With Gardenscape just around the corner on March 24 to 26 at Prairieland Park, the spring growing season can’t be far behind.
“I’ve been involved in every one of the previous 27 events,” said Rick vanDuyvendyk, whose family owns Dutch Growers Garden Centre, “and I consider Gardenscape as a trade show that usually draws wider interest and better crowds every year. Our three-day attendance in 2016 was 23,864.
“We don’t guarantee that spring will come any sooner. But if you remember last year, it was an incredibly warm spring and people were wanting to be out in the garden by the middle of April. We usually say Mother’s Day or May 24 are the best times to get started.”
Gardenscape has become one of Western Canada’s best backyard lifestyle and horticulture shows.
“We try to grow a healthier sustainable community, sustainable landscaping designs and maintenance practices, and we talk about and display the benefits of urban gardening and eating Saskatchewan products,” said Susan Kuzma, who co-ordinates the event for Prairieland.
On display will be more than 1,550 pots of spring bulbs, more than 100 large trees and shrubs, industry exhibits of new products, individual garden displays and speakers’ sessions. The show runs this Friday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Saturday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The keys to a successful show are careful planning, thorough research and the protection of plants during their growth period.
“By October,” said Kuzma, “we have decided on the plants and flowers we want to display and then production lines are formed. We have big walk-in coolers which are used to stimulate the growth of the plants that we hope, by show time, will be in full bloom.”
Jackie Bantle, from the University of Saskatchewan’s plant science department, said that the choice of the show’s feature plant, Coral Bells, also known as Heuchera, is made by the committee by September and the process of importing plugs, usually from American companies, usually begins in December.
“The growing process happens in a greenhouse on campus and we’re hoping most will bloom by the end of March,” said Bantle.
“We look at a lot of options but we found the Coral Bells to be especially attractive, given the dynamic colours like yellow, lime green, purple and red. We wanted something with splash and colour, something that can be easily grown in Saskatchewan, mostly as annuals. At show time, the Coral Bells will be in six-inch pots and will be 10 to 12 inches high.”
Bantle will appear at the Speakers’ Theatre on Friday at 4 p.m., delivering information on the plants and providing guidance on how to care for them throughout the summer.
VanDuyvendyk will take two turns at podiums. Saturday at noon his talks are entitled What’s New in 2017 and What Works in Saskatchewan; and Saturday at 5 p.m., he tells gardeners that it’s really not that hard to prune shrubs.
In his travels, vanDuyvendyk looks for products which suit the Saskatchewan climate.
A new favourite will be the Canadian Shield Rose, so named to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday.
“It is a beautiful red rose and will be the hot commodity on the market. It is really made for Saskatchewan, having passed all the tests we’ve done, and it will winter better than some previous varieties. Some of the Canadian Shield Rose research was done right here in Saskatoon.”
Another favourite will be newly-developed hydrangeas, “which will bloom all summer, come in more varieties and colours.”
New plants arrive each year and vanDuyvendyk said, “a lot of them are produced in the United States and in nurseries at Kelowna and Portage La Prairie. In some areas, the government has cut back its research and the industry has stepped in and picked up the pace.”
One of the products for better lawn care will be nematodes, “where a powder is inserted into the hose or sprinkler and it is a solution to grubs and beetles, attacking them without any environmental risks. It is a good replacement for Sevin, a pesticide which will only be available in Saskatchewan for one more year.”
Jill Umpherville, also a member of the Dutch Growers team, will talk on Sunday at noon on Playing With Tropicals, moving them from indoor situations to outdoors and still making them look good.
“Gardeners want to upscale the look and we have new varieties of tropicals which have exciting new colours and can be rotated to suit the seasons. We will talk about products, too, which enhance the growing trend towards container gardening.”
Something different this year is the introduction of The Science of SuperDogs, which comes from President’s Choice.
The presentation is different from the annual show, held in conjunction with the Saskatoon Exhibition, but, according to Kuzma, “will include 10 dogs going through some competitions and adding some scientific approaches on how to train and keep your dogs healthy.”
There will be shows, free with general admission, on Friday at 3:30, 5:30 and 7:30 p.m.; Saturday at 11:30 a.m., 1:30, 3:30 and 5:30 p.m.; and Sunday at 11:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m.
Gloria Gingera, from the U of S, is committee chair this year and her team includes Bantle, Vanessa Young from the university’s master gardener program, Cory Confrey from Early’s Farm and Garden Centre, vanDuyvendyk, Heather Grysdale from the city’s parks branch, George Karas from Expocrete Concrete Products, Salomon Joubert from Burnco, and Rick Leier and Michael Leier from Steelmet Supply.