Garden Talk: April 22, 2010

From NGA Editors

Gardening For the Cure

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Smooth leaf hydrangeas (Hydrangea arborescens) are adaptable native shrubs that flourish in many parts of the country. And breeders have given us a host of beautiful cultivars to choose from. 'Annabelle' is a long-time favorite, with its large, rounded, white flower heads borne above wide, dark green leaves in early summer. The new variety Incrediball™, from Proven Winners, is like an 'Annabelle' on steroids- huge flowers held aloft on strong, non-drooping stems.

But if you'd like to do good while adding something delightful to your garden, why not plant Invincibelle™ Spirit, another new variety from Proven Winners. This pink version of 'Annabelle' has dark pink buds that that open to hot pink flowers, maturing to a soft pink, on a three to four foot tall and wide shrub. Like all smooth hydrangeas, it blooms on the new wood and should be cut back to 2-3 feet in early spring to encourage the new growth that will produce abundant flowers.

Proven Winners has pledged to donate $1.00 from the sale of each Invincibelle™ Spirit hydrangea to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, an organization that is dedicated to preventing breast cancer and finding a cure by funding research worldwide. And they encourage you to donate too.

For more information on Invincibelle™ hydrangea , go to: Proven Winners. For more information on the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, visit BCRFcure.

A Dangerous Book

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Be forewarned. The minute you open The Gardener's Color Palette, you can kiss your savings account goodbye. Because once you get a look at the stunning photographs of flowers by Clive Nichols and dip into author Tom Fischer's suggestions for plant combinations, you will want to rush out and buy the flowers for your garden- every single one!

Subtitled Paint Your Garden with 100 Extraordinary Flower Choices, the flower selections detailed by Fischer's graceful prose are organized by color, from blue, orange, red and yellow to such unusual shades as mahoghany, copper, lime, and jade. And the photographs are simply gorgeous.

Some of the more unusual selections of annual, perennials, bulbs and shrubs may send you scouring the Internet, but most are readily available, although no sources are listed for the plants described. Along with suggestions for companion plants, there is information on size, hardiness, bloom time and cultural requirements for each selection.

For more information on The Gardener's Color Palette and other gardening books from Timber Press, go to: Timber Press .

Karmic Justice?

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Anyone who gardens in the eastern U.S. is familiar with the Japanese beetle, that voracious consumer of just about anything green in the garden. It is one of the most destructive pests east of the Mississippi (and continually extending its range), and more than $450 million dollars is spent each year in efforts to control it and to replace plants it has damaged.

So somehow, it just seems fitting that this devourer of leaf and blossom may meet its match in a geranium. Since the 1920s, scientists have noted that when Japanese beetles feed on the flowers of Pelargonium zonale, the cheerful geranium that graces many a garden, within 30 minutes they become paralyzed for about 24 hours. Now Chris Ranger, an entomologist at the Agricultural Research Service Technology Research Unit in Wooster, Ohio, is working to develop a natural, botanic pesticide based on the compounds in the geranium petals that have such a harmful effect on the beetles.

And wouldn't that be beetle karmic justice?

For more information on this and other research that is part of ARS Program 304, Crop Protection and Quarantine, go to: Agricultural Research Service.

A Helenium of a Different Color

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Helenium, also known as sneezeweed, has long been a favorite for adding color to the late season garden. The daisy-like flowers with raised centers bloom in autumnal shades of orange, red, russet and yellow.

Now breeders have developed another color, giving these easy-care perennials an even broader appeal. New from Walters Gardens this spring is Helenium 'Red Jewel'. Tight clusters of small, dusky-red flowers with a hint of blue cover the plant from midsummer to early fall and are attractive to butterflies. Unlike other heleniums, the flowers of 'Red Jewel' keep a consistent color as they age.

Growing 36" tall and 18-24" wide, 'Red Jewel' prefers full sun and does best in consistently moist soil. Hardy in Zones 4-8, this new helenium would make a nice contrast with a purple-foliaged sedum such as 'Xenox'. Or try it with 'Fireworks' goldenrod, whose airy sprays of yellow flowers would pick up the color 'Red Jewel's flower centers.

For more information on Helenium 'Red Jewel', go to: Perennial Resource.

 
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