Upper South

June, 2011
Regional Report

Favorite or New Plant

Bluestar
Because there are so few blue-flowered plants, most gardeners find themselves drawn to them. Among the best choices is the group called bluestars, of the genus Amsonia. The native prairie perennial, Amsonia hubrichtii, has been named the 2011 Perennial Plant of the Year by the Perennial Plant Association. It is hardy in Zones 4 to 9 and grows 3 feet tall in any well-drained soil and in sun to part shade. From late spring to early summer, it bears terminal clusters of pale blue, star-shaped flowers. The lacy foliage is attractive through the summer, then it turns a bright yellow in the fall. Other excellent amsonias include a hybrid called 'Blue Ice', as well as Amsonia tabernaemontana and its botanical variety salicifolia.

Clever Gardening Technique

Alfalfa for the Garden
Alfalfa (Medicago sativa) contains a fatty acid alcohol called triacontanol, which stimulates plant growth, resulting in more vigorous growth, larger flowers, and higher crop yields. The simplest way to get this benefit in your garden is to buy alfalfa meal or pellets at a farm supply stores and work these into the soil. Another possibility is to make an alfalfa tea. The formula is two pounds of meal or pellets, steeped in five gallons of water for about two weeks. Use the liquid as a fertilizer. Or, you can grow a small bed of alfalfa to use as a mulch or to make the tea. Usually, you can get several cuttings from the area each growing season. Most alfalfa is a perennial, but there is also an annual variety called 'Nitro'. It produces 50 percent more nitrogen than perennial alfalfa.

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