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a backyard of surprises, with ken druse

THE GARDEN is filled with surprises, and those that our gardens have provided up this spring was the topic of a latest dialog with Ken Druse, who returned to my podcast after a too-long absence. The surprises, for higher or worse, vary from extra-bountiful roses, to not-so-welcome spongy moth caterpillars, a.ok.a. gypsy moths.

You all know Ken, creator of 20 backyard books, eager propagator, and plant collector. And for a lot of the final yr, he’s additionally been my colleague in our on-line Digital Backyard Membership, the most recent semester of which simply ended (a brand new one will start this fall; extra on that later this summer time). So I’ve been getting to speak to him on a regular basis, however you haven’t heard from him in a bit, which is one thing we’ll appropriate on this dialog.

One shock, above: creeping Charlie (Glechoma hederacea) with leaves as large as a geranium’s.

Plus: Enter to win a duplicate of my e-book “A Strategy to Backyard,” by commenting within the field close to the underside of the web page.

Learn alongside as you take heed to the June 20, 2022 version of my public-radio present and podcast utilizing the participant beneath. You possibly can subscribe to all future editions on Apple Podcasts (iTunes) or Spotify or Stitcher (and browse my archive of podcasts right here).

plant surprises within the spring backyard, with ken druse

Margaret Roach: Hello, Ken. How are you?

Ken Druse: Hello, Margaret. Gee, I haven’t spoken to you in nearly a day.

Margaret: Yeah, 12 hours or so, proper? So in our remaining class of the third semester of the Digital Backyard Membership that simply ended, you requested everybody a query, like all of the members within the viewers, whereas we have been on the Zoom. You requested, “What vegetation stunned you this yr thus far within the backyard, for higher or for worse?

And I simply thought that may be a enjoyable matter to speak about as a result of it introduced up a number of nice stuff folks had skilled. We ended up derailing into speaking about so many good issues. Baptisia as an illustration, which it’s… They’re stunning, aren’t they? They’re so stunning.

Ken: And I’m nearly speechless [laughter].

Margaret: About Baptisia?

Ken: No, there’s too many surprises.

Margaret: Oh. Uh-oh, you’re having surprises.

Ken: Yeah, and the Baptisia are stunning. I keep in mind once we may solely get that blue one, however now there’s a yellow one which we’ve and a brown one with totally different colours.

Margaret: Yeah, like bicolors, kind of. Yeah, fabulous.

Ken: Oh my gosh, they’re so stunning. If solely they lasted longer, however I say that about nearly the whole lot.

Margaret: Yeah. However anyway, so folks have been displaying us… Within the membership, they have been displaying us and telling us all their nice surprises, and a few weren’t so nice, and that’s O.Ok., too, as a result of that’s a part of the deal. So I don’t know. You need to begin off on the constructive or the damaging shock [laughter]?

Ken: Properly, I believed the place we’re, within the Northeast, I believed it was a really chilly winter. However I believe possibly since we had snow when it was chilly… One thing occurred, as a result of the whole lot this yr that’s alive, that survived, is gigantic and voluptuous, and doing issues they’ve by no means achieved earlier than. Right here within the shady backyard, it’s as if half the timber are gone, as a result of the whole lot’s so large and issues that by no means occurred earlier than are occurring actually.

I’ve a crape myrtle that to me has at all times been a herbaceous perennial, and it’s by no means flowered. This yr, it’s 5 ft tall. It stored all of the woody progress from final yr so I’d even get a flower, however…

Margaret: In order that’s a tree in a extra favorable, a hotter zone?

Ken: Properly, there’s additionally shrubby ones, too.

Margaret: Oh, O.Ok., so it is a shrubby crape myrtle?

Ken: I believe so.

Margaret: However for you, it’s been kind of a dieback factor, a cutback…

Ken: Yeah. And the season wasn’t lengthy sufficient for it to flower, however I do know we’ve talked about this earlier than and I may make… I’ve such a protracted listing of great issues that stunned me, however the issues that possibly have occupied me, if not stunned me, are the weeds.

