Garden Talk: January 31, 2008

From NGA Editors

Pink-Edged Sea Holly

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Sea holly (Eryngium spp.) is a sun-loving, easy-to-grow perennial that’s hardy in USDA zones 5 to 8. It features 3-foot-tall flower stalks topped with spiny, silvery blue flower heads. The flowers are favorites of butterflies and they hold their color indoors for months.

Until now this perennial was only noteworthy during its midsummer flowering phase, but the variety ‘Jade Frost’ extends the show. The new foliage of ‘Jade Frost’ unfurls in spring to reveal green leaves with rosy pink margins and veins. In summer the pink turns to cream and finally to white, and the green and white variegation remains throughout the season.

‘Jade Frost’ grows best in well-drained soil and is drought tolerant. For more information on this unique sea holly, go to: Wayside Gardens.

A Shovel With Attitude

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The Kombi shovel is described as a “shovel with attitude.” One look at it makes you see why. It looks more like a medieval weapon than a garden tool. The Kombi has sharp, deeply serrated edges on both sides of the blade and a pointed blade tip for digging. It can edge, weed, cultivate, cut, and dig. No matter what kind of soil, the shovel can be used to strip sod, cut weeds or roots underground, shear off brush at ground level, and dig holes for planting.

Although this is one rugged tool, it's not recommended for prying out large stumps and rocks. Even though the blade is made from heavy-duty steel, the handle is wooden and can break.

The Kombi shovel comes in a long- and short-handled version, as well as a handy trowel size (pictured). For more information, go to: Mills Mix.

New Multicolored Dahlia

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Dahlias come in a wide variety of colors that gardeners combine to produce a multicolored effect. Now a new variety offers multiple colors on one plant. ‘Changing Colors’ dahlia features flowers in white, lavender, and dark purple, all on the same plant.

'Changing Colors' has 4-inch-diameter chrysanthemum-like blooms that begin in midsummer and continue until frost. Each flower opens dark purple and gradually fades to white, so a single plant with flowers at different stages of maturity looks like three different varieties planted together.

This dahlia grows 2 feet tall and wide and is hardy to USDA zone 8. In colder climates, gardeners can dig the tubers in fall and store them indoors during the winter.

For more information on this new variety, go to: Dutch Gardens.

Best Grass for Low-Nitrogen Lawns

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Lawns are ubiquitous in the United States, and most homeowners fertilize their lawns at least once a year, usually with a high-nitrogen product. This has raised environmental concerns because fertilizer runoff can pollute waterways.

To help homeowners reduce their use of nitrogen fertilizer on cool-season grasses, researchers at Purdue University in Indiana tested eight different nitrogen fertilizer application rates on three different cool-season grasses -- Kentucky bluegrass, perennial ryegrass, and turf-type tall fescue. They wanted to determine which grass responded best to lower fertilization rates by evaluating characteristics such as dry matter yield, visual quality, canopy greenness, and disease susceptibility.

Although Kentucky bluegrass had better scores at higher nitrogen fertilization rates than the other two grasses in the study, turf-type tall fescue required less nitrogen input (less than 2.5 pounds nitrogen per 1,000 square feet per year) than Kentucky bluegrass to produce a lawn with acceptable visual quality and color and fewer disease problems. Perennial ryegrass required even more nitrogen fertilizer than Kentucky bluegrass to maintain its visual quality and color.

For more information about this study, go to: Agricultural Research Service.

 
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