Canna – fall care & winter storage

Ruby-throated Hummingbird nectaring on Canna in Pat Sutton’s garden

Now that it’s early December I’d like to share a late fall garden task for those of us living in the Northeast where winters can be harsh.

I normally try to dig up my Cannas  sometime in November for the winter.  This year I’m running late and  ran out today before the predicted snow to do the deed.   Those of you who have Cannas  will want to dig them up, if you haven’t already, before it gets too cold to perform this task.

You could leave your Canna tubers in the ground, but they may rot over the winter, so it’s a lottery (you may lose them all).  Some of the ones I’ve left in the ground make it through the winter (especially in a south-facing garden), but most rot.   If you dig them up and store them properly over the winter, you’ll have viable tubers to plant next spring & some extras to give away to family, friends, co-workers, neighbors.

Canna tubers multiply!   If you planted 3 Canna tubers, don’t be surprised if they’ve multiplied into 30 Canna tubers.  For about 5 years I dug up all my Canna tubers each fall.  This was very labor intensive, but it enabled me to give 100s  away each spring (the extras after I’d planted what I wanted).

Tubers dug up from only 10 plants (December 5, 2018)

If the task of digging them all up is just too much for you , dig up the tubers from just a few of your plants so you’re sure to have enough to plant next spring.  That’s what I’ve been doing in recent years, only digging up enough for my own garden needs.   My back is much happier with this decision too.

HOW TO WINTER OVER YOUR CANNA TUBERS

I dig my Canna tubers up in late November or early December (before the ground freezes).  My step-by-step process follows:

This is what Cannas look like after the first frost, browned and limp, no longer green
  • I cut the stems off at the ground to make the task of digging the tubers up more manageable

  • I scrape away any mulch to expose all the tubers
By fall, one small tuber planted in spring has multiplied into a sprawling array of tubers
  • With a shovel or pitch fork I dig down under the tubers (starting my dig well beyond  the exposed tubers and cut off stalks).  I  loosen the tubers and pry the enormous mass  out of the ground

  • You can break big ones apart into smaller and more manageable tubers
  • Tap the dirt off the Canna tubers
  • Place a large plastic bag in a shallow tray or a crate
  • Put a layer of leaves, shredded newspaper, or pine needles in the bottom of the bag (to act as insulation against freezing)
  • Lay the Canna tubers  on top of the leaves, shredded newspaper, or pine needles . . . layer by layer
  • Cover the top layer of Canna tubers with more leaves, shredded newspaper, or pine needles (to protect them from a brutal cold winter).  Tuck more of the insulating material (leaves, pine needles) down around the edges.
  • Pull the bag shut
  • We put our Canna tubers in the crawl space under our house because we don’t have a garage or basement.  A  friend with a basement, puts hers into trash cans with leaves or shredded newspaper and keeps them in her basement.  You could probably store the crate or trash can full of Canna tubers in a garage as well.
We’ve recycled a friend’s grape tray (that he gave us after wine making) and use it to contain our bag of tubers and pine needles. It is shallow so we can easily slide it into our crawl space under the house

PLANTING CANNAS IN SPRING

  • Once the ground is warm, plant single canna tubers here and there around the garden in spots that get full sun.  They are a lovely accent in the garden.  Or you might enjoy planting  a border or a circular bed of them (they make a great “hide and seek” spot for kids to play in).
  • Don’t plant your canna tubers too deep, otherwise they’ll take forever to peek through the soil & bloom.  Simply scrape away a shallow area (not a deep hole), lay down the Canna tuber, and cover it with soil.
  • One tuber will grow into several tubers (sometimes numerous tubers) and send up a number of stalks that will bloom all summer and right through late fall until the first frost, drawing in constant nectaring hummingbirds. 

Happy Gardening,

Pat

MEGA Monarch & Dragonfly Flight, Cape May Point, NJ, October 3, 2018

Hi Gang,

It is the peak of fall migration!  Any time the winds are from the Northwest, you can bet your bippy there will be birds, butterflies, dragonflies, and bats galore migrating through Cape May Point.  The Monarchs will continue to migrate through all of October and, if conditions are right,  even the first few days or first week of November.

October 3rd the winds were gentle from the northwest, perfect for migration, so Clay & I decided to “take our walk” at Cape May Point.  We got down there and never left.

