The Adams County Trial Garden

Shirley Lindsey
Adams County Master Gardener

This year marks the third Trial Garden for the Adams County Master Gardeners. The garden is also in its permanent site at the Agriculture Service Center at 670 Old Harrisburg Road in Gettysburg.

Many counties in Pennsylvania have trial gardens. The most extensive are at the main campus of Penn State (on Park Avenue near East Halls) and at the Penn State center in Landisville (Lancaster County).

Trial, or experimental, gardens have been going on at Penn State for almost 70 years. The purpose is to evaluate varieties of vegetables, flowers, shrubs and trees to determine which are the best performers. Several years ago it was decided that we should plant trial gardens all over the state to get a better idea of how they would behave in my garden or yours. Some of the plants now begin tested include annual and perennial flowers, ornamental vegetables, shrubs, and water plants.

Here in Adams County we have annuals and shrubs in our trial garden. Many of the Master Gardeners have been involved in preparing the soil, planting, maintaining and evaluating the plants.

We have all learned a great deal from our experience. One of the shrubs we are testing is a weigela "Wine & Roses." This is so named because of the dark reddish leaves. After a slow start this plant is doing well. Next year we hope to see the deep pink blossoms.

We have 2 examples of our other shrub called Chaste Tree or Vitex. This looks similar to a butterfly bush. The first year to evaluate this plant was 2000. It was then moved in the spring to it’s present site, and is performing beautifully. Parts of this shrub are used as a medicinal herb; one can note the pungent odor if you rub the leaf. It bears pretty blue spikey flowers. It can be cut back to be maintained as a small shrub.

The remaining flowers are all annuals. This has been a challenging season because of the dry weather as well as more insect damage noted than usual.

The wave petunias have been performing well. They can be used as specimen plants in the garden, in ontainers, or as ground cover. Our rudbeckia, "Indian Summer" has had much more insect damage than in other years. The ever faithful marigold, "Bonanza Bolero" has done extremely well with only occasional dead-heading needed. Unlike this the argyranthemum "Butterfly" (yellow daisy-like blossoms) and argyranthemum "Jupiter" need frequent removal of spent blossoms.

A new variety for us this year is the celosia "Amigo Mahogany." This has performed well with a lovely deep burgundy blossom. The leaves, where the sun hits them, are reddish green.

The plants are evaluated every two weeks from planting time until mid-September. Evaluators consider several things. They look at uniformity—are all the plants close to the same size and shape?

Another consideration of course is flowers—is the plant fully covered with flowers? Are the flowers as large as we should expect? We also evaluate the foliage—are the leaves healthy looking, formed well, free of insect damage? Finally we give the plant an overall rating. From this information gathered throughout the summer, we can choose a "Plant of the Year." The information is sent to Penn State for compilation.

This year our Master Gardeners chose the "Amigo Mahogany" celosia as their personal choice for "Plant of the Year."

Read other articles by Shirley Lindsey