My elephant ear plant is at least 10 year’s old and it’s so cramped in the pot it’s fighting for its life.
Several thick trunks, the size of a caveman’s club choke the growth of new plants struggling for space.
Most elephant ears sold here come in two type-ones with leaves pointing down, properly called colocasia, and those with the leaves pointed up called alocasia. I have both types, but the one needing dividing is an alocasia. You will also see them called Taro plants as well.
My take is, the dividing should have happened in the fall. But I alway remember the advice of a garden sage. When asked the best time to prune, he said when you have the time. And we all have time now don’t we?
I checked some books, some online sites, and looked at You Tube videos and the information was spotty, or suited to moderate climates where elephant ears live outside year long.
So using bits and pieces from everywhere I took the knife, the pick and the pruning saw into my hands and went at it.
First the elephant ear came out of its cramped pot, and was plunged into a big tub of water with a weak solution of fertilizer. I let it soak up the potion for a couple of days. Keep in mind, this plant loves water and nutrients at all times.
After spreading out a big tarp, the elephant ears came out of the pot for inspection. Roots were winding around and around, and four or five trunks were practically welded together.
I spread out all my tools on a table like a frontier dentist and selected a hook shaped weeder to tease the roots apart. It was surprising easy.
The trunks needed to be sawed apart. I started with a pruning saw, but it was too big for the cramped space. Turns out the best tool wasn’t in the bag, but in the kitchen-a bread knife. Not my best one, but a “B” team knife.
It sliced through the thickest part of the plant easily. I ended up with six elephant ears worth repotting and bits and pieces that I think have potential to grow.
After trimming off some of the longest roots, the new plants were put into fresh potting soil, mixed with composted manure and a bit of granular fertilizer.
Alocasia grow from both tubers and rhizomes, some types have a history as an edible crop. It is recommended to wear gloves when doing work such as dividing and cutting off leaves, since the liquid released is a skin irritant.
I now have six pots of elephant ears in various states and sizes, and a few random pieces that I may plant directing in the ground to see what happens.
I used a bread knife to divide the elephant ears
My intention was to give some of these plants away. That may happen in the future but I’m really intrigued by how they will grow, so they’ll stay here. And also I am not good at sharing.
In the past, the alocasia has moved indoors for the winter with all its leaves in full glory, some years it looks fabulous, others not so much. Another option would be to cut off the leaves in the fall, and move it indoors to a cool space where it idles until the spring.
Both types are fabulous choices to give a tropical flair to the garden. The colocasia with its downward facing leaves that sway in the slightest wind is truly spectacular. Varieties such as Mojito, splashed with streaks of black, are worth the investment, but are hard to find. If you do nab a special one, store it for the winter.
Elephant ears called Mojito
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a bunch of pots to stare at.
When potter Scott Barnim
moved in to his 1860’s Dundas home, it was already in an altered state.
Way back in 1899 the ground floor of the
stately Georgian stone house was peeled away to make room for a carriage shed
and a stable. Horses on the ground floor, and people on the second.
From the time Walter Chisholm built the house
and became the first town clerk of Dundas, it was occupied by movers and
shakers. After Chisholm, the successfulLaing family moved in, builders of the Laing block on King Street.At the turn of the century the Grafton's
owned it, their successful businesses employed 400 people.When Tom Folkes settled in around 1927 he ran
a busy riding academy.
Now the equally industrious Barnim is
retooling the house for his needs.
“I work a lot,” he says from the sales shop located
where the carriages used to park, “At least 40 hours and more a week.”
Usually he would have a student assistant,
now in these Covid times, the work is solo.
His pieces, domestic and useable as he
describes them, fill shelves, tables, and walls in the shop. It’s closed
now,but the business is open for porch
pickup and shipping.
From the 1970’s he’s been constantly
producing, but his work found its feet after a placement in a masters ceramic
program in Cardiff Wales.
A professor said to him, “You’re a craft
potter, don’t let people pick on you for that.”Barnim was instructed to go out with a sketchbook and draw things he
“I had to learn to decorate, I sketched the
fish at the market,their shapes and
pattern, that ended up on my pottery.”
Barnim’s intrinsic feel for shape and texture
was squeezed for all its worth in his recent reimagining of his heritage home.
He turned the 2,000 square foot main living space into an academic rental, and
he moved into the hayloft.