Margaret: Yeah. I believe I’ve mentioned to you the phrase that involves thoughts is epic, and never simply within the backyard, however driving alongside the roadsides the place I’m.

Ken: Oh.

Margaret: I imply, throughout garlic mustard season, after which currently the Hesperis matronalis, the dame’s rocket that individuals suppose is a phlox which isn’t a phlox, it’s an alien invader, that’s so fairly with all of the lavender flowers… I imply, they’re like three ft deep, like 50 of them lined up deep, and the identical with the garlic mustard. It was simply as I mentioned, epic.

Ken: Properly, my nemesis this yr is the Glechoma [photo by Ken, top of page]. Now, do you name that—creeping Charlie?

Margaret: Yeah, precisely. Yeah, floor ivy or creeping Charlie.

Ken: Proper, floor ivy.

Margaret: Glechoma hederacea, as a result of then the hederacea, the adjective after the correct title means ivy, proper?

Ken: Proper.  A number of the ones that I’ve been pulling, and I’m pulling and pulling and pulling, and naturally they creep below different issues and you’ll’t get them as a result of they’re too far into the mattress, I pulled one which had leaves as large as a scented geranium leaf, or like a hothouse geranium. I imply, it was nearly three inches throughout.

Margaret: Yeah, I don’t perceive what’s happening and I’m undoubtedly not feeding steroids to my vegetation, however I’m seeing what you’re seeing, too. I had some garlic mustard that… Properly, I at all times have some as a result of it’s such a prolific seeder.

Ken: Mm-hmm.

Margaret: However it was like I didn’t even acknowledge it, as a result of it was above my knee. Are you aware what I imply? It was so tall.

Ken: It was solely above your knee? Solely?

Margaret: Yeah. I imply, it was… It was so tall, as a result of right here it’s normally effectively above my knee, let’s say. Thigh excessive, let’s say, and it was simply loopy wanting and I simply thought, “How did you get so large and why?”

Ken: I’ve gotten nearly all of these out, however the few that I missed, I pulled one, I believe it was yesterday, waist excessive.

Margaret: Oh. So yeah, I’m considering kind of mid thigh, however yeah, waist excessive. Yeah. No, wow, it’s loopy. It’s actually… They’re loopy.

Ken: And in fruiting and on the point of have its seeds. Oh my gosh.

Margaret: Not good. Not good, not good. So I imply, I’ve extra unhealthy issues I can say that have been surprises, however possibly we should always pepper in some constructive in between the weeds.

Ken: I noticed two snakes yesterday. Completely different species.

Margaret: Oh. So who have been they?

Ken: Properly, possibly one was a rat snake. I do know I despatched you the image, possibly a video, and the opposite one I believe was only a garter snake, which individuals miss-call backyard snakes, however they’re garter snakes.

Margaret: Proper?

Ken: However the successes truly outweigh the losses and a snake is neither right here and nor there so far as… I imply it’s at all times a shock. And also you suppose, “What am I going to do? Get the canine inside.” However principally for essentially the most half, snakes are good except they’re like those you will have typically.

Margaret: Oh, effectively yeah, the Japanese timber rattlers. They’re simply searching. They’re not doing something, and also you don’t see them that always. They usually’re in my area, they’re round right here, so that you do encounter them every so often. However round right here, different folks in barely totally different environments have copperheads, and people are a bit extra the place you don’t discover them. I imply, a rattlesnake’s a giant factor.

However yeah, however the beauty of snakes is that, as I mentioned, they’re searching–that they’re like one of the best pest management companions. I imply you need to do away with slugs, your garter snakes and so forth are doing a pleasant job of a few of these issues, of consuming up a few of these issues, which is nice. I’m not so loopy once they seize a frog [laughter]. That’s disgusting, nevertheless it’s nature, so it’s okay. So one thing constructive, let’s say one thing… What’s one thing that was…

Ken: Oh, effectively the peonies have been unimaginable. And there’s one which I hadn’t seen bloom earlier than known as ‘Canary Brilliance’ [above]. And when it opens up, it’s a outstanding colour. It’s kind of the colour of pantyhose [laughter].

