Garden Talk: December 8, 2005

From NGA Editors

Investing in Your Landscape Pays Off

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Money does grow on trees, according to a new study from Michigan State University. Researchers conducted an experiment to determine the landscape components home buyers valued the most, and how much those components increased or decreased the perceived value of the home. The results showed that a “good” landscape increased home values from 5 to 11 percent. The more mature the landscape and the more elaborate the design, the more the value increased.

Researchers showed more than 1,300 people in seven different states 16 photos of the front of a home that was landscaped to varying degrees. They created three levels of landscaping with varying plant sizes, design sophistication, and types of plant material used. Respondents were told the fair market values of the homes and asked to estimate how much the perceived value of the home increased or decreased in each photo.

In all markets the homeowners most valued the largest, most sophisticated, and most colorful landscape design. These landscapes usually featured mature evergreen and deciduous trees and shrubs, and colorful annual and perennial flowers. The percent increase in home values ranged from 5.5 percent in South Carolina to 11.4 percent in Mississippi. A minimalist landscaping job with few, small-sized plants and little design sophistication actually decreased the perceived value of the home.

To see the complete report, go to: American Nursery and Landscape Association.

A New Walkway De-Icer That’s Safe for Plants

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Winter is upon us. If you live in an area with frequent snow and ice storms, you know it’s a chore to keep the drive and walkways cleared and safe. One of the products often used is a commercial de-icer. Although effective on ice and snow, most of these products wreak havoc on pavers, plants, and lawns. Safer home remedies, such as kitty litter, have been tried with varying degrees of success. A new de-icer is reported to be as effective as those chemical products, but it features a safe, plant-based active ingredient.

IceClear de-icer is an environmentally friendly product made of potassium acetate derived from corn. IceClear is best used as a preventative product. Just sprinkle 1 gallon per 1000 square feet of the de-icer on walkways prior to a storm. The liquid will remain unfrozen to –50 degrees F, and will keep light snow from building up. Even if the snow does eventually accumulate, IceClear stops it from bonding to walkways so removal is easier. It also can be used directly on existing ice and snow.

Best of all, IceClear won’t damage trees, shrubs, walkways, or lawn grasses. And if it’s tracked indoors, it won’t stain carpets. It can be sprayed on with a conventional sprayer.

For more on IceClear de-icer, go to: Monterey Lawn and Garden Products.

A Unique Gift for Gardeners: Personal UV Monitor

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Looking for the perfect holiday gift for the outdoorsy member of the family? How about his or her own personal UV monitor? With increased concern about the amount and intensity of skin exposure to harmful UV rays, a monitor might be the perfect gift for someone who spends lots of time gardening, hiking, swimming, or skiing.

Too much sun exposure has been proven to increase your chances of getting skin cancer, but it’s hard to know how much is too much. The Suncast UV Monitor measures the amount of UV rays you’re receiving, even on cloudy days or under water. This monitor is unique because you simply enter your skin type (based on the information provided) and the particulars of the sunscreen you’re using. A built-in detector measures the sun's ultraviolet intensity and calculates the optimal exposure time. It even has an alarm that will sound once you’ve reached your limit.

The 2-inch-diameter Suncast UV Monitor comes as a wristwatch or in a clip-on form. For more information, contact Suncast.

New ‘Blushing Bride’ Hydrangea

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Gardeners from the north to the south have enjoyed the beautiful ‘Endless Summer®’ hydrangea since its release two years ago. This mophead hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Bailmer Endless Summer’) has the unique ability to set flower buds in spring on new growth, in addition to setting buds on the branches from the prior year. In USDA hardiness zones 4 and 5, this means even if the plant dies back to the ground in winter, it will still produce blue or pink flowers in midsummer.

Now, plant breeder Dr. Michael Dirr has produced a variation on ‘Endless Summer’. ‘Endless Summer Blushing Bride’ has the same flowering characteristics as the original introduction, but it produces pure white flowers that blush to a light pink or blue, depending on the soil’s acidity. The size and shape of ‘Blushing Bride’ is similar to the original ‘Endless Summer’, but it blooms even sooner.

Check local garden centers this spring for this new hydrangea. For more information, go to: Bailey Nursery.

 
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