Thursday, June 23, 2011

Become A Beetle Detective

Dutch government [CC0]

In 1996, Asian longhorned beetles (ALB, Anoplophora glabripennis) were discovered on some hardwood trees in Brooklyn, New York. The U.S. Secretary of Agriculture declared an emergency in order to combat the pests. The beetles are believed to have come into the U.S. in wood pallets and packing material with shipments from Asia.

Any invasive and destructive insect presents a problem. But the problem with these beetles is greater because they attack a wide range of tree species including Norway maple, silver, red and sugar maple, box elder, buckeye, horsechestnut, London plane, birch, elm and willow. The economic impact could be enormous.

In 2002, another devastating beetle was identified in Michigan and neighboring Ontario, Canada. Emerald ash borer (EAB, Agrilus planipennis Fairmaire) turned out to be the culprit behind the loss of ash trees in the state. Another non-native pest, it is distributed with the helping hand of humans when infested wood (firewood, for example) is moved from place to place. Emerald ash borer has now spread to at least 14 states, including Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

The war on the Asian longhorned beetle and emerald ash borer is essentially a seek-and-destroy mission, and the USDA is soliciting the help of citizens such as you. By learning the tell-tale signs of beetle damage, you can become a Beetle Detective and be on the lookout for these pests. The USDA wants to know not only if the beetles are present, but if they are not. By periodically reporting your findings, you aid in the effort to control or eradicate them. Learn more about becoming a Beetle Detective.

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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Glimmer Of Goldenrod - Solidago

Solidago rugosa 'Fireworks'
The Glimmer Of Goldenrod - Solidago

Across the meadow in brooding shadow
I walk to drink of the autumn's wine­
The charm of story, the artist's glory,
To-day on these silvering hills is mine;
On height, in hollow, where'er I follow,
By mellow hillside and searing sod,
Its plumes uplifting, in light winds drifting,
I see the glimmer of golden-rod.

In this latest comer the vanished summer
Has left its sunshine the world to cheer,
And bids us remember in late September
What beauty mates with the passing year.
The days that are fleetest are still the sweetest,
And life is near to the heart of God,
And the peace of heaven to earth is given
In this wonderful time of the golden-rod.
L.M. Montgomery (1874-1942), In the Days of the Goldenrod

Goldenrod is of the genus Solidago (pronounced so-li-DAY-go). Solidago includes about 100 species mostly distributed throughout North America. Some are found in South America, Mexico and Europe. When goldenrod blooms, know that summer's end is near. It conjures a pensive mood in me.

The name, given by Linnaeus in 1753, comes from Latin, meaning "to make whole." Undoubtedly, he knew of its time-honored medicinal uses. Ailments treated included arthritis, tuberculosis, bladder inflammation, kidney stones, gout, colds and allergies, bronchitis and asthma.

Solidago was once considered as a possible source for rubber by Thomas Edison. The Edison Papers at the New York Botanical Garden tell the story. During World War I, Edison expected that rubber would be a very valuable commodity, began to search for latex sources in readily available plants. Edison's winter estate was in Ft. Myers, FL, just across the street from Henry Ford, so they and another friend, Harvey Firestone, began collaborating on the research project. The Edison Botanic Research Corporation of Fort Myers was formed. After many plant trials, they concluded that Solidago leavenworthii was the best source. Though they were able to produce very durable rubber, they were unable to do it on a large enough scale. The company was dissolved. Ford moved the solidago to his mansion near Richmond Hill, GA for awhile. The project was finally abandoned.

Interestingly, the Ford Motor Company has never given up on the idea of readily available plants. The company is now partnering with scientists at Ohio State University in an attempt to produce significant amounts of rubber from Russian Dandelion (Taraxacum kok-saghyz).

Most Solidago species thrive in USDA climate zones 3 through 9. Average garden soil with pH ranging from 6.1 to 7.8 is fine. Solidago is drought-tolerant, deer resistant and rabbit resistant.

Perennial borders, hummingbird gardens and butterfly gardens should include Solidago. Appropriate theme gardens would include medicinal, herb, historic and native plant gardens.

If you would like to grow Solidago, choose a site in full sun to partial shade. Take a soil sample to your local Cooperative Extension Service office for analysis. You will pay a small fee. If your soil is not friable, cultivate to a depth of 8 inches. Add fertilizer and other amendments as recommended. Remove all traces of weeds.

Water the plants in their pots. Allow them to drain. With a garden trowel, dig holes twice as large as the pots. Space the plants about 18 inches apart. (Larger growing species can be planted farther apart.) Remove the plants from their containers, add water to the planting hole, fill in around (not on top of) the root balls with native soil. Water again. A light top-dressing of mulch may help to retain moisture and discourage weeds until your plants are established.

