Saunas, scorchers, heavenly breezes and cool nights, thunderstorms, Edenic blue skies and puffy clouds: Summer, as ever, provides a little of everything.
So, too, the plant world. From black raspberry harvests to hydrangeas blooming in all their diversity, from creative planters and creative teas in local town squares and farm markets to the swamp white oaks at the 9/11 Memorial in New York City and the roses dying from rose rosette viral disease along the Hudson River Parkway near there. Let’s dig in.
Mostly missed last year, it is a fine thing to see these open again, full of fresh berries and vegetables, teas, soaps and pastries.
One such is on Saturdays in the square in Wooster. My daughter Anna’s high school friend Danelle Pope makes herbal teas in cloth packets and also displays truly wonderful woodburning crafts with highly accurate depictions of different plants such as black walnut and sassafras and botanically correct inflorescence types such as cymes and leaf types such as lanceolate shapes.
The July 3 market was glorious, including the picturesque county courthouse, the creative planters in town and the buttered-popcorn plant: You have to smell it to believe it.
Strawberries are passing, but red raspberries and blueberries pick up the slack. The Rittman Orchard is right behind our house, so it is one reason we may never move: fresh berries, apples to come, cherries passing by, vegetables, and ciders and wines at Bent Ladder.
But berries: My brother David has spent nearly all of his productive 81 years extolling his favorite red raspberries, but for my taste, it is not red raspberries, not blackberries, but black raspberries (hollow core where stem attaches to berry, a touch sweeter than blackberries) that are the real berries.
I remember their woodsy, too-good-to-be-true tart and sweet flavor and stainings from my early childhood in West Virginia, to picking them wild in my camp lifeguard days, to now, as a massive harvest of volunteers untended in my own backyard (all right, my wife, Laura, does prune and does most of the picking). Several gallons of easy pickings. We all scream for a bowl of black raspberries — and ice cream.
New York City
As most places in our country, blessed to have readily available vaccines, the Big Apple is opening up. We’ve been several times recently, returning my daughter Anna and her husband, Bo, and little 2-year-old Miles.
I was reacquainted with the simple beauty of the Irish Hunger Garden, along the Hudson River and near the welcoming Statue of Liberty commemorating the arrival of Irish immigrants following the late blight of potato crop and political famine in the 1840s. Also, the truly inspirational High Line elevated linear garden, which was adorned with little Truffula tree-like smokebush flowers at the end of barren stems.
There were Brooklyn neighborhoods with their stately London planetrees, also sporting an infinite variety of hydrangeas and even a by-necessity columnar southern magnolia, squeezed up against apartment buildings. One predictable, but sad note: the thousands upon thousands of shrub roses near the Hudson River Parkway in Manhattan, so beautiful for the years they bloomed forth, but now annihilated by rose rosette viral disease. Monocultures are perilous. More successful were a row of 72 ‘Slender Silhouette’ sweetgums on the Union Square/Park Avenue medium from 15th Street to 22nd Street. And now, a pest update.
These insects are so-named not for their genetic relationship to each other but for their feeding behavior. Say what? Well, let’s start with the most common way to distinguish among insect types — their taxonomic order.
You have heard of the Lepidoptera, the butterflies and moths, or of the flies, Diptera. And of beetles, the Coleoptera, of which J.B.S Haldane said “God has inordinate fondness for stars and beetles,” channeling their diversity by the fact that there are more species of beetles than any other organisms on Earth.
There are sawfly leafminers, members of the Hymenoptera, the insect order that also includes bees and wasps and termites and ants. Lepidoptera, Diptera, Coleoptera, Hymenoptera — all have insects called leafminers, based on their feeding behavior.
This classification based on genetic relationship matters in many ways, including types of mouth parts, from the chewing of caterpillars in the Lepidoptera to the sponging mouthparts of flies in the Diptera (remember Jeff Goldblum, and earlier Vincent Price in “The Fly”…). Another difference: the type of metamorphosis, complete as with the egg-larvae-pupa-adult in the Lepidoptera to the incomplete metamorphosis of beetles in the Coleoptera…The difference in the wing type of wings, from the Greek “ptera,” from the scale-like wings of moths in the Lepidoptera to the shield-like wings of beetles in the Coleoptera (“coleo” for shield) Including which pest control products work on which pests, and on and on.
Leafminers though, as indicated, come from all four of these insect orders, and are called leafminers or leaf-miners because they lay eggs in those leaves which when hatched, “mine” the layers of the leaves, thus consuming or damaging the life-giving plants cells filled with, for example, the food production facilitation of chlorophyll in those cells. Some leaf-mining insects cause serpentine mines that seem to snake their way through the leaves, for example columbine leafminer caused by a fly, to others causing blotch mines with a comma and a blotch, such as the holly leafminer.
Fortunately, most leaf miners cause only ornamental damage to the plants rather than significant health problems for the plant, though it can be most unsightly. Right now, we are noticing adult oak shothole leafminers, caused by a fly, damage plants in the leaf buds and then the larva cause mines. Hawthorn leafminer, likewise may be quite serious-looking early in the season, but only causes negligible damage to the plant. Again, don’t worry — be happy.
Back to the beginning
As promised, there is such variety to view now. The bottlebrush buckeye is beautiful in bloom. On the other fett (six of them), Japanese beetles are rampant.
Better, the horticultural Achillea and Coreopsis plantings at Secrest Arboretum are dazzling. The yellow exfoliating bark reveal of London planetrees at KSU were beautiful and it was a delight to have an in person walkabout at an Ohio Independent Arborist Association event there last week.
Finally, back to New York City
Those swamp white oaks are soothing and strong exclamation points at the 9/11 Memorial site of the Twin Tower voids. Reminders that we have had quite an eventful, troubling, yet still hopeful past two decades.
Jim Chatfield is a horticulture educator and professor emeritus at Ohio State University Extension. If you have questions about caring for your garden, write to [email protected] or call 330-466-0270. Please include your phone number if you write.