Trial Garden: Heat, Rain and the Magic Ingredient

Trial Garden Summer 2021 Blog by Veronica Sliva

I paid a visit to the TBG on June 29th, a week since my last visit and the trial gardens are maturing. The volunteers were busy weeding the beds and what a difference removing the offending vegetation makes! The plants are spreading out to create a bigger show now.

What is the Magic Ingredient?

A weed-free garden looks great and makes a difference, but it takes more than that to make a garden sing. While Sasan Beni, one of the TBG’s professional gardeners, was working in the Trial Garden, I asked him why the plants suddenly seem to becoming more lush and colourful. He pointed out, “We have had heat and rain lately and that does help, but we applied a feed of liquid (water-soluble) fertilizer last week and that makes all the difference.”

Feeding your Annuals

Many annuals will indeed soldier on and produce flowers without fertilizer but they will be weaker and smaller. To reach their full potential you have to feed them. Calibrachoa, for example, becomes leggy and won’t bloom as heavily. I noticed that the Calibrachoa in the Trial Garden had beefed up considerably since I saw them last. They were loaded with blooms.

Annuals should be fertilized when they are first transplanted. At that time you can use slow-release granules or the water-soluble type. After that, if you want to get maximum performance from your annuals feed them every two weeks (yes! that often) during the growing season. There is a variety of different formulas on the market with some specifically formulated to produce blooms, however, I find a balanced 20-20-20 formula works just fine.

Larry Hodgson, aka The Laidback Gardener (one of my most respected garden experts), says that “Plants can’t read labels.” Check out his blog post from a few years ago to find out what he has to say about fertilizer. It is worth reading.

A Carpet of Calibrachoa

When calibrachoa (also known as million bells) were introduced years ago, I was immediately smitten. Only 15-30 cm (6-12 in) in height these annuals feature small, vibrantly coloured flowers that bloom all season long. The plants are loaded with bloom and make outstanding candidates for hanging baskets and window boxes.

In the trial gardens, calibrachoas are planted in the raised beds where the vegetable garden used to be. Because each plant spreads 61 cm (24 in) they are starting to look like a carpet!

If you are looking for a cheerful, easy-care ground cover, this is one plant to consider. Calibrachoas grow best in part sun (4 to 6 hours) to full sun (6 plus hours). Just keep them watered and fertilized and they’ll be happy!

Beyond the Trial Beds

Though I am tracking the progress of the Trial Garden, I always stroll through the other gardens too whenever I visit. I always find something new of interest and this week was no exception. I am fascinated with decorative hedges, specifically clipped boxwood. To be honest, I have never even given this art form a try, but I am in awe of the artistry and skill involved by the gardeners who create this art form. The hedges in the Beryl Ivey Knot Garden had just been clipped when I was there and they look magnificent. Be sure you wander through the knot garden next time you visit.