Monday, February 25, 2013

2013 Perennial of the Year - Variegated Solomon's Seal

Chambersburg MG Cindy Stead's Specimen - July - Shade Garden
The 2013 Perennial of the Year is Polygonatum odoratum ‘Variegatum’, or Variegated Solomon’s Seal. Other common names include Striped Solomon’s Seal, Fragrant Solomon’s Seal and Variegated Fragrant Solomon’s Seal.

Photo by Steve Still - Perennial Plant Ass'n

According to Dr. Leonard Perry of the University of Vermont, the plant is native to Europe and Asia but is related to the native American Solomon's Seal, P. biflorum, an understory plant from eastern North America noted for its arching stems and attractive leaves.

It was Dr. Perry's selection as Perennial of the Month for February, 2000.
Photo by Steve Still - Perennial Plant Ass'n

The scientific name is Latin for poly or many, and gonu or knee joints, referring to the many jointed rhizome roots. The common name may have come from the scar left on the roots once the stems die off in fall, resembling seal used on wax on documents in past time.

It also may be from fact that the powdered roots were believed in the 16th century to "seal" broken bones when drunk in ale. Garden writer for NPR, Ketzel Levine, follows up on this theory by quoting from botanist John Gerard's 1597 publication, The Herball, or, Generall historie of plantes, where he praises the root's ability to seal broken bones "...gotten by falls or women's willfulness, in stumbling upon their hasty husbands' fists."

The plant grows best under part shade, but tolerates full shade conditions well. It is hardy in zones 4-8, preferring moist, well-drained soils, but can also tolerate dry soils and short drought conditions. The small, delicate and fragrant, creamy-white bell-shaped flowers usually bloom in the May to June time frame in our area. The foliage keeps its green, with white-tipped artist's paintbrush appearance throughout the summer, before turning a bronze yellow in Autumn. Flowers will form a single-seeded, blue-black berry. There are no serious disease or pest problems.

The Perennial Plant Association started its Perennial Plant of the Year program in 1990 to "to showcase a perennial that is a standout among its competitors. Perennials chosen are suitable for a wide range of growing climates, require low maintenance, have multiple-season interest, and are relatively pest/disease-free. If you are looking for an excellent perennial for your next landscape project or something reliable for your gardens, make sure to check out the Perennial Plant of the Year™ archive list." They go on to note:
The selection process is quite simple – PPA members vote for the Perennial Plant of the Year™ each summer. At that time, in addition to the vote, each member may also nominate up to two plants for future consideration. The Perennial Plant of the Year™ committee reviews the nominated perennials (more than 400 different perennials are often nominated each year) and selects 3 to or 4 perennials to be placed on the ballot. Nominations generally need to satisfy the following criteria:
  • Suitability for a wide range of climatic conditions
  • Low-maintenance requirements
  • Relative pest- and disease-resistance
  • Ready availability in the year of promotion
  • Multiple seasons of ornamental interest
The 2012 Perennial Plant of the Year selection was Brunnera macrophylla 'Jack Frost'. You can view all previous years' winners at PPA's site here.

Master Gardener Cindy Stead, whose specimen is featured in the lead off picture above, hopes to capture how it looks throughout the season, documenting when it first sends up its shoots, leafing out, blooming, and finally its Fall color. We'll post the results here on the blog.

I first became aware of Variegated Solomon's Seal during the Master Gardener Plant Sale in 2003. There were 3 plants donated to the sale, which were quickly snapped up by fellow Master Gardeners. The following year, there were 5 plants donated, which, again, disappeared before I could snag one. In 2005, I finally was able to procure one for my own shade garden, where it has established beautifully.

By 2007, there were several plants available to the public and Master Gardeners Brenda Bodner and Sylvia Kremp planted some in the moist area of the Wildlife Area, where we tried to demonstrate a Rain Garden, with limited success. The Variegated Solomon's Seal, however, has spread nicely, and is now a good source of specimens which we divide and offer for sale each year.

