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Summer 2002


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Planting Ideas

 


Planting Ideas
Cooperative Extension Demonstration Garden trials the newest flowers and foliage

About the Photo: "Gardens within a garden" are featured at The University of Maine's Rogers Farm.
 

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It's like getting a sneak peek or a backstage pass, a preview of what promises to be next year's stars. And what a line-up.

There's a geranium called Black Magic Rose and an ornamental pepper dubbed Chilly Chili. The "supertunias" of petunias Blushing Princess and Priscilla make an appearance, as do the Dark Star and Red Petticoats varieties of coleus.

In The University of Maine Cooperative Extension Penobscot County Master Gardener Demonstration Garden, field trials of annuals introduce the newest flowers and foliage.

The one-acre garden is in full color from early July through mid-September. A public field day is Aug. 17.

In 2001, almost 70 new vegetative annuals were planted in a trial garden at the University's Rogers Farm, a research facility dedicated to sustainable agriculture. The plants are all new varieties being considered for commercial introduction. The display and trial gardens are designed to give home gardeners to horticulturists a chance to evaluate the annuals a year before they're commercially available.

Performance data are collected on all the plants grown in the demonstration garden, and commercial growers and home gardeners attending field days during the summer are surveyed about their preferences.

"In the last five to 10 years, there's been a shift in what gardeners want. It's not just marigolds and petunias any more, but plants that were not part of our industry until a decade ago," says Lois Stack, Extension's ornamental horticulture specialist who co-coordinates the demonstration garden with Penobscot County Extension Educator Gleason Gray.

The demonstration garden actually is made up of "gardens within a garden," including a "moon garden" and "pollinator garden," designed by master gardener volunteers.

Stack conducts field trials of vegetative annuals (annuals propagated by stem cuttings rather than seed) and a garden of All-America Selections (AAS), plants that the international testing organization has cited as winners for next year and in the past five years. In addition, Stack conducts hardiness trials of shrub roses. In cooperation with the University of Vermont, 130 varieties of shrub roses have been growing since 1997; recommendations about the best varieties for northern New England climes are just starting to be made.

"The flower industry has changed," Stack says. "People are looking for plants that do well all season or in containers, foliage plants for accent, and more perennials and tropical plants as annuals. People also want a bonus flowers that attract birds or butterflies."

What's important to remember, Stack says, is that gardens are more than a collection of plants.

"Plants don't make the garden. It's how you use them, put them together, that makes a garden come alive. An idea makes a garden."

Some of the most popular garden "ideas" in recent years incorporate old-fashioned plants, vegetables and herbs as ornamentals, flowers and foliage to achieve sophisticated use of color and texture, and even aspects of garden humor and personality, such as "zoo gardens," containing plants with animal names (i.e. snapdragons).

by Margaret Nagle
Summer 2002

Click Here for more stories from this issue of UMaine Today Magazine.

 

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