Volume 2 Issue 11 | November 2021
The last of the leaf raking, as garden chores wind down. Fall is slipping away. Welcome, November!
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Look Around
We’ve just passed through the exquisite beauty of the fall leaf season: bright colors, leaves wafting through the air, the crunch as they fade away under foot. These leaves have done their job, creating the stored energy for the months to come, and then adding to the organic matter that feeds and protects the soil. There are some stragglers, though – leaves that remain on the trees, turning brown and crispy, rustling when the wind blows. Why do these leaves hang on, unable to give up and fade away?

This retention of withered and dead plant material that is normally shed is called marcescence, an elegant word which means to fade. These persistent leaves have not formed an abscission layer between leaf stalk and branch, which would respond to decreasing daylight hours with chemical changes that cause the leaf to separate. The marcescent leaves may not drop until
early spring, when leaf buds swell. (In leaves that drop, shorter days cause the formation of two layers of cells – one of short, thin-walled, weak cells that facilitate leaf separation and a layer of protective cells, which form the leaf scar on the twig.) 

Leaf marcescence occurs in oaks and beeches, in hornbeams and witch hazels, and sometimes in other species. The cause remains a mystery. We know that it is more often seen on juvenile trees, and the more juvenile limbs of older trees. The crispy leaves can deter deer from browsing tender twigs, and there is speculation that marcescence evolved in response to deer pressure. Perhaps slowing down leaf loss on younger trees and branches enhances nutrient stores. Sometimes a late, warm autumn followed by abrupt cold weather will prevent the formation of the abscission layer in other species, such as maples, resulting in marcescent leaves. The jury is out.

Whatever the reasons, we can enjoy the movement and rustle of these hanger-ons during the quiet, cold months. Look Around
Leaf Brief - Philodendron
What’s old is new again. This time-honored maxim can increasingly be applied to the ordinary philodendron. The ubiquitous office cubicle plant or the trailing vine on grandma’s mantle is now trendy and oh so cool. You may not recognize these new varieties that growers are hybridizing or rediscovering.

Philodendrons are a large genus of flowering plants in the family Araceae and are composed of over 450 species native to Central and South America. With that many choices, it’s not difficult to find one you’re going to love. Many specimens are trailing vines but plenty of others have an upright habit. They range in height from 1 foot to 20 feet with foliage that runs the gamut from green to chartreuse to red, burgundy, purple and even ivory. Don’t forget the unusual leaf shapes, including heart, elongated and deeply lobed.

The best part is that these plants are easy to grow and even beginner gardeners can be successful. Most philodendrons like a warm, humid environment with bright but indirect light and rich soil that retains moisture. Allow the top inch of soil to dry out before watering, generally once a week. Feeding with an all-purpose fertilizer in spring and summer and the occasional misting would be nice but are not essential. Overall, they are very low maintenance and tolerate low light, dry conditions and neglect. It’s a tough plant to kill. Be aware that philodendrons are toxic and consuming any part of the plant can cause digestive distress in people and pets.

While philodendrons are the most common houseplant, more unusual varieties are coming to market, giving the houseplant lover lots of choices, and making some a hot commodity! The 1600’s saw “tulip mania” and the Victorians survived “orchidelirium.” Today we’re seeing a passion for philodendrons. Do an internet search of rare plants and you may find varieties like the 'Variegated Florida Beauty' with a striking lobed leaf shape which recently sold for $890 at an online plant auction. Maybe you can settle for 'Strawberry Shake', a variegated vine with pink tones, which recently sold for a mere $350!

If those aren’t your cup of tea, here are some other interesting philodendron choices:
  • ‘Giganteum’ is quite the show-stopper if you have the space for it. The heart shaped leaves can stretch to over 2 feet long and the plant itself can reach 15 feet.
  • A less ambitious choice would be the ‘Micans’ variety. A low, trailing plant with “velvet” leaves, it almost appears to be iridescent in the right light. 
  • ‘Revolution’ is very different and unique in that the leaves grow in whirls, rather than flat-laying like most philodendrons. Growing two to three feet tall, the large leaves have deeply scalloped but rounded edges. It requires a hanging pot and can be a bit pricey.
  • ‘Atom’ is relatively new to the market. This dwarf variety with curly lobed leaves would be great for apartment dwellers.
  • ‘Hastatum’, also called the 'Silver Sword' has dramatic silvery-blue elongated foliage, a great nickname and a climbing habit that reaches 9’ tall.
  • I will be keeping my eyes out for ‘Xanadu'. This compact and affordable Brazilian native has bright green lobed and textured foliage that forms a manageable clump.

