Last Wednesday, I visited the Gardens at Ball in West Chicago, Ill., for the company's annual Darwin Perennials Day. Attendees were able to check out all the new Darwin Perennials introductions for 2014, first-year flowering and overwinter production comparisons from Kieft Seed and new shrubs from Ball Ornamentals; discover new unique mixed container recipes; and tour the perennial gardens.
During lunch, Anna Ball gave a quick introduction to the event and had some profound words to share. She began by discussing a new CVS Pharmacy that just opened up down the road from Ball, and she noticed they lined the sidewalk in front of the new building with rows and rows of daylilies. Anna then raised the question, "Why daylilies?" Not to take away from their beauty, of course. But she was making the point that there are hundreds of other varieties that could be used in addition to daylilies, and it's our industry's job to promote them.
She closed by reminding everyone that various product categories kind of have their own "era," and now is the time for perennials. I think she's right! With all the new and exciting varieties and versatile uses for them, perennials are definitely making a statement in the industry and beyond.
One of my favorite parts of Darwin Perennials Day was the container recipe display. Attendees were able to vote for their favorite recipes. This one — which featured dianthus 'EverLast Lilac+Eye', lysimachia 'Goldilocks' and gaura 'Belleza Dark Pink' — seemed to be the clear winner (at least it was the one with the most votes during my visit).
I also enjoyed walking through all the new variety introductions. Back to what Anna Ball had said about using more variety in perennial plantings, I think these would all make great candidates. Here are a couple of my favorites.
Heliopsis 'Sunstruck' boasts large flowers with eye-catching variegated leaves. It has a compact habit, so it is easy to ship and looks attractive at retail. 'Sunstruck' blooms four to six weeks earlier than other heliopsis and stays in flower all spring and summer.
The New Vintage series of achillea features bold colors ('New Vintage Violet' is pictured) that mature to attractive shades instead of fading to brown. New Vintage has a tidy plant habit with no gap between foliage and flowers, making them an outstanding component for containers.
Are perennials a a large part of your production? Which varieties have been the most successful for you this year? Are you doing anything to promote them even further with your customers?
I'd love to hear from you; send me an e-mail anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org .
— Jasmina