Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

Garden Talk: March 17, 2005

From NGA Editors

Orchids for Dummies


Orchids are one of the hottest plants in the United States. They are second only to poinsettias as the most popular potted plant, and they are becoming more widely available. You can find orchids at garden centers, nurseries, box stores, and grocery stores across the country. Even though orchids can bloom for weeks or even months, they have a reputation of being hard to grow.

Orchid expert Steve Frowine has teamed up with NGA to take the mystery out of indoor orchid growing with the new Orchids for Dummies (Wiley, 2005). Frowine is a professional horticulturist who has grown orchids for more than 40 years. In his book he takes you step-by-step through growing these exotic plants. Frowine highlights the easiest orchids to grow indoors; the most fragrant varieties; the correct pots, potting medium, and supplies you?ll need; and basic watering, fertilizing, and cultural care. He even covers some of the more unusual orchids to try for those wishing to go a step further.

For more information and to order Orchids for Dummies, go to Wiley Web site

Colorful Asparagus Beans


Asparagus beans are the oriental version of our popular pole bean. They love warm weather, growing vigorously and producing an abundance of long, thin, crunchy beans with small seeds. They are also called yard-long beans because the beans can grow 2 to 3 feet long.

Now come some yard-long beans of a different color. ?Chinese Mosaic? features 12- to 18-inch-long thin, seedless, lavender-pink-colored pods. ?Chinese Red Noodle? produces deep red, 18-inch-long pods that keep their color even after cooking. ?Thai Red-Seeded? features 24-inch-long pods that have red, speckled seeds. If you don?t have room for pole asparagus beans, try ?Kentucky Bush?. It produces 10-inch-long asparagus beans on 24-inch-tall plants.

For more information on these unique asparagus beans, go to the Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Web site at:

Eat My Car


Toyota Motor Corporation is developing new plastic products made from natural materials to be used in building their cars. Bioplastics are biodegradable, their production doesn?t increase the amount of carbon in the atmosphere, and they are more environmentally friendly than conventional plastics.

The company has been growing sweet potatoes in Indonesia and using the starch from the tubers to create this new generation of plastics. Presently only floor mats and wheel covers on some car models are made from these bioplastics, but Toyota plans to expand their production and use these materials in all aspects of their car production. Toyota also is looking at producing hydrogen fuel from sweet potatoes to power their cars.

For more information on Toyota?s research into bioplastics, go to their Web site at:

Best Lamium for Shade


The Chicago Botanic Garden has evaluated 21 different dead nettles (Lamium) over the past six years to determine the best varieties in their USDA zone 5 climate. Lamium is a colorful shade or part-sun perennial that grows well on moist, well-drained soils in USDA hardiness zones 4 to 8. Different varieties offer a range of flower colors from white to red, variegated leaves, and a low-growing, creeping habit that makes it a widely adapted ground cover.

The trials evaluated the Lamium varieties for general health and habit, flower coverage, length of flowering, pest and disease resistance and cultural adaptability. Flower production, length of flowering and adaptability to moist soil were the defining factors separating excellent and average performers.

The top-performers were Lamium maculatum 'Album,' Lamium m. 'Beedham's White,' Lamium m. 'Red Nancy', and Lamium m. 'Shell Pink.' Other Lamium species that performed well include Lamium album 'Friday,' Lamium orvala 'Album' and Lamium orvala 'Silva.'

For more information on this study, contact the Chicago Botanic Garden Web site at:

Photography courtesy of South Dakota State University



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