Look for them on Saturday, May 18th, 2013 at the annual Franklin County Master Gardener Plant Sale.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Site News

Monthly Page Views - Franklin County Master Gardener Blog

Some time in the next day or two, this blog will get its 100,000th visit (currently 99, 750 on Sunday, 2/24/13 at 9:30 AM).  We started it on July 10, 2009 with a post on Tomato Late Blight - Dunno why the chart from the blog software is labled May 2008 at the beginning.  Doesn't matter.  In less than four years, we have made 100,000 direct contacts with our readership, hopefully bringing Penn State and other Land Grant University researched-based information to the gardening public.

Stroll down memory lane with these posts from the first 3 months:

July, 2009
August, 2009
September, 2009

Merits another Applause Applause link, methinks.

Update: Monday, February 25th, 2013 8:02 PM - 100,000 it is!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Thoughts and Meditations on Gardening - 4

The earth laughs in flowers
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

The quote above comes from Emerson's poem, Hamatreya, which you can read in full at the link.  Here is the excerpt that includes the quote:
Earth laughs in flowers, to see her boastful boys
Earth-proud, proud of the earth which is not theirs;
Who steer the plough, but cannot steer their feet
Clear of the grave.
A bit more somber than the original sentiment evoked by the quote.  The poem provides something of an indictment of humankind's boastful, yet ignorant indignities toward Nature.  And, yet, to me, it also carries a more hopeful message of Nature shrugging off the indignities, and laughing back at us with the strength of her powers, while our human bodies must return, eventually, with humility, within her fold.

Emerson is the source of my favorite definition of a weed, "A plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered."

Friday, February 22, 2013

Impatiens Alternatives for 2013

Horticulture Educator, Steve Bogash, guest blogs on alternatives to impatiens, which were devastated last year with a new disease, Impatiens Downy Mildew, (Plasmopara obducens).

Photo Courtsey IFAS Palm Beach Extension
Last season, we at Penn State Extension started getting calls about Impatiens losing their leaves and collapsing long before frost. The best calls were requests for bunny rabbit control as gardeners thought that rabbits had eaten all of their Impatiens’ leaves.

It turns out that we have a new disease, Impatiens Downy mildew, that specifically hits what most of us know as the “Common Garden Impatiens”, Impatiens walleriana. (Busy Lizzy) This disease does not infect other plants as of this time. There are other species of Downy mildew that infect most every plant if the pathogen is present and the conditions are right. However, it is very important to note that this disease does not infect New Guinea or Sunpatiens or any other flowers or herbs.

Downy Mildew on Impatiens
This disease was first reported in the United States in 1942. Since then, there have been sporadic outbreaks, but things started getting serious in 2004. Then widespread regional outbreaks were reported in 2011. The map showing where it was found in 2012 does not leave much of the U.S. disease-free.

Pennsylvania, like many states is a hotspot for this disease. If you had infected plants in your flower beds last year, then it is extremely likely that things will get worse this year. This pathogen overwinters quite well and can persist for many years.

How do you know if your Impatiens had it last year?
  • Yellowish or pale-green foliage
  • Downward curling of the leaves
  • Distorted leaves
  • White to light-gray fuzz on the undersides of the leaves. There are excellent images on the web if you search for “Impatiens Downy Mildew.”
  • Emerging, new leaves that are smaller than normal and discolored.
  • Flower buds that either fail to form or abort before opening.
  • Stunted plants
If you have relied on Impatiens for color in your shadier areas in the past, things are going to change at least until plant breeders come up with resistant varieties. For now, your best options are to use other plants that still perform well in the shade, and if you are fortunate enough to have avoided the disease so far, cull infected plants quickly if you see symptoms. Also, healthy-appearing plants adjacent to the diseased plants should be culled. Do not compost these plants, dispose of them.

Landscapers and those holding Pesticide Applicators Licenses have an additional option with an array of fungicides which if applied properly (timing and rate are very important) can control this disease. Home gardeners have a single active ingredient, phosphonic acid, marketed as Agri Fos, from Monterey Products and Exel LG from Organic Laboratories that should provide good control if used according to their labels.

The best option for many of us is to use alternative plants that perform well in the shade. Here are some to consider:

Begonia 'Black Fancy' - UGA 2012 Trials
Bigleaf begonias: The Penn State Flower Trials at the Southeast Research and Extension Center (Manheim area) identified several of these as superior performers. Look for the Whopper series.

