Image by Tim Kennelty

A virtual tour of the Berkshire Botanical Garden and the Spongy Moth are featured

Episode 15: Berkshire Botanical Garden

Listen to a wonderful virtual tour of Berkshire Botanical Garden, located in Stockbridge, MA, with Master Gardener Volunteer Linda Levitt. She provides a vivid description of the history of these gardens as well as an overview of what you’ll see if you stop by. Then stay tuned for a segment on the Spongy Moth (formerly known as the gypsy moth) with Dede Terns-Thorpe and Jackie Hayden (Pests and Pathogens).This forest pest defoliated many trees last summer and this episode may help you to understand what can be done to manage any reoccurrence. Finally, Dirr’s Manual of Woody Landscape Plants is the topic of Tools of the Trade with Joan Satterlee. This ‘go-to’ guide helps you learn to identify and help these plants thrive.

Hosts: Tim Kennelty and Jean Thomas

Guest: Linda Levitt

Photo by Tim Kennelty 

Production Support:: Linda Aydlett and Teresa Golden



Berkshire Botanical Garden (Linda Levitt): Berkshire Botanical |

Spongy Moth: Spongy Moth Transition Toolkit | Entomological Society of America ( ; Cornell Cooperative Extension | Gypsy Moth ; Spongy Moth - Cooperative Extension: Insect Pests, Ticks and Plant Diseases - University of Maine Cooperative Extension ( ; Gypsy-Moth.pdf ( ; Gypsy Moth [fact sheet] | Extension ( ; Management guide for homeowners – Gypsy Moth in Wisconsin

Manual of Woody Landscape Plants: reference book: Dirr, M. (2009). Manual of woody landscape plants: Their identification, ornamental characteristics, culture, propagation and uses . Champaign, Ill: Stipes Pub.


Welcome to Nature Calls: Conversations from the Hudson Valley. Our team's goal is to present science based information about gardening and all things nature in New York's Hudson Valley. Hosts Jean and Tim, along with team members, Teresa and Linda, are Master Gardener Volunteers for New York's Columbia and Greene counties. So if you're interested in gardening or nature or nuggets of information about what's happening outside your door, settle in, enjoy the conversation. Whatever the season, we have something to say.

Musical segue

Tim: Hi, I'm Tim Kennelty.

Jean: And I'm Jean Thomas.

Jean: Berkshire Botanical Garden.

Jean: And welcome to another episode of Nature Calls: Conversations from the Hudson Valley. Hey, today we're gonna go on a virtual tour Jean.

Tim: Yeah, Berkshire Botanical Garden. And Linda Levitt is wonderful Master Gardener who works with us. And she's been a tour guide there for many years. So she's going to take us on a virtual tour. She's going to talk about the history and how it became but it's also it's like an amazing place in terms of the different plant varieties. There's 3,000 different species of plants at 24 acres of gardens. Have you ever been there?

Jean: I've been there frequently.

Tim: It's a really good place to go. It's a really good place to get ideas for your own garden and just see, you know, there's always something in bloom there. It's a beautiful place.

Jean: It's different every season and bring a notebook

Tim: And I don't know if you've ever taken me but they have great classes there too.

Jean: No, I haven't. I know you have.

Tim: Yeah, it's a really good place to take classes. And they have a lot of special events during the year. In fact, they have something coming up that I know you're gonna probably go to. Maybe we'll go to gather the annual plant sale.

Jean: Well, that's tricky thing you got to get there really, really early.

Tim: It's tough to get there early, but I'll pick you up early Jean, okay.

Jean: Okay. I'll be ready.

Tim: Excellent. And Dede and Jackie are back.

Jean: They're back!

Tim: They're back.

Jean: I love Dede and Jackie .

Tim: The Dede and Jackie show with Pests and Pathogens talking about Spongy Moths. Spongy Moths. It's the new Common name for something we used to call gypsy moth. Spongy Moths are super destructive. They're non native, and they've came here in the 1800s. And they can defoliate trees very, very quickly.

