Annuals Scene, Act II
Drama: Ball Seed Field Day
Setting: Ball Seed, West Chicago, IL
Date: July 28, 2017
Cast: Acres of display gardens teeming with beautiful annuals and perennials!
Perovskia ‘Lacey Blue’
This stunning new Russian sage from the U.K. caught my eye walking into the gardens of Ball. If you’ve ever grown Perovskia you know it can slop and flop all over the garden, covering the performance of smaller cast members. ‘Lacey Blue’ has been singled out for its refined 18-20” height, and the largest flowers of any Russian sage. How much neater (literally and figuratively) is this plant than its parent or named variety siblings.
Alternanthera ‘Purple Prince’
Annual grown for its semi-trailing habit. New growth emerges green, then deepens to this nice burgundy-purple, with the plant reaching 12-14” tall. Hard-working in containers or great in the ground. When plant authority Jim Nau raves, we should all listen.
Coleus ‘Premium Mosaic’
There’s a big, big world of coleus out there with more color choices than you even want to imagine. For me, there was something very appealing about this color combination. I’m at a loss for a name to even assign the background color - moss green? I don’t know, but I love the way it plays with the burgundy streaks, and when the wind tousles the leaves the underside is burgundy, too.
Coleus ‘Coleosaurus’ is just interesting. The overlay of the red on the base color simulates a texture that doesn’t exist. That textured effect and the color combo is a star turn for next year’s gardens.
SunPatiens ‘Spreading White’
Showed well as a foliage plant… basking in full sun. Plants were very uniform in height, while the few white flowers had to be considered “icing” to the uniformity of the creamy yellow leaves edged neatly in dark green. Breeding for sun tolerant impatiens, variegated and otherwise, continues full speed ahead.
Sunflower ‘Sunfinity’ is exceptional. Most sunflowers are one-act wonders- flowering, then stepping offstage. If ‘Sunfinity’ is “pinched” as a young plant it produces an 8-10 week storm of cheery yellow flowers . Once again, a Jim Nau four star review for next year’s sunny border.
Ornamental Sweet Potato
This is no one note wonder. For those of you thinking they’re burgundy or lime, and only good sprawling and crawling over the ground, you’ve missed a few major breeding developments. I’ll let the headshots speak for themselves. Notice the differences in leaf shapes and colors. The ‘Spotlight Black’ actually glistens. And look at the new acrobatic ‘Solar Tower’ that scales trellises and arbors in a single bound.
One of the neatest horticultural innovations is growing cannas from seed to summer-flowering, like other annuals. The ‘Cannovas’ are a perfect example with a wide range of flower colors, with green or bronze foliage. Our Chalet audience gave loud applause to ‘Cannova Bronze Orange’. The bronze-maroon foliage highlighted the brassy orange flowers in a very tropical way.
Finally, a plant I’ve never grown, but plan to. Who in the house knows Ptilotus ‘Joey’? Other stage names for this Aussie import are: Lambs-Tails or Pink Mulla-mulla. This flower is definitely a mainstage attraction with its startling silver puffy plumes that tinge pink at the ends. The foliage is thick and green, requiring little water. ‘Joey’ stands tall at 12-18” and is hardy to freezing, making it a season- long garden attraction.
Star potential, all, don’t you think?