Dr. Rick feels that one of the greatest gifts you can give
children is a love of nature and an appreciation of gardening.
This week we visit the Children's Garden at The Atlanta
Botanical Garden and show our viewers plants that interest
children. We also look at Begonias and how they can be
inside or outside the home.
Tiffany Jones is a horticulturist and
today shows us a few of the most interesting plants in
the Children's Garden. There are a lot of folks enjoying
this area, she's been effective in designing a garden that
is child friendly. Tiffany has been working in the Children's
Garden for most of two years. She loves the energy and
excitement that kids bring to the garden. They are always
excited about new plants or plants that are different or
unusual. Management gives Tiffany a free reign in this
area to try things that may not be horticulturally significant,
but may just be fun, strange, weird or a novelty.
We first look at gourds. Tiffany, for
the first time in this garden, is growing a Bushel Gourd.
These can weigh as much as 25-50 pounds. These gourds use
the fence, even surrounding corn plants for support. Their
Tendrils attach themselves to sturdy, more upright forms
to assist in growing. After these gourds have grown and
dried there are endless uses for them. One could drill
holes in them and they could become a birdhouse. Or they
could be painted, becoming a pumpkin, all sorts of craft
ideas can be tried.
Sunflowers are one of Dr. Rick's favorites.
They come in all sizes and shapes and are colorful. Since
they're easy to grow and they grow rapidly and they achieve
great size they can be used in a maze. As well they have
a variety of additional uses. Their seeds are popular and
healthy for people and birds. Their flowers are attractive
in the garden or inside. The Sunflower tracks the sun allowing
it to maximize its potential for Photosynthesis. If you
look at the flower in the morning it would be facing east,
in the afternoon, west. The seeds come from the head. Once
the flower is spent, the seeds can be roasted for 30-40
minutes at 300 degrees or they can be boiled. When boiled
the shells are left on just like a peanut. Some Sunflowers
have very large flowers - some may grow to 6-10 feet tall
- there are other varieties that have much smaller flowers.
These can be used in smaller gardens when space is a consideration
and they too are ornamental.
One of the smaller plants is called Sunflower
Teddybear. It grows to about 2-3 feet in height and is
ideal for a cottage garden or a small area. This plant
doesn't produce seeds. It is a hybrid Sunflower, meaning
its parents were crossed which often results in sterile
Dr. Rick likes to buy a 50 pound bag
of Sunflower wild bird food, till the ground, throw in
the seed and a mass will grow at a small cost. It's a great
way to get a lot of color.
We next look at an Armenian Long Cucumber.
They can reach almost 36 inches in length, but taste best
if picked at 8-10 inches. It is a burp less cucumber and
is strange looking making it a sure crowd pleaser.
Bitter Melon has an interesting ripening
procedure. It turns orangish-yellowish as it ripens, then
the end explodes, and it separates into three pieces, at
this point its seeds are released. It is a gourd and warty.
Its leaves, in fact all parts, are edible. It's seeds and
the flesh of the fruit have many medicinal properties.
It may offer some relief for Arthritis and research is
now being conducted to determine its effectiveness in dealing
Drought is effecting many parts of the
country. This has been one of the most severe droughts
in the last 108 years. So far it isn't as serious as the
1930's dust bowl, but we haven't seen a drought like this
since the 1950's.
A plant that thrives in drought conditions
is Heavenly Bamboo, Nandina Domestica. Nandina is originally
from China or Japan and it belongs to the Barberry family.
It looks like Bamboo with its lightly branched, cain-like
stems and delicate fine textured, lacy foliage. In Alkaline
soil, it may have Chlorosis or yellowing of the leaves.
Adding sulfur to the soil will help. Generally this plant
will tolerate just about any soil condition. The foliage
may tend to be vacant at the base of older plants, if so
it tends to become top-heavy. It is advisable to cut back
one third of the branches each year. By doing that a flush
of new growth is encouraged at the base filing in the unsightly
void. By cutting back 1/3 the look of the plant isn't destroyed
and growth is encouraged. It produces red berries in the
fall and can be used indoors or in floral arrangements.
One variety, Alba, has white berries and provides a different
look. Nandina Domestica, Heavenly Bamboo, is a great plant
for the water efficient garden.
In the middle of the summer, it's hot,
when gardening we try to find some shade, looking for areas
where it's a little cooler. Tom Harvey talks today about
Begonias. These plants thrive in atriums, greenhouses even
on porches. Begonias have always been known as house plants.
Tom's grandmother always had Begonias on her back porch.
They are becoming more popular today because there are
a lot more varieties and species being developed. There
are some incredible new textures, sizes, shapes, and leaf
colors. There are new varieties with different mottling,
some are fuzzy, some soft, some not, they vary widely.
One group - Angel Wing or Dragon Wing - derives its name
because of the shape of its leaves. If you were to break
its leaf in half it resembles an angels wing. Some Begonias
have round leaves, some are large. The plants with large
leaves are tropical, but like a high shade condition. When
grown in containers they like a soil that is a light mixture,
one that drains very fast and is rich in organic matter.