For those who have caught “the fever,” there are lots of choices at local nurseries and on the internet. If you’ve got your heart set on one of the rarer varieties consider a smaller size or even a cutting that you can grow and nurture. If you’re good Santa Claus may bring you one!
J Gramlich
Creature Feature - Red-tailed Hawks
Let’s Pretend… 
Watch a red-tailed hawk circling overhead in a perfect blue sky. Ever wonder what it's like to be up there? Just for a moment, imagine it’s you perched on a treetop or telephone pole, scanning the terrain (with vision 8 times more powerful than a human’s), ready to swoop down on prey at a breath-taking 120 miles per hour. Or maybe you’re defending your territory as you fly with your raspy, slightly pre-historic and very cool scream. You are Buteo jamaicensis, a raptor, a quintessential bird of prey. You are one awesome bird.

You have lots of company. The red-tailed hawk is one of the most common in North America, found in open country, woodlands, roadsides — anywhere with open ground for hunting and a place to perch in the sky, including urban areas.

You are one of the largest hawks, weighing between 2 and 4 pounds. Females are about 1/3 larger than males, and can have a wingspan of almost 5 feet. Adults have a rufous (reddish-brown) tail, but individual plumage varies greatly. Backs and wings are usually dark brown, with light underbellies marked with a dark band and rusty necks and chests, but colors can range from totally brown to almost beige. What color are you? Your beak is short, curved and comes to a point like all raptors, and your legs and feet are yellow. There are 14 identified sub-species of red-tails.

Flying doesn’t begin to describe what you do. You sooooaaaar through the skies, flapping your wings with slow, deep, movements, conserving energy and still moving at 20-40 mph. Take a flight. How does it feel? Maybe practice “kiting” — you’re one of the few birds that has this ability to face into the wind and hold still, like a kite on a string. See it HERE. Your courtship rituals also involve amazing aerial acrobatics, including soaring, diving, passing prey from male to female, locking talons and spiraling earthward. Much more interesting (and a better work-out) than dinner and Netflix. You mate for life, building nests together of sticks and twig in the forks of large trees. Females lay 1-5 eggs in early spring, and both parents care for the young, which remain in the nest for about 6 weeks. Some red-tails migrate, but many do not.  

You’re hungry. You’re pretty much always hungry. In winter, you can eat the equivalent of 3-4 chipmunks a day (YUM). You hunt in daylight, using your super-powerful vision to spot a mouse from ten stories up in the air. Eighty-five percent of your diet is rodents, but you’ll also eat rabbits, birds and reptiles, and you can catch prey that weighs more than you. You spot a morsel and swoop down, grabbing your carry-out in your sharp talons. You return to your perch to enjoy your furry lunch, maybe swallowing it whole and regurgitating any undigestible parts in a pellet. Your territory is 2-3 square miles, and you do NOT tolerate interlopers. You will poach prey from a smaller hawk, and then eat the hawk for dessert. You are ruthless.

Just how ruthless? Watch THIS to see a red-tail take on a rattlesnake—and win! (Warning: not for the weak of stomach)

But life is not easy. More than half of your babies don’t survive their first year. Your worst predator is us, sadly. Human interference in nesting, collisions with automobiles, electrocutions, poisonings and shootings cause many hawk fatalities. You have few natural predators, but your mortal enemy is the great horned owl. You battle over each other’s nests, destroy eggs and even eat each other’s nestlings. Watch a great horned owl try to steal a hawk’s nest HERE (Spoiler alert – owl wins). Crows are another foe. Red-tailed hawks will steal young crows from their nests to eat. Groups of crows sometimes band together and attack red-tails.

But hey, we all have issues. You still get to soar majestically through the skies, plus you have that REALLY COOL SCREAM that everybody recognizes, right?

Annoyingly, wrong. Your cool scream is often mistakenly identified as that of an eagle, falcon, or other bird of prey. That’s because whenever those birds screech in a movie, Hollywood uses a sound clip of a red-tailed hawk, having decided long ago that your cry was the most raptor-ish of the raptors (and they were right). HERE'S Conan O’Brien’s take on this long-standing deception.

Ok, back to reality. You are no longer a red-tailed hawk, but you can learn lots more about them from the following FAQ from a Cornell University bird cam filming a red-tailed hawk nest located on a light pole overlooking an athletic field. Watch the live cam from the link at the top of the site. CLICK HERE And remember, anytime life on the ground gets too crazy, just close your eyes and take to the skies with our red-tailed friends…
C Christian
A Foundation for Success
It’s no secret that success in any
garden depends on the soil. We test for pH balance, for mineral content, for ratios of nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus. We find out the levels of organic matter in our soil. We use those figures to amend and mulch and make sure we give soil everything it needs for our plants to thrive.

However, we often forget one of the most important qualities of our soil: structure. Soil not only nourishes our plants, it also gives them a sturdy foundation in which to grow. Yet, year after year, many well-meaning gardeners unwittingly destroy that foundation by tilling.