Include Solidago in your garden. Toward the end of summer, its plumes uplifting, in light winds drifting, you'll see the glimmer in the wonderful time of the golden-rod.


Monday, June 13, 2011

FAQ: How many plants will I need?

Q. I want to plant English ivy in my yard. I haven't decided what size to plant. How many will I need?

A. Though you inquired about English Ivy, here are some general spacing guidelines applicable to many species for planting bare root plants, 2-1/2" pots, 3-1/2" and 4" pots, 4-1/2" pots and Quart-size pots.

Bare root plants should be spaced 4" to 8" apart. If 4" apart, you'd need 9 per sq. ft. If 6" apart, you'd need 4 per sq. ft. If 8" apart, you'd need 2.25 per square foot.

2-1/2" pots should be spaced 8" to 12" apart. Again, if 8" apart, you'd need 2.25 plants per sq. ft. If planted 10" apart, you'd need 1.45 plants per sq. ft. If planted 12" apart, you'd need 1 plant per sq. ft.

3-1/2" and 4" pots should be spaced 12" to 18" apart. Again, if 12" apart, you'd need 1 per sq. ft. If 15" apart, you'd need 1 plant per 1.56 sq. ft. If 18" apart, you'd need 1 plant per 2.25 sq. ft.

4-1/2" pots and Quart-size pots should be spaced 18" to 24" apart. Again, if planted 18" apart, you'd need 1 plant per 2.25 sq. ft. If planted 24" apart, you'd need 1 plant per 4 sq. ft.

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Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The North Carolina Arboretum

Surrounded by the natural beauty of western North Carolina, the North Carolina Arboretum presents a unique combination of attractions to visitors. Biological diversity, green education, arts and crafts, landscape design and woodland strolls are celebrated in the shadow of Mt. Pisgah. The gateway is situated at the confluence of the French Broad River and Bent Creek close by The Blue Ridge Parkway.

The drive to the Baker Exhibit Center is as lovely as The Parkway, winding along the verdant creek side. The Exhibit Center features changing art and craft displays, a gift shop and lovely views of the outdoors. Immediately behind it, the Heritage Garden evokes an Appalachian farmstead and garden. A workshop is furnished to provide students hands-on experiences in old-time crafts such as dye-making from native herbs. Reminders to recycle are everywhere.

Appropriately, the Quilt Garden is adjacent. Seasonal annuals are planted in patterns characteristic of the Appalachian region. Twenty-four planting beds are divided by slate and gravel pathways, affording visitors comfortable strolls among the bright colors. An observation deck above it provides a fantastic overview of the area.

The Stream Garden reminds of the geological wonders that created the Southern Highlands. A stylized stream is planted with a harmonious combination of non-native and native species.

Sculpture is tastefully integrated in the landscape throughout the Arboretum. And though few of us can create or afford works of art for our own garden, there is a lot of inspiration for all of us to be creative, as with this container garden.

A promenade leads from the Stream Garden to the Bonsai Garden. Bonsai, an Oriental horticultural art form, may seem out-of-place in what seems like a homespun setting, but visitors will find examples with a distinctly Southern Appalachian flavor. As they say at the Arboretum, "The quality of the collection and its presentation has attracted national attention, while the promotion of bonsai as being an expression of an individual’s experience of nature, without attaching to it the trappings of any particular foreign culture, is a distinguishing innovation." That's what makes it work in this context.

The Plants of Promise Garden, next to the Education Center, features new selections, old favorites and native flora that show promise for residential landscape applications. It's sort of a trial garden to test plants for the region and similar environments.

Two collections should be well-worth your efforts to view in season: the Ericaceous Collection and National Native Azalea Collection. From them, enthusiasts needing more exercise can find comfortable trails beneath the sylvan canopy. Bent Creek Trail, Rocky Cove Road, Owl Ridge Trail and Hard Times Road form a comfortable loop for hikers.

Unfortunately for you and me, my camera batteries died after a few photographs. Replacements were not available in the gift shop, so I didn't capture as many images as I wanted. But you get the picture.

For complete information, directions, and schedules of events, check out the North Carolina Arboretum web site. I'm certain that one visit will entice you to return often.

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FAQ: Will ivy inhibit or kill daffodils?

Q. My question is about using ivy (English, hedera..) as a groundcover.  The area is defined and slopes.  I'd like the ground cover as an evergreen that could take pretty full sun - and it is hot in summer afternoons in Nashville.  The key question is what happens to perennials (especially daffodils) that are planted in large numbers.  Will the ivy inhibit or kill them?  Thanks for any help you can offer.

A. Depending on where you live in Nashville, you might be in USDA climate zone 6 or 7. Hedera appreciates some shade from zone 7 and warmer, so you should give that some consideration. Hedera can grow densely, so it might present too much competition to some perennials. Daffodils would stand up to the competition okay.

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