Garden Talk: February 26, 2009

From NGA Editors

New Purple Ornamental Pepper

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Ornamental/edible hot peppers have become all the rage in the gardening world in recent years. There are numerous varieties available that combine the heat and spice of hot peppers with attractive foliage, stem, flower, and fruit colors. While there are a number of varieties with purple or black foliage on the market, here's a new variety that features tri-colored leaves.

'Purple Flash Hybrid' features mostly black leaves and stems. However, the new growth has splashes of white and light purple. Combined with the purple-turning-to-red fruits, this variety is an eye-catcher in any garden. The dwarf plants only grow 1 foot tall and wide. Plant 'Purple Flash' in a bed located close to a walkway and house or in a container on a deck for easiest viewing and picking.

For more information on 'Purple Flash Hybrid' go to: Tomato Growers Supply Company.

Which Fruits Have the Most Antioxidants?

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Every few months it seems there's another news story touting a specific fruit as having high levels of antioxidants. Antioxidants are compounds that have been associated with the prevention of cancer and other illnesses. It's difficult to know from these stories how much antioxidant activity these fruits really have, especially in comparison to each other.

Researchers at Cornell University in New York set out to compare the cellular antioxidant activity levels in 25 commonly consumed fruits in America. They found that pomegranates, wild blueberries, and blackberries had the highest levels. These levels were 30 to 40 times higher than fruits such as melons and watermelons.

Other fruits rated high in antioxidant activity listed from highest to lowest are cultivated blueberries, plums, raspberries, strawberries, red grapes, apples, cherries, and pears. Lemons, bananas, and avocados, along with melons, were at the bottom of the barrel.

So, if antioxidants are your goal, eat exotics, such as pomegranites and wild blueberries. For more information on this research, go to: Journal of Agricultural Chemistry.

Best Bellflowers

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Bellflowers (Campanula) are widely adapted, hardy flowers that include more than 300 different annual, biennial, and perennial species. The Chicago Botanic Garden evaluated 89 different perennial types of bellflowers from 1998 to 2006 to determine the best species for growing in their USDA zone 5 Chicago climate.

They collected data on bloom period, flower color and size, habit, height and width, disease and pest problems, and winter survivability. Sixteen species of bellflowers were grown. The performance of a species and its cultivars was often comparable. If a species did well, most of the cultivars in that species also performed well.

While 31 bellflowers received high (4-star) ratings, one stood out among the rest. Campanula 'Sarastro' received the highest rating possible (5 stars). It produced large numbers of violet/blue tubular flowers from early June to August. The overall best species for vigor, floriferousness, and hardiness were Campanula glomerata, C. poscharskyana, C. punctata, C. rotundifolia, and C. takesimana. All the cultivars of these 4-star rated bellflowers also performed well.

For more information on this bellflower trial, go to: Chicago Botanic Garden Plant Evaluation Notes.

Compostable Kitchen Bags

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Composting is a great way to produce healthy organic matter for the garden and reduce the amount of food scraps and yard waste going to landfills. Many gardeners accumulate kitchen scraps to throw into a compost pile. However, there hasn't been an easy, odor-free, and clean way to accumulate the vegetable and fruit scraps in the kitchen before you can make your trip to the compost pile. Now a new biodegradable bag can help.

Biobags are made from corn starch and vegetable oils. Unlike regular plastic bags, Biobags breakdown into organic materials within 45 days of being put in the compost pile. In Biobags the kitchen scraps stay odor-free until you're ready to dump the whole bag into the compost pile. You can even put the Biobag inside your kitchen scrap storage bucket to take the mess out of storing the scraps.

For more information on Biobags, go to: Biobag.

 
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