July 15, 2019
Trial Garden sites to undergo major change after this year's open house
By Rodger Tschanz

The 2019 Trial Garden Open House date has been set for Aug. 15. As of publication deadline, the actual program for the day is still in the planning stages, but the day is expected to include the usual eclectic but relevant mix in the speaker program, in addition to tours of the trial gardens at both the Guelph and Milton sites.

Of special interest this year is the reestablishment potential of impatiens as a mainstream shade garden plant due to the introduction of two Impatiens Downy Mildew (IDM)-resistant series, Beacon and Imara XDR. Many horticultural professionals will have had the opportunity this year to have tried a limited number of plants from at least one of these series in a landscape setting. A selection of different Beacon and Imara XDR colours have been planted side-by-side at both the Guelph and Milton trial sites to show the comparative performance of these plants.

Cultivars of the IDM-sensitive Super Elfin series have also been planted in the impatiens plots to help identify if IDM pressure exists or not. If present, symptoms of IDM should be visible by the open house date. In addition to garden impatiens, the trials will highlight new selections of New Guinea Impatiens, begonias, petunias, geraniums, salvias, isotoma, gaillardia, etc., as well as vegetables and new perennials at the Guelph site.

By mid-summer, the renovations of the Landscape Ontario home office building should be finished and available for viewing. If all goes according to plan, we hope to schedule a tour of the building for all Open House attendees.

Once the LO building is finished, a second phase of changes will take place focusing on the landscape of the property. A presentation was made at Congress in January (and at other meetings) that showcases some of the future plans for the property. These landscaping changes will ultimately remove the existing trial gardens from the property. While the intention is for the trial gardens to return following the re-landscaping, the layout of the future trial gardens will likely be quite different. This will be the last year for the LO trial garden in its present format. It is also quite likely that next year’s trial will not take place at the LO site if the landscaping changes are still in process. The shrub and hardy rose trials which were planted in 2016 will be removed at the end of the 2019 season to allow the landscaping to proceed. The hybrid tea rose trial was removed at the beginning of the 2019 season since the majority of the roses succumbed to winter injury. The last two winters have been especially interesting in terms of wildly variable weather and the rose cultivar survivors of the 3.5 year trial are noticeable.

This may also be the last year for trials at the present Guelph Turfgrass Institute (GTI). I have been discussing this possibility for a few years now, but the construction process on the new GTI building has actually started and once completed the move from the old site to the new site will then take place. Real estate “For Sale” signs are now up announcing the sale of the current GTI and surrounding lands by the Ontario government.

There will be a lot of change coming to the trial garden program in the coming year. Help us bid a fond farewell to the old trial sites by coming out to view the trials this year. Updates to the open house program will be made available through LO email blasts and related websites.