Jean: You can hear them chewing.

Tim: One of their host plants is the oak and they can defoliate oaks very, very quickly if you have several infestations that can actually kill the tree. So it's really important to be able to identify them and know how to deal with them. Our other feature today is Joan Satterlee, from Tools of the Trade. And what is she going to talk about?

Jean: She is going to talk about Dirr's Woody Plant Manual.

Tim: That is a great resource, do you use that?

Jean: I adore it. Mine, I got mine back in college, which was in around the turn of some century.

Tim: So it's a stone tablet.

Jean: It is, it is. You gotta dust it off every so ofetn.

Tim: And he comes out with new editions every once a while, but it's really the essential,essential resource for trees and shrubs.

Jean: And the best thing about it, he's opinionated.

Tim: I love that he has an opinion. Yeah, he'll say very cutting things about plants in terms of their landscape value.

Jean: He has a dislike for some of them.

Tim: Yeah. I mean, it includes all the information you need, cultural information and different cultivars and things like that. And then he'll zap that plant and say this is not that much landscape value. And I've just planted two of them.

Jean: I read through sometimes for giggles.

Tim: Yeah, it's but it's a really good resource to have if you're at the nursery center, and you're trying to decide between a couple of different trees and shrubs and it's a big investment trees and shrubs. So I think that's going to be really interesting to hear what Joan says about that resource.

Jean: I think so. I love it.

Tim: Excellent. I can't wait to listen.

Jean: Well, let's go do it.

Musical segue

Tim: Welcome to Nature Calls: Conversations from the Hudson Valley. I'm Tim Kennelty.

Jean: And I'm Jean Thomas.


We're talking today to Master Gardener volunteer Linda Levitt. We know Linda has a love of flowers because she's with us on a regular basis doing Flower Power. Today Linda is here to talk to us about the fabulous Berkshire Botanical Garden in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. Linda has been a tour guide there for six years and it is we hope going to take us on a virtual tour there. Welcome, Linda.

Linda: Thank you, Tim. So what made you want to be a tour guide? Well, about eight years ago, I became a Master Gardener volunteer and I wanted to do something that I could share my knowledge with other people. So I added to my knowledge by taking courses at the Berkshire Botanical Garden in their Horticulture Certification program. And since that time, I have become certified as landscape design and horticulture. So I enjoy meeting people a lot. And I have for years enjoy public speaking. I also have found that when I meet people at the garden, I'm not only teaching them some things that I have, but also I'm learning from them.

Jean: Okay, so let's get started. We're going our virtual tour, your group is assembled. Tell us who comes to the garden are these experienced gardeners or just people that want to smell the flowers?

Linda: Each tour is so different. I've done tours for as small as two people, and I've done as large as 40 people. The tours are offered from June 1 to September 1, they are 11 o'clock every day. And they lasted about 45 minutes. And what's interesting is no matter what tour you're doing, everybody is so different. We get people from all over the world. And the questions are so different. And at first, when I first started to do this, I sort of panicked because people would say, well, I'm from Texas, and I'm from California, and I immediately froze and thought to myself, Well, how am I going to answer their questions? Or what kind of questions will they ask me? And it was kind of interesting that I was able to do it, but I did learn a lot from them.

Tim: I know the garden has a rich history. Can you tell us a little bit about how it was established?

Linda: Sure, the land for the gardens was donated by a local businessman by the name of Bernard Hoffman in 1934. At that time, it was a total of 15 acres located on both sides of the main road in Stockbridge, which today is now Route 102. He married a woman by the name of Irene who was from Chicago. And so what Irene did in conjunction with the Lennox Garden Club, established what is now the Berkshire Botanical Garden. But interestingly enough for 20 years, it was called the Berkshire Garden Center. When we think of garden centers, we think of a retail space. And so that lasted for about 20 years, and then it was changed to the Berkshire Botanical Garden. At the time, it was one of the only botanical gardens in the Berkshires, and one of the oldest actually in the United States. It was, and still is, dedicated to educating adults and children about gardening and the environment. They began with 503 members and the dues were 50 cents. They realized very quickly that they needed to raise more money. So they began a Harvest Festival in 1935, which to this day is still their major event for the year, usually around mid-October.

