Marjorie and I recently had an opportunity to tour the Ball Horticulture Trial Gardens in Chicago. Ball Horticulture is one of the world’s largest plant breeders, with hugely successful patents like the Wave® petunia and the Supertunia®. Begun in 1933, their seed trial gardens have grown to include display beds for annuals and perennials, impressive hardscapes, a history museum, and a showcase for sustainable landscapes. The gardens inspire visitors and serve as a test setting for new varieties.
We were very impressed with the huge combination planters scattered all throughout the gardens. There were mass plantings of hundreds of varieties, but the planters combined them to best effect and gave us lots of ideas for next season.
The comparison garden had a mind-boggling number of varieties alongside each other for easy comparison, grouped in such a way that new and existing varieties competed for attention. We photographed our favorites. Chicago is experiencing drought conditions this year, so we could easily see which varieties tolerated drought best.
There was a large raised-bed vegetable garden featuring the Burpee Home Gardens® program. We are very interested in Burpee’s “Bumper Crop™ grafted tomatoes, where heirloom varieties are grafted to hybrid rootstocks for the best characteristics of both. We expect to feature them at GoodSeed Farm next season. There were also samples of Burpee’s “BOOST Collection” of high-nutrition vegetables.
Another take-home idea was the Skyframe garden walkway. Tall hedges surround seventeen arbors or arches, with various Wave® petunias trailing down from overhead. This makes a dramatic effect, similar to the many public planters on highway overpasses throughout Chicago. The “windy city” deserves a lot of credit for its huge investment in public gardens and planters, which were everywhere we went in the downtown and lakefront areas of the city.
We visited the Ball gardens as part of the Independent Garden Center trade show “Chicagoland Garden Center Tour”, which took us to three unique Illinois garden centers. Lunch was served at “Aquascape Aqualand,” headquarters of Aquascape Designs, a trend-setting manufacturer of water gardens and supplies. There we toured an immense water garden covering at least two acres, a certified wildlife habitat holding 600,000 gallons of water and constructed with 17,000 tons of stone. The building has a 130,000 square foot green roof, the largest in North America. The entire facility is open to the public.
Steve Boehme is the owner of GoodSeed Farm Country Nursery & Landscape, located on Old State Route 32 three miles west of Peebles. To e-mail your landscaping questions click “Contact Us” from their website at www.goodseedfarm.com or call (937) 587-7021.