A blizzard of Monarchs on Seaside Goldenrod at Cape May Point, October 3, 2018. A day for the record books!

The floodgates opened and a river of Monarchs and dragonflies was flowing down the dune line, right over the dune crossovers in the town of Cape May Point.  That was the place to be.  A steady movement of Monarchs floated by while others nectared on the Seaside Goldenrod in the dunes.  Some pulses were huge!  A steady movement of dragonflies zoomed by including mostly Black Saddlebags and Common Green Darners with some Carolina Saddlebags mixed in (about 1 in every 10 saddlebags).  The numbers were uncountable.  Thousands upon thousands upon thousands of Monarchs and dragonflies.  I’ve included some photos with this post to share with you the spectacle we witnessed on October 3rd, truly a day we’ll remember forever more.

Thousands of Black Saddlebags and Common Green Darners migrating down the Cape May Point dune line over nectaring Monarchs in the Seaside Goldenrod.

Many Monarchs reach the tip of the Cape May Peninsula  on winds like those that blew on October 3rd from the northwest.  These winds blow migrating Monarchs out to the coast.  Rather than get blown out to sea, they turn and follow the coastline south, and reach lands end, Cape May Point.  On days with the right conditions (gentle winds from the northwest), numbers build and build.  Sometimes we’re treated to a late afternoon and evening roost where Monarchs gather by the thousands.  The next morning can be quite a spectacle, when they are warmed up by the rising sun and lift off to continue their migration.

Talking with Mark Garland, who heads up the Cape May Monarch Monitoring Project, he did not expect that there would be a huge roost or roosts of Monarchs the evening of October 3rd in the town of Cape May Point because it was so warm (80 degrees).  He shared that those huge roosts usually form in the late afternoon on the colder days when temperatures are 50 degrees or cooler.  He thought there would be lots and lots of little Monarch roosts around Cape May Point instead, with 10 Monarchs here and 10 Monarchs there.  From what we hear, that was the case.  We couldn’t stay that evening to see for ourselves.

We headed back down the next day, October 4th to see what was left over from the flight the day before.  The winds switched in the night from northwest to south, so we weren’t expecting too much.  Indeed the south winds were not bringing new Monarchs to us, but it was a beautiful day for a walk.

This fall, respond to weather predictions.  If the winds are to come from the north or northwest, get to Cape May Point!  Just do it!!!

Monarchs nectaring on Seaside Goldenrod with the Delaware Bay beyond. Please don’t flush them for a photo. Their migration is hazardous enough!
All these photos were taken on October 3, 2018, from designated trails and dune crossovers in Cape May Point. Please don’t walk up into the dunes for photos. For one thing it is illegal and very poor etiquette.

If you should encounter roosts of Monarchs, please do not approach so close that you flush them.  Remember that they’re holding on for their lives.  The next stop is a big stretch of water and that can be treacherous for Monarchs.

There are many dune crossovers in the town of Cape May Point that take you right next to blooming nectar full of Monarchs.  And there are nectar-rich stretches along the dune trails (between the dune and the Plover Ponds) in both the Cape May Point State Park and the South Cape May Meadows.  All these sites offer terrific photo opportunities.    Please do not leave dune crossovers and trails to venture into dunes for photos; it’s illegal for one thing and disruptive and just poor etiquette.

There are also 100s and 100s and 100s of Common Buckeyes nectaring on the Seaside Goldenrod in the dunes at Cape May Point now.

If you want to keep your finger on the pulse of the Monarch migration, read my previous post, “Cape May Monarch Migration, Fall 2018 (click on underlined text to get to link).”

I’ve been rejuvenated and given hope, having seen this mega flight.  May you too connect with one of the Monarch flights this fall.

To Hope,

Pat

Hair Cuts Needed For Some Native Perennials

Hi Gang,

Years ago Flora for Fauna owner Karen Williams shared some sage advice about maintaining one of my favorite native perennials, New England Aster, and I’m about to share it with you.

NEW ENGLAND ASTER
2 HAIR CUTS: Memorial Day & 4th of July

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New England Aster in full bloom (October 9) and providing nectar to dozens of Monarchs

New England Aster can get very tall and top heavy by the time it blooms in the fall. And the last thing any of us want is for its lovely spread of glowing purple flowers, nectar, and joy to be laying on the ground come fall.

