Bucks County Herald

Elizabeth Ludlow Bowman: Tips for the Compleat Gardener

Changes all around



Goldenrod is lining roads and covering fields as an introduction to fall.

It has been such an unusual season in the garden this year, at least in the Northeast, with copious water and infrequent sunny days.

Vegetables don’t know what to do – better ripen up. The nights are already becoming chilly. Hold back on the flowers because there won’t be time for fruit to mature.

Stock up on fresh, freezable farm produce now and put it in the freezer (following protocol by blanching, which is dipping in boiling water followed by submersion in ice water, details online) or can them. You need a serious freezer, but those vegetables in winter are special.

I remember from childhood my mother, a talented gardener, asserting that the blooming of the goldenrod signals six weeks ‘til frost. I always take note of the date when it begins to open along the waysides.

Goldenrod sparkles the landscape with brilliant yellows and there are around 90 species in North America none of which is responsible for runny noses and frequent sneezing.

The pollen of solidago [sol-i-DAY-go] is too heavy to move about in wind, barely moves from the space around the plant without pollinators. It is the ragweeds and grasses that are dusting the air with achoos.

The name solidago means “to make whole” and goldenrod has had many medicinal applications over the centuries, used to treat ills of several of the body’s systems from digestive to respiratory, and even sores on the skin, sore throats and toothaches. The flowers have been used to make yellow dyes, and according to Jack Sanders in “The Secrets of Wildflowers,” ancient Diviners used branches of goldenrod to point to underground water or treasures.

Goldenrod is a very important late-season source of nectar for all kinds of flying things and a favorite haunt for praying Mantids who often choose to attach their egg sacs to the stem of the plant, which naturally stays stiff through winter.

Careful examination of goldenrod stems in late fall usually reveals the swellings and distortions of stems to form galls, a wintering and growing place for wasps and such. The goldenrod is a full-service plant that often gets blamed for allergies.

Driving through the countryside I notice the changing colors of the trees, the shiny green has been replaced by a matte format with subtle color alteration; last week I passed a maple that was already orange. The meadows are russet and golden in the slanting sun, already headed toward its winter angle. I use grasses in many of my gardens for the late-season splash, with winter interest if the wind isn’t too harsh.

If your ornamental grasses are beginning to splay, stake them. I suggest using the 4- to 5-foot solid plastic stakes, probably four per grass, and green garden twine to bind up the middle some – not too tight. You don’t want them to look as if in bondage. This will help the grass stay through winter better.

Send your friends in Texas and now in Florida seeds for native grasses to help the land ravaged by floods to heal with phyto-remediation as I spoke of last week. As I write this Irma, is just below Florida and millions of people have evacuated, Texas is piling up the devastation awaiting curbside pickup, parts of California and Oregon are burning up and the largest earthquake in a century has hit Mexico.

Priorities are changing.

compleatgardener@comcast.net

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