June 7, 2010

Caladium Watch

Every spring, when the chance of frost is over, I plant caladium corms in the shade garden to the west of our house. Then I begin a daily watch for the first sign of a plant poking its way out of the soil. It takes a long time for that first tightly-curled leaf to appear and until it does, I'm riddled with uncertainly. Did I plant it too deep? Was the corm healthy and alive? Am I watering it too much? Too little? Does it need more sun or more shade? Just when I'm sure that a squirrel or other hungry critter must have burrowed into the earth and devoured every nascent plant, I spy a touch of color spiraling up from the dark ground.

A caladium corm is not a pretty sight. It looks like a clump of dirt:

It's hard to tell whether it's up or down or sideways, but the plants one little corm produces are spectacular:

Waiting for the caladium to appear is somewhat like waiting to hear from editors or agents. I send out queries and manuscripts that are, I know, more attractive than the dirt-colored corm. I have similar questions. Was my query lackluster? Too aggressive? Did I revise until I was sending my best work? Did I study the market enough to be sure I was sending my work to the best editor/agent/publisher? I wait and watch the mailbox and my inbox for replies that will produce attractive results...a magazine editor accepting an article or story...an agent agreeing to represent me and my work. Lately I've had good luck in the magazine world, but I keep hoping that one book-length manuscript will take root with an agent or publisher and produce spectacular results.