Garden Talk: January 17, 2008

From NGA Editors

New Lime Green Sunflower

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Sunflowers are the quintessential summer flower. Over the past 20 years great strides have been made in breeding sunflowers to create shorter, multi-branching plants and more colorful flower heads. The latest in these breeding achievements is a sunflower with a green center.

‘Green Heart Hybrid’ sunflower is a 5-foot-tall, multi-branched plant with 4- to 6-inch-diameter flowers that have golden yellow petals and large, lime green centers. The flowers are pollen-free, so they won’t stain furniture when used as a cut flower indoors.

For more information on this new sunflower variety, go to: Thompson & Morgan Seed Company.

Easier Way to Start Seeds

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Trying to handle tiny seeds, such as carrot, pansy, and lettuce, and drop the right number into a cell pack can be tricky. With inexpensive seeds, there's no worry about using more than you need, but if you're growing a rare, expensive variety, you likely have few seeds to waste.

For the meticulous seed starter there is a tool available that can make the whole process more efficient. The Mini-Wand seeder features a hand-operated vacuum bulb, hand-triggered wand, and five different-sized tips for picking up different-sized seeds. Simply depress the vacuum bulb, place the trigger tip near the seed you want to move, and depress the trigger. Air suction grabs the seed and holds it against the tip. Bring the seed to the pot and let go of the trigger and the seed drops into place. There are three versions of the Mini-Wand seeder. More complicated versions feature an extension wand and hose to plant large quantities of seeds and to plant outdoors.

For more information on this simple, yet elegant seeding tool, go to: GroMor Vacuum Seeder.

Peppermint-Striped Hydrangea

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The Forever & Ever line of big-leaf hydrangeas (Hydrangea macrophylla) features compact, mounding, 2- to 3-foot-tall shrubs that bloom on both old and new wood. The shrubs grow best in USDA hardiness zones 5 to 8 and are good choices for northern areas since the new growth will develop flowers even if winter cold kills the old growth. There are blue, red, and white versions of this popular hydrangea, and now there is a new strain with a unique, bicolor flower.

The Forever & Ever Peppermint hydrangea features 10-inch-diameter blooms of white petals with pink or blue stripes in the center, depending on the soil pH. The more acidic the soil, the more blue the center stripes. This hydrangea grows best in part shade in a perennial border or container.

For more information about the Forever & Ever Peppermint hydrangea, go to: Forever & Ever Hydrangea.

Get to the Root of the Matter

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Any gardener knows that plant roots are critical to growth, flowering, and fruiting. Strong roots enable plants to withstand pest attacks, adverse weather, and poor gardening practices. For the hardcore gardener comes a new book that not only explores the diversity of plant root systems but also shows how you can be a better gardener by understanding how roots function.

In his book, Roots Demystified: Change Your Gardening Habits to Help Roots Thrive (Metamorphic Press, 2007, $25), author Robert Kourik provides down-to-earth advice on root-efficient planting and cultivation methods. Kourik looks at major plant groups, such as vegetables, lawns, ornamental shrubs and trees, and fruit trees, and discusses how understanding each plant group’s root system and how it functions can help you provide the right environment for the plants to thrive. For example, he highlights those trees that grow well in lawns and tells which ones need mulch and which ones grow better without it.

Roots Demystified also features 25 hand-drawn illustrations of various plant roots by a famous 20th-century horticulturist. For more information on Roots Demystified, go to: Robert Kourik’s Web site.

 
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