Assiniboine Park has many outdoor garden attractions to please any visitor, but the one with the greatest variety of plants on display is the English Garden, with one of the most diverse collection of herbaceous plantings on the Canadian Prairies.
The English Garden dates back to the late 1920s and remains the most popular horticultural feature of the park. The horticulture team not only works very hard to provide an experience like no other in the city, but also trial and evaluate new cultivars and selections of plant material that can be used in greater quantities in future years.
Roses are no exception to this trialing approach. There has been a long tradition of roses in the English Garden, with both hardy shrub roses and tender Tea Roses planted over the years.
This year, the horticulture team is growing a number of different roses in order to gain valuable experience as to what will be the best choices for the future. Some of these selections include the Buck Rose series, The Canadian Artist Series, the Oso Easy series and the ever-popular David Austen Roses.
Griffith Buck Roses
These roses are the work of Dr. Griffith Buck at Iowa State University and are a combination of native species as well as some Hybrid Teas and Floribundas. The resulting plants are promoted as being resilient and elegant. They are grown on their own root stock and benefit from mulching to ensure hardiness, but are categorized as Zone 4 hardiness.
The Assiniboine Park team will be trialing these roses to see if the microclimate in the English Garden can accommodate plants that are generally regarded as hardy only to regions south of here. Some examples of the Buck Series Roses in the English Garden are Carefree Beauty, Honeysweet and Winter Sunset. Winter Sunset just came into bloom in mid June (the first of the Buck series that we are trialing to bloom). The blooms tend to be about four inches and fully double.
David Austin Roses
David Austin English roses combine the beautiful flower forms and fragrances of old roses with the wider color range and repeat-flowering of modern roses.
These roses have a hardiness zone of 4 or 5, and are definite candidates for mulching and winter protection. The success of these roses is crucially dependant on the due diligence of a dedicated gardener and favourable micro-climate conditions that contribute to their success.
Again, the horticulture team will be trialing these roses to see if the microclimate in the English Garden can accommodate plants that are generally accepted as only hardy to warmer regions with less harsh winters.
These David Austin roses include the Abraham Darby, a continuous bloomer in the garden that has been an early favourite with garden visitors; the Falstaff, which bears large crimson blooms that age to an almost purple hue; and Sharifa Asma, which begins with pink buds that open to huge blush-coloured blossoms that closely resemble a peony.
Graham Thomas has been a perpetual heavy bloomer since it's placement in the garden, with huge golden blooms. This rose has been one of the showiest of the roses so far this season.
The Pilgrim has been the most floriferous of the David Austin Roses so far, bearing clusters of huge, very double, pale yellow and white blooms.
The Canadian Artists Series
These roses are releases from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada through breeding work at Morden, Mb and St. Jean, Quebec. They have been developed for Prairie hardiness on their own roots and are repeat bloomers.
The Morden Research Centre once specialized in developing improved varieties, production and protection practices to enhance the marketability of ornamentals for the prairie region. With the discontinuation of the ornamental research program at Morden, it's important to acknowledge and showcase Manitoba's contribution to the ornamental horticulture industry.
This year, the horticulture staff are celebrating the roses of the Canadian Artist Series, which were some of the last of the Morden-developed roses.
Gardeners from coast to coast are familiar with the 'Explorer' and 'Parkland' series of roses developed in Morden. The first was bred for the tough, humid climate of Eastern Canada, while the second was selected to withstand the long, dry winters and unpredictable springs of the West.
To be a Canadian Artists Rose, the plant has to be adaptable to most parts of Canada and must be able to survive the climate, frost lines, diseases and unpredictable weather patterns while remaining a reliable attribute in the garden. Examples of the Canadian Artist Series Roses in the English Garden include Emily Carr, Bill Reid and Felix Leclerc.
The Oso Easy Series
The Oso Easy series of roses is a series developed by Proven Winners, the U.S.-based plant propagating consortium, to provide the perfect rose for the Prairies.
What makes Oso Easy roses interesting is the claim that they are extremely disease-resistant. Combined with pest resistance and cold hardiness. Oso Easy roses have emerged as a whole new class of rose (many are hardy in Winnipeg's Zone 3 classification). The horticulture team will be observing the performance of these roses to see if they truly stand up to their name.
Oso Easy Paprika is the first of the Oso's we're trialing to bloom. It is highly floriferous and compact, making it a good choice for bedding. In the English Garden it combines well with All American Selection Canna 'South Pacific Scarlet' (a plant showing excellent promise itself). Other Oso EasyÑ¢ roses in the English Garden include Strawberry Crush and Peachy Cream.
Besides roses, the team of gardening staff at the English Garden are also trialing other plant material from Proven Winners and from the All-America Selections (AAS). All the rose and other trials for annual plantings can be found in the north section of the English Garden.
I encourage everyone to visit the English Garden this summer and, if you see a gardener or volunteer, please be sure to let them know which plants are your favourites. Not only are we trialing these plants for their hardiness, reliability and performance, we're also looking for our visitors' preferences.
Gerald Dieleman is Director of Horticulture with the Assiniboine Park Conservancy.