Thursday, July 19, 2007

tags & brochures just a snapshot in time

Listen up, gardeners and garden pros, you both might find this interesting. Yesterday at the MFGA/MNLA Summer Meeting I attended a talk by Lois Berg Stack, a horticulture professor and extension specialist up in Maine. She was giving a run-down of about 2 dozen annuals from her trial gardens that she thought were terrific plants. Her intro slide had a close-up of two annuals intermingled - ageratum and another lesser-known plant. What a pretty and serene combinbation.

Ageratum flowers, she pointed out, will become a tousled browning mess before you can put your camera away, and the other annual will peter out after a few days and really isn't worth its time in the garden. This picture-perfect slide is just a snapshot in time, she said.

Tags and brochures and point-of-purchase materials are wonderful ways to communicate how lovely plants will be in the garden. But those photos are truly just "snapshots in time." Many people coming through the garden center will see the pretty tag, and maybe if they are lucky will see the symbol for sun or shade. Impressed with what the photos promise, they'll place the plants on their carts and take off for home.

The tags will never ever show fading blooms or leaves overcome by powdery mildew or the results of planting full-sun plants in full shade. Nor can we ever expect to see a disclaimer at the bottom of the tag reading "this is only a depiction of the plant when grown under optimum condition by gardening professionals."

So, what are we to do?

Breeders are doing their part by breeding plants that will better resist powdery mildew or be better self-cleaning (meaning, those pesky spent flowers just fall off or otherwise disappear), and the like. Better performing plants have a better chance of actually looking like those beautiful photos.

For those of you making the plant purchases, aim for results like those in the pretty photos. But don't knock yourself if or when it doesn't happen. And your not completely gullible anyway, you realize some marketer is trying to lure you in.

And for those providing the plants - well, you tell me what should be done. I think it boils down to providing the best and most complete information possible. But how can we communicate this to the folks buying the plants?

Any suggestions from either side of the cash register?

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

MFGA "Love My Garden" Contest

with all the time and effort you put into your flower gardens, you might as well reap some rewards, right?

the Massachusetts Flower Growers Association is holding its 2nd annual "Love My Garden" contest for Massachusetts residents. The top winner in each of 4 regional districts will receive a $500 gift certificate good at local independent retail garden centers and farm stands. last year more than 100 entries were submitted from 75 communities, with $1500 in gift certificates awarded.

want to enter? you need only submit two 4x6 color photos of their home flower garden and a completed contest entry form, which must be received by Sept. 1, 2007. gardens will be judged on flower and plant variety (they love a mix of both annuals and perennials!), design, overall appeal, seasonal color, and the planting of the flower garden.

you can pick up entry forms at any MFGA member indie garden center or farm stand, or go online to access the form and read all the fine-print details, like being 18 years old and older and so forth.

get gardening and good luck!

Monday, July 16, 2007

water smart!

A notice recently came across my desk about irrigation. July is apparently Smart Irrigation Month. What a good month for it! It's hot and sticky and dry dry dry. Homeowners have their sprinklers on their lawns and gardens, hoping to keep everything green and growing.

Here are a few "smart" watering tips from the Irrigation Association:
Water only when needed: Saturate root zones and let the soil dry. Watering too much and too frequently results in shallow roots, weed growth, disease and fungus.
Consider low-volume drip irrigation for plant beds: Drip allows water to slowly seep into the soil, minimizing runoff and putting moisture at the root zone where plants can use it.
Water at the optimum time: Water when the sun is low or down, winds are calm and temperatures are cool, between evening and early morning to reduce evaporation. You can lose as much as 30% of water to evaporation by watering in mid-day.

For more watering tips, visit the Irrigation Association and click on "Fast Tips."