Jim Chatfield

Wake now your senses. A new year approaches, though it seems like our recent November-December late fall and early winter period encompassed an entire year of weather in a hurry. But that is history; out with the past, in with the new. Speaking of which …

Name That Plant winner

For the previous contest, I admit to a bit of misdirection; a mycological web of deceit. I wrote that the picture provided was the result of two of my favorite pastimes, walking in the woods and identifying various organisms on logs and trees. I noted that I love the fungus among us growing on logs and the picture was of a scene just off the boardwalk at Johnson Woods Nature Preserve near Orrville. There was a hole in a log, with something seemingly growing in or on that log and called for an identification of a globular organism in the cavity.

A logical deduction for the reader, and by me when I first saw it, was some sort of mushroom. Many guessed just that, but alas, it was no mushroom cap, no blushing Russula fungus of orange-reddish hue, but rather the peach-colored glob was … peach!

It was in fact a partially eaten peach that an earlier walker had popped into the hole in the log. The winner of a copy of A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold, who did not get it completely right but came closer than anyone else, was Harry Bost of New Franklin, who guessed that it was a walnut.

New contest

Alright, this week let’s be a little less obscure, though you will have to identify two plants. The key will be who is the first to correctly identify these two conifer genera, one a delicate forest and landscape tree now threatened by an invasive woolly adelgid insect, the other a common Christmas tree for Northeast Ohio.

Remember a genus (singular of genera) is a group of related species. For example, the genus Picea, which is not one of the plants pictured, has many species, from Picea pungens (blue spruce) to Picea glauca (white spruce) to Picea abies (Norway spruce). I am not asking for the identity of the two species depicted, only the two genera.

First one with the correct answers gets another copy of Aldo Leopold’s Sand County Almanac conservation classic. Contact me as soon as you can by email (chatfield.1@osu.edu) or phone text or voice message (330-466-0270).

Plant resolutions

A new set of seasons is just around the corner. Here are some resolute challenges I submit to you for 2014.

• Do an ecological audit of your landscape trees. Or do an inventory of the trees at your children’s school, or surrounding your church, or the historic public square in your town.

First, you will have to learn to identify trees (check out arborday.org and their Tree Guide or the Leafsnap electronic tree field guide app for smartphones, or tree ID books from your library). Then you simply go to treebenefits.com, put in your ZIP code, identify the tree, measure or estimate its diameter, and voila.

You learn, for example, that the 28-inch diameter pin oak in the ChatScape, aka my yard, has an overall annual value of $225 for storm water remediation, energy savings, air quality benefits, carbon benefits and property value enhancements. Storm water benefits led the way at $102 per year with natural gas savings second at $46 per year.

• Plant some pawpaws. Do you have three in your landscape or local park? Pawpaw (Asimina triloba) is, after all, our Native State Fruit for Ohio.

The leaves are attractive, the form is pleasingly pyramidal, the flower buds and flowers are really cool, and the fruits are, at the very least interesting with their heady, tropical-fruitesque flavor.

Plant in groups of three from different clones or sources since their genetics are such that they are largely self-incompatible. One caution: protect from deer in the early years.

• Repel the attack of the killer tomatoes. Of course, killer tomatoes are a movie myth, but the idea of invasive species is one that all gardeners and plant lovers need to arm themselves against, at least education-wise.

Of course, no one today plants hogweed or garlic mustard, and no one ever wanted emerald ash borer insects or thousand cankers disease on walnut, but there are things all of us can do, such as controlling the English ivy in your yard before it invades your neighbor’s perennial garden. Plant lovers — educate thyselves.

• Become a BYGLer. Ohio State University Extension’s Buckeye Yard and Garden Line (BYGL) electronic newsletter is our best foot forward for timely landscape and garden information during the growing season. So from April to October check out the latest weekly BYGL by going to bygl.osu.edu and get your latest free updates on everything from plant selection tips to insect and disease problems and their management, including the many invasive species that threaten Ohio.

There are more resolutions for each of us to consider but these are enough for now, one per season in 2014. Use the best plant health-care practices and avoid causing chronic decline problems on your trees and shrubs. As Shakespeare penned:

“And many strokes, though with a little axe,

Hew down and fell the hardest-timbered oak.”

Blend the nature in nurture. As Michael Pollan wrote: “The garden suggests there might be a place where we can meet nature halfway.” That halfway, which means do not plant hogweed or spray pesticides so indiscriminately that we wipe out the dull roar biological control of natural predators and parasites of our garden pests, need not mean that we cannot tolerate experimentation or even chaos to some extent.

Make 2014 memorable. Heed Yogi Berra’s advice: “When you come to a fork in the road — take it.”

Jim Chatfield is a horticultural educator with Ohio State University Extension. If you have questions about caring for your garden, write: Jim Chatfield, Plant Lovers’ Almanac, Ohio State University Extension, 1680 Madison Ave., Wooster, OH 44691. Send email to chatfield.1@cfaes.osu.edu or call 330-466-0270. Please include your phone number if you write.