Garden Talk: January 28, 2010

From NGA Editors

Two Bright New Echinacea

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Echinacea have become the trendy flower. Every year there seems to be new varieties on the market stretching the imagination of what's possible with this hardy, native perennial. Breeders have created fragrant echinacea like ‘Harvest Moon’ and double flowered versions like ‘Razzmatazz’. Some of these new versions seem very exotic, bordering on odd. However, there are two new varieties that look like the species coneflower, just with improved plant forms and flower colors. These hybrids are hardy to USDA zone 4 and grow best on well-drained soil in full sun. Try them out!

'PowWow Wild Berry' echinacea features a unique flower color, plant size, and branching habit. The plants grow only 2 feet tall -- a foot shorter than the native species. This variety also has a strong branching habit so it produces more flowers over a longer season. The deep rose-colored flowers are vibrant and clear, making a strong statement in any perennial border. 'Flame Thrower' echinacea (in photo) grows 3 feet tall and 40 inches wide. It's well branched and blooms from mid-summer until frost. The most striking feature is the flower color. The bright orange, 3- to 4-inch diameter flowers have rose- and red-colored tints at the flower bases, giving this perennial a glow when blooming.

For more information on ‘PowWow Wild Berry’ echinacea, go to: All American Selections.

For more information on ‘Flame Thrower’ echinacea, go to: Wayside Gardens.

The New Revised Pruning Book

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Pruning is one of the most essential and intimidating tasks a gardener can do. The best way to learn pruning is to have someone walk you through it step by step for each plant. That may not be possible for every gardener, so finding other resources is important.

While there are many gardening Web sites available on pruning, a well designed and illustrated book is still one of the best references. The Pruning Book, 2nd Edition (Taunton Press, 2010) by Dr. Lee Reich, is a revised version of his 1997 original. It covers not only the basics of good pruning practices, but also includes the proper pruning techniques for hundreds of plants. Some of the common and uncommon plants covered include, lilac, wisteria, tomato, houseplant, bougainvillea, hibiscus, apple, maple, and chrysanthemum. Beside the essential chapters on pruning trees, shrubs, hedges, fruits, nuts, and herbaceous plants, Reich includes chapters on special pruning techniques such as bonsai, pollarding, pleaching, and espalier. With more than 350 photos, illustrations, and detailed descriptions, this book covers almost any plant you’ve ever thought of pruning.

For more information on The Pruning Book, 2nd Edition, go to: Lee Reich.

New Colorful Crape Myrtle

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Crape myrtles are considered the lilacs of the South. These beautiful, small trees feature attractive, lilac-shaped flowers that bloom from mid-summer until frost as well as exfoliating bark for winter interest. Carl Whitcomb of Stillwater, Oklahoma, is a former horticultural professor and has been breeding crape myrtles for years. One of his latest introductions adds unusual foliage color to the list of attractions.

‘Rhapsody in Pink’ crape myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica) features dark crimson new foliage and stems for a few weeks in spring. These eventually fade to dark green by midsummer. The pink flowers contrast nicely with the new foliage and stems. Because the flowers are sterile, they bloom continuously from July until frost. The small tree is hardy in USDA zones 7 to 9, powdery mildew resistant, and drought tolerant. It grows 10 to 15 feet tall when mature. Fertilize in spring to promote new growth.

For more information on this new crape myrtle and others that Carl Whitcomb has bred, go to: Lacebark Horticulture Research .

Smaller Lawns for Some Cities

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Parts of California have been in drought for the past three years and the lack of water is starting to cause lawmakers to take extreme measures. One of the biggest sources of water usage is the home lawn. It’s estimated more than half of the water local residents use gets applied to their lawns. To curb home owners’ enthusiasm for their greensward, several communities in the San Francisco Bay area are changing laws to limit the size of the home lawn in new construction projects. Towns such as Menlo Park and San Jose are proposing laws that would limit the lawn size to ¼ of the total property size or 500 square feet, whichever is larger.

Government officials claim these drastic measures are needed because the region may be running out of water by 2015. The proposed laws call for the remaining landscape to include drought-tolerant and native trees and shrubs surrounded with a 2-inch-thick layer of mulch.

For more information on these new efforts to curb home lawn size, go to: Silicon Valley Mercury News.

 
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