Garden Talk: February 15, 2007

From NGA Editors

Bird Watching

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It may be early for birds to start their spring migration, but it’s still a good time to check in with our feathered friends to see how they’re doing. During the 10th Annual Great Backyard Bird Count, February 16th to 19th, people in the U.S. and Canada are being asked to take a few minutes and count some birds in their backyards, at school, at work, and even at bird refuges. Cosponsored by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Wild Birds Unlimited, and the National Audubon Society, the bird count is a way to get a snapshot tally of the species and number of birds across North America. Observers simply count the highest number of each species they see during an outing or a sitting, and enter the tallies on the Great Backyard Bird Count Web site. The Web site has guidelines on how to count birds and information and maps on last year’s results. Eventually the site will publish a map showing the numbers and species of birds tallied during the count.

Last year observers submitted more than 60,000 entries. They reported 7.5 million birds overall and 623 different species. The information is used by bird researchers to determine the timing and strength of bird migrations, the influence of winter weather and diseases such as the West Nile virus on bird species, and if any bird species are undergoing worrisome declines.

To participate in this year’s count, go to: The Great Backyard Bird Count .

New Space-Saving Squash

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Summer squash varieties come in many different shapes and colors, and some of the most unique are the patty pans. Often compared to flying saucers, these varieties combine the rich summer squash flavor with an interesting, other-worldly shape. But gardeners have needed a lot of room to grow these squashes because the plants typically grow quite large and aren’t suited to a container or small-space gardening.

A new variety has a more diminutive growth habit. ‘Balmoral’ summer squash is a patty pan type that only grows 2 feet tall and wide -- perfect for container growing. The plant produces 6- to 8-inch-diameter scalloped, white fruits that form like Brussels sprouts along the main stem. The plant is compact, yet the mild-flavored fruits are produced in abundance.

For more information on ‘Balmoral’ patty pan summer squash, go to: Park Seed Company.

New Double-Flowered Hellebore

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Dan Hinkley, formerly of Heronswood Nursery fame, has been breeding hellebores, also called Christmas roses, for years. His selections have expanded the color and form of hellebore flowers available to home gardeners. One of his most stunning hybrids is ‘Kingston Cardinal’.

Helleborus x hybridus ‘Kingston Cardinal’ has fully double, raspberry-mauve flowers that face downwards on 2-foot-tall plants. The flowers feature deep plum-colored centers with streaks of lime green. ‘Kingston Cardinal’ is hardy in USDA zones 4 to 8 and grows best in part shade, such as under large deciduous trees.

For more information on this beautiful hellebore, go to: Heronswood Nursery.

New/Old Garden Hoes

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Many home gardeners are clever recyclers, and are adept at finding new ways to use an old product or tool in the garden. If you’re in this category, then you’ll appreciate the idea behind Rogue Hoes. These tools are hoes for the garden, yard, and field made from recycled agricultural disk blades. They’re made of high-grade tempered steel and are said to be stronger and better at holding an edge than conventional hoe blades.

Rogue Hoes are available in 11 different head styles in both long- and short-handled versions, including garden hoes, hand hoes, scuffle hoes, field hoes, and yard hoes.

For more info and to see photos of all these tools, go to: Rogue Hoe.

 
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