2022 Botanical Year in Review: How Did Our Garden Grow?
By: Jon L. Peter, Curator & Plant Records Manager, Royal Botanical Gardens
RBG’s cultivated gardens now have a total of 9,964 living accessions and over 235,000 individual plants growing in our living collections.
Curating, sourcing, ordering, collecting, designing, and documenting these new accessions while still preserving the important and rare taxa (unique types) already existing in the gardens is fundamental to what we do as a public garden institution.
During 2022, 87 trees of 23 taxa (unique types) were planted, with a substantial number of trees (27) added to the collection in the Arboretum. Highlights of the tree plantings included additions to the Avenue of Trees, the Pinetum, the Malus Collection, and the Beech Collection in the Arboretum, and additions of conifer specimens throughout Rock Garden.
As part of the tree plantings, four Magnolia acuminata, the Cucumber Magnolia, were planted in Rock Garden (3) and in Laking Garden (1). This species is the only Magnolia that has native range in Canada, with small populations found in southern Ontario. This species has been considered endangered by the Endangered Species Act since a 2008 assessment which concluded that only 18 populations containing a total of 170-190 mature trees were found in the wild in Niagara Region and Norfolk County. ‘Endangered’ means the species lives in the wild in Ontario but is facing imminent extinction or extirpation. The seedlings planted within RBG Collections this year were wild collected from the Norfolk County population and were part of a collaboration between Natural Resources Canada and University of Guelph Arboretum. Fortunately, Magnolia acuminata is one of the most cultivated species in ex situ collections, but still it is important that we have the local genetics preserved in our collection.
During 2022, there were 109 shrubs of 11 taxa which were planted throughout RBG. These included several shrubs planted to fill vacancies in Laking Garden parking lot and throughout the borders at Laking Garden. One shrub accession added to the collection is a newly released Panicle Hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata BLOOMCHAMPION® Fresh White) which were donated to us by the originators/introducers at Creekside Greenhouses in Lincoln, Ontario.
As for herbaceous perennials, there were 1691 individuals of 174 taxa planted, with the majority being planted within Rock Garden and Laking Garden. Many of these herbaceous perennials are new cultivars, which have yet to be released to the public. Perennials like Heuchera NORTHERN EXPOSURE™ Series, Helenium HAYDAY™ Series, Gaillardia GUSTO™ Series, and Echinacea ARTISAN™ Series will all be types to watch for in the future and we will monitor how well they perform in our collections over the years.
Another herbaceous perennial which was added to Rock Garden & Laking Garden in mass quantities (84 total) is Rudbeckia ‘American Gold Rush’. This perennial recently took home the ‘triple crown of horticulture’ being named the 2023 Perennial Plant of the Year™ by the Perennial Plant Association, 2023 Year of the Rudbeckia by the National Garden Bureau, and the All-America Selections Perennial Award Winner.
In addition to the trees, shrubs, and perennials planted in the collections, there were also spring flowering bulbs planted as perennials in Hendrie Park and Laking Garden. In total 4,730 bulbs of 23 taxa were planted in perennial locations with the majority going into Laking Garden.
Although several factors contributed to the lower number of plantings in 2022, especially compared to a record setting 2021 planting season, it is still important for RBG to continue to source important genetics, trial new taxa, and continue to replenish beauty throughout our collections and gardens.