WHAT’S THIS GARDENER READING ONLINE these days? Some tough news about increasing obstacles to growing basil, an optimistic outlook on weeds, and word of the cable-television antics of two old friends…just to name a few worthwhile recent links.
BASIL DISASTER? I always enjoy Adrian Higgins’s pieces in The Washington Post, though I suppose enjoy isn’t the right word for a story about how a fungal disease is making basil harder to cultivate successfully. Downy mildew—not a new affliction in greenhouses and gardens, but newish to basil in particular—is on the march. Get the details in this great story.
A WEED BY ANY OTHER NAME? A couple of weeks ago, esteemed senior research scientist Peter Del Tredici of the Arnold Arboretum was interviewed in The Boston Globe, and shared his view that calling something a weed may be politically incorrect–and that even these unwanted plants are quite impressive creatures, models of adaptation. Tough they are, indeed, though I’m not sure I regarded the miniature forests of self-sown Norway maples in my former residence with the awe that he does. The publication of Del Tredici’s new field guide, “Wild Urban Plants of the Northeast,” was what got the conversation with The Globe started…you can pick up on it here.
STAR-QUALITY GOATS? This last one’s for sheer fun, and who doesn’t need some at the rate the weeds (oops, sorry Peter Del Tredici!) are growing about now? Two friends—one of whom is a former Martha Stewart Living employee like myself—debuted their new Planet Green Network cable show “The Fabulous Beekman Boys” tonight, and I can’t stop reading all the stories and gossip about it. The two longtime city types, Brent Ridge and Josh Kilmer-Purcell, bought a historic home across the river from here and started a goat farm, of all things—the journey forming the subject of author Josh’s latest hit book, “The Bucolic Plague: How Two Manhattanites Became Gentlemen Farmers.” (With a title like that, I cannot resist.) You can also always find Brent and Josh at their website, Beekman1802. Enjoy.
I read “A Weed By Any Other Name” by Nancy Gift, and now stress less over my not-all-grass lawn. Right now I am reading “Wild Fermentation” by Sandor Katz and getting really excited about sauerkraut and mead. Also recently finished “Farm City” by Novella Carpenter. “The Bucolic Plague” sounds like it is right up my alley.
I suppose “Wild Urban Plants of the Northeast” is the Politically Correct update to the “Weeds of the Northeast” that sits on my shelf. I told my horticulturalist sister that I’d bought it; her response was “Why? It’s not like you need to know your enemy.”
Bucolic plague made me laugh out loud! A great tale.
Just read the Boston Globe’s “weed” article and you should know it has factual errors. Lots of plants grow spontaneously, not just exotics in marginal habitats, but also natives in places called “natural areas” that exist even in cities! In fact, New York City is 1/8 nature and our most common tree is black cherry, not ailanthus.
Del Tredici’s take on plants is from a human perspective (holds the soil, cleans the water). Exotics typically offer little for wildlife – unlike native flora which has evolved over geologic time with local fauna.
In the five boroughs, one-third of all plant species are exotic. Some of these aliens are benign, but many are bullies, muscling their way through our 37,000 acres of forests and fields, displacing the flowers, ferns, grasses, trees and shrubs that have adapted to life in the city.
Native plants are an integral part of our ecosystems, having evolved relationships with local fungi, insects and other animals. They are the wild, unplanted thread in the Big Apple’s biological tapestry, which has begun to fray. More than 30 percent of our indigenous vegetation is already locally extinct, and this trend continues today.
Celebrating exotic species found in marginal, degraded habitats furthers our collective ecological illiteracy and gives our officials wide berth to continue to despoil our natural heritage.
Welcome, Marielle. Thank you for your well-put and important comment. Extirpation of native species by aliens is certainly a very serious topic. When I collaborated with Ken Druse eons ago to write “The Natural Habitat Garden” we delved into it. It was 1994, and I have struggled with the subject since, as I think many gardeners do. Thanks also for the link to your site, where I am wandering around now.
Thanks for posting that link to where fungal disease on basil is discussed. I had that problem last year, and am hoping it doesn’t happen this year as well, but we’ll see. I have some other fungal problems already, with some flowers in my flower bed that I have no idea how to fix… so far affecting my columbines and coreopsis plants, a deep grayish tint just takes over all the leaves, very unattractive. :(
I cannot wait to read “The Bucolic Plague.” Josh Kilmer-Purcell’s first book “I Am Not Myself These Days” was insightful, sensitive and REALLY REALLY FUNNY. Looking forward to reading what he comes up with on goats (who are funny anyway…)
Welcome, Suzanne…have you seen the “goat cam” they have running in their barn? Oh, my. The llama is The Boss of the whole lot of them. I have to book on order at my local shop…getting it this week. :)