Picture Courtesy of Cornell University

Wax begonias: These are a mainstay in the shade for many gardeners as they are compact, have good leaf color and texture and are available in market packs for larger plantings.

Lobelia erinus - Picture Courtesy of Cornell University
Lobelia: While they will perform best in the sun, they will tolerate partial shade.

Impatiens hybrid 'SunPatiens Compact Electric Orange'
SunPatiens: the plant-growing industry is currently looking at these as the go-to replacement as they are resistant to this disease even under heavy pressure and there are both upright and spreading types.

Impatiens hawkerii 'Tamarinda Orange Orchid'
New Guinea Impatiens: As with SunPatiens, New Guineas are resistant to this disease. In addition, there are some really interesting variegated types.

Torenia fournieri - University of Illinois (Wishbone Flower)
Torenia: This underused plant is worth a look as it performs well from partial to full shade.

Solenostemon 'ColorBlaze Marooned'  Coleus
Coleus: look for those that are labeled for shade.

Picture Courtesy of Cornell University
Polka Dot Plant: Interesting spotted foliage plant now in many hybrid forms. It is shade tolerant, but not truly dark areas.

Alternanthera 'Purple Knight' (Joseph's Coat)
Joseph’s Coat: Another interesting foliage plant that does well in partial, but not heavy shade.

Our shady areas will probably look a bit different for the next several years, but there are some good options to Impatiens. Go to the SunPatiens’ website for advice on spacing, learn what this disease looks like and plan for another great gardening season.

Update: March 9, 2013.  Master Gardener Tina Clinefelter (Clinton County) of Gardening in the Keystone State, adds her alternative selections to the list.

Update: March 20, 2013.  Illinois Extension has more on the disease, with links to more alternatives from Michigan State University.

Update: March 23, 2013.  The University of Maryland's Home and Garden Information Center describes the disease and offers alternatives here.

Update: April 9, 2013.  Steve's counterpart for Buck's County, Educator Scott Guiser has a post on the subject which you can read here.  He also links to the Michigan State Q&A and another alternatives list from Ball Seed Company.

Update: April 19, 2013.  Washington Post horticulture writer Adrian Higgins covers the topic here.

March 2013 Workshops

March, 2013 is a busy month for us.  Here are the workshops we have scheduled for the public.  Come on out and learn from Master Gardeners, the best practices based on tested Land Grant University science and research for making your home gardens and landscapes the envy of the neighborhood.

To register, call the Extension Office at 717.263.9226.  The fee for each of these workshops (except the Fruit one, which incudes a Growing Guide) is $10.00.

Pruning Workshop - Saturday March 2, 2013 9:00 a.m.- 11:00 a.m. Elmer Greey, Franklin County Master Gardener, will discuss pruning considerations, including equipment and “hands-on” practice throughout his garden. This is an opportunity to see some of Elmer’s 700 different plants. Dress for the weather and bring bypass hand pruning shears.  Saturday March 2, 2013 9:00 a.m.- 11:00 a.m. Located at the home of Elmer Greey 8690 Rice Road, Shippensburg Call the Extension Office at 717-263-9226 for directions. 

Starting a Vegetable Garden - Wednesday, March 13, 2013 6:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m. Join Master Gardeners Bill Dorman and Gary Ankney to learn how to start a vegetable garden. Topics will include choosing the site, preparing the soil, selecting which varieties to plant and the proper time for planting early veggies and mid-season plantings. Penn State soil test kits will be available for purchase at $9 each. 

Intro to Backyard Fruit - Saturday, March 16, 2013 9:00 a.m. - 11:00 a.m.  Join the Master Gardeners for an introductory workshop on growing fruit in your backyard. The class will cover growing grapes, small fruit (strawberries, blueberries, and brambles) and tree fruit (pome and stone fruit) plus some lesser known but easy-to-grow ones. Pre-registration is recommended. Class fee is $20 and includes a Guide to Growing Fruit at Home.

