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Green Acre #389: Too Green Is My Garden

Breaking up the green with pops of summer color. Those giant stalks to the left and right of the urn are elephant ears, which will become enormous. / Photo by Stephanie Cavanaugh.

By Stephanie Cavanaugh

SATURDAY WAS a perfect day to putter in the garden. Cool and very wet, with brief patches of dry—perfect for a little mid-summer (already?) renovation.

At this point you know what’s working in the garden and what’s not. Whatever was supposed to come up is at least showing signs of materialization. The bare spots are probably permanently barren, and you can see where filler is needed. Or spots just need a jolt of color . . .

I do love green, but too much of it can be bloody dull; the eye just washes over with nothing to stop the gaze with a shock of interest. In one spot of garden, green was all I had: elephant ears, Boston ferns, asparagus ferns, ivy, and various other whatnots.

Trader Joe’s to the rescue, with some gorgeous caladium; large and leafy, perfect for the naked spots around the elephant ears (of which they are a colorful relative). However, at eight bucks each, I was given pause. In fact, I did pause, having seen them there a couple of days before and saying Nay, nay, you won’t get me . . .

Caladium, brilliant color that appreciates shade. This leaf sports a raindrop from the night before last. / Photo by Stephanie Cavanaugh.

But they did get me. I’ve had difficulty coming up with tubers in my preferred colors, specifically a pinkish-greenish-whitish number that teases with pale prettiness, deep green borders fading to pink and striated with crimson veins. I think it’s called Southern Charm but wouldn’t swear to it. There was no name tag. The leaves will grow larger and larger—that’s their elephant-ear genes. At this point in the season, even if some tubers turned up, I won’t buy them. I don’t care to wait another couple of weeks for them to sprout. I want what I want and I want it now, which should surprise no one.

On the upside, when I unearthed the plants from their precious $8 pots, I noticed that the tubers were already split (I’m sure there’s a fancy name for this; if you know it, do tell, so I can drop it in a future column and look knowledgeable).  So, I had four plants for the price of two.

Such a bounty required a little rearranging,

I moved the thyme (which was placed temporarily a month ago) and a fuchsia so insignificant I’d forgotten I had one (it hasn’t yet bloomed).

Having stolen some Japanese euonymus from Baby’s mother-in-law’s Virginia garden (the pretext was pruning, which it did need), I stuck the stems in growth hormone and wielding my ever-handy chopstick poked holes in a bit of naked earth. If watered well, they should root in a month or so.

Purple wandering jew (tradescantia) took care of any remaining bare spots. Such a heroic plant: Poke more holes with that chopstick, stick in your twiglets, and they’ll quickly fill in the space.

Moving and planting in July? I used to think such was only possible—or viable—in the spring. But as long as you keep your new and moved plants watered really well, you can plant any time during the growing season—that is, if you can find something to plant, which is more of an issue as the summer heats up and garden centers try to move their pathetic stragglers.

This entire week has been perfect for rearranging. Moderate temperatures, a near daily deluge. My green spot is in the pink.


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