Garden Talk: February 2, 2006

From NGA Editors

New ‘Black Pearl’ Tomato

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Over the last 20 years there has been a color revolution in the tomato world. What was traditionally a round, red fruit now comes in a variety of shapes, such as oval, wrinkled, and pointed; and colors such as yellow, pink, orange, white, striped, and yes, even black.

While home gardeners may have heard or even seen a few full-sized "black" tomatoes (they’re really dark purple or brown if that makes them sound more appealing), now there is a new variety of black cherry tomato.

‘Black Pearl’ grows on an indeterminate vine, producing an abundance of 1-1/2-inch-diameter, purplish black fruits. The flavor is sweet, rich, and complex. One company compares the flavor to a ‘Concord’ grape. Visually it’s intriguing. Imagine growing ‘Black Pearl’ next to bright yellow ‘Yellow Currant’ and orange ‘Sun Gold’ cherry tomatoes in your garden!

For more information on this unique-colored cherry tomato, go to: Burpee Seeds.

Dispelling Garden Remedy Myths

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We’ve all heard, and probably tried, a few home remedies in our gardens with the hope that the spray or powder from the kitchen cabinet could provide a safe and effective way to kill pests. There’s something appealing about using common household chemicals in the garden, but few of these remedies have been scientifically tested for their effectiveness and safety.

A new book by University of Minnesota horticulture professor Jeff Gilman provides a guide for gardeners -- both those who favor a homemade approach and the skeptics. The Truth About Garden Remedies, (Timber Press, 2006; $19.95) looks at more than 100 home remedies and garden practices, reviews any past scientific research about them, and in some cases sets up experiments to determine if they work and how best to use them.

For example, Gilman tested commercial insecticidal soap products against a homemade version. While the homemade version actually killed insects faster, it also was more likely than the commercial product to burn the leaves of the plants.

Gilman looked at other home preparations including vinegar, hot pepper spray, garlic, mouthwash, baking soda, hydrogen peroxide, buttermilk, eggshells, and coffee grounds, to name a few. He also investigated garden practices such as planting trees deeply (detrimental), playing music to plants (inconclusive), and misting plants with water for frost protection (it works!).

For more on this eye-opening new book, go to: Timber Press .

New Dwarf Angel’s Trumpet

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Angel’s trumpet (Brugmansia) is a tropical tree that produces large, fragrant, pendulous flowers in summer. They have become especially popular for planting in containers on decks and patios. Hardy only to USDA zone 10, angel's trumpet can become huge if overwintered indoors in a greenhouse or sunroom. Also, brugmansia goes through alternating periods of vegetative growth and flowering, which reduces the floral show in summer.

Now a new dwarf brugmansia solves some of these problems. Brugmansia ‘Inca Sun’ features fragrant, yellow-peach flowers that bloom continuously from old flower spurs as well as new shoots. It begins flowering when only 2 feet tall, and only grows to 4 to 6 feet tall in a container.

For more information on ‘Inca Sun’ brugmansia, go to: Logee’s Greenhouse.

Glow-in-the-Dark Roses

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What will they think of next? In an ever-expanding desire to reach a broader market for their products, a Dutch flower company has created the first “glow-in-the-dark” cut flowers.

Freshly cut roses and chrysanthemums are treated with a chemical that’s reported to be safe for people, plants, pets and the environment. The chemical is invisible in regular light, but in the dark it emits an eerie green glow for several hours before fading.

The roses sell for about $3 per flower -- 50 percent higher than normal -- and are now available in Europe. Ask your local florist when they might arrive stateside.

To learn more about glow-in-the-dark cut flowers, go to: Santa Fe New Mexican.

 
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