Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

Garden Talk: January 19, 2006

From NGA Editors

Best New Flowers


Every spring, garden centers are filled with new varieties of brightly colored annual flowers. Here are some of the best new choices available for planting this year.

?Zowie! Yellow Flame? zinnia features bright scarlet-colored centers with yellow petals on 2-foot-tall plants. The 3- to 4-inch-wide flowers are supported on sturdy stems, making ?Zowie! Yellow Flame? a great cut flower.

For an annual with more subtle color, consider diascia ?Diamonte Coral Rose?. Diascia are small-flowered, frost-tolerant annuals that look best in containers and hanging baskets. ?Diamonte Coral Rose? is an improved variety that blooms longer and is more vigorous. Diascia are beautiful with other cool-season annuals, such as snapdragons and dianthus, yet they also tolerate summer heat.

?Purple Majesty? ornamental millet made waves a few years ago with its unique black foliage and seed stalk. A new version of ?Purple Majesty? is ?Jester? (Pennisetum glaucum ?Jester?). ?Jester? features bright chartreuse leaves in spring that mature to a red and bronze color by summer. Its growth is more dense and compact than ?Purple Majesty?. The purple flower stalks emerge a few weeks later than ?Purple Majesty? and only reach 3 feet tall.

Another colorful ornamental grain is quinoa ?Brightest Brilliant Rainbow?. This grain grows only 2 feet tall, producing flower heads in a rainbow of colors, such as yellow, orange, red, hot pink, and even green. Although it produces an edible grain, quinoa ?Brightest Brilliant Rainbow? is mostly grown as a cut flower.

For more information on ?Zowie! Yellow Flame? zinnia, ?Diamonte Coral Rose? diascia, and ?Jester? ornamental millet, go to: Park Seed.

For more information on ?Brightest Brilliant Rainbow? quinoa, go to: Botanical Interests.

Organic Rules?


When does "organic" not mean "organic?" When the labels aren?t clear. The growth in the organic food industry continues to climb at about 20 percent per year. However, when shopping for organic food, the labels may not be telling you the whole story. Here are some examples of organic labels and what they really mean.

"100% Organic": No synthetic ingredients are allowed by law. Production must meet federal organic standards and be independently verified by inspectors.

"Organic": At least 95 percent of ingredients are organically produced. The remainder can be non-organic or synthetic ingredients. Yes, this means your ?organically labeled? foods can have up to 5 percent non-organic ingredients in them. Organic labels on seafood are meaningless because the USDA has no standards for them.

"Made with Organic Ingredients": At least 70 percent of ingredients are organic.

"Free-range" or "free-roaming": Often seen on eggs, chicken, and other meats, this label suggests that an animal has spent a good portion of its life outdoors. But the standards are weak. For example, the rule for poultry products means that outdoor access is made available for ?an undetermined period each day.? So, if a coop door was open for just 5 minutes a day, regardless of whether the chickens went outside, the animals? meat and eggs could legally be labeled ?free-range.?

"Natural" or "All Natural": This label does not mean organic. There is no standard definition for this term except when it?s applied to meat and poultry products, which the USDA defines as not containing any artificial flavoring, colors, chemical preservatives, or synthetic ingredients.

So when shopping for organic foods, know the rules of the labels before you buy. For more information, go to: Consumer Reports.

New Red-Leaved Peach


Fruit trees are not usually known for their ornamental foliage, but this new dwarf peach is an eye-catcher in any yard. ?Bonfire? ornamental peach (Prunus persica ?Bonfire?) has long, thin dark red leaves that hold their color throughout the season. It also produces a striking show of double pink flowers in spring. ?Bonfire? eventually produces small peaches late in the season, but they aren?t good eating quality.

?Bonfire? makes an excellent patio container plant or ornamental tree in your yard, growing only 4 to 5 feet tall in five years. It?s hardy in USDA zones 5 to 8.

For more information on ?Bonfire?, go to: Stark Brothers.

New Environmentally Friendly Wood Treatment


Wood pressure-treated with CCA has been pulled from the market for its leaching of toxic chemicals into the environment. Substitutes such as recycled plastic wood and wood pressure-treated with chemicals such as ACQ are available, but they have not met with wide acceptance.

Now there?s a new type of pressure-treated wood that's being promoted as rot resistant, non-toxic, non-corrosive, and fire resistant; it doesn?t leach residue; and it outperforms ACQ and borate-based pressure-treated woods. TimberSil wood is protected by an injection of an aqueous solution of sodium silicate. Sodium silicate is used in a variety of industries, such as the making of concrete, in which it's used as a hardening agent. It forms an amorphous, glass-like layer in the wood that protects it, yet makes the wood easy to work with. TimberSil claims its wood not only replaces the hazardous copper-, chromium-, and arsenic-preserved woods of the past, it also outperforms them in the areas of leaching and corrosion.

TimberSil will be available in lumberyards starting this spring. For more information, go to: TimberSil.



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