Garden Talk: February 25, 2010

From NGA Editors

Spooky New Peppers

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Halloween can come early to your garden this year. The Agricultural Research Service of the USDA has developed two new hot pepper cultivars that will add an eerie note to your vegetable or ornamental garden this summer and fall.

‘Lil’ Pumpkin’ is a patented variety with bright orange fruits that look like miniature pumpkins and make a striking contrast to the dusky black foliage. Patent-pending ‘Pepperjack’ sports an eye-catching mix of small orange and black, cone-shaped fruits arrayed against greenish-black leaves. These ornamental beauties have a spicy bite and can be used in the kitchen as well providing a long season of color in your food or flower garden.

Like other peppers, these exciting new ornamental varieties need at least 6 hours of full sun and warm temperatures to thrive. They perform well under many environmental conditions and are an excellent choice for container gardening.

‘Lil’ Pumpkin’ and ‘Pepper Jack’ will be available as potted plants this season from greenhouses and garden centers nationally. The research that developed these new peppers was done at the Genetic Improvement of Fruits and Vegetables Lab (#301) at the ARS.

For more information on these peppers, go to: Agricultural Research Service.

More Garden Darkness

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Black leaves aren’t the only means of bringing a dusky note into your garden. Some plants have flowers of such a deep color as to appear almost black. One such beauty is the Black Lenten Rose (Helleborus x hybridus ‘Onyx Odyssey’), a new release from that purveyor of the unusual, Heronswood Nursery.

With nodding, double blossoms of dark purple-black, these unusual perennials add a unique note to the early springtime garden palette. Even the foliage starts out a dappled purple, changing to green as the season progresses. Low maintenance hellebores are a great choice for the woodland garden, thriving in dappled shade and moist, well-drained, humus-rich soil. They rarely need dividing, are usually not bothered by pests or disease- even deer pass them by.

Hardy in Zones 5-8, ‘Onyx Odyssey’ grows 14” tall and 24” wide and blooms from February through April, depending on your climate.

For more information on ‘Black Onyx’ Lenten Rose, go to: Heronswood Nursery .

Helping Our Native Pollinators

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By now, most of us have heard of the threat to honeybees from colony collapse disorder, a mysterious ailment that can decimate entire hives, and the concern over the impact of this decline on our farm and garden crops. As researchers work to understand what is causing this disorder, we gardeners can do our part to encourage healthy populations of other pollinators.

While the honeybee is an introduced species, there are over 4000 species of native bees that play an important role in pollinating many plants. Often our desire for a neat, tidy garden decreases the habitat that encourages these important natives to nest. The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation has published a collection of fact sheets that tell organic gardeners and farmers how they can minimize gardening practices that harm insect pollinators and give ideas for ways to boost local populations. Included are fact sheets with suggestions for “bee-friendly” plants for different regions of the country, as well as ideas for increasing nesting sites, habitat management, and organic-approved insecticides that minimize risks to pollinators.

For more information, go to: Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.

Ocean, Lake and River Friendly Gardening

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Ever stop to wonder where all the excess fertilizers and pesticides used on lawns and gardens end up? A lot of it makes its way to nearby waterways, causing pollution and algal blooms that deplete oxygen in the water.

The Surfrider Foundation is a non-profit environmental organization dedicated to the protection and enjoyment of the world’s oceans and coastal regions. With over 50,000 members, more than 60 local chapters nationally and affiliates around the world, they work to support the ecological integrity and diversity of the coastal and marine environment.

As part of their mission, they have published Ocean-Friendly Gardens: A How-to Gardening Guide to Help Restore a Healthy Coast and Ocean. This book teaches gardeners how to landscape and plant in ways that reduce the amount of pollution-causing runoff reaching the ocean by practicing what they call Garden CPR- Conservation (using less water, less fertilizer, fewer pesticides), improving landscape Permeability, and Retaining water. Author Douglas Kent is a professional landscaper in California, but his suggestions are widely applicable. Many of the ideas in this valuable resource are helpful to inland gardeners who want to keep their rivers, lakes and streams clean and healthy as well.

For more information or to purchase Ocean Friendly Gardens, go to: Surfrider Foundation.

 
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