Garden Talk: January 13, 2011

From NGA Editors

Blanket the Garden with Color

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When it comes to a long bloom period in the perennial garden, few plants can top blanket flowers. Their bright, daisy-like flowers just keep coming and coming. All they ask for is plenty of sunshine and well-drained soil; in return, they provide months of low-maintenance color in reds, oranges and yellows.

Now a unique apricot and yellow variety is available to add a cheery note of soft color to garden beds and borders. Gaillardia x grandiflora 'Arizona Apricot,' bred by Ernst Benary of America, Inc., has been chosen as an All-America Selections Flower Award winner for its early bloom and distinctive coloring. The petals of the 3 to 3 1/2 inch flowers are bright yellow at their outer edges, shading to rich apricot at the center. This coloration, lighter than that of many other blanket flowers, combines well with both hot and cool hues in the flower garden.

Reaching about a foot tall and wide with a tidy, uniform habit, 'Arizona Apricot' makes a great front-of-the-border or edging plant. Deadhead flowers as they fade and this compact bloomer will continue to be covered with masses of flowers that are great for attracting butterflies. Ironclad hardy, from zones 2-10, and drought-tolerant once it's established, it will bloom in 90-105 days from seed.

All-America Selections winners are new garden seed varieties that have been judged to have superior garden performance in impartial trials in North America.

For more information on Gaillardia 'Arizona Apricot' go to: All-America Selections.

Walnut Worries

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First it was chestnut blight and Dutch elm disease, then dogwood anthracnose, the Asian longhorned beetle and the emerald ash borer. It seems as if some new threat to our trees is always on the horizon. Now it's black walnuts that are at risk from thousand cankers disease (TCD).

This disease, also known as walnut decline, is similar to Dutch elm disease in that the fungus that causes infection is spread from tree to tree by the walnut twig beetle. (The Dutch elm fungus is spread by elm bark beetles.) Without both partners in crime, there would be no disease.

As you might expect from its name, thousand cankers disease kills trees as multiple cankers form and coalesce, girdling and killing limbs and eventually the entire tree. The first signs are yellowing of leaves and thinning in the top of the crown of the tree. An infected black walnut will usually succumb within three years of the first symptoms.

TCD was first identified in Colorado in 2003 and has caused widespread death of black walnuts in western parts of the country. Then last summer it was found in Tennessee and is now considered a threat to eastern trees. A number of midwestern and southeastern states have instituted quarantines to try to prevent the spread of TCD.

No cures for this disease have yet been identified; detection and removal of infected trees remains the best control at this point. One way individuals can help limit its spread is to refrain from moving firewood, especially from areas where TCD has been found.

For more information on thousand cankers disease, including a symptom checklist, go to: Tennessee Dept. of Agriculture- Thousand Canker Disease.

Pick Some Pots of Pumpkins

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Want to get a head start on your pumpkin patch this spring? The Natural Gardening Company can help with its potted seedlings available by mail-order. New for 2011 is a unique assortment of pumpkin varieties that will delight you not only with the plants themselves, but with their wonderful names.

The 12-inch tall, 12-16 pound, deep orange fruits of 'Knucklehead' are speckled with as many warty lumps as a witch's nose. The deeply ribbed fruits of 'Speckled Hound' have a distinctive blue-green mottling over an orange background. 'Long Island Cheese,' so named for its resemblance to wheel of cheese, produces squat, 6-10 pound fruits that are great for baking. Ivory white 'Valenciano' is perfect for adding interest to fall displays, and the orange flesh of its 10-18 pound fruits is good for cooking as well. The deep, steel-blue of 'Jarrahdale' sets this pumpkin from New Zealand apart. The 10-inch tall, 12-inch wide, ribbed fruits average 10 pounds and store well. The miniature fruits of 'Jack-Be-Little' are great for fall decorating and their flesh is delicious when cooked.

Well-rooted seedlings are shipped in 2 3/4-inch pots. Most of the above varieties, as well as other interesting varieties like 'Rouge Vif d' Etampes,' the French "Cinderella" pumpkin, are also available as seeds. All seedlings are organically grown, as are many of the seed offerings.

For more information on these pumpkin varieties, or to request a free catalog, go to: The Natural Gardening Company.

One Sweet Sweet Pea

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Sweet peas are long-time garden favorites for their beautiful, fragrant blossoms. Old fashioned varieties of these annuals are tall climbers, needing a bamboo tepee, trellis or other support to scramble up. Newer dwarf "bush" varieties have been bred that extend the pleasures of growing these lovely flowers to smaller spaces, containers and hanging baskets.

One such compact variety is the brightly-colored, single-flowered 'Villa Roma Scarlet,' the first sweet pea to win the coveted Fleuroselect Gold Medal for 2011. Growing about a foot tall and wide, this cultivar of Lathyrus odoratus is covered with bright scarlet blossoms from July through September. Its eye-catching color makes it a striking addition to container plantings and exceptional spilling out of a hanging basket. When planted directly in the garden, it needs no support.

Seeds can be started early indoors or planted directly in the garden in April or May. Soak the seeds in water for 24 hours before planting to speed up germination. Select a sunny spot and enjoy the excellent garden performance of this exciting new variety all summer long.

Fleuroselect is an international organization for the ornamental flower industry. This year they are celebrating the 40th anniversary of their Gold Medal Award, given to the best innovative, new varieties after impartial, international evaluation.

For more information about 'Villa Roma Scarlet' sweet pea and other Fleuroselect Gold Medal winners, go to Fleuroselect.

 
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