Picture Courtesy of Evansville, IN Government

Introduction to Storm Water Management - Tuesday March 19, 2013 6:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m. Join George Hurd, Environmental Extension Educator, and the Master Gardeners for this introductory class on back-yard storm water management. Topics to be introduced include storm water definition, rain barrels, rain gardens, mosquito control, drought tolerant gardens, and composting.

Picture Courtesy of the University of Wisconsin

Turf Workshop - Wednesday, March 20, 2013 6:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m. Last summer’s weather extremes could have had a major impact on your lawn. Master Gardener Bob Hyatt teaches the best way to have a healthy lawn regardless of what mother nature throws your way.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Starting Seeds Indoors Workshop

Photo courtesy Jim Grefig

Expand your options for plant selections beyond what’s available from commercial nurseries and greenhouses. You, too, can jump-start the spring growing season by starting your own plants from seed.

Master Gardener Ray Eckhart will teach about the equipment and methods used for starting seeds indoors. As part of the class, attendees will build and take home a frame to support a lighting system suitable for home use on Thursday, February 28, 2013 from 6:30-8:30 pm.

Cost for the class is $25, including your own frame. Without a frame, class fee is $10. Registration is required.

Class is limited to 20 people.

Update: February 22, 2013

Master Gardener Prep Team in Action.  MG Jane Krumpe led a team of Manly Men prepping for next week's workshop.  Thanks, folks!

MG's Lionel Lemery, Bill Dorman, Jane Krumpe, and Paul Luka
Measure Twice, Cut Once

Ready for Assembly

Saturday, February 16, 2013

The Art of Japanese Landscaping and Bonsai Report

On a table at the front of the room were a 24-year-old houseplant and pots and pots of miniature plants, enough to make a small forest. They were examples of plants trained in the art of bonsai (bones-eye), or literally a “tree in a pot.”

Exports of bonsai trees from Japan have increased significantly, 10 times what they were a decade ago as reported last October by Japan Today, a Tokyo-based online newspaper. The biggest buyers are China, Italy and the United States. The simple, classic style appeals to contemporary designers and the small size fits well in many down-sized homes.
On February 16, 2013 the Master Gardeners of Penn State Extension, Franklin County held a workshop on The Art of Japanese Landscaping and Bonsai. Over 20 people attended to hear about growing and training bonsai and the elements of Japanese landscaping in gardens.
“I’ve been trying for over 15 years to create a bonsai,” said Tisha Corwell, Chambersburg. The workshop has Corwell ready to “try it again.”

Master Gardener Barbara Petrucci spoke about bonsai, providing information about plant selections, noting that the proportions of the plant and the pot are important.  She talked about different styles such as cascading and slanting as well as wiring, re-potting, over-wintering and pruning the plants.
Barbara Petrucci spoke about the art of bonsai

On display was Petrucci’s Schefflera (Umbrella) plant which she began training 24 years ago. She took the opportunity to show how to prune on this plant, eliciting a few gasps from the audience as she snipped off very healthy green growths.
Barbara Petrucci prunes new growth from her Schefflera

 A long-time bonsai enthusiast, Petrucci participated in the workshop hoping to find others interested in establishing an informal bonsai club. “And I wanted to show off my plants,” she laughed.
Gardeners are including elements of Japanese landscape in part because it seeks to capture and celebrate the splendor and variety of the universe in a microcosm, recognizing that everything- plants, people, even inanimate objects like stones and mountains- contain a dynamic, spiritual essence. And each element is symbolic of the whole and a worthy subject of respect and contemplation.
Wrapped in a dragon-embroidered kimono, Master Gardener Sylvia Kremp talked about Japanese inspired landscaping. Her interest grew out of research she did for a program presentation. Kremp said, "The more I researched online the more I was interested" in the elements and symbolism used in this style.
Sylvia Kremp - Japanese Landscape

