Garden Talk: September 28, 2006

From NGA Editors

Exotic Species Tulips

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Tulips are treasured flowers, yet the bulbs have a reputation for becoming less vigorous every year and hard to naturalize. For those looking for a more carefree tulip, the species or botanical tulips have much to offer. This group of bulbs features attractive yet smaller flowers on shorter plants, plus many types come back year after year and spread over time.

Some species tulips have unique flower colors and shapes as well. Tulipa humilis 'Alba Coerulea Oculata' grows only 6 to 8 inches tall, producing exquisite white flowers with steel blue centers in mid-spring.

'Lady Jane’ offers two flower colors in one tulip. When the flower is closed, its color is pink with a stripe of white along the edge of the petals. When it opens during a sunny afternoon, the pure white center is fully revealed. ‘Lady Jane’ grows only 10 inches tall and blooms in late spring.

For more information about these and other species tulips, go to: Brent and Becky’s Bulbs.

Design Your Own Virtual Deck

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Decks are popular features on more than a third of U.S. homes. They provide a place to relax, cook, entertain, and grow plants. If you're considering adding a deck, a new software program can help you design one that meets your needs.

The USP Deck Designer is a Web-based program that guides you in creating a virtual deck, including selecting type of wood, styling, dimensions, and accessories, such as fire pits and hot tubs. The design can be changed and altered with a click of the mouse any number of times until it suits you.

When the design is complete, you’ll get a three-dimensional virtual model as well as a complete materials list and a plan for your local building inspectors.

For more information, go to: USP Structural Connectors.

Relocate Spiders Without Harm

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Gardeners know spiders are good for the garden. That knowledge doesn’t assuage some people’s fear of spiders, however, especially when they manage to enter the house. For those who want to be kind to their arachnid friends, there’s a new tool that catches and releases spiders without harming them.

The Spider Catcher features soft, retractable bristles attached to a 2-foot-long handle. You squeeze the trigger to open the bristles, place the bristles over the spider, and release the trigger. The bristles will close and capture the spider without harming it. You can then move the spider safely outdoors and release it. The Spider Catcher can also be used to pick up ants, bees, and moths.

For more information on this new product, go to: Spider Catcher.

Global Warming May Decrease Plant Yields

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Much attention has been given to the possible ways plants will respond to the warming of global temperatures. Many scientists believe that plant growth will increase. New research from the USDA-ARS Center for Medical, Agricultural, and Veterinary Entomology, in Gainesville, Florida, suggests that while plant growth may increase, the yield of seeds may decrease. This could have a dramatic effect on seed crops critical to our food supply.

Seed crops such as rice, grain, sorghum, kidney beans, soybeans, and peanuts were grown in greenhouses under natural sunlight. Researchers increased the temperatures in the greenhouses to four different levels to evaluate the effects.

Each crop was found to have an optimal mean daily temperature (OMDT) for seed yield. As temperatures rose, seed yields decreased about 6 percent for every 1 degree above the OMDT. While all the seed crops grown had decreased yields, kidney beans were the most sensitive. Pollination failure was the chief cause of yield declines.

Researchers suggest that breeding for heat tolerance should be a priority in the future to avoid crop declines as the planet warms.

For more information on this research, go to: Agricultural Research Service.

 
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