Margaret: ‘Canary Brilliance.’ It’s a beige?

Ken: Sure, nevertheless it turns yellow. In order that’s why I suppose it’s known as that. And years in the past there was a peony I at all times wished once I was a child. Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt and she or he bloomed fantastically this yr. So the peonies have been nice. And one thing I used to be going to say, you recognize what’s stunning? Like as if you recognize. Margaret, are you able to learn my thoughts but?

Margaret: Sure, I can.

Ken: I’ve a few honeysuckles and I’m a bit… I’m at all times cautious of honeysuckles due to Corridor’s honeysuckle, which is such a thug, and-

Margaret: Proper. A number of the aliens are…

Ken: …although it smells so nice, and we used to eat the nectar. However there are many honeysuckles that aren’t monsters. And a pair are blooming proper now. One is Mandarin, which is type of orange and gold, attractive flowers.

Margaret: And it is a vine, not shrubby?

Ken: It’s vine. Oh no, not shrubby. Vine on a trellis. And one other one is named ‘Scentsation.’ Like scent-sation, as if I’d ever heard that phrase. And I’ve had it for 3 years. And the primary yr I believed, this doesn’t odor. And the second yr I had just a few extra flowers and it’s nonetheless… I couldn’t hardly detect any perfume in any respect.

And this yr with simply 100, oh, greater than 100 flowers on this unimaginable yr, I used to be most likely 30 ft away. And I believed, “Properly, what’s it? Are the multiflora roses blooming within the neighborhood or one thing?” It was this actually great rose odor, and it was the honeysuckle ‘Scentsation’ after three years.

Margaret: And typically when the… I don’t know if it’s the humidity or what, like when the air has a heaviness, just like the scent molecules or no matter, can-

Ken: Hover.

Margaret: Yeah. They’ll hover. Thanks. I wouldn’t have considered that phrase [laughter].

Ken: It additionally depends upon the time of day, too. And naturally, we all know it’s who they co-evolved with typically.

Margaret: Yeah. Who they need to entice and so forth. Yeah. I like the vining honeysuckles, and fairly a lot of them are both from… They’re from sempervirens, Lonicera sempervirens, a Southeastern native species, and there’s alternatives, I believe like… I neglect which one I’ve, however they’re actually stunning. The hummingbirds love them, all that type of great things. And I don’t know, they simply cheer me additionally. And you may prune them. Should you don’t know the right way to prune them, you may be brutal they usually’ll nonetheless come again and… Are you aware what I imply? They’re fairly sturdy, too.

Ken: Certain.

Margaret: Actually sturdy.

Ken: They’ve tubular flowers. They don’t flare on the finish. They don’t have the same old what we consider the honeysuckle form.

Margaret: Proper. Rather more slender and lengthy. Yeah.

Ken: However that’s good for the hummingbirds. Simply good. They usually’re semi-evergreen. I’ve a yellow choice. I believe it’s ‘John Clayton.’

Margaret: I’ve that one, too. That’s a terrific one. Yeah.

Ken: That’s nice. And this yr… A pair years in the past, I ordered via the mail ‘Kintzley’s Ghost.’ Have you ever ever seen that?

Margaret: No.

Ken: Lonicera ‘Kintzley’s Ghost’ [above]. And it appears like eucalyptus. You know the way typically on a honeysuckle it’ll have kind… Proper when it flowers, it has kind of a flat leaf?

Margaret: Sure.

Ken: That’s nearly round and… This, it’s all flat leaves and the flowers come out of it and it’s not aromatic, nevertheless it’s unimaginable. It’s blue-green leaves and it’s grown for the foliage. After which just lately any person placed on Instagram a photograph of theirs and I believe it was like 7 ft tall by 7 ft broad.

It was on a fence, nevertheless it regarded like an enormous shrub. So I’ve to look at that. However this yr it’s for the primary time… And you recognize whenever you get one thing within the mail that’s 3 inches tall, you suppose, “Oh gosh, I’m not going to reside to see this.” Properly, three years later..  Particularly this yr with our good temperature and water.

Margaret: No matter is happening, proper.

