Volume 2 Issue 6 | June 2021
At last – June blooms. Now is the time to “Smell the Roses”.
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Look Around
The heralds of spring – daffodils, snowdrops, forsythia, and such – have faded and Act II begins. Annual and perennial flowers light up our gardens and walkways and invite us outdoors for this long-anticipated show. Flowers are the stuff of poems, the expression of love or care when words are not enough, the garnish in our garden designs. In Victorian times they were given specific meanings---a coded message for their recipient. But these blooms, which bring such pleasure, perform a function vital to the plant’s survival. Flowers have evolved to accommodate specific pollinators that take care of the business of transferring pollen from male anthers to female pistils, a process that unites the sperm in pollen with the ovule in the plant’s ovary and, voila!, creates a seed.

The flower shapes we find so fascinating and alluring are part of a pollination system designed to get the job done for each flower. Flat, open blooms with many tiny individual flowers, such as butterfly weed or yarrow, are magnets for bees, flies, wasps, small butterflies, moths, and some beetles. Tubular flowers, such as fuchsias, attract long tongued insects and hummingbirds. Daisy-like flowers, with flat surfaces and rays, draw beetles, bees, flies. Bell shaped, funnel, whorledeach exquisite shape an architectural wonder.

Plants use their flower color, size, and scent to attract and service specific pollinators. They are the advertising, and the sign reads, “Right this way – nectar and pollen here!” Many flowering plants have additional road signs---stripes that point the pollinator to the source of their nectar and even colors only visible in ultraviolet light which bees can see but humans cannot, and which serve as nectar guides. Some flowers need specific pollinators to service them and release a scent attractive to only one insect. How elegant a relationship, with its mutually beneficial design! But how fragile in a world with ecological challenges! 

Sitting silently among the summer flowers we note the busyness, as bees, butterflies and other creatures go about their important work. We add this to our gratitude list – the flowers whose beauty and scent we revel in and the workings of these animal and plant relationships that are a part of our intertwined world. Look Around!
(Plants that are wind pollinated have flowers that are less conspicuous, but that’s ANOTHER STORY.)
K Edgington
Leaf Brief - Goat's Beard
Goat’s beard is an attractive plant with a not-so-attractive name. Use your imagination when observing the blooms and you’ll see how they resemble the fluff on the chin of a goat (or the straggly beard of many a Hollywood actor). If you have a sunny or dappled shade area in your garden where space is not an issue, this plant can make quite a statement.

Typically growing in moist ravines, forest edges and meadows, goat’s beard, Aruncus dioicus, grows 4-6 feet tall and forms creamy white feathery plumes from May through mid-July. This native perennial is hardy in zones 3-8, and does best with adequate moisture. It makes an excellent background plant in shady and moist areas creating a stunning hedge or used as a specimen plant or grouped along ponds, bogs or water features. Its blooms are reminiscent of astilbe but goat’s beard is much larger and doesn’t have the color variety of the astilbe. Not related to astilbe genetically, goat’s beard is a member of the rose family. Both plants combine well with each other, monkshood, columbine, fern and other native wildflowers like wild ginger, Jacob’s ladder and wild geranium. It is easy to grow and relatively pest and disease free.

Notoriously difficult to transplant, you are most likely to be successful with a nice sized nursery plant or a division from a willing friend. Planting by seed is an option but germination is a long process requiring light and cold stratification. Be prepared to wait a few years for plants to be fully established.

Don’t have room on your property for such a sizeable plant? Maybe you can make room for Kneiffii, a more compact cultivar that grows to about 3 feet tall but isn’t quite as showy. Need even smaller? The diminutive Korean goat’s beard, Aruncus aethusifolius, grows only 8-12” tall and has the added bonus of turning a vibrant yellow in the fall.

