Garden Talk: January 18, 2007

From NGA Editors

New Two-Toned Veronica

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Veronica is a mainstay of many perennial flower gardens. It adds dramatic color and form when it blooms in midsummer. While most varieties display spikes of blue, red, pink, or white flowers, a new variety features two-toned blossoms.

‘Fairytale’ veronica has silvery green foliage on a compact, slow-spreading 16-inch-tall plant. The 7-inch, two-toned flower spikes feature light pink petals with rosy pink stamens. If the first flower stalks are cut back immediately after blooming, ‘Fairytale’ will flower again in late summer. ‘Fairytale’ grows best on well-drained soil in full sun. It’s hardy in USDA zones 4 to 8.

For more information on 'Fairytale' veronica, go to: Wayside Gardens.

Hardiness Zone Map Gets Warmer

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Global warming is a hot topic in the news, and with the balmy weather much of the nation is enjoying this winter, many people are becoming convinced that this phenomenon is real. In light of the warming trend, one of the tools gardeners employ to choose the right plants for their yards is being updated.

The USDA Hardiness Zone map is the standard most nurseries and gardeners use to determine if a plant will survive in their zone. The current map lists 11 zones based on average annual winter minimum temperatures from 1974 to 1986. It was last updated in 1990.

The U.S. Government has yet to officially update the map to reflect the changes in the climate in the last decade and a half, however other groups have taken the initiative. The Arbor Day Foundation has recently published an updated version of the hardiness zone map that incorporates 15 years of data collected from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's 5,000 National Climatic Data Center cooperative stations across the United States.

The new zone map redraws the U.S. Hardiness zone map and illustrates the differences between the 1990 and 2006 maps. As expected, most regions saw a shift of one, and sometimes two, zones warmer when compared to the 1990 map.

To check out the new map, go to: Arbor Day Foundation.

Variegated Paraguay Nightshade

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When you mention the nightshade family of plants, most gardeners think of potatoes, peppers, eggplants, or tomatoes. But there is another less well-known ornamental member of this family with beautiful flowers and variegated foliage: the Paraguay Nightshade.

Sunny Daze Paraguay Nightshade (Solanum rantonnetii ‘MonRita’) displays bright gold, white, and green foliage with violet-purple flowers with yellow centers that resemble the flowers of eggplants. It grows 3 to 4 feet tall and adds a tropical flare to containers and annual flowerbeds. Sunny Daze grows best in dappled sun or full shade, with regular feeding and watering. A more compact version of the species, which reaches 6 feet tall in its native Paraguay, this variety is hardy to USDA zone 9. In hot weather it grows quickly and flowers all summer long. The small fruit is not edible.

For more on this unusual tropical, go to: Monrovia Nursery.

Spicy Food May Protect Against Cancer

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Hot peppers may do more than just make foods tasty and spicy, they also may help kill cancer cells. Researchers at the University of Nottingham in England believe they’ve discovered the Achilles heal of cancer cells. In laboratory tests, they found that capsaicin, the chemical compound that makes peppers hot, kills the energy storehouse of cancer cells -- the mitochondria -- and thus renders the cells useless. These results may shed some light on why people in areas of the world where hot foods are common in the diet, such as India and Mexico, have lower cancer rates than other countries.

Capsaicin is already used in treatments for muscle strain and psoriasis, and it's known to be safe in the human diet, but more research is needed, including clinical trials, before any drugs containing capsaicin can be developed for cancer treatment. Until then, researchers encourage people to eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, and also to add some spice.

For more information on this research, go to: The Daily Mail.

 
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