Garden Talk: January 5, 2006

From NGA Editors

New “Chocolate” Mimosa

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Foliage the color of chocolate is all the rage in the gardening world. From annuals and perennials to trees and shrubs, it seems like many plants have a selection that features dark burgundy or brown foliage.

Hines Nursery has added a new mimosa to the list with Albizia julibrissin 'Summer Chocolate'. This mimosa has dark burgundy leaves and produces rich pink flowers. Leaves maintain their color even in hot, humid conditions, and the flowers burst forth like cotton candy in midsummer.

The small, arching tree grows 20 feet tall and 15 feet wide. It grows best in sun to part shade, is drought tolerant, and is hardy in USDA zones 6-10. 'Summer Chocolate' is suitable as a landscape, patio, or accent tree, and has no major disease problems.

For more information go to: Green Beam.

Growing Tropical Houseplants

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Winter can be a rough time for gardeners. The lack of greenery and flowers drives many gardeners to try growing tropical houseplants as a way to assuage their desire for summer. Unfortunately, a lack of knowledge about what plants to buy and how to care for them leads to poor specimens that end up in the compost pile come spring. A new book from Ellen Zachos, Tempting Tropicals (Timber Press, 2005; $29.95) not only inspires gardeners to try different types of houseplants, it also provides practical information on how to care for them.

Tempting Tropicals provides the reader with the basics on indoor lighting, humidity control, propagation, pruning, and pest control. The bulk of the book, however, is the section on 175 different houseplants, which contains 200 color photos. You’ll not only find the common ficus and begonia, but also unusual flowering houseplants, such as vanilla, frangipani, and pitcher plant. Many of these plants can be moved outdoors in summer to add a tropical feel to your garden. Plus, there is a chapter on fun houseplant projects, such as creating a living curtain of plants in front of an indoor wall, or mounting a staghorn fern on bark.

For more information on Tempting Tropicals, go to: Timber Press.

Fiber May Not Protect Against Cancer

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For years the medical establishment has recommended eating a high-fiber diet to make us healthier and help prevent cancer — especially colon cancer. New research from the Harvard School for Public Health has found that the connection between fiber and colon cancer isn't so direct.

Researchers looked at 13 studies involving more than 725,000 people over the past 20 years. They found that at first glance there appears to be a correlation between a high-fiber diet and reduced incidence of colon cancer. However, when they corrected the findings for other healthy lifestyle factors for low-risk people, such as eating foods rich in the B vitamin, folate, and eating less red meat, the results were not as clear cut. It appears fiber alone doesn’t reduce the colon cancer risk, but it’s one of the factors whose combined influence can reduce this type of cancer.

Even if fiber does not have a major impact on colorectal cancer, there is still convincing evidence that dietary fiber helps prevent heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and several other chronic conditions. So keep eating those bran muffins and vegetables.

For more information on this new research go to: WebMD.

New Award-Winning Vegetables

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Ahh, it’s January -- time to leaf through the latest seed catalogs looking for the best new varieties. One way to decide what to grow this spring is to trust the professionals. For more than 70 years the All-America Selections program has been trialing and awarding prizes to the best new vegetable and flower varieties. For 2006, here are the winning vegetables you might want to try growing at home. Bon appetite!

‘Delfino’ cilantro features fern-like foliage on a well-branched, 20-inch-tall plant. This variety produces more leaves than other cilantro varieties and is slower to bolt in hot weather. It grows best in full sun.

‘Purple Haze’ carrot is an improved purple variety. This hybrid imperator carrot grows 12 inches long and produces purple skins and bright orange centers. It is more uniform in growth and has better color than other purple varieties.

‘Mariachi’ hybrid pepper is the latest entry into the hot pepper arena. ‘Mariachi’ grows 4 inches long and 2 inches wide. This upright bush type produces fleshy peppers that hang down on the plant. Fruits first turn white, then mature to red. ‘Mariachi’ is moderately pungent and has better yield and color than similar varieties.

The last 2005 AAS vegetable winner is an improved sweet pepper. ‘Carmen’ is a hybrid bull’s horn type pepper that grows about 6 inches long. It is one of the earliest sweet peppers to turn red, maturing in 75 days from transplanting. This variety is compact enough to grow in containers as well as in the garden.

For more information on these new vegetable varieties, go to: All-America Selections.

 
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