Friday, August 14, 2015

The University of Guelph Ornamental Trial Garden Open House

The mandate of the University's Ornamental Trial Garden is to determine which plants grow best, bloom quicker, resist pests and stand up to extreme weather conditions.

The site of the 1400 meter garden is an open field, which gets baked by the sun in the summer, and swept by the wind in the winter. That any one plant thrives in such a harsh environment is clear testament to its vigour.

I asked the garden's manager Rodger J. Tschanz about the selection process for the trial.

"So far space hasn't been limited so we trail whatever plant breeders and suppliers send to us. A few years ago I did put out a request for Echinacea and Heuchera cultivars for the perennial trial. As a result, I do have multiple cultivars of these in the trial and some of them have overwintered many seasons," Rodger replied.  

My next question was about the length of the trial period.

"Most of the annuals are trialled for only one season. A breeder may elect to retrial the annuals for a number of seasons, but I will get new plant material (seeds or cuttings) every year if that happens. The perennials are trialled for at least 3 winters (if they last that long). Winters vary a lot from year to year, so it is important to evaluate these plants for long term survival, and determine if they can handle the varying winter conditions," he continued.

Last summer I the good fortune of attending the open house and came away quite awestruck.

For instance, I have never seen so many different varieties of Echinacea all in one place!

But there they were!

All were planted side by side in one big, long row making it easy to compare the size, health and attractiveness of the different cultivars.

As I walked down the rows of plants, a array of problems were also pretty clearly evident.

For example, powdery mildew was evident on many varieties of Phlox.

I noted with interest, and a degree of horror that, while Japanese Beetles have a great fondness for hollyhocks of all colors, they were positively crazy for the hollyhocks with the black flowers.

Under siege from these foreign invaders, the poor 'Blacknight' hollyhocks didn't even stand a chance!

They had simply laid down their swords and surrendered.

Different plants stood out from the crowd for varying reasons. This Rudbeckia Maxima was certainly one of the tallest, if not the tallest plant in the field.

Rudbeckia Maxima is a native of the Southern USA. It has really neat grey-blue foliage and tall brown-eyed daisies that don't require staking. This perennial grows in normal, sandy or clay soil in full sun. It prefers soil conditions to be on the moist side. Height is a whopping 150-240 cm (59-94 inches), Spread: 60-90 cm (23-35 inches). USDA Zones: 4-9.

Marigold 'Jedi Gold' and 'Jedi Orange' 

As well as perennials, there were annuals and plants in containers. 

These big marigolds caught my eye perhaps because you rarely see them grown in a big showy clump like this.

The bees were just loving all the different varieties of sunflower in the field.

One poor sunflower seemed to have fainted in the August heat.

Such odd faces!

Helianthus Jua Maya

I am sure that when the bees are done, the birds are bound to move in.

Penstemon 'Arabesque Violet'

For those of you who live in Southern Ontario, the University of Guelph's Ornamental Trail Garden's annual open house continues into Saturday, August 15th from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm.

If you go, be sure to bring a camera and a notebook! 

Here are all the details you'll need to attend:

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Home again, home again jiggity jig

A birdhouse in my friend Donna's garden

I had a wonderful time in Nova Scotia. 

My Mom is 90, soon to be 91, and my Dad is a couple years younger. They don't get out of the house much these days, so on our first day home, my sister Nancy and I took them on a little picnic. Then on Tuesday, we went to see one of my Mom's favourite gardens in the nearby city of Truro. 

Mid-week my two sisters and I rented a car and drove from Halifax to Annapolis Royal on the Bay of Fundy for a little mini vacation.

The trip is about a two and a half hour drive, but we made lots of stops along the way, so our journey took most of the day.

Mid-day we stopped in the pretty town of Wolfville for a lunch. 

In the afternoon, we visited The Tangled Garden. This is a working garden where herbs, local fruit and berries are transformed into a range of jams and jellies that are sold at craft markets, online and in the garden's store. 

The Tangled Garden shop on the left, and on the right, a collection of the store's jams and jellies 

The herb Borage

Much of the garden is devoted to herbs which are picked fresh daily. 

The jams and jellies are made the old fashioned way in small batches- six jars at a time.

The grey foliage is Artemesia Silver King, the white flowers are Daisy Fleabane (a wildflower) the pink daisy is Echinacea and there is blue Sea Holly in the background.

The garden itself is really interesting. The planting style ranges from more formal raised beds (vegetables) to a very loose, almost wild style, where wildflowers mingle in with with standard perennials. In an open field, there is a modern take on a labyrinth, and the picture above is from the walk I took along a dry stream bed.

