Garden Talk: June 21, 2007

From NGA Editors

Fruiting Banana Tree for Containers

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There is no fruit more representative of the tropics than the banana. However, other than frost-free areas in South Florida, Texas, and Southern California, you rarely see fruiting bananas in the garden. While there are a number of dwarf ornamental banana varieties available that can add a tropical look to your landscape, most fruiting varieties are hard to manage since they grow into large trees and take a long time to produce.

That’s just changed with the introduction of the ‘Dwarf Lady Finger’ banana (Musa 'Dwarf Lady Finger'). This variety only grows only 5 feet tall and produces sweet, 4- to 5-inch-long fruit in only 8 to10 months after planting. Since the plant is a manageable size, ‘Dwarf Lady Finger’ grows well in a container indoors or outdoors. Keep it well watered and fertilized all summer for best growth and, in all but the warmest climates, bring the plant indoors into a sunny room in the fall for the winter. ‘Dwarf Lady Finger’ is hardy to USDA zone 8.

For more information on the ‘Dwarf Lady Finger’ banana, go to: Logees Greenhouses.

Spectacular Evergreen Dogwood With Abundant Flowers

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Chinese evergreen dogwoods (Cornus angustata) are a relatively new group of landscape trees that are primarily grown in the Southeast. Although they have been around for 20 years, they aren’t widely seen in yards, partly because many selections lack the floriferous quality of deciduous varieties. That's likely to change with the introduction of a new variety that offers both an abundance of flowers (up to 150 per branch) and a vigorous growth habit.

The Empress of China Chinese dogwood (Cornus angustata Empress of China 'Elsbry') grows 18 feet tall and 15 feet wide at maturity. The 1- to 2-inch-diameter flowers start green and open to white. Translucent, strawberry-like fruits follow that are a favorite food of birds. The plant retains its leaves all winter and drops them in spring just as the new leaves are appearing. Empress of China will flower best in part shade and is hardy in USDA zones 6 to 9.

For more information on Empress of China Chinese dogwood, go to: Wayside Gardens.

Electric Fly Swatter for Your Next Picnic

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Summertime is mosquito and flying insect time in many areas of the country. The simplest method of killing an errant fly is with a fly swatter. However, trying to kill a flying insect with a fly swatter is frustrating and messy. Now a new, improved electric fly swatter makes killing those flying insects easier and safer.

The Itouchless Rechargeable Electric Fly Swatter is the first of its kind to run on a rechargeable battery. This fly swatter applies enough voltage to kill bugs, but has protective screens on the head to keep you, pets, and kids from accidentally being shocked. Just swing the 1/2-pound, small, tennis racquet-like swatter, and when the fly comes in contact with the head it gets instantly zapped without creating a mess. This fly swatter is perfect for removing annoying flying insects while gardening, camping, fishing, or dining outdoors. There’s a safety switch to keep young hands from turning it on.

For more information on the Itouchless Rechargeable Electric Fly Swatter, go to: Itouchless .

Pea Seeds Grow Better With Vitamin C

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If you’ve had trouble getting pea seeds to germinate and grow in your garden, try soaking the seeds in a solution of vitamin C or folic acid before planting. Researchers at the University of Massachusetts, found that pea seeds soaked in a solution of either vitamin C or folic acid prior to planting germinated better than pea seeds soaked in plain water, and after 10 days of growth the seedlings were 40 percent taller and their roots were 20 percent longer.

The experiment was terminated after 10 days, so it’s not clear if the results would last throughout the pea’s growth cycle and if there would be any benefit from applying vitamin C or folic acid once the peas germinate. However, these supplements will get your peas off to a quick start. Vitamin C and folic acid are commonly found as dietary supplements in health food stores.

For more information about this pea research, go to: ScienceDirect.

 
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