I first learned to garden by watching others. One of the rites of a new season was tilling the bed. At the time it made sense. Breaking up the surface lets moisture flow more freely. It warms the winter-cooled earth and provides spaces for new roots to grow. Yet, by tilling we are doing the exact opposite. Tilling makes it difficult for the soil to do its job.

Tilling has many problems: It destroys soil structure and destroys the environment of millions of microorganisms that move organic matter and other nutrients through the soil. It brings long-dormant weed seeds to the surface where they get light and air to grow, and releases carbon into the air, becoming yet one more source of greenhouse gases.

Without good soil structure, plants don’t have the firm base they need. Roots must have air so that soil can drain. Tilling causes those air spaces to collapse, drowning roots in water that has no place to go. The research is in: no-till gardening builds the soil structure that best supports plants and soil microorganisms. It's the way to go.

No-till gardening is enhanced by cover cropping. Planted just before the winter, cover crops anchor soil against wind and water erosion. Some cover crops also release nutrients, especially legumes, which fix nitrogen in their roots and provide plants with the macronutrients every plant must have to thrive, some that cannot be provided by  standard fertilizers.

There could be a case made for tilling to establish a new garden bed, but there are also alternatives. Placing a tarp over the area will kill the turf without disturbing the soil. Methods such as sheet composting or lasagna gardening create garden beds by layering newspaper or cardboard over the desired area and covering it with mulch or the brown and green ingredients in regular compost. Let the layers settle over the winter and the new bed is ready. Those paper barriers degrade over time, creating more organic matter.

Once the science was clear, farmers were on the forefront of the no-till movement. What applies to large tracts of land applies to any place, even your back yard.

There are plenty of things – pests, diseases, horrible weather – that can challenge even the healthiest of gardens. We need healthy soil so plants can better withstand those hazards we have little control over. Soil does its work best when it is allowed to do as Mother Nature intended.

S Vradenburg
Unwanted Guests
You’ve been a good plant custodian for your houseplants, dutifully placing them on the patio to flourish in the summer. Now they are back in the house and thriving. Or maybe not. Perhaps there are yellowing leaves and drops of honey dew secretions. You may notice white flies flitting about, or white eggs on the underside of leaves. When touched, an infested plant sends up a cloud of adults into the air. You have whiteflies! They can be a nuisance, and a large infestation can eventually kill a plant.

So where do these little critters come from you ask? Plants may become infested, and then unwittingly carried inside. There are ways to prevent this with a little extra effort. (UNIVERSITY OF VERMONT: BRINGING HOUSEPLANTS INDOORS). You can also bring whiteflies into your house with other fresh flowers, herbs, fruits and vegetables so keep an eye out. Commercial greenhouses also battle whiteflies, and you can bring them home on a newly purchased house plant. Because they are so small, they can easily enter through window screens as well.

Whiteflies are closely related to scales, mealybugs, and aphids, but not flies. Eggs are laid on the underside of the leaves. One female can lay about 200 to 400 eggs. They are usually laid in clusters of 30 to 40 eggs which hatch in about a week into nymphs, then they pupate before becoming adults, and attach to the underside of leaves and feed off the plant sap. You may find nymphs, pupae and adults on the same plant, all sucking the life out of it! The adults have four wings that are covered with a white powdery, waxy substance, hence the name whiteflies. The complete life cycle only takes 18 days.

So, what can you do about it? First, routinely inspect your plants, especially the underside of leaves. Isolate the stricken plant from others (a face mask is not necessary). If caught early, you can remove individual affected leaves. You might try vacuuming or a hard spray of water (preferably in the shower!)

Next, try sticky traps. Make yellow sticky traps from any yellow paper or plastic you have on hand and coat them with a tacky substance such as a sticky insect barrier, petroleum jelly, or heavy grade motor oil. Hang the traps vertically near the affected plants. The adults are attracted to yellow. Traps are also commercially available.

Chemical controls can be tricky because they only control the insect at certain stages of its life cycle and some whiteflies have developed resistance to chemicals because of their extensive use in greenhouses. Some of the over-the-counter chemicals that could be used contain permethrin or pyrethrins. Insecticidal soaps and oils and insect growth regulators can also be effective. Remember to follow label directions completely.

House plants provide a bridge to the outdoors during a long cold winter, so avoid disappointment by checking your house plants for intruders every time you water. 
J Gramlich
Branching Out - Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens
If you’re from Northeast Ohio, there’s a good chance you have heard of Stan Hywet Hall and Gardens, home of the founder of Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co.. Perhaps you have visited the 106-year-old estate of F.A. Seiberling and his wife Gertrude.

