Garden Talk: June 3, 2010

From NGA Editors

Exploring Private Gardens

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What's more enjoyable than spending a day wandering through the lovingly-tended landscape of a dedicated gardener? Thanks to The Garden Conservancy's Open Days program, now in its fifteenth year, you can indulge your curiosity, get lots of new gardening ideas or simply delight in a stroll in a beautiful setting, all while helping to support the preservation of endangered gardens across the country.

This year over 360 private gardens in 21 states will open their doors- or garden gates- to the public for a day of self-guided touring. From southern Maine to southern California, from Long Island in the east to Bainbridge Island in the west, there are gardens of all sizes and styles waiting to be explored. Although some gardens opened as early as mid-April, there are hundreds still to come with dates running through the end of October.

Admission to each private garden in $5 per person, with children 12 and under admitted free of charge. No reservations are required and the gardens are open rain or shine. A schedule of open gardens with dates, garden descriptions and directions to reach them is available on line or you can purchase an Open Days Directory with information on all the participating gardens, along with a listing of public gardens in each state and information on The Garden Conservancy's preservation projects.

Established in 1989, The Garden Conservancy is dedicated to the long-term stewardship of America's exceptional gardens for the public's education and enjoyment. It helps to provide the horticultural, technical, management and financial expertise need to preserve these fragile treasures and presents seminars, symposia and lectures, along with the Open Days program, to inform professionals and the public about the importance of gardens as part of our cultural heritage.

For more information on the 2010 Open Days program, go to Open Days. For information on the Garden Conservancy, upcoming events, preservation projects and how to join, go to Garden Conservancy.

Let Us Grow Lettuce Well

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Nothing is better at the end of a hot summer day than keeping the stove turned off and tossing together a fresh salad for dinner. But nothing is more frustrating than heading out to the garden to pick the lettuce for that salad and finding it has all bolted in the heat.

That's why research done at Colorado State University on the bolt resistance of various lettuce varieties will be of interest to many home gardeners, not just those who grow lettuce commercially in the heat of the High Plains. Researchers assessed the bolt resistance of 50 different cultivars of six types of lettuces, along with their susceptibility to tip burn and other problems.

'Concept' and 'Envy' were green leaf types that held well. 'New Fire' and 'Red Salad Bowl' were among the red leaf varieties that led the pack. 'Green Forest' green romaine, 'Rouge d'hiver' red romaine and 'Lochness' butter lettuce all performed well, while Batavian type lettuces in general stood out as most resistant to bolting.

And here's interesting note from the June 2010 issue of The Avant Gardener newsletter. Research done by the USDA shows that the early bird gets not only the worm, but the best-tasting lettuce. Lettuce picked at 7 a.m. had almost twice the sugars as that harvested at 2 p.m. So get out of bed and get that lettuce!

To read the entire study, go to: Lettuce Bolting Resistance Project.

New Organic Production Guides

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Cornell University Cooperative Extension and the New York State Integrated Pest Management Program have recently released nine new organic production guides for farmers. These new guides provide information on how to produce certified organic apples, blueberries, grapes, lettuce, potatoes, spinach, strawberries and cole crops, including cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli and Brussels sprouts. These free downloadable guides cover biological, mechanical, and cultural controls for the major insects and diseases affecting these crops and include sections on cover crops, resistant varieties, crop rotation, field selection, soil quality and nutrient management.

While written for commercial organic producers, the guides contain lots of information that organic home gardeners will find useful as well. Many helpful links are listed to additional information on organic farming and gardening, soil building and fact sheets on specific insects and diseases.

To download these organic production guides, go to: Organic Production Guides.

Choose the Best Coneflowers

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Coneflowers (Echinacea spp.) are long-time garden favorites, adding easy-care color to the garden in mid to late summer. Recent efforts by plant breeders have added an array of choices of colors, sizes, flower form and bloom time to this native perennial. To help gardeners select the best from among these new offerings, the Mt. Cuba Center in Delaware evaluated 43 new cultivars and 5 species over a three year period. Their top picks received high ratings for good habit, disease and pest resistance, abundant flowering and winter hardiness. While the research focused on coneflower performance in the mid-Atlantic region, the findings will be helpful to gardeners in other parts of the country as they choose among the many coneflowers now available.

Those that received high marks included Pixie Meadowbrite™ (Echinacea 'CBG Cone 2'), an extremely floriferous tri-species hybrid with a compact growth habit, and the Echinacea purpurea cultivars 'Pica Bella,' 'Elton Knight,' 'Fatal Attraction,' and 'Vintage Wine.' 'Pica Bella' has a sturdy, vase-shaped habit and unique, star-like, pinkish-magenta flowers. 'Elton Knight' is compact, with broad-petaled, brilliant magenta blossoms. 'Fatal Attraction' has an upright, columnar habit and vivid pink flowers borne on deep burgundy to nearly black stems. 'Vintage Wine' has an excellent upright habit, deep pinkish-purple blooms and dark stems. Two other species also made the grade— pale purple coneflower (Echinacea pallida) bearing 3-4" wide flowers with silvery-pink drooping petals, and Tennessee coneflower (Echinacea tennesseenis) with unique cupped petals with notched tips.

The highest rated white coneflower was E. purpurea 'White Angel'; the hybrid 'Sunrise' was the pick for yellow blossoms and 'Tiki Torch' hybrid for orange. Other picks included E. purpurea 'Hope' for light pink flowers; E. 'Twilight' for dwarf habit; E. purpurea 'Coconut Lime' for uniquely-shaped flowers; and E. purpurea 'Sparkler' for variegated foliage.

Mt. Cuba Center is a non-profit horticultural institution in northern Delaware dedicated to the study, conservation and appreciation of plants native to the Appalachian Piedmont region through garden display, education and research. They have also completed evaluations of aster species native to eastern North America and are in the process of evaluating Coreopsis cultivars.

For the complete 2009 coneflower research report, go to Coneflowers for the Mid-Atlantic Region. For information on Mt. Cuba Center and its research, classes, tours and publications, go to Mt. Cuba Center.

 
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