Suffering to Bring You More Flowers

April 16, 2010 | By | Comments (7)

Ball Field Trials 042

My commitment to you is true and unwavering — neither sun nor wave nor ocean breeze will stop Grumpy from reporting on the best of what's new to the gardening public. 

And so this week I undertook an arduous 2,000 mile journey by air to Ventura, California to visit the 2010 plant trials of Ball Horticultural Company, one of the country's largest and most respected wholesale producers of annuals, perennials, and shrubs. I was forced to accept deluxe accommodations at a beach front hotel with nothing to look at but the sun rising over miles of the Pacific Ocean. Oh, the agony!

However, steeled by a fortuitous cocktail hour, I escaped said prison and made my way to the plant trials, where I was amazed by colors nearly as brilliant as Grumpy himself arranged in a very artistic way. Instead of just lining out plants in a field, Ball had created a series of garden rooms that reminded me of many of the best garden centers I've been to. You not only got to see flowers, but get great ideas how to use them. Here are a few of the new plants I expect to make a splash in the very near future. Look for them in local garden and home centers.

Ball Field Trials 003 

'Black Velvet' petunia— Just the thing Morticia Addams would have loved, this petunia really is black. Combine this flower with an innocent young girl and a sensitive yet sensual vampire and you have all the makings of a hit movie women will see 247 times at $11 a pop.

Ball Field Trials 006

Callibrachoa 'MiniFamous Double Amethyst'— Why can't the hort industry get together and come up with an acceptable common name  for Callibrachoa? No one can pronounce it (it's cally-brack-O-uh), so how can people ask for it? One company calls theirs "Million Bells," but apparently that's a trademark. Maybe we should just call them "baby petunias," because that's what they look like.

Covered with 1-inch blooms, callibrachoas offer colors petunias don't — like good yellows, oranges, salmon, and terra-cotta. They do great in containers and in the ground, as long as the soil is well drained. This MiniFamous line has performed exceptionally well in the University of Georgia trials, blooming continuously in the hot, humid summer. I love the look of 'Double Amethyst' — like a little, purple rose.

Ball Field Trials 008

'Bonfire' begonia — If you don't think of begonias as tough plants, you haven't met this one. Forming a mound up to 36 inches tall and wide, it takes heat and drought and smothers itself from spring to fall with an absolute profusion of red-orange blooms. No, you can't leave it outside in winter in freezing weather, but you can't leave your in-laws out there either, even if you want to.

Ball Field Trials 025

"Plentifall' pansy — I think this one is going to be a big hit. It's the first trailing pansy — a single plant can spread 18 inches. It's perfect for spilling over the edges of containers, as you see above, but it's also quite effective when planted in solid sweeps in the ground. Another plus — it's extremely cold-hardy. So you won't have to settle for plants turned to mush by early winter freezes. In the South, this one should bloom all winter. Look for it this fall.

Well, time to head back to the hotel for more buffeting sea breezes and unrelenting beauty. Why, oh Lord, hast thou forsaken me? 


Earn Cash for Your School!

Lands’ End is growing education through “Way to Grow: Plant a Seed, Make a Difference.” This program connects kids, parents, and schools through gardening and teaches that even the smallest steps can make a difference to help the environment. The “Way to Grow” sweepstakes gives schools the chance to win up to $2,500 for gardening and science projects. Now through May 14, 2010, parents and teacher can visit to enter and vote for their schools. The schools with the most votes win!


  1. Grumpy Gardener (His Benevolence)

    Hmmm. Did I mention I had cocktails?

    May 16, 2010 at 11:04 am
  2. Stefan

    Hi Grumpy, nice report. However the sun isn’t rising over the Pacific, it is setting. Take care

    May 13, 2010 at 5:51 pm
  3. Dave

    I think we could all use a bit of suffering!

    April 19, 2010 at 10:03 am
  4. Grumpy Gardener (His Grace)

    Don’t panic, Grumpians. I have returned. There is only so much beauty and relaxation I can take.

    April 18, 2010 at 9:48 am
  5. Cameron (Defining Your Home)

    Make sure you return to the humid south. We wouldn’t want to lose you to your West Coast affiliate!

    April 18, 2010 at 9:32 am
  6. Darlene

    So sorry you had to endure those “awful” accommodations just so we your loyal fan club can benefit from your hard work.

    April 17, 2010 at 10:31 am
  7. Jean

    You are breaking my heart! Poor Grump! I am going to my room and cry now.

    April 17, 2010 at 6:16 am

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