Kremp walked the audience through her home landscape, describing the reasons for placement of certain plants. She described how using Yin and Yang, a Chinese concept describing opposite or contrary forces are really interconnected and interdependent in the natural world, she shaped areas and created focal points.
“I have a Japanese-inspired garden,” said Bonnie Kress, Shippensburg, who came to learn more about this style of gardening. She added that there are non-Japanese elements and agreed that may be more like a Japanese-fusion garden.
“I came primarily for the landscaping,” said Karen Sigler, Mifflintown. She is working to complete a Japanese inspired landscape and has both a weeping cherry tree and Hinoki cypress plants already installed.
Sylvia Kremp and Barbara Petrucci
Audience members had an opportunity to look over books on display, exhibit boards with photos from different stages of bonsai plants and some were able to take home a few starter-cuttings from Barbara’s quarter-century Schefflera.
Barb Petrucci's 24-Year Old Schefflera
Learn more about Japanese landscape and the art of bonsai

Lebanon County - Amateur Herbalist - Make and Take Bonsai
National Bonsai Foundation
Pennsylvania Bonsai Society
Potomac Bonsai Association 

Shofu-So Japanese Garden, Fairmont Park, Philadelphia
Longwood Gardens - Bonsai
U.S. National Arboretum - Bonsai Museum

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Master Gardeners Go High Tech - QR Codes

Back in June, 2011, Karen Jeannette, who manages the eXtension Master Gardener Blog, posted about her discovery of Quick Response (QR) codes at the Ladybird Johnson Wildlife Center in Texas.  If you scroll down in her link above, you'll see my reaction - "I’m intrigued. We just completed our annual plant sale and we have a year to figger it all out. Will definitely investigate. Thanks for the info."

I kept it in the back of my mind until this fall when I asked MG Juanita Kauffman's daughter, Jessica, who had impressed me during the greenhouse operations last spring with her knowledge of all things smart phone related (lord knows, being the old fogie that I am, I'm barely able to use the dumb flip cell phone I have, let alone the smart ones), to investigate the technology for us.

What I learned from her is, basically, QR codes are similar to bar codes - the things that are scanned at the grocery store, and virtually all retail places, that read the code and send pricing data to the cash register that then goes on to tally the bill for the buyer, and update the store's sales data base (maybe match it with the scan of your discount card), and manage the stock inventory of the item to report to managers and marketing specialists about what is and is not selling, etc., etc.

In the case of QR codes, however, there is an added dimension.  Anyone with a smart phone (IPhone, Android, etc.) and the appropriate application (APP) - usually included at no additional charge with most smart phone plans - has the ability to scan the code, so anyone can be a scanner, not just retail operations with specialized hardware and software.  Plus - the new QR code (two dimensional, rather than one dimensional) can contain up to 64 characters in the scan, whereas the old barcode technology was limited to 8 or 16 characters. The even more exciting new capability, is that the creator of the QR code can embed an internet address (a URL or Uniform Resource Locater - not that you need to know that)  in the code, that will link the scanner to a web address of the creator's choosing.  Powerful.

My first reaction was the potential to augment the information we offer about our Demonstration Gardens, like in the Ladybird Wildflower Center Gardens in Karen's example. Adding a weather proof QR code on the sign (mailbox) at each of our Demonstration Gardens linking back to this blog, or to our Extension Web Pages that include pictures of plants in bloom, and/or a list of each of the particular specimens in the garden, gives the scanner much more information than what we can include on the printed flyer or brochure that we hand out. 

On top of that, it drives traffic to reputable sites giving good Land Grant University information, fulfilling our outreach to the public mission.

The next thought that arose was the opportunity to augment our signage at the Plant Sale.  Think about it.  A sign with a single picture of American Elderberry - 2013 Herb of the Year, can include a QR code linking to Carol Kagan's excellent write up here, with pictures and embedded links to other good information.  It's also a way to fix the problem of specimens that aren't in bloom at the time of our plant sale - spring ephemerals that are already done (Blood Root, Virginia Blue Bells, Twin Leaf, etc.), Day lilies that have not yet bloomed, as well as the Bear's Breeches, Resurrection Lilies, and fall blooming Solidagos.  Create a sign, include a QR code to those blog posts and we're off and running - potentially better sales, as well as getting better information out there to the public.

Win. Win.

