Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

Garden Talk: May 5, 2014

From NGA Editors

Red Swan Bush Beans


Edible landscaping is a concept that's here to stay. No longer is the food garden relegated to a rectangle of plants in straight rows tucked into an out-of-the-way spot in the backyard. Gardeners, especially those with limited space, are reaping a visual ″harvest″ as well as an edible one of fruits and veggies by incorporating their food plants into attractive beds and containers, mixing them in with ornamental plants, and placing them in the front yard or on a deck or patio, not just the ″back forty.″

So it's no surprise that we gardeners are on the lookout for varieties of veggies that do double duty in our landscapes. Even the humble bush bean can contribute eye-catching color when you grow 'Red Swan' bush beans. The 4-5 inch long, flat pods of these stringless snap beans are a beautiful rosy-purple color, making an effective contrast with the green leaves as they hang on the plant. When cooked, the pods change to bright green. Bred from a cross between a purple snap bean and a pinto bean and growing 12-15″ tall, 'Red Swan' is ready for picking in just 54 days.

Like all beans,'Red Swan' will do best when planted in warm soil when all danger of frost is past. Make several small plantings every few weeks in succession for continued garden color and a delectable harvest all summer long.

For more information on 'Red Swan' bush beans, go to High Mowing Organic Seeds. (Image courtesy of National Garden Bureau)


Sweet Orange Impatiens


Impatiens has long been a favorite choice for all summer color in the shade garden. But unfortunately in the past few years a new disease called downy mildew of impatiens has decimated plantings in many parts of the country. First observed in this country in 2004, it has reached epidemic proportions in recent years, causing many gardeners to rethink their use of what used to be considered an easy-care plant.

Fortunately for impatiens lovers, there are some types that are not affected by downy mildew. While all types of garden impatiens (Impatiens walleriana) are affected, New Guinea impatiens (I. hawkeri), including SunPatiens®, are not affected. Which makes Impatiens New Guinea Florific™ Sweet Orange, a 2014 All-America Selections National Bedding Plant Award winner, a great choice for brightening up a shady spot in your landscape.

'Sweet Orange' produces masses of large, bicolored flowers in a unique mix of colors from light salmon to deep orange that stand out against bronzy foliage. Plants naturally develop good branching on a mounded plant, so they work well planted in masses in garden beds as well as in containers. An ideal location will provide morning sun and afternoon shade, but plants are adaptable to a variety of conditions. And they will flower until frost without falling prey to downy mildew. Look for 'Sweet Orange' in local garden stores this spring.

New Guinea impatiens are heat-lovers, so wait until nights are reliably above 45-50 degrees F before setting plants outside. Give them consistently moist but not soggy soil and fertilize lightly but regularly.

To read more about Florific™ Sweet Orange New Guinea Impatiens, go to All-America Selections. (Image courtesy of All-America Selections)

Pop in a Winterberry


Winterberry, a deciduous member of the Holly clan, is popular for adding fall and winter color to the landscape with its bright red berries. But most varieties of Ilex verticillata are large shrubs, too big for many space-challenged gardeners to use -- especially since these dioecious plants need a non-fruiting male pollinator planted nearby in order for the female plants to produce their colorful berries.

Now small-space gardeners can enjoy winterberry with the compact combo of Berry Poppins and Mr. Poppins from Proven Winners. Growing only 3-4 feet tall and wide, these compact cultivars can be tucked into landscapes both small and large. Berry Poppins, the female selection, bears a heavy crop of berries that form in late summer and become a landscape focal point when the shrub's leaves drop in fall. Equally compact Mr. Poppins provides the pollen necessary for the show. One male plant is sufficient to pollinate at least 5-6 female plants nearby.

While many bird species will dine on winterberries, they are not a favored choice because of their low fat content and are usually not eaten until late winter when other higher fat choices have been consumed. This lets you enjoy a long stretch of winter color and help out your feathered friends as well! And while the small white flowers in late spring are not very showy, they are attractive to honeybees and other pollinators.

Hardy in zones 3-9, winterberry does best in moist, acidic soil high in organic matter in full to part sun, but it's quite adaptable. Because it can take wet as well as drier soil, it's a great choice for a rain garden planting.

Learn more about Berry Poppins and Mr. Poppins winterberries.(Image courtesy of Proven Winners)

Spotlight on Youth Gardens: Chicago Youth Center


In a crime-ridden neighborhood in Chicago, the Chicago Youth Center's (CYC) Sunshine Garden, a recipient of the National Gardening Association's 2014 Youth Garden Grant, provides a safe haven for young gardeners and their families. Located next to the ABC Polk Brothers Community Center in Chicago's North Lawndale neighborhood, the garden was once a vacant lot filled with garbage and overgrown vegetation. Now in its fourth year, the Sunshine Garden, with help of National Gardening Association's youth garden grants, has grown from just 15 participants in 2012 to over 70 children and teens actively working in the garden space.

The program connects garden activities with academic enrichment, making direct connections to core subject areas while engaging youth in growing food, composting, vermicomposting, and learning to effectively use the garden space. ″Programs provided by CYC support youth and their family members. These programs include licensed Head Start and after-school programs, summer residential and day camp experiences, in addition to a full menu of teen programs,″ says Kimberly George, CYC's garden coordinator. ″The CYC youth garden is a project adopted by the entire center.″

The garden space includes two bookcases up-cycled into raised beds where participants have successfully grown zucchini, strawberries, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, lettuce, cilantro, and an assortment of flowers. New additions to the garden include a dedicated ″digging area″ for young children, and a strawberry patch. A butterfly garden was also added recently, and last year a butterfly was spotted at the Sunshine Garden for the first time! In effort to bring more pollinators to the space, a native wildflower garden is planned for this year.

CYC has recently received the honor of being a certified "City of Chicago Community Garden" and will be featured on a tour of community gardens in August 2014. Learn more about the Sunshine Garden through their Facebook page.



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