Sunday, March 27, 2011

Visiting a trial garden

Last week, I had an opportunity to visit Costa Farms' annuals trial garden, located some 25 miles south of downtown Miami in the Redland agricultural area. As the name suggests, the garden tests new introductions for wholesale growers, and these introductions are reviewed by a panel of judges.

There's a formal landscaped garden simply bursting with color, but the trialed plants are in long rows, either in the open or under shade cloth.

It was a picture perfect day so I'll just post a bunch of photos of views and plants I particularly liked.

These are rows of open plantings. The formal garden is laid out around the viewing platform in the background.

The trial garden is entered via this pergola ...

... and then you are greeted by two stunning planters of Calibrachoa 'Can Can Terracotta' (Ball Horticultural Co.)

The next three photos are of the formal garden.

I was so much reminded of Bath, my home in England, which, aside from the Roman baths and the Georgian architecture, is famous for its summer flower plantings and displays.

I forgot to note the name of this Osteospermum, but don't you love the color?

These yummy petunias are "Pink Star."

Tiny, tiny petunias. Named Littletunia "Sweet Pink."

Or, if you want a little more drama, this one is Littletunia "Bicolor Illusion."

I was wowed by these hollyhocks (Alcea rosea annua), which, not surprisingly, turned out to be award-winning. This one is named Spring Celebrities "Crimson." Below is the white version. Oooh, do I want to get some of these!

Like the hollyhocks, this curious little pepper (Capsicum annuum) above, is grown under shade cloth. It's named Mambo "Mixture."

Here's another delicious white plant, also grown under shade:

This is Iberis, commonly known as "candytuft." This one is named "Masterpiece." It's a brassica, therefore closely related to things more usually found in the veggie garden.

Back out in the open rows, this primula wasn't looking happy.

But the label said it was grown from seed and was in week 50, so I suppose it can be forgiven for looking sad. The label also said this is Primula elatior, the true oxlip, but it looks more like a primrose to me. Either way, these grow wild in England and are not tropical.

Here's an artemisia (I don't know which one, but it may be wormwood), a plant I've not seen grown here before. I used this in my garden in England because of its very useful silvery foliage.

This one has the lyrical name, "Parfum d'Ethiopia,"

I think the plant below is Lobelia erinus; the label just says "Lobelia," and is apparently "experimental."  L. erinus appears to have become bigger; the ones I'm familiar with are much more compact.
Lobelia is a wonderful plant to use in containers and hanging baskets, especially the trailing varieties. It looks spectacular next to yellow marigolds. I've grown it from seed, with mixed results. The seeds are miniscule, more like bits of dust, but it's always worth the effort.

Here's a delightful little yellow annual, Sanvitalia, Sunvy "Super Gold."

I'm not familiar with any of the species, but I know I want some!

Back to blue: The verbena below is grown by Proven Winners, so it should turn up in Home Depot, at least in South Florida; I will certainly be looking out for it.

This one has been named Superba "Royale Chambray."

My final photo is of Diascia, which I don't see grown down here. It's another annual I've grown from seed, and deserves broader attention. It's a lovely container plant.


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NanaK said...

How interesting to get to see the full scale operation behind the plants we see in the garden center. So much color amassed in one place is breathtaking. I can only imagine all the work involved in those large planting areas of annuals. It will be interesting to see if anything makes it through a South Florida summer.

Terra Mirabilis said...

Hey, Nana. I think the idea is not so much about getting through a South Fla. summer, but more about our winter weather, and of course, previewing it for summers in temperate climates. However, there's a summer trial garden, which I am looking forward to visiting, too. That should be testing plants that will do well in this state.

PJ @ Garden Accents and Decor | Home Accents and Decor said...

Those are amazing pictures and it's a joy for each gardener to see all those flowers.
living in SE Texas I had my own small and not always intended trial garden for years. ;)
Some of the local home and garden centers just love to sell plants, well knowing they actually will not make it through the summer heat down here. I had to learn that the hard way for so many years and now I prefer buying plants from local nurseries they know, what they are actually selling.

Terra Mirabilis said...

Hi, PJ. Thanks for your comment. Hope you'll come back!

I think all passionate gardeners have unintended trial gardens, don't they? If only people who say they can't grow anything knew how many plants we try that don't survive!

I've seen Home Depot offer totally inappropriate plants, but the store I go to has good garden people who know what they're doing, so most of the time the plants are OK. But they do continue to offer tomatoes in late spring/early summer, which will never set fruit in our summers. I guess people who buy them just learn the hard way.

-- Penny

PJ @ Garden Accents and Decor | Home Accents and Decor said...

Hi Terra Mirabilis,
thanks for your response. It's very much appreciated and yes, I for sure will visit your blog often. I find lots of good information here.

You are very right saying, every passionate gardener has an unintended trial garden. We all try to improve and to plant new plants, which not always turns out in a success due to the different climate conditions, ground conditions and several other aspects. But it is fun and challenging and every year I learn something new - sometimes the hard way - but also I gain more and more experience.

Have a wonderful weekend
Paula Jo

Terra Mirabilis said...

@Paula Jo: Have a wonderful weekend, too!

Susan said...

What a beautiful trial garden they have. I love all their wonderful containers overflowing with flowers. Just lovely! Thanks for sharing.

Terra Mirabilis said...

Hi, Susan. It was a lovely place to visit (except for the one fire ant nest that, of course, I stepped in), and it was nice to see what's going to be available in the garden centers soon. I hope to visit the summer test planting in July, so stay tuned...

-- Penny

David said...

Wow! That's a nice place. I love the colors.
It is at these times I wish I had more sun and less shade. Of course, by mid-summer, I'm glad for all the deep shade. I wish I had both.
I've grown wormwood and I loved it. Beautiful silver foliage.
David/ Tropical Texana

Terra Mirabilis said...

Thanks, David. As it turns out, I'm in England for a few weeks and the annuals are being planted now. There are lots of lovely new ones that haven't been introduced to the US, but I hope they will be. Otherwise, I might have to stay here. :-D

Masha said...

Such wonderful profusion of flowers! Awesome pictures, and it must have been a great trip. Thanks for showing us all this beauty.

Regarding Maman Cochet, they all have a strong tea fragrance. The blooms are heavy and full of petals and ball every now and then in spring. I haven't tried them in a vase, but being full of petals they should last awhile... They will be HUGE in Florida.

Terra Mirabilis said...

Thanks, Masha!

meemsnyc said...

Oh wow, Lucky !!! What a great visit. I would love to see Costa Farms one day!

Terra Mirabilis said...

Thanks, Meemsnyc. Any time you're in the neighborhood ... But I would think there'd be trial gardens like this in your neck of the woods, tho, given how big a market you have.

-- Penny