What made this all fall into place in the last couple of weeks, was a discussion on the Garden Professor's Blog you can read here that spurred me to action, and took the project off the back burner.  The last domino to fall was the response from the Penn State Information Technology team when I asked them to recommend an easy, inexpensive QR creator software that we could use.  Answer here.  Incredibly easy.  Tested it, and within 15 minutes of getting the link, created the code above, and Jenn Wetzel of our support staff read it on her smart phone (using the APP for the first time) and it worked perfectly.

As with any new technology, we still expect some glitches, but right now, the sky's the limit.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Thoughts and Meditations on Gardening - 3

From her Wikipedia Page

Jenny Uglow  is a British biographer, critic and publisher. The editorial director of Chatto & Windus, she has written critically acclaimed biographies of Elizabeth Gaskell, William Hogarth, Thomas Bewick and the Lunar Society, among others, and has also compiled a women's biographical dictionary.
She won the 2002 James Tait Black Memorial Prize and the 2003 Hessell-Tiltman Prize for The Lunar Men: The Friends who Made the Future 1730–1810, and her works have twice been shortlisted for the Whitbread Prize. As of 2013, she is President of the Alliance of Literary Societies.
In this Guardian article of favorite new books for the year 2002, one literary critic wrote of The Lunar Men:
Jenny Uglow's The Lunar Men (Faber) is the best new book I've read this year - full of unexpected information, amazing characters and the real sense that scientific curiosity is as exciting as any "artistic" pursuit. The orderly niceties of 18th-century polite society never interested me - but here is raw energy, commercial, intellectual, pig-headed, far-sighted.
Far sighted indeed.  Here's some recent research that supports the quote above, including links to studies showing various roles of plants and landscapes in human health and well-being.

Here's another one by the USDA Forest Service showing a correlation (not necessarily causation) on the links between trees and human health.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Plants with Winter Interest Part 12 - River Birch

River Birch in MG Karen Strimple's Landscape
About a year ago, Master Gardener Jill Hudock wrote about an elegant tree with beautiful exfoliating bark that added a textural component to her winter landscape – the Paperbark Maple, or Acer griseum. She also noted, however, that the tree can be a little pricey, as well as a bit finicky to grow.

River Birch in MG Karen Strimple's Landscape
Here is another tree with exfoliating bark that also adds texture to the winter landscape, but is native to North America,  and is easy to grow, readily available, and comparatively inexpensive – River Birch, or Betula nigra. The genus name Betula is latin for “pitch”, which etymologists (word researchers) guess came from bitumen, a tarry substance that can be distilled from the bark of birch trees, and nigra translates as "black", referring to the mature bark color of the species.

River Birch in MG Karen Strimple's Landscape
River birch is a fast-growing, medium-sized, deciduous tree, hardy in zones 4-9, which occurs naturally on floodplains, or alluvial soils near rivers, and in marshes, or wetlands.

River Birch in MG Karen Strimple's Landscape
In the home landscape, it can be trained to form a single trunk or allowed to follow its natural tendency toward a multi-trunked tree. It is native to North America with a primary range in the southeastern quarter of the United States from eastern Texas and southeastern Iowa to Virginia and northern Florida. We’re at the northern end of its natural range here in Franklin County, although it is widely cultivated in home landscapes and public parks, and there are scattered natural populations found along rivers and streams as far north as southern Minnesota, central Wisconsin, and the middle New England States.

River Birch in MG Karen Strimple's Landscape
Height at maturity comes in at 40-60 feet. The tree is monoecious, meaning it forms separate male and female flowers on the same tree. Male flowers (catkins) are formed on twig tips in the fall and mature the following April or May. Female catkins appear with the leaves and open in early spring. The fruit matures in late spring or early summer, and is dispersed when it ripens. In their native habitat, River Birch seeds are a food source for a number of species of birds including ruffed grouse and wild turkey. Native Americans used the boiled sap as a sweetener similar to maple syrup, and the inner bark as a survival food.

River Birch in MG Karen Strimple's Landscape
The outstanding ornamental value of River Birch in the home landscape is the exfoliating, or peeling bark that provides the winter interest we’re looking for in this series. The bark color can vary from a dark gray-brown to pinkish-brown, or cinnamon colored, to a creamy, pinkish white, depending on the cultivar, peeling away in curly, papery sheets. Prince Maximilian of Austria, who later became the short-lived emperor of Mexico, called it the most beautiful of American trees when he toured here in the mid 19th century.

