Garden Talk: February 12, 2009

From NGA Editors

Red-Flowering Rudbeckia

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Rudbeckia, or black-eyed Susans, are native American wildflowers that have recently gone through a breeding revolution. There are many new selections of this tough, easy-to-grow perennial that feature different flower colors and sizes. The latest in the rudbeckia revival is a variety that features red flowers.

Cherry Brandy rudbeckia (Rudbeckia hirta 'Cherry Brandy') grows 2 feet tall and wide and has 3- to 4-inch diameter, cherry-red blooms that form in early summer and flower until frost. The plant is heat- and drought-tolerant and adapts to most soil conditions. It makes a great addition to a perennial border and also grows well in containers.

For more information on Cherry Brandy rudbeckia, go to: Thompson & Morgan Seeds .

Online Tool Helps Calculate Carbon Sequestration of Trees

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Much of the talk about reducing the effects of global warming has revolved around the amount of carbon dioxide that gets emitted into the atmosphere. One way to reduce CO2 emissions to plant more trees. Trees sequester, or store, carbon in their branches, leaves, roots, and trunks, reducing the amount that can contribute to the earth's warming. But a question that often arises is, "Which trees should I plant for the best carbon sequestration?"

Now researchers at U.S Forest Service Climate Change Resource Center are offering an online tool to help homeowners determine the amount of carbon sequestered in specific trees. They measured the size and growth of 5000 trees in six California growing zones to create the tool. To use the calculator simply enter the tree's climate zone, species, size, and age and the spreadsheet will calculate the amount of carbon dioxide stored in the tree this past year and for its lifetime. The tool can also determine energy savings from growing trees to shade buildings in summer or allow sun to warm buildings in winter. Although presently only applicable to California, in 2009 data for other tree species in climate regions across the U.S. will be added.

For more information on the tree carbon calculator, go to: U.S. Forest Service Climate Change Resource Center.

Plants Help People in Hospitals Heal Faster

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All gardeners know that plants -- and flowers in particular -- can bring a smile to someone's face. But can flowers be used to help people recover from illnesses? Researchers at Kansas State University conducted a study where they tested whether having flowers and plants in a hospital room sped patients' recovery from surgery. They selected 90 patients that had appendectomies and randomly assigned half the patients to rooms with plants and flowers and half to similar rooms without plants. Researchers monitored the length of hospital stay, administration of drugs for pain control, vital signs, distress, and anxiety.

They found the patients in rooms with plants and flowers had significantly fewer intakes of pain medication, more positive physiological responses (lower blood pressure and heart rate), less pain, anxiety, and fatigue, better overall positive attitude, and higher satisfaction with their recovery rooms. Plus, patients in these rooms began interacting with the plants; watering and moving them for better light. They deemed the plants the most pleasant aspect of their room; patients in rooms with no plants deemed watching television the best aspect.

For more information on this study, go to: HortScience .

New Sweet Corn with Purple Cob

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Nothing is more rewarding than munching on sweet corn harvested fresh from your garden. There are lots of sweet corn types available, from old heirlooms to supersweet varieties. Recently breeders have been crossing old and new varieties to come up with some interesting combinations. One of the latest is 'Martian Jewels'.

'Martian Jewels' is a cross between flour, normal sugary, and sugar-enhanced varieties. It has sweet, creamy white kernels that mature on 6 foot tall stalks 80 days after seeding. The unique characteristic about this variety is that the cob is purple. Imagine munching into this variety and finding a purple-colored ear. It makes a beautiful display contrasting with the white kernels.

For more information on 'Martian Jewels' sweet corn, go to: Seeds of Change .

 
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