Ken: I believe it was water, solar, water, solar, no matter. It’s a outstanding yr. And when it’s good for the vegetation, weeds are vegetation.

Margaret: Yeah. On a extra down be aware, since we’ll go up and down, up and down, up and down within the surprises in order to not terrorize anybody: For the primary time in additional than 35 years right here, I’ve previously gypsy moths, now spongy moth, caterpillars [above left, from Wikimedia].

And so final yr in my space, fairly close by, the subsequent city 5 minutes up the street, and in addition the northwest nook of Connecticut, which is like 15, 20 minutes from right here, have been inundated. And I had none nonetheless then. I shouldn’t say none, as a result of I understand how to determine the gypsy moth moth, the grownup moth. And within the summertime once I used to do moth evening occasions and so forth, and put up the blacklight bulbs, the CFL blacklight bulbs, towards a white sheet out within the woods and have folks come and we’d have an entomologist and determine moths at evening, we’d at all times see a gypsy moth male [above right, from Wikimedia Commons] or two or three. However not large numbers. So in different phrases, they’re current, however their numbers don’t swell besides when the circumstances are proper.

And so close by me final yr was actually unhealthy, however I didn’t have any. And I used to be like, “Why? I’m wondering why.”

So this yr I do. Not kind of decimation degree, the place you possibly can hear them crunching and consuming from the timber, as a result of that’s actually 5 minutes away, all my mates within the subsequent city, it was the fixed noise of chewing. It was loopy. And defoliated timber, particularly oaks and maples and so forth.

So what fascinates me is… The shock, in different phrases, on this, not simply that it was the primary time in all these a long time that I’ve had any in any respect. And I type of have a light-weight infestation. However that right down to the final plant, they’ve discovered and occupied each Hamamelis, each witch-hazel relative. So Corylopsis, the winter hazel, Fothergilla, and Hamamelis, witch-hazels, of which I’ve fairly a lot of differing types within the gardens close to the home. They’ve gone for these.

Now, how is it {that a} pest that begins as an egg after which a tiny… The tiniest caterpillar you possibly can think about. How do they discover the vegetation they like one of the best? Are you aware what I imply? Interspersed across the yard they usually discover them and that’s the place they’re clustered. It’s simply bizarre. It’s actually bizarre.

Ken: Yeah. Do you suppose the moths lay eggs on those that…

Margaret: Possibly that’s what… I suppose, nevertheless it’s simply wacky. It’s actually wacky.

Ken: I’ve seen that with milkweed. I’ve seen totally different butterflies go to the milkweed and if you happen to ever see them lay their eggs, it’s fairly humorous.

Margaret: Properly, these guys, you normally see them kind of coming down from above. They kind of drop… Anyway. They’re fairly repulsive. I’ve been squishing like mad, and persons are like, “What are you able to do? What are you able to do?” And a few folks in late April, they… Earlier than the emergence, they put sticky bands across the trunks of their timber, and that may…

Ken: It by no means goes away.

Margaret: Yeah. It’s nasty. I don’t know. It really works, nevertheless it’s nasty. As a result of when the caterpillars crawl up the timber, they get caught. One factor you are able to do is spray Bt kurstaki pressure. However you need to do this once they’re simply rising and like a half an inch lengthy, not once they’re large, they usually get large fairly quick. So you will have a really brief window. And since I didn’t know I used to be going to have them, since I by no means have, I didn’t clearly. However lots of people are doing that, however…

Ken: That’s an natural… Properly, it’s a illness.

Margaret: It’s a biologic, proper. It’s a biologic and a residing organism. And it cripples their digestive system. So it kind of paralyzes their digestive system once they munch on a plant that has it on it, and it’s caterpillar-specific. So, yeah. So I didn’t do something, besides I’m squishing them.

However it’s an attention-grabbing… Once more, my shock was that they simply discover something associated to Hamamelis. They like fruit timber additionally, like apple timber and stuff like that. However yeah. Loopy. So what’s your subsequent shock?

Ken: It’s presupposed to be a great…

Margaret: I’ll go forward, go down… Let’s go down the tubes, no matter you need.

