Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The National Gardening Bureau

The National Gardening Bureau was the brain child of James H. Burdett who envisioned an increasing suburban lifestyle. During World War II the NGB placed their emphasis on Victory Gardens. Later after WWII, the emphasis of NGB changed to encompass community beautification. Today, the NGB is a non-profit organization with memberships from various seed companies, growers, corporations and individuals who are all about selling, producing or breeding plants.

The mission of the National Garden Bureau is to disseminate basic instructions for backyard gardeners. If you go to the website: www.ngb.org you will have access to new varieties, articles and companies. Most of the companies are within the United States.

There are 95 new varieties to preview with pictures and information and a click away from the retailers and wholesalers where they are available for purchase.

Their gardening links to the web are fabulous. They have a wide selection of reliable sources of information from lots of horticulture/gardening magazines, blogs, associations, directories of public gardens and extension websites across the United States and more. It is almost overwhelming. But it puts together a lot of information at your fingertips especially for the backyard gardener. It is an on-line library of information on horticulture. If you don't know about the National Gardening Bureau, get acquainted with it.

As a tradition, the National Garden Bureau selects one vegetable and one flower which is their choice for the season. In 2012, NGB is selecting one vegetable, one flower and one perennial. The vegetable is herbs; the annual is geranium; the perennial is coral bells. So go to their site and enjoy viewing the selections during the winter.

What is an All-American Selection?

In 1932 W. Ray Hastings who was president of the Southern Seedsmen's Association of Atlanta, Georgia proposed the idea of an All-American Selection. This was a way of helping home gardeners which new varieties are truly improved and assist garden consumer editors a way of getting reliable information. In the 1920's the information was misleading from time to time.

Thanks to W. Ray Hastings there is a national network of trial grounds throughout North American climates. The seed trials accept only unsold varieties. Since 1933, there have been AAS Winners introduced each year. The AAS is the oldest, most established international testing organization in North America. There are many other breeders from Japan and Europe that also flood the market with new varieties each year. But North America can rely on unsold tested varieties from various test gardens in North America.

Each year a panel of judges award two awards each year. The two awards are: 1) AAS Gold Metal Award for a breeding breakthrough and is given about once or twice a decade; 2) for a flower or vegetable with the achievement of being superior to all others on the market.

Since the AAS does not advertise the new winners, their public relations department informs gardeners each September about winners. The AAS depends on extension agents as well as magazines to introduce the winners to the general public.

For 2012 the following are AAS Winners:

Ornamental Pepper 'Black Olive' has an attractive purple foliage which endured the heat in the southern trial gardens.

Salvia 'Summer Jewel Pink' the blooms appear two weeks earlier than other pink salvias is prolific throughout the summer.

Pepper 'Cayennetta' F1 it required no staking on this well branched plant that produced bigger yields. It has an excellent mild spicy taste and was easy to grow for beginner gardeners. It also has good cold tolerance and handled extreme heat as well.

Watermelon 'Faerie' F1 the vines spread to only 11' with prolific fruit set, general disease and insect tolerance. The fruit has a high sugar content with a crispy texture. The outside of the melon is creamy yellow with thin stripes.

Give these All-American Selections a try. Let your local greenhouse know that you are interested in growing these plants this season. Remember: consumers drive the market.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Proven Winners for Your Landscape

What is a Proven Winner? Plants that have this brand are considered to be the best annuals, perennials and shrubs in the world. These plants are chosen as top performers because they survived extensive trials and tests to prove they are disease-resistant and easy to grow while producing long-lasting color. In addition, these plants are tolerant of heat and humidity. All the plants chosen to be a Proven Winner go through a three year selection process. This sounds like an Olympics for plants. The greatest benefit of all is that because these plants perform so well, they reduce the need for chemical usage in your garden.

How did all these new plants happen? A man named Ushio Sakazaki was in Brazil raising grapes. While failing at the grape business during his stay there, he came upon a plant that was growing in the Rain Forest. This plant was a wild species of petunia with thousands of flowers on one plant that spread like a carpet. He brought the seed back to Japan. He applied state-of-the-art-gene technology and came up with a plant that resulted in a cross between the wild and domestic petunia called: Surfinia. And from there the technique is applied to other plants. The Superbena is a cross between the wild and domestic verbenas. The Rockapulco is a cross between the wild and domestic impatient plants.

Every year there are plants added to the ever growing list of Proven Winners.

