Ball Colegrave - Two Show Stoppers

Ball Colegrave held their annual open house days in July this year, and here are two plants that apparently stole the show!
by Art Drysdale
by Art Drysdale


Art Drysdale, a life-long resident of Toronto and a horticulturist well known all across Canada, is now a resident of Parksville, British Columbia on Vancouver Island, just north of Nanaimo. He has reno-vated an old home and has a new garden there. His radio gardening vignettes are heard in south-western Ontario over radio station Easy 101 FM out of Tillsonburg at 2 PM weekdays.

Art also has his own website at

September 13, 2015

Above, a shot of the new ‘Black Velvet’ petunia, and below, a shot of the new Coleus ‘Campfire’ (Solenostemon scutellarioides). Photos courtesy Ball Colegrave.



In the U.K. the Colegrave company some years ago was merged with the huge Geo. J. Ball company of Chicago, to form Ball Colegrave. All of the following is taken from the company’s Website.

“They have been conducting plant variety trials and customer open days from their Trial Grounds in West Adderbury [The village of Adderbury is situated on the edge of the Cotswolds in North Oxfordshire.] for 52 years. Today’s Trial Grounds not only presents the companies assortment of catalogue varieties in a rich display of settings and retail ideas, but also comprehensively evaluates hundreds of new future lines before introduction. This ensures that when a product is introduced in the Ball Colegrave catalogues, the staff and visitors have seen it and know it performs under UK growing conditions!

“Over 50,000 Annual and Perennial plants are bedded out in the trial and display beds and in excess of 3,000 baskets and patio containers are planted up for the event.

“Traditionally the Trial Grounds were attended by Parks and Nurserymen. Today they are joined by an ever increasing number of Garden Centres looking for new plant and retail ideas.

“Record visitor numbers to this year’s Summer Showcase at Ball Colegrave voted for their favourite varieties on show using a blue marker flag. And with over 1300 catalogue varieties, 300 new varieties and 600 experimental products on display, there was certainly plenty to choose from!

“However the varieties which received the most flags once again leaned heavily towards ‘New Varieties’, suggesting the market continues to hunger for innovative new plant products as Growers and Retailers look to stay one step ahead of the trend.

“One of this year’s big industry stories has to be the launch of Petunia ‘Black Velvet.'

“The world’s first ever black Petunia was first shown to the UK trade this summer. The interest of nurseries and garden centres has been encouragingly strong. But never did anyone realize the buzz this breeding break-through would create with the media and subsequent public excitement.

“Calls kept coming through to the company’s office, and in just one day Petunia ‘Black Velvet’ appeared in four major national daily papers It was also talked about on a major radio ‘channel’ and then that evening the story hit one of the largest television channel’s news!

“The colour black is very rare in the plant world and most black plants are simply dark. True black would be rather difficult to place in the garden in any quantity, but they are immensely beautiful and therefore very appealing.

“It took four years for Ball flower breeder Jianping Ren to develop the variety that she says was no easy task. “The black colour did not exist in petunias before, so it has to come from the right recombination of a novel colour mutant and multiple regular colour genetic backgrounds. It is difficult and very different from breeding true blue flowers because at least there are some blue flowers you can start with,” she says. “It’s unique and unusual, and opens the door for more new colours.”

Dark flowers and foliage make great accents in combinations and gardens, allowing their surrounding companions to really stand out. Try Petunia ‘Black Velvet’ with White, Yellow, Orange, Red, Pink flowers; in fact almost anything goes with black!

“‘Black Velvet’ is a perfect fit for premium baskets and containers, this combo-friendly Petunia partners well with almost any other colour because as any fashion conscious shopper knows …….black goes with anything! These upright and mounded plants are early to flower, have a tightly branched habit and are filled with colour all season long. Height and spread: 20 to 30 cm. (8 to 12”).

“Look out for these plants in the spring in packs and pots in garden centres nationwide and ready planted patio tubs to simply pick up and drop onto your patio this summer. Plants will also be available through most mail order companies.”

The only other new flower that I have room for here this week is the highly decorative foliage of Coleus Campfire that brings a vibrant new addition to the company’s premium Coleus collection.

The bright, eye-catching orange foliage of this new variety is perfect for the sunny patio plant market. Its vibrancy really intensifies in full sun and looks great in partial shade.

What’s more, this stunning Coleus provides months of colour without a single flower. It is a late flowering variety, which means the foliage looks as sharp and clean at the end of the season as it does at the beginning.

There is much more to tell you about Ball Colegrave special open house days held from July 13 to 31 this summer. For example they had a number of what I call sample gardens with different themes and I’ll show you some of those next week.


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