Jean: Oh, I've been to that. That's magic. It's wonderful. It's huge.

Linda: It is.


The whole grounds. Okay, what about the garden today give us an overview on like, how big is it and how many species of plants there are?

Linda: Well, let's fast forward to today is a lot different. The focus is what will grow in the Berkshires. In 2020, the Berkshire Botanical Garden expanded to over 24 acres, still on both sides of the roads. And even with COVID they had 120,000 visitors. And there will be another probably 10 to 12,000 visitors the weekend of the Harvest Festival. So now there are 1200 membership, there are 15 year round staff members, seven seasonal and four interns during the summer months, and about 450 registered volunteers like myself. There are 28 distinct display gardens and over 3000 species of plants. And the garden is open for viewing from May 1 until mid-October.

Tim: While so with 28 different gardens. How do you get started? How do you even begin to approach the beginning of the tour?

Linda: I usually start by asking people and what their level of gardening experience is where they're from, do they have any issues or things like that, and that kind of gives me an idea of where I want to go and how I want to do things. So that's when I usually hear about deer problems or, or things like that, that are specific to maybe the northeast, I will spend more time on the gardens that are in bloom. And that can vary every week. So initially, on the side of the road of the gift shop, there are a number of things. There's raised vegetable garden beds, which are most people would say well raised vegetable garden beds, but these are really unique because they are hybrid. There are varieties of vegetables and there are 60 raised beds and there are two of each of the plants that they're going to grow. They grow on one side and then on the other just so they can see how they're going to grow into the Berkshires and sometimes they're successful and sometimes they're not. So that's a really interesting type of vegetable garden. There's a Fitzpatrick Greenhouse which offers viewing of flowers from the southwest and tropical flowers. Really lovely part of that part of the garden is the Children's Garden, which is got a play house on it and a Wishing Tree so that the kids can leave a wish for what they what they're asking for is kind of really very pretty. And by the end of the year, the tree is full of different wishes hanging from the tree. It's absolutely fantastic of most interest, I think on that side is the solar greenhouse, which was built in the late 1970s. And that houses 55 50-gallon jugs that are heated up during the day with the sun, and at night, they released the heat. So it's used in the wintertime with a backup kerosene heater if it falls below 32 degrees.

Jean: Okay, I got a quick question. What zone is the garden?

Linda: The zone is a 5b.

Jean: Oh, good. That's the same as us. What if I'm visiting, and I'm only interested in one thing like perennials or dry weather kind of plants, can you tailor a tour to something like that?

Jean: I can. And if you cross the road from the gift shop, what you're going to see is you're initially on the left hand side, you're going to notice a beautiful perennial garden that is modeled after an English cottage garden. And the the colors are very pastel like they're pale blues, their pale pinks, and so on. It's very, very beautiful. It's called the The Beatrice Sterling Proctor garden. And that's on the left hand side. If you cross over the driveway, and there are two very large perennial gardens called the de Gersdorf Gardens. And these gardens are separated by a large oval of grass. And on one side, or the sunny, this is sunny side where they have all those plants that are will do well in the sunshine. On the opposite side is all the shade loving plants. As a matter of fact, my husband and I were married on that oval between the two gardens.

Jean: That is so cool.

Tim: So it sounds like it's a great place to go to get ideas for your own garden. And as you know, I'm a crazy native plant enthusiast. So is there a native garden or is there a particular place if I came on your tour and was pestering you about native plants that you would take me to show me?

