Sparrow and Finch Gardening Lost, but not forgotten: plants we once loved, with ken druse

Lost, but not forgotten: plants we once loved, with ken druse


WE GARDENERS ALL KNOW the experience of the loss of plants that don’t make it for one reason or another, from a tomato felled by disease in a too-humid summer to a venerable old tree taken out by a nasty winter storm.

No matter how expert you are, there are losses every year, but some stand out in memory, indelible.

Plants we have loved and lost but never forgotten (like my Aesculus pavia or red buckeye, above): That’s our topic this time, with my friend, Ken Druse. You all know Ken, who gardens in New Jersey and authorizes an impressive 20-garden book.

Read along as you listen to my public radio show and podcast’s July 24, 2023 edition using the player below. You can subscribe to all future editions on Apple Podcasts (iTunes), Spotify, or Stitcher (and browse my archive of podcasts here).

Plants we’ve lost (and missed), with ken druse

Play Episode Margaret Roach: Hi, Ken. Lost anything lately [Laughter]? I had to ask.

Ken Druse: You proposed this idea about a week ago, and I need help remembering the missing ones.

Margaret: I know.

Ken: I mean, I can remember the special ones. Conservatively, I’ve lost 50 percent of the herbaceous plants, usually in the first year. But it’s much more than that. I look at pictures from 15 years ago; I don’t even know what those plants are.

Margaret: You said I brought this up a week or whatever ago, and the reason is that in August, you and I will do a free webinar about extraordinary plants–just like the greatest hits and things we recommend for different purposes and so forth. We wanted to mention that. Shout that out.

But in the process of figuring out that webinar and the curriculum, so to speak, for that webinar, we ended up finding ourselves talking a little bit about, “Oh yeah, remember that such-and-such?” [Laughter. ]

Here we are with a little teaser. Should we complain first for 30 seconds about the weather? How many inches of rain have you had in the last week? I’ve had 5.2.

Ken: I’m very close to that. But the heat, and now mosquitoes, which we rarely have here. We have mosquitoes like a commercial for OFF! when they used to show the guy’s arm going in a box. That’s what it’s like. It’s incredible.

Margaret: We’re lucky because neither of us at the moment has damaged flood or damage to our houses. But it’s dramatic and terrifying, and reading the headlines is even more terrifying. A shout-out to all of you who are trying to farm or have had damage.

Ken: Not to mention the orange sky before that.

Margaret: Smoke gets in your eyes, right? Yeah.

So: Plants that have gone before. You know I love music [Laughter]. I get lyrics stuck in my head, and I have one of those people with the earworm problem of a tune going through my head all the time. This topic reminds me, Ken, of a Willie Nelson-Julio Iglesias duet. I don’t know if you remember “To All The Girls I’ve Loved Before.”

To all the girls I’ve loved before/who traveled in and out my door/I’m glad they came along/I dedicate this song/to all the girls I’ve loved before.

But that’s what I thought about when I brought this up to you. Who have you loved and lost? Who do you want to shout out first?

Ken: Well, I guess to let me a little bit off the hook, I’m going to shout out first some plants that it wasn’t my fault [Laughter]. It’s never my fault.

Margaret: O.K. Who are we going to scapegoat for this?

Ken: One of the tallest trees on this property was an ash tree, green ash. I’d heard about emerald ash borer. Everyone was talking about it, and finally it came here. This ash was over 100 feet tall and over 100 years old. It lost branch by branch, and it had to come down. That was icky.

Margaret: Wow. Yeah.

Ken: I have so much trouble doing that, arboricide.

Margaret: Letting go?

Ken: Or murdering. Yeah, letting go.

Margaret: Taking it and saying, “O.K., I give up. I admit defeat. This is a lost. I’ve lost this individual.”

Ken: Especially when it’s over 100 years old. Although I can weed, but that’s about it [Laughter]. I can move a plant if necessary.

Margaret: I was at a friend’s garden the other day, and he asked me to come over and look at an old contorted hazel or filbert, whatever we call it, European hazelnut or filbert. Corylus…what is it… avellana ‘Contorta,’ I think, you say?

Ken: Right. Harry Lauder’s walking stick.

Margaret: Exactly. He had this old… When I say old, it was 25 years old, and it hadn’t leafed out well this year. He wondered if it was the spongy moths. I said, “No. It’s not that it’s been defoliated, it’s that it didn’t leaf out.” I looked closely, and I said, “I think it’s a goner. I think it’s almost done.”

He was just like, “Aaaah,” because it’s just this sculpture, because it’s so old, it’s amazing. Fortunately, that one will not have to be taken down immediately, but it could probably be a handsome sculpture for many years.

Ken: For Clematis to grow on or something.


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