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Don Davis: Gardening’s landscape has changed

Posted: Tuesday, May 13, 2014 10:41 pm

Don Davis: Gardening’s landscape has changed

Don Davis

Much has changed since I began writing this column 35 years ago. Some things are better and other things are worse.

Beautification was on the back burner in 1979. Lynchburg’s Church Street had two trees: a birch and a beech. Main Street had no trees.

No new trees were being planted along city streets. Maintenance crews spent their time cutting down American elm and Norway maple trees planted in the 1930s that were in decline and getting to be hazardous.

Beds of flowers and shrubbery along streets and highways did not exist. They were not even on the drawing board.

Today, Lynchburg has a city horticulturist, urban forester and a support staff well versed in landscaping. None of them were employed here in the old days.

In 1979, gardeners applied pesticides without worrying too much about the environment. There was no such thing as Roundup for homeowner use, but you could buy Chlordane, Kelthane and other members of the DDT family of insecticidal chemicals.

These days commercial lawn care and landscaping companies must be certified and licensed by the state if they apply chemicals to control weeds, insects and plant diseases. Back then they were free to operate without government regulation.

Pests were a problem then just as they are now. However, deer did not cause as much damage to yards because their populations were not as high as they are today

Our homes harbored no stinkbugs and there were no multi-colored Asian lady bugs swarming into houses every autumn. None of our dogwood trees had diseases like discula anthracnose or powdery mildew. Roses never had any rose rosette virus.

Fusarium wilt was the most common killer of tomatoes back in the day, and it is less of a problem today because most gardeners plant disease-resistant hybrid tomatoes. Now, we must deal with devastating bouts of late blight, a disease not seen in tomatoes around here until the 1990s.

Kentucky 31 was the only tall fescue available for planting in your lawn in 1979. Today there are hundreds of improved tall fescues, many of which are recommended by Virginia Tech’s Extension turf grass specialist due to their good performance under Virginia conditions.

Shrubbery and trees sold in pots were less common. Back then, more plants were marketed with their roots wrapped in burlap.

Today gardeners have a wider choice when it comes to buying plants and seeds. There has been an explosion of new and different products, thanks to the efforts of creative retailers.

Gardens were larger in 1979. Only a few of us had any interest in heirloom apples, tomatoes and roses.

Mulching was not a common practice. Today’s gardeners use mulch liberally to conserve water, prevent weeds and as an element in landscape design.

Weather seems to be more extreme now than it once was. Summers are hotter/cooler and dryer/wetter than they used to be, and winters have wavered between balmy and frigid.


Tuesday, May 13, 2014 10:41 pm.

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