Linda: There is. Over the past couple of years, there's been a great deal of of time and money spent on planting native plants. But there are two gardens that I want to talk about as far as natives and one is the wetland garden, which is actually a really unique garden, because what it does is it takes the runoff from the parking lot, and the trees and the bushes will take the nutrients, use what they can and then there's a clear runoff that goes out the other side. They don't do anything. They don't fertilize the garden. They don't add anything, mulch, anything like that. It's all strictly native plants that use the nutrients and then have clear runoff on the other side. On the other side of the road, near the perennial gardens, there's -- this is actually my favorite garden -- called the New Wave garden. And this garden design was influenced by the design work of Piet Oudolf, who did the work on the High Line in New York City and this big particular garden using the native plants that are all good for that particular area. And they are what we call matrix planting, which means that they're allowed to do whatever they want to do. They reseed themselves, they go crazy and whatever. And there was very little work done at that garden because they let it grow natural. The thing that's really nice about it is they do not cut that garden back in the fall because what they do is they leave it there for the wildlife to eat different things from the garden. So it's really that is my favorite garden actually.

Jean: What about gardens for Rose and daylily lovers?

Linda: Two very interesting things about the Rose Garden is part of an ongoing informal partnership with the David Austin roses, and the garden has had an interest in trialing varieties that will do well in the Zone 5 environment, what you're going to see is the Rose Garden is very open to the the air and the winter winds. And so what they've done is they've really worked very closely with David Austin to come up with roses that will grow well in that environment. So it really they've been very specific about that. Now the Daylilly border, which is fantastic, has over 220 varieties of day lilies and the initially the garden was first planted in 1935, with 60 varieties donated by the New York Botanical Garden. And every year they're adding to the varieties and they start at the top with the oldest varieties and they work down the hill to the newest varieties. And so you actually can find your birth year and figure out what day lilies are there for your particular year of birth. What they do is they actually plant three of each variety to make sure that they all will take or they don't want to plant just one plant because what happens is one could die and the other to survive, and then they kind of know but if they only plant one plant and it dies, and it doesn't do well they don't know if that was just the plant or it was the environment or that kind of thing.

Tim: So I remember going in seeing this really comprehensive herb garden is talks about the herb garden?

Linda: The herb garden actually was one of the first gardens established at Berkshire botanical garden in 1937. It actually appeared on the cover of Horticulture Magazine in 1943. And it is an informal terrorist display garden with over 100 variety of herbs. And it's really divided into a number of different categories. You have medicinal, culinary, insecticidal and perfume. And so everything is labeled. And you'll know and believe it or not, you won't realize how many of these herbs are used for medicinal purposes, or how many used in perfumes or insecticidal or things like that. But in 1957, they formed a group of people called the Herb Associates. And what they do is they actually use the herbs from the garden and they will come up with different products that they sell in the gift shop and they are available for purchase there.

Jean: They do they have a wide range of these things, and you look at them all and say, Holy cow, I didn't know that was possible.

Linda: I know. It's amazing. What you don't know.

Jean: I understand is a relatively new structure called the Center House at the garden. Can you tell us about that?

Linda: Well, actually, the Center House, the original Center House, was dates back until the 1780s. And in 2017, they finished some renovation on the building, keeping as much of the building as they could back from the 1780s. Today, the facility is used for art exhibits education classes now including cooking classes, working with local chefs and using local produce. The other thing too, speaking about the herb garden, they use the herbs harvested from the herb garden in these cooking classes. When the renovations were in progress, what they wanted to do was they realized, obviously, they needed to landscape around the building. So they held a nationwide student architectural design contest to landscape the area around the building. So they went out nationally to all these different organizations, different colleges, and the design selected was won by the University of Tennessee, Knoxville School of Landscape Architecture. The design is of native plants and a lotus fountain was it's both water and fire. I've not ever seen the fire, but it's beautiful with seating around it. And what you have to remember is that piece of land is up against the road. So they had to be careful on what plants they used as far as you know, the salt and the sand for the winter months. So they ended up using Hawthorn trees, large Red Twig dogwoods and 3,000 Sporobolus plants, grasses that I was there the day that they were planting everything. And I will tell you, it was pretty overwhelming to watch them put in these grasses, 3,000 of them. So it's a beautiful structure. It invokes a feeling of peace and serenity. I mean, the fountain is going all the time, and you can sit there and really reflect on things. It's really quite beautiful.

