So let me tell you some more about our trip to Ball Horticultural.


We were lucky enough to be invited along with some other garden writers to look at plants that will be introduced at garden centers next spring. The company has a facility in West Chicago, about 40 miles from the Loop. To be honest, I didn’t even know it existed before this summer.


Ball Horticultural maintains 9 acres of testing and display gardens as part of the West Chicago facility. Unfortunately, they are not open to the general public. CORRECTION: A reader points out that the garden is generally open on Saturdays in August, but is closed for renovations for all of 2019.


Displays have an emphasis on annuals, but there are also edibles and perennial plants. I’ll just mention a few of the new varieties that caught my eye.


My own garden relies mainly on perennials with a few annuals used as accents or in pots. Even so, it’s hard not to swoon when I see masses of color as with the Petunia’s above.


Wave Petunias are one of the better known series associated with Ball. They’ve been around since 1995, but next year there will be 2 new colors: ‘Carmine Velour’ and ‘Lavender Sky Blue’. The Wave Petunias are known for a more spreading habit and heavy flowering. We got to take home a few free pots of each. Score!


Other than the Impatiens mentioned in the last post, the new annual that excited me most was the Passionaria series of Sweet Alyssum (Lobularia maritima). I love Sweet Alyssum, especially that honey fragrance, but they tend to wither during hot summers. Passionaria varieties, though, will withstand strong sun and high temperatures.

Their resistance was demonstrated by the hanging pots all around us, looking cool and content despite facing into the August sun.


I’m not into Rex Begonias, but the new Jurassic series is certainly striking. This variety is called ‘Silver Swirl’.


There’s also a new series of Zinnias called Zesty, including a purple variety, which I guess is a new thing. I’m going to stick with my favorite orange and red, though.


I think what interested Judy the most was the ‘Emerald Tower’ basil. This is a sweet basil with an upright habit and almost never bolts.


In the tomato patch we got to try some new varieties of disease-resistant cherry tomato, right off the vine. ‘Artemis’ is so incredibly sweet that the marketing people apparently suggested ‘Sugar Coma’ as the variety name.


After finishing up in the garden and breaking for lunch, we got a tour of the seed lab. I was disappointed to learn that those tubes are used for coating seeds, and not transporting space travelers like in Star Trek. Ball produces seed for growers, and the coating keeps seed from getting stuck in their equipment.


By around 3 o’clock we were ready to head home, but not before filling the back seat with petunias and ‘Emerald Tower’ basil. The petunias replaced some of the exhausted Sweet Alyssum in the pots near the front door. You can see both ‘Carmine Velour’ and ‘Lavender Sky Blue’ in the containers above.

It’s good to know there will be some good new options when it’s time to buy next year’s annuals.

28 Comments on “More New Plants for 2020

  1. Those Petunias look fabulous! I do love Petunias, but they always seem to stop flowering for me if we get a very hot spell. Hope we get some new varieties soon too.

    • Hmm. I don’t think I’ve had that experience, and I imagine our summers are normally hotter than yours. Maybe mine have got more moisture or a bit more shade.

  2. Jason … you and Judy were so lucky to have this tour ! I am jealous 😉
    But …. what happened with the perennials ? .. didn’t you see new varieties to tell us about ?
    Hey my vehicle would be loaded if I could have been there .. and I also love Sweet Alyssum !
    That fragrance is amazing .. I wish it could be bottled, haha.
    I am all for the new variety if it would stand up to our heat and humidity.

    • I did see some almost-white kniphofia and some interesting hybrid coreopsis. As is often the case, too much material to write and not enough space.

  3. As I understand it, the Ball garden is open to the public but on Saturdays in August only. However, their website says they won’t be open in 2019 due to construction.

  4. Our Fayette County (KY) Extension horticulturalist worked for Ball Seed at some point. Not sure which location, but he seems quite impressed with the enterprise. I love the flowers and new basil you got for your containers. What a fun outing.

  5. What a lot of fun you and Judy must have visiting a nursery like that! I loved a glimpse of all the new varieties especially the sweet basil & petunias. The million dollar question is.. do you have enough space in your garden for these lovely new plants?

  6. My very eloquent response would be WOW. Although it would have been very cool had you been able to say “Beam me up, Scotty” in those machines, what they do with seeds isn’t less cool! Thanks so much for taking us along!

  7. What a fascinating place to visit! And how nice to be able to bring home plants, too, to freshen up your containers. I love the Wave petunias. They reseed so freely and I do love volunteers, don’t you? Free plants!

  8. As we would say in Maine, that was some day you had. So much to admire. Very interested in that basil, and oh the colors for the flowers. Love the foliage of Jurassic.

  9. So beautiful and what a fun tour. I’ll be first in line for those tomatoes. I love petunias but the squirrels love them more. I still always try with them though. Now those zinnias look interesting and purple and orange combinations are my current favorite for flowers. Luckily, I have enough room I don’t have to pick between these or the beautiful orange and red one.

  10. It’s always fun to get a look “behind the scenes”, thanks for taking us along. Now I’m craving a nice tomato and basil salad…

  11. Exciting news about Passionaria series of Sweet Alyssum (Lobularia maritima). I love sweet alyssum too. The basil is interesting too.

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