Maybe you missed it but I’m a little obsessed with some new caladiums this year. They’re nothing particularly exotic, and I’m sure they would rather grow another zone or two south, but since the day they arrived in late April I’ve been gloating over all the tubers, looming over the planted pots, endlessly inspecting the first sprouts, anticipating every new leaf, and then agonizing over what to pot up together, what to pot up separately, how much sun is too much, how bad a chilly spell will be for them, how much they’ll grow during every stretch of hot weather… I’ve grown them before, but for some reason they are consuming me this year. Who knows what happened. I’m usually so rational with my plant decisions that this has really caught me off guard. **90 second pause as I wait for lightning to strike me down**
A few caladiums as well as other pots which are now off the driveway and moved into a new holding area. This looks far more intentional than having all kinds of stray pots filling up the driveway waiting for homes.
So that went well. It appears I will not be struck down for telling a little fib about frequent plant addictions, so let me just go ahead and tell a little story. Back in late January I stumbled upon a caladium grower who sells mixed tubers by the pound. Don’t ask why I was looking up caladium growers in January, but I was intrigued by the idea of ordering five pounds of caladiums with shipping for under $50 so I clicked yes. They arrived in late April and I was thrilled.
I believe this is ‘Red Flash’ a larger, good growing caladium which seems fine in full sun.
I waited until late May to pot them up. Since they were mixed and I just couldn’t handle pots full of random colors all together, I potted each tuber up separately. Five pounds came out to 78 pots in case you’re wondering, and once potted they were all lined out on the driveway to soak up the spring warmth with just a tiny bit of water to get them started. And then the wait began. A sprout here, one there, slowly they began to grow (really slowly it seemed) and every new leaf was an exciting surprise to see if it was something even more special than the last. The rows of pots were starting to look like something.
Ouch. Halfway through setting the retaining wall blocks to hold the new bed I realized my level blocks did not match the sloping sidewalk and I’m absolutely annoyed with the way it looks. Maybe some day I’ll redo it… maybe…
As different forms showed themselves they were grouped and potted up into whatever black plastic I could scrounge up. For years I have been saving and storing every leftover pot from my own yard and the neighbors and now my moment to shine had finally arrived. Ten of one size, fifteen of another, no problem! I was feeling pretty rich even though absolutely no one appreciated my inspired foresight. Someone (a pretty narrow-minded someone if I’m being honest) even said ‘Dad, you still have like a thousand more pots, do you really need them all?’ but of course genius is often misunderstood in its time, so I politely ignored the comment.
Caladium ‘Pink Cloud?’ on the left with probably ‘Aaron’ as the white behind.
All the pots looked excellent on the driveway, but others suggested we use the driveway for cars so the caladium pots needed to move into their positions. After putting four pots in place I came to the conclusion that there was nowhere else for the other 30 or 40 pots. In January it was easy to say all the hostas and hellebores in the bed alongside the garage would be transplanted elsewhere, but in June when only one hellebore was gone it’s a different story. Fortunately there was still grass on the other side of the walk. It was a no-brainer to rip out the grass, throw in a few retaining wall blocks that the neighbor didn’t want, and then use sand from a recent sand delivery to level off a new bed. Even though the new bed looks suspiciously like a big holding area for plants I didn’t really need in the first place, I like to think of it as the new sand terrace. Of course I emphasize the second syllable of terrace to make it sound even fancier and French, and that of course is only natural in a garden which already boasts a potager.
Caladium ‘Miss Muffet’ is amazing. I wish it liked me more, but I suspect it would prefer a garden with more consistently warm weather and possibly a little more shade.
Having so many pots sounds silly, but genius foresight also ordered 100 drip emitters and some extra water tubing in May and now each pot is getting watered twice a day without the gardener lifting a finger (as if he even needed another excuse to be lazy) and the only real flaw in his plan is the nearly full sun exposure of the new bed and the part shade requirement for many of the caladiums…
Maybe ‘Carolyn Whorton?’ An excellent grower here but also one who’s centers burn out in direct sun.
So for the last two weeks I’ve been shuffling sunburned caladiums into darker corners and moving up anything else which seems to tolerate more light. It’s slightly concerning to see how many other plants have appeared out of nowhere to join the caladiums, but for some reason this year the gardener has been enjoying potting up things like clematis seedlings and ornamental peppers, and when this happens the few seed pots sown in March can rapidly become way more plants than anyone needs.