To help it grow into a many-branched, bushy plant instead of a tall, gangly, top-heavy plant, all you need to do is to give it 2 hair cuts on or around the 1st two holidays of the growing season: Memorial Day and 4th of July. Of course these dates are not single-day events, but roughly when you want to give New England Aster its hair cuts.

Around Memorial Day, I cut each stem 1/2 (or 2/3) off (or about a foot or two off the top, depending on how tall it is, if that is easier for you to remember). I use big shears and just chop  away. What happens next is that each cut plant stem sends up 2 new shoots where it has been cut, in other words it branches and becomes more bushy!

Around 4th of July, I give my plants their 2nd hair cut (not back to the 1st cut, but cutting back some of the new growth since Memorial Day). You may want to be more creative for this hair cut and cut the many stems in your plant different lengths. For instance, give the stems in the foreground more of a hair cut, the stems in the middle less of a hair cut, and the stems in the back just a little hair cut. This way your plant stems will bloom at different heights.

You may find that some plants haven’t grown as tall as others, so you may choose to pass on the 2nd hair cut for some plants. If so, you’ll find that these plants will bloom earlier. This staggers the blooming period so that you have New England Aster nectar, color, and joy far longer in your wildlife garden.

Sutton fall gdn-w-sig
My garden on September 27th full of mounds of blooming asters, thanks to hair cuts earlier in the year.

A bit more advice: once given hair cuts, New England Aster has “ugly legs.” The stems below the 1st haircut look “not so nice” . . . the leaves darken and fall off and the stems are quite bare. So you’ll want to have other perennials in the foreground blocking that view, so you’re not looking at ugly bare legs.

You can give 1-2 haircuts to some other fall-blooming perennials that grow tall and flop, so they’ll instead branch and become more bushy:
Goldenrod
Sedum

For some summer-blooming plants that grow too tall for your garden, you can give them one haircut around Memorial Day, forcing them to branch, become bushier, and bloom lower. I do this with some of my favorite summer nectar plants so that I have an easier time seeing and photographing pollinators on them:
Culver’s Root
Ironweed
Joe-pye-weed
Sneezeweed
Blue Vervain
Boneset

You can always experiment on other summer and fall-blooming perennials too that have flopped in your garden. If you’re not sure how hair cuts will turn out on plants other than those I’ve mentioned, try giving a hair cut to one stem ONLY (or if you have several plants of Cut-leafed Coneflower, for example, in your garden, give one of them hair cuts so you can compare results with your uncut plants). Then see how your plant reacts and whether you like the results.

Happy Gardening,
Pat

Welcome to our NEW website

In our garden Cutleaf Coneflower (Rudbeckia lacinata ‘Herbstsonne’) is a magnet for hairstreaks (like this White-M Hairstreak). The Ailanthus Webworm Moth is enjoying it too.

Please bookmark our NEW website, “Pat Sutton’s Wildlife Garden.”  A technical wizard and wildlife habitat savvy friend helped me set up my new website.  Thank you Bob.  For those of you who do all your work on a smartphone, this site is smartphone friendly.

Be sure to read about “Our Wildlife Garden.”  It will help put my passion and this website into perspective.  For 4 years (2011-2015) I was a proud Team Member of Native Plants and Wildlife Gardens, a website that is no longer available.  I will be updating and posting anew here a number of the posts I wrote for that site.  I look forward to posting more regularly now that I have complete control over my website.

This new site is a work in progress with much I still want to do with it, so stop back often to see it unfolding.

Our OLD website, “Pat and Clay Sutton,” disappeared on February 5, 2017 (on that date I could no longer access it).  I did not own my old domain name or site where it was housed (a friend originally set it up for me), so as a forum it was unstable and I had to start over.  Today, April 12, 2017, I just followed a link to our old website and strangers have shanghaied it and filled it with JUNK posts.  YIKES!

The Ultimate Reward for a Wildlife Gardener

sm-sm-w-sig-010Hi Gang,

After all our hard work whipping our wildlife gardens into shape I hope you too have been enjoying some rewards and visions.  Wanted to share my surprise visitor with you.  Read all about it in . . .

