GARY CHURCH: Weed reaches impressive heights as friendship sprouts

Carole Bogdan stands beside the mullein plant growing in her yard.

I received a call from a Douglas Bogdan, inviting me over to see a plant he has growing in his yard.

Since he lives close by, I dropped by, totally unprepared for who I was about to meet. A female was standing in the driveway, and I asked if I was at the correct home. She said, “Yes, but you probably need to see my husband.”

Douglas came out, we met, and he showed me a weed he had growing, which he was quite excited about. I didn’t recognize it. If I had one growing in my yard, I would have probably killed it.

Douglas introduced me to the common mullein, Verbascum thapsus, which is on page 306 of my “Weeds of the Northeast” book. He said it came up voluntarily and then went into more detail about the plant. It is a biennial. The first year, it is a large rosette of leaves, which are about 12 to 24 inches high. The second year, it sends up a very erect shoot with leaves, that creates a yellow flower head. Douglas was impressed by how tall the mullein had grown. The last measurement was 7 feet, 4 inches. He said it had grown 4 inches overnight.

After the plant flowers and drops its seed to the ground, it will pass away. The stalk may remain for as long as Doug wants to admire it, or his wife chops it down.

I asked Doug how he recognized what it was. He said that he takes bike rides at Moraine and tries to identify wildflowers along the bike trail. He so far has identified 122 wild flowers and 58 trees, along with some fungi. I’ll be honest, I never thought of keeping count of the weeds I know. Maybe I should start. It would probably be around nine.

Since being introduced to mullein, I have spotted three growing alongside the road. You could make a game out of spotting them, like when we used to play pa-diddle. We do this with the Austintown Dairy truck at Dollar General. When I spot one, the family is supposed to pay me a dollar. They are a little behind in their payments.

Now, as Paul Harvey use to say, here is the rest of the story.

Douglas married Carole, the lady who greeted me in the driveway, 16 years ago. When she moved in, the landscape consisted of grass and woods in the back. She told him, “We need to make some changes around here.”

She said the project took a lot of work. She cleared out many of the trees and brought in 160 tons of topsoil to plant her perennials in. They didn’t do well at first, so she had compost brought in from Neshannock Township, which made all the difference in the world. She now has some of the largest hostas I’ve seen, ones that would make my old neighbor Mike drool. Their backyard is now a paradise.

After becoming a little friendlier, I learned more about the couple. Douglas is Dr. Douglas A. Bogdan, a doctor of psychology, and his wife Carole is a nurse in Butler. Both are great people.

Dr. Bogdan is very proud of his wife and all of her accomplishments. He said besides gardening, she also does stained glass, makes furniture, soaps and salves, and is now getting into photography.

I introduced Dr. Bogdan to my wife, but he made a statement about his wife that caused a mild conflict. He said, “She makes unbelievable pie crust.” My wife feels she makes the best pie crust.

I see a pie crust challenge coming up in the future. I suggest either apple, cherry, blackberry cobbler, or banana cream pie, and I will humbly volunteer as the judge.

Make your space a green space.

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