October 5, 2020
Dramatic looking plants are top picks at Trial Garden Open House
A new salvia named Lancelot drew a lot of attention at the 2020 trial garden open house.
By Rodger Tschanz
University of Guelph Trial Garden Manager

Despite some restrictions due to Covid-19 and some last-minute planning challenges, this year’s Trial Garden Open House took place over four days and saw some great cooperation from Mother Nature. The site at Landscape Ontario in Milton had about 55 visitors Aug. 12-13 and the Guelph site had over 120 visitors Aug. 13-14.

An online registration system managed the flow of visitors to maintain safe-spacing protocols so visitors could take more time to visit the gardens. Thank you to Landscape Ontario’s Robert Ellidge for organizing and managing the online registration, as well as compiling the online map and plant lists. Thanks also to David Turnbull and his property management team for weeding, watering, mulching and everything else needed to maintain the trial plots.

A container trial at the LO-Milton site was introduced this year to complement the existing trial in Guelph. The popular display of about 140 containers included many annuals primarily used as container plants, reflecting what is happening in the real world. In addition, both the Guelph and LO-Milton sites included the usual landscape trials. A new perennial trial that was planted at LO-Milton this year was still struggling in the heat and trying to get established at the time of the Open House, which some of the more established perennials at the Guelph site compensated for. The new pollinator evaluation garden in Milton turned out to be a garden oasis and escape from the roar of nearby Highway 401. Results of the pollinator trial will be available later this year.
Brainiac Raven RedBraniac Raven Red
Gekko GreenGekko Green

Visitors once again voted on their favourite plants in three different categories. See below for the top 10 container annuals, landscape annuals and landscape perennials:

It’s interesting to note that petunias and zinnias had a high ranking amongst the annuals on open house day. The heat of this summer was ideal for growing these plants. Celosia is another heat-lover and the selections listed above are very unique looking; Sol Gekko and Sol Lizzard Leaf were grown primarily for their colourful foliage, but started to bloom late in the season as day length decreased. It was also a good year for dwarf delphiniums and hibiscus. Both plant groups were at their peak during mid-August, as was the ornamental onion Serendipity, which was covered with bees during the open house.

Many other plants do not win the popularity contest each year, but are still worthy of attention. A salvia named Lancelot is one of these. It has a dramatic appearance and interesting name (which probably comes from its shield-shaped leaves) which are covered in fine, white pubescence, similar to woolly lamb’s ears. The very attractive grey foliage acts as a great backdrop to the violet blooms that form later in the summer.

Hydrangeas (Top 3)

Zinfin Doll
Quick Fire, Little Quick Fire, Bobo, Candlelight (tied for third place)

Container Annuals (Top 10)

Celosia Brainiac Raven Red
Begonia I’CONIA Del Sol
Petunia Supertunia Mini Vista Indigo
Petunia Supertunia Vista Bubblegum
Petunia Shortcake Blueberry
Petunia Supertunia Mini Vista Pink Star
Petunia Origami Thinkerbell
Begonia I’CONIA Bacio Orange
Lantana Luscious Royale Red Zone
Petunia Shock Wave Denim

Landscape Annuals (Top 10)

Dahlia Lubega Dark Velvet
Zinnia Benary’s Giant Mix
Celosia Sol Lizzard Leaf
Helianthus Sunrich Summer Gold
Celosia Sol Gekko Green
Celosia Century Pink
Zinnia Preciosa Scarlet
Petunia Bees Knees
Plectranthus Flamethrower Cajun Spice (coleus)
Plectranthus Dragon Heart (coleus)

Landscape Perennials (Top 10)

Allium Serendipity
Delphinium Excalibur Mix
Hibiscus Summerfine Cherry Chocolate
Delphinium Jenny’s Pearl Blue
Delphinium Blue Mirror
Echinacea Sombrero Salsa Red
Hibiscus Summerific Holy Grail
Hibiscus Summerific Evening Rose
Andropogon Prairie Blue
Echinacea Paradiso Dwarf Mix