Ken: One thing’s fallacious with the bald cypress, and I’ve a number of, or many, like six Taxodium distichum, the bald cypress, typically known as swamp bald cypress. And oddly sufficient, I’ve a Taxodium ascendens [above at Ken’s], which is the swamp cypress, and that’s high quality. However all the bald cypress have been defoliated. Properly, their little needles… They’re deciduous conifers, and their needles hardly got here out, they usually nonetheless haven’t come out. You possibly can see via them. They’re like skeletons. I haven’t seen something on it, however I…

First I believed, is that some type of temperature factor or illness? However I’ll guess there’s tiny caterpillars that I can barely see. They most likely look similar to the needles.

Margaret: Wow.

Ken: In order that… Normally, a tree can survive that a few times and even thrice, however one thing’s fallacious with a few of the dogwoods.

Margaret: Oh.

Ken: And I believe… I misplaced a pink one which I grew from seed from a pal’s backyard in Brooklyn. And it was most likely about 10 years previous. And final yr it bloomed for the primary time, and this yr it didn’t leaf out or something. It was lifeless. And I believe that’s most likely anthracnose.

However there’s one other Cornus not too removed from that that’s shedding limbs, and I’m considering these guys are getting ailments.

Margaret: Yeah. I don’t have in my backyard. I’ve subsequent door at my kind of workplace, no matter, I’ve one Cornus florida, the native flowering dogwood. However the ones that I attempted right here early on, they didn’t do. They, such as you mentioned, they type of received anthracnose or no matter again within the day. I do have some Cornus kousa right here, the Korean dogwoods, and my large one, which is at all times a powerful performer in early June, it bloomed… Solely half of it bloomed this yr. So type of wacky, however yeah. I don’t have a number of dogwoods.

Ken: Properly, and I had a ‘Wolf Eyes’ that most likely was the present stopper in the entire backyard and about three or 4 years in the past. And also you instructed me that there was an issue with that tree and I believed, “Oh no, it’s so stunning. It’s large and wholesome.” Properly, it’s a couple of third the dimensions now. The leaves are tiny and it’s simply… It’s shrinking.

Margaret: And that’s the variegated kousa? Yeah.

Ken: Proper. So I believe that may be… This may be its final yr.

Margaret: Yeah. It seems like… Yeah. I imply some issues I simply… I can’t battle with. Are you aware what I imply? Some issues I simply… They only don’t work right here and I simply realized my lesson and haven’t stored making an attempt.

Do you will have… Talking of surprises, do you will have typically vegetation displaying up distant from the place the so-called mother or father plant is? Like you recognize you will have that plant, nevertheless it’s like 75 ft away or throughout the entire yard. Are you aware what I imply? Not…

Ken: Properly, I do know what you imply. It’s humorous. I wouldn’t say 75 ft, however I’ve some Digitalis grandiflora [above at Ken’s], which is admittedly perennial, not like most foxgloves. And it was a bit clump of about three or 4 stems for actually over 10 years. This yr, it’s in about 4 locations. They usually all look simply high quality. In order that’s a shock. And one place is definitely 25 ft away. However I don’t…

Margaret: So the reply’s sure.

Ken: What you get? 75 ft? Yeah.

Margaret: So, I’ve Aruncus, goat’s beard, the large Aruncus dioicus.  And once I say large, it’s the dimensions of a shrub. My authentic plant might be 30 years previous, nonetheless in place, 6 ft throughout, and in bloom 5 ft tall or one thing like that. White nearly like large Astilbe flowers. After which just a few years in the past, one ended up all the way in which throughout the yard.

Now it’s on the way in which to the compost heap, the place it ended up, and I’m questioning if I introduced a seed-laden flower truss or one thing. You realize what I imply? Possibly I did that unintentionally. It ended up over there, or I used compost and there have been nonetheless some seeds in it. I don’t know, as a result of I’ve researched and researched and researched. How does this plant transfer round and what wildlife is involved in it and so forth and so forth?

Ken: Proper. Can’t think about.