You don’t need to tour the 65-room mansion to get an appreciation of the scope of the Seiberlings’ vision. The home of the Seiberling family is spectacular. Yet the gardens are a dance between architecture and nature. Beginning in 2005, the estate’s gardens have been restored to the plan created by Warren Manning, one of the premier landscape architects in the country at the time.

Originally the estate sprawled over 3,000 acres, providing many recreational opportunities. It also was a working farm and fed the growing Seiberling family and its many famous guests and other visitors. Now 70 acres, it still holds remnants of that original food production. As visitors enter through the front gate, they drive past a restored apple orchard in its original location.

The Great Garden encompasses the rose garden, perennial garden, grape arbor and an allee of apple trees that leads between the service court and the Corbin Conservatory. It once also held 15 rectangular beds for vegetables. They now provide flowers for the home’s dried and fresh arrangements. Restoration of those gardens required 2.5 miles of steel edging around all the beds, 535 sprinklers and 2 miles of drip irrigation fed by cisterns on the property.
Nearby, the Birch Allee leads from the east porch of the home to the Birch Allee Vista, overlooking the lagoon and offering a view of the Cuyahoga Valley. Manning and the home’s architect, Charles Schneider, collaborated often, in this case creating sight lines from the house to its vistas.

The walkway around the reflecting pond between the house and the West Terrace leads visitors toward the Birch Allee or the English Garden, one of the estate’s most visited spots. Gertrude Seiberling and Manning could not agree on a plan for this garden, so he suggested she hire renowned landscape architect Ellen Biddle Shipman. The resulting walled outdoor room feels private compared to the openness of the other gardens. An endearing feature is the Garden of the Water Goddess, a bronze sculpture depicting two enraptured children splashed by water dripping from the goddess.
The Japanese Garden immediately envelops visitors with a sense of peace and tranquility. It was restored in 1910 to the original plan by T.R. Otsuka and Manning and offers meandering paths studded with conifers and Japanese maples crossed by water features and Asian statuary. Restoration included the 100,000-gal. cisterns, once the family’s water supply and now the estate’s irrigation system.

Just beyond the Japanese Garden is the Lagoon, left over from the quarry operations for Stan Hywet (Old English for stone quarry) that built the mansion. It echoes the Japanese Garden with its arched bridges carrying visitors over the restored lagoons, toward the area beneath the Birch Allee Vista where the Ohio Shakespeare Festival stages its outdoor productions.
The Corbin Conservatory, with 4,322 panes of glass, had to be rebuilt from original plans. It houses tropical plants including dramatic palm trees and serves as a greenhouse for Stan Hywet’s gardens. It also serves as an elegant backdrop to the children’s play area.

Description pales before experience. Stan Hywet deserves many days of exploration. Once you’ve seen the gardens, you still have the elegant mansion on your agenda. After all, the saying over the mansion’s entrance, Non Nobis Solum, means not for us alone. All are welcome.

Stan Hywet Hall and Gardens, 714 N. Portage Path, is open April through November, Tuesday through Sunday 10am to 6 pm. Visit “Deck the Halls,” Stan Hywet’s holiday celebration, from 1-4 pm Tuesday through Sunday between Nov. 26 and Dec. 30. It is closed on Mondays except for Memorial Day and Labor Day and closes from Jan. 1 to April 1 each year. Admission fees apply. 
S Vradenburg
Down and Dirty
November Checklist
  • Mulch tea and floribunda roses and other tender perennials for winter protection.
  • Apply deer repellent or screening to vulnerable shrubs and trees.
  • Continue to plant spring bulbs if the ground is not frozen.
  • Continue to check houseplants for hitchhiking critters and manually remove if possible.
  • Bring in garden hoses and drain outdoor faucets.
  • Take advantage of nice weather to hand pick perennial weeds. Come spring you’ll be glad you did.
  • Plant your amaryllis bulbs now for holiday enjoyment. 
J Gramlich
New Growth!
To learn more please check out these programs :

  • A Totally Topiary Tutorial with Summit County Master Gardeners Martina Bruno and Heidi Schwarzinger on Wednesday, December 1st at 6:30 pm. (Zoom)

Meet Me in the Garden Series:

  • Managing Our Urban Forests with Akron City Arborist and Horticulturalist Jon Malish on Wednesday, January 26th at 7:00 pm. (Zoom)

Learn more about and register for these programs on our website (link below).
More learning opportunities:
She stands in tattered gold
Tossing bits of amber and jade,
Jewels of a year grown old:
Zephyr Ware Tarver
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The Root of It staff: Karen Edgington (Editor), Emma Barth-Elias (Photo Editor), Carolyn Christian, Jennifer Gramlich, Sarah Vradenburg, and Geoff Kennedy (Technical Advisor)
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