Tuesday, February 12, 2008

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Echinacea purpurea 'Purity' makes a bold statement without a lot of bold color. There's nothing boring about this white-flowered selection.
Brilliant-white flowers encircle a green cone that matures to orange. The 4 1/2-inch flowers stand sturdily on durable stems. 'Purity' typically grows 18-24 inches tall. A 1-year-old established plant may produce more than 25 flowers.
'Purity,' a Terra Nova Nurseries release, is hardy in USDA Hardiness Zones 4-9.

'Purity' grows best in coarse and slightly mineral media with a pH of 5.8-7.3. It's a moderate feeder. Dry moderately between waterings in the greenhouse. 'Purity' grows best in full sun, and the white petals do not suffer from sun burn. It's drought tolerant once established. It flowers all summer and into fall or sometimes until frost.
Dormancy is required for normal growth and flowering. Heat can force dormancy in the plug stage resulting in overwatering.
There are no pests or diseases associated with 'Purity,' but echinacea in general are sometimes susceptible to Japanese beetles and leaf spot.
The species has dark-green leaves that are 4-8 inches long. Leaves are lance-shaped and coarsely-toothed.
In the landscape
The species grows well in rock gardens, as a specimen plant, in mass plantings or in mixed containers. It attracts butterflies and birds.
The dead flower stems remain erect well into the winter and, if flower heads are not removed, are often visited by goldfinches to feed on the seeds, according to the Missouri Botanical Garden.
Market 'Purity' with other white plants for a monochromatic garden or mixed container. Plant with rudbeckia, salvia and ornamental grasses. Garden Crossings in Zeeland, Mich., suggests these companion plants: Caryopteris incana 'Sunshine Blue,' C. x clandonensis 'Petit Bleu,' Arabis caucasica 'White Sequins,' E. purpurea 'Pink Double Delight' and Baptisia 'Twilite Prairieblues.'
SPECIFICS:Name: Echinacea purpurea 'Purity.'Common name: Coneflower 'Purity.'Description: Pristine white flowers with bright-orange cones. It has an upright habit and is well-branched. 'Purity' can grow 24 inches tall. Flowers are 4 1/2 inches in diameter. Hardiness: USDA Hardiness Zone 4-9.Landscape uses: Specimen plant, mass plantings, rock gardens, combination planters and cut flowers.


Birdwatchers gear up for Backyard Bird CountThe Great Backyard Bird Count, led by Nat'l. Audubon Society and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, will take place Feb. 15-18. Participants will be counting birds in their immediate location and entering results at www.birdcount.org. "Each tally helps us learn more about how our North American birds are doing and what that says about the health and future of our environment," said Tom Bancroft, chief science officer for Audubon. "These volunteers are counting not only for fun, but for the future."


Quality time trumps gifts this Valentine's Day Traditional gifts such as candy, flowers and jewelry will see a slight decrease in popularity this year with more consumers preferring gifts of experience and gift cards, according to Nat'l. Retail Federation's 2008 Valentine's Day Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey. Almost half of all consumers (48.2%) plan to celebrate with a special night out, compared to 45.3% last year, and 12.3% will give a gift card, compared to 11.3% last year. Nearly 48% will buy candy, 35.9% will buy flowers and 11.8% will buy clothing.
New 'suicide' palm found in Madagascar

