Garden Talk: June 30, 2011

From NGA Editors

Punch up your Garden with Blackberry Punch

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Looking to add some drama to your container plantings and hanging baskets this summer? Add excitement with the smoldering colors of Superbells® Blackberry Punch calibrachoa from Proven Winners. Rich, velvety, purple-black centers play off the deep reddish purple of the petals in one of the most stunning floral color combinations you'll find. With its compact, 6-10 inch tall, trailing habit, it's a perfect "spiller" to cascade from a basket or contrast with more upright plants.

Looking like small petunias, to which they are related, calibrachoas are not sticky like their cousins and are self-cleaning, continuing to flower and look good without deadheading. Another name for these plants is million bells, an apt moniker given their profuse flowering.

Like all calibrachoas, Blackberry Punch is an easy-care addition to any container. Give it full sun and regular fertilization and you'll be rewarded with blossoms all summer long. The most important thing to keep in mind is that calibrachoa doesn't like continually damp soil. Let the top inch or so of soil dry out before you rewater.

Blackberry Punch stays compact, but if it begins to get a little straggly later in the season, simply trim it back for a renewed round of flowering. And don't be surprised if you see a hummingbird stopping to sip at one of the beautiful blooms!

To find out more about Superbells® Blackberry Punch, go: Proven Winners.

Find Out Where to Pick-Your-Own

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Even if you don't have the space or time to grow all your fruits and vegetables yourself, you can still have the satisfaction of harvesting fresh, local produce yourself at a pick-your-own operation. To help you find one close to you -- whether you live in Alabama or Wyoming, or even Germany or New Zealand -- the www.pickyourown.org website will help you track one down.

Organized by county (for the U.S.), pick-your-own-operations offering everything from apples, berries, and vegetables to flowers, chestnuts, and pumpkins are listed. Included is contact information, directions to the farm, and whether the produce offered is grown organically. There are also sections listing farm and roadside stands and operations offering honey, maple syrup, milk, eggs, meat, horse rides, even farm venues for hosting events and parties.

In addition, there is an extensive and informative section with lots of great information on home canning; freezing; drying; and making jams, jellies, ice cream, and gelato. You can even order your canning supplies on the site.

To find out where to harvest or purchase local produce near you, go to: Pick Your Own .

Be Water-wise with a Rain Barrel

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Environmentally conscious gardeners -- not to mention thrifty ones -- look for ways to keep from wasting water while minimizing run-off and the pollution and erosion problems it can create. Using a rain barrel to capture water running off a roof is one popular way to accomplish both. Whether purchased or constructed from a recycled drum or other container, the barrel is hooked up to a downspout to catch and store runoff from a rain storm for use later in the garden when the weather turns dry.

One of the challenges with any standing water is to keep it fresh and insect-free. Making sure the top of the barrel is screened will help keep debris out and mosquitoes from getting in to breed. You can also float mosquito "dunks," disks that contain the safe bacterial pesticide B.t.i., which prevents mosquito larvae from hatching.

To keep the water odor-free, clear, and free of floating or suspended organic matter, try Rain Barrel Water Cleaner from Bioverse. This natural product contains a proprietary blend of naturally occurring bacteria which reduce the organic debris that collects in rain barrel water by consuming the excess nutrients in the water, resulting in improved water quality and clarity.

Of course, you need to get the water out of the barrel and onto the plants in your garden. You can simply dip a watering can into the barrel, but if your barrel has a spigot at the bottom, you can attach a hose and let gravity move the water or you can raise the barrel on a support so you have room to set your can below to fill it. If you are looking for automated ease, consider RainPerfect™, a solar-powered pump from Rule®. This system, which mounts quickly and easily to the top of most rain barrels, provides enough pressure to run a garden hose spray nozzle or low-pressure sprinklers. A solar panel powers a rechargeable NiMH battery that can pump up to 100 gallons on a single charge.

For more information on Rain Barrel Water Cleaner, go to: Bioverse. For more information about RainPerfect, go to: RainPerfect Pump.

Top Gardening Books

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Every year the American Horticultural Society, whose mission blends education, social responsibility, and environmental stewardship with the art and science of horticulture, presents its annual Garden Book Award in recognition of outstanding gardening books published in the previous year. Selected by a committee of horticultural experts, this year's book awards went to four books that cover the gardening spectrum from edible to ornamental gardening.

Edible Landscaping by Rosalind Creasy (Sierra Club Books, 2010, $39.95) is an updated version of her classic book, first published in 1982, that shows gardeners how to incorporate edible plants into ornamental garden design for a landscape that is both attractive and productive. This new edition contains general information on design, including solving small-space challenges, as well as an extensive encyclopedia of edibles. Beautifully designed, with lots of gorgeous photos, this book will both inspire and guide you.

Armitage's Vines and Climbers: A Gardener's Guide to the Best Vertical Plants (Timber Press, 2010, $29.95) is another helpful offering from Allan M. Armitage, who runs the research gardens at the University of Georgia. Based on his years of personal experience growing and evaluating plants, this book contains an A-Z listing of climbing plants, both annual and perennial and including new and unusual choices, that can help you add a new dimension to your landscape design.

From Art to Landscape: Unleashing Creativity in Garden Design by W. Gary Smith (Timber Press, 2010, $39.35) guides you in cultivating an artist's eye and tools in order to create a garden that combines the unique character of your setting with an expression of your own spirit. Full of innovative design ideas, this book will inspire you to craft a unique and personally meaningful garden.

In Gardening for a Lifetime: How to Garden Wiser as You Grow Older (Timber Press, 2010, $19.95), author and expert gardener Sydney Eddison confronts the physical limitations we all face as we grow older and gives excellent advice on how to keep gardening a joyful endeavor as the years advance. Drawing on her own decades of experience in her expansive Connecticut garden, as well as the wisdom of other expert yet aging gardeners, she offers both concrete, practical advice as well as suggestions on changing attitudes and expectations, so that gardening can remain a pleasure, not a chore, as we age. Even those gardeners whose knees don't yet creak will appreciate Eddison's graceful prose and find much that can help make gardening easier and more enjoyable.

To read more about the 2011 AHS Garden Book Award winners, as well as winners from previous years, visit AHS Book Awards.

 
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