Monday, April 30, 2012

Plant sales: Christmas for plant geeks

It’s been a busy week hitting up all the local plant sales and farm markets in search of bargains on perennials and herb/vegetable plants for the garden. One of the plants sales I look forward to the most every year is at Maymont Estate and Gardens in Richmond. The sprawling grounds host hundreds of vendors selling vegetable and herb plants, fresh produce, crafts, ornamental plants, and educational groups offering classes on gardening.  You could easily spend an entire day there; in fact, it’s not unusual to see people leaving with several red wagons full of plants. Remarkably, I was able to have some restraint this year and only bought three plants: a giant-leafed basil called ‘Mammoth’ (see pic below), an ornamental grass, and a Japanese painted fern for my mom. Well, or it started raining before I could snatch up more goodies.

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Late this week is a plant sale at Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, which is fairly similar to the one at Maymont. I enjoy going to this one because I often run into my Plant Materials professor from college, and both of us being major plant nerds, we chat for a while about our experiences with different plants, and generally  all things gardening. He also teaches the plant propagation course, and sells a lot of plants he propagates, including some new varieties developed from seed or genetic mutations, as well as grafted plants. I’ve also had the pleasure to talk to the gentleman who is doing major research and propagation on new cold-hardy varieties of flowering magnolias at the Gardens. His work shows promise of new magnolias that boast more impressive flowers that should bloom after the threat of the last spring frost.

So, take the time to hit up your local plant sales…you’ll get quite an education and come away with plants you’re not likely to find at the big box stores.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Would you like Agent Orange with your corn?

I don’t like to stray too far into political issues here, but after taking a class in college on sustainable agriculture that opened my eyes to the horrors of GMO crops/food, I felt this was too important not to share.

Dow Chemical is currently requesting an unprecedented USDA approval: a genetically engineered (GE) version of corn that is resistant to 2,4-D, a major component of the highly toxic Agent Orange. Agent Orange was the chemical defoliant used by the U.S. in Vietnam, and it caused lasting ecological damage as well as many serious medical conditions in both Vietnam veterans and the Vietnamese.

Exposure to 2,4-D has been linked to major health problems that include cancer (especially non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma), lowered sperm counts, liver disease and Parkinson’s disease.  A growing body of evidence from laboratory studies show that 2,4-D causes endocrine disruption, reproductive problems, neurotoxicity and immunosuppression.  Further, industry’s own tests show that 2,4-D is contaminated with dioxins, a group of highly toxic chemical compounds that bioaccumulate, so even a minute amount can accumulate as it goes up the food chain, causing dangerous levels of exposure.  Dioxins in Agent Orange have been linked to many diseases, including birth defects in children of exposed parents; according to EPA, 2,4-D is the seventh largest source of dioxins in the U.S.

USDA approval of Dow’s GE corn will trigger a big increase in 2,4-D use – and our exposure to this toxic herbicide.  Yet USDA has not assessed how much, nor analyzed the resulting impacts on public health, the environment or neighboring farmers (2,4-D is prone to drift and cause damage to nearby crops).  Instead, USDA has once again bowed to the pesticide industry, by giving preliminary approval to still another pesticide-promoting crop that will likely harm people and their children, including farmers, and the environment. USDA claims to be adhering to a scientific process, yet the Agency is blatantly ignoring the science on 2,4-D.

Tell USDA To Do Its Job And Reject 2,4-D Resistant GE Corn! It only takes 30 seconds. Please send your comment here: http://bit.ly/AgentOrangeCorn

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Good Honeysuckle

Today’s plant profile: Coral Honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens)

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This non-aggressive, well-behaved honeysuckle is native to the eastern United States and boasts beautiful sunset red tubular flowers (hummingbirds love it!) from late spring to frost. It scrambles up trellises and any structure nearby, yet without choking out nearby plants or becoming weedy. The flowers are followed by bright red berries in fall that are attractive to birds. Coral honeysuckle does best in full sun with well-drained soil but also tolerates some clay; it also tolerates pruning.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Coming soon: plant lists

It occurs to me that I spend a lot of time on this blog talking about changes I make to my garden generally, or issues in the horticultural world, but rarely do I highlight specific plants I’m crazy about. I want to change that, because there are certain plants I believe no gardener should be without. Over the next few weeks, I’ll share those with you, broken down into categories, based on their performance in my own garden. In the meantime, head on over to my Pinterest page and check out some plants and landscapes I like.

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