Garden Talk: April 8, 2010

From NGA Editors

Hosta of the Year

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Hostas are the backbone of the shade garden. Easy to grow and generally trouble-free, they are available in a myriad of sizes and leaf shapes, colors and variegation patterns. In fact, the biggest problem with them is that, once you get bitten by the hosta bug, you’re liable to want every one- and there are thousands!

Fortunately, the American Hosta Growers Association helps gardeners choose from among so many intriguing cultivars by selecting a Hosta of the Year, one that has outstanding merit, is distinctive, grows well in all the zones to which it is adapted and is readily available in the nursery trade.

Their 2010 selection is ‘First Frost’. This beauty has intense blue-green leaves that are 7 inches long and 5 inches wide on a plant that grows 16 inches tall and up to 36 inches wide at maturity. When the leaves first emerge, they are bordered with yellow; later the leaf margins turn pure white. In August, pale purple flowers sway above the foliage on 22 inch scapes. Hardy in Zones 3-8, this hosta would look delightful fronting rhododendrons or combined with the contrasting texture of gold Hakone grass.

For more information on Hosta ‘First Frost’ and a list of all the Hosta of the Year winners since 1996, go to: American Hosta Growers Association.

Old Time Tomatoes

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Gardeners grow heirloom tomatoes for a variety of reasons- for their delicious flavor, unique appearance, to maintain strains of genetic diversity. But even if these other reasons didn’t apply, many are worth growing for their names alone.

Wouldn’t you like to have ‘Monomakh’s Hat’ out in your garden, just so you could say the name? This is one of a number of new heritage tomato varieties offered this year by Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. From Siberia, it sets large, raspberry-colored fruits with a delicious, honey-like sweetness. And the hat? It’s named for the diamond-studded coronation crown worn by Russian tsars.

The pleated outline of the large, pink fruits of ‘Pink Accordian’ tomatoes will make some truly uniquely-shaped slices, to complement their sweet, mild flavor. These tomatoes are semi-hollow, which makes them great for stuffing.

There is an old Russian saying, “Eat bread and salt and speak the truth.” Perhaps you can serve ‘Bread and Salt’ tomatoes along side. Named for the Russian tradition of serving bread and salt to guests as they arrive, these big, sweet tomatoes are slightly wedge-shaped and pink in color. And that’s the truth!

For more information on these and other heirloom tomato varieties, go to: Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds .

Welcome to Munchkin Land

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Oak-leaf hydrangeas (Hydrangea quercifolia) are wonderful landscape plants. Their large, lobed leaves add textural interest to the garden in summer and change to gorgeous shades of burgundy and purple in the fall. The 8 to14-inch, conical flower panicles open white, gradually shading to pink and, in spite of their size, have a graceful delicacy. This shrub even adds to the garden in winter, with older stems sheathed in attractive, reddish-brown, peeling bark. But most of the available cultivars make fairly large plants, often 5 to 6 feet tall and wide or more.

Now space-challenged gardeners who haven’t had room for this landscape gem are in luck. As part of its shrub breeding program, the U.S. National Arboretum has just released a new, dwarf oak-leaf hydrangea named, appropriately enough, ‘Munchkin’. Hardy in Zones 5-8, ‘Munchkin’ forms a dense, compact plant that matures to about 3 feet tall and 4 ½ feet wide. In early summer it produces abundant, 6 1/2 –inch long, white flowers that turn a lovely, medium pink as they age. Like its larger cousins, its leaves turn a stunning mahogany-red in fall. Its restrained size makes it ideally suited for use in small residential landscapes, as a foundation plant or a low hedge, or in a shrub border.

For more information on the ‘Munchkin’ hydrangea, go to: Munchkin hydrangea .

Lawn Care Made Easier

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If you’ve ever struggled to move downspout extensions and splash blocks before you mow- and then had put them back once you were done- you’ll probably appreciate a new product from Landscape Timesavers called Channel Guard.

Made of sections of extruded plastic that can be locked together, Channel Guard is recessed into the ground and can be filled with gravel to form a ground-level path for water dispersal from down spouts. It can also be placed underneath fences or along the edges of buildings to make a weed-free area in these hard-to-mow spaces. You’ll spend less time with the string trimmer and mower and have time for more interesting garden activities.

Channel Guard is available in 4 and 6 foot lengths that can be interlocked to make a channel of any length needed.

For more information on Channel Guard, go to: Channel Guard.
 
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