This Week's Podcast: My Weekend in Cupcake Falls — and a Garden Monster
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“Cupcake Falls,” that’s what some people affectionately call Copake Falls, NY. Last week, the Friends of the Taconic State Park held a special event in the little hamlet to raise funds for local projects like preserving the ruin of a nineteenth century iron ore blast furnace (right). A roof will be built over the furnace and the vegetation growing out of the rough marble rocks will be carefully removed.
The day also provided plenty of opportunities to buy food, enjoy a live bluegrass band, shop at local vendors, attend a lecture and workshop given by me, drool at a rare plant sale and go on a “Secret Garden Tour,” which included a visit to writer Margaret Roach’s famous garden located in the town.
Margaret lost some 20 shrubs and trees in the snowstorm, last October. I am sure she knows where those plants were, but the garden looked full and voluptuous to me and other visitors. Despite having lost its leader, everyone fell for the big shrubby Salix elaeagnos ‘Angustifolia’ (rosemary willow) with thin silver leaves. (Learn more about the day and Margaret’s garden at her popular website and blog awaytogarden.com.)
I returned to the garden in New Jersey to discover that some weedy areas had become overrun by dodder, an orange parasitic plant related to morning glory that winds around a neighbor and pushes tubes into the stem to suck the nutrient fluids it needs to survive without chlorophyll (below). A recent article on this and other plants that research claims may be able to chemically sense things like a local host, or an impending insect infestation are discussed in a recent issue of Scientific American magazine.
I am not sure dodder really does smell its victims. Clearing it from the garden, I have seen it climb a metal wire, and although it does favor some plants, those with soft tissues, other prey has bark that is not easily pierced. Like many of the weeds that have invaded the garden, no thanks to the floods of last summer, dodder is now flowering and will soon make fruit and seeds. If I don’t deal with these plants, now, I will have hundreds to thousands of times as many garden monsters next year and perhaps for years to come. Wish me luck!