Some interesting fun facts about goat’s beard: It was known even in Roman times, being given the name Aruncus (goat’s beard in Latin) by Pliny the Elder, the famed naturalist and philosopher of the time. Also, goat’s beard has been awarded the prestigious Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit. It would like to thank you for your support.
J Gramlich
Creature Feature - Garter Sssssssnakes
I am typing with my face scrunched up, trying not to see the words, because I am TERRIFIED of snakes. Every bit of research has been painful because there were all these pictures…
However, my dear editor thinks I can overcome this, and since she is always right…I decided the best approach was to focus on the many positive things about garter snakes!

1. Garter snakes (Thamnophis sirtalis) are pretty small, as snakes go. The three species found in Ohio (Eastern, Eastern plains and Butler’s) are generally only between 18-36 inches long. This is way better than a reticulated python, which is a horrifying 20 feet long.
2. The saliva of the garter snake is toxic to amphibians and other prey, and it may cause swelling or a rash in humans, but it won’t kill you. Good news! A black mamba, on the other hand, is large and fast, and its venom takes out most of its human victims. However, black mambas don’t hang around Ohio backyards. More good news!
3. Garter snakes display a variety of colorings, but generally have a dark body with three yellow stripes, a thinner one on its back and two thicker ones on either side. Their tongues are red and tipped in black. They are not that hard to spot. This is good compared to the green Asian pit viper, which completely blends into the tall grass as it glides along. You won’t see that one until it’s toooooo late.
4. Garter snakes are generally diurnal. This is good because you will see them! The only thing worse than coming upon a snake during the day is stumbling upon one in the dark, such as the nocturnal (aptly named) night snake. It’s irrelevant that the night snake isn’t venomous because I would have a heart attack if I saw one.
5. It is a very good thing that garter snakes hang out in places I do not – moist, grassy areas such as meadows, marshes, wet woodlands, drainage ditches and streams. Garter snakes are excellent swimmers. Therefore it is good that I generally don’t swim in drainage ditches.
6. Garter snakes eat frogs, toads, salamanders, earthworms, minnows and mice. They may eat slugs and grubs, which is good for gardeners. They will swallow their prey whole, sometimes alive. Watch HERE to learn more about this. So while eating live prey is a bit disconcerting, it is not bad compared to what the enormous reticulated python eats. There are at least two documented cases of that sneaky snake snacking on adult humans.
7. Garter snakes emit a foul-smelling musky scent when threatened. It smells bad, and apparently tastes bad too, so predators are deterred. Garter snakes use this defense mechanism often because as small, non-aggressive creatures they don’t have many other options. Good for the well-equipped garters!
8. Snakes are ectotherms, so their bodies are the temperature of their environment. They don’t use food calories to generate heat, which is why you will see them basking in the sun to warm themselves, and is also why they don’t eat as much as endotherms like us. Garter snakes are mainly solitary, but will congregate together for warmth. They hibernate from late October to early April. (Hibernation in reptiles is called brumation, during which they are awake but inactive.) An established hibernation spot, called a hibernaculum, may host hundreds, even thousands of garter snakes, sometimes together with snakes of different species. These may be located in a rock cavity, rodent burrow or under a stump, and even inside your house. THIS IS NOT GOOD! Garter snakes can fit through a half-inch wide crack in your foundation. If you don’t want them around, seal all foundation cracks, eliminate hiding places such as rock or log piles, and keep grass cut short.
9.Garter snakes breed from March to May, and may have between 7 to over 100 live babies. Good for them, although the thought of 100 baby snakes is not good for me!
So I still don’t want to cuddle up to a garter snake, but there are definitely lots of good things about them! If you’d like to learn more about our friends the reticulated python and black mamba (which are less cuddly), watch THIS and THIS.
C Christian
Japanese Beetles – A Garden Scourge
Popillia japonica, otherwise known as Japanese beetles, are a well-known scourge to gardeners in temperate climates. They appear in mid-June and eat their way through to fall. The iridescent green, shiny, copper-colored insects reduce the leaves of some of our most beloved plants to skeletons. It’s devastating.
Japanese beetles have been in this country since 1916, possibly an accidental introduction from Japan. They are mostly found in the eastern United States, but they show up anywhere with moderate temperatures and rainfall. In Ohio, they are most common east of a line running from Cleveland to Cincinnati, although no area of Ohio is immune.
Large trees and mature landscape plantings might not suffer fatally from an infestation, but the devastation wrought by Japanese beetles is significant because they feed on more than 350 kinds of fruits, vegetables, ornamentals, shrubs and trees. Among their favorites are Japanese maple (how rude!), birch, crabapple, rose, linden, grapes, and basil. Adults eat the top layer of leaves between the veins, leaving them reduced to not-so-pretty lace. The insects start at the upper canopy, turning the leaves brown and creating leaf drop. Even beetle youngsters, called grubs,  are no picnic. They move through their life cycle from egg to third instar larvae underground where they feed on tender roots of plants and grass. Many lawns sprout ugly, spongy dead patches because of subterranean munchers.