River Birch in MG Karen Strimple's Landscape
Master Gardener Karen Strimple has always been a fan of the tree, and when she and her husband moved to Blue Ridge Summit from the Washington DC area, their property offered the perfect spot – a site in the front yard with a perched water table that required landscape specimens that can tolerate wet feet, or soggy conditions that take some time to drain, especially in the early spring after snow melt. She’ll never forget the day the first tree was planted. It was September 11, 2001. Another tree was planted a few years later. Karen loves the “see throughness” of the tree in summer, with foliage that flutters appealingly in the breeze. A neighbor, with an older specimen, describes its canopy cover as the perfect place to serve afternoon tea.

River Birch in MG Karen Strimple's Landscape
The ability of River Birch to tolerate soggy conditions is augmented by its ability to also tolerate higher summer temperatures than the rest of the birches, as well as its high resistance to the bronze birch borer, which is a major pest of other birches.

River Birch in MG Karen Strimple's Landscape
Because of its native status, ability to tolerate wet, and warm conditions, and pest resistance, River Birch is recommended for use in riparian buffers and other restoration sites alongside streams and reclamation sites after strip mining for erosion control. These characteristics also make it an excellent choice to anchor a rain garden. A six year old specimen can be viewed in the Master Gardener Woodland Meadow and Native Habitat demonstration garden on the Franklin Farm campus.

Learn more about Plants with Winter Interest:

Winter Interest in MG Iris Master's Landscape and Other Penn National Gardens
Nandina - Heavenly Bamboo
Landscaping for Four Seasons of Interest
Plants With Winter Interest - Part 1 - Partridge Berry
Plants With Winter Interest - Part 2 - Snowdrops
Plants With Winter Interest - Part 3 - Stinking Hellebore
Plants With Winter Interest - Part 4 - Native Jewel Orchid
Plants With Winter Interest - Part 5 - Lavender
Plants With Winter Interest - Part 6 - Witchhazel
Plants With Winter Interest - Part 7 - Paperbark Maple
Plants With Winter Interest - Part 8 - Eastern Teaberry or Wintergreen
Plants With Winter Interest - Part 9 - Harry Lauder Walking Stick
Plants With Winter Interest - Part 10 - Coral Embers Willow
Plants With Winter Interest - Part 11 - Corkscrew Willow
Ascot Rainbow Spurge - a Year Round Delight

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Thoughts and Meditations on Gardening - 2

I searched around for an appropriate accompaniment to this Greek Proverb, and came across Princeton University's 2000 Valedictory Address by Andrew Houck. As the Dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Science says in his introduction, "His speech, considered by many to be the best in years, was filled with humor and wonderful metaphors."  Here's one of those metaphors, but read the whole thing.
Whatever we do, whether we make a great scientific breakthrough, delight people with our music, or raise a loving family, I would encourage all of us not to spend our entire lives lounging in our ancestors' shade, but to venture out in the sun ourselves, ensuring a well-shaded future for the comfort of those to come.
Having completed his PhD at Harvard University in 2005, Dr. Houck is now an Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering at Princeton.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

All America Selection Winners for 2013

All-America Selections tests and introduces new flowers and vegetables each year that have done well in trials across North America. This year there were two flower winners, one bedding plant winner (two cultivars) and three vegetable winners.

Descriptions and images below are taken directly from All-America Selection materials. For more detailed information including how to grow them, go to their site, or click on the links below for any of the selections.

Canna 'South Pacific Scarlet' F1, 2013 AAS Flower Award Winner Allow 'South Pacific' to add a touch of the tropics to your garden with showy, 4-inch flowers that bloom all summer long in a delicious shade of scarlet. Large leafed statuesque plants reach 4 to 5 feet tall providing a back-of-the-border focal point.

This variety is grown from seed, not tuber. Compact in habit and well suited for both landscape and container use. Canna 'South Pacific Scarlet' prefers warm and humid conditions over 77F. This variety is more vigorous, more uniform, and has more basal branching than Canna Tropical Red.