My June & July 2015 posts
for Native Plants and Wildlife Gardens:

“Front Porch Prothonotaries”  &

“Front Porch Prothonotaries — Part 2”

Please share your comments and questions in the comment section following the posts (rather than write to me directly), that way everyone can benefit from your comments and questions, my answers, and all the additional sage advice that others share.

Happy Gardening,  Pat

Spring Cleanup in the Perennial Garden, Step-by-Step

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Our garden on May 8, 2015: a mat of Common Chickweed with Common Milkweed fighting its way through

Hi Gang,

I was away for a week in West Virginia in late April (we were leaders and presenters at our favorite festival, the New River Birding and Nature Festival).

We left in winter conditions and returned to summer conditions. Tackling the next part of garden cleanup has been quite a task in the heat and gnats. I wondered how you all were faring with your own gardens especially since some of you are quite new to wildlife gardening.

I thought it might be timely to step-by-step explain how I wrap up the garden cleanup in spring.

My May 18, 2015 post
for Native Plants and Wildlife Gardens covers
“Spring Cleanup in the Perennial Garden, Part Two”
the down-and-dirty final stages of Garden Cleanup

I hope my post helps guide you.  Please share your comments and questions in the comment section following the post (rather than write to me directly), that way everyone can benefit from your questions, my answers, and all the additional sage advice that others share.

Is my garden cleanup done yet? Not nearly. Heading back out as soon as I send this off. Good luck with yours and please wish me some luck and stamina with mine. It will all be worth it when it’s done.

Happy Gardening,
Pat

Garden Rant features “Tour of Private Cape May Monarch Gardens”

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Mildred Morgan sharing her cherished oasis!

Hi Gang,

I thought you would enjoy Susan Harris’ Garden Rant post, written after she attended the September 21, 2014 “South Tour of Monarch Gardens,” featuring private backyard and front yard gardens in Cape May, Lower Township, and Cape May Point:

When Wildlife Gardens Look Like Gardens
by Susan Harris
Garden Rant

As you can tell from the title, she was quite complimentary. Bravo wildlife gardeners and thank you SO MUCH for letting me share your gardens with tour participants! Keep enjoying your oases and the many wildlife visitors they attract and have fun inspiring others to do the same. If you know anyone who is ripe to be hooked on wildlife gardening, be sure they are aware of the upcoming workshops I’l be teaching: “2015 Gardening for Wildlife Workshop Series.”

Happy Gardening,
Pat

Monarch Garden Tours: Sept. 19, 20, & 21

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Monarch caterpillar on Common Milkweed in Pat Sutton’s garden August 25, 2014

At the peak of Cape May County’s world-famous fall Monarch migration, tour diverse gardens that have hosted Monarchs since May. Each features native nectar plants and as many as five different kinds of milkweed (used by Monarchs for egg laying to create the next generation). Expect Monarchs and other butterflies, Monarch eggs, caterpillars, and maybe even a chrysalis. The complex Monarch migration will be both explained and enjoyed.

I’ve worked with 18 garden owners to line up this set of Garden Tours.  Don’t miss this opportunity to see a fine selection of wildlife gardens with lovely stands of MILKWEED: Common Milkweed, Swamp Milkweed, Butterfly Weed, Whorled Milkweed, Purple Milkweed, and Tropical Milkweed. The annual, Tropical Milkweed, will be in bloom.  Most of our native perennial milkweeds have already bloomed, but their robust leaves still pull in mating and egg-laying Monarchs well into the fall, as our local Monarchs create yet another generation. These gardens are coming into their fall attire, which will be as stunning as the summer garden, yet completely different.

2014 TOURS OF PRIVATE MONARCH GARDENS

10:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Friday, Sept. 19 — Mid-County Tour, including amazing gardens along the Delaware Bayshore in North Cape May and Villas
Saturday, Sept. 20 — North Tour, including Pat Sutton’s garden and other gems from Cape May Court House north to South Seaville
Sunday, Sept. 21 — South Tour, including gardens south of the Cape May Canal

Expect these gardens to also be hosting lingering hummingbirds, butterflies, caterpillars, stunning native plants, and undoubtedly some surprises. Fall migration will be underway, so anything’s possible.

