Good God, Gertiehas the millenium come? (Wait, didn't that already happen?) The New York Times (7/27/12) reports on a change I've been kvetching about regarding horticulture for years. Peter E. Kukielskicurator of the Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden at the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronxhas been working on a breeding project to make roses disease-free, fertilizer-free, good-looking, nice-smelling and chemical-free! He has planted hundreds of varieties for a number of years and ruthlessly (and objectivelyhe has a panel vet his choices after him) eliminates those that don't make the cut. No more black spot, no more winter protective cones, no more exotic (or any) fertilizers. And, oh yes, they don't bloom for just two weeks. Now all you lady, gentlemen and other horticulturists get in line and do it for phlox, hollyhocks, lilies and all the other beautiful but challenged perennials.
This weather has certainly made it difficult for our plants what with too much rain, too little rain and heat not seen since before the ice ages. We'll find out next year if our watering helped. I suspect even many many large old established plants won't survive. We may have to start our own version of Midwestern xeriscaping (dry-land gardening.) Kukielski in the paragraph above is a step ahead of this; he has an extra-special hardiness rose garden that gets, ahem, no watering except rain.
All this Sturm und Drang over our climate now this summer not to mention climate change in general brings to mind one of my bete noires: the native-only plant crowdthose who would rid our gardens of all emigrant plants so that the only things left would duplicate the United States' shores when Europeans landed. They need to read Michael Pollan's book (yeah, he's the food writer) Second Nature: A Gardener's Education to learn there has not been a "natural" garden of Eden for thousands of years in the Americas. The Native Americans changed the landscape nearly as much as the later Europeans did. As this puritanical plant posse rampages through the United States' forests and plains pulling up stray Rose of Sharons and buckthorns to throw on a Torquemada-like bonfire, one wonders about their cherry-picking tendencies: loosestrife but not wheat? Tamarix but not (every single) dandelion? I could go on.
The strange weather has changed the blooming cycles of nearly everything: my (emigrant) Indian balsam (gorgeous self-seeding impatiens from the Himalayas) are blooming two months early with their close U.S. cousins: two varieties of jewelweed (yellow and gold). (I'm hoping for strange wonderful hybrids.) My Rose of Sharons (usually Sept. bloomers) are competing with their cousins, rose mallows (which, mirabile dictu, are blooming now, their regular time). Yumdinner plate-sized flowers.
You might want to keep track of what does especially well or poorly among your trees, perennials and annuals. Put it in a journal or in a computer program that'll pop up next year at planting time.
Are you having ant problems? Think again: If you have the little suckers in your house, that's obnoxious. But outdoors, unless they are carpenter ants gnawing holes in your deck (unlikely if it's been treated), they're generally harmlessthey aerate the soil and often eat aphids. Do not be like a woman of my acquaintance who hates all ants, bees, wasps, squirrels, rabbits and chipmunks, and hires pest-control people to rid her of these vermin because "they're all just rat cousins."
At a recent gathering of gardeners, the host remarked that his remarkable collection of cannas, dahlias and elephant ears would be tossed at the end of summer because he had no storage (usually a basement). Many of us jumped saying we had storage. If you're in the no-storage situation ask your friends; those orphans will get homes.
And finally if you're sentimental about plants you can always do as I did recently: Aat an estate sale I rescued (for a whole two dollars) a sunburned aglonema and a pot of exotic-looking succulents because they were going to be tossed. I still regret I didn't, last year, pick up a 3' x 7' container of mothers-in-law tongues for five dollars. Of course, I would've had to add a wing to the house.
The next meeting of the Fairy Gardening Guild will be Sunday, Aug. 26, at 2 p.m. Call 773-237-5981 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for info on location.