Garden Talk: December 17, 2009

From NGA Editors

New Award-Winning Snapdragon

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Annual snapdragons love cool weather and look great in beds, borders, and containers. The classic snapdragon varieties have colorful, jointed flowers that “talk” when squeezed (they open and close like a mouth moving). It’s a fun trick to do with your kids. For 2010, plant breeders have taken the original snapdragon to a new level.

Next spring you’ll see a new snapdragon variety that’s won the All-America Selections Award (AAS). Twinny’ Peach’ hybrid snapdragon grows just a foot tall and features peach-colored double flowers with a butterfly shape. (Unfortunately for the kids, the flowers aren’t jointed so it can’t “talk.”) Twinny’ Peach’ is one of the first dwarf, double-flowered snapdragons on the market.

For more information about ‘Twinny Peach’ snapdragon, go to: All-America Selections

Shrub Dogwood Trial at Longwood Gardens

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Shrub dogwoods (Cornus species) have become very popular in recent years for their low maintenance and attractive, four-season appeal. Popular in commercial and residential landscapes, many varieties have beautiful spring flowers, attractive summer foliage with good autumn color, and brightly colored winter bark. Longwood Gardens, in Pennsylvania, conducted a five-year variety trial to determine which dogwood species and varieties performed the best. Thirty-three shrubs were grown in full sun in a seven-acre area at these USDA zone 6 gardens and evaluated by the horticultural staff. Little maintenance was done to the plants other than mulching, occasional watering, and pruning each shrub back to a height of 12 inches each spring.

Of the naturally occurring species, Cornus sericea coloradensi was the highest rated for its rounded form, long bloom time, and rose-colored stems. C. racemosa scored second highest for its dense growth and bright foliage and fruits.

Of the varieties developed by plant breeders, variegated-leaved C. alba ‘Argenteomarginata’ scored highest for its disease resistance, good flowering habit, and attractive winter bark color. C. alba ‘Bud’s Yellow’, C. alba ‘Flaviramea’, and C. alba ‘Midwinter Fire’ were the highest rated yellow-twigged dogwoods. C. alba ‘Siberica’ and C. seriacea ‘Baileyi’ were the highest rated red-twigged varieties.

For more information on this trial, go to: Longwood Gardens

Pesticide Residue in Produce from Around the World

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Many gardeners have turned to growing their own vegetables and fruits and buying organic foods to avoid excessive pesticide residues on their foods. The produce in our supermarkets now comes from countries around the world with varying levels of pesticide regulations. To determine the pesticide residue levels for common produce, researchers at the Hungarian Food Safety Office tested thousands of fruit and vegetable samples from countries in East Asia, South America, and Europe for pesticide residues.

Thirteen different vegetables and fruits were tested for 25 commonly used pesticides. Alarmingly, none of the vegetable and fruits tested had pesticide residue levels at or below the European Union generally accepted maximum level (0.01 milligram per kilogram). For example, Hungarian grapes had 3.4 mg/kg of folpet (a fungicide that’s no longer sold in the U.S.) and Polish cherries had 1.2 mg/kg of captan (a fungicide). Malaysian mangoes had 1.0 mg/kg of chlorpyrifos (a broad-spectrum insecticide) and Malaysian kale had 5.7 mg/kg of chlorpyrifos. It’s again clear that growing your own and buying local is a much healthier way to go. If you have to purchase produce from around the world, try to find certified organic fruits and vegetables.

For more information on this study, go to: Journal of Environmental Science and Health .

New Housefly Trap

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There is nothing worse than having houseflies buzz against your windows in winter. The incessant buzzing sound is enough to drive you mad. Well, maybe they aren’t that bad, but if houseflies are a problem in your home, there’s a new, easy-to-use trap.

The usual way to control houseflies is with a yellow sticky tape trap or a fly swatter. Tape is unsightly to hang in a home and if you squish houseflies against the window with a fly swatter, it leaves a smear. The Window Fly Trap attaches to the window and not only traps the flies but also hides them from your view. The 4- by 7-inch plastic frame mounts inconspicuously with suction cups and holds an opaque, non-toxic card with an adhesive side that faces the glass. Flies crawl inside and stick to the adhesive, remaining out of sight from inside the room. An adhesive-free band at each end of the card lets you easily discard and replace it as needed.

For more information on this unobtrusive, effective housefly trap, go to: Lee Valley Tools.

 
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