October 19, 2021
Highlights from the 2021 Trial Gardens
BY RODGER TSCHANZ
BEING A BIT OF A PLANT NERD, I never grow tired of my role as Trial Garden manager at the University of Guelph. I find it so much fun to receive seed packs in the mail or cuttings in the spring, and then be able to grow them out. And to see a flower for the first time, it’s almost like Christmas morning. The Trial Gardens — located at Landscape Ontario in Milton, the Royal Botanical Gardens in Burlington and at the University of Guelph — allow us to see how new plants perform throughout the season in both landscape and container applications.
Profusion Zinnia Red Yellow BicolorDeveloped by Sakata Seed, Profusion Zinnia Red Yellow Bicolor is the recent recipient of gold medal awards from both the All-American Selections and Fleuroselect judging competitions. What’s really unique about this Profusion cultivar is it starts off with a beautiful gold petal and dark red centre and ages to shades of pink. Instead of going directly from a brilliant colour to a brownish colour, it actually turns into an attractive second colour that adds to the ornamental depth.
Hummingbird FallsHummingbird Falls is a new Salvia x guarantica from Dummen Orange. We have seen this colour of bloom and calyx before, but this is the first time it is being introduced in a more compact format. Hummingbird Falls features a semi-trailing, bushy format ideally suited for container applications. This salvia cultivar remains as attractive to pollinators and hummingbirds as previous versions.
Shamrock LantanaShamrock Lantana is a new series from Ball FloraPlant, available in white, peach, orange flame or rose cultivars. All colours in this series have a similar mounding growth habit with medium vigour, making them suitable for container applications. They seem to perform well in our landscape trials, while maintaining an attractive mounded appearance.
Verbena Cake PopsI’ve been trialling verbenas since the beginning of the Trial Garden program in 2001, and this is the first time I’ve trialled the rigida species.The inflorescence on the stock is reminiscent of Verbena bonariensis, except this variety from Proven Winners has a semi-trailing habit. It’s low-growing habit makes it very container friendly, but creates an attractive ground cover in the landscape as well. It’s currently available in pink and purple flower colours.
Ladybird CalylophusCalylophus is another trialling first for me. Commonly called Texas primrose, the Ladybird series from Proven Winners is available in colours of deep yellow (Sunglow) and pale yellow (Lemonade). I’ve been very happy with the vigorous and consistent blooms these plants have produced throughout the season — and so are the pollinators that always seem to be visiting! Ladybird features a very fine foliage and low growing habit that’s suitable for flower beds or containers.
Suncredible SaturnA unique trait of Proven Winners’ Suncredible Saturn is the flowers feature a red or rusty inner ring on the petals. As well, the stems have a reddish hue to them. This everblooming sunflower has a bush-like habit and does not require deadheading to encourage re-bloom, although deadheading may improve the plant’s overall ornamental appearance.
Rex BegoniasIn the shade house at Landscape Ontario, we have a collection of 12 different Rex begonias from Ball planted in containers. They’re perfect for shade conditions and add a zing to an ornamental display. The Jurassic Junior Purple Spec received a lot of attention at our summer open house, as it has a nice speckling purple on a white background. The Jurassic Junior Berry Swirl is another variety to note. It has dappled purple in the centre and a green and white leaf perimeter.
Rodger Tschanz is the University of Guelph’s trial garden manager, and oversees three sites located at Landscape Ontario in Milton, the Royal Botanical Gardens in Burlington and the University of Guelph’s GTI in Guelph.