Garden Talk: September 24, 2009

From NGA Editors

New Pink Annabelle Hydrangea

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The round white flower heads of the Annabelle mophead hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens) are a favorite of many gardeners. The flowers are produced on new growth in summer and continue to bloom until fall. Now, the color range of the mophead hydrangea has been expanded to include pink.

'Invincebelle Spirit' mophead hydrangea features 6- to 8-inch-diameter, hot pink flower buds that open to a bright pink. The plant begins blooming in early summer and continues intermittently until fall. Since the flowers form on new wood, even if the plant dies backs to the ground in winter, it will flower the next summer. 'Invincibelle Spirit' grows 3 to 4 feet wide and high, is hardy in USDA zones 3 to 9, and grows best in full to part sun on well-drained, fertile soil.

For more on this first pink Annabelle hydrangea, go to: go to: Spring Meadow Nursery

Growing Giant Pumpkins Organically

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Fall is pumpkin time in the U.S. For a particular group of people, fall is all about giant pumpkins -- the enormous fruits that you see at country fairs and on the news. The current world record for giant pumpkins is 1689 pounds. That's one big fruit. If you're interested in growing one of these behemoths, there is a new book available that takes you through the steps, organically. Don Langevin's How-to Grow World Class Giant Pumpkins the All-Organic Way (Annedawn Publishing, 2009) talks about the seed varieties, soil, growing, care, and harvesting of these giants. While much of the cultural information is available in previous books on growing giant pumpkins, Langevin's new book is unique in talking about how to grow them organically.

The book also features a section about the growers themselves. Fourteen profiles of expert giant pumpkin growers gives you a glimpse into their lives, the world of giant pumpkin growing, and their personal tips on how to grow the big ones.

For more on this new giant pumpkin growing book, go to: Giantpumpkin.com .

Houseplants Give Off VOCs, Too

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It is common knowledge that houseplants can help clean the air. Many houseplants remove volatile organic compounds (VOCs) deemed indoor air pollutants, such as toulene and xylene. These VOCs are emitted from a variety of indoor sources such as new carpets, paints, and cleaning agents. However, recent research from the University of Georgia questions the cleaning properties of four common houseplants and suggests they can actually add to indoor pollution levels.

University researchers measured the VOCs emitted by four common houseplants (areca palm, snake plant, weeping fig, and peace lily). They found up to 23 VOCs emitted by each plant. However, it seems the source of the VOCs may not be just the plants themselves. Pesticides used in growing the houseplants, the potting soil, and plastic pots all were major contributors to the off-gases. Houseplants still do more good than harm. Instead of removing houseplants from your room, consider growing them organically, covering the soil with mulch, and using a clay or ceramic pot.

For more information on this research, go to: Treehugger.

New Low Maintenance Lawn Grass Variety

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The Holy Grail for many home owners is a lawn that looks great but needs little maintenance, especially mowing. Well, for homeowners in cool parts of the country, there is a new grass variety that may come close to fulfilling that dream.

Pearl's Premium grass seed is a cool-season mix. The grass species making up this mix grow roots 12 inches deep into the soil, helping keep the grass green during dry periods. The grass grows so slowly that it only needs mowing once a month.

Jackson Madnick of Wayland, Massachusetts, developed the variety. He was looking for a low-maintenance grass variety for his lawn. He didn't like the options available in the retail trade so spent 6 years researching and testing varieties to find his own. He hired three PhD-level lawn scientists to help study and test various grasses, culminating in this fescue-based blend. He claims his variety never needs fertilizing, and because the roots grow so deep into the soil, doesn't need watering once it is established.

For more on this new low maintenance grass blend, go to: Pearl's Premium

 
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