Garden Talk: June 28, 2012

From NGA Editors

Super Summer Snapdragon

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Spiky plants are always in demand in garden and container plantings for the vertical accent they provide to the rounded form of so many other flowers. A long-blooming annual with a compact, upright habit is especially welcome for summer-long color. The new Archangel series of angelonia (Angelonia angustifolia) fills the bill perfectly.

Available in purple (pictured), white, pink, and raspberry cultivars, Archangel angelonia, also called summer snapdragon, grows 12-14 inches tall and 10-12 inches wide. The Archangel cultivars are stockier and more vigorous than other varieties, and their flowers, which look like miniature orchids, are the largest of any angelonia.

Plants do best in moist, well-drained soil in full sun to part shade. Tolerant of heat, high humidity, and drought, they provide masses of low-maintenance color until frost. Fertilize angelonia monthly to keep it growing strong.

To read more about the Archangel angelonia series, go to: National Garden Bureau.

The Well-Dressed Salad

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Delicious salads, filled with healthful veggies and fruits fresh from the garden, are one of the big motivations for growing your own. But to get the most benefit from all the nutrients home-grown produce provides, you need to be sure you are pairing your salad ingredients with the right kind of dressing. And it may come to both dieters and the health-conscious as a surprise, but non-fat is not the way to go.

In a recent study done at Purdue University and published in the journal Molecular Nutrition & Food Research, subjects were fed salads topped with dressings based on either saturated, monosaturated, or polyunsaturated fats, after which their absorption of health-promoting fat-soluble carotenoids -- compounds such as lutein and lycopene that are associated with a reduced risk of cancer, heart disease, and eye disease -- was measured. What researchers found, according to Mario Ferruzzi, lead author of the study, was that the most nutrients from fruits and vegetables were absorbed when these foods were paired with a dressing containing fat.

While carotenoid absorption increased with dressings containing all types of fats, the dressings rich in the monosaturated fats found in canola and olive oils resulted in the most nutrient absorption from the least amount of fat. Says Ferruzzi, "Even at the lower fat level, you can absorb a significant amount of carotenoids with monounsaturated fat-rich canola oil."

To read more about this research, go to: Purdue University News Service.

Visit an AAS Display Garden

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We've written frequently about particular All-America Selection (AAS) winners, plants that have been chosen by independent AAS judges for their superior garden performance across the country. But there is nothing like seeing the plants actually growing in a garden to appreciate why they were selected. That's why you might want to consider planning a visit to one of the nearly 200 AAS Display Gardens this summer.

These gardens are found across the U.S. and in Canada and give the public the opportunity to see the newest AAS winners in an attractive and well-maintained setting. Gardens are located in a public botanic garden or arboretum, on a university campus, in a municipal setting, at a garden retailer, or in many other settings. (There is one at Vermont Garden Park, the home grounds of the National Gardening Association, in South Burlington, Vermont. That's AAS winner Gaillardia 'Mesa Yellow' pictured in bloom there last summer.)

Some gardens showcase vegetable plants, some flowers, while many display both. You can see what plants look like in a garden environment and get an idea of how they will do in your climate and growing conditions. Some gardens even provide educational programs about the AAS trialing and award process during ″open house″ or ″field day″ events during the growing season.

For a listing of AAS Display Gardens, go to: AAS.

Are Trees Making You Sneeze?

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Does it seem that your allergy symptoms are getting worse lately? Changes in the types of trees planted in many landscapes and along many city streets may be part of the problem.

Many common landscape trees, such as maple, pine, spruce, birch, and oak, naturally have both male and female flowers on the same tree; these are known as monecious. Other trees, called dioecious, bear male and female flowers on separate plants; examples are ash, ginkgo, and juniper. It is the female flowers that go on to produce fruits and nuts, but it's the male flowers that release the pollen that fertilizes the female blossoms and that troubles allergy sufferers. (Some trees, such as crabapples and dogwoods, have "perfect flowers" with male and female parts in the same flower. These generally don't release their pollen as widely and are less likely to trouble those with allergies.)

Both home owners and city maintenance crews often prefer not to have to deal with the messy fallout of fruits and nuts, choosing instead to plant clones or varieties that have been selected only to bear male flowers. Sometimes this makes a lot of sense, as in the case of ginkgo trees, whose female flowers produce fruit that is not only messy, but very smelly to boot. But in some cities, the decision to plant mainly male clones of trees can result in higher pollen levels and increased allergy problems, according to pollen researcher Thomas Ogren, who has been hired by an allergy medication manufacturer to inventory Canadian urban forests and tree planting practices and create allergen maps.

In a recent article on the Vancouver Sun website, city arborist Bill Stevens noted that about 30 percent of the trees planted by the city of Vancouver are all-male clones, commonly maples and some oaks. Ogren pointed out that planting large blocks of male trees can result in "pollen corridors" that can be highly irritating to sensitive individuals; planting female clones or a mix of trees instead helps reduce pollen levels. He also noted that plants such as yews and junipers, which are commonly used as foundation plants near windows, are often male clones that release lots of pollen. "If you have one of these outside your bedroom window you are going to get dusted at night," he says.

So if spring and summer bring on itchy eyes and a runny nose, it's a good idea to do some research before choosing and placing plants in your landscape to avoid male clones as much as possible. You can also encourage the municipal department responsible for street tree planting in your community to plant a mix of trees rather than relying heavily on male clones.

To read the entire article, go to: Vancouver Sun.

 
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