Tim: Can you tell us a little bit about gardening classes?

Linda: There's a number of different programs that are offered as far as education is concerned. One is a Horticulture Certification program, you can be a professional or not a professional, it doesn't really matter. If you work towards a certification. Then there's more what I call friendly, quick classes, which are the Adult Community Education, which a lot of classes on Saturdays or evenings, they might offer a class for one evening or two evenings of a particular subject. And those are more what they call the the weekend, you know, community classes. But all class offerings are offered in their publication called Cuttings Magazine, and that's published quarterly. But you also can learn all about their educational programs on their website. In the summer, which is really fun. And of course, when we're doing tours, we see this all the time, is the Farm Camp for children. And that's offered to children ages five to 14 for about seven weeks in the summertime. And at that, at that school, the children learn all about gardening caring for farm animals because they bring in local farmer will bring in a local, you know, a sheep, a goat, rabbits they learn all about that. They learn cooking. They also take care of the regular vegetable garden, not the not the specialty vegetable garden that I talked about. But the regular what you would consider your own vegetable garden. They take care of that. And on Thursdays, they have a farmers market and the money that they earn from the farmers market, they donate to local charities every week. So the other thing that they do is they do offsite youth education programs offered in the schools in the community. And what they do is they teach them how to manage their school gardens, focusing on gardening and plant based cooking. So there's four different areas of education that they offer to people.

Jean: It's like little university on 24 acres.

Linda: It is.

Jean: Well I also heard another rumor. Well, okay, I gotta admit it I've been following this my entire life, the annual plant sale every spring. Tell us about that.

Linda: Well, if you're not there at first thing on Friday morning for the plant sale, you'll you'll lose out a lot. I have experienced that you want to be there. You have to be there early. And the place is a mob scene. As a member of the organization as a member of the Berkshire botanical garden, you get to go early. And also you also get a 10% discount, if you are a member, which I'll get into it later on. So the plant sale is a variety of annuals, perennials, shrubs, trees, containers, it's pretty amazing. It's very, very large. They set up about two or three tents, and they have members, volunteers, like myself will help people plan their gardens. So I usually work at least one day of that weekend to help people design their gardens and figure out answer their questions that they might have. The other thing that they do is on an annual basis is they have their holiday marketplace, which is usually the first week of December, and they sell all of the products. They sell wreathes. They also have different you know, like amaryllis, or they have candles, candles that they've made. It's really quite lovely. It's a beautiful, very festive atmosphere. And again, if you remember, you can go early.

Tim: So we're getting to the end of our time back to your tour. Well, tell us some of the questions people have asked.

Jean: Well, I think a lot of times they asked a question about deer deer resistance, which I do, I must tell you that that is probably the most often asked question. But if I get the question at the beginning of the tour, then as I go through the gardens, I can actually point out the plants that I think are deer resistant and people you can see them taking copious notes and try Oh yes, this is this is this will work. What do you say the name was again? The other thing is, of course, people ask specific questions about a specific plant and hopefully I'm able to answer their questions. A lot of times they ask about how come the deer don't destroy the gardens because they are out in the open and that is amazing to me too, because it is out in the open and I'm like, Oh, how come in my garden, they eat everything? How come here they don't touch anything. I don't quite understand it. And a lot of people ask about mulch and fertilizing. Like what do we do as far as fertilization is concerned and mulch and I must say their mulch is donated. It was donated for many years by Tanglewood, the concert venue. It's all pine needles, and so their mulch is pretty much just pine needles, but right now I think there have to purchase the pine needles, but it's very nice looking on the gardens and it's I think it's a very neat, neat mulch to use. So...

Tim: See I told you Linda had a neat garden. She doesn't have a matrix garden she was just saying...

