Garden Talk: June 7, 2007
From NGA Editors
Stunning Black and White Calla Lilies
Calla lilies (Zantedeschia) are valued for their speckled leaves and unusual, cup-shaped flowers that come in a variety of colors. Two new varieties -- one with black flowers and one with white -- will add even more drama to your garden and container plantings.
?Edge of the Night? features rich, velvety, purple-black flowers. The white-speckled leaves have purple edges and stems. ?Edge of the Night? grows 2 feet tall and wide and is hardy in USDA zones 8 to 10.
In contrast, ?White Giant? (Zantedeschia aethiopica) grows a whopping 80 inches tall and features huge, white-speckled, lance-shaped leaves and 7-foot-tall, large, creamy white flowers. ?White Giant? is hardy in USDA zones 7 to 10.
Calla lilies grow best in full sun in the North and part shade in the South, on moist, well-drained soil. Keep soil cool by mulching. Tubers need to be dug and stored in cold areas.
For more information on ?Edge of the Night? calla lily, go to: Terra Nova Nursery.
For more information on ?White Giant? calla lily, go to: Plant Delights Nursery.
Best Birches for the South
White-bark birches, such as paper birch (Betula papyrifera) and European white birch (B. pendula), are popular landscape plants in the North, but not widely grown in the South. Southern gardeners desirous of growing these white-bark birches often don?t know which selections grow best in their warm, humid climate. A recent study can help. Researchers at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, have tested various birches to determine the best for landscapes in the Southeast.
Researchers grew 20 birch species and selections in two Arkansas locations (one in USDA zone 6 and one in USDA zone 8) for four years to evaluate their growth, ornamental qualities, and performance.
The best performing white-bark birch selection was ?Royal Frost?. This European birch reveals its white bark while still young. The bark color contrasts well with the burgundy-purple foliage that turns bright orange in fall. ?Royal Frost? not only performed better than other white-bark birches in the study, it even outgrew the native river birch (B. nigra). Another highly rated white-bark birch was the Asian white birch ?Dakota Pinnacle? (B. platyphylla ?Fargo?). It features a narrow, upright, pyramidal growth habit.
As expected, the native river birch grew well, but the cultivar ?Dura-Heat? grew even better, especially during the heat of summer.
The complete report of Betula for the South was in the April 15, 2007, issue of American Nurseryman Magazine. It can be ordered online at: American Nurseryman.
Americans Not Eating Their Fruits and Veggies
Many Americans are familiar with the "5 A Day" program that encourages people to eat more whole fruits and vegetables. Although the U.S. government, food advocacy groups, and public health officials have been promoting the advantages of increasing our fruit and vegetable consumption for years, apparently the news is falling on deaf ears.
A recent study by The Johns Hopkins University has shown that Americans did not increase their whole vegetable and fruit consumption between 1998 and 2002. The study looked at almost 9,000 individuals and found that only 28 percent met USDA guidelines for fruit consumption, and only 32 percent met USDA guidelines for vegetable consumption. That was an actual decrease in vegetable consumption (even when you include French fries) when compared with a 1988 to 1994 study. Also, 62 percent didn?t consume any whole fruit servings, and 25 percent didn?t eat any whole vegetable servings. Minorities and poorer individuals tended to consume less than the average.
For more information on America?s vegetable- and fruit-eating habits, go to: Johns Hopkins Gazette.
Keeping Ants Out of Hummingbird Feeders
Feeding hummingbirds is a popular pastime for many gardeners, who hang hummingbird feeders containing sugar water outdoors close to their windows for easy viewing. One of the drawbacks of hummingbird feeders is ants, which are attracted to the sugary solution and can clog the feeders.
To prevent ants from competing with your hummingbirds for the sugar water, try placing moats on top of the feeders. Moats come in different shapes and sizes. Simply fill the moat with water and hang it on top of the feeder. Ants can?t swim, so they won?t be able to reach the feeder. Periodically clean debris out of the moat so the ants don?t create an ant bridge to the feeder over their dead comrades.
For more information on ant moats for your hummingbird feeder, go to: Lee Valley Nursery.