Garden gizmos and Gaillardia |

Garden gizmos and Gaillardia

The Union StaffScilla siberica produces waves of cobalt blue flowers.
ALL | GrassValleyArchive

Like every other big business, the garden industry is constantly updating itself with new plants, new tools, new ways of hooking the interest of new hobbyists and keeping the juices flowing for continuing gardeners.

A trade show always accompanies the annual symposium of the Garden Writers Association. The one in Seattle produced some interesting tools that might someday make an appearance in one of those scary and bloody “Halloween” movies.

One is a short-handled version of the popular “Winged Weeder,” featuring sharp, swept-back wings that make short work of sub-surface weed roots. Another is the Yardshark, which “cuts roots right through dirt.” And it’s also effective on Sheetrock, gypsum, wallboard and frozen foods. That puppy, with carbon teeth arranged like those of a shark, is SHARP! Please keep it out of the hands of children and spooky people in “Halloween” sequels.

A more benign newcomer is “Granny’s Garden Socks,” which its inventors modestly proclaim “the world’s most unique hanging planter.” It’s one of those things you look at and ask, “Now, why didn1t I think of that?”

Basically, it’s a hanging planter – you fill it with potting soil and then tuck seedling plants along its 22-inch length, but it’s made of strong, UV-resistant material that will last four to five seasons (unlike plastic imitators), and each label comes with planting instructions. Maybe it1s not really “unique,” but it is interesting and usable.

Believe it or not, fall isn1t that far off, and that means it1s time for planting bulbs. From the Netherlands Flower Bulb Information Center comes an expert panel1s list of the 10 best perennial flower bulbs.

Narcissus “Salome” tops the list as one of the finest large-cupped daffodils, followed closely by Narcissus “Ice Follies,” which is considered one of the best naturalizers around the globe. Tulipa “Orange Emperor” is Oprah Winfrey’s favorite and has huge carrot-orange flowers.

Tulipa “Tarda” was first introduced around 1590 and is a diminutive species with a star-shaped flower that looks best when planted in bunches. Although only 4 inches tall, Crocus tommasianus carries the name “Ruby Giant” for its hardiness and cuplike reddish-purple flowers. Like its historic namesake, Crocus vernus “Jeanne d’ Arc” is an irrepressible little bulb with snow-white flowers. It grows well in lawns and looks good amidst large-flowered crocus.

Most of us are unfamiliar with Camassia cusickii, a native of marshy meadows in the Northwest. It has blossoms in a delicious pale blue with recurved airy petals and golden pistils that appear in early summer. Leucojum aestivum has been in gardens since 1594 and has pendulous bell-shaped flowers. Anemone blanda “Blue Shades” is outstanding when its daisy-like blue flowers are used in massed plantings. Scilla siberica rounds out the list for gardeners who want exuberant waves of blue to complement taller tulips or daffodils. It1s been in gardens since 1796 and is considered possibly the best of all naturalizing bulbs.

Are you a daylily fancier? Then keep your eyes peeled in spring for two newcomers that have won the highly esteemed “All American” designation for 2003. They are vibrant red “Frankly Scarlet” (hmmm … isn’t the rest of that line “I don’t give a damn!”?) and deep purple “Plum Perfect.”

These two join just six others named All-Americans since the test program began in 1985. “Frankly Scarlet” stands up to the heat while other reds fade in direct sun. “Plum Perfect” couples its 3 1/2-inch purple blossoms with what judges describe as “a striking symmetry of foliage” and reblooms rapidly.

Finally, we1re deluged by the 2003 All-America Selections Award winners. Tested in trial gardens across North America, these newcomers have outperformed existing commercial varieties in side-by-side plantings.

Topping the list is a gold medalist (i.e., really hot stuff) pennisetum called “Purple Majesty,” which grows 3 to 5 feet tall with 8- to 12-inch flower spikes whose purple leaf blades are sensational in cut-flower arrangements. “Can Can Scarlet” is the name of a red, spicy-fragranced carnation. “Prairie Sun” is a name that captures the brilliance of a new Rudbeckia hirta with golden yellow petals. “Merlin Blue Morn” petunia loves showing off its blue-and-white flowers in hanging baskets and will spread 18 to 30 inches in the ground.

“Golden Jubilee” (named to celebrate the 50-year reign of Queen Elizabeth II) is an aromatic herb known botanically as Agastache foeniculum that loves heat and produces dense spikes of lavender blue florets. “Blue Wave” petunia adapts happily to container planting. A new vinca called “Jaio Dark Red” has brilliant red blossoms with small white centers set against glossy green foliage.

“Corona Cherry Magic” dianthus has the charm of producing either cherry red, entirely lavender or a mosaic of both colors on one plant. “Sundance Bicolor” is a Gaillardia that stands up to heat and drought in producing mahogany red-and-yellow blossoms. “Forever White” aptly describes the ivory blossoms of this new eustoma.

The AAS vegetable winners are “Angel” melon, described as being very sweet and having a “heavenly” flavor. Its netting turns creamy yellow when mature. “Papaya Pear” is hailed as the first summer squash with a shape similar to a tropical papaya. It can be harvested 40 days after planting seed, producing 3-inch long squash.

Dick Tracy is an award-winning garden writer and photographer, Master Gardener and former president of the Foothills Horticulture Society. You can write him in care of The Union, 464 Sutton Way, Grass Valley, 95945.

On the Internet, visit for a look at the root cutter and associated tools will provide a peek at bulbs from the Netherlands Flower Bulb Information Center

-Check out the planting sock at

-View the Winged Weeder(s) at will show the plant newcomers.

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