Countryside Corner Neighborly Garden News
Issue 69, January 2018
All America Selections; top plants for American gardens
All-America Selections National and Regional Winners are tested for garden performance by a panel of horticultural experts. Varieties that perform best over all of North America become AAS National Winners. Entries that performed particularly well in certain regions are named AAS Regional Winners. AAS Winners offer gardeners reliable new varieties that have proven their superior garden performance in trial gardens across North America, thus, their tagline of “Tested Nationally and Proven Locally. Here are a few of their recommended plants from their recent contest:
Basil ‘Dolce Fresca’ is a new large leaved Genovese type basil, that will maintain a compact, attractive shape throughout the growing season. After harvest, new growth will bounce back very quickly, allowing cooks to utilize this herb over a long growing period. Good for beds or containers, grows 14” tall x 12” wide. Very drought tolerant.
Strawberry ‘Delizz’ are one of the first strawberries that can be grown true from seed, as it is an F1 hybrid. Delizz can also be grown as starter plants, and will produce their fruit over a long harvest period, because they have been bred to be day neutral. Typical strawberries are dependent on a long photo-period to produce their fruit in June. Day neutral plants are not dependent on the length of day, thus will produce fruit throughout the growing season. Delizz can be expected to produce about 45 berries per each plant, and will even produce berries indoors near a very well-lit window for about a month! This Strawberry is distinctly upright in growth, with lush dark green foliage. Grows to 10-24” tall x 12” wide. Good for beds, containers and hanging baskets.
Salvia coccinea ‘Summer Jewel Lavender’ is a unique, dusty lavender-purple color, very eye-catching, and also attractive to pollinators. The breeder does not recommend dead-heading this plant, as the seed heads will also attract seed eating birds; like the Goldfinch. ‘Summer Jewel Lavender’ starts blooming very early in the season, and will bloom continuously through the summer. Compact and very uniform in growth to 16” tall.
Edible Pea ‘Patio Pride’ will get you excited about veggie gardening! This garden pea will only grow to 24” tall x 12” wide, and bear over 30 pods per plant in only 40 days. These ultra-compact plants produce their sweet peas very early in the season, as they love cool weather. They are perfect for container gardening; pair them with cool season annuals for an ornamental edible display. Peas can also be started in late summer for fall harvests; with proper timing you can produce multiple crops of tasty peas over a long period.
Tomato ‘Midnight Snack’ produces unique, indigo blushed cherry-type tomatoes on indeterminate vines. These unusual tomatoes ripen to deep red with a glossy black-purple overlay. The coloration comes from an accumulation of anthocyanin pigments in the fruit. These are the same phytochemicals that produce the blue coloration in blueberries, and are the anti-oxidants that also make blueberries so healthy. Very flavorful and great for snacking, salads, and healthy treats. They can be harvested in 65-70 days from transplants. Will require staking.
Zinnia ‘Profusion Red’ is the first ‘true red’ zinnia. Profusion Red has been bred for excellent disease resistance to many of the issues that typically bother zinnias, yet Profusion Red will produce early blooms continuously through the summer. Most red zinnias have more of an orange red tone, Profusion Red is a vibrant red that won’t fade, even with intense summer sun. Easy to grow in full sun, Profusion produces uniform, compact plants in beds, containers, and baskets. Grows 8-14” tall, with 2.5” wide flower heads.
January’s to-do list
Fruit trees need annual pruning to keep them healthy. Overgrowth; too dense a canopy, letting water sprouts develop, all can contribute to a tree’s decline. Winter is a good time to perform corrective pruning, and shape your trees; because you have a clear view of the whole tree, and you needn’t worry about oozing sap. Always remove any dead or diseased wood, during winter storms these weak spots can tear off, and cause greater damage, than if they were preemptively pruned.
Be careful not to walk on your garden beds when they are wet and muddy during a thaw, it can permanently compress the soil structure.
It’s great to be seeing more daylight, and your houseplants will sense this move back to the light, too. Begin to feed them half-strength doses of fertilizer; weekly, weakly, is the phrase gardeners use to describe this.
Check for any plants that may have ‘heaved’ out of their planting holes during freeze/thaw cycles. Gently push them back into place.
While your garden is clear, take a survey of your garden structure. Is there enough shade where you need it, or too much where you don’t? Are there low spots that always stay wet after heavy rains? Now is the time to plan for corrections to the major elements of the garden, while it is dormant, and problems may be addressed.
Be on the lookout for plants with winter interest; flourishing evergreens, trees and shrubs with dramatic and graceful branching, and consider adding something new to perk up your winter landscape.
Don’t forget about our little feathered and furry friends! Deep snow and ice severely limit the food and water available to our wild creatures. Providing fresh water and food can literally save a life.
Paper white Narcissus is a very easy and reliable indoor bulb that can bring a little flowering cheer to your home. They don’t need to be planted; I just set mine into a vase on a base of pebbles, and water them lightly until the roots start to grow, then only once a week. They will bloom in 21 days. The 12” tall vase keeps the leaves from flopping.
