Garden Talk: January 1, 2009

From NGA Editors

Award-Winning Squash and Viola

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The All America Selections (AAS) committee has been awarding new, high-performing vegetables and annual flowers their prestigious award for more than 75 years. These varieties are trialed across the country and have unique characteristics such as color, shape, disease resistance, and yield that make them a step above similar, established varieties.

The two winners for 2009 are a new squash and a new pansy, both of which are perfect for modern gardeners. Winter squash has the reputation of being a space hog with its sprawling vines. This makes it a challenge to grow in small-space and container gardeners. Now ‘Honey Bear’ hybrid acorn squash provides the high-quality fruits of other acorn squash varieties, but with only 4- to 5-foot-wide plants. The dwarf plants are powdery mildew-tolerant and produce three to five one-pound fruits per plant.

Violas are easy to grow, cool-season flowers. They often self-sow in cold areas and overwinter in moderate winter climates. ‘Rain Blue and Purple’ viola produces 10- to 14-inch-tall trailing plants that blossom in fall and winter in warm areas, and spring and summer in cool areas. The most remarkable trait of this hybrid is that the flower color changes from purple and white to purple and blue as the flowers mature. Different-aged flowers are on plants at the same time, making this a tri-colored variety.

For more information on these AAS winning varieties, go to: All America Selections.

Bag That Compost

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Composting has many benefits, including enlivening soil, reducing food waste, and reducing the amount of organic matter going to the local landfills. However, many gardeners find composting a messy, back-breaking process. Even with compost bins and tumblers, filling, turning, and emptying those composters can take work. Now a new product makes composting a little more portable and easier.

The Compost Comfort Bag is a UV-stabilized, polyethylene bag that is durable, reusable, and lightweight. Just fill the bags and stack them free-form in a pile or place them in a compost bin or tumbler. The bags have holes for air flow and watering to aid in the decomposition of the raw materials. Instead of moving the compost to turn it, simply flip the bag. When the compost is finished, open the bag and pour it into a garden cart to distribute or directly on the garden. Even if you have a composting system that you love, these bags can be used to store raw materials to be added into the compost pile later. The bags come in two sizes (9 and 18 gallons) and should last for years.

For more information on the Compost Comfort Bags, go to: Compost Comfort .

New Gold-Red Lenten Rose

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Hellebores or lenten roses are one of the first perennials to flower in spring. These shade-lovers make an excellent groundcover under large deciduous trees and grow well in moist soil, too.

There are many varieties of hellebores available in many colors, and now there's a new one that features beautiful golden and red flowers. ‘Golden Sunrise’ features brilliant canary-yellow flowers with red veining and edging. ‘Golden Sunrise’ is a mixed strain so each plant has a variation of yellow and red flowers. While the 2- to 3-inch-diameter flowers are downward facing, the red coloration shows through the backs of the flowers, providing a colorful spark when viewed from above. Like all hellebores, ‘Golden Sunrise’ grows best in woodland areas, spreads readily, and can flower for up to 6 weeks. It’s hardy in USDA zones 4 to 9.

For more information on this new hellebore, go to: Garden Crossings.

Food Pairings: Making a Good Match

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When making a meal from scratch, it’s often frustrating to be missing a few ingredients. Another frustration is wondering what dish will compliment a favorite vegetable or other food. If you’re interested in trying different combinations of foods at dinner, take a look at this food pairing website.

The creators of Food Pairings looked at University and private company research to identify the component flavors of many vegetables, herbs, and fruits. It also has listings for meats, cereals, dairy, sweets, and beverages. On the Web site you can highlight the food you’re preparing to look for a good pairing match or find what food can replace it to provide the same flavor. Each food has a tree that lists what food fits well and what food replaces it. It’s a fascinating way to experiment in the kitchen to create new and unique food combinations.

To visit the website, go to: Food Pairings.

 
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