A stunning floral display is ready for your viewing pleasure: the UMass Amherst Demonstration Gardens in front of Durfee Conservatory. This garden features several new annual plant cultivars recently introduced by plant breeders. The gardens are intended for observation of new plants under local growing conditions followed by reporting back to the breeders. UMass Extension, through the offices of Tina Smith, Extension Educator and Douglas Cox, Associate Professor in the Stockbridge School of Agriculture, work with regional companies to choose the types of plants that will be grown each year. For 2013, Pleasant View Gardens in Loudon, New Hampshire donated garden plants as part of their Research and Development program.
Flower, foliage color, size, texture, plant growth habitat and pest tolerance are all considered when commercial plant producers choose plants to grow for home gardens and commercial landscapes. Jennifer Konieczny, who works at UMass Physical Plant in groundskeeping, offered to maintain the garden (with help from Stockbridge School of Agriculture horticulture interns). Students are responsible for labeling, weeding, fertilizing and watering. They also note changes and observe the performance of the plants throughout the growing season. The choice of this particular site for this garden, outside of Durfee Conservatory, was made for its visibility and welcoming position for passersby including both UMass community members and campus visitors. Featuring flowers with names like, ”Electric Orange Sunpatience , Silverberry Petunia and Blue My Mind Evolvulus,” you are guaranteed to find interesting new varieties and vibrant colors.
The first such Demonstration Garden was developed about eight years ago by Professor Cox with assistance from Michael Formosi, manager of Durfee Conservatory. Since then, Cox and Smith have been active in keeping the seasonal gardens highly visible.
Smith said, “We are especially happy to have Jennifer Konieczny working with us this year. She has been able to engage student interns whose hard work in the greenhouses and then onsite also provides hands-on experiences with new plants, a valuable part of their education here at UMass.”