FLOWER GARDEN'S PURPOSE
shows that over-cultivation can destroy the structure of the soil as
well as damage earthworms and other organisms. After planting, a
granular organic fertilizer is broadcast around the plants. No
herbicides, insecticides or fungicides are used. The gardens are
planted the first week of June and the annuals are removed and
composted in mid-October.
Both gardens are
exposed to full sun, and are open and unfenced. The gardens are
heavily browsed, so we choose varieties least likely to be damaged by deer. We
do spray the pollinator beds at both South and North Park with a
deer repellent called Liquid Fence. We also spray the annuals
immediately after planting to deter deer and give them a chance to
get established. Plants that are damaged by deer are not planted in
subsequent years. The deer population forces us to try new plants
every year, while keeping the tried and true.
summer, the weather this year was dry and warm, so those plants that
tolerate drought and hotter temperatures thrived this year. Overall,
it was a great year in the demonstration gardens and we were
rewarded with many outstanding performers that thrived under the
care of the Master Gardeners. Plants that are
considered outstanding performers bloomed all summer with minimal
deadheading and had no signs of insect, disease problems or deer
plants were selected by you—the gardening public that attended
Garden in the Parks Field Day in August. Visitors were given a
flag and asked to place it by their favorite plant. The following
list includes the annuals that received the most votes. Many plants
impressed our visitors, but the one plant that garnered a
majority of votes at both North and South Park was Benary’s
Giant Wine Zinnia. The plants grew three and one-half feet tall
and produced four- to five-inch diameter double burgundy flowers the
color of a rich merlot wine. The plants held up well in the summer
heat and were resistant to powdery mildew for the entire season.
A new compact
zinnia variety that ignited the garden with bright orange flowers
was Zinnia marylandica Double Zahara® Fire. The one-foot tall
plants were disease-free and thrived during the hot, dry weather
with virtually no maintenance. Showy two and one-half inch blooms
attracted bees and butterflies to the garden from spring to frost.
As expected, all
of the varieties of globe amaranth planted in the gardens did
exceptionally well because of their heat and drought tolerance. In
North Park, Gomphrena haageana ‘Strawberry Fields’ received
the most votes and was chosen the most popular annual.
Strawberry Fields Globe Amaranth flowered all summer producing
bright red flowers that were excellent for cutting.
Unlike most globe
amaranths which have compact habits, Gomphrena sp. ‘Fireworks’
grows about three to four feet tall, producing numerous sturdy stems
that are topped with exploding bursts of 1” hot pink flowers that
are tipped with bright yellow. Fireworks Globe Amaranth was
introduced in 2009 and based on its’ performance in trial gardens
across the country, it is destined to become a popular annual.
Pennisetum setaceum rubrum
to explode in the garden with Pennisetum setaceum rubrum
‘Fireworks’, the first variegated purple fountain grass. The
arching foliage is screaming pink with a burgundy mid-vein and
burgundy foxtail flowers that nod gracefully above the foliage.
Fireworks Purple Fountain Grass is adaptable to many situations and
can be used as a specimen in containers or can be planted in the
ground in mass.
FLOWERS IN HOT, DRY WEATHER
The hot, dry
weather dictated some of the best performers and Madagascar
Periwinkle cannot be beat for its ability to thrive in tough,
dry conditions. Lush plants with intense cranberry-red blooms,
non-stop flowering, and virtually no maintenance make Catharanthus roseus Pacifica XP Cranberry an outstanding choice
for tough, dry areas.
Rudbeckia was a
new addition to the garden this year and we were pleasantly
surprised that the deer did not browse the plants. Rudbeckia
hirta ‘Tiger Eye Gold’ has a compact habit and produces
long-lasting flowers from summer to fall. Golden yellow petals
surround the large, dark brown eyes of the semi-double blooms.
Another heat and
drought tolerant plant, Cleome x Senorita Rosalita® grew 4
feet tall and was topped with lavender-pink flowers that did not
require deadheading. Unlike other cleomes which are thorny and
sticky and tend to re-seed throughout the garden, Senorita Rosalita
has been breed to be sterile and thornless which makes this Spider
Flower a much more desirable selection.
Another top vote
receiver was Asclepias currassavica, Annual Butterfly Weed. The
prolific bright yellow and red blooms flowered non-stop all season,
but it was really the abundance of monarch caterpillars on the
plants that stole the show. Ascelpias is a food source for the
larvae of the monarch caterpillar. The eye-catching white, black and
yellow striped caterpillars are voracious feeders, and although many
of the leaves were stripped from the plant, it was very exciting to
draw large numbers of monarchs to the gardens. Annual Butterfly Weed
is not only attractive but adults and kids love to watch the
caterpillars morph into chrysalises!
Annual Butterfly Weed
Gardeners who volunteer in the demonstration gardens are the
toughest critics of the flowers because week after week they spend
hours maintaining the plants. It is no surprise that those annuals
that require little or no maintenance and consistently look good are
ranked highest. Although it did not earn the popular vote, one of
their favorite plants in the garden was Gaillardia x
grandiflora ‘Mesa Yellow’ with its mounded growth habit and
abundance of soft yellow blooms. Mesa Gold Blanketflower held up
well during the hot dry weather and continued flowering all season.
Be sure to include
some of these outstanding performers on your shopping list and visit
the gardens next summer on Field Day, August 20 to vote for your
favorite. The North Park Demonstration Garden is located at the
intersection of Babcock Boulevard and Wildwood Road, at the
Veteran's Monument across from North Park Lake. The South Park
Demonstration Garden is located at the intersection of Corrigan
Drive and McConkey Road, just down the road from South Park’s Wave
could not exist without the support of our partners from Allegheny
County's Parks and Public Works departments. Many thanks to the
following local garden centers and wholesale growers that generously
donate seeds, plants, fertilizer and mulch to the Penn State
Cooperative Extension Demonstration Gardens: Bedner’s Farm and
Greenhouse, Cecil Twp.; Best Feeds Garden Centers, Gibsonia;
Eichner’s Farm Market & Greenhouse, Wexford; Hahn Nursery and Garden
Center, North Hills; LMS Greenhouse & Nursery, Allison Park; Quality
Gardens, Valencia; Reilly’s Summer Seat Farm, Ohio Township; Trax
Farms, Inc., Finleyville and Pleasant View Gardens a wholesale
grower for Proven Winners.
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