Friday, February 22, 2013
A Conversation with Dr. Darrel Apps
Single-handedly, Dr. Darrel Apps is trying to drag the county's gardeners to the fountain of knowledge. He is hosting a series of six classes on perennials. I messed up. I left it to the next to the last day before attempting to sign up. Now this is the updated version of the classes he previously taught at Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania. This series was well publicized (for our county!).
I thought there would be about 9 people sign up for the course. I hesitated because I couldn't make it to every class and finally decided I would attend the ones I could and go from there.
When I stopped in to sign up, I found enrollment to be closed, but that Dr. Apps was actually getting the room set up and I could speak directly to him. He greeted me warmly and said he felt 20 participants would have exceeded his expectations. I expressed my reticence to sign up early because I couldn't make every one of the classes. He was a bit down that I hadn't managed to sign up, and then told me the class would have 50 participants! Fifty!
I'll say it again. Wow.
His and my gardens are both on this summer's Master Gardeners' Garden Walk. This fact he no doubt is sharing with his class, which I am sure will spur more interest in the walk. (Will this double or triple the attendance of the walk? Eek!)
My view of Dr. Darrel Apps' home. I live across the street.
These are some of Darrel's favorite dayliles growing in his home garden.
A borrowed view of the neighborhood from the garden of Dr. Apps.
Since he last taught this course the hybridizers and plant hunters of the gardening world have exponentially added to the plant selection available to the home gardeners. The list reads like a who's who (or a what's what?) of the plant world: the Knock Out Rose series, Endless Summer Series of hydrangeas, a colorful palette of heucheras thanks to Terra Nova Nurseries, probably a thousand more daylilies and hosta, some incredible astilbes, and this is just the perennials. We won't even talk annuals like Wave petunias, coleus, and Diamond Frost euphorbia, Dragonwing Begonias and the like.
He has confided to me in the past that when he first taught the course there were about 50 perennials used in most home gardens, a mere fifty.
The biggest difficulty he has had in updating his class lies in the use of DNA and protein sampling to re-sort whole genus, species, and even families of the plant world. The nomenclature of plants that we all know as one thing is changing.
Now my Latin is hesitant at best, but typically I can follow the conversation using the exacting Latin nomenclature for the small group of zone 4 plants on which Dr. Apps and I might converse. In the course of updating his perennial classes he shared that many perennials have been moved into entirely foreign-to-my-ear-sounding horticultural families.
I have started seeing this trend,making it harder to search for seed or plants on the internet. I am also seeing a real lag on the adoption of the new nomenclature of plants.
Darrel also expressed concern over whether these molecular scientists busy resorting the plant world can actually know the plants they are reclassifying. If these horticulturalists are so into the chemistry, can they really know the plants?
I again lament missing what will be, no doubt, an interesting foray into herbaceous perennials and the plant world at a master's level.
But to quote Shakespeare and paraphrase Dr. Darrel Apps, "Is a rose by any other name still a rose?"