Monday, February 25, 2013

How To Clean A Plastic Tube Bird Feeder

Squirrel Buster Tube Feeder
Q. I have a plastic tube bird feeder that needs to be cleaned. Got any tips?

A. Besides looking dirty, tube feeders can develop bacteria and mold that will infect the seed. That can't be good for the birds.

Wear latex gloves to protect your hands from germs and cleaning liquid. Disassemble your feeder following the manufacturer's instructions. Shake out any loose seed.

Fill a 5 gallon bucket with 10 quarts of water and 1 quart of bleach. Submerge the feeder and scrub it inside and out with a stiff bottle brush. A small toothbrush can be used to scrub tight areas.

Every part of the feeder should be cleaned and disinfected. Rinse each part thoroughly after cleaning, then dry them separately with a clean, soft cloth. Set them aside to completely air dry before reassembling.

That should do it. Your feeder will last longer, look better, and your birds will be healthier.

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Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Must-Have Plants: Astilbe 'Fanal'

Must-have plants are among the best plants for appropriate garden situations. When you need great garden plants for ground cover, naturalizing, wildflower gardens, perennial borders, butterfly gardens, hummingbird gardens, herb gardens, heritage gardens, cutting gardens, woodland gardens, shade gardens, bulb gardens, container gardens, bog gardens, water gardens, rain gardens or xeriscaping, look for the best among our must-have plants.

Astilbe 'Fanal' flowers seem to glitter in the summer shade garden. The tall, frothy blooms of deep red drift above waves of bronze-green foliage. It's a fine choice for naturalizing in woodland gardens.

Name(s): Astilbe x arendsii 'Fanal', False Spirea, False Goat's Beard

Flower Color: Dark red

Bloom Time: Mid-summer

Foliage: Herbaceous, green, fern-like

Height/Spread: 12 inches to 18 inches x 12 inches to 18 inches.

Climate Zones: 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8

Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade.

Soil Condition: Moist to well-drained, loamy, pH 5.6 to 7.5

Features: Lacy flowers, fern-like foliage.

Uses: Massed planting, naturalizing, perennial borders, woodland gardens, shade gardens.

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Monday, February 4, 2013

FAQ: If planted in full shade will Variegated Liriope revert to all green?

Q. If planted in full shade, will Variegated Liriope revert to all green?

A. Planting in full shade won't cause Liriope muscari 'Variegata' to revert to green. It can revert to green, but it doesn't happen often. Variegation can be caused by several factors. It can be caused by virus. It can be communicated mechanically. Viral variegation tends to develop in irregular patterns, and it often affects the growth habit of the plant.

Genetic variegation occurs when cells produce little or no green pigment. This can be hereditary or occur as random mutations. Sections of plants that have randomly mutated are called "sports." The accompanying photo shows a section of Trachelospermum jasminoides that is "sporting." "Sports" can be propagated vegetatively. Random mutation appears in new growth, and tends to be regular and consistent in appearance. "Sporting" will not proceed into old tissue and change the appearance of the parent plant. Random genetic variegation can reverse itself in subsequent new tissue. The non-pigmented cells may or may not be sensitive to sun exposure.

Variegation can appear when air pockets develop under the outer layers of leaf tissue. This is actually a form of genetic variegation.

Liriope muscari 'Variegata' is a result of random genetic mutation. Since the genetic factor that caused variegation in the first place can reverse itself, new shoots from a variegated liriope parent can come out green, but that's not a sun/shade exposure issue.

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