Question: I may be just imagining this, but are the colors of my flowers and rose blooms brighter and richer in the fall? They seem to be.
Answer: It is quite possible that you are not imagining it. Cool night temperatures and warm sunny days can actually intensify colors on roses and many flowers. Hot nights and hot days can decrease color intensity on some flowers by inhibiting pigment production. This is why you may see more vivid flower colors in gardens in upstate New York or Montreal than in south Georgia during the height of summer. Glare from intense summer sun can also “wash out” colors, as well as affect our ability to see them or a camera’s ability to capture them.
Q: Do nurseries in Georgia carry our native beautyberry? I do not want the Chinese or Japanese one.
A: If your local garden center does not have it in stock, they may be able to order it for you. The American beautyberry (Callicarpa americana) is certainly worth seeking and asking for if you do not see it at your local plant retailer. Its magenta-purple berries clustered up and down its stems in fall and winter are an unforgettable sight.
If you do not find it for sale, American beautyberry is easy to grow from softwood cuttings in summer or fall and from seeds. Gather seeds after the first frost and go ahead and sow them outdoors or save them to sow in the spring. It is a fairly rapid grower.
In the landscape, American beautyberry can be massed (several planted together in a group) or used with perennials (especially effective with native asters, goldenrods, swamp sunflower, willow-leaf sunflower, wax mallow and ornamental grasses) or other shrubs including pomegranate, weigela, titi, buttonbush, groundsel bush, Confederate rose, waxmyrtle, Virginia sweetspire and butterfly rose.
Q: Can I eat mushrooms that sprout in my yard? They look like button mushrooms.
A: If you are not sure a mushroom is safe, do not eat it. Some common mushrooms are poisonous or even deadly. Some of the most dangerous ones can look like edible ones, especially at certain stages of growth.
Until you are absolutely sure, stick to the mushroom selections available in grocery stores. You may also find some Georgia-grown mushrooms at local farmers markets. You may want to grow your own. There are kits available for growing portobello, oyster, shiitake and other mushrooms.
If you are truly interested in foraging for mushrooms, study, take classes and go on field trips with mycologists or mushroom experts. Consider becoming a member of the Mushroom Club of Georgia (http://www.gamushroomclub.org/.)
Mushrooms are fascinating. Foraging for them and cultivating them can be rewarding. However, until you are sure of the identity of a mushroom, you should not eat it. Safety first!
If you have questions about services or products regulated by the Georgia Department of Agriculture, write Arty Schronce (firstname.lastname@example.org) or visit the department’s website at www.agr.georgia.gov.