Garden Talk: July 31, 2008

From NGA Editors

Watermelons May Have Viagra-Like Effect

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Watermelons are favorite summer fruits that are loaded with antioxidants. Previous research touted watermelons as being high in lycopene, an antioxidant associated with heart, prostate, and skin health.

Now this sweet treat might be something you serve on Valentine’s Day, too. Researchers at Texas A & M University have found that watermelons have ingredients that deliver a Viagra-like effect to the body’s blood vessels and may increase libido. Besides being high in lycopene, watermelons have been discovered to contain another antioxidant called citrulline. It partners with the amino acid arginine to potentially improve heart health and the immune system, and it may also help with obesity, type 2 diabetes, and perhaps erectile dysfunction. Citrulline helps relax blood vessels, similar to the effect of Viagra.

The majority of the citrulline compound is located in the watermelon rind, so plant breeders are working to create varieties that have higher amounts of citrulline in the edible portion of the fruit.

For more information on this research, go to: Texas A & M AgriLife.

New Dwarf Alamanda

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Alamanda is a rambling, fragrant tropical vine that produces 3-inch-diameter yellow blossoms all summer. Most varieties of alamanda grow to 25 feet, so they are best grown on a pergola or trellis. Now a new variety has all the desirable characteristics of the climbing type but in a bush form that makes a perfect container plant.

‘Golden Butterfly’ alamanda grows only 3 feet tall and flowers freely once the summer temperatures are consistently above 60 degrees F. It works well in a container on a deck or patio or even in a hanging basket. ‘Golden Butterfly’ is hardy to USDA zone 9 and can be used as a summer annual in colder regions. It also can be brought indoors at the first hint of fall cold to overwinter for next year.

For more information about the ‘Golden Butterfly’ alamanda, go to: Logee's Greenhouse.

Versailles Gardens Go Green

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The Gardens of Versailles are some of the most quintessential formal gardens in the world. Straight lines of ancient trees, well-trimmed hedges, and manicured lawns make up the bulk of these traditional gardens. You wouldn’t expect them to be a hot bed of innovation, but chief gardener Alain Baraton is making a bold move and beginning to manage the gardens using an environmentally friendly approach.

With the changing global climate, problems are arising on the 2100-acre estate, such as poor fall leaf color on the chestnuts and increased insect activity due to warmer-than-usual winters. Baraton’s solution is to work with, as opposed to against, nature. Since he began spraying less insecticide, he has noticed that more birds are coming back to the garden to feed on the plump aphids chewing on the chestnut tree leaves. To combat diseases, he is planting a diversity of tree species instead of all the same type. He is frowning on the old royal practice of importing exotic species of plants into the garden and is using mostly native plants.

Through his radio and television shows and in sharing information with the thousands of visitors to the garden each year, Baraton is starting his own French revolution touting the benefits of "green" gardening in this very traditional location.

For more information on the transformation of the Gardens of Versailles, go to: Washington Post.

New Water-Saving Sprinkler System

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With summer droughts hitting many areas and the price of water rising, many homeowners are looking for ways to save water. One of the biggest summer users of water is the automated lawn sprinkler system. Normally these systems are manually operated and don’t take into account the daily weather patterns. For example, it’s not uncommon to see lawn sprinklers turned on during a rainstorm.

Now a new automated lawn sprinkler control system is available that adjusts your sprinklers to the local weather conditions. The Cyber-Rain Wireless Sprinkler Control program analyzes the local weather and seasonal conditions and adjusts your sprinkler system accordingly. It saves time, water, and plant replacement costs by stopping the sprinkler system on rainy days, automatically decreasing the watering schedule on cold or humid days, and increasing it on hot and dry days. Overall, it’s estimated to save 30 to 70 percent on your landscape water bills.

For more information on this new sprinkler control system, go to: Cyber-Rain.

 
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