I wrote earlier this year about the sad state of our fig tree in the backyard and how it had lost its original glory over the years. But writing about that poor tree got me to thinking about some landscape successes that we have had in our home that we have now lived in for over 20 years.
And one of those that has been a consistent feature at our home has been caladiums.
We moved into our home in the summer of 1999 and within less than 12 months, we had already started having planters with caladiums by the front door as captured in this photo of our two sons heading off to a scout activity. As far as I can recall (although I could not locate the photographic evidence), we have always had two pots by our front door filled with caladiums.
In 2004, in addition to the pots on the front porch, I captured this shot of one of two baskets on the steps leading down to our pool. I think these baskets originally had enormous fall mums that after those died, I repurposed for caladiums.
Over the years, I tried digging up the bulbs and storing them in the garage for spring planting only to have to buy new plants in May or June when it was obvious nothing was going to come up. I even tried storing the entire planters in the garage over the winter without success as well. So, each year, I would buy new plants to transplant into these planters.
That is until one year on a cold Saturday in February, while shopping at my favorite hardware store, I discovered they had caladium bulbs for sale. With 5 or 6 bulbs in a bag for about $7, I realized I could have a huge number of beautiful caladiums for what I was spending in live plants each year. And so began an annual pilgrimage to that same store each winter to get my newest stock of bulbs.
I tried a number of different varieties over the years but the ones I consistently liked the most for their variegated pink, red, and green color was the Carolyn Wharton variety, as seen in this photo from 2005.
When we put in our deck in 2007, we naturally gravitated towards shade loving caladiums to go behind the deck under these three trees.
At some point, we replaced our original, non-descript red clay pots by the front door with larger and much nicer planters. And when I was building a new front door mat to replace the one, I had originally made that was quite worn, I also built these planter holders for the new planters.
But this story is not without its troubles as well.
One year, when I went to water the as yet to surface caladium shoots, I discovered something had burrowed down into the fresh dirt and mulch and had eaten my new bulbs. Upon further investigation (and actually witnessing one scamper out of the planter), I learned the identity of my bulb thief: chipmunks. No longer did I think they were cute little friends scurrying around our yard.
I did some research online and learned that covering the bulbs after planting with chicken wire would prevent chipmunks from eating them and allow the caladiums to shoot up through the screen, unhindered.
I bought some chicken wire and fashioned a round shape to fit inside these planters. If you zoom in, you can barely see the wire sticking up from beneath the mulch on the left and right side of the planter.
This then became my regular routine. Each spring when it was warm enough to plant my new bulbs, I would lift up the screen with mulch on top, bury my five or six bulbs at the correct depth, and then replace the screen/mulch.
Then it was just a matter of weeks to water and watch for the first shoots to appear…
…before they blossomed into their full glory.
So, if you ever come to pay us a summertime visit at our home, before we even open the door to welcome you inside, you can count on these friendly, colorful caladiums to greet you heartily.