Garden Talk: March 15, 2007

From NGA Editors

The Most Fragrant Peony

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Peonies are widely grown spring garden plants, and their large, colorful flowers are showstoppers in the garden. The foliage provides three seasons of color and is seldom bothered by deer and other critters. However, while there are many fragrant peonies, few have a strong scent.

The ‘Gardenia’ peony is an exception. Not only is it good-looking, with fully double, soft white blossoms on strong stems, it has a strong fragrance as well. The fragrance can fill a room when flowers are cut and brought indoors. 'Gardenia' is a late-blooming variety so it will end your peony season on a high note.

For more information about ‘Gardenia’ peony, go to: Park Seed Company.

The Pitchfork Gets a Makeover

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The pitchfork is an agricultural icon that has many uses in the home garden. It’s great for spreading bark mulch, turning compost piles, and moving hay, straw, leaves, and other bulk materials. However, the sharp metal tines can be dangerous -- especially with kids around.

Now, from Sheffield, England, comes a safer, modern version of the pitchfork. The Unifork has wide tines made of lightweight, high-grade polypropylene so there are no sharp, metal points. It performs all the tasks a pitchfork can do, plus its curved shape allows you to move more material faster. The Unifork is strong enough to withstand being run over by a truck, and it won't puncture the tires. Available in five bright colors, it's easy to keep track of in the yard.

For more information on the Unifork, go to: Union Jack Stable & Garden.

Where Have All the Honeybees Gone?

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Honeybees are the unsung heroes of our food supply. It’s estimated that up to one-third of the food we eat is dependent on honeybee pollination activity in spring and summer. In spring beekeepers transport honeybee hives around the country to insure that crops such as almonds, apples, and cherries get properly pollinated. Beekeepers have been battling stresses, such as mite attacks and diseases, to their honeybee hives for years. Now there’s a new problem called the honeybee colony collapse.

Beekeepers in 22 states started noticing bee die-off last fall. This winter when beekeepers started checking their hives, they found an unexplained disappearance and dying off of many honeybee colonies. Some beekeepers have lost up to 80 percent of the hives. Although researchers believe diseases and pesticides may be factors, it’s unclear what is causing the dieback.

For more information on the honeybee colony collapse, go to: Pennsylvania State University.

Tree Lilac With Colorful Bark

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Lilacs are common landscape plants, and while lilac shrubs get most of the attention for their colorful and fragrant flowers, tree lilacs, while lacking fragrance, have their own merits. The Japanese tree lilac (Syringa reticulata) has been grown for years as a multistemmed, medium-sized tree. It’s equally effective in the home landscape and as a street tree. Now there is a tree lilac that features not only the billowy, creamy white flowers in early summer, but attractive bark as well.

‘Copper Curls’ Pekin lilac (Syringa pekinensis ‘SunDak’) is a 20- to 25-foot-tall single or multistemmed tree with the same white flowers as the Japanese tree lilac. Plus, 'Copper Curls' features curly, coppery orange, peeling bark that adds interest to this tree in fall and winter. ‘Copper Curls’ Pekin lilac, like the Japanese tree lilac, is hardy to USDA zone 3, adaptable to a wide range of growing conditions, and has few insect and disease pests.

For more information on ‘Copper Curls’ lilac, go to: North Dakota State Research Foundation.

 
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