For 2012 here is a list of annuals for your containers and landscape gardens:

Superbells®Cherry Star

This cherry pink bloom has a golden yellow star radiating from its center. All the Superbells Family has bountiful blooms, great color and easy maintenance.

Superbells®Sweet Tart

This has a soft pink flower with a large lemon yellow eye. This annual will bounce back after a rain or dry spell looking fresh and vigorous.

Supertunia®White Russian

This has antique white petals with dark veins and a dark eye. It is a striking plant. Want attention? This plant will get it.

Rockapulco®Coral Reef

Bright coral pink blooms are large and rose-shaped. The Rockapulco is the most floriferous of this series to date.

Superbena®Royal Peachy Keen

This flower has fragrant clusters with great color and vigorous growth. The blooms are a rich salmon and turn to a blush peach hue as they age. This is low maintenance, heat-tolerant and grows to 6-10 inches tall and blooms all season long. What more could you ask for?

For more information or photos go to www.provenwinner.com . More information coming soon on new shrubs and top perennials for 2012.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Begin with the End in Mind

The title of this article may sound familiar to most of you who have read Stephen Covey’s book titled Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Now what does this have to do with gardening? Habit number Two which is “begin with the end in mind” means who do you want to be and what do you want to do? This habit focuses in on your goals. So in applying this to gardening, it focuses in on what kind of gardener do you want to be and what kind of gardens do you want to create? Success with anything in life comes about with preparation.

If you want to have 100 pounds of produce from your garden in the coming year, we have to be proactive. Proactive is habit one. Life happens because you create moment by moment. Life is built on choices that you make. A garden is carefully designed by you and so is your life through each and every choice. If you do not think through the steps clearly while designing and implementing a successful garden, it will appear by the types of choices you make.

Let’s say you decide to go away for the weekend shortly after you transplanted seedlings in your vegetable garden. You decide to water them well on Friday and mulch them well. You check the forecast and decide that they will be fine until you get back late Sunday night. You figure that you do not need someone to check on them Saturday and Sunday since you checked on the weather forecast and you think things will come through fine. You return on Sunday night before dark and check on your seedlings. Most of the seedlings are wilted or dead. Sunday’s weather turned out to be a little warmer than forecasted. The seedlings were too newly transplanted to be well established to survive. Planning ahead takes us back to begin with the end in mind. You probably did not aim for this type of a result, but your choices lead you to this happening. So habit one is not only being proactive with your life, but it is very much about taking responsibility for your life.

We could jump to the next habit of highly effective people which is habit three. This habit states, “put first things first which combines habit one and two. If the vegetable garden is a priority in your life, you manage and organize your time and events accordingly. First things first. All the things in your life that are first are things of worth. If the vegetable garden was one of those things of worth, you would have organized your life by making a better choice to ensure that the seedlings were looked after in your absence.

Habit number four is about creating a win-win situation for those you interact with on a daily basis. We cannot apply this to the vegetable garden situation unless you were in conflict with another person over a garden situation. Habit four is about approaching conflicts from a win-win result. To do this appropriately, you need integrity: sticking with your true feelings; maturity: expressing your ideas and feelings with courage and consideration for the ideas and feelings of others. Let me pause right here. Sometimes, people are not honest with you about their true feelings and ideas because they have other intentions. With plants, your intentions have a direct result. They are honest and true. If plants do not get watered or fertilized, they show it in some way. Plants are not so sophisticated like human beings who do not always follow through. For habit four to work, having integrity means being honest about your feelings in a respectful way. In gardening, you have to respect and consider the plants needs in order to be successful. If a plant needs to be watered three times a day to stay healthy, then you will benefit from what the plant offers in return.

Habit four also speaks about abundance. We believe there is plenty for everyone. For some people it is hard to consider believing there is plenty for everyone. Those that steal have lost hope in the present that there is plenty for them too. So they end up stealing from other people’s gardens. Someone may come and steal your prized watermelon. Instead of scowling about it being gone, be grateful you had to give. You could say they needed the watermelon worse than you. In return, your gratefulness brings about better in your life.

Gardening is a reflection of life. Our habits present themselves in gardening and all aspects of our lives. With Habit five seek first to understand, then to be understood. If you do not understand the needs of the plants in your garden, then you will not be successful and they will perish. The other half of this does not apply to gardening but to life. We always want someone to understand our problem rather than listening.

Habit six is about synergizing. This means teamwork. In gardening, when we use teamwork the work goes quickly and gives us more time to enjoy the garden and do other things in life. In doing the teamwork, we discover that working together produces better results. Some of the things that we discover while working together are insights that we might not have had working alone. This is what happens in a community garden. Working together produces better results and we have greater insight.

