This blog reviews the latest products, plants and innovations in gardening. It also provides a link for my many gardening friends who are members of the GardenMessenger and Seedmessenger Yahoo groups and their sub-groups that I moderate.

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Location: Australia

I am a semi-retired UK botanical garden curator and former international horticultural consultant, who has worked extensively in Europe, the Middle East, North America and Australia. I spend part of the year in Australia and part in Europe, mainly due to family and work commitments. I earn my living from writing and editing Internet copy, articles and books. I have written over fifty books on gardening and have been translated into twenty-four different languages. I am a former UK Garden Writer of the Year and a previous Quill & Trowel Award Winner from the Garden Writer’s Association of America. I am interested in developing gardening communities on the Internet and I manage the popular GardenMessenger Yahoo group, along with its various sub-groups like PondMessenger and SeedMessenger. I also edit International Water Gardener and its associated regional web-sites.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Developing Whitefly Controls, Da Vinci Garden and Plant Awards

Silverleaf whiteflies

Every gardener that I know is interested in hearing about new methods of controlling whitefly, even if they are not yet fully developed. If they are more biologically friendly than what we have at present, then so much the better. This not only applies to gardeners, but farmers and growers too. It is usually from research conducted in the commercial horticultural world that such new controls eventually trickle down to us home gardeners. I was therefore interested to come across some on-going work, which advocates a combination of preventative action, and suggests that biological control and selective insecticides are the most effective environmentally-friendly response to whitefly invasions.

Pirate Bug feeding on whitefly nymphs

University of Arizona researchers, along with colleagues from the Arid-Land Research Center, have analysed the factors contributing to whitefly mortality. They identified the most common causes of death, including predatory insects and weather-induced dislodgement, and it became clear that conserving natural predators for effective whitefly control was of great importance. This was no real surprise to the team, but it was not easy for them to discern out of all the myriad insects on the wing, those that are natural whitefly predators. So an assay that tests insect gut contents for evidence of whitefly consumption has been developed. Using this method, the researchers quantified predation frequency for eighteen different whitefly predators, many of which had been unidentified previously.

The Big-eyed Bug is a whitefly predator

The researchers now recommend complementing biological control with commercial insect growth regulators like buprofezin and pyriproxyfen. Their studies have shown that growth regulators tend to conserve natural predators, while conventional insecticides can be indiscriminate, eliminating predator and prey alike. The scientists’ research has enabled them to make specific recommendations for improving whitefly population management to the farming industry. This work is part of a growing knowledge base that has helped decrease insecticide use for whitefly control in North America by about 85% since 1995. It is expected shortly that this work will be interpreted for us home gardeners.

The world’s largest garden centre

I have just learned that the biggest garden centre in the world, according to the Guinness Book of Records, is for sale. The 250 staff at Bridgemere Garden World were told on Thursday that John Ravenscroft and his family have decided to sell the company, Bridgemere Nurseries Ltd. The world famous garden centre on the Cheshire/Shropshire border, in the north west of England, sells a unique range of plants and attracts at least 1.25 million visitors a year. In 2004 sales were almost £11m. (US$20.6m). The business is being offered for sale at £15m (US$28.1m). Founder John Ravenscroft started the business as a rose grower in 1962. He said: "I started with six acres and gradually added other areas of land to increase production and grow the business. Over the years we have moved from wholesale to retail. This has been my life's work, I know it's unique as far as the plant range is concerned." Although ready to enjoy a quieter life, at the age of 70, John intends to continue with his passion for growing plants. I would personally like to thank him for his enormous contribution to British horticulture, his generosity in providing countless plants to me free of charge for educational purposes, when I was the curator of Harlow Carr Gardens, and to wish him a long and happy retirement click here.

Chelsea Show Gardens Preview
During each of the days running up to the Chelsea Flower Show I am previewing a show garden. Although these are often regarded as garden theatre and not as sustainable under normal gardening conditions, they are often full of interesting and innovative ideas which can be taken, at least in part, and used in our gardens at home.

The Sunday Mirror Da Vinci Garden

The designer of this garden, David Domoney, was inspired to create the garden by the recent resurgence of interest in Leonardo da Vinci. References to da Vinci’s paintings and the Louvre museum in Paris, where the Mona Lisa is displayed, are included in this design. The famous glass pyramid at the Louvre is adapted here as a central feature, standing on marble tiles to represent the Louvre’s flooring. The surrounding planting includes plants that have been used by Leonardo da Vinci to illustrate his sketches, codes and masterpieces. Artworks on each corner depict the paintings of Leonardo da Vinci, while the central feature consists of one upside down pyramid on top of another to form a central intersection.


Rose ‘Sweet Victory’

This beautiful rose, with small fragrant pink blossoms, grows up to 45cm (18ins) tall and as much across. It is the perfect rose for a modern small garden, or for cultivation in containers, and is being sold to help raise vital funds for The Lords’ Taverners. As cricket lovers throughout the world will know, The Lord's Taverners was founded in 1950 by a group of actors who enjoyed watching cricket from the old Tavern at the famous Lords cricket ground in London. They have now evolved into a national charity and club with a membership of approximately 4,300 who set out to raise money to "give young people, particularly those with special needs, a sporting chance".

Fleuroselect Winners for 2007 Announced
A preliminary announcement of the winners of the 2007 Fleuroselect Gold Medal has been made. As soon as I am able to provide further details and photos of the winning entries I will.

Coreopsis grandiflora 'Presto' by Clause Tézier
Delphinium consolida 'Sydney Blue Picotee' by Kieft Seeds Holland
Dianthus barbatus F1 'Noverna Clown' by Kieft Seeds Holland
Echinacea purpurea 'Prairie Splendor' by Syngenta Seeds GmbH
Eryngium planum 'Blue Glitter' by Ernst Benary Samenzucht GmbH
Laurentia hybrida F1'Avant-garde Blue' by Thompson & Morgan UK Ltd.
Laurentia hybrida F1'Avant-garde Pink' by Thompson & Morgan UK Ltd.
Pelargonium hortorum 'Infiniti Scarlet' by Floranova Ltd.
Zinnia haageana 'Aztec Sunset' by Thompson & Morgan UK Ltd.

Fleuroselect is the international organisation for the ornamental plants industry. Its main activities include the testing, protecting and promoting of new flower varieties


Australian Fuchsia Society Spring Show
11th and 12th November
The Payneham Masonic Hall,
393, Payneham Road,
South Australia.
Details click here.

Happy Gardening



Today’s Sponsor - The Ultimate Garden Center

Insects: USDA
Chelsea Garden: Royal Horticultural Society
Rose: World of Roses

If you have enjoyed this publication, you may also like to visit the monthy SeedMessenger gardeners’ seed saving and seed exchange blog click here.
and the weekly water gardening blog PondMessenger click here.

To join the GardenMessenger gardening community
click here

To visit the SeedMessenger seed exchange web-site
click here

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