Every summer, one of the country’s biggest suppliers of bedding plants, Ball Colegrave, opens its trial grounds at West Adderbury in Oxfordshire to horticultural specialists, retailers, landscapers and home gardeners. This year, more than 3,500 visitors came along to enjoy the amazing Summer Showcase displays, which included 200 new varieties and 700 experimental products. They were invited to vote for their favourites, and the results give a good indication as to what is likely to be popular in garden centres and nurseries across the country next year. So what received the most votes?
It was a petunia, but no ordinary one. This eyecatching Glacier Sky has large violet flowers speckled with a constellation of white stars edged with an ‘ice’ effect margin. Bred to achieve high weather resistance and with a strong branching habit, it would add that something special to baskets and containers.
The second overall favourite was a spectacular new lavender, Blue Spear, with tall spikes of an intense bluish-purple. It does best in full sun, while being a magnet for pollinating insects, and is ideal for containers, garden beds and rock gardens.
Third place went to a lovely new ivy-leaf geranium, Marcarda® Pink with Purple Eye. It’s semi-trailing, but with a compact form ideal for containers, baskets and window boxes. Among the other new varieties that attracted many votes were Coleus Flame Thrower Salsa Roja, Osteospermum Compact FlowerPower Purple Sun, Heuchera Black Pearl, Petchoa Beautiful Caramel Yellow, and Lobelia Infinity Blue.
Outstanding among the many current varieties on display was Ball Colegrave's new downy mildew-resistant Busy Lizzie, Beacon Impatiens (above), which comes in a wide selection of colours. The flowers seem to be happy with whatever the summer weather can throw at them and were making wonderful displays, despite the blazing heat of the previous week.
I was also taken with the beautiful range of zinnias. This is a plant that’s fluctuated in popularity over the years – my grandmother loved them, but my mother wasn’t a fan. Now new easy-care varieties like Zinnia Zesty (above) have been developed that will perform whatever the weather, ready to delight a new generation of gardeners.
The displays around the grounds (above) were amazing, full of ideas and inspiration.
The painter Monet would have loved the planting in and around the water feature, while two living walls, ablaze with colour, showed what could be achieved with the right framework.
And it wasn’t just the visitors who were enjoying the displays – they had attracted the attention of flocks of colourful butterflies – including this Peacock on a Dianthus Dash Magician.
Ball Colegrave Ltd, Milton Rd, West Adderbury, Banbury, Oxon OX12 3EY