Garden Talk: May 11, 2006

From NGA Editors

Exercise in a Garden Gym

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Gardeners naturally spend lots of time outdoors. But just because they’re outdoors doesn’t necessarily mean they’re getting the right kind of exercise. A group in England is trying to change that.

The British Trust for Conservation Volunteers coordinates volunteer groups helping with environmental restoration projects across the island. In 1997 they started the “Green Gym” movement. The idea is to improve the environment and gardeners’ health at the same time. Volunteers meet weekly for 1 to 4 hours to do various conservation projects, such as planting trees, trimming hedges, and clearing trails. The conservation leaders not only coordinate the work, they also lead the volunteers in exercises. They take volunteers through a series of warm-up and cool-down exercises to help them get a complete workout from the gardening activity.

The Trust estimates gardeners burn one-third more calories in an hour of green gym activities compared to an hour doing step aerobics in the gym. Plus, it’s a productive way to relieve stress. Participants get a good workout, and Great Britain gets a well-managed public landscape.

There are Green Gym programs in more than 65 cities in England. For more information on this innovative program, go to: British Trust for Conservation Volunteers .

A Simpler Way to Make New Plants

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Air layering is a gardening propagation technique where new roots are encouraged to grow on a stem or branch of an herbaceous or woody plant in order to create a new plant. It’s a convenient way to propagate shrubs such as holly, camellia, and azalea; indoor plants such as dieffenbachia and croton; and trees such as citrus and apple, without harming the mother plant.

While air layering is a proven horticultural technique, it can be difficult for some gardeners. Now a new product makes air layering a little easier. Rooter-Pots clamp around 1/4- to 1-inch-thick stems of your favorite tree or shrub to help new roots form. Here’s how they work.

Make a 1- to 2-inch-long wound in the bark completely encircling the stem you want to propagate. Stems less than 1-inch diameter are best. Remove the bark around the cut and dust the wound with a rooting hormone powder. Enclose the Rooter-Pot around the wound. Fill the pot with moistened potting soil, peat moss, or coconut fiber mulch. Attach the lid to seal the pot, and check the pot periodically to make sure the rooting medium stays moist. Once roots form, cut the branch below the pot and you have a new shrub identical to your old one.

Rooter-Pots come in two sizes for small and large diameter branches. For more information on the Rooter-Pots, go to: Kinsman Company.

Barriers for Root Weevils

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Root weevils are destructive pests of many plants including strawberries, raspberries, rhododendrons, euonymus, and azaleas. The young larvae feed on the roots, while the black, snouted, weevil adults emerge from the soil at night to feed on the leaves. They create a distinct notching in the leaves.

The common control for these pests is drenching the soil with an insecticide. However, recent research from Agri-Food Canada in British Columbia has uncovered a potentially safer control: aluminum flashing.

Researchers laid a barrier of 12-inch-wide aluminum flashing in the ground around plants and beds. One-third of the flashing was buried underground, and a strip of slick Teflon tape was placed along the top to prevent the root weevils from climbing over the flashing. The aluminum flashing excluded up to 84 percent of the weevils from the control plots. A bonus of this barrier method is it didn’t exclude small beneficial ground beetles.

For more information on this research, go to: Environmental Entomology.

New Purple Poppies

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Oriental poppies are one of the darlings of the perennial garden. Their large, showy flowers herald the beginning of the summer flower season. An outstanding new variety is causing a stir in Europe and North America. ‘Patty’s Plum’ oriental poppy (Papaver orientale ‘Patty’s Plum’) features large, 6-inch-diameter plum-colored flowers with a blackberry center and red and gold rings inside. The flowers have the consistency of crepe paper, and the color is unusual for oriental poppies. The flowers are eye-catching even at a distance of 100 feet.

The large flowers stand about 3 feet tall, and the plant is hardy in USDA zones 3 to 8. It grows best in full sun in well-drained soil.

For more on ‘Patty’s Plum’ oriental poppy, go to: Wayside Gardens.

 
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