UGA Trial Gardens hosts annual open house Saturday

The University of Georgia Trial Gardens are full of color almost any time of year, but they’re going to be especially bright Saturday.


The gardens’ annual public open house is on that day from 9 a.m. to noon and features more than 1,000 varieties of ornamental plants, most of them flowers, as well as tours led by garden director John Ruter, a professor in the UGA Department of Horticulture.

“The petunias are doing phenomenally well this year,” said garden manager Brandon Coker.

About 40 to 50 varieties are blooming, he said.

The showy canna lilies are also a highlight this year.

As with other flowers or leafy ornamentals in the garden, some are part of the garden’s permanent or semi-permanent collections, while some are on “trial,” which are new blooms developed by plant breeders and growers from throughout the country.

Companies like California-based Green Fuse Botanicals send their newest creations to the trial gardens every year to see how they fare in the hot South. One of Green Fuse Botanicals’ latest creations, the Salvia Cathedral Sky Blue, was one of the top 10 this year as judged by professionals in the first of this year’s trial gardens open houses in June.

This year’s open house will feature vendors such as Maisie Loo, selling herb teas from the UGArden. Copies of Ruter’s latest book, “Landscaping with Conifers and Ginkgo for the Southeast,” will also be on sale.

The gardens’ staff manages the gardens to be at peak bloom for both of the open houses — one in June for professionals in landscaping, nursery growers and related fields, and another in July for the general public, said Coker.

The generous rains in recent weeks have been a mixed blessing, Coker said. Some of the hibiscus blooms, twice as big as your hand, close up when pummeled by raindrops, he explained.

No admission will be charged for the open house, but the garden is asking those who come for a $5 donation.

The gardens are on UGA’s South Campus, between the Pharmacy Building and Snelling Hall near the UGA Center for Continuing Education. Parking is available nearby in the McPhaul parking lot across the street from Stegeman Coliseum.

Follow Lee Shearer at or