Garden Talk: September 11, 2008

From NGA Editors

New Multicolored Bee Balm

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Bee balm (Monarda didyma) is known as a widely adapted perennial flower that features red, white, or lavender flowers that butterflies and hummingbirds love. A new selection from England adds a unique, two-toned flower color to the choices.

‘Beauty of Cobham’ bee balm (Monarda didyma) has multi-tiered pink flowers that contrast beautifully with its purple bracts and purple-tinged foliage. This Royal Horticultural Society award winner grows 2 to 3 feet tall and is hardy in USDA zones 4 to 9.

For more information on ‘Beauty of Cobham’ bee balm, go to: Dutch Gardens.

Incredible New Hydrangea

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From the world of plant blogs comes word of a new, improved version of the popular ‘Annabelle’ hydrangea. ‘Annabelle’ is a midsummer-blooming Hydrangea arborescens selection that blooms on new wood each year. The flowers are large, white balls, and the only problem is the plant stems are not sturdy enough to support the flowers during a heavy rain. The flowers often flop to the ground and make the plant look unsightly.

A new selection of Hydrangea arborescens is expected to be available next spring through Proven Winners that has sturdier stems and more flowers. ‘Incrediball’ hydrangea promises to be as easy to grow and as hardy (USDA zone 3) as ‘Annabelle’, but it features four times as many flowers and the flowers are larger. Fortunately, the stems are strong enough to hold up the big flowers even during a rainstorm.

For more information about ‘Incrediball’ hydrangea, go to: Tim Woods Plant Blog.

New Squirrel-Proof Bird Feeder

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Come fall, many gardeners restock the bird feeders to attract a variety of feathered friends to their yards for winter. One of the worst problems with many bird feeders is squirrels stealing the feed. While there are many "squirrel-proof" bird feeders on the market, a new one claims a 100 percent success rate and comes with a guarantee.

The Squirrel Stopper bird feeder features a unique baffle system that won’t allow squirrels to climb the support pole to the feeder. The baffle moves side to side and up and down on three springs. The baffle surface is slippery and shaped like an inverted cone to make it hard for these critters to grab hold. If they do manage to get on the pole, the baffle drops down and shakes them off.

The Squirrel Stopper bird feeder is easy to install and doesn’t necessitate extra tools. Of course, this system requires that you place the bird feeder away from trees, buildings, and other structures that squirrels could use to jump onto the feeder from above.

For more information on the Squirrel Stopper bird feeder, go to: Liberty Products.

Earthworms Spread Weed Seed

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Giant ragweed (Ambrosia trifida) is one of the main contributors to the hay fever that causes distress to millions of gardeners this time of year. While giant ragweed is quite capable of spreading through gardens and fields on its own, it’s also getting help from one of a gardener’s best friends: the earthworm.

Weed ecologists at Ohio State University have found that earthworms are moving seeds of giant ragweed around in the soil, effectively spreading this weed wherever they go. More than two-thirds of all giant ragweed seedlings studied emerged from earthworm burrows. Researchers began investigating this phenomenon because giant ragweed produces few seeds, yet it's readily spreading in gardens and agricultural fields.

While earthworms also collect seed from other plants, such as sunflowers, giant ragweed is a preferred plant. Earthworms forage for seeds and bring them into their burrows, often located only a few inches below the soil surface -- a perfect place for weed seeds to germinate.

For more information on earthworms as weed farmers, go to: Weed Science Society of America.

 
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