Tahina spectabilis is a new species of palm that grows 30 feet tall and produces fan-shaped leaves up to 15 feet across. This palm, discovered in Madagascar in 2006, is unique in that it essentially "flowers itself to death," reports the Washington Post. Palm biologists had to establish an entirely new genus for it. Since its initial discovery, scientists have identified an additional 92 surviving specimens. About 200 species of palms can be found on Madagascar. An estimated 90% of the island's 10,000 plant species are found nowhere else in the world.
University of Maryland seeks funding to build ‘green’ farm for research
The University of Maryland is serious about sustainability. It launched a funding campaign this year to build a “green” Central Maryland Research Farm to serve as a model for sustainable and energy-neutral practices. The university plans to begin construction in three to five years.
The university is looking to everyone, from businesses to individuals, for funding.
The multipurpose facility will house the Maryland Agricultural Experiment Station headquarters, the Howard County Extension and the commercial horticulture and IPM program. It also will house the university’s Bay-Wise Landscaping program, Home & Garden Information Center, Maryland Master Gardener program and the 4-H equine program.
The green building will provide a place for organic gardening classes and sustainability workshops. It also will act as a demonstration for green building technologies.
The facility will be the first LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design)-certified green building on a land grant university property. LEED is a national standard for developing high-performance, sustainable buildings administered by the U.S. Green Building Council.
Some green highlights:
A silo wind turbine will generate energy for building use.
Light tubes will channel natural light into offices, reducing electricity.
Rain collection systems will channel water, which will be recycled.
Green roofs and water-pervious surfaces in tandem with water-collection systems will reduce water consumption.
The cost: An estimated $12 million to $15 million.
My green Valentine
Gerald Prolman -- who as CEO of Organic Style Ltd., helped build what has become the multibillion-dollar organic produce sector -- has now set his sights on steering the entire floral industry toward stringent ecological standards. No small vision for a guy who, just a few years ago, barely knew a gardenia from a gerbera.
Prolman is widely considered the pioneer of what has turned into a market sector worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Organically grown flowers are one of the fastest-growing segments of the organic market. In 2008, Organic Style expects to ship more than 20 million stems of organic and eco-certified roses, with an additional $100 million dollars worth of sustainably grown flowers in the pipeline.
“By 2015, you won’t be able to purchase a non-certified sustainable flower in the United States,” Prolman predicts. “Public consciousness about environmental issues is at an all-time high, and never before has there been such a powerful alignment between the growers, marketers and consumers.”
Prolman has been busy, busy. A tireless and often sleep-deprived entrepreneur, he has initiated multiple projects that have put “green” flowers on the map, including: conceiving the need for and initiating Veriflora, a sustainable certification that boasts more than 45 farmers and expects to certify more than 1 billion stems in 2008; hosting an international floral symposium in conjunction with the United Nations Environment Programme’s World Environment Day; producing a musical tribute to the environment by gospel singers; creating the first eco-luxury online retailer; and, just this month, relaunching Organic Style magazine, which his company purchased from Rodale Publishing last year.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Giving Houseplants A Boost
Is your favorite houseplant flourishing or flagging? It might be getting too big for its britches. Transferring to a larger pot is a good opportunity for pruning the roots, which is the secret to a well-kept and happy houseplant. It sounds severe, but by trimming the roots and the tops, the plant spends more energy developing new roots — and less effort to grow bigger and stronger. How often a plant gets pruned depends on the plant, yet some varieties will need pruning every year, while slower growing plants can go years without any pruning at all. Usually you can tell by the growth of the plant or look at the root ball, and check to see if it's a tightly wound, gnarly mess, and you'll know that your plant will appreciate root pruning. Here's what I do:
1. The night before “surgery” water the plant well and allow the water to drain thoroughly. The next day remove the plant from its container. Using a sharp knife (take a deep breath) start trimming a ½-inch from the entire root ball. Gently detangle and loosen the roots. You can do this with a bamboo chopstick, a pencil, or something similar. Cut away any decaying or discolored roots.
2. If you plan to use the same pot, sterilize the original container by washing it with a solution of 1 part bleach mixed with 9 parts water. Partially fill the pot with new, preferably organic, potting soil, and gently place the plant back in the pot. Press more soil around the roots, and continue to fill to just below the lip of the pot. Place pot on a saucer and water thoroughly until the soil is soaked.
3. It's essential to trim the top, as well, which keeps the whole plant in sync. Cut back ¼ of the stems from the top growth to the soil surface. Place pruned plant in a cool room, away from direct sunlight. Don't be surprised to see the plant go into mild shock, give it a couple of weeks to recover from surgery! Also it's important to keep the soil on the moist side for the first two weeks.
4. Once adjusted, place plant back in its original location and off it goes! Feed the plant by adding fertilizer to the water after about four weeks. If using water-soluble fertilizer cut dosage to 50 percent strength initially.
Growing Green

More people are becoming acutely aware of protecting the earth, and the “green” revolution is sweeping the country. Reducing, reusing, and recycling are a reality. Organic gardening is on the rise and the research suggests it's here to stay. If you are looking for ways to “green up” your life here are simple tips to help you get started. Stay tuned for more tips on going green.

Reducing hazardous waste starts at home. Remove chemically based products from your shelves. Many home products are considered hazardous waste and must be disposed at the proper drop-off sites and not simply dumped in with your garbage. Contact your city or county government to find a collection site in your area and a list of what is considered hazardous waste.
Other ways you can go green in your home:
Replace products only as you need them.
Many cleaning products contain chemicals, so look for organic alternatives.
Try multi-purpose cleaners that can be used on a variety of surfaces.
Buy the least harmful product available, avoiding those labeled "Danger" or "Poison."
Wipe up spills when they happen to avoid the need for strong chemicals to remove stains later.
Make your own cleaning products. (Look for recipes in May issue.)
It's easy to get into the habit of recycling. All it takes is three bins: one each for paper, glass/plastic, and aluminum. Once you start recycling it quickly becomes a routine, and teaches your children good habits, as well.
What gets recycled? Mail, office and school papers, magazines, catalogs, newspapers, and boxes (cardboard, cereal, cracker, pasta, cake mix, shoes, gift, electronics, toothpaste, medications, and other toiletries).
Paper that can't be recycled: Pizza boxes, egg cartons, boxes soiled with food, boxes from refrigerated or frozen foods, milk cartons and juice boxes.
Choose to reuse paper products or eliminate all together. Reduce junk mail. Contact the
Direct Marketing Association to have your address removed. Adjust your shopping habits with a new green attitude.
Set the table with china and silverware instead of paper plates and plastic flatware.
Reuse backside of printed-paper.
Use cotton towels instead of paper towels.
Do the research and buy quality products. While they might be more expensive, they should last longer.
Repair appliances before replacing them.
Buy a battery charger and rechargeable batteries.
Select energy savings appliances and light bulbs.
Express your concerns to manufacturers about excessive packaging.
Use your own canvas bag when shopping to reduce paper and plastic usage.
Use an electric shaver. About 2.5 billion disposable razors end up in the trash every year.
Choose bar soap over liquid soap in plastic bottles.

