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Green Acre #356: Onward and Upward in the Garden

Even for an elephant ear this seems big. The Prince took the photo, so that must be LittleBird Stephanie’s hand.

By Stephanie Cavanaugh

THE GREAT ANNUAL schlep is about to begin. 

With temperatures at last dipping to a near frost, the tropicals are getting their last gasp of the garden for the year. 

The fine folks at Colorblends say my bulb shipment is on the way: 400 tulips and hyacinths in shades of pink and white and lavender, mixed beauties in creamy white with orange centers. Let the digging commence! 

Actually, that last has become the least arduous task, as the back garden has been dug and redug and improved and dug again for coming on 40 years, leaving a garden that can nearly be planted with no tools at all. 

But first, the jasmines and citrus and other tender plants, most of which are in pots, need to be examined for blights, repotted (perhaps) and dragged up two flights of stairs to the greenhouse off my office, a space they share with Cooper, Buddy and The Boss, our feral parakeets, who deign to dine in their cage, but otherwise wing it. 

Though they have male names, I think they’re all female, since they keep producing eggs*—which go nowhere, much like the Bird of Paradise and the kiwi (not to mention the wisteria), which do absolutely zip year after year, though I nurse and feed them with much tenderness. Maybe I should make tiny omelets. That was all an aside.

Anyway, the timing of the move turns out to be excellent, with Baby and her baby Wesley and her Personal Prince Pete arriving today—many hands make light work, as they say, for once correctly. Perhaps I’ll just direct. 

As always, we have more plants than we know what to do with. The greenhouse is growing perilously weighty, cantilevered as it is above the back porch—and hanging there for more than 100 years. My Prince says he wants to lighten the load. 

Do I really need pots and pots of geraniums, even if they’re so cheerful? They generate so easily from cuttings. Just a bit of a stem will do. Forget the tying-up and hanging upside-down in the basement or garage over the winter: A snip and dip in rooting hormone, and one has a grove. I haven’t bought one in years.

Much as I love to see the elephant ears—and clip their leaves for arrangements all winter—they are huge, and weigh a ton, so might need to be stored naked . . . and so cold. Oh my. 

The wise folks at the Facebook group Florida Plumeria Growers say I can also lift the plumeria—which (after three years) is finally branching from a single stalk, and therefore should flower next summer—dust off the roots and just leave it in a cool, dark place to be replanted come spring. This is a frightening suggestion. I’ve been trying to grow this damn plant forever and here I am at the doorstep of delicious scent and color and . . . risk it all? Hear me thinking.   

I do think that the parlor palms and scheffleras, of which—how did we get so many?—will do fine in the living-room window and on the dining-room floor. I hope.

The jasmines and citrus, though, have to come upstairs to the direct sun to survive. As does the white Bird of Paradise, all 8 feet of it, and its three orange cousins. After all. Someday they just might flower. 

 

*The birds all have brown nostrils, or whatever you call the tops of their beaks, which means they should all be female. Maybe. 

 



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