Garden Talk: April 27, 2006

From NGA Editors

New Black and Gold Cannas

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Seven years ago a new canna lily from South Africa took the gardening world by storm. ‘Tropicanna’ canna features bright orange flowers and multicolored leaves with pink, yellow, red, orange, and green stripes.

Now two new versions of this popular tropical plant are on the scene. ‘Tropicanna Black’ and ‘Tropicanna Gold’ have the same growth characteristics as the original ‘Tropicanna’, but different colored leaves and flowers. ‘Tropicanna Black’ features purple-black leaves and bright red flowers. ‘Tropicanna Gold’ has golden yellow flowers and leaves with green and yellow stripes.

All three cannas grow 6 feet tall at maturity -- smaller when grown in containers. They grow best in full sun on well-drained, fertile soils. Because they’re tropical plants, the bulbs need to be dug and stored in fall in areas where the ground freezes in winter.

For more information on ‘Tropicanna Black’ and ‘Tropicanna Gold’, go to: Tesselaar.

An Eye-Catching Golden Fern

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Ferns are gaining in popularity as more gardeners are choosing these plants for shady spots in their yards. Ferns offer ease of care, and beautiful, textured fronds of varying shapes and sizes. Now there's a new color to tempt gardeners.

‘Rita’s Gold’ fern (Nephrolepis exaltata 'Rita's Gold') features chartreuse-green fronds that grow 18 to 24 inches long. While the frond size is slightly smaller than other Boston ferns, the color stays true all summer. ‘Rita’s Gold’ grows best in the shade but will tolerate some sun. It makes a great accent plant when grown in the shade with other annuals, such as orange impatiens and blue torenias.

'Rita's Gold' won the University of Georgia’s Classic City Award as a plant that outshines other similar plants in the garden. Its only downside is it’s only hardy to USDA zones 9 and 10. In colder regions, it can be grown in containers and brought indoors for the winter.

For more information on ‘Rita’s Gold’, go to: Randolph’s Greenhouses.

Antibiotics in Veggies?

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Adding manure to vegetable gardens is a time-honored method of fertilizing plants. However, many animals are fed regular doses of antibiotics, and up to 90 percent of those antibiotics can pass into the urine and manure. Some gardeners are concerned that chemicals in the manures we’re adding to the soil are ending up on the food we eat. Little research has been done, however, to determine if these antibiotics actually are transferred from soil to plant.

Researchers at the University of Minnesota recently conducted experiments to find out. They grew green onions, corn, and cabbage in plots outdoors and in a greenhouse. They added small amounts of chlortetracycline and tylosin antibiotics to the soil and analyzed the vegetables three to six weeks later at harvest time. No tylosin was found in the plants, but small amounts of chlortetracycline were transferred to the plants.

Although the levels were not considered an immediate hazard, the results pose a concern for people allergic to this antibiotic. Also, scientists are concerned that consuming small doses of antibiotics regularly could lead to developing a resistance to the antibiotics when they are truly needed.

More research is planned on this topic, but for now home gardeners can protect their plants -- and themselves -- by making sure they use only well-composted manure or buying bags of sterilized manures that are more likely to be antibiotic-free.

For more information on this research, go to: Journal of Environmental Quality.

Copper Blocker Mesh for Slug Control

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Spring means wet weather, and wet weather means slugs. Many gardeners know of the efficacy of using copper wire or copper flashing as a barrier to repel slugs. The slugs get a small electrical shock when they come in contact with the copper, which sends them elsewhere. The only problem is the copper flashing on the market is sometimes hard to work with.

Now a new product makes using copper to thwart slugs a little easier. Copper Blocker is a 5-inch-wide copper mesh that comes in a 100-foot roll. It can be cut in lengths and staked like a small fence to keep snails and slugs away from the garden. It’s strong enough to even keep rodents and rabbits out. Copper Blocker is flexible, easy to set up, and reusable.

For more information on this copper mesh slug control, go to: Lee Valley.

 
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