Garden Talk: August 17, 2006

From NGA Editors

Unusual Variegated Spurge

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Variegated plants are hot, but sometimes they can be finicky to grow. The new variegated-leaved spurge sets a new standard, with its unique shape and interesting flowers combined with drought tolerance and pest resistance. Its only requirement is excellent drainage. The Tasmanian Tiger Mediterranean spurge (Euphorbia characias ‘Tasmanian Tiger’), which was discovered in a garden in Tasmania, Australia, produces pale yellow blooms with green centers in early summer. The stems are sometimes tinged purple, providing a nice contrast with the variegated white and green leaves.

This perennial -- hardy in zones 6 to 10 -- grows 2 to 3 feet tall and wide, and thrives in a full sun to part shade location. Take care when working around this plant because broken stems exude a milky sap that can irritate the skin.

For more information on this new spurge, go to: Wayside Gardens.

Plant Misting Made Easy

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During the hot days of summer, plants benefit from a misting of cool water, just like we do. The Plant Mister makes spritzing plants a breeze. It’s ideal for misting outdoor or indoor plants to keep the foliage clean, raise the humidity, and prevent insect pests such as spider mites.

The Plant Mister features a 16-ounce container that only needs pumping a few times to apply minutes of continual mist. It comes with a carrying strap and a 48-inch-long hose, enabling you to reach hanging plants and window boxes. A small brass nozzle helps deliver a gentle spray that’s perfect for orchids and ferns. You can even turn the mister on yourself during those hot, late-summer days.

For more information on the plant mister, go to: Lee Valley.

A Quicker, Cleaner Oil Change

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It's recommended that homeowners change the oil in lawn mowers, tillers, and tractors at least once during the growing season. Changing the oil regularly prevents engine overheating and wear, helping to prolong the life of the machine. But it can be a messy chore.

Now there’s an easier way. The LiquidVac Oil Changing System suctions the engine oil directly from the dipstick hole into a self-contained holding tank that can store 2 gallons of oil. It takes only 1 minute to empty a lawnmower oil tank, using the suction created by pumping the tank. No electricity is required.

To learn how to change your oil more simply and cleanly this summer, go to: LiquidVac.

Using Willows to Root Roses

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Late summer is the perfect time to take softwood cuttings of roses and other woody shrubs to create new plants for spring. While the timing and technique is important when propagating woody shrubs from cuttings, a little assistance from nature can make a difference too.

It’s widely known that willows root quickly from cuttings. Willow bark contains a water-soluble compound (or group of compounds) called rhizocaline, which stimulates root formation. This substance can be used to help other shrubs root, too. Here’s a simple way to use willow water from willow cuttings to aid the rooting of rose cuttings.

To create willow water, take a handful of willow twig cuttings from this year's growth. Remove the leaves and cut the twigs into 1-inch-long pieces. Place the cuttings right side up in a glass, add 1/2 inch of very hot water, cover with a plastic bag, and let sit 24 hours. Then remove the twigs.

Steep your rose cuttings in this willow water solution for 24 hours. Then dab the cut ends with a rooting hormone powder and stick your rose cuttings in a pot filled with moistened potting soil. The willow water can be covered and stored in the refrigerator for three days.

For more information on using willow water to root rose cuttings, go to: Texas Rose Rustlers.

 
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