Garden Talk: October 7, 2010

From NGA Editors

Combining Bulbs and Perennials

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Bulb planting season is upon us. As you get ready to tuck tulips, daffodils and other spring flowering bulbs into the garden, do you find yourself puzzling over which perennials to combine with these seasonal bloomers? Well, help is at hand. Researchers at Cornell University experimented with all sorts of bulb and herbaceous perennial plant combinations to come up with recommendations for combinations that extend the bloom season, hide fading bulb foliage, display contrasting or complementary foliage texture and provide color echoes to tie plantings together.

They came up with 44 different combinations that include tulips, daffodils, hyacinths and crocuses, as well as a number of minor bulbs such as scillas, dwarf iris, alliums and winter aconites, partnered with perennials from asters to ornamental rhubarb. To make choosing combos even easier, you can select by bulb type or go straight to the list of the 15 top combinations. Photos show the combinations at various stages throughout the season.

Also included on this Cornell Flower Bulb Research Program website is a section with tips and how-to, as well as suggestions for creating bulb/perennial combinations in an existing perennial bed. There is also a resources page with links to bulb-related research and information websites.

For more information on ways to use bulbs in the perennial garden, go to: Bulb and Perennial Combinations.

Gardening for Hard Times

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Gardening can be a way to connect with nature, enjoy delicious produce for much less than you'd pay at the market or experiment with heirloom varieties or the latest cutting-edge hybrids. But becoming a proficient gardener is also a way to increase your self-sufficiency and prepare for the rigors of hard times.

As author Carol Deppe, a long-time gardener with a PhD in biology and decades of experience in plant breeding and sustainable agriculture, explains in her new book, The Resilient Gardener: Food Production and Self-Reliance in Uncertain Times (Chelsea Green Publishing, 2010, $29.95), hard times can come in a variety of ways. Personal hard times may come in the form of drought, special dietary needs, job loss or lack of time. But they can also come as what she calls "mega hard times," the result of man made or natural disasters that cause major disruptions in all aspects of society.

To help weather the personal hard times, Deppes's book is filled with advice on ways to create a garden with the resiliency to withstand periods of minimal care or climatic challenges and still provide a secure source of healthful food. She also shows how gardening can help those dealing with dietary restrictions and allergies.

To prepare for the "mega hard times," she provides advice on growing five crops on a small scale that could enable you to survive and feed yourself and your family, come what may. Potatoes, corn, beans, squash and eggs provide her foundation for a self-sufficient, nutritionally complete food supply. She deals with each of these crops in detail, covering varieties to choose, techniques for growing, harvesting, storing, and cooking, as well as seed saving.

There is also information on nutrition, along with advice on building soil fertility and watering plants in ways that are environmentally responsible and adaptable to regional conditions. Even if you're not yet ready to begin preparing for the possibility of small or large scale disasters, this book contains so much good basic growing information that just about any gardener will find it helpful.

For more information on this book, go to: The Resilient Gardener.

Beetle-Resistant Viburnums

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For years, viburnums were an excellent choice for gardeners in many parts of the U.S. looking for an attractive, trouble-free shrub to add to their landscapes. With showy flowers, ornamental berries and nice fall color to recommend them, various species of viburnums were valuable garden standbys. Then came the viburnum leaf beetle.

Feeding by this voracious Eurasian native, which dines exclusively on viburnums, can result in the death of plants. The beetle was first found in this country in 1994 and since then has gradually expanded its range. It is now found throughout New England and most of New York State, as well as parts of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan. A separate infestation has been found in the Pacific Northwest.

Are gardeners going to have to give up on viburnums? Not if they choose wisely. Researchers at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY have compiled a list that rates viburnum species according to their susceptibility to leaf beetle damage. While gardeners in areas where the beetle has invaded may choose to pass on susceptible species such as arrowwood and American and European cranberry bushes, there are quite a few species that show little damage. Among the least susceptible are Korean spice, Judd, doublefile, leatherleaf, tea, Siebold, dawn and David viburnums.

In an effort to help gardeners deal with the threat this beetle poses, scientists from a number of departments at Cornell University set up a website with information on the life cycle, distribution and controls of this pest, as well as the Viburnum Leaf Beetle Citizen Science Project. Participants in the project monitor their gardens, parks, or school yards throughout the spring and summer, looking for viburnum leaf beetles. They can also look for leaf beetle eggs in winter. If they find the beetle in any stage of its lifecycle, they report via an online form when and where they found the insect.

For more information on the viburnum leaf beetle and a complete list of viburnum species susceptibility ratings, go to: Viburnum Leaf Beetle.

Just the Plant Facts

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Want to see a picture of what might be feeding on your apple trees? Or maybe it's time to winterize your roses- how about a watching a video to learn how? Perhaps you're looking for seasonal gardening tips on perennials, lawns or houseplants.

All this information and more is available at Plant Facts, a website that has merged several digital collections developed at Ohio State University to become an international knowledge bank and multimedia learning center.

The breadth of information accessible from this site is amazing. A search engine links to over 260,000 pages of horticultural information from university and government institutions across the U.S. and Canada. There is a searchable database of images of ornamental plants, fruits and vegetables, turf, and plant diseases and insects; a collection of 200 short how-to videos on a wide range of gardening topics; as well as illustrated answers to over 800 commonly asked gardening questions and a glossary of commonly used horticultural terms.

To access this informative site, go to: Plant Facts.

 
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