Garden Talk: September 1, 2014

From NGA Editors

Fiji Rose

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Roses are the prima donnas of the garden world. They are lovely to look at, but often demanding to grow, susceptible to a host of disease and insect problems. Now gardeners who want the beauty of roses without all the work can turn to the new Fiji ™ rose.

This elegant hybrid tea produces incredible amounts of blooms with crenated petals in a fantastic shade of bright cherry red. Dark green, lightly glossy foliage fills in the few spaces left uncovered by the clusters of blooms. But good looks are not all this rose has to offer. The plants carry an extremely high level of resistance to both black spot and mildew, making them a great choice for gardeners looking for easy maintenance.

Fiji's compact, 2 1/2 foot size makes it perfect for the front of the border, in a pot by the patio, or anywhere it can be admired and easily accessed for cutting its plentiful blooms. Hardy to USDA Zone 6, like all roses Fiji does best in full sun and moist, but well-drained soil.

Bred by Kordes ® of Germany, Fiji roses are available from Edmund's Roses. To learn more about the Fiji ™ rose, go to National Garden Bureau. (Image courtesy of National Garden Bureau)

Fall Fireworks

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Add some fireworks to your fall garden with an exciting new ornamental grass from Proven Winners. 'Fireworks' Variegated Red Fountain Grass (Pennisetum setaceum 'Rubrum') is a pink and white variegated purple fountain grass with a strong upright, arching habit that makes an eye-catching accent in the late season garden. A tender perennial (hardy to Zone 9) that is generally grown as an annual, this new addition to Proven Winner's Graceful Grasses ® collection lives up to both names with its vivid, 24-36 tall foliage that sways gracefully in fall breezes, adding color, texture, and movement to the garden.

Best in full sun, 'Fireworks' is suited to a variety of settings, from containers to garden beds -- it's even great cut for seasonal arrangements. Combine it in the landscape with fall bloomers like asters, helenium, and goldenrod, or let fall-blooming sedums or Japanese anemones echo the pinks shades of 'Firework's' foliage and flowers.

To find out more about 'Fireworks' Variegated Red Fountain Grass, go to Proven Winners. (Image courtesy of Proven Winners)

Birds and Bees at Risk

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Many gardeners are aware that a particular class of widely used systemic insecticides known as neonecotinoids presents a big threat to bees and other pollinators. Now research has shown that these important insects are not the only creatures at risk from this class of pesticides. A recent study done by Dutch scientists suggests that neonicotinoids also cause declines in populations of insect-eating birds.

An article in the August 9, 2014 issue of Science News explains that the researchers analyzed data on water pollution as a means of assessing levels of neonicotinoids, as the pesticides are carried to waterways in runoff from farm fields. What they found was the greater the levels of imidacloprid, the most commonly used neonicotinoid, in the water, the greater the decrease in the number of 15 common farmland species of birds over time. Researchers speculated that the birds' decline occurred when the pesticide spreads beyond farm fields, killing off many insects and reducing the birds' food supply. But they acknowledged that the pesticide could also be harming birds directly; more study is needed to identify the precise means of harm.

While ecologists have suspected that these pesticides were having a negative effect on species other than pollinators, this this the first study that finds direct evidence of broader harm. In 2013 the use of several neonicotinoids was restricted in Europe due to concerns about effect on pollinators, while in the U.S. the EPA is still reviewing their effect on pollinators. Home gardeners can make sure they are not contributing to the decline of bees or birds by avoiding the use of this class of pesticide on their lawns or in their home landscapes.

To read more about this study, go to Science News.

Spotlight on Youth Gardens

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Just outside downtown Minneapolis, Project Sweetie Pie (PSP) is hard at work installing urban gardens in an effort to create a food corridor in the Market/Cultural district of North Minneapolis. Over 25 gardens have been installed under the direction of Michael Chaney and his dedicated team of youth leaders. The gardens are installed in an effort to teach youth to grow their own food, engage in entrepreneurial endeavors, and get some exercise.

"We want young people to become food producers," comments Chaney. "Urban farming is a means to an end. It creates economics [as well as] a value system and work ethic within our community. This serves as an antidote to the poison that we [experience] as African Americans, the mythology that the larger, dominant community tries to spread upon us of self-defeat, of low self-esteem. That we're not capable."

PSP's reach is not limited to youth volunteers and programming; the ultimate goal for the organization is to create over 500 jobs for low-income communities surrounding Minneapolis. In 2013, over 175 volunteers participated in the development of 20 urban gardening sites. Working with churches, schools, community organizations, and with the support of local foundations, PSP's community building efforts have received the attention and support of the mayor's office and national companies like Scott's Miracle-Gro.

In 2014, PSP received a $40,000 three-year grant under Scott's Gro1000 campaign. As part of this campaign, KidsGardening.org Youth Programs Director Julia Parker-Dickerson worked with students at the PSP garden site Karamu Gardens to plant wildflowers to attract pollinators to their thriving edible garden. All food grown at the half-acre garden is donated to the food shelf at the North Point Health and Wellness Center.

 
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