New Plants for the Trail Garden

Martie Young
Adams County Master Gardener

It's that time again--time for the Adams Co. Master Gardeners to plant their Trial Garden and care for it all summer long as the plants grow and get more beautiful. I am always amazed at the number and variety of new plants that are developed each year. When I get the list of the Trial Garden Plants that are made available from Penn State every spring I usually go to the Internet to find pictures and descriptions of those annuals. This year I searched in vain for several plants: Begonia Bayou series, Calibrachoa 'Callie Sunset,' and Verbena 'Moon River.' Possibly these are not new varieties, but they are new to me and, I suspect, to many people. The reasons for developing new varieties are many: more disease resistant, different (and better) colors, more adaptable to a particular area, and the challenge of something new.

The Master Gardeners are responsible for planting, caring for, and evaluating the annuals we receive from Penn State. It doesn't even seem like work when we can observe the progress the plants make. We want to share all this fun with other flower lovers and gardeners.

Some plants are not new but are available for the first time to our Trial Gardens. Torenia 'Summer Wave Blue' is on the list for the first time. Torenia is easy to grow--a great choice for beginners. They can be planted in beds or containers and have "snapdragon"-like flowers that are produced in abundance all season--right up to the first frost. Torenia is heat tolerant and is cold hardy to 35 degrees. Plants should be spaced 8 to 10 inches apart in beds. Soil should be kept moist but never soggy. Fertilizer should be applied every month as a balanced liquid fertilizer, or feed container plants every two weeks. Torenia (also known as wishbone flower) may not do so well in the Adams Co. Master Garden Trial Garden because it likes partial shade. Our garden is in complete sun so we shall see how it does. It may be susceptible to powdery mildew.

Bacopa is a new-to-our-garden annual that is usually grown in containers and is excellent for trailing over the edge of mixed patio pots or hanging baskets. We will be growing it in the ground so it will be interesting to see the results. It prefers a cool, semi-shaded location and flowers in late spring to summer. Since Penn State provides plants to Master Gardener Trial Gardens across all of Pennsylvania the growing conditions can be quite different. The goal is to provide plants that will succeed in many different environments.

Another plant available to us this year is Agastache 'Golden Jubilee.' This was an AAS award winner in 2003. It has golden leaves with dense spikes of lavender-blue florets that crown the plant from mid to late summer. It is considered an herb with an alluring mint fragrance and will probably return in following years. It should get 20 inches high and will spread 10 to 15 inches. It thrives in a full-sun garden or a partial-shade location.

Hollyhock 'Queeny Purple' is new to us and the plant world. It is the shortest of the hollyhocks and also has won an AAS award. The flowers are a beautiful purple with frilly edges of the powder-puff type with a cushion center. The plant will reach a mature height of 20 to 30 inches, perfect for smaller space gardens. You will soon be seeing 'Queeny Purple' available in garden centers.

Phlox 'Intensia Neon Pink' is a vigorous spreading plant. The flowers are one inch and completely cover the plants. Intensia has unique new genetics and will look great in hanging baskets, pots, larger combination containers and the landscape. Spacing should be 10 to 12 inches. These plants will be perennial in the south but so far a zone has not been established. They should be in moist but not wet, well-drained soil. Feed twice a month in beds and every week in containers.

A plant that is returning to our garden is Argyranthemum 'Butterfly.' I hope it will be 'Vanilla Butterfly.' The flowers range in color from soft cream to pure white. The previous argyranthemum in the Trial Garden was yellow. These plants all have large flowers, vigorous growing habit and excellent heat-tolerance. It will probably flower all summer in hot climates . It can take full sun or partial shade and combines well in containers or in the landscape. Deadheading will improve its appearance.

Celosia has been a popular plant in our garden. This year we will be getting Fresh Look Red and Fresh Look Yellow. Both these celosias will do well in hot, humid weather, thriving in drought or rainy conditions. They need minimal maintenance, always look fresh with no grooming needed. Both plants will grow to 12 to 18 inches and spread 12 to 20 inches. To do the plants justice, they should be mass planted (at least nine to fifteen plants to a drift) for an effective landscape display. And don't forget to dry them for winter. They should be harvested before they set seed. Then strip foliage and hang upside down in a cool, dark, well-ventilated area.

Some plants will be returning again because they were successful enough to repeat. Cleome 'Sparkler Mix' is one of our returning plants. If you are familiar with cleome this one will surprise you. It is shorter and branches prolifically to provide many more flowers at the ends of the branches than the old-fashioned variety although maximum height can be as much as 48 inches. This variety can be planted close enough to use as an annual hedge or be planted at the rear of a bed. Cleome is very heat and sun tolerant and it reseeds vigorously. Unless you want a hedge, plant the new plants 24 to 30 inches apart. The flowers are good for cutting.

If you've been visiting our Trial Garden throughout the past 5 or 6 years you will be amazed that this year we will have only one petunia--Petunia 'Tidal Wave Silver.' The Tidal Wave series has a unique growth habit. The closer together the plants are spaced, the taller they get, anywhere from 16 to 22 inches in height. Or if they are given a trellis to climb on, they can reach 36 inches. They also make an excellent ground cover. They do not need deadheading and recover quickly from rains. Space plants 12 to 36 inches apart, depending on how quickly you want the area to fill in. Feed monthly with a liquid fertilizer.

By now you have probably seen (and been impressed with) Ornamental Millet Purple Majesty Hybrid. It grew in our garden last summer and is eye catching. It is deep purple from the base of its stem to the tip of its long, flower-packed stalk. It can grow 4 to 5 feet tall with flower stalks a full 12 to 14 inches long all summer. In fall the stalks will turn to shiny purple seeds for the birds. It thrives in high heat and sun; grow it alongside the hot driveway, in the foundation border, along a fence, or near a warm wall. Space plants about 10 to 12 inches apart for a hedge effect. It can also be grown in containers with other plants and will make an impressive arrangement.

I'll end this list with my favorite--Rudbeckia 'Prairie Sun.' This robust rudbeckia has distinctive blooms with a light green central cone which blends beautifully with the golden yellow petals which are tipped with primrose yellow. Five inch blooms on branching plants that mature at about 3 feet tall make a strong statement in any full-sun garden. They are easy to grow and maintain. 'Prairie Sun' is a memorable plant in any perennial, annual, or cut-flower garden. The flower stems are sufficiently long for quality cut flowers.

We will be receiving our plants in May; we are planning on a planting date of Tuesday, May 25. The Master Gardeners have already prepared the beds by rototilling, fertilizing, edging and generally improving the beds for this year's garden. You, the public, are invited to watch us plant on the 25th in the evening, starting at 6 p.m. Come and observe, ask questions, make observations, and just enjoy our enthusiasm for our newly planted garden. Then throughout the summer stop by when you are in the area to see the progress of the plants.

Guided Trial Garden Walks are planned for the following Wednesday evenings all at 6:30: June 16, July 7 and 21, Aug. 4 and 18, and Sept. 1 and 15. A Master Gardener will be present to tell you how the plants are doing--whether they are meeting our expectations and fulfilling their descriptions.

Besides the Trial Garden, there will be Native Garden walks, also on Wednesday evenings at 6:30: May 19, June 9 and 23, July 14 and 28, August 11 and 25, and Sept. 8. They will also be led by a Master Gardener and you will learn about some of the special natives we have planted to surround the Ag. Building.

One more event is planned to feature our gardens. The Master Gardeners will be holding a Garden Fest on June 12 from 9 to 3. This will include workshops, garden walks, compost information and events for children plus vendors and a food vendor. Come and spend the day and bring the family. For a brochure or more information, call 334-6271.

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