What's New in the Garden?
What's New in '03?
Originally published in the Davis Enterprise, January 23, 2003
Hey, hep cats! What's in like Flynn? Where's the groove in '03? Where's the garden 'in' crowd going to be at this year? Recently I had the opportunity to moderate a forum of growers, sales reps, and garden retailers discussing trends in the garden biz. Plus, the folks in the know have announced the new hot (i.e., cool) colors for 2003.
Blueberries and olives.
No, not together in the same recipe (blecch!). Retailers and growers report increasing interest in both. Blueberries are the health fruit du jour--research has shown the little berries have the highest anti-oxidant activity among 40 fruits and vegetables tested, slowed age-related loss in mental capacity in lab rats (just what we need--smarter old rats...), may reduce the buildup of "bad" cholesterol, promote urinary tract health, and help reduce "oxidative stresses" that are blamed for many of the dysfunctions of old age. Suddenly we all want to grow them. They're even becoming a cash crop on a farm in the Stockton area, and some sample plantings have been installed in the Fair Oaks Community Park demonstration orchard.
These attractive shrubs want soil that is rich and porous, acidic, and evenly moist--none of which we naturally have here.
They'd rather be in Oregon during the summer (who wouldn't?). Treat them like azaleas and Camellias: amend the soil heavily, or grow them in large containers such as oak barrels, and feed regularly with an acid-type fertilizer. Most researchers suggest that you amend the soil with at least 50% fine bark, add 2 cups of soil sulphur to reduce the pH, and irrigate 2 - 3 times per week in the summer. Varieties are available that tolerate our hot summers. Keep your expectations down--you'll get a sampling of fruit, not bowls full.
Olive plantings have been increasing for the last decade or so, both for oil and for curing or drying. Several of the wineries in the Napa Valley now have olive oil tasting as well as wine samples. Small growers are producing boutique oils in fancy bottles at even fancier prices (Nugget Market has a great selection). The trees have attractive grey-green foliage, develop rugged trunks with great character, are very drought and heat tolerant and indifferent as to soil. On the down side, many people are allergic to the wind-borne pollen, and the fruit is very messy if you don't happen to cure it or press it for oil--neither of which is very easy to do at home. If you really want olive trees, our buddies at Peaceful Valley Farm Supply are selling them mailorder--see their excellent website at www.groworganic.com. (Two varieties are described in Sunset as being fruitless or having sterile pollen, but these are practically nonexistent in the trade.)
Fruit tree growers reported continuing strong interest in Asian fruits, especially persimmons. Perhaps it's the changing demographics of our state, or because they're very easy to grow. Demand continues to outstrip supply for these all-season beauties, and there are newly introduced varieties with distinctive flavors ('Chocolate' and 'Coffeecake' are two examples). The new growth is a beautiful chartreuse, the summer leaves are shiny and attractive, and the bountiful fruit is just turning color as the yellow fall leaves drop. We only prune them for a more open habit or for size control, and they can tolerate average watering or moderate drought. Magpies and cedar waxwings love any fruit you don't eat. Just don't plant them where large, soft, squishy orange fruit on the ground is likely to annoy you. A mature persimmon tree produces 6 - 8 grocery sacks of fruit each winter.
Hectic schedules continue to support the interest in perennials and low-maintenance shrub and landscape roses. Bedding plant growers are dramatically expanding their offerings of new varieties of free-blooming perennials in smaller, more economical pots such as 4" or "pint" sizes. More varieties of the heat-loving Verbenas, petunia-like Calibrachoa, and Bacopa--which blooms freely in sun or shade--are just a few to look for.
New plants with colorful foliage
are providing a broader palette for gardeners, especially for the shade. Coral bells (Heuchera) come in forms with dark purple or silvery leaves. The annual Coleus--yes, the old 1970's houseplant--has been bred for varieties with leaves that are mottled, purple, heavily divided, vivid red, and more. Unlike the seed-grown Coleus of the past, these are being grown from cuttings so you can choose the exact colors you want. Want black or yellow-green leaves on a vining or trailing plant? Try the new forms of Ipomoea (which you know better as sweet potatoes). These love warm weather and will grow in partial shade or morning sun. Unusual colors are showing up in flowers, including dark purple/black ('Black' pansy, Chocolate cosmos), and copper (read: brown--see the new 'Hot Cocoa' rose).
Garden decorations are becoming more practical.
Gnomes are out, if they ever were in. Gazing globes are back, we hear? I wonder. Certainly the manufacturers have new metallic finishes and painted versions, though I find the clear and translucent globes less jarring in the garden. Functional garden furniture is replacing frilly, and garden art is becoming less ubiquitous and more tasteful.
Chinese hackberry is a tree that is very important to the Davis shade canopy. The Asian woolly hackberry aphid (Shivaphis celti) hitchhiked across the country and began infesting Celtis sinensis last summer, with reports in Davis, Dixon, Sacramento, Modesto, and other areas. Woolly-looking insects are visible on the tops and undersides of the leaves, shedding white fuzzy skins and dripping sticky honeydew all over everything. This pest showed up in the southeastern U.S. in 1998 and is a nuisance but not a threat to the health of the tree. Spraying trees of this size will be impractical. Soil drenches or injections of systemic products containing imidacloprid are the most likely control, with spring application needed to get the material into the tree before the aphid population explodes. Summer sprays of oil might be helpful on smaller trees; insecticidal soap will kill some aphids and help wash the sticky sugar drip off.
Oh, yes, those new colors. The Color Marketing Group--1700 international designers who do us a favor and think for us--have "forecast" the following colors for 2003: Lion King, Root Beer, Champagne Bubble, Gargoyle (burnished gold, pewter, etc.); Currant, Sweetheart, Red Satin; Lemon Meringue; Khaki, Frond (tropical green), and Soda Green ("soothing green...quenches our thirst for serenity"); Cinder Blue, Deep Arctic, and Ocean Cruise. I guess Avocado and Persimmon are out--the 1970's time warp has passed, and reds and metallic colors are back.
Gold-plated garden globes, anyone?
© 2008 Don Shor, Redwood Barn Nursery, Inc., 1607 Fifth Street, Davis, Ca 95616
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