Ken Druse is often called a “gardening superstar,” a title he’s earned with his 16 books, frequent television appearances, regular articles for leading national newspapers and magazines, and now his weekly podcast. His groundbreaking book The Natural Garden started a design movement that continues to grow in popularity today – organic, earth-friendly, and inspired by nature, not geometry.
So when I heard that the Annapolis Horticulture Society was bringing Ken to our area to speak, I jumped at the chance to hear and meet him – no matter what the topic. His talk, well illustrated by his terrific photography, was a great overview of Ken’s horticultural passions and a bit about his garden, particularly its recent (sad, sad) history.
Gardening on an island in a river in Northwestern New Jersey, Ken is used to floods and stopped counting after the 12th one that his garden endured. But Hurricane Irene was different – she left his garden under water for FIVE DAYS. And she deposited as much as TWO FEET OF SAND in some parts of the garden. Sorry for the all-caps but seeing his photos and videos of all this destruction left me traumatized!
I asked Ken if he plans to restore his garden or was he considering moving on, and he replied, “I’m going to take it slowly. I have to make repairs to the infrastructure — wall, bridge, deer fence, etc. Then I will continue to clean up. I suppose that does mean I will be trying to get a garden going, but I think it is an opportunity to figure out a new strategy.” While some might think of destruction like this as an “opportunity” to buy lots of new plants, Ken knows that there’s no way to replace plants you’ve nurtured for 15 years – without the huge budget required to buy full-grown plants.
Drusian Plant Wisdom – Highlights from his Talk
- He’s “almost desperate” to get more people to grow plants and urged us to plant tree with kids , or just show them what’s under a rock, but do it before they turn three or it may be too late.
- To help “Stop plant blindness”, learn plant names!
- Boy, does he hate mulch volcanoes, dyed mulch, and the instant gardens on TV.
- And guess what – in stark contrast to the famous woody plant guru Michael Dirr, he LIKES the Beauty Bush (a favorite of mine) and recommends it and other large, old-fashioned, flowering shrubs, like Weigela and Mock Orange. He loves how effective they are at “shinking his property,” which I agree is the fastest and cheapest way of making a gorgeous, low-maintenance garden.
- He’s a geek for plant propagation (and authored Making More Plants) and shared a cool trick for giving Arisaema ringens seeds the six-times-a-day water changing they need – hanging them in a toilet tank. (Oh, yes he did!)
- He’s “really into oaks” because they provide more value to wildlife than any other plant.
- His garden doesn’t have just floods, but bears, too!
A Bit More about the Annapolis Horticulture Society
Click here to see the full season of expert lectures sponsored by the Society. And perusing their website I noticed that the famous (retired) U. Maryland plant pathologist Dr. Frank Gouin is listed as their “guru”. Impressive!