Sunday, May 22, 2011

Elephant Ears: The Springtime Drill

I’ve told you the story of Grandma’s prizewinning elephant ear plants before—but I didn’t give you pictures yet.

Here’s a brief recap; if you want to read the whole story, click here.

I’m not sure how long Grandma had these elephant ear plants, or how many she started with, but they seem to do very well in this backyard, and with annual regimen of care she gave them, which I continue. (Read that previous post for specifics on the care.)

Since they’re tropical plants, each October we have to dig up their huge, loglike rhizomes and take them inside for the winter. Then in may, once we’re past the danger of frosts, we plant them back outside in the ground.

We’re a bit behind this year—in part because it’s been rather cool and prone to frost, as well as rainy. (Who wants to work in mud?) Not to mention my ankle problems.

Anyway, since we cut grass yesterday and did lots of other stuff, and with rain threatening this afternoon, this morning was our big chance to get them in the ground.

I was still sore from yesterday’s exertions. (Until it happens to you, you don’t really appreciate how a single ankle injury can cause darned near every other joint in your body to ache! Which reminds me, I need to get us another big thing of ibuprofen . . .)

I think we counted fourteen large/original elephant ears, plus about half a dozen younger ones, which had arisen in previous years either as buds or from seed.

Last year, we learned about the importance of sunshine on the growth of elephant ears. Usually, we put them where Grandma usually had them, in a flower bed under a big yew tree—a rather shady location. But since we have “overflow,” last May we decided to put one baby elephant ear in a sunny, blank spot near our privacy fence. (Where Persephone is, now.)

Seriously, when we set it out a year ago, this thing was no bigger than about 2 inches in diameter. By August, it looked like this.

That’s a six-foot-high privacy fence behind it! The diameter at the base is about seven inches, now—plus it has two babies sprouting off the sides!

Sunshine + moisture + fertilizer = phenomenal growth!

The largest leaf blades were about a yard long!

Needless to say, this year, we planted a few new babies in that area, plus the one that had been there last year. I suspect they will all be enormous come August.

They’re not much to look at now (we didn’t even water them, since the weather forecasters sound very confident that we’ll have serious rain today)—and we haven’t put down the usual nice big layer of mulch (we didn’t think we had time, since the skies were getting gray and turbulent—but now it’s sunny again . . . Well, if it doesn’t rain, we’ll water them tonight).

Some of the other very small elephant ears have gone into big containers—well, at least until we decide where we might plant them elsewhere.

There is (quite literally) huge potential in these rhizomes; it’s always fun to see which ones develop the biggest leaves, which put their energy into flowers and fruits, and which decide to reproduce by growing new plants off to the side.

Oh, and did I tell you I was sorting through some old papers of Grandma’s a few weeks ago, and I discovered the actual blue ribbon the elephant ears had won? Lookie!

There’s no year on the label, but given the vintage of the various other papers this was shuffled with, I’d say she won it between about 1995 and 1999. Again, for more on the blue ribbon story, look here. It’s pretty funny.

I guess you could say the annual drill of planting these huge “logs” in the ground and then digging them up again five months later is kind of nutty—but if you had bona fide prizewinning plants, wouldn’t you feel compelled to keep them going, too?

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