Avant Gardener – 121613

Hosts Derek and Carolyn report six inches of snow at Cedaridge Farm and comment on what a beautiful scene surrounds their home, having landscaped their property to look distinctive in snow. Not only can they see clouds of winterberry shrubs coated with snow, but they have been able to bring in armloads of berried branches to decorate the house for the holiday season, along with branches of holly and the hardy southern magnolia, Edith Hough with waxy evergreen leaves. They marvel at the ability of their ornamental grasses to look good in the winter landscape and how their favorite landscape tree, the ‘Heritage’ variety of river birch has beautiful honey-colored flaking bark that stands out in the landscape. Structures also enhance a snowy landscape, including strategically placed arbors, a Victorian style gazebo, fences and benches. Their expert this session is Gretchen Zwetzig, owner of Fleming’s Flower Fields, a 65-year company that specializes in breeding hardy perennials. Started by three brothers, the late Jim, Bob and Dave Fleming, Derek remembers meeting that at a convention and enjoying a conversation about their perennial breeding. Gretchen describes their pioneer work on the famous Fleming strain of hardy hibiscus with a color range that includes white, red, pink, purple, pale yellow and white, all with a contrasting red eye. The individual flowers can measure up to 12 inches across on plants that remain less than 4 ft. high. Hardy from zones 4 to 10, these hibiscus are ideal for locations with moist soil, such as beside a stream or pond. Gretchen also describes the work on the Filli series of dwarf hardy crepe myrtles and how good they can look in containers. In the email segment Derek provides an evaluation of dessert quality apple varieties, the growing of a rare bulb known as the blue amaryllis, an evaluation of heirloom tomatoes and advice to a listener who is planning a trip to Scotland to visit Scottish gardens. Derek reminds listeners that a sample issue of their on-line newsletter, the Avant Gardener can be viewed at avantgardener.info.