The first elephant ears didn’t take.

I bought the bulb from the garden store, planted it in our flower bed and… nothing. Then I just kind of forgot about them for a few years, another five bucks crumpled into a ball and thrown over my shoulder.

Five years ago I gave it another shot. I got a new bulb, like a dark turnip covered in bark, and buried it in a sunny, open patch by the gardenia. Lo, behold: Within a couple weeks, three distinct, white cones had sprouted from the black mulch. Caterpillars devoured those first leaves, but by the greenest days of spring they could no longer keep up with the bounty this trio of stalks put forth.

At their peak that first year, the leaves on the elephant ears grew slightly larger than a ping-pong paddle. I expected more — I noted with some envy a neighbor’s flower box filled with rows of the plant, each leaf large enough to create a skimpy top.

I must’ve got the small ones, I thought.

But the next year they came in a little bigger, bigger still the year after that. I watched them evolve over two pandemic seasons, when there wasn’t all that much else going on, into tropical lushness, with leaves the size of placemats and stalks like tendons.

We’ve had a tough year in our little house, agonizing enough that I’d begin eagerly anticipating the annual sprouting of the elephant ears as a sign of new life, a symbol of continuity, an allegory for re-emergence, all that.

Two of them had popped by the day we trimmed the hedges and laid fresh, black mulch. By the end of the week the third had sprouted. And then… a fourth elephant-ear stalk nosed its way to the surface. I literally gasped when I saw it. In hindsight, I probably got a little too excited when the fifth stalk made itself known. But that’s how I do.

And now! My five luscious elephant ears, each sprouting from that same five-dollar bulb purchased on a whim in the checkout line, are starting to bloom.The first leaves have pushed through the tiny, white cones — little ones, the size of bar coasters, that are being fairly devoured by the bugs, but the big ones are right behind them. More of them will unfurl each day, soaking up the sun like solar panels, which, I guess, they kind of are.

I won’t know until June how big they’re going to get. But it doesn’t really matter. They’ve already done their job.

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