Midsummer in the Trial Garden

2021 Trial Garden Blog By Veronica Sliva

Though it is midsummer I’d say it feels more like “mid-rain”. Every day for the past month it seems we have been in a constant state of not will it or won’t it rain, but what time of day will it start. My garden has been very soggy a lot of the time. It’s been a couple of weeks since I last visited the TBG, and I wondered if the gardens in the trial beds were as waterlogged as mine. The answer is no…to my surprise. Everything there is ticking along on schedule with no sign of too wet conditions.

Too Much of a Good Thing?

This got me wondering if I have overloaded my soil with moisture-retentive amendments? In spring I added a lot of mushroom compost to my containers and garden beds. For the first time in years, my annuals aren’t doing very well at all. Perhaps I overdid the mushroom compost? I have been gardening for a very long time, but mushroom compost is new to me. In retrospect when I was working the compost in, there was a certain unpleasant barnyard fragrance emitting from it. Maybe it was not rotted enough?

After visiting the TBG, I turned to an article by Robert Pavlis, a Guelph Master Gardener who specializes in soil science. With interest I read his article entitled Too Much Compost – Is it Poisoning your Garden and found it very enlightening. It seems that there can be too much of a good thing for the garden. No more mushroom compost for me next year!

Zesty Zinnias

In spring when the gardeners were planting zinnias under some shrubs in front of the greenhouse, I thought there must be a mistake. Who plants zinnias in a shady location? “No mistake”, one of the volunteers told me, “They are supposed to be here”. Hmm, I thought, I have always thought of zinnias as sun-loving plants and was sceptical they would grow well in that spot. I have since changed my tune. It’s true, zinnias do grow and flower best in full sun. But they can bloom in part shade too. The zinnia varieties planted in the trial garden are called Zesty™, and they are looking very happy blooming away in that spot. These vigorous plants will reach 46 – 61cm (18 – 24 inches) high and will be just as wide by the end of the season. As a bonus, zinnias are known to attract butterflies. If you have a spot that is partly shady and needs a colour lift, maybe zinnias will work for you too.

Uncommon Potato Vines

Commonly called potato vines, the Ipomoeas in the raised beds in the old veggie garden, have so far not impressed me much. They seemed slow to get started. But this week these climbers are calling out for attention. The variety is called SolarTower™ Ipomoea and is the first-ever self-climbing Ipomoea (you don’t have to tie it up). Once it gets going it very quickly fills in a fence. The trial garden is planted with both SolarTower™ Ipomoea Lime and SolarTower™ Ipomoea Black. This contrasting colour combination is going to make a stunning backdrop when combined with the Sunny™ Lemon Star Thunbergias, (also called Black-Eyed Susan Vine) that are just starting to bloom.

Delightful Dahlias

Once considered old-fashioned, dahlias are fast becoming a “must-have” in the most fashionable of gardens. The dahlias featured in the trial beds in front of the greenhouse (known as the Victory Garden) area are not the fussy dinner plate types, but rather carefree plants that bloom continuously all season long without a lot of bother. The plants are loaded with blooms and promise to be a riot of colour in the next few weeks.

Texture Around the TBG

At this time of year when the blooming plants take centre stage, we sometimes forget to look at the and textures and contrasts provided by trees and shrubs. The nuances in tints, tones and shades of green without the distraction of other colours is very restful and calming…something we can all use these days. I particularly love the area near the water channel in the garden hall courtyard behind the main building. Throughout the gardens, you will find lovely combinations of shrubs and trees that together create a soothing palette of subtle tones and interesting textures. The plantings are a culmination of years of expertise by very skilled TBG gardeners past and present and are an example of what can be achieved.