Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Gardens at Ball

The Ball Seed Gardens in West Chicago were open to the public last Sunday as part of a Garden Conservancy Open Day. I took our good customer and personal friend, Jean Mc Daniel of Dream Gardens, with me. Jean does fabulous work with container gardens (her creations can be seen at the Brink Street Market) and I thought she’d enjoy seeing some of the newest introductions. The weather was fantastic and we had an enjoyable morning at the gardens.
The Gardens at Ball are a combination display and test garden. They are an All-American test garden, which means they trial seed varieties that have not been yet introduced onto the market to determine how well they will do in our climate. To that end there are several beds just planted with a couple rows of each variety.
They are also a demonstration garden in that they design the gardens in a way that shows how to use the plants in an everyday situation, like at your house. Ball Seed also develops premium annuals for use in container gardening and they have oodles of containers planted up and placed about the gardens.
They had lots of new introductions this year including a really pretty purslane series called Toucan and a new basil called Boxwood Basil. As its name suggests this is a compact basil with very small leaves.
A few things really struck me as we enjoyed the gardens. First, the impact of massed planting, second, the "wow" factor of most annuals, and third, the use of planted containers in an existing garden bed. We always encourage our customers to plant in groups and I am sure many people think we are just trying to get you to buy more plants. But when you see a large block of color, whether they are annuals or perennials, it can just be breathtaking. A single plant can get lost in the clutter, but many, blooming all at once, is very striking.
Most of us think of putting containers only on the front step or on the deck or patio, but putting a tall container filled with annuals in a perennial bed or in a shady spot, does several things. First, it gets the color closer to the viewers eye, without having to bend over to see the flowers. Second, the container itself can be that bit of structure we are always talking about in garden design. Garden art doesn’t have to be a statue or a trellis, it can be a colorful container in a foliage garden with some annuals.

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