The Explorer's Garden
Dan Hinkley's Heronswood Nursery is renowned here on the Kitsap Peninsula in Washington, and those of us lucky enough to live within driving distance take full advantage of his friendly manner and extensive knowledge of the rare and unusual perennials he collects and grows.
In his book The Explorer's Garden: Rare and Unusual Perennials (Timber Press, 1999; $40), Hinkley describes and illustrates the most distinctive, interesting, and garden-worthy plants he's encountered in his many plant-hunting expeditions around the world. The book contains 253 color photos. Each entry describes how he came to appreciate the specimen and details essential information about the plant's hardiness, cultivation, and propagation. Among Hinkley's discoveries are climbing aconites, corydalis, herbaceous hydrangeas such as kirengeshoma, and ornamental rhubarbs.
Kudzu, the weed that has taken over gardens, fields, and empty lots in the Southeast, is trying to gain a foothold here in the Pacific Northwest. Healthy patches of the noxious weed have been discovered growing south of Portland, Oregon, and are rumored to be established along the southwest coast of Washington State.
A native of Asia, kudzu was first introduced to the U.S. in 1876, when it was promoted as an easy-to-grow forage crop and ornamental plant. A rapidly growing vine, it quickly produces a canopy of dense foliage, colorfully decorated with large, pendulant clusters of highly fragrant flowers. Under favorable conditions, however, it can creep along at the alarming rate of a foot a day, easily overtaking anything in its path.
When left uncontrolled, alien species such as kudzu can crowd out native vegetation and destroy wildlife habitats, forever changing local ecosystems. Kudzu develops massive taproots and, once established, is almost impossible to eradicate. Early detection is our best defense.
A member of the pea family, kudzu is a semi-woody perennial vine with alternate, compound leaves. The broad leaflets can be deeply lobed with hairy margins. If you suspect you've found a patch of kudzu, take a sample to your local Cooperative Extension office for positive identification. For additional information, contact your local Noxious Weed Board through your State Department of Agroiculture.