May 15, 2009
The trial gardens at LO will double in size this year, but that’s not the only change that will occur in the project.

This is the third season of plant evaluations at the Landscape Ontario trial garden in Milton. In 2007 and 2008, the Grounds Maintenance sector group of LO and the Department of Plant Agriculture at the University of Guelph worked together to start the landscape trial program, doubling in size last year.

This year, interest from other sectors will see the trial program expand not just in size, but in use by other aspects of the industry. At a recent meeting, the Grounds Maintenance group decided to strike a sub-committee that will bring additional focus to the trial garden through representation from the Ontario Parks Association, the irrigation and garden centre sectors, and LO’s education, marketing and communication departments to help grounds maintenance and the University of Guelph with the project. “Together we hope to capitalize on all of the opportunities for education, research and extension that the trial program offers,” says Roger Tschanz, University of Guelph plant technician, who manages the trial garden.

The footprint for the 2009 trial, at 12,000 square feet, will be more than twice the size of last season’s garden. This year will also include perennials and a shade trial area.

Plans are also afoot to create educational opportunities for high school students and garden centre employees during the planting of this year’s garden.

The OPA hopes that municipalities will participate in its ‘Mixed Basket Competition’ at the trial site. In this competition, municipalities would plant up a 12 to14 in. wire/cocofibre basket, using their choice of plant materials and soil mixes. The baskets will be delivered to the trial site the first week of June, where they will be grown until the end of the summer. All baskets will be treated the same way in terms of fertility and watering. As a new component of the open house, this year the public will be invited to tour the LO trial gardens between 2:00 and 7:00 p.m. on Aug. 20.

Confirmed suppliers at press time include Blooms of Bressingham,  Darwin Plants, Proven Winners, Ball Horticulture, PanAmerican Seed, Goldsmith Seeds, Sakata Seeds and George Sant Greenhouses.

This year’s open house agenda has been expanded as well.  The program for the horticultural industry is scheduled to begin at 9:00 a.m. on Aug. 20, and will include a short speaker program, where trial garden suppliers will talk about their products and sub-committee members will reflect about the highlights of the 2009 trials. Small groups of visitors will be given the opportunity to accompany a tour guide through the trial site. Voting on favourite trial garden plants will take place again this year.