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Color Champions

Green is good in so many ways. I try to be green by recycling as much as I can, turning off lights when I leave the room, and I have finally retrained myself to use my cloth grocery bags 100 percent of the time.

In our gardens, we can also try to be green by choosing plants that require less maintenance and water, recycling all those black plastic nursery pots and trays, and reducing the amount of lawn that has to be mowed each week.

Okay, so reducing the amount of lawn you have to mow isn�t all about being green but a gardener�s way of saying �I need more room for all the plants I want.� In order to make room for more plants, it follows that more of the lawn space is going to have to become garden space.

Even without any lawn in my own garden and a pretty diverse selection of flowering perennials, trees, shrubs, and vines, I can still look out my kitchen window and see that green is the most predominant color in my garden. So it seems natural that we gardeners are always on the lookout for plants that flower, or have foliage that is not always green, or a plant that is just unique and fun to see growing.

Unusual colored foliage
Trees and shrubs that have some unusual colored foliage or unique foliar characteristic always draw a gardener�s attention. Cercis canadensis �Forest Pansy� redbud has beautiful heart-shaped leaves, but it�s the unusual color of these leaves�a shiny reddish purple�that draws us to choose it for our garden.

At a recent gardening fair, we had a beautiful Fagus sylvatica �Roseomarginata� pink leaf beech on display. Its beautiful, simple green leaves with wavy pink margins and a hint of white stole the show. Anyone who saw it could imagine this colorful and unique beauty growing in his or her garden.

Dappled willow
One plant that is a little less common, but has strikingly beautiful and unusually colored foliage, is Salix integra �Hakuro-Nishiki,� Japanese dapple willow. Its narrow and long willow-like leaves emerge a beautiful pink and then turn green blotched with white for the summer. It is definitely one of those plants that will make you stop and think, �what is that?�

Hardy to Zone 5, the Japanese dapple willow prefers full sun and a cooler climate. In our area with its hot southern summers, we have to compromise and plant it in a partly shady location. As with all willows, it prefers moist to wet soils. It can be grown very successfully in soils that are drier, but watering throughout the summer and fall is generally necessary.

Where the soils are dry and without supplemental watering, you may find this plant fails to grow or declines over time. For those of us with dry soils, growing it as a container plant where we can give it all the water it needs is both beautiful and successful. When grown in a container, it is necessary to move it to a protected area for overwintering, or once completely dormant it could be brought into an unheated garage for the coldest part of the winter.

Its general habit is shrub-like with arching branches in an almost weeping form. It can grow 10 to 15 feet tall and equally wide if it is not pruned. It is more attractive when it is pruned and maintained on a regular basis in a busy, natural shape or as a trained tree form. In all cases, it is necessary to cut it back and shape it up at the end of every winter so the plant is kept vigorous. The new growth is the most colorful, and truthfully the main reason for having this plant.

If you happen to look out your window every now and then in the spring or summer and find that green is the most predominant color in your garden, remember green in the garden means things are growing, so it is good. And green is one of the most relaxing colors, so maybe it�s just time to sit and enjoy your garden.

by Angie McManus

Something is eating the leaves on my Knockout rose bushes. What is the best remedy?

Without seeing a sample I cannot be certain what is eating the foliage of your roses, but we have seen a lot of damage from the rose slug on Knockout roses this year. They overwinter in the soil and emerge to start feeding early in May. They are tiny larvae that feed on the underside of the foliage. If you go out and look at the underside of the leaves, you should see the culprits. They look like a caterpillar. Control depends on the amount of damage. If only some of the foliage is damaged you can remove it, and be sure to discard it so the insects are removed from the plant as well. If the damage is more severe you can use a product, such as Sevin, that contains the chemical chlorpyrifos, which will kill these insects. You should be able to find the product at your local garden center. It is not an organic product, so be careful when spraying and follow application instructions carefully. Sanitation is important in reducing the number of these insects. Be sure to remove all fallen foliage and other plant debris throughout the year. For a positive identification, take a sample to your County Cooperative Extension Service or to your local garden center.


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