Grandmother Would've Loved This One
Michael Dirr's Hydrangeas for American Gardens (Timber Press, 2004; $29.95) is a beauty, and I say that not just because hydrangeas were my grandmother's favorite flowers. Dirr, professor of horticulture at the University of Georgia, has truly changed the landscape with his work. He stays two steps ahead in predicting the next best thing in woody ornamental plants. If you see a shrub that you don't recognize, you'll most likely find it in a Dirr volume. And the way he writes the descriptions, you'll actually recognize it without a botanical dictionary at your side. This book is a specialty, and not all the varieties are good candidates for our region, but it is a great read with lovely photos and excellent growing and selecting information. Who else will tell you the difference between a mophead and a lacecap? Look for more hydrangeas than ever in nurseries across the country as this book catches on. And it will.
Shield-shaped stinkbugs are among the critters we'd rather ignore than deal with, but do so at your peril. Reports from farmers and gardeners indicate they are more prolific than usual this year. The population surge is blamed on warmer than average temperatures last winter in most of our region and the accompanying survival of weeds and plant debris for insect habitat. Tomatoes are especially vulnerable when stinkbugs sting their fruit and inject them with toxins that interfere with the ripening process. Control by plucking off the bugs and drowning them in a bucket of soapy water (or pay a kid to do it!). Keep weedy areas mowed and dormant perennials trimmed.