At 450 square feet, the hayloft-apartment is
packed with charm. It has a tiny bedroom, and a tinier kitchen, and a living
space where each stick of furniture needs to earn its keep.
“The Welsh dresser is where I put the pieces
I need to set the table,” Barnim says.
During the redesign, Barnim worked with his
longtime friend, designer Phyllis Tresidder. They shopped for fabric and paint
and she advised on areas to highlight and areas to “paint out”.
To ready the rental apartment, Barnim worked
on the jobs inherited in an old house. Layers of linoleum coated with horse
hide glue,were pried off original red
pine floors. Plaster walls, held together with old wallpaper, needed rescue.
The work wasn’t daunting for Barnim.
“I’m good at that kind of
thing, I could have been a builder.”
A tour through the house is part art history
lesson, an antique roadshow, and family memories.
Barnim used his own pieces to furnish the
apartment.A table in the dining room is
the one where threshing crews ate at his grandparent’s farm, a quilt in the
hallway came from a trade with Burlington artist John Willard, the many
paintings reflect the talent of the Dundas artistic community.
Fully stocked, thoughtfully decorated, the
apartment is listed with McMaster University’s academical rental program.
“You can walk in with your backpack and have
a dinner party tomorrow night,” Barnim says.
The extra income of $2,500 a month is welcome,
and may help in a future project of restoring the front of the house to the original.
As the historical designation says it was
once a beautiful Georgian stone building.
“I’d love to put the house back,” Barnim says
just a bit wistfully.
Even as it is, framed by waving branches of
spruce and pine trees, it is a thing of beauty.
just pretty. They all do their bit to make the city liveable. The trees improve
air quality, the greenery cools hot summer air, and plants absorb rain. A lush
garden, with a carpet of plants helps to keep water from overwhelming the sewer
system water during heavy storms
wastewater treatment plants, combined sewer overflows, these things, the
intestines of our city are much on our minds. That's why we must
continue to value gardens, parks and natural lands.
people “get it”- the value of gardens, many still hold a thinly disguised attitude
that they are a frill, a trifle, a hobby for “ladies.”
When I used to
do a lot of speaking engagements I would often be introduced by a man (sorry
men) who would say something like, “I don’t know a thing about gardening, (or
care about it) but Kathy’s stuff is pretty interesting.”
Well I guess
some folks would be happy living in a house plunked in the middle of a Walmart
The sewage leak
and the coverup hasme ten shades of
While I try to
focus on the “pretty” things, the gardens and parks in our city, I carry around
a bag full of grudges.
Try going to a
public meeting for a new development. In my neighbourhood some developers of
future condominium blocks are asking to be relieved of landscape requirements.
In plain language all paving, no plants. Oh, maybe there would be a pot at the
front entrance with a dead spruce and cigarette butts in it.
requests granted? It’s hard to tell unless you follow the development through
all the planning approvals.
I do know the
city has a 50 percent green space requirement for front yards that is supposed
to prevent average Joe homeowner from paving the entire front yard.
But where does
this hostility to plants come from? Notice real estate photos. Houses are
renovated from roof to basement, but the yard is a dismal defeated patch of
grass with a volcano of mulch masquerading as a garden.
The budget for
a home renovation would contain many big-ticket items. Is it so painful to plunk
down a hundred bucks for a pretty, beneficial, tree, or order one from the
city for free?
When the sewer
leak story broke in the Spectator, it caused many to reflect on the state of
our city. It’s not just about the open gate at the holding tank, or the
withholding of vital information, it’s about the way we live and the choices we
Many years ago
when the Parks Canada Discovery Centre was built on the waterfront, Ken Parker
was bought in to advise on landscaping.
Parker had the
wonderful native plant nursery called Sweetgrass Gardens on the Six Nations
expertise smart things happened. The parking lot was broken up with plantings
of trees and shrubs. They filtered the storm water run-off and changed the
nature of the parking lot from ugly to intriguing.
On the water
side of the Discovery Centre a garden of native plants and a tranquil pond made
a thoughtful connection to the harbour.
Now not a trace
remains of that little oasis. Paved over for the restaurant that followed and
failed. The trees in the parking lot remain, but Parker has moved on to
Buffalo, where he is helping people understand the connection we need to
protect between plants and a livable city.
So, it’s more
important than ever to treasure our pretty gardens, and to plant more of them.
They improve our mental health, cool and filter the air, and soak up rain.
There is not one single downside to a garden.