Garden Talk: March 31, 2005
From NGA Editors
Celebrate National Garden Month
"Give A Garden -- Add Beauty to Life" is the theme of this year's National Garden Month, a celebration organized by the National Gardening Association, with the assistance of numerous organizations and companies nationwide. This campaign is focused on the belief that there is someone in your community who would benefit by receiving a "garden" from you! The gesture can be as simple as giving a container garden to an elderly neighbor, or as elaborate as planting a garden at a local park. The opportunity for making a difference through gardening is as expansive as your imagination. Wondering how you can participate? Visit the National Garden Month Web site.
Hellebores: Perennial Plant of the Year
The Lenten rose (Helleborus x hybridus) has been making quite a splash recently. There are many new varieties available, and more gardeners are discovering the delights of this early-blooming, hardy perennial. It is no wonder the Perennial Plant Association has named the hellebore their Plant of the Year for 2005.
Hellebores are low-growing (1 to 2 feet tall), shade-loving evergreens that are hardy in USDA zones 4 to 9. They are often the first perennials to bloom in the garden, sometimes while snow is still on the ground. The single or double flowers range in color from white to pink to red, and last up to two months, depending on the weather. After the flowers fade, the seedpods create an attractive effect, and the leaves look like coarse, leathery umbrellas.
Hellebores grow best in well-drained, humus-rich soils. In cooler areas, they can stand more sun than in hot areas. They naturalize well and are good companions for hepatica and epimediums.
For more on the lenten rose, go to the Perennial Plant Association Web site.
Barberries are attractive landscape plants. Their thorns can repel deer and other animals, they spread quickly to create a protective hedge, they are widely adapted to poor soils, and they grow in part shade to full sun. The red berries are ornamental and also provide food for wildlife. But it's those berries that have caused problems. Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii) has gotten a bad reputation because of its prolific seed dispersal. It quickly can become an exotic invasive, crowding out native shrubs. Birds eat and spread the seeds throughout its range.
However, not all barberries need to be shunned. Researchers at Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, trialed 41 selections of barberry to determine which were the most invasive. Their results showed some Japanese barberry varieties, such as ?Concorde?, ?Bonanza Gold?, ?Kobold?, and ?Golden Nugget? (pictured above), produce few or no fruits and seeds, so they can be safely planted in the landscape.
Another species of barberry to try is B. verruculosa with its dense, 4-foot-tall growth. It makes an excellent low hedge and doesn?t produce flowers and fruits.
For more information on this research, visit the Longwood Gardens Web site.
While a major back-to-the-land movement 30 years ago received a lot of press, author Barbara Berst-Adams contends another more quiet back-to-the-land movement has been happening on small acreages across the country. Micro Eco-Farming (New World Publishing, 2004; $16.95) details how these small farmers succeed. Berst-Adams profiles successful micro eco-farms, ranging in size from a fraction of an acre to 5 acres, that earn a full-time income for at least one adult.
The book focuses on sustainable agricultural operations ranging from ?u-gather? nut groves to miniature Shetland sheep wool farms. There also is useful information on the secrets of their success, along with a resources and networking section to help new micro eco-farms get started.
For more information on the book, go to the New World Publishing Web site.