Jean: She smuggles the pine cones home.Well the next question to ask you was about membership. So continue explaining about membership for us.

Linda: Okay, the membership is you can buy a single membership or a dual membership and there are different levels of that membership but the basic membership will include free met free admission to the garden all the time, a subscription to the Cuttings Magazine, which I mentioned before. Also a really good thing about it is you get discounts at participating nurseries and merchants. I mean you show your membership card and they will give you a 10% discount. For example, Windy Hill Farms which is not far from the garden offers a 10% discount. Also you get invitations to special events that other people wouldn't get. And then there's early admission to the buying as I mentioned before that you get. And you also get 10% off on your plant sale purchases. So it really is it really pays for itself, especially if you're a gardener and you go to Windy Hill nursery or go to any nurseries locally. You'll find that the membership actually pays for yourself and it is tax deductible.

Tim: So Linda, thanks so much for spending time with us now that we've taken the virtual tour I want to go visit the garden and I want you to take Jean and I and a tour. I'm going to be the one who gets the half price I think, Jean you can pay full price.

Jean: Okay.

Tim: But but this has been wonderful. Thank you so much and thanks to our listeners. Until next time.

Linda: Thank you for having me

You're listening to Nature Calls: Conversations from the Hudson Valley.

Stay tuned for Pests and Pathogens.

Dede: Hi and welcome to another segment of garden Pests and Pathogens. I'm Dede Terns-Thorpe.


And Jackie Hayden.

Dede: Today we will shift our focus to a pest that affects many trees, the Spongy Moth. In February 2022, the Entomological Society of America adopted Spongy Moth as the new common name for the species Lymantria dispar, commonly known as the Gypsy Moth. The new name refers to the insects distinctive sponge-like egg. The term gypsy is a widely acknowledged as an ethnic slur and was changed to limit the dehumanizing effects of the form of common name. The Spongy Moth is one of the more important forest pests in the Northeast. The Spongy Moth was introduced into North America in the late 1800s when specimens were accidentally released in Massachusetts.

Dede: Does it bother all trees?

Jackie: Spongy Moth caterpillars feed on most hardwood trees except for ash. They prefer oaks but can also be found preying on poplar, birch, willow and apple trees. When half grown or larger, the larva are likely to feed on evergreens. Unfortunately, as the number of Spongy Moth larva in an area increases and their favorite food sources become depleted, you might find them feeding on ornamental trees and shrubs. A single defoliation can kill some evergreens, but usually, it takes two or more defoliations to kill hardwoods.

Jackie: So what do they look like?

Dede: Well, the adult female moths are mostly white with a wingspan of about two inches while the male moths are a light tan to dark brown with smaller wingspans, say just about an inch and a half. The females are flightless, while the males are good fliers. The moths are found during the summer months, but usually they do not feed on foliage at that time.

Jackie: How many eggs do they deposit and where do they leave their eggs?

Dede: Females want the pies it's about three to 500 eggs in a mass during the summer. These egg masses are about an inch and a half by three quarters of an inch wide and they're covered with a dense mat of light colored hairs. Look for them on tree trunks or on the underside of large branches. Current years egg masses have a buff tan color in our heart and velvety to the touch, whereas the older ones are faded and softer to the touch as the eggs have hatched.

Jackie: Where do the eggs overwinter?

Dede: Well, the eggs overwinter on trees, rocks, stumps and crevices or on buildings. The eggs hatch the following spring and then tiny black caterpillars spin silken threads which help them be dispersed by the wind. Then the destruction really begins! The caterpillars mainly feed at night and crawl down trees to seek shade during the day.

Jackie: Do they have any distinguishing features when they are fully grown?