Japanese beetles go through complete metamorphosis, starting when the female, after feeding and mating, burrows into the soil about 2-4 inches to lay 5-6 eggs at a time. While they only have one generation in a season, one female can continue a cycle of feeding, mating and egg-laying throughout the summer, producing up to 60 eggs per generation. The eggs hatch in about two weeks and begin to feed on the roots of turf and ornamentals. After the larvae have reached the third instar, they burrow down several inches to wait for spring.
Japanese beetle, life cycle, from OSU Fact Sheet/ENT-46, redrawn from USDA
Once spring arrives, the grub will move toward the surface and pupate. The adult emerges late June to early July and remains active at least through August although some keep going until the first frost. The first adults to emerge are scouts. They begin to feed immediately and emit pheromones signaling to nearby beetles where the best food can be found. Early detection and destruction of the scouts in a container of soapy water may not prevent beetle infestation but can greatly reduce it.
Scouting and hand removal are the first means of control. Another is cultural control, planting species that are less attractive to Japanese beetles. The list is long and includes Arborvitae, boxwood, clematis, dogwoods, forsythia, holly, juniper, ironweed, red maple, sweetgum, tulip poplar and white oak.
Because grubs are sensitive to moisture, avoid watering your lawn during dry summer weather – mid-July to end of August. Of course, if Mother Nature brings rain, there’s always next season.
Many garden retailers sell Japanese beetle traps, sacks permeated with a pheromone that lures the beetles and makes them fall into the trap where they cannot get out. They eat a lot on their way in, and the traps actually increase the number of these voracious insects in your garden. For that reason these traps are not recommended. (The joke is to give your neighbor a trap if you want any hope of curbing their presence in your yard.)
There are commercially available species of nematodes, microscopic insects that attack grubs.  Heterorhabditis spp. has been shown to be the most effective. They should be applied when larvae are at the most vulnerable, first and second instars. Water them in before and after application to ensure the nematodes move into the soil, maximizing their effectiveness.
Finally, there are preventative and curative insecticides. HERE is more specific information on types and timing. As with all pesticides, read the label and follow the directions.
The struggle between your plants and Japanese beetles is never-ending. With a few tactics, you may not win the war, but you can chalk up many small victories.
S Vradenburg
Please Repeat That
It is in rhythm that design and life meet.  Philip Rawson

The word repetition brings images of boredom or tedium, but repetition in the landscape is a tool that leads to an interesting and pleasing composition. It gives the garden cohesion and can be used to draw the eye further into the landscape. It allows the plant “stars” or focal points to shine without being jarring or chaotic. In a natural landscape plants are grouped in multiples – there are rarely one or two. By repeating we give the illusion that our garden creation evolved naturally.

