As the dog days of summer approach, it's time to take a walk in the gardens and check out how this year's new varieties are performing.
For those of you in the Midwest, we have a couple of fantastic opportunities in the next couple of weeks to visit some of the industry's best trial gardens.
This Friday, Ball Seed Customer Day  will take place in West Chicago, Ill. More than 3,000 varieties from 90 breeders will be on display including annuals, perennials, grasses, tropicals, vegetables, shrubs and herbs. You can learn more about the event by visiting the Ball Seed Customer Day website  or contacting email@example.com 
Starting next Monday, the 2012 Michigan Garden Plant Tour  will begin. This tour will run from July 30 until Aug. 10 at seven different locations throughout Michigan. Visitors will have the opportunity "to see impressive displays of flowering plant material, including all of the commercial brands of annuals, perennials and shrubs."
It is a great chance to see how many different varieties have performed in the upper Midwest during an incredibly crazy summer. The tour is free, but you would be wise to contact the host locations ahead of your visit to let them know you will be coming.
The stops on the 2012 tour will include:
- C. Raker & Sons 
- Four Star Greenhouse 
- Michigan State University 
- Walters Gardens 
- Mast Young Plants 
- Spring Meadow Nursery 
- Pell Greenhouses 
Click on the links above for the specific times, dates and contact information for each location.
At Michigan State University, the MSU Plant Trial Field Day  will take place Aug. 7 in East Lansing. Dr. Art Cameron, MSU's garden director, and Katie McCarver, the annual trial garden manager, will be on hand to discuss this year's trends and best performing varieties.
During the tour, All-America Selections will also have its 2012 Summer Summit , Aug. 7 to 9. It is a 2.5-day event that will visit many of the tour locations to give attendees insight into how the AAS trialing process works.