I’m a Little Tea Pot

Okay that title is almost entirely inaccurate, because it’s not me, it’s a plant, and it’s not really little, and more tall and thin than short and stout, and it’s actually a tea cup not the pot, and if we’re getting really technical it was labeled as coffee cup, but all the research I did said that in this case, tea cup and coffee cup are the same thing. The part of the song that is applicable, though, is Tip me over and pour me out!

I bought one of these coffee cup elephant ears a few years ago with no idea what it was. And even though I just assured you that all my research says “tea cup” and “coffee cup” are the same variety here, I’m going to call it a coffee cup, because when you use “tea cup” as an adjective, people tend to think of trendy pets that are unnaturally small, and go “Okay, a tiny version of the plant with the great big leaves. Whatever you say.”

I thought that first coffee cup looked a little funny, but assumed that as the leaves got bigger, they would droop and flatten like normal, and look more like these:

They never did, though, because they apparently weren’t supposed to. And then one day we had one of those big summer rain storms and Kalen looked out the window and started laughing when he saw what was happening. The unique cup shape of the leaves collects water, and when it gets too heavy, the stalk bends and pours out the rain water. This became our new favorite plant.

I made the unfortunate mistake, however, of assuming that I could leave the bulb in the ground and with enough mulch over it that it would survive the winter. After all, my cannas have wintered just fine, and there was an elephant ear planted in that spot when we moved in (I assumed it was dug out with the surprise lilies that I moved, but it actually must have just died). And if it didn’t survive, it wasn’t very expensive. I could just buy a new one the following spring.

The winter was cold and the coffee cup didn’t come back, either to my yard or to any of the local garden shop shelves. I looked for several years and finally bought a couple of bulbs online to try and grow myself. They arrived today, and I immediately got them planted, even though it seems a little late to be starting elephant ears. At least once they get going, they grow pretty quickly. Fingers crossed I don’t kill them before they get started.

In the mean time, I took advantage of the mild weather today to trim back the spent blooms on my roses, which are nearly through their first flowering of the summer.

I don’t have a particularly green thumb and most of the plants in my yard are doing well through a combination of luck and my ability to pick out low-maintenance plants (hostas are the best). So I’ve been pleasantly surprised with my roses.

I’m sure you’re all familiar with the Rose vs Dandelion that makes its way through social media every spring:

I am certainly better at growing dandelions than just about anything else, and when we moved into our house six years ago, I saw the rose bushes and thought “Oh, pretty! I’m so sorry you’ll be dead soon!”

But to my astonishment, they’ve clung to life. Sure, the ones in the backyard get all stretched out and grow all wonky reaching for the sparse sunlight that makes it past the neighbors’ monstrous Burr Oak tree, but they still bloom.

My mom gave me pointers with the roses, and said that the ones in the front yard are knockout roses, and when I didn’t kill them after the first two or three years, I bought another and it looks the same, so I think she was right (she usually is).

The ones in the back yard are still a wonder to me. When we moved in, they had little tags around the base of the stem, and both tags were the same. They were David Austin roses, which even the barest research assures me are Very Fancy, and were I to knowingly purchase one, I would probably be throwing a chunk of money right into the compost pile. That first year, only the one on the left bloomed, probably because it gets just a little more sun. It has these beautiful, full, peachy colored blooms that almost look like a peony. They’re lovely, but I’ve never been a fan of pinks and oranges, so it’s not somethings I would have picked out for myself.

I’ve learned how to share images and GIFs and videos and make comparison pictures and galleries. Alas, there is no way for me to share with you how these roses smell. “Sure, we’ve smelled roses before. They’re nice,” you say. “Everyone’s smelled a rose. It’s one of the most popular and beloved scents out there. It’s the only reason we put up with their thorns.” But these are different. I don’t know, maybe the more horticulturally inclined among you have encountered this and know, but I have never smelled another rose like these. Roses smell nice. These are almost intoxicating. They smell fruity, like a sun-ripened peach, or like lemon balm. I adore them.

I assumed that, since the tags were exactly the same, the other rose bush would also produce these peachy, fruity blooms. But one spring morning I looked out my window at the sprawling vine that I had neglected to trim back the prior February and saw deep, pinky red splotches covering the front of the garage and momentarily thought something or someone had been violently murdered. Nope, just roses. They smell like normal roses, and look a lot like the knockouts in the front, maybe a little darker. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little disappointed that they weren’t the same, or at least another surprising variety that I hadn’t encountered before.

But my roses don’t seem to care much about my soil quality, so as long as they stay alive, it’s good enough for me.

When (I’m saying when and not if, to be optimistic) my coffee cups come up, I’ll share an update again, although since they are most fun in the rain, I’ve pretty well assured that the rest of the summer will be dry as a bone. Sorry, guys. Don’t forget your sunscreen!

5 responses to “I’m a Little Tea Pot”

  1. Those roses are beautiful! Great capture of the coffee cup! The sound of that rainfall could put me to sleep! Nice read! Keep writing!

  2. A beautiful share!!
    Love your garden.
    We have similar plant, but it has light green leaves with some shade.
    Yours roses are beautiful. Best wishes

    1. Thank you! It’s been a learning curve, figuring out what I can and can’t grow, but it’s finally starting to pay off!

      1. You are doing great job!
        I’ve also shared a blog on spending time with nature. There I’ve shared pics of my garden. Would love to show you that.

  3. […] we had a very rainy spring. After unsuccessfully checking local nurseries and greenhouses for coffee cup elephant ears, I gave in and bought bulbs, and knowing that the cupped foliage is best enjoyed in rainy […]

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