Habit seven is about sharpening the saw. This means you are taking care of you. Live your life in balance by taking the time to renew yourself; taking care of yourself physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. Gardening can help renew by providing the opportunity for physical exercise. Working together with others in gardening can add to the social interaction and emotional well being. Sharing stories and experiences while gardening can help boost each other’s morale.

Gardening helps those who are mentally traumatized by some event in their lives. Caring for plants can bring back a caring and nurturing aspect in you. Gardens can help focus our lives. It has been demonstrated with labyrinths that are used on mentally and emotionally imbalanced people and those with violent backgrounds. Using a labyrinth has helped those people get to the core of their issues and bring them into balance. Labyrinths symbolize a transformative journey to your center and back out in the world according to Dr. Johnston at the Medical Center of Central Georgia.

Gardens are very healing places. Gardens are used for meditation and spiritual connections for centuries. The Chinese and Japanese use gardens for renewing their spirit. Dry gardens are an example of this. In some dry gardens, they have a pattern that needs to be raked daily. This serves as a reminder for daily renewal. It is also a reminder to focus in the present and an opportunity to leave the past in the past.

Overall gardens are spaces and places that serve many purposes where we interact and forward an aspect of our lives. There is more useful information written by Stephen Covey in a number of his other books which can be related to gardens and gardening. One of these is Habit 8®From Effectiveness to Greatness.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

What is new in 2012 flower introductions?

It just doesn’t get any better than this. This coming year there are some wonderful new plants for your garden. Some of these plants have been growing for decades in other places and are now being integrated into our market.

The groundcover called Carpeting Pincushion flower is one of those plants. It is closely related to Pincushion flower or in Latin Scabiosa. The Carpeting Pincushion flower grows as a mat of attractive gray-green evergreen crinkled leaves. It blooms from late spring through summer with large 1 ½ mauve-pink flowers followed by furry, silvery-pink seed heads. This plant will be attractive all year from the sound of the evergreen crinkled leaves, the flowers and the seed heads. I would say a must have for the garden. It sounds like a minimal care plant. Nothing to do but find a full-sun location that is well-drained soil. It is has low fertility requirements. This plant is native to the mountains of Morocco and tolerates light foot traffic. It sounds ideal for between pavers and flagstones.

A couple of old standard plants such as yarrow or in Latin Achillea filipendula ‘Gold Plate’. The flowers are yellow-gold which stand above tall sturdy stem with flowers 4 to 6 inches in width. The best part about yarrow is its ability to live in a wide range of soils and climates. The next best thing is its long-blooming season, if you deadhead the old flowers. It is great as a dried flower as well. It can also grow next to penstemon plants as a companion.

Another old standard is Coreopsis integrifolia or commonly called Fringe Leaf Tickseed. It has a large, deep golden-yellow flower with deep waxy green foliage. This plant is a native to the southwestern United States. It is very adaptable to growing in all types of soils and tolerant of both moist and dry conditions. The best attribute about this plant is once established it spreads slowly on short stolons and is said to be long-lived perennial. The longest lived perennial is a peony with fifty plus years. This will have to stand the test of time on both those claims.

A native to New Mexico and Arizona is a species of fleabane and in this case, commonly called Rock Fleabane or in Latin Erigeron scopulinus. We do have some wonderful native fleabane species in Colorado as well. This grows naturally on cliff faces and rocky ledges. It is said to thrive in both hot, dry sites and partial shade with more moisture. It blooms in late spring-early summer with white daisy flowers above a tight green mat of leaves. This is outstanding crack filler for between pavers or flagstones. It is also very easy maintenance with low fertility requirements. It does require well-drained soil.

To add to penstemons for our garden, there are two new introductions. First Penstemon alamosensis or commonly named Alamo Canyon Beardtongue. This plant has twisting spikes of coral-orange flowers over gray-blue, evergreen foliage. This plant requires limestone soil or fast draining non-clay soils. For many of you with sandy or loamy fast draining soils this plant could be a possibility to try.

The next penstemon is Penstemon procerus v.formosus or commonly named Alpine Beardtongue. This is another low, evergreen mat with dense rosettes of foliage with short spikes that blooms with lavender-blue flowers. It blooms through summer with a low water requirement and well-drained soil. It does well in full sun to part shade. This plant will tolerate winter temperatures that dip to minus 30 degrees Fahrenheit