Garden Talk: February 14, 2008

From NGA Editors

New Apricot Zinnia

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Zinnias are one of the easiest annual flowers to grow in the garden, and they come in many sizes, shapes, and colors -- from pure white to deep red. Now gardeners have a beautiful new apricot color to add to the mix.

‘Apricot Blush' zinnia (Zinnia elegans ‘Apricot Blush’) has double flowers 3 to 4 inches in diameter that bloom from midsummer until frost in shades of apricot and salmon. The flowers have 3- to 4-foot-long, sturdy stems, making them ideal as cut flowers. Another plus is 'Apricot Blush' is tolerant of powdery mildew, which is a problem with many types of zinnias.

For more information about ‘Apricot Blush’ zinnias, go to:Renee’s Garden.

A Solution for Heavy Containers

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Container gardening continues to be hugely popular, and many gardeners love to experiment with large containers, mixing and matching edibles, flowers, and even small shrubs. However, large containers have some drawbacks. They take a lot of potting soil to fill and can be heavy and cumbersome to move around. Since most flowers and edibles only need 8 to 10 inches of soil for their root systems, some gardeners fill the bottoms of large containers with crushed rock, broken pots, or packing peanuts to save on potting soil and make the containers lighter. Now, there’s a new product that can help.

Better than Rocks is a 100 percent recycled plastic mesh that fits into any size pot. Unlike rocks or pot shards, the mesh keeps soil from falling to the bottom of the pot and clogging the drainage holes or washing away through the holes. Excess water can easily drain through the mesh. You can use Better Than Rocks to fill as much as one-third of the pot volume. The mesh is lightweight and easy to clean so it can be reused each year.

For more information on Better Than Rocks, go to:Better Than Rocks.

The Best Daisies

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The Shasta daisy (Leucanthemum x superbum) is a carefree, widely adapted perennial flower that gardeners across the country can grow. The flowers reach 5 inches in diameter with yellow centers and pure white petals. Shasta daisies grow best in full sun on well-drained soil in USDA hardiness zones 5 to 8.

With 69 varieties of Shasta daisies in existence, it’s hard to know which to grow in your garden. The Chicago Botanic Garden Plant Evaluation Program tested 36 different varieties of Shasta daises over four years to determine the best ones to grow. The daisies were grown in full sun on clay/loam soil with no extra fertilizer and only minimal watering and maintenance.

Of the 27 varieties that were tested, four stood out with the highest grades. ‘Amelia’ is a single, 5-inch-diameter daisy with the largest flowers and excellent flower coverage ratings. ‘Becky’ had single, 3-1/2-inch-diameter flowers on sturdy 40-inch stems with excellent bloom coverage. ‘Filigran’ and ‘Maikonigin’ are Leucanthemum vulgare varieties that had excellent flower coverage with smaller, 2-inch-diameter flowers.

For more information on this trial, go to issue #30 at the: Chicago Botanic Garden.

Kudzu Contributes to Air Pollution

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As if there weren't enough reasons to dislike this ubiquitous Southern weed that is migrating northward with global warming, now it appears kudzu emits gases that contribute to air pollution.

Researchers at the University of Virginia have determined that kudzu emits gases that contribute to the formation of ground level ozone, or smog. The major manmade sources of ground level ozone are cars and coal-fired power plants. While some growing plants also contribute to ozone pollution, kudzu appears to produce these gases faster and in larger quantities. It’s not clear whether kudzu is producing enough gases to warrant a widespread eradication program. Presently kudzu covers more than 11,000 square miles, mostly in the Southeast, and is spreading up to 200 miles each year.

For more information on kudzu as an air pollutant, go to: CBS News.

 
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