Dede: Well the caterpillars are two inches long, the slate colored and hairy with six pairs of red dots and five pairs of blue dots on their back when they mature. They feed for about a month or two in the summer months until they poop or frass. Approximately two weeks later adult moths emerge from the pupal stage. The male moths fly to the flightless females usually on tree trunks and that's where they mate. The females deposit egg masses shortly after mating and the cycle repeats itself. There is only one generation per year. Spongy Moths can remain at low levels for several years and then their numbers can rise when the outbreak every few years after several years of defoliation. The population collapses and usually due to a viral disease. It will then remain at low levels until populations build back up and erupt again. What is the amount of defoliation and the resulting tree mortality are directly related to the percent of oak, the preferred host tree. Though pure stands of soft woods are practically immune to defoliation, hemlocks and pines are vulnerable when mixed with oaks. These soft woods, often found in the understory of hardwood stands are much more likely to die after a single defoliation than the dominant trees. Note that it often takes several years to grow a full complement of needles, whereas hardwoods grow a full crown of leaves every year.

Jackie: So what is the good news?

Dede: The good news is that larger pines often escaped complete defoliation and they could survive. Healthy hardwoods generally required two or more years of heavy defoliation before they are killed. But remember, defoliation weakens the trees and increases the likelihood of attacks by fungi and other insects. Hardwoods with more than 50% defoliation will usually regrow before fall.

Jackie: Does this hurt the trees?

Dede: The energy required to generate these new leaves uses most of the tree's reserve that's necessary for growth the following year. So defoliated trees more prone to winter injur. Bad weather, especially drought, poor soil type and low tree vigor also leads to tree mortality.

Jackie: Does the tree die quickly?

Dede: Well, that's good question. The tree may not actually die before 10 years. Among the hardwoods, oaks have the highest mortality rate because they are the preferred host and suffered the most defoliation. But their mortality depends on crown conditions, crown position in the forest canopy and the species of oak trees. Chestnut oaks, black oaks, and white oaks are much more likely to die than red oaks. But are they weakened? Even light defoliation can substantially reduce the acorn production, which has a negative impact on wildlife. And many birds, including turkeys and deer depend on them for food source and the lack of acorns also reduces the natural regeneration of oak seedlings after several years of defoliation. Enemies of the Spongy Moth include rodents, birds, parasites, spiders, ground beetles, fungi, and viruses. Occasionally, weather will impact the Spongy Moth. Prolonged extreme cold below minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit will kill most egg masses not covered by snow. A wet cold spring or a late summer drought are detrimental to larvae, as well as an early summer.

Jackie: Can the moths be totally prevented?

Dede: Well, none of the natural predators can prevent a spongy bought outbreak, but they do help maintain populations at lower levels and lengthen the time between outbreaks. So if you expect an outbreak, here's what you could do. There's three main management options depending on the type and value of the stand, as well as the vulnerability to mortality. Doing nothing is a reasonable option for many woodlot owners. Remember that red oak mortality is only 5 to 8%. Many owners are willing to accept the risk of tree mortality and the five to six year growth reduction that occurs. The second option is to harvest trees between outbreaks. But bear in mind that harvesting just prior to an outbreak or during an outbreak may cause higher mortality of other trees due to the stresses secondary diseases, and increase the defoliation due to less food per acre.

Jackie: What if you only have a couple of specimen trees?

Dede: If you only have one or two in your yard, you can consider crashing egg masses and using barriers to trap the caterpillars as they move up and down the tree to minimize the damage. If you have a large number of trees however, this approach is not practical.

Dede: So what is the best option for this case?

Dede: It might be to simply maintain a healthy stand of trees. A well-managed woodland is more resistant to damage from Spongy Moths, outbreaks and other insect infestations. Proper thinning in advance of an outbreak can reduce death by removing the trees that are in poor health, which are most likely to die and increasing the vigor of remaining trees. Get the advice of professional forester to obtain sound advice on the best way to improve the health of your woodlot. Contact your local Cooperative Extension and they can help you locate a professional forester.

Jackie: It's Jackie Hayden.

Dede: And this is Dede Terns-Thorpe. Thanks for listening.

You're listening to Nature Calls: Conversations from the Hudson Valley.

Stay tuned for Tools of the Trade.