TOUR DETAILS AND PRICING

Gardening naturalist and author, Pat Sutton, leads these tours, which include her own garden in Goshen (North tour). Bring lunch since the group will eat in one of the gardens.
Limit: 25 per tour.
Three Tours / Cost per tour: $35 members (NJ Audubon), $45 nonmembers.
(Join three tours at a discounted rate of $90 members, $115 nonmembers.)
These tours require preregistration with payment.

Registration: you may register by phone at 609.898.8848 with a credit card or send payment to the Nature Center of Cape May, 1600 Delaware Avenue, Cape May, NJ 08204 (noting which tours and full names, addresses, and phone numbers of registrants).  NCCM reserves the right to cancel programs, and refunds are available only if NCCM cancels the event. Walk-ins are welcome on a space-available basis. Become a member of NJAS and receive discounts in the gift shop and on many programs.

 

Hummingbird Garden Tours: Aug. 15, 16, & 17

Cardinal Flower w-Ruby-thHummingbird by Patricia Sutton

 

 

 

 

It is the peak of Ruby-throated Hummingbird migration.  Numbers have exploded now that young have left the nest, females are busy with second broods, and hummingbirds that nested in the far north (Gaspe Peninsula) are moving south.  Gardens designed and planted with hummingbird-friendly plants and a wealth of yummy soft-bodied insects (which hummingbirds also love to eat) are experiencing a virtual blizzard of hummingbirds.

Pat Sutton has worked with 18 garden owners to line up a set of Garden Tours not to be missed!

 

 

 

2014 Tours of Private HUMMINGBIRD Gardens           10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Friday, August 15: NORTH “Goshen to Dennisville”

Saturday, August 16: SOUTH “Cape Island”

Sunday, August 17: MID-COUNTY “North Cape May to Rio Grande”

At the peak of Ruby-throated Hummingbird migration, we’ll savor an array of diverse gardens that have hosted nesting hummingbirds since May and are now drawing in dozens of migrants. Native nectar plants, healthy insect populations, water sources, and adequate cover are key elements of each garden.

TOUR DETAILS AND PRICING

Gardening naturalist and author, Pat Sutton, leads these tours, which include her own garden in Goshen (North tour). Bring lunch since the group will eat in one of the gardens.

If some of you are keen to create a butterfly & hummingbird garden, be sure to download the article & plant list Sutton wrote / created:

Limit: 25 per tour.
Nine Tours / Cost per tour: $35 members (NJ Audubon), $45 nonmembers.
(Join three tours at a discounted rate of $90 members, $115 nonmembers.)
These tours require preregistration with payment.

Registration: you may register by phone at 609.898.8848 with a credit card or send payment to the Nature Center of Cape May, 1600 Delaware Avenue, Cape May, NJ 08204 (noting which tours and full names, addresses, and phone numbers of registrants).

NCCM reserves the right to cancel programs, and refunds are available only if NCCM cancels the event. Walk-ins are welcome on a space-available basis. Become a member of NJAS and receive discounts in the gift shop and on many programs.

Bob and Carol Marceluk’s Ocean City Wildlife Habitat

SAMSUNG CSCGarden Gang members Bob and Carol Marceluk in Ocean City, NJ, and their WILDLIFE HABITAT were featured in the Press of Atlantic City, Saturday, July 12, 2014: “New Boardwalk Attraction,” by Martin DeAngelis.

I met Bob and Carol in 2012 when I taught a series of Gardening for Wildlife Workshops for the Ocean City Environmental Commission . . . and, as they say, the rest is history!

They transformed a large expanse of boring lawn  into gardens full of native nectar plants (that bloom spring through fall), lots and lots of caterpillar plants (including MILKWEED of course), native berry-producing trees and shrubs (for cover and food), water features (including a new pond), neat seating areas.  It has given them SO MUCH pleasure and provided an oasis to migrant and resident wildlife.

I wish I was brave enough to add Bob & Carol Marceluk’s habitat to the “Tours of Private Wildlife Gardens” that I lead, but taking people into Ocean City in the summer on a weekend  . . .   In the future I might plan a special tour to barrier island gardens on a date after the crazy summer tourist season.  I’ll keep you posted!

In the meantime, consider writing a comment or words of support for Bob & Carol’s project at the end of the “on line” Press of Atlantic City article.