Garden Talk: September 20, 2012

From NGA Editors

3D Blooms for Cool Weather

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Osteopermum ecklonis, also known as African daisy, is a tender perennial used as an annual that relishes the cool weather of fall and spring, when it blooms its best. This makes it perfect for adding color to fall garden beds. Or combine it with other fall flowers and foliage in containers for a seasonal focal point in the landscape.

For even more fall flower power, try the new 3D™ series of osteospermum. Unlike other varieties, these plants keep their blossoms open night and day. Available in pink (pictured), silver, and purple, the daisy-like flowers of 3D™ osteospermums have a tufted center with a deeper color than the outer petals. They look lovely in autumnal combinations with pansies, mums, ornamental grasses and flowering kale and other cool-season bloomers. Plants grow 10-24 inches tall and should be spaced 12-15 inches apart.

Osteospermums do well in full to part sun and thrive with regular fertilization. Spring-planted ostespermums that have taken a break from blooming in the heat of the summer can be cut back in late summer in preparation for another round of flowers as the weather cools. Or you can purchase container plants at local garden stores that are ready to put on a glorious fall show until hard frost hits.

To find out more about 3D™ osteospermums, go to: National Garden Bureau.

Landscaping for Butterflies

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We are often told that one of the best ways to encourage butterflies to visit our property is to landscape with native plants. While it's true that native plants can be great larval host plants and nectar sources for adults, many butterfly species have also adapted to non-native plants, which can also provide important support for both caterpillars and adult butterflies. In fact, according to butterfly expert Sharon Stichter of the Massachusetts Butterfly Club, some butterfly species have switched over from a native to an introduced host or nectar plant because the native is not easily available or is a less robust food source.

Writing in the August 2012 Ecological Landscaping Association newsletter, she notes that the lovely black swallowtail butterfly, which used native water hemlock and water parsnip as larval host plants in the nineteenth century, now thrives by using the more widely found non-natives, Queen Ann's lace, parsley, dill, and fennel, almost exclusively. Similarly, naturalized field clovers and meadow vetches serve as important nectar sources for the adults of many species.

Another way to provide good butterfly habitat is to let some of your property grow as meadow or grassland. But in most parts of the county, these areas need to be mowed periodically to keep them open. To benefit the most butterfly species, the meadow should be mowed no more than once a year in late fall, keeping the mower height at least 4-6 inches off the ground to avoid the overwintering larvae at the bases of plants. If possible, mow only a section of the meadow each year, in rotation, so that there is always an unmown area of refuge for insects.

For more information on landscaping for butterflies and other pollinators, go to: Ecological Landscaping Association.

Emerald Ash Borer Reaches New England

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This destructive pest was found for the first time in Connecticut this summer, the first New England state to achieve this dubious distinction. Its presence was confirmed in Prospect, CT and a new probable infestation is also suspected in Naugatuck State Forest. The emerald ash borer (EAB) has killed tens of millions of trees in the 15 other states where it is now found, from the Midwest, south to Tennessee, and east to New York. In Connecticut vulnerable ash trees make up about 4-15 percent of the forests and are a commonly planted landscape tree. "This is a disturbing discovery and one that has the potential for great environmental harm in the state," said Commissioner Daniel C. Esty of the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP).

The surveillance method that first revealed this new infestation is interesting. A native ground-nesting wasp, Cerceris fumipennis, hunts for beetles in the family Buprestidae, which includes the EAB. The female wasp brings back beetles to her burrow to feed the developing wasp larvae. Monitors check the nests to see if any EAB show up. According to the DEEP, "The wasp provides a highly efficient and effective 'bio-surveillance' survey tool and does not sting people or pets."

One of the common ways that EAB is spread long distances is through the movement of infested firewood. If you are purchasing firewood this fall, either buy locally harvested wood or make sure that the wood is not from areas of EAB infestation. Check with your state conservation department for the most current advice regarding firewood movement quarantines.

For more information on the discovery of EAB in Connecticut, go to: Connecticut DEEP. For more information on EAB, including how to identify this pest, go to: EAB. For information on state firewood movement quarantines, go to: Moving Firewood.

Get the Facts on Climate Change

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With this summer's extended drought and record-setting temperatures, global warming and its attendant climate change are on the minds of many. But it can be a confusing issue, with opinion and agenda mixed in with facts. That's why Dr. Craig Cogger, soil scientist with Washington State University Extension, has put together an online primer on the subject.

Consisting of a narrated series of nine slideshow modules, each less than ten minutes long, it covers a breadth of topics, including what the science really tells us, important (and often misunderstood) definitions, the evidence for current climate change, climate models and their projections for coming decades, what to expect from climate change, other points of view, and how to respond to climate disruption. There are also links to other scientifically-based web sites if you'd like to get a deeper understanding of the subject.

This series is a great way to increase your understanding of an important issue that will have an impact on many aspects of our lives and the lives of all creatures on our planet.

To access the series, go to: Climate Change.

 
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