September 15, 2012
Roses featured at Trial Garden events
An enthusiastic group took advantage of the opportunity to view the Landscape Ontario trial garden open houses on Aug. 17 and 18.
Visitors to the fifth annual Landscape Ontario and University of Guelph trial garden open house on Aug. 17 and 18 had a great opportunity to see how some of the new plant introductions perform in a home garden setting.

The Friday open house was open to members of the trade, who also had the opportunity to attend talks by educational speakers.

Tony DiGiovanni, executive directive at LO, introduced the speakers, directing his comments to the trade members in the audience, “You people have a big job to raise the awareness of how human beings relate to plants.” He praised trial garden manager Rodger Tschanz of the University of Guelph as a champion of new plants.

First speaker Thelma Kessel introduced the Alternatives to Ash program, citing the goal to create more diversity trees for urban areas. “We can’t continue to plant the same trees everywhere,” said Kessel. She pointed out that the ash borer was proving the danger of planting the same type of trees.  

Kessel said that 29 species of trees had been chosen to provide a diverse selection of size, site requirements and the ability to withstand urban conditions. She said that the next step in the process was to educate the public.

DiGiovanni introduced the next educational speaker, John Bakker lll of JC Bakker and Sons, St. Catharines, as among Canada’s foremost experts on roses. He related how Bakkers provided 500 roses for Canada Blooms, and those roses were then brought to the LO home office in Milton where they became part of the trial garden display.

“John’s mission is to bring back roses as mass bedding plants,” said DiGiovanni.

Bakker stated that over the past number of years roses had lost popularity among gardeners. “There are some real changes taking place in the rose industry.” He explained that Canada is producing locally grown root stocks and how the new roses are now less disease and pest sensitive.

He pointed out how the previous research facility at Morden in Manitoba has been moved to Vineland where research is ongoing.

Those attending the open house had the opportunity to tour the trial gardens where over 600 roses were on display.

On hand to listen to Bakker’s talk was Kat Fox of Garden Making magazine. You can read her blog on Bakker’s talk at

Following the talks, Rodger Tschanz took everyone outside, where he provided the group with a tour of each section of the gardens, explaining the reason and goals of the trial gardens. The program continued in the afternoon at the Guelph Trial Garden at the Guelph Turfgrass Institute.

Public open house

The following day, Sat., Aug. 18, the trial gardens were opened to members of the general public. Nearly 60 interested gardeners turned up to view the plants and determine the best performers for themselves.

Visitors were enthusiastic and appreciative of the opportunity to see the new varieties, and enjoyed sharing their thoughts on the plants with Rodger Tschanz. The roses were a big hit, with visitors noting the names of some of the exceptional cultivars.

Volunteers from the Halton Master Gardeners were on hand to answer some challenging gardening questions, and LO staff held a draw to raise additional funds to support the gardens.

The cherry tomato plants in the vegetable trial were heavy with fruit, so visitors were asked to pick one from each of the four varieties and choose their favourite. Visitors took their impromptu taste-testing very seriously, and a Burpee cultivar called Mighty Sweet won hands down.

A big thank you

Sponsors of the event include  Ellepots by A.M.A., Gro-Bark (Ontario), JC Bakker and Sons, and Goldsmith Seeds.  

Thanks also go to the suppliers of the plant material:  American Takii, Ball Horticulture, Blooms of Bressingham, Benary, Burpee, Dummen, Ecke Ranch, Fides, Floranova, Genesis Seed, Gloeckner, Goldsmith Seeds, Hem Genetics, Jelitto Seeds, Kieft, Ontario Seed Company, PanAmerican Seed, Proven Winners, Pro-Veg Seeds, Sakata, Seeds by Design, Seeds of Change, Selecta, Suntory and Syngenta, Vanhof and Blokker, Vegetalis and William Dam Seeds.

Appreciation was also noted to growers and suppliers: A.M.A. Plastics, Linwell Gardens, Plant Products, George Sant Greenhouses, Ed Sobkowich Greenhouses, MCP Manufacturing, Myers Industries Lawn and Garden Group, SunGro Horticulture, Terra Greenhouses and Windmill Landscapes.

Other organizations contributing to the trial gardens are All-America Selections, Association of Specialty Cutflower Growers, Guelph and Wellington County Master Gardeners, City of Guelph — Healthy Landscape Program and Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.

Visitors vote for favourite plants

Both the trade and public visitors had the opportunity to cast a vote on their favourite plant. Voting on industry day, saw top choices as: Juncus Blue Mohawk, from Proven Winners (planted 2010, trimmed spring of 2012), Solenostemon Honey Crisp by Ball, and Diascia barberae Darla Orange from Syngenta.

The public had a different view on their favourites, voting the top plants as Hibiscus Luna Red by Ball; Mecardonia Hybrid Gold Dust, Proven Winners; Dahlia XXL Veracruz, Dummen; and Scaevola aemula Bombay White, Syngenta.