Monday, December 10, 2012


            "The Avant Gardener" carries good news briefs as well, such as the following:

            Does an aspirin drench really enhance a plant’s natural defenses to promote growth, reduce stress, and ward off disease and insects? Replying to a reader letter to Fine Gardening, University of Rhode Island Professor Rebecca Brown says yes. One component of aspirin is salicytic acid, a chemical naturally present in all flora. Its name derives from Salix, because willows produce the compound in high concentrations. Dissolve one or two aspirin per gallon of water, and apply generously around the roots of your plants. Dr. Brown recommends a douse every two weeks during the growing season. Seedlings and new transplants benefit from aspirin-water spritzes too. Or you can feed them a tea made of willow twigs steeped in water.
            Except using aspirin’s easier.
In the 'Phenomenal' field
            Know what else is good for headache? Aromatherapy with home-grown lavender. For those of us living in climes somewhat dissimilar to those of the English countryside or Provence, Peace Tree Farms of Pennsylvania has developed a super-hardy cultivar of Lavendula they dubbed ‘Phenomenal.’ Bred for American Horticultural Society’s (AHS) Zones 4 to 8, the silver-foliaged densely branched plant grows to about 36” high and wide, and produces “deep-blue” (hort-speak for “purple”) bloom clusters. Go to Peace Tree Farm’s website for more information.
Honeycrisp apples
            Are you hungry? How about a nice apple? U.S. growers produce zillions of them (more or less) every year. Our own USDA expended considerable time and taxpayer dollars to rank our favorite varieties by volume. And the winners are: Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, Gala, Granny Smith, Fuji and Braeburn. But keep an eye out for newcomer Honeycrisp. This yellow and red marbled-fleshed University of Minnesota introduction is on its way to the top.


Blueberry 'Pink Lemonade'
            The busy boys at the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service have released two new blueberry hybrids. Early fruiting ‘Sweetheart’ “… not only holds its sweet flavor longer than other blueberries, it produces a small repeat crop in the fall” after the main run in June, according to “The Avant Gardener.” She’s hardy to AHS Zone 5. In keeping with the American fascination with all things pink, the second AHS entry is ‘Pink Lemonade,’ a blueberry whose fruit is, um, pink. (Why don’t they call it “pinkberry”? No one knows.) Only a moderate producer and hardy only to AHS Zone 6, “this novel blueberry gained a ‘best new shrub’ award at the Far West Horticultural Show.” High praise indeed. I guess.

            Both apples and blueberry provide consumers with lots of fiber, which, as we all know, promotes happy and healthy colons. But listen to this, girls: out of 20,000 women participating in a study, those who got the most fiber from their diets had a 25% lower chance of developing heart disease than their processed-food loving counterparts.
Calm down! Have some raisins.

            Got raisins? Swedish researchers found that hypertensives eating a handful of raisins a day appreciably reduced their blood pressures. No one knows why, exactly, but then, it doesn’t really matter, does it?


            One last dollop of good-ish news. Today marks the last of the earliest sunsets here in the Southport area. Starting November 28 and continuing through this evening, the sun’s gone down at 5:03 EST. Tomorrow, we gain a minute as it waits until 5:04 to slip below the horizon. On the other end of the day, however, sunrise gets incrementally later until January 3rd, when it claws its way into the morning sky at 7:17 EST. There it levels off through the 13th. After that, it’s all good with earlier sunrises and later sunsets until the summer solstice in June, when the slow slide kicks back in.

Those wacky druids at Stonehenge
            The actual shortest day(s) of the year fall around the imminent winter solstice, on December 21 this year. Locally, that plays out to 15 days of 14-hour-6-minute nights. For more insight on the long and short of daylengths, check out my December 10, 2010 post, “The Moon, the Sun, and the Shortest Day.” It’s illuminating (haha).

            Okay, that’s it for me for 2012. There’s a visit to Momma in Williamsburg coming up this weekend, and seasonal shopping to cram in before the trip; our ever-patient clients would really, really like their winter containers filled; I would really, really like to find homes for all the plants in our driveway; a stack of Christmas cards waits on my desk to be addressed and schlepped to the mailbox; six pounds of cranberries languish in the fridge, hoping to become sauce and chutney; there's a weaving sampler I can’t wait to get off the loom because it’s produced so damn many “teachable moments”; and a sweater I've been struggling with since first looping yarn around needle requires ripping out all together as I discovered last night I forgot to make any of the sleeve increases.

            That's life as usual chez Fitz. We wish you the least stressful of holidays and are looking forward to catching up after the furor dies down. Sleep in heavenly peace, if you can. And if not, an occasional Ativan helps smooth out those rough edges.

            Thanks so much for dropping by. It means a lot to me.