Echinacea 'Cheyenne Spirit', 2013 AAS Flower Award Winner This stunning first-year flowering echinacea captures the spirit of the North American plains by producing a delightful mix of flower colors from rich purple, pink, red and orange tones to lighter yellows, creams and white. This wide range of flower colors on well branched, durable plants are sure to please the color preferences of any gardener. As an added bonus, ‘Cheyenne Spirit’ does not require a lot of water and offers a wide range of uses from the perennial border, in a mass landscape planting, in a butterfly garden or as a cut flower.

The AAS judges and their trial garden visitors raved about the attractiveness of the flowers and the range of colors while appreciating its sturdiness and low water needs. Even during wind and rain, this compact plant does not topple over like many echinacea. The variety of intense, bright colors adds sparkle to the garden from mid-summer through fall. As an added bonus, this maintenance-free echinacea doesn’t even need deadheading to provide summer long beauty.

Geranium 'Pinto Premium White to Rose' F1, 2013 AAS Bedding Plant Award Winner This addition to the 'Pinto Premium' series is a must-have! Not only is the flower coloration unique and ombre-like, but the numerous 5-inch blooms are long-lasting in the garden. Petals start out white then deepen to rose-pink as flowers mature, giving an attractive bicolor effect. Dense, well-branched plants sport deep green leaves with darker zones that contrast beautifully with the light-colored flowers. 'Pinto Premium White to Rose' is a great choice for carefree, colorful summer garden beds or patio containers.

Melon 'Melemon' F1, 2013 AAS Vegetable Award Winner The earliness, high yield on healthy, strong plants and superior taste all contributed to this melon becoming an AAS Winner. Judges related the taste of this melon to honeydew, but with a surprising and delicious tanginess. A uniform fruit shape makes it perfect for market growers as well as home gardeners. Each personal-sized fruit has refreshing crisp flesh and a unique sweet-tart taste.

Tomato 'Jasper' F1, 2013 AAS Vegetable Award Winner Excellent taste, a long harvest window and outstanding performance in the trials contribute to this cherry tomato’s success. Judges liked the texture and sweetness of the tomato as well as the uniformity of the fruits that grow on vigorous, healthy plants. Jasper is a high yielding variety with fruits that stay on the vine and then hold well after ripening both on the vine and post-harvest. Vigorous vines require little or no fertilization. An added bonus is fusarium resistance and the ability to overcome weather-related stresses.

Watermelon 'Harvest Moon' F1, 2013 AAS Vegetable Award Winner

The first ever hybrid, triploid seedless watermelon to win a coveted AAS Award! Similar to the popular heirloom variety, ‘Moon and Stars,’

'Harvest Moon' is an improvement in that it features healthy, shorter vines that produce medium-sized fruits and sweet, crisp pinkish-red flesh. 'Harvest Moon' retains the familiar dark green rind with yellow dots, like that of ‘Moon and Stars’ but is seedless, earlier to ripen, higher yielding and better tasting. As one judge said, “What’s not to like?"

Zinnia 'Profusion Double Deep Salmon' 2013 AAS Bedding Plant Award Winner
'Profusion Double Deep Salmon' features intensely vibrant, deep pink-orange flowers with double petals. Like other Profusion Zinnias, Deep Salmon flowers continuously from spring through frost and is easy to grow. It is self-cleaning, disease resistant and grows well in a range of climates, including areas with high night temperatures. The flowers can grow 2.5 to 3 inches in diameter and plants grow 14 inches tall and 24 inches wide.
Zinnia 'Profusion Double Hot Cherry' 2013 AAS Bedding Plant Award Winner
This award winner features rich rose, double petalled blooms which cover flower continuously from spring through frost. The bright color does not fade, even under high temperatures. Like all Profusion, 'Double Hot Cherry' is easy to grow as it is self-cleaning, disease resistant and grows well in a wide range of climates, including areas with high night temperatures. The flowers can grow 2.5 to 3 inches in diameter and plants grow 8 to 14 inches tall and 24 inches wide.

The AAS Winners for 2012 can be viewed here.