Joan: Hi, and welcome to Tools of the Trade, a recurring segment of this podcast that highlights a website, app or book that we as Master Gardeners find to be an essential resource. I'm Joan Satterlee, a Master Gardener Volunteer with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Columbia and Greene counties.

Joan: Maybe you know the feeling when you're trying to find that perfect tree or shrub for your yard. You might have clay soil and you want a small tree with spring blooming white flowers and beautiful fall foliage for your zone 5e garden. Well you can always ask a Master Gardener. We're here to answer your questions or your local nursery owner. But chances are we might all be checking the same resource to find that specific tree for you.

Joan: I'm talking about what some consider to be the bible on trees and shrubs, Dirr's Manual of Woody Landscape Plants. Whether you are a nursery person or a serious gardener, this is probably your "go to" tool for identification, ornamental characteristics, culture, propagation and uses of woody plants. This essential resource now in its sixth edition is authored by Georgia based plantsman, Michael Dirr. Dirr has a PhD in plant physiology and an illustrious career in plant science, including teaching engagements at the University of Illinois and Georgia, and director of the University of Georgia Botanical Garden. But he is best known as a plantsman, who introduced more than 50 new cultivars to the green industry. Dirr's 1300 page manual. Yes, it's not a resource you probably want to lug around in your garden is incredibly comprehensive, including listings of hundreds of native and introduced tree and shrub species. So if you find a tree or shrub in your nursery, it's very unlikely that it won't be covered in Dirr's Manual. The manual is organized in alphabetical order by Latin name. But don't worry if you only know the common name, like striped maple, because you can use the common name index in the back of the book to find it on page 40 under Acer pensylvanicum. Once you found your tree or shrub, the manual provides a tremendous amount of useful information, including a detailed description of leaves, buds, stems, fruit, flowers, and leaf color, as well as size, habit, rate of growth and texture. Each listing also includes coverage of hardiness, culture, propagation, diseases and insects.

Joan: One of the best components of each listing is the landscape value description, an important consideration if you're investing the time and money on a tree or shrub. Dirr is almost like a good friend here providing advice when he describes striped maple as a very inadequate lawn specimen. But for naturalizing purposes, it has possibilities. And he's not shy when he likes a tree, describing Carolina Silverbell as one of my favorite native small trees. The manual also is a huge help in sorting out cultivars. Although not exhaustive, each listing includes descriptions of many of the cultivars available in commerce. This is especially useful when you are shopping for something like a crab apple. With such a dizzying number of different choices. The manual provides a brief description of more than 200 different cultivars with descriptions of flowers, fruit, habit, and diseases. So if you're looking for a small pyramidal crab apple with white flowers and large red fruit that is disease resistant, head straight for Dirr's Manual. Just about the only information I find missing from the manual is a section on wildlife value. But there are many other resources for this information. Also, most of the listings only include a line drawing of the plant leaves. If you're looking for lots of beautiful photos, and a brief plant description, you might want to check out Dirr's Encyclopedia of Trees and Shrubs. Both of these resources are a bit pricey. But if you're serious about finding the right tree or shrub, or just want to have it around to browse, you may want to splurge on what many gardeners feel is an essential tool of the trade.

Joan: That's it for this edition of Tools of the Trade. Until next time, I'm Joan Satterlee.

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That concludes another episode of Nature Calls: Conversations from the Hudson Valley. We'd like to thank Sandra Linnell and Devin Connolly from Cornell Cooperative Extension of Columbia and Greene counties for production support. And a special thank you to our listeners for joining us on this episode of Nature Calls: Conversations from the Hudson Valley. You can find links to any of the topics mentioned in this episode at our website at Comments and suggestions for future topics may be directed to us at or on the CCE Master Gardener Volunteers of Columbia and Greene County's Facebook page. For more information about Cornell Cooperative Extension of Columbia and Greene counties, visit our website at CCE Columbia or visit us in Hudson or in Acra. Cornell Cooperative Extension provides equal programming and employment opportunities.

Last updated May 3, 2023