Garden Talk: April 10, 2008

From NGA Editors

Award-Winning Salvia

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Salvia is a versatile darling of the flower garden. There are many annual and perennial varieties and one of the most colorful and easiest to grow is mealy cup sage or Salvia farinacea. A new award-winning selection boasts even more colorful blossoms and a longer bloom time.

‘Fairy Queen’ sage (S. farinacea ‘Fairy Queen’) won the 2008 Fleuroselect Gold Medal for its long-blooming, fragrant, bicolor blossoms and drought tolerance. Fleuroselect is an international organization promoting ornamental plants. Each year it awards its Fleuroselect Gold Medal to outstanding new plant selections.

‘Fairy Queen’s 18-inch-tall plants produce 10-inch-high flower spikes that feature dark blue blooms with white dots on each blossom. ‘Fairy Queen’ grows well in containers, flower borders, and cottage gardens. The plants begin flowering in early summer and continue into the fall, attracting butterflies and bees over a long season. This plant is perennial in USDA zones 8 to 10, and grows well as an annual everywhere else.

For more information on ‘Fairy Queen’ sage, go to: Fleuroselect.

Determine Your Garden’s Sun Exposure

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One of the most common causes of a plant struggling in the garden is not enough, or too much, sunlight. It’s important to know how the sunlight changes over the course of the spring and summer. As trees leaf out and the sun's angle changes, what was once a full sun area in spring may be part shade by midsummer.

A new tool can help you determine the amount of sunlight that different areas of your yard are receiving. The SunCalc sunlight calculator is a battery-powered tool that records the amount of sunlight over a 12-hour period. The photo-receptive diode registers how much sunlight has accumulated and signals whether the area is in full or part sun, part shade or full shade. Full sun is defined as 6 or more hours of direct sunlight. Part sun is defined as 4 to 6 hours, part shade is 1-1/2 to 4 hours, and full shade is less than 1-1/2 hours. SunCalc works even on cloudy days. If used over a number of months, it can give a good estimation of the sun exposure in various gardens and help you select appropriate plants.

For more information on this sunlight calculator, go to: SunCalc.

Insecticide Use Linked to Parkinson's Disease

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Every gardener knows that great care should be used in applying any pesticide. Exposure to pesticides can have serious short- and long-term health effects. Recent research points to the gravity of the danger.

Previous studies have suggested a link between Parkinson’s disease and pesticide exposure, especially for men. The Duke University Medical Center in North Carolina and the University of Miami conducted a study to determine the types of pesticides and exposure that caused the most risk. After evaluating 319 families, they concluded that individuals with Parkinson’s disease were significantly more likely to report having been exposed to pesticides through direct application than their relatives without the disease. While exposure to pesticides through drinking water didn’t show a direct link to the disease, direct herbicide and insecticide use was shown to have a positive association. In particular, the use of organophosphorus and organochlorine classes of insecticides were shown to significantly increase the risk of the disease.

For more information on this study, go to: BMC Neurology.

Free Online Plant Information Database

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Are you looking for a source for a special plant? Are you looking for an expert gardening Web site for information on growing plants in your area? Want to see what has been written about a specific plant in gardening journals?

While the Internet is loaded with gardening information and resources, it’s often hard to know where to start. The Plant Information Online Web site can help. It’s loaded with free, easily searchable online horticultural information. Sponsored by the University of Minnesota Libraries, this site offers information on 2,277 North American seed and nursery companies, 359,893 citations about 136,478 plants from 1982 to the present in science and garden literature, and links to selected Web sites for images and regional information for 12,034 plants. Simply follow the search tips and look for your favorite plant by common or scientific name.

To access the Web site, go to: Plant Information Online.

 
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