Garden Talk: April 14, 2005

From NGA Editors

New Snowberries

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Snowberries are little-used landscape shrubs, but that may change soon. A new line of snowberries from the Netherlands is being introduced that will expand home gardeners’ options for growing these beautiful, bird-attracting shrubs.

Snowberries (Symphoricarpos) are mostly known for their ornamental berries. These new varieties feature larger, more colorful fruits. Snowberries grow 3 to 5 feet tall and spread by underground runners, so they make an excellent hedge. The stems have a graceful, arching habit. Small, pink, bell-shaped flowers open in spring and produce attractive, edible fruits in summer and fall on new growth. The berries remain on the shrubs into winter. These plants are widely adapted to many soil types and can grow in part shade to full sun in USDA zones 3 to 7.

One of the most colorful of the new varieties is ‘Scarlet Pearl’. It features long-lasting dark pink fruits that look attractive in the landscape. The stems and berries also can be used to enhance cut flower arrangements indoors. ‘Charming Fantasy’ is another new variety, with shell pink berries.

For more information on these new snowberries, visit: Monrovia Nursery.

Plant Your Perennials High

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Recent research from Cornell University’s Flower Bulb Research Program has shown that planting perennial flowers higher in the soil may result in better growth and survival.

“High” planting refers to planting the perennial with buds and crown slightly above the ground. “Deep” planting refers to planting so the buds and crown are about 1 inch below the soil line.

In tests with 24 different perennial flower species, researchers evaluated the survival and root growth six weeks after planting perennials either “high” or “deep” in pots. In almost every case the perennials planted “high” had the same or better root growth and survival rates than those planted “deep.” Some perennials, such as geum, showed dramatic results. Only 10 percent of the geums planted “deep” survived, while 85 percent of the Geums planted “high” thrived.

Although this research was done in pots, home gardeners should consider planting their perennials in the garden a little higher than normal -- especially in heavy soil -- to insure the best growth.

For more information on this research, go to the Cornell University Flower Bulb Research Program Web site.

Italian Schools Go Organic

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Italians are known for their pride in preparing and serving high-quality food. Now they have become pioneers in instituting the use of organic foods in schools across the country. Since 2000 the Italian government has mandated that organic foods be served in Italian schools. Not all schools are participating yet, but even so, more than 25 percent of Italian children are now eating some organic food each day, and in Rome more than 140,000 kids eat only organic food at school.

The law has spurred production of more organic foods, and it's been used as an educational tool to teach children about ecological practices. The national law is being followed to various degrees in each region. In the Emilia Romagna region, the local government has implemented a law mandating a 100 percent organic diet for nursery and primary schools (from 3 months to 10 years) and at least 35 percent in advanced schools, universities, and hospitals. As contracts with current food vendors expire in 2005, they will be replaced with contracts using organic foods. Soon all 350,000 children in the region will be eating only organic foods at school.

For more information on these landmark laws, go to the Organic Consumers Web site.

Schools Grow Butterflies and Birds

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School gardening is becoming more popular as teachers and parents realize the benefits to learning that this hands-on education offers. Now major corporations are getting involved.

The Hilton Garden Inn, a chain of almost 200 hotels in the United States, Canada, and Mexico, wanted to have some type of local service project in each community where they have a hotel. For the past three years, they have worked with National Gardening Association to sponsor indoor and outdoor school gardens in more than 100 of the communities where they’re located. NGA’s senior horticulturist, Charlie Nardozzi, has assisted as Hilton Garden Inn’s chief gardening officer.

This year the program has been expanded. Charlie has worked with the hotel chain’s Grow a School Garden Education Program to produce three new gardening kits that schools can use to create themed gardens. The Bird Habitat, Butterfly Habitat, and Super-Nutritious Gardening kits provide the seeds, books, and accessories needed to create these educational and attractive gardens. They not only help students beautify their schools, they also enable students to use a hands-on approach and learn about subjects such as science, math, and social studies in a fun way.

For more on this innovative program and these new themed garden kits, visit the Hilton School Garden Education Program Web site.

 
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