When I get myself more organized, I promise to come back and show you the garden in more detail.  For now, I will give you this sneak preview.

A display of fresh and dried flowers in the Tangled Garden Shop

A side view of the Tangled Garden Shop

The boardwalk along the Annapolis Basin

Our next stop was Annapolis Royal

This is another pretty little town and popular tourist destination. Port Royal across the Annapolis Basin was one of the earliest European settlements in North America. 

A wharf in the town of Annapolis Royal

Clothes drying in the breeze off the ocean

Tiger lilies in a private garden.

A ship in dry dock near the wharf in Annapolis Royal.

The Bread and Roses Inn a bed & breakfast in Annapolis Royal

Many of the town's old mansions have been turned into bed and breakfast inns. My sisters and I stayed in the Bread and Roses Country Inn

The house had grand rooms with 10' ceilings on the main floor and elaborate Art Nouveau woodwork. There were gardens both at the front and back of the house.

Roses along the fence at the Bread and Roses Inn

The front courtyard garden at the Bread and Roses Inn.

Do flowers get any sunnier?

The Historic Garden in Annapolis Royal.

On Thursday morning we went to visit Annapolis Royal's Historic Gardens. My sisters are not as interested in gardening as I am, so I didn't get to see all of the garden's 17 acres, but I did get to see enough to assure you that this garden that is well worth a visit.

Again, I will show you the garden in more detail when I get my pictures organized. For now, I will give you another preview.

Close-up of the plantings in the Victorian Garden.

Wild Bergamont or Monarda fistulosa

I loved the drama of this area of the garden.

Daylily, Hemerocallis 'Canadian Goose'

Daylily, Hemerocallis 'Canadian Goose' is a deep red daylily with a gold colored throat. Full sun or very light shade. Height: 60-90 cm ( 24-36 inches) USDA Zones: 3-9.

Daisy Fleabane (a wildflower) with Rudbeckia in behind.

A private garden along the Annapolis Basin.

All along the way I saw so many terrific private gardens! While we have many superb private gardens here in Ontario, the Martimes may just have us beat.

Another little teaser: the garden above is one we did stop for. The house was a striking shade of navy and the garden was filled with a mix of lavender and heather. I'll show you this garden in more detail very shortly.

Lawrence Town Beach

What's a visit to Nova Scotia with out a trip to the beach? 

Unfortunately the weather turned overcast and blustery the afternoon we drove out to Lawrence Town Beach.

My brother and my four year old nephew braving the 12 degree water.

 The freezing water and cool breeze didn't stop my brother and 4 year old nephew from taking a dip. 

My sister wore a fleece jacket and I was wearing a sweater as we watched from the sidelines.

Donna's garden

On my final day in Nova Scotia, I sent the morning visiting with my friend Donna. I have shown you her garden in spring. It looks every bit as amazing in August!

This post is getting long, but I will show you just a few of the pictures I took.

Daylily 'Luxury Lace'

This was just the most perfect pale pink daylily.

Monarda 'Marshal's Delight'

The fragrant foliage of Monarda 'Marshal's Delight' is more resistant to powdery mildew than many older varieties of Monarda. Hummingbirds and bees love its pink flowers. Like all Monarda, this plant is a bit of a spreader. Normal, sandy or clay soil all work for this plant.  It prefers soil that is moist. Full sun or part shade. Height: 75-120 cm (29-47 inches), Spread: 60-75 cm (23-29 inches. USDA Zones: 3-9

 Phlox Frans Shubert in Donna's garden

Phlox paniculata 'Frans Shubert' has lilac and cream flowers with a light fragrance. It can be susceptible to powdery mildew, but deep waterings in the morning hours can help prevent this problem. This phlox prefers sandy or clay soil. Full sun or part shade. Height:80-90 cm (31-35 inches), Spread: 60-75 cm (23-29 inches). USDA Zones:3-9.

When it finally came time to say good bye to my parents, my Dad stepped forward and put his arms around me. As I leaned into his embrace, he paused and held onto me for an extra long while. I am sure he wondered if this might be the last time he would ever get to hug me. At 89, you no longer take your days for granted.

Then it was my Mom's turn. Oh, but her body was so so thin and frail in my arms! She's still plenty feisty though. I think she could well out stubborn death for sometime to come. 

My sister Nancy and I are thinking positive. Already there is talk of flying home for Dad's 90th birthday next April.

I leave you with a poppy from my Mom's garden.

On my return, I have come down with a terrible chest cold. 
I promise to catch up and return your visits shortly.