best as you can — you know, like a good mother.

 

In a few weeks, you should be able to see which of your transplants has survived.  When roots have developed, the baby Hydrangeas can be potted up.  They may even be ready for planting, in a somewhat sheltered area, by fall so they can overwinter.  In the spring, you’ll be able to transplant them to a permanent location or re-pot them to giveaway as, well, Mother’s Day gifts.

And on that note, I’d like to wish you a Happy Mother’s Day!

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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