2001 Adam's County
 Master Gardener Trial Garden

Martie Young
Adams County Master Gardener Coordinator

Have you seen the Master Gardeners’ colorful flower garden that is blooming at the Agricultural and Natural Resources Building in Gettysburg? If you drive past on Old Harrisburg Rd. you really should take a few minutes (or more) to drive in and look at our flowers close up. The Master Gardeners obtain the flowers from Penn State in order to evaluate them for homeowners’ gardens and to give Penn State a good idea how various flowers perform all over the state. This is the third year Adams Co. Master Gardeners have participated in the program.

You will see several of the Wave petunias--misty lilac, pink or purple. We also have Tidal wave cherry, which is growing by leaps and bounds. In addition, we have Rudbeckia "Indian Summer"—its flowers measure almost 6 inches across. There is a Gazania daisy, a marigold "Bonanza Bolero", and several verbenas. These are the flowers most of us love and use as staples in summer gardens.

Some more unusual flowers include angelonia "Angel mist purple stripe." We grew this one last year and it was extremely successful—in fact it was chosen a plant of the year. The cut flowers of angelonia will last almost 2 weeks in a bouquet. We have two unusual flowers—celosia "Amigo Mahogony—a beautiful dark red with dark leaves and Trachelium in two colors—Devotion blue and Devotion white.

We are evaluating two shrubs—a vitex, which we obtained last year. It is now covered with light blue flowers that are similar to butterfly bush flowers. The foliage is exceptional—all the leaves are perfect. It seems that no insects like the vitex. This bush usually dies back to the ground and needs to be heavily pruned in spring. It is more commonly seen in the South. The vitex is also known as chaste tree from the family Verbenaceae.

Vitex is often mistaken also for butterfly bush (Buddleia). A plant grows 10'-20' and blooms on new wood in summer with a great flush that makes the tree look like a purple or blue cloud, then blooms are sporadic until early fall. Not only is the tree strikingly beautiful when in full bloom, but it is fragrant as well, and attracts pollinating bees! Following flowers, a fleshy but inconspicuous fruit forms that contains four seeds. These are sometimes used as seasoning, like pepper. Mature trees develop a blocky grey bark, and are deciduous in cold weather

The vitex is easy to grow in fertile, well-drained soil--not hard to grow in almost any soil that has good drainage! . The chaste tree can take care of itself admirably, but can be pushed along with fertilizer and mulching around the plant. If pruning is desired to control the size, it should be done in winter, since blooms form on new wood. It is hardly ever disturbed by pests or disease, but is susceptible to mushroom root rot and nematodes.

  • Light: Sun to shade.

  • Moisture: Moderate to moist, well drained soil.

  • Hardiness: USDA Zones 6-10.

  • Propagation: Cuttings; easy to root in warm weather

Our other shrub is a weigela. Wine & Roses is its name and I’m sure it will live up to its name. This is the first year we have grown this shrub so there are no flowers yet, but next year we are expecting great things. Wine & Roses is the first, truly purple-leafed Weigela.

By all accounts, this is a plant development breakthrough. Wine & Roses shines from spring to fall by combining colorful foliage and intensely colored, funnel-shaped flowers. As a garden shrub Wine & Roses is a strong grower with no serious insect or disease problems. Reaching a mature height of four to five feet, it may be easily trimmed to maintain lower height.

It can be used as a hedge, as a foundation plant, or it can be effectively integrated into a shrub or perennial border to provide season-long color. It is also perfect for use in a Hummingbird garden or cut flower garden. Like many perennials, a light shearing after it blooms in mid-spring will often be rewarded with a second bloom. To achieve its best foliage color it is essential to plant Wine & Roses in full sun. Sunlight brings out the dark pigment that gives Wine & Roses its dark purple leaf color.

Our garden is still being constructed—next year it will double in size and the Master Gardeners have many plans for expansion and programs. The garden is open to the public, and we are eager to talk about our beautiful plants. Just come out to the Ag. Building and see our garden any time.

Read other articles by Martie Young