October 9, 2018
Trial Garden event continues to showcase exciting new plants
Rodger Tschanz (left), leads a tour of the trial garden site in Guelph.
By Rodger Tschanz
Trial Garden Manager, University of Guelph

This year’s trial garden open house took place on Aug. 23. The day started in Guelph, Ont., where over 60 industry professionals took part in the speaker sessions and plot tours.

Kicking off the speaker program was Samantha Dupré, Community Stewardship Coordinator for the City of Guelph, who gave a comprehensive overview of the many different types of community gardening models employed in Guelph.

Dupré is responsible for coordinating the city’s community gardening program which currently encompasses 22 community gardens and two orchards, with operating models ranging from traditional plot-based gardens to communal gardens, to school-yard programs and hybrid combinations of various formats. Dupré also talked about the popularity and growth of the program, along with the challenges that manifest themselves when gardening in an urban environment.
Celosia 'Dracula' Celosia "Dracula' was clearly the favourite new plant at this year's Trial Garden Open House.

The second speaker was Cam Shaw, Communications and Outreach Coordinator for the Guelph Turfgrass Institute (GTI) at the University of Guelph. Shaw talked about the GTI’s role in turf research and education and its plans to relocate to a parcel of land in the current U of G arboretum in the next year or two. The plans for the new site were also presented and discussed. Following the speaker program, those in attendance toured the GTI with a focus on turfgrass trials and the trial garden beds.

Highlights of the tour included:
  • The turfgrass species display/educational plots that are mowed at different heights to demonstrate the strengths and weaknesses of the different species for different turf applications.
  • Putting green research plots studying the winter hardiness of annual bluegrass and disease control options (presented by Dr. Eric Lyons, GTI Director and U of G faculty).
  • Prairie grass restoration research looking at best practices for seed bed preparation and seeding dates.
  • (E. Lyons).
  • Research using different bio-solids as a turfgrass fertilizer (presented by research technician, John Watson).
  • Discussions around chinch bug issues, nematode efficacy, IPM approaches, endophyte enhanced grasses, weed management and Fiesta.
  • Last but not least, the group toured the 2018 trial gardens at Guelph, followed by a early afternoon tour of the trial garden site at the Landscape Ontario home office in Milton, Ont.
Heat, high humidity and variable rainfall have marked the 2018 trial season. Plants in the trial garden showed differently from day-to-day, depending on whether the site had experienced a pounding rain or not. The petunias are particularly noted for battered bloom displays following a thunderstorm. To find petunia selections that withstand this treatment is special, such as the new cultivars: ‘Supertunia Vista Fuchsia’ and ‘Supertunia Lovie Dovie.’

The voting that takes place for favourite plants at each open house gives me a clear idea of what stands out to those visiting the garden. Clearly, the annual of choice this year was the Celosia ‘Dracula.’ This short, stocky cockscomb celosia has a massive head and sturdy stock which caught the attention of all who visited the gardens. Coming in a close second was the annual sunflower ‘Sunfinity’ with its branching, season-long blooming habit. Two of the favourite perennials this year were Echinacea ‘Sombrero Salsa Red’ and Kniphofia ‘Pyromania Backdraft.’

Information about the performance of the other trial plants will be made available later this season on the Guelph Trial Garden website at trialgarden.uoguelph.ca.