Rhythm is movement characterized by the regular occurrence of different qualities or conditions. Repetition in the garden creates the rhythm that moves our eye forward. It can bring order and cohesion to a messy or chaotic assortment of plants. This is good news for the plantaholic who must organize that vast collection of interesting plants into a pleasing arrangement. Repetition can tie areas of the landscape together into a unified whole.

How do we create and use repetition? There are several options, and by using all or a combination of them we can create the rhythm that will result in the structure, flow, and balance we are looking for.

  • Color Repeating a color in the landscape creates instant harmony. Both foliage and flower color do the job. The purple leaves of a Japanese maple (Acer japonica) can be repeated with the foliage of a ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Diabolo’ or ‘Panther’) and a penstemon (Penstemmon 'Dark Towers') and a purple sweet potato vine (Ipomoea batatas ‘Blackie’) and one of the purple flowered petunias. Japanese forest grass (Hakonechloa macra ‘All Gold’) and the glow of a yellow-leaved hosta (Hosta x 'Orange Marmalade') will beautifully complement your yellow-tipped falsecypress (Chamaecyparis pisifera 'Lemon Thread').
  • Shape A series of similar, well-defined shapes are recognized more quickly than a jumble of different ones. Thin, round, triangular, mounding, rectangular or vertical – repeating plants with similar shapes contributes to the flow of the garden.
  • Texture Having a garden filled with similarly textured plants lacks visual interest. Echoing similar textures, however, draws the eye through the garden. Fine-textured plants, such as Japanese maple or ferns, have small or cut leaves. Coarse-textured plants, such as hostas or magnolias, have broad leaves. Don’t forget the linear leaves of plants such as iris, crocosmia, and the grasses.
  • Species Repeating a plant species throughout your garden is a great way to pull it together. Choose a plant or plants that you particularly enjoy. In my garden Dazzleberry Sedum, Concorde Barberry, and columnar arborvitae repeat throughout. Plant repeats are especially effective when using different sizes of a species, for instance Green Giant, DeGroot’s Spire and Zmatlick arborvitae offer a similar shape, but are large, medium, and small in size. Many hydrangeas, such as Limelight and Snow Queen, have similarly featured dwarf versions. Colorful ninebarks come in large, medium, and small versions. 
  • Hard Features Of course repletion can also be accomplished through the use of hard features such as columns, statuary, the shape of a walkway and so forth. These repeats allow the mind to say This is an intentional garden.

As we work with repetition and balance in our gardens, we can control the pace of garden visitors and decide where we want those “wow moments” to occur and those areas where the garden invites guests to linger. We can fine tune where fine-textured plants will recede into the background to highlight a favorite nearby. But first things first---let’s incorporate repetition into our garden planning and create a garden space that does justice to the beautiful plants we love to grow. 
K Edgington
Weed Profile - Canada Thistle
Rake it over the coals. Stomp it to the ground. Show it no mercy! 

That’s what a Root staff member said when I disclosed I was profiling Canada thistle (Cirsium arvense). She’s a very nice person, but Canada thistle is just that bad. So bad, in fact, it’s officially designated as one of 20 “noxious weeds” in Ohio. This perennial with creeping roots was awarded this dubious distinction because it is highly invasive—so invasive it prevents other species from coexisting by shading them out and competing for soil resources. Researchers have found that it may release phytotoxins that poison neighboring plants…Yikes!

A member of the sunflower family, Canada thistle has many other names, including creeping thistle, field thistle and—aptly—cursed thistle. Native to southeastern Eurasia, the plant arrived in North America (likely in crop seed) in the early 1700s. It quickly became clear how invasive this plant was, and states began legislating controls. Ohioans were required to mow infested areas beginning in 1844.

Canada thistle grows in all kinds of landscapes—including sand dunes—but prefers clay loam soil, moisture and full sun. It reaches 1-3 feet tall, with grooved, spineless stems that become hairy with age. Small lavender flowers grow singly or in groups of 2-5 at the ends of stems and auxiliary branches from June until August. The plant is dioecious (male and female flowers are borne on separate plants), but the flowers appear similar. Seeds are found in white feathery pappus, and seed production is highly prolific, often spread by wind and birds. Leaves are alternate, 3-8 inches long with crinkled margins. They are dark green and smooth on top; light green and hairy underneath, with sharp spines along the edges.

