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January 2018
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Is your garden ready for ultra violet, Pantone’s 2018 Color of Year?

Bees, butterflies and other pollinating insects are frequent visitors to ‘Millenium’ allium, the 2018 Perennial Plant of the Year. Photo courtesy Perennial Resource.com

The 2018 Color of the Year conjures up memories and science.

Pantone, the world’s arbiter of fashionable color, designated ultra violet as this year’s special hue.

I immediately thought of Ultra Violet, a writer, actress, artist and pal of Andy Warhol. French-born and reportedly a muse of Salvador Dali, her real name was Isabelle Collin Dufresne (1935-2014), but she regularly donned her namesake color and dyed her hair to match.

Then there’s ultra violet light, which we humans can’t see. In the rest of the animal world, birds, bees, butterflies, salmon, reindeer and other critters have the ability to see ultra violet light waves. This aids their ability to distinguish types of seeds and foods, male and female counterparts and other survival skills.

For instance, humans see yellow petals on a black-eyed Susan, but the colorful rays registers as ultra violet wavelengths to form a bull’s eye, drawing bees to the nectar- and pollen-laden center.

Fortunately for our gardens and containers, ultra violet is an easy color to incorporate, especially if we embrace a wide palette. Petunia, calibrachoa, tuberous begonia, the herb lavender, gladiolas and lilacs are among plants with violet tones.

‘Ultra Violet’ salvia. Photo courtesy HighCountryGardens.com

For the purists, there’s ‘Ultra Violet’ salvia (S. lycioides x greggii), from High Country Gardens, a perennial selection from the garden of author Lauren Springer Ogden (Plant-Driven Design and Passionate Gardening) in Colorado.

It is hardy to USDA Zone 6, which includes central Indiana, however if we have a winter like this year’s where it gets below minus 10F, it may not be reliable. Leave the plant upright through winter and cut back when new growth appears in spring. Grow in full sun in average soil that doesn’t stay wet. It is available at HighCountryGardens and BluestonePerennials among other online plant retailers. Or ask at your favorite garden center if it carries the perennial.

Perennial Plant of the Year

Seemingly right on color cue, the Perennial Plant Association has named ‘Millenium’ ornamental onion (Allium hybrid) as its plant for 2018. Fairly new on the market, ‘Millenium’ is a powerhouse of violet balls that draw in butterflies, bees and other pollinators. It blooms mid- to late summer. Consider snipping a few stems for indoor enjoyment. It is easy to grow in full sun in about any kind of soil except wet.

In case you were wondering, it is spelled ‘Millenium’ with one n because the patent for the plant was submitted with the misspelling. The plant is readily available all ready growing in pots at garden centers, and as bulbs from online merchants, including BrentandBeckysBulbs, McClure & Zimmerman and Bluestone Perennials. Order bulbs now for spring planting and a summer show.

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Sowing our future one student at a time

Susan Yoder, executive director of Seed Your Future. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

Every once in a while, you meet someone or hear about an organization that feeds your hope for the future.

Such is Seed Your Future, not exactly an organization, but more of an effort to encourage young people to explore horticulture as a career. The national initiative is spearheaded by Executive Director Susan E. Yoder of Martinsville, Indiana. Yoder has a career working with and for youth, from The American Camp Association to the Boy Scouts of America.

Why is this initiative important? Because horticulturists are the future plant scientists. Horticulturists develop foods, grow them along with other beneficial plants. They research plants for medicinal uses. They design and care for landscapes. They use plants to control environmental problems, such as erosion. They select plants to mitigate hazardous materials in soil or water.

This is not some fly-by-night initiative. Its mission is “to promote horticulture and inspire people to pursue careers working with plants.” Seed Your Future’s vision lays it out: “We envision a U.S. where everyone understands and values the importance of plants and the people who work in the art, science, technology and business of horticulture,” and it speaks to me personally.

Some of the biggest names in horticulture comprise the board of directors and advisory panels. Representatives from organizations like Ball Horticulture, Longwood Gardens, Scotts-Miracle-Gro, Proven Winners, Bailey Nurseries and Dummen Orange. National FFA, Association of Zoological Horticulture, Chicago Botanic Garden, Scholastic Corp., American Association of Horticultural Science, American Public Gardens Association and several universities also are in the mix.

“Their number one issue is a lack of qualified workers,” Yoder said. Of the horticulture jobs open in 2014, 61 percent were unfilled, and the experts don’t expect more current results to be any different, she said.

Lack of public awareness of horticulture is the greatest challenge, especially among 18 to 34 year olds, according to the organization’s research. That indicates the need to expose children in middle school and high school to horticulture. Seed Your Future is working with FleishmannHilliard to develop a marketing plan that puts a face on horticulture and promotes the important role it has in our future, Yoder said.

What can we do? Learn more about the STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) of horticulture. Encourage youngsters to be curious about and enjoy nature. Explore hort careers, such as researchers discovering a control of a dreaded fungus disease to growers of plants for pollinators. Check out other volunteer opportunities at Seed Your Future’s website. And spread the word: ILoveMyPlantJob.

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January garden checklist

 

Waiting for the beautiful red amaryllis to bloom. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

Indoors

General Landscape

  • Keep road and sidewalk salt away from plants. If necessary, screen the plants with burlap to keep off spray. Calcium chloride products are recommended over sodium chloride to melt ice. Sand, cinders, ash and fresh kitty litter also may be used instead of ice-melting salts.
  • Prune summer and fall blooming woody plants, including vines, shrubs and trees.
  • Use hand or a broom to gently brush away heavy snow that may accumulate on shrubs before it freezes.
  • new growthApply an all-purpose natural fertilizer or a dusting of compost around spring-flowering bulbs as they break ground.

Vegetables and Fruits

  • Examine produce, tender flower bulbs and roots stored for the winter to make sure there is no rot, shriveling or excess moisture. Remove and discard damaged material.

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