Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

Garden Talk: May 3, 2012

From NGA Editors

Growing Roses in Cold Climates


The rose is considered by many to be queen of the flower garden, but for northern gardeners especially, she also has a reputation as a demanding diva. The newly revised and updated edition of Growing Roses in Cold Climates by Richard Hass, Jerry Olsen, and John Whitman ((University of Minnesota Press, 2012, $34.95) will help to change that view. Written by a trio of long-time Minnesota rose growers, this book provides information on 875 varieties of roses that are suited to climates where the winter temperatures dip to -20 degrees F or lower (Zones 5 and colder on the USDA Hardiness Zone Map).

Covering all types of roses from hybrid teas and floribundas to climbers and shrub roses, the authors provide information on planting, care, sources, and likely insect and disease problems. In addition, there is a listing of cultivars rated according to a five-star system based on factors such as vigor, hardiness, and number of blooms per season that makes it easy to select the best.

An expansive section on the basics of rose growing covers all aspects of rose culture in depth, including new methods for protecting roses in the winter, propagating by a variety of methods, and information on both organic and chemical solutions to common rose problems. Ample photographs of both the roses themselves and step-by-step techniques enhance the text.

So if you've shied away from growing roses because you thought it was too hard to care for them and get them through the winter reliably, check out this great resource. Then invite the Queen into your garden!

For more information on Growing Roses in Cold Climates, as well as other books in the Growing in Cold Climate series, go to: University of Minnesota Press.

Open Days in the Garden


What's one of the best -- and most enjoyable -- ways to get new ideas and learn about garden design? By visiting some great gardens, of course! That's the idea behind the Garden Conservancy's Open Days Program, with its invitation to explore first-hand a wide range of private gardens across the country that showcase outstanding design and innovative horticultural practices.

This year more than 300 gardens in 19 states will be open to the public on various dates throughout the gardening season. With the help of a large contingent of volunteers, the Garden Conservancy, a national non-profit organization dedicated to preserving exceptional American gardens for public education and enjoyment, arranges for gardens that are rarely, if ever, open for public viewing to open their garden gates for a day.

The Garden Conservancy's Open Days Directory, with descriptions of the various open gardens, is available for purchase. It lists open days for private gardens by state and county and by date, and includes information on public gardens in each state as well.

To find out more about the 2012 Garden Conservancy's Open Days, order a Directory and tickets, and find how to become a Garden Conservancy member, go to: Garden Conservancy.

Name that Bird Song


One of the delights of gardening has nothing to do with the gardening itself. It is simply the joy at being outdoors, feeling the sun on your face (or maybe some rain at times!), watching bees and butterflies flit from flower to flower, and listening to the birds sing. And what makes this latter activity even more enjoyable is to be able to put a face to voice, as it were, and know which bird is singing!

A great on-line resource for learning how to identify different bird songs and calls is's Bird Audio Guide. Birds are divided into easy to categorize groups, such as tree-clinging birds, perching birds, or gull-like birds. Simply click on one of the types of birds in the category -- Thrushes under Perching Birds, for example, and you bring up a list of specific birds of that type. Click on the bird's name -- Robin, in this example -- and you'll get lots of information and pictures. Click on Listen and you'll hear the song.

If you have a mobile phone or device with Web access, you can check your song ID right out in the garden. And perhaps you'll even be motivated to add some seed or berry-producing plants for food or evergreens for cover to make your garden an even more hospitable place for feathered visitors!

To learn more about birds and their songs, go to: eNature Bird Audio.

Invasive Species Surprises


Most gardeners in the Northeast remember the drenching that Tropical Storm Irene gave the region late last summer, and her effects are still being felt, sometimes in unexpected ways. Flooding was especially widespread in Vermont, and it's there researchers are finding that, along with a lot of debris that was spread over the landscape by the raging waters, came an invasive species of plant as well.

Japanese knotweed (Polygonum cuspidatum), an Asian plant originally grown as an ornamental, chokes out native vegetation along waterways and roadsides in many parts of the country. It relishes disturbed soil. Portions of the stems and woody rhizomes carried by floodwaters or moved around in clean-up operations have found fertile ground in the bare soil left along flood-ravaged streams and rivers. According to Brian Colleran, the coordinator of Vermont's knotweed control program, Irene created ideal conditions for the spread of this invasive plant.

In other parts of the country, flooding has also helped to spread invasive purple loosestrife along the Missouri River. And plants aren't the only invasive species that get spread around when lakes and rivers jump their banks. Asian carp have also ridden floodwaters to find their way into new bodies of water.

An unexpected twist in the battle to control invasive species comes in the efforts to control another Asian import, mile-a-minute-weed (Persicaria perfoliata). Researchers have released a weed-eating weevil, itself an Asian species, in areas of New England and the mid-Atlantic states where mile-a-minute-weed runs rampant. The weevils have spread fairly quickly, do not seem to have an adverse effect on any native plants, and in some places have largely eliminated the weed. So what's the problem? Instead of native vegetation moving in to fill in the vacated territory, other invasive plant species are moving in instead! So there is still much work to be done in figuring out how to return areas affected by invasive plants back to their natural vegetation.

To read more about the role of floodwater in spreading invasives, go to: Burlington Free Press. For more on Japanese knotweed and its control, go to: NRCS.



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