Compromises For Pets


PotI put it in a pot and set it outside all summer. It unrolled really fun red-striped leaves and golden-orange flowers and stretched six feet tall. It was wildly expressive and sturdy at the same time, an endearing combination of qualities in any living thing. It grew like mad, until the frost got it.

Then I cut off the dripping stalks, pried the rhizome out of its pot and stuck it in a box carelessly deposited in a warm spot in the basement–cannas are that easy. The next spring, I planted it in a much bigger pot–a giant, expensive Italian terra cotta pot I’d bought years earlier for some ridiculous, theoretical rose-in-container experiment. The pot was so heavy that I could barely heave it up onto its plinth, which is the stump of an old maple. I did the same thing again last year, though the rhizome was now so big, I could barely stuff it into the big pot.

Last fall, I was out with my wheelbarrow trying to wrestle canna plus pot off of maple stump, when a tipping point was reached–a certain combination of weight plus girth that even the bends-steel-with-her-bare-hands gardener could not handle. In other words, I dropped the thing, and the nice thick Italian pot broke.

This year, I did something I thought I’d never, ever do. I bought an even bigger Italian pot, only this one is made out of some kind of weird extruded foam. At a distance of 100 yards, it is approximately the color of terra cotta, especially if your vision is poor. It has built-in wheels, so that even when planted snugly with giant rhizome and potting soil, I could drag it from my porch to my bay window to give the canna a jump on the season. In combination with soil and canna, the pot is still heavy, but not so heavy that a sumo-quality gardener like me won’t be able to wrestle it onto a stump. I think this pot might be truly hideous.

But what alternative do I have? Chop up the canna rhizome and crimp its glory, after it’s given me such happiness?

I’ve decided instead only to look at the pot with one eye closed. In an imperfect world, forgiveness is the essence of love. There’s always a choice between putting up with all the furniture-shredding, finger-eating, laptop defecating, ugly-pot-necessitating life forms that make every day a banquet–or the sterility of keeping it all under control.


  1. It wouldn’t kill your canna to cut it. It is called propagation. That would actually remove the older dead or less vigorous sections of rhizome. Then you could have more ugly pots.

  2. I agree, cannas are like irises, the rhizomes need to be divided every so often. But I too have a big maple stump in my front yard and was wondering what I could put on it. Thanks for the idea!

  3. My cycads are definitely pets. They get stroked and talked to and fed and all sorts of additional treatment and attention other plants don’t warrant.

  4. You don’t get those nasty worms eating through the rolled leaves, sliming them and leaving their droppings? I’m pulling up my mass of cannas this year, though I won’t throw them away. I have a neighbor with a huge neglected yard, and I sneak my rejects into it (like the monstrous papyrus) to enjoy when sitting on her porch while we drink a lil’ wine.

  5. Except for its fish-out-of-water growth tendencies, my canna is perfect. No bugs, no bad spot in the middle. And while I could, of course, divide it and make it more manageable, so far, it shows no signs of wanting any such treatment. It’s just getting more glorious every year.

  6. My plant pet is a Crinadonna – a bulb I bought at least 10 years ago that has never bloomed. Every winter it sends out leaves and I bring it up into a sunny window. Every summer the leaves die back without producing any of the flower stalks that the picture in the catalog displayed. The bulb has multiplied many times, but still no flowers…

  7. Canna roots are pretty powerful. I’ve had them split regular old clay pots by September. And I’ve always cut up my rhizomes before planting and spread them around the pot or around the bed. Not sure of the advantage of one big clump.

  8. Hey Michele, I’m with you. If something is working, why mess with it. Keep in one piece (but if you do divide it, give me the other half).

    I have been giving in to the fake pots, myself. They’re getting better looking each year. God knows they’re not any cheaper. Dammit.

  9. For this gardener, practical pots trump beautiful pots. I lust after Italian pottery, and have some pieces of my own. But in our climate, they have to be hauled indoors every fall. So I now opt for the fiberglass and foam pots that can stay out all year.

    There are just too many to drag them all inside! For me anyway, it’s more about what’s IN the pot.

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