Begonia Ludwigii has a huge, fuzzy leaf,
not what one normally associates with a Begonia. This plant
contrasts dramatically with Begonia Listada. It has a variegated
vein and is almost like velvet.
Begonias can be propagated easily from
a leaf or stem. Take a leaf, turn it over and cut along
the vein. Put it in a potting mixture and it will root.
One can get several small plants from just one leaf.
Begonias have very few insect problems.
They like medium to low fertilization. If an indoor plant,
fertilizing them once a month is ample. If you normally
add a tablespoon of plant food per gallon of water, for
Begonias add only 1/2 to 3/4 per gallon. They like plenty
of moisture, plenty of humidity, bright light, but not
direct sunlight coming through a window (magnified light
coming through a window will burn the leaves). If provided,
these conditions will allow Begonias to thrive.
Georgia visits this week with Ruth Levitan.
Ruth has been featured in The American Woman's Guide to
Gardening. Ruth's garden is filled with wonderful whimsies
- great ornaments. Ruth enjoys having decorations and ornaments
and she like everyone else thinks that their collection
is the epitome. One must guard against what Ruth refers
to as a "miniature golf course look." She tries
to be restrained although it's hard to resist the cutsie-pooh
look. We first look at a beautiful Clematis held up with
an arch. The arch holds the plant up beautifully, but it
is also practical, it serves a function in the garden.
It is made from piping available at any hardware store.
The flowers were hand-crafted by Ruth from tin and resemble
the Clematis, which now grows on it. Georgia likes the
peek-a-boo hole in the fence. Ruth believes the best garden
whimsies are the things that have a reason for being, they're
not just a decoration added. This fence needed to be 8
feet tall to keep out deer. The hole provides a sense of
being welcomed in, it allows a peek at the garden from
the other side. Ruth has utilized a birdbath in another
location. The problem with birdbaths is the water needs
to be changed frequently or they don't work. Ruth has filled
one with chips and dirt, put in plants, like Sedum and
others, added a statue of a little rabbit with a May Apple
umbrella. It makes a great container, very unusual, yet
functional. Ruth has two cement carousel type horses. She
frequently gives them a fresh coat of paint and plants
flowers around them. They provide a focal point in the
garden and add a lot of interest as well. Ruth's garden
whimsies make her garden more personal and more interesting.
Thank you Ruth for sharing your ideas with all of us.
Tiffany shows us another plant that interests
children. Chinese Lantern has great orange fruit, seemingly
filled with air. When pushed it feels hollow, like a balloon,
which gives it a lantern quality. It is full of seeds and
comes back year after year.
Celosia Cristata, Crested Celosia often
called "brain on a plate" is a bizarre looking
plant. It is unusual in the garden but afterwards can be
used in dried flower arrangements or as a cut flower.
Kids like to smell and taste everything,
therefore Tiffany has many plants that are aromatic. Lavender,
Thyme and Mint are a few. One must keep Mint in a container
or a space where it won't sprawl and take over the rest
of the garden. Tiffany has used chocolate mint in the garden
before currently she has spearmint Mint, just like chewing
gum. She's planted this in an old bathtub, kids too like
garden art. These plants like full sun, dry soil, they
rarely need water, they're very low maintenance plants.
We next look at a Mangle, a Beet relative.
Cows are said to like both the foliage and beet portion
of this plant and Mangle can be produced inexpensively
as feed. They are also edible for humans and are quite
tasty. Since Tiffany doesn't like to use chemicals in this
garden, insects often have their way. Caterpillars within
a few days had decimated the leaves of the Mangle. This
provides a learning experience for kids and since the leaves
aren't the important part, it's what's below ground that
is important, Tiffany just let it go.
If you have a pond or water feature and
kids you might consider a Lotus Plant, Lotus Nelumbo. Its
leaves repel water, they have almost a waxy surface on
top. Water beads on the leaf like it was made of wax. The
leaf is edible and can be used similarly to seaweed in
sushi. The Rhizomes or underground stems can also be boiled
and eaten. The seeds in the pods are also edible. When
the flower is fertilized, the pod forms and the seeds mature
and ripen. At this point the pod bends over enabling the
seeds to fall into the water and germinate, producing another
Lotus. People cut the flower and use it in flower arrangements
or dry it and use it in dried arrangements. Its flower
resembles a Peony, it has at least two or three hundred
petals. Records say it has been around since the 12th century
and it has spiritual meaning for different groups. Fertilize
it every two weeks. It is one of the largest plants in
the pond and one that needs the most fertilization so it
will flower and its leaves stay greener. Remove yellow
leaves or any leaves with insect damage and it seems to
thrive. It is a very large leafed plant, its leaf style
is called orbicular, which means the stem comes right out
of the center of the leaf. It is a beautiful and unusual
Dr. Rick thanks Tiffany for showing us
some of the unusual plants in this children's garden. Tiffany
would encourage parents to purchase any kind of seed for
their children. Anything that can be grown at home, even
in a small pot is a great way to get children excited about
growing their own plants and learning how plants start
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