September 15, 2011
Trial garden open house shows off latest plants
A few members took advantage of the opportunity to see plants first-hand that will be on the market next year.
Anyone wanting to see the latest plants that will hit the marketplace next year, needed to be at this year’s Landscape Ontario and University of Guelph trial garden open house.  

The annual event was divided into two days at the LO home office in Milton, with the industry members in attendance on Aug. 12, and the gardens open to the public on Aug. 13. There were approximately 80 industry members in attendance. Ontario Parks Association members were onsite, along with municipal representatives from Kitchener, St. Thomas, Whitby, Markham, Oakville, Toronto, Regional of Peel, St. Marys, Wasaga Beach and Pickering. There were also guests from the Compost Council of Canada and Garden Writers’ Association.   

A presentation took place on the research into microbial soil additives, of interest to those planting both herbaceous and woody plants. This was followed by tours of the annual and perennial trial gardens. These were moderated by committee members Rodger Tschanz of the University of Guelph and Keith Osbourne of Gro-Bark (Ontario).

Guest speakers

Guest speakers were Youbin Zheng from the University of Guelph and Case Vanderkruk from Connon/NVK Holdings.

Zheng gave a great talk regarding the differences between soil and soil-less products and examples on how both are best used. He discussed amending soil with organics and the microbial life, which is part of the root zone environment. The role of oxygen to the roots and how it diffuses through the soil was discussed. A review took place on the essential use of water for plants and how we must get better with this resource.

Case Vanderkruk discussed growing plants and the huge role water has in the nursery and for life in general. He had some great statistics on the ratio of fresh water to salt water, saying one tablespoon of freshwater in a five litre jug equals the ratio on the planet. He also reviewed proper planting techniques, and why site preparation is key to plant survival.

Those in attendance were given a behind-the-scenes look at NVK’s nursery and the composting endeavours there.

Personal tour

Rodger Tschanz provided the group with a personal tour of each section of the gardens, explaining the reason and goals of the trial gardens. A question and answer period followed the tour. Participants were invited to stay for a light lunch sponsored by Gro-Bark (Ontario). After lunch, the group was invited to attend the open house at the University of Guelph.

“I found taking part in the open house was a worthwhile exercise,” said Judith Humphries, CLD, of A Garden for All Seasons in Mississauga. She explained that the open house provided her with some insight into some new perennials and annuals. “I found by attending the open house, there were people present who were able to answer my questions. For the bit of time I took to attend the open house, it was worth it.”

On Saturday, the trial gardens were opened to the public. A special ask-the-expert tent had members of the Halton Master Gardeners answering questions. Milton Horticultural Society members were also on hand to promote the group and its events.

Approximately 200 visitors viewed the garden from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Most visitors were from the Oakville, Milton, Burlington and Mississauga areas, and from as far away as the Sarnia area and New York State.

Both days, visitors were given coloured flags to place beside their choice of best perennial, annual and combo. “The combo concept is a relatively new idea in the bedding plant industry, where cuttings of three different species or cultivars are rooted in one liner. By growing together from day one, this propagation method gives growers an instant mixed container that has a thoroughly unique appearance,” explains Tschanz.

Special appreciation went to the volunteers at the public event: Halton Master Gardeners, Milton Horticulture Society, Rodger Tschanz, Denis Flanagan, public relations director at Landscape Ontario, Michelle Pugliese of Gelderman Landscaping, Kathleen Pugliese, executive assistant, Landscape Ontario.

Thanks also go to the suppliers of the plant material:  American Takii, Balfour Greenhouses, Ball Horticulture, Blooms of Bressingham, Dummen, Floranova, George Sant Greenhouses, Goldsmith Seeds, Jelitto Seeds, Ontario Seed Company, PanAmerican Seed, Proven Winners, Seeds of Change, Suntory and Syngenta.

Sponsors of the event include Ellepots by A.M.A., Syngenta, Gro-Bark (Ontario), Plant Products/Nursery Supplies, Agrium Advanced Technologies, KAM’s Growers Supply, Perlite Canada, and Premier Horticulture.  

The program continued in the afternoon at the Guelph Trial Garden at the Guelph Turfgrass Institute.

Blogger Sarah Battersby of Fiesta Farms Garden Centre posted comments on the open house under a headline, ‘A Valuable Garden Resource: Landscape Ontario.’ You can read the blog by going to

Visitors vote for favourite plants

The favourites among those voting on industry day:
  • Petunia Sweetunia Black Satin by Dummen
  • Zinnia Uproar Rose by Goldsmith
  • Mecardonia GoldDust by Proven Winners
  • Agastache Bolero by Jelitto
  • Confetti Liner Water Colours by Dummen
Results of the voting by those taking part on the public day:
  • Petunia Sweetunia Black Satin
  • Zinnia Uproar Rose
  • Zinnia Zowie Yellow Flame by Goldsmith
  • Cyperus King Tut by Proven Winners
  • Pennisetum Graceful Grasses Vertigo by Proven Winners
  • Zinnia Queen Red Lime by Benary