The plant’s creeping roots extend downward (as deep as 3 feet!) as well as horizontally. Dense patches of shoots emerge from the roots. New shoots develop in January, grow underground 1-3 inches in February and are well-established by April. A patch can grow 6 – 10 feet in one season! This is one very determined plant. So what do you do?

Learn to love little purple flowers and a densely patched yard? Pave the yard and enjoy the concrete? Stay inside and watch Netflix? NO! This is WAR. The great Chinese war general and military strategist Sun Tzu advised “If you know your enemy, and you know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.” If you want to fight, keep reading!

A combination of methods is best. Think multiple treatments over multiple seasons—this will be a lot of battles! The goal is to injure and exhaust the root system. Pulling thistle is generally not effective as new plants sprout from root pieces that break off, and shallow cultivating may actually spread the plant. Several herbicides have been proven effective; the best time to use is in the fall, with a follow-up treatment in the spring. Apply on a warmer day. Of course, be sure to follow all safety protocols for any herbicide.

Repeated mowing throughout the summer is critical; it will keep seed production down and check growth. Be sure to clean the mower to avoid seed spread.

Planting competitive crops, such as alfalfa, may be helpful, if you don’t mind a yard of alfalfa. Biological controls are being researched. Fly larvae of the stem gall fly induce Canada thistle to divert energy away from root and flower production to produce gall tissue in stems. This slows growth and flowering, but unfortunately does not destroy plants or prevent spread. Late spring burns repeated over several years have been effective but there’s a LOT that can go wrong—please don’t try this method!

If the weed is still winning in spite of all your efforts there is a bright side—you can eat it! The young leaves are apparently quite tasty and very nutritious. Learn about the ultimate solution HERE
C Christian

Click HERE for more information about Canada thistle identification and HERE for more information about Canada thistle control.
Down and Dirty
June checklist:
  • Prune spring-blooming shrubs such as lilacs, crabapples and viburnum after blooms fade and before their blooms are set for next year.
  • Divide and clean up spring bulbs and foliage. Mark their location so you can fill in any bare areas.
  • Examine arborvitae, spruce and honey locust for bagworms and treat if necessary. ABOUT BAGWORMS
  • Deadhead spring blooming perennials.
  • Replant lettuce, radishes, beans etc. to guarantee a succession of harvests throughout the summer.
  • Keep bugs out of your garden – use netting on strawberries, handpick pests or treat with food friendly sprays.
  • Stake or cage peonies to support their heavy blooms. Don’t forget to cut a few to bring indoors.
J Gramlich
New Growth!
To learn more please check out these programs :

  • Meet the Good Guys: Beneficial Insects with Summit County Master Gardener Jeanne Poremski on Wednesday, July 7th at 6:30 pm.

  • Shade Gardening: It's About More Than Just Hostas with Dennis James, owner of DJs Greenhouse, on Wednesday, August 4th at 6:30 pm.

Meet Me in the Garden Series

  • Useful Beauty: Garden Lessons from the Service Gardens at Stan Hywet with Senior Horticulturalist at Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens Brian Gregory on Wednesday, June 23rd at 6:30 pm.

  • Backyard Ponds & Aquatic Plants with Summit County Master Gardener Rick Reeves on Wednesday, July 28th at 6:30 pm.

Learn more about and register for these programs on our website (link below).
More learning opportunities:
It was June, and the world smelled of roses.
The sunshine was like powdered gold over the grassy hillside.   
Maud Hart Lovelace
We invite you to share The Root of It with your gardening friends and family. If you would like to subscribe to our mailing list please visit our website, scroll to the bottom, and follow the link under Join our email list.
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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