Jessica Cloninger’s enthusiasm for the Trial Garden she manages at Boerner Botanical Gardens was infectious. On the day I first met her in 2015, we went on foot and by golf cart to see the plants in the Trial Garden’s beds and in the greenhouse. The tour proved to be a window of borrowed views into future plants gardeners may someday grow.
Trial Garden Lay-Out
Rectangular beds, mostly edged in weathered two-by-fours, covered the span of grounds bordered on the backside by massive evergreens and deciduous trees, one of Boerner’s signature features.
The Trial Garden tests many kinds of plants: annual plants over one season and perennial plants over a two-year plan for example. Cloninger shared that a generous private donation of bearded iris made to Boerner Botanical Gardens was, now, being temporarily cared for in some of the beds.
The Trial Garden is also home to the All-America Selections Display Garden, where AAS Winners are shown off. For stay-gardening, trial and display gardens are a wealth of information and ideas you can take home to use in your own local regions.
For visitors to Boerner Botanical Gardens that means the southeastern side of Wisconsin, though micro-climates vary between the lake shore and Milwaukee County’s western side, too. It matters little, though, for gardeners like myself. We are inquisitive enough, that we borrow views, and ideas, from other parts of the country, too. Always pushing that envelope of plants.
Now in 2016, gardeners will find the Petunia, Supertunia ‘Picasso in Burgundy’; the Calabrachoas, Superbells ‘Garden Rose’ and Superbells ‘Holy Moly’; and Hibiscus acetosella ‘Little Zin,’ which is grown for foliage, available in garden centers.
View of Trial Garden Results
Jessica Cloninger was once described to me as part of a horticultural group of up-and-comers in Wisconsin public gardens. Her zeal in talking about the plants tested at Boerner Botanical Gardens’ Trial Garden makes her one person to watch in the dairy state’s plant world.
Trial Garden Managers were surveyed on outcomes in late 2015 and were published in the Greenhouse Management article, “The Verdict Is In” December 7, 2015.
Jessica Cloninger offered these ideas in the Midwest category:
- Petunia ‘Tidal Wave Red Velour’ never stopped blooming and spreading with no signs botrytis.
- Agastache ‘Little Adder’ butterfly plant on a first-year planting.
- Veronica ‘Southern Cross’ starts blooming in August and offers “show-stopper” blooms with no signs of flopping.
- Salvia ‘Black & Bloom’ was observed having congregations of hummingbirds on its flowers with bumblebees following suit.
Trial gardens in public botanical places offer a unique opportunity for gardeners. You can see how plants are gauged and determine for yourself, whether you would grow this one or that. Another motivation to continue stay gardening.Testing plants requires comparing and contrasting specimens of the same variety of plant in a trial garden. (Photo credit Chris Eirschele)