One of the agonies of planting mixed caladiums is the possibility of a mixed pot. Some might say that’s the whole point behind mixed tubers, but I thought I could get around it and this pot would be two of the same… but now as they grow on, the plant on the right has pink centers which burn, but the plant on the left seems more tolerant. Are they different cultivars? Will I ever know?
We will just ignore the ‘too many plants’ possibility and not think about all the extra pots this little project has generated. Obviously I need to try and overwinter them all. What a fiasco that will be, just imagine how much the gardener is going to complain about lugging all these in!
I’ve just about given up on most IDs. I wish they were like snowdrops or some other easy to identify plant, rather than something where earlier leaves are different than later leaves, sun and heat change the look, mature plants show more color…
Since I was running new drip lines I just went ahead and added in all the amaryllis (Hippeastrum) pots, as well as a bunch of other stuff. It’s officially become a shady tropical garden and I quite like it as it wraps completely around the side and back of the garage.
More goodies. Actually only three pots of caladiums are new, the rest are all plants overwintered from last year… so I don’t want anyone thinking I’m still out there spending stimulus checks on new plants!
Not to keep going with bad ideas, but the amaryllis are finally getting some of the attention they’ve been missing for the last few years. My fingers are crossed for many blooms this winter, but as of this minute I have no plans to add more, so at least that’s a plus 🙂
Yeah I have no idea which caladiums these are. To be honest the amaryllis were all misslabeled as well, so this really doesn’t do much for my need to organize.
So now for the other side of the story. I didn’t just ‘happen to have’ a couple tons of sand and a pile of retaining wall blocks laying around, they were actually supposed to go towards a different idea. I wanted to dig up the muddy lawn and replace it with a level sand path which is far less muddy and much more fun for kneeling on while admiring snowdrops. Once the caladiums were situated the walk finally started… and of course didn’t get far since half the sand had already gone to a new bed and for topping off other areas which were short on sand (doesn’t everyone have endless sand needs?)
I never realized how slanted the lawn was here until I actually took a level to it. Good riddance!
Hopefully the path will work out. It’s got a slight incline to it and hopefully that won’t be enough to wash out the sand with each rain, but if worse comes to worse I have ideas on that as well. For now I have to tackle the curve of the path, and the fact that there are plants here as well which didn’t get moved in the spring.
More path building and slope filling.
Since we ended up in this side of the yard, we might as well take a look around. Not much since this is such an ugly corner of the yard, but who can resist the latest Lycoris joke? Not even twelve hours after posting that it didn’t look good for any more Lycoris flowers this summer, Lycoris chinensis (yellow surprise lily) surprised me with a flower stalk. From nothing to full bloom in just a few days I think it’s pretty cool. I’m so pleased I won’t even be petty and complain that there were two flower talks last year. Nope, not at all. Just enjoy it for what it is.
Lycoris chinensis. All is forgiven, I love these things!
You can look across the yard from here and see the potager. If I remember correctly (it’s been a while), on a day when the sun actually comes out you can sit here in the shade of the maples and take a break before heading out into the heat and humidity of the full sun areas. That’s a nice thing plus it’s kind of hidden back here. The dog can usually find me soon enough, but you have to be foolish enough to answer before the kids figure out where you are.
The view across the garden. That’s one of the industrial park buildings up on top of the slope. The trees still have a ways to go.
And that’s where we are at. More sand is scheduled to arrive tomorrow (assuming this past week of torrential rains hasn’t washed it all away) and the path should progress a little further. It doesn’t look like much but shoveling and wheel-barrowing and tamping and leveling and measuring are all the little tedious tasks which take me forever. I’m sure someone more motivated would finish in two or three days, but well…
For a while I doubted myself on the path idea, but now it’s growing on me. The fam is still on the fence, but once it’s done I think they’ll give it their seal of approval as well.
So I’ve got caladiums and sand. Life is good. Other people measure their success by different measures but right now I’m feeling pretty rich. I even found another clearance caladium tonight while cinderblock shopping and a $2 caladium always makes the hard labor better.
Hope you have a great week!