The Lawn Mower: 176 Years Old
An English engineer invented the reel lawn mower in 1832 after seeing a bladed cutting reel in a cloth mill. Gas-powered models appeared in the 1890s, with the first modern riding mower taking shape about 100 years ago.

Edwin Beard Budding was the pioneer, the English engineer who invented the reel lawn mower. In the 1830s, he went into partnership with John Ferrabee, and together they made mowers in a factory at Stroud, Gloucestershire, England.
Budding’s patent stated, in part, “country gentlemen may find in using my machine themselves an amusing, useful and healthy exercise.”
These early machines were made of cast iron and featured a large rear roller with a cutting cylinder (reel) in the front (see photo). Cast iron gear wheels transmitted power from the rear roller to the cutting cylinder. Overall, these machines were remarkably similar to modern mowers.
A photo of the original mower design from 1832 is part of a slide show illustrating lawn mower history at the Ransomes Jacobsen web site. Photo:
Budding and Ferrabee were shrewd enough to allow other companies to build copies of their mower under license, the most successful of these being Ransomes of Ipswich which began making mowers as early as 1832. The company has made mowers virtually continuously ever since, and is now the world’s largest manufacturer of lawn care equipment (according to U.K.-based The Old Lawnmower Club).
The rise in popularity of sports such as lawn tennis, croquet, cricket, football and rugby helped prompt innovation during this period. By the 1850s, Budding’s early patents had lapsed and other companies were able to introduce their own machines.
Motorized mowers appeared in the 1890s as lightweight gasoline engines and small steam power units became available. Although steam mowers were the preferred choice for a few years, by 1900 gas mowers were winning the market. Ransomes, Sims and Jefferies introduced a petrol engine mower in 1902, and led the market until the First World War.
The period immediately after World War One saw an unprecedented growth in lawn mower production. Technology had advanced, companies needed to find new markets for peacetime products, and customers were moving to new suburban housing with small gardens.
One of the most successful companies to emerge during this period was Atco, at that time a brand name of Charles H Pugh Ltd. The Atco motor mower, launched in 1921 was an immediate success. Just 900 of the 22-inch-cut machines were made in 1921, each costing £75. Within five years, annual production had accelerated to tens of thousands. Prices were cut and a range of sizes was available, making the Standard the first truly mass-produced motor mower.
Surprisingly, seemingly modern ideas such as electric power and rotary cutting were all tried out in the 1920s and 30s, although they did not become popular until much later. Innovations in the 1930s and 40s led to lighter designs and smaller, more powerful petrol engines. By the 1950s lawn mower technology had advanced greatly and machines were inexpensive and generally reliable. The introduction of plastic components in the 1960s reduced costs further still, although the designs were similar.
The major innovation of the last thirty years has been the rotary ‘hover’ mower, made possible by widespread use of lightweight plastics and high-power, lightweight electric and petrol motors. The first ‘hover’ mowers were introduced by Flymo in the early 1960s.
If you have an old lawn mower, we would proudly display any antique mowers at Greenscape Gardens. Call, write or email us. Generations of young people would marvel at these tools.

Trees’ Location Key in Global Warming

According to a new study presented to the American Geophysical Society annual meeting in San Francisco on December 15, trees in the tropical regions do the most to combat global warming while trees in higher latitudes do nothing to cool the temperature. According to a team of US and French climate experts from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, the location of trees is extremely significant as to how they help fight global warming. Tropical forests have a net cooling effect because they take up carbon and release water vapors, which helps cool the planet. Because the tropics receive more sunlight, they have more energy to convert atmospheric carbon dioxide into biomass. And the water vapors that are released increases cloudiness which also helps cool the planet.
While trees in other regions store carbon as well, more heat is absorbed by their leaves from the sun because the leaves are much darker in color. It was recently discovered that at higher latitudes where trees have darker leaves, the warming effect of trees’ foliage outweighs the cooling effect of the CO2 that is stored. So that these trees there can actually contribute to warming the planet rather than the opposite.
Experts predict what global temperatures would be in 2100 if all forests had been removed from the planet in 2000. Unlike previous studies which have only focused on the carbon-storing effects of trees, the team also accounted for the release of water vapor into the atmosphere and the heat that is stored in the leaves from the sun. The team found that if they removed forests from the planet in 2000, global temperatures in 2100 were 0.2°C cooler than if forests were left intact.
Obviously there are many other valuable assets to forests other than their role in global warming, such as preserving ecosystems and biodiversity in addition to timber and fuel. The bottom line is that planting forests in boreal regions may not be the solution to climate change, says Christine Delire, at the Université Montpellier II, France. These findings are significant in understanding how to plant trees with the goal to reduce global warming: focus on the tropical region.



