Garden Talk: July 30, 2009

From NGA Editors

New Compact Obedient Plant

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Obedient plant (Physostegia) is a widely adapted perennial flower that is so-named, not for its compact and controllable growth habit, but for the way the flowers can be bent into a desired direction and they will stay that way. In fact, most obedient plants are rampant spreaders. They can quickly become weedy, especially if grown under ideal conditions (full sun, moist soil).

Now there’s a 2010 Fleuroselect, gold medal-winning obedient plant that flowers quickly and can be grown as an annual in a container. The Fleuroselect awards are given to unique flower varieties that have impressed judges in trials in 40 different gardens throughout Europe, America, and Asia. ‘Crystal Peak White’ flowers in the first year and only grows 15 inches tall and 10 inches wide. The plants are self-cleaning, meaning they drop their spent flowers and don’t needing deadheading. Plus, unlike other perennial obedient plants, this variety flowers all summer. It’s perfect for containers or annual flowering beds. Since it’s in the Physostegia family, it’s hardy in USDA zones 2-9.

For more information on this new obedient plant, go to: Fleuroselect.

On-Line Fruit Encyclopedia

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If you’re a fruit nut, here’s a Web site for you. Fruitipedia.com is an on-going encyclopedia of edible fruits of the world that lists almost 300 different fruits from around the world. Developed by Chiranjit Parmar of India, noted for his cultivation of wild fruits in the Himalayan region of India, this website not only describes exotic and common fruits, but also gives photos and growing instructions. From apples to zavelu (a tropical nut favored by African gorillas), Dr. Parmar describes the climate, soils, cultivation, varieties, propagation, and harvesting of a wide range of fruits from temperate to tropical climes. He even offers seeds of some of his Himalayan fruits for sale.

For more information on this website, go to: Fruitipedia.

The Soil Sifter

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Many garden plants love a loose, fertile topsoil for growing. This is especially true of fine-rooted plants. However, unless you’re willing to buy bagged topsoil or compost or have someone screen the soil for you, it’s hard to create such a fine medium. Enter the Soil Sifter. This simple device was designed and created by a gardener who got tired of working his rocky soil. It’s a screen made from ¼-inch hardware cloth that is attached to an unfinished wooden frame. The frame is constructed so it fits snugly over a standard 37” by 28” wheelbarrow bed. Just dig your bed, placing shovelfuls of soil on the screen, move the soil around with your hands to screen the topsoil into the wheelbarrow, and dump the remaining rocks, sticks, and large soil clods. The finished product in the wheelbarrow is loose, sifted top soil.

The soil sifter comes in a mini-version (20” by 20”) and can be ordered with larger diameter screen holes (1/2 inch) is so desired. For more information on this simple and effect tool, go to: Soil Sifter

Keeping Kudzu Under Control

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It’s considered the scourge of the South. Kudzu is a perennial, vining weed that has taken over thousands of acres of land in the Southeast. It spreads at a rate of 150,000 acres a year and, with global warming, its range seems to be moving north. This rampant grower engulfs plants as it climbs and spreads and eventually kills them. Continual hand pulling, mowing, herbicides, or letting goats lose in a kudzu patch barely slow down its spread.

However, recent research at the Southern Weed Science Research Unit in Stoneville, Mississippi has found a naturally-occurring fungus that loves to attack kudzu. The fungus, Myrothecium verrucaria, works quickly. Kudzu plants sprayed in the morning with an herbicide based on this fungus showed signs of damage by the afternoon. In outdoor experiments this fungus killed 100 percent of the kudzu seedlings and 90 percent of the adult plants without adversely affecting many native plant species such as oak, cedar, pine, hickory, pecan, sassafras, and blackberry.

For more information on this promising new biological herbicide, go to: USDA Agricultural Research Service

 
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