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Growing in 2021

December 9, 2021

By: Jon L. Peter, Curator & Plant Records Manager, Royal Botanical Gardens
Photos by Jon L. Peter

The 2021 growing period was a relatively good season for most plants. We took full advantage of adequate soil moisture and good growing conditions by planting many trees, shrubs, herbaceous perennials, and bulbs during the spring and fall seasons.

Overall, RBG’s cultivated gardens had one of the best planting seasons in recent history in terms of quantities of plants whose roots were planted in the soils of our Living Collections and Gardens. This effort from our Horticulture team brought our total living accessions over 10,000 for the first time since 2015 and over 231,000 individual plants for the first time in recorded history.

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 2021, 124 trees of 57 taxa were planted, with the majority (52) planted in the Arboretum. Highlights included 36 ornamental cherries of 8 unique cultivars which were propagated by a local nursery through grafting stem cuttings collected here in 2018. These cherry propagules were from aging and declining trees on the front lawn and back of parking lot areas at Rock Garden and since many of these taxa are no longer available in the nursery trade, this was a wonderful way to preserve and extend the life of these historic cherry accessions at RBG.

Tree Planting, Arboretum
Many ornamental cherry trees were planted in spring and fall at the Arboretum.

Also planted were five small saplings of Northern Red Oak (Quercus rubra) which were originally collected as seeds in 2018 by gardener Charlie Briggs from beneath the historic Hendrie Park Red Oak. These propagules will continue to preserve the genetics of this significant tree as they were planted out in Arboretum (3), Rock Garden (1) and Laking Garden (1).

During 2021, there were 277 shrubs and vines of 53 taxa which were planted throughout RBG. These included a significant number of shrubs planted throughout the Arboretum’s Synoptic Shrub Collection, with a focus on shrub species native to Ontario. Another large component of the shrub plantings were the many medicinal shrub species which were incorporated in the Healing Garden project.

Plants planned for planting while still in plastic containers
Hundreds of trees, shrubs, and herbaceous perennials laid out for planting along the new pathway in Rock Garden.
close up of Carex grayii
close up of small purple asters

Native species were a focus for many of the new plantings. Gray’s Sedge (Carex grayii) (left) and Purple-stemmed Aster (Symphyotrichum puniceum) (right) were incorporated in a new planting in the lower bowl of Rock Garden.

As for herbaceous perennials, there were 3292 individuals of 235 taxa planted, with the majority being planted within various bed renovations in Rock Garden. These herbaceous perennials featured a pleasant mix of native species, nativars (cultivars of native species), and non-native ornamentals which will adapt to the gardens growing environments and provide a wealth of resources for native insects. In Laking Garden’s Hosta Collection, a total of 236 Hosta plants of 47 taxa (all new to RBG) were planted.

Hosta plants planned for planting while still in plastic containers
Some of the 236 Hosta plants of 47 unique types laid out for planting in Laking Garden’s Hosta Collection.

Even though thousands of spring flowering bulbs are planted and forced each year within the seasonal display areas of RBG, many will not realize that a considerable number of bulbs are also planted in areas where they can perennialize. In total, 21,622 bulbs of 91 taxa were planted in perennial locations throughout the gardens with the largest concentrations occurring at Rock Garden and Laking Garden. Mostly daffodils (Narcissus) were planted for their strong spring show but also ornamental onions (Allium), grape-hyacinths (Muscari) and netted iris (Iris) were planted to extend the spring flowering bulb season of interest. This brings the total number of bulbs in our gardens to 133,305 individuals representing 295 taxa.

Although the new trees may take many years to establish, and shrubs and perennials may take a year or two before they are at their full glory, the spring flowering bulbs are just months away from delighting us with their early spring presence.

close up of daffodils with creamy white outer petals and deep yellow centres

Trumpet Daffodil (Narcissus ‘Angel’s Flute’)

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