Garden Talk: May 5, 2011

From NGA Editors

Delightful Daisies

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Many of the plants we use as annuals in our summer gardens are not botanically true annuals. Instead they are tender perennials, plants that in warm enough climates would return year after year. Fortunately, many of these put on a great show in the space of one growing season, so those of us who garden in areas of the country with winter temperatures too low to overwinter them outdoors can still enjoy the colorful flowers and foliage they provide.

One such tender perennial grown as an annual is the marguerite daisy. Originally grown mainly for the cut flower market in the early part of this century, renewed interest and breeding work have now made this a great choice for the flower garden and container plantings. Most of the plants offered now are hybrids of the tongue-twistingly named Argyranthemum frutescens, propagated from cuttings.

New this year from Ecke Ranch is 'Flutterby™ Yellow'. Growing 10-12 inches tall, with an attractive, upright, mounding habit, it is covered from late spring to frost with large (2 1/2 to 3 inch) daisies. It tolerates cool weather and continues to form new flowers through the heat of summer. It does well in full to part sun, with regular watering. And true to its name, butterflies are attracted to its colorful blooms.

The soft yellow color of the flowers mixes easily with many other hues in the garden. Try combining this daisy with the deep violet-blue of mealycup sage for a vivid contrast or make a monochromatic picture by combining it with pale yellow calibrachoa or petunias.

For more information on 'Flutterby™ Yellow' marguerite daisy, go to: National Garden Bureau.

2011 Urban Tree of the Year

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If you are looking for a medium-size tree that not only has eye-catching blossoms, but it tough and adaptable as well, you might want to consider the choice of the Society of Municipal Arborists as its 2011 Urban Tree of the Year. The attributes that make golden raintree (Koelreuteria paniculata) a good choice to withstand the rigors of street-side planting also make it an attractive, low maintenance addition to many home landscapes.

Unlike many flowering trees that bloom in spring, midsummer is when the golden raintree displays its bright yellow flowers in large (18 inch), drooping, conical panicles. The large, bi-pinnately compound leaves let light filter through, making it easier to grow grass or gardens under this tree's canopy than that of trees with a denser crown, and they change to golden-yellow in the fall. Additional seasonal interest is provided by the large, yellow-green, lantern-shaped fruit capsules in autumn.

Hardy in zones 4-8, it most commonly matures to about 20-25 feet tall (although it is known to grow as tall as 30 to 40 feet). It is tolerant of heat, drought, urban pollution, and wind; has few pest or disease problems; is adaptable to many soils; and usually requires little pruning. Its main drawback is the litter created when the fruit capsules drop and a tendency to self-sow, so it may not be the best choice near a patio or walkway.

For more about golden raintree, go to: Society of Municipal Arborists.

Basket of Fire

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Want some red-hot hanging baskets this summer? Try 'Basket of Fire', the first ornamental pepper that has been bred especially for hanging baskets. Growing about 10 inches tall and 14-18 inches wide, this pepper develops cascading lower branches as well as continuing to fill in with new growth at the top, making it perfect for hanging baskets and other containers.

Bred by Floranova, Ltd., this new variety produces a profusion of 2 inch long, 1/4 ounce, conical, tapered fruits -- often more than 300 peppers per plant! The peppers change from cream to orange and finally to red at maturity in a colorful show and the small leaves allow the brightly-hued fruits to take center stage. You can use these spicy hot peppers in the kitchen as well.

Like all peppers, 'Basket of Fire' needs full sun and warm temperatures to thrive. It sets fruits in ninety days from transplanting.

For more information on 'Basket of Fire' pepper, go to: National Garden Bureau.

Lawn Pesticide Facts and Figures

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America's love affair with the lawn accounts for much of the pesticide exposure we and our children and pets receive to in our home environments. According to Beyond Pesticides, a national coalition against the misuse of pesticides, herbicides or weed killers account for the highest percentage of use in landscapes and gardens. Collectively Americans put down more than 90 million pounds of herbicides on their lawns and gardens each year, and suburban lawns and gardens are blanketed with more pounds per acre of pesticides on average than agricultural land. And of course, pesticides used in food and ornamental gardens can be hazardous as well, both in the environment and as residues on food.

Consider these other facts compiled by Beyond Pesticides in their Lawn Pesticide Facts and Figures Factsheet. Many commonly used lawn pesticides are probable or possible carcinogens and have been linked to liver and kidney damage, childhood asthma, and disruption of the endocrine system. Children are most at risk; one study showed that home and garden pesticide use can increase the risk of childhood leukemia almost seven times. Dogs exposed to herbicide-treated lawns and gardens have double the risk of lymphoma. Birds, aquatic life, and bees are harmed by many commonly used lawn pesticides.

And it's not just the "active ingredients" in pesticides and herbicides that are cause for concern. The composition of the "inert ingredients" that form the bulk of the product don't need to be disclosed on the label, but are often quite toxic, sometimes even more so than the active ingredient.

To read more about the dangers that lawn and garden pesticides and herbicides can pose to people, pets, and the environment, go to Beyond Pesticides.

 
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