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Who couldn't use a couple of good water-conservation tips? Try these, from the June-July issue of Organic Gardening magazine:

- Save cooking water for the garden. (Let it cool, please, before you pour that nutrition-rich water on the plants!)

-Use shower overflow: Keep a bucket in the bathroom to catch the water that runs while you're waiting for the shower to get warm. Keep a second bucket in the kitchen for the same purpose.

- Pot in a pot. Unglazed ceramic pots can dry out quickly. To save water, place your planted containers inside a slightly larger ceramic pot, then fill the space between them with moistened sphagnum and top with more moss to act as mulch.

A new hotshot among Gaillardias

And it burns, burns, burns, the Ring of Fire: That's the name of this new bloom in the ranks of Gaillardia aristata, a.k.a. the blanket flower. It grows 4 inches across, with gold petals and a ruby-red center, and stands 18 to 24 inches tall on strong, sturdy stems that won't flop over. Horticulturists at Park Seeds, where it was developed, say it's the largest Gaillardia yet. Did we mention that it loves heat and drought? The Ring of Fire will be available this fall.

Exotic compost, courtesy of the zoo

Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa will offer "zoo poo" compost to gardeners on Aug. 18. The compost includes droppings of the zoo's herbivorous residents: elephant, rhino, bison, giraffe, zebra, ponies, more. It's mixed with straw bedding, fresh hardwood chips and light landscaping refuse. The wastes are heated in the sun to more than 150 degrees; the composting process takes three months. You can reserve in advance by e-mailing and pick up your order starting at 9:30 a.m. Aug. 18 at the west end of the zoo's parking lot. No reservation? You can pick yours up at noon. Cost is $1 a gallon (cash and checks only); bring your own containers.

Caladiums show their vivid colors

More than 23,000 caladiums are on display through Sept. 15 at the Florida Caladium Showcase at the Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center in Kissimmee (it's Exit 65 off Interstate 4 eastbound). The show covers 65 acres on the resort property and a 4.5-acre glassed-in atrium. More than 99 percent of all caladiums sold worldwide are grown in Florida, and this is the largest indoor caladium show in the world. The showcase plants come from Bates Sons and Daughters Caladiums in Lake Placid. The showcase is free and is best viewed during daylight hours.

Compiled by Homes and Garden editor Judy Stark


Mint spreads rapidly by surface or underground runners that may grow several feet from the parent plant. It can take over a garden if it's not contained. Solution: Plant mint in pots to restrict its growth. You'll still have plenty for your iced tea.