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Dallying In The Dirt, Issue #174 ---We meet the Bashful Bulrush
June 13, 2014

The good the bad and the ugly. That’s what I’ve seen this week and am preparing to deal with next week. The bathroom reno has been painted and I will not mention it any more. I’m as tired if doing it as you gardeners are of hearing about it. Spent a wonderful day yesterday at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Hamilton, ON. The staff there put on a information day for local garden writers and knew how to increase attendance by offering a very tasty lunch. After some pleasant time chatting with the staff and reconnecting with other writers, they took us on a tour that highlighted the two very different sides of a botanical garden. Deep behind the public areas they showed us a some little pots of a rather anemic looking grass and shared their excitement about it. The Bashful Bulrush Trichophorum planifolium, not a grass at all, is a plant that most of us would walk by in the woods or step on as we went by, barely noticing it. It is, however, an endangered species that occurs in only one spot in Canada and that happens to be within the grounds of the R.B.G. The lucky little bulrush picked a good spot to make its stand in Ontario because the R.B.G. staff have discovered it and are protecting it. They outlined the efforts made to propagate it. It has a tiny seed pod with a few seeds and they were able to collect it and after several attempts have found ways to get it to germinate. Only a bunch of real garden geeks could understand and share their excitement over finding this little gem and germinating its seed, to help preserve it. They then took us to their completely rebuilt Iris and Peony garden, to show the public side of what a botanical garden does. I was very busy walking around making a shopping list of Iris that must find a home in my garden. The list is a bit long and the Assistant Gardener was just vetting it down to something closer to reality.

I still haven’t finished planting all of the vegetables and it will have to wait until Monday because this weekend is the Oshawa Peony Festival and I seem to have myself very involved as both judge for the flower show and a speaker on both days. If I had any time after that I would make it to the Toronto Botanical Garden’s garden tour. Both are great events and well worth the trips. While walking, this morning, through the weeds that currently define the unplanted portions of the vegetable garden, I was somewhat dismayed. It’s been a few years since our dog last roamed the back yard and that seems to have allowed the bunny population to increase. Apparently they breed like rabbits. Many of the Pepper plants that I managed to move to the garden last week have been severely pruned and the rabbits are my serious suspects. A hoop of chicken wire or some such guard may now have to become one of my standard garden practices. I don’t need more things to do each spring but I do want to keep growing Peppers. The Cucumbers that have been attacked by slugs or some such for the last couple of years, are doing just fine growing among the scattered bits of slug bait that I sprinkled around the new transplants. It is also working on the Morning Glories that have suffered in the last couple of years. Why doesn’t Mother Nature understand my efforts to make her look good and assist me in those endeavors instead of offering me new challenges each year.

Well that was the good and the bad, and now for the ugly. Speaking of Mother Natures new challenges, I found one in a very unlikely place this morning. I keep a small patch of Solidago canadensis in my perennial beds to enjoy its bright yellow flowers in the fall. Many people question why I let a weed like Goldenrod have valuable garden space? A native Canadian wildflower species should have very few problems. This morning I discovered that all of the new growth leaves were turned into lacework. Upon investigating closely I found a tribe of small black worms quietly eating up my Solidago. Some time spent researching this beastie turned up no references to it. I used my tried and true method and just stood there and wiped all of these ugly, (I’m sure their mothers would disagree,) little beasts from the plant. Goldenrod can be a little aggressive as a garden plant and I’m sure that it will have no trouble recovering from this strange attack. None of the adjacent plants, of many species, seemed to be hosting this worm, it just seemed to prefer my Solidago. Hopefully one of you might have some idea of who it is. I like my enemies identified even if that doesn’t always help me attack them.

Now it’s time to answer a few of my reader’s questions. Don’t forget to check the front page of the Website for frequent short ideas for current gardening activities.

Sandra Asks? I was lucky enough to have been given a wild lady slipper like the one you received. What conditions do they like as mine has come up this year but doesn't look very happy.

Ken Answers! Mine is in a slightly raised bed that keeps it quite dry. The soil is a loose garden loam with lots of organic matter and it is in a fair amount of shade most of the day. It is a forest under story plant and I suspect it would be unhappy in direct sunlight.

Mary Asks? I've got a precious bay laurel (in a pot - and precious because it was brought back from the seaside of Slovenia in 1982) that gets hit with scale every year - this year was especially bad. So every year I'd pinch/cut off all the leaves and it would resurrect beautifully. Not so this year. It's been outside in its pot for about the last month and there's not a single sign of any life, although the branches that are left are still "green" when snapped off. What do you think? I hate to toss it. So I keep watering with a prayer.

Ken Answers! Scale can be a nasty thing and we usually don’t notice it until there is a significant problem. Don’t give up, just keep it slightly moist and in a warm shady spot and wait. I might give it a gentle dose of liquid fertilizer to see if that wakes it up. If it comes back enjoy it and if it doesn’t, it hasn’t taken much time or space and gives you an excuse to make a return trip to that seaside.

111 Trent St. W.
Whitby ON

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