Where have all the insects gone?
Results of a twenty-five-year study in Europe have some shocking ramifications for life on earth. Professor Dave Goulson, of Sussex University, United Kingdom; a member of the team behind this research, has said that the population of flying insects has declined by 75% during this time period. The fact that insects’ makeup two-thirds of all life on earth, points to “some kind of horrific decline”, said Professor Goulson.
The sampling was taken at 63 nature preserves, located in Germany. Entomologists had devised a standardized way of collecting insects in 1989, so that reporting would be uniform. Traps were utilized to capture more than 1500 samples of flying insects. Results were calculated by total weight of each sample, and this indicated the decline. The annual average weight fell by 76% over the 27 years, and even more surprising the rate was even larger, a drop of 82% in total weight, during the summer months; when insect populations would have been at their peak numbers.
Previous studies had shown declines in certain insect species, such as butterflies. The new research included all flying insects; including wasps and flies. These inclusions pointed to a more serious issue of decline. That the samples were taken from well-managed, protected areas made the results even more worrying. The entomologists also included detailed weather measurements, and any major changes to the landscape and plant species; but the information did not directly correlate to the rapid downward trend seen during the sampling period, stated Martin Sorg of the Krefeld Entomological Society in Germany, who coordinated the group of entomologists participating in the study.
Professor Goulson thinks a possible explanation could be that the flying insects die once they leave the nature preserves. Neighboring farmland does not offer much sustenance for wild creatures, according to Goulson, “It could be there is no food for them, or exposure to chemical pesticides, or a combination of the two. Exactly what is causing their death is open to debate.” The fact that large numbers of insects are decreasing at such a high rate, in a very large sampling area is the alarming discovery.
This past September, one of the chief scientific advisors to the UK government warned that world-wide regulators have made false assumptions about the safety of agricultural pesticides. The effects of applying pesticides over whole landscapes has mostly been ignored up until now. Even though the data was collected in Germany, the results have implications for all landscapes dominated by agriculture. Flying insects perform vital ecological functions, where the quantity of insects matters a great deal. Without insects our world will face an ecological disaster.
Locally grown fruit seems to have more flavor than some store-bought fruit. Perhaps it’s because most fruit is shipped from far away, and has to survive weeks of storage before we get to eat it. Maybe the varieties grown to facilitate shipping lack flavor as opposed to durability. There are also many types of fruit you may never find in your local market, but are easy and rewarding to grow.
Pineberry, may also be known as the hula-berry. Pineberries are an albino hybrid of strawberry cultivars originating from North and South America. Their flavor is reminiscent of pineapples and strawberries; hence Pineberry. These unique berries are white with red ‘seeds’, and have a firm texture that is also soft and juicy inside. Their white coloration helps protect them from bird and rodent browsing; these animals are keyed into searching for red fruit, and pretty much ignore Pineberries. Pineberries are not self-fertile, and will need another strawberry cultivar to enable fruit set.
Diospyros virginiana ‘Golden Delight’, the common persimmon is an uncommon landscape tree, worthy of more use. ‘Golden Delight’ was selected, and propagated, from an exceptional tree of this native eastern species. ‘Golden Delight’ has larger fruit than the species. Common persimmon flowers resemble blueberry flowers, and are very fragrant. The sweet and tasty fruit ripens on the tree after frost, typically in October. Mature size is 35-60’ tall x 20’ wide. Fall color is golden yellow to purplish-red.
Morus rubra ‘Illinois Everbearing’, Red Mulberry produces blackberry-like fruit, but on a tree! The fruit is said to have a distinct crunch when bitten into, followed by a rush of sweet juice. Red Mulberry will produce fruit over a long period, from June until September. Mulberries will begin as red, and ripen to dark purple-black, they don’t ripen all at once, but over a six-week period. The fruit is good for fresh eating, pies, jam and muffins. Mulberry trees like moist soil, and full sun, but are tolerant of part shade. Orchardists use Mulberries as a ‘trap plant’ to lure birds away from other fruit; like cherries and blueberries. Grows 30’ tall x 30’ wide.
Ribes uva-crispa, Gooseberries produce grape-like berries in clusters along branches of the ornamental shrubs. They can be found in red, green and purple varieties, the fruit has a tart skin and sweet juicy flesh. The gooseberry bush will begin yielding fruit one year after planting, so plan ahead. Luckily Williamstown, and the surrounding towns, are permitted to grow gooseberries, while other towns in MA are prohibited due to the complex relationship between the fugal pathogen that causes White Pine Blister Rust disease. Gooseberries prefer a sweet soil, with a pH of 6.0-6.5, so you may need to prep your soil before planting. Gooseberries prefer full sun, but avoid south facing slopes, as they may be adversely affected by the intense sun. Plant Gooseberries on a slight slope, if possible, to facilitate drainage.