Margaret: And I simply… There’s no info available in all of the analysis. And now I’ve it in yet one more place about 40 ft from the place the unique plant is. It’s fully the other way. So I simply love stuff like that.

And I’ve that Syneilesis aconitifolia, the shredded umbrella plant, they name it [laughter]. That kind of, a kind of latest hits of attention-grabbing foliage type of shade vegetation. And that I had it in a single spot. It didn’t come up there, however like 25 ft away, it got here up.

Ken: Properly, that I can perceive as a result of it has a type of puffy seedhead.

Margaret: O.Ok.

Ken: Which could possibly be airborne, could possibly be carried by the wind. It’s not a really fairly flower and it’s an Asteraceae. It’s a bit daisy relative. Is Aruncus rose household, do you suppose? [Update: It is in the rose family.]

Margaret: It’s not a saxifrage? I don’t know. I can’t keep in mind. It appears like astilbe, and that type of stuff. I don’t even keep in mind.

Ken: We’ll look it up sooner or later.

Margaret: Yeah. Yeah. We’ll look it up. However I… Yeah.

Ken: Speak about roses, and I’ve by no means had sufficient solar for roses.

Margaret: And it’s a terrific rose yr.

Ken: It’s superb. I’ve a purple rugosa [above] that for years it will have like 4 flowers, possibly 5. This yr, it has clusters as large as a cantaloupe with eight, 10 flowers in a cluster, and it’s everywhere in the complete factor. And my favourite rose, one from the 1700s that I’ve known as ‘Petite de Holland,’ which is small flowers and unbelievably aromatic, I ought to have lower it again, as a result of now it’s flopping out of the mattress and on these large wands.

Margaret: Who knew?

Ken: So… Who knew?

Margaret: Yeah, it undoubtedly is a superb rose yr. And I’ve a few of the Canadian Explorer roses, these super-hardy ones that have been widespread for like ‘William Baffin,’ a climber, as a result of again within the day it was thought that in my Zone 5 local weather, I couldn’t develop a number of climbers, however ‘William Baffin’ was bone hardy. And certain sufficient, I imply the factor is… I’ve had it for many years and it simply will get higher and higher and higher. However this yr it’s distinctive. Simply lined. And such as you say, the rugosas additionally. I’ve only a plain white rugosa. I’ve by no means seen so many flowers on it. So I hope which means a number of hips.

Ken: Wow.

Margaret: Yeah. So, yeah, so we’re nearly out of time and… However I’m glad to have a reunion on the podcast and we received’t let it go so lengthy. We’ve simply each been so busy. It’s been a loopy, loopy yr.

Ken: [Making a funny voice:] Get a load of the hips on that rose.

Margaret: The hips on that rose, precisely. However yeah, so I hope we’ll get again to our ordinary frequency of doing podcasts.

Ken: Sounds good. Sounds nice.

Margaret: And we’ll let everyone know once we get again to Digital Backyard Membership. It’s going to renew in September and October, and in addition we’re going to have a pair popup occasions the place Ken and I are going to do some not open-mic nights, however kind of-ish. Be looking out arising quickly. We’ll have some bulletins of some occasions we’re going to be doing. So, thanks. And I’ll speak to you quickly, Ken.

Ken: O.Ok. Martagons subsequent time.

Margaret: O.Ok. Martagon lilies, O.Ok. All proper. I’ll speak to you quickly.

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MY WEEKLY public-radio present, rated a “top-5 backyard podcast” by “The Guardian” newspaper within the UK, started its eleventh yr in March 2020. In 2016, the present received three silver medals for excellence from the Backyard Writers Affiliation. It’s produced at Robin Hood Radio, the smallest NPR station within the nation. Pay attention domestically within the Hudson Valley (NY)-Berkshires (MA)-Litchfield Hills (CT) Mondays at 8:30 AM Japanese, rerun at 8:30 Saturdays. Or play the June 20, 2022 present utilizing the participant close to the highest of this transcript. You possibly can subscribe to all future editions on iTunes/Apple Podcasts or Spotify or Stitcher (and browse my archive of podcasts right here).


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