The Society of Municipal Arborists (SMA) has chosen baldcypress (Taxodium distichum) as the Urban Tree of the Year. The Urban Tree of the Year must be adaptable to a variety of harsh urban conditions and have strong ornamental traits. The contest has been running for twelve years, and past winners include Kentucky coffeetree (2006), ‘Chanticleer’ flowering pear (2005), and ‘Autumn Blaze’ red maple (2004).
Sarasota County, Florida Forester David Godson says, “Baldcypress provides four seasons of interest, excellent wind resistance, wildlife habitat and food, and is relatively litter- and pest-free. It has, thus far, shown to be fairly benign to hardscape infrastructure compared to other species in similar growing conditions.”
Eric Berg, Community Forest Program Leader for the Kansas Forest Service, says that baldcypress is one of his long-time favorites. “A tree that is native to swampland yet survives and thrives on the high plains deserves some recognition in my book. Honestly, ‘tree of merit’ is an understatement with baldcypress given its adaptability, unique structure, and rooting characteristics. What other tree can you group around a small-acreage pond yet also utilize in a windbreak or screening planting along a sandy upland site?”
Of course, there is no one perfect tree for every situation, and baldcypress has its limitations. It should be given adequate space to grow: with proper tree care, it can be expected to mature at approximately 70 feet tall and 25 feet wide.
Greenscape Gardens stocks the bald cypress. This tree is especially adapted to wet soil conditions. I personally planted a bald cypress on an island of a pond and in 2 years the tree has grown several feet with NO care. The tree has become a haven for birds and last year it had one bird nest in the tree and the geese were nesting under the tree.
Forcing Blooms Indoors

Chase the chill of winter away with beautiful blooming branches — indoors! Even when it's still freezing outside, trees and shrubs, which formed plump buds during the previous year, are ready to unfurl their floral flags. You can get these beauties to herald in spring long before its time, with a technique called “forcing.” Young branches are cut and brought indoors, tricked by the warmer temperatures; they slowly open to reveal blossoms. It's simple to do and here's my technique:
Once the temperatures outdoors start to climb above 32°F, blooming trees and shrubs with their tiny buds will begin plumping up — a perfect time to start cutting. Select branches from spring blooming trees or shrubs, my favorites are listed below. Look for young branches, about 6 to 18 inches long, with several buds per spray, and although it may seem obvious, be sure to select branches from a dense area on the plant so you won't leave a hole, or from the back of the tree if it is along a fence.
Using sharp, clean pruners, cut these small branches flush to the trunk. Place the cut branch in cool water or if time permits, submerge the entire branch in water overnight. This will completely hydrate the branch and the buds and will break dormancy — forcing blooms to open sooner. Re-cut the stem and make a 4-inch slit through the length at the bottom of the branch — this will allow water to be absorbed more easily — then place in warm water. Once in bloom, the branches can be added to other floral arrangements, or left on their own in a vase. It's best to keep the bouquet out of direct sunlight and to remember to change the water every two to three days. Add a splash of hydrogen peroxide to the water to control bacteria and extend the life of the blooming branch.
Selecting spring and early summer blooming trees and shrubs are the key to success, yet be patient — it can take one to six weeks to see results. It's not unusual for some of the branches to set roots, and you can plant the rooted branch (once roots are 3/8 inch long) in a pot filled with potting soil until established and then you can plant outside once the ground can be worked. Have fun and enjoy the great outdoors — indoors.
Some of the best blooming branches:
Cercis canadensis-Redbud
Chaenomeles spp-Japanese or Flowering Quince
Cornus florida-Flowering Dogwood
Hamamelis vernalis-Vernal Witch Hazel
Crataegus spp-Hawthorn
Forsythia spp-Forsythia
Lonicera spp-Honeysuckle
Magnolia x soulangiana-Saucer Magnolia
Magnolia stellata-Star Magnolia
Malus spp-Apple and Crabapple
Prunus spp-Flowering Almond, Cherry and Plum
Salix caprea-European Pussy Willow
Spiraea spp-Spirea
Syringa spp-Lilac
Viburnum spp-Viburnum