Garden Talk: December 18, 2008

From NGA Editors

New Fragrant Alstroemeria

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Alstroemeria or Peruvian lily is a common cut flower often used in floral bouquets. It is a versatile perennial that’s hardy in USDA zones 5 to 8. The orchid-like flowers come in a variety of colors including yellow, pink, red, and lavender. However, as beautiful as the flowers are, up until now, none had a fragrance.

‘Sweet Laura’ is the first fragrant alstroemeria available. It features 9 to 12 yellow flowers per stem; flowers have red-orange highlights and a sweet scent. The plant stands 2 to 3 feet tall and blooms in mid-summer. In cool areas it grows best in full sun on well drained, humus-rich soil. Although more heat-tolerant than other alstroemeria varieties, give the plants some afternoon shade in hot summer areas.

For more information on this new fragrant alstroemeria, go to: Brent and Becky Bulbs.

High Nitrogen Levels Reduce Health Benefits of Veggies

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Many herbs and spices are known to contain potent antioxidant compounds. However, it’s not always clear how growing conditions affect the levels of antioxidants in plants. Researchers at Southwestern University in Texas wanted to find out the effects fertilization had on antioxidant levels in basil. They tested three varieties of basil (‘Dark Opal’, ‘Genovese’, and ‘Sweet Thai’), applying various amounts of nitrogen fertilizer (0.5 mM to 5.0mM) to the plants during the growing season.

They measured the corresponding levels of antioxidant phenols and found antioxidant levels in basil were two to five times higher in the plants given the lowest amounts of nitrogen compared to the plants with the highest nitrogen doses. In general, the higher the levels of nitrogen added, the lower the antioxidant phenol levels in the basil leaves.

For more information on this research, go to: Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

Love at First Sight Rose Video

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Roses are one of America’s best-loved flowers. Few home gardeners realize the time, energy, and money that go into breeding and growing a variety for market. A new variety takes years of trials and selections before it is introduced to the public.

A new documentary film by the All America Rose Selections, a nonprofit educational organization devoted to roses, highlights this beautiful flower and interviews a sampling of people who love it. This 26-minute DVD includes interviews with breeders, growers, and home gardeners about the rose industry, rose growing, and why they’re so inspired to grow roses. It’s a great gift for the rose lover in your family.

For more information and to purchase this DVD, go to: All America Rose Selections .

Farmers for Hire: New Trend in Urban Gardening

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In hard economic times everyone wants to cut costs. While growing your own food can save money and produce fresh, healthy vegetables in your own yard, it does take time and expertise. People in cities are particularly hard-pressed to grow their own food since few have the skills and land to start a large vegetable garden. However, there is a new solution.

Across the country experienced urban gardeners are offering a service called farmers for hire. For a fee, these urban agricultural entrepreneurs will come into your yard, assess the site for sun, soil, and space, and design, plant, and even maintain a vegetable garden for you. Even in densely settled urban areas, there's room to grow lots of produce. In cities such as San Francisco, California; Portland, Oregon; Seattle, Washington; and Charlotte, North Carolina, professional urban gardeners are offering this service with an overwhelming response. One group charges $800 to $1200 to install the garden then comes back weekly to weed, water, and even harvest the produce for you. All you have to do is eat it!

For more information on this new trend in urban farming, go to: USA Today.

 
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