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Invincibelle Spirit Hydrangea: Past, Present, and Future.

The following is a guest post by Proven Winners Color Choice Shrubs. They've answered my call for donations to the Garfield Park Conservatory repair efforts. In exchange for the donation to help repair the storm damage to the Garfield Park Conservatory, I've invited them to write about the history of 'Invincible Spirit' and how this garden shrub is helping raise money for a cure for breast cancer. 

Imagine a plant breeder – what comes to mind? Some nervous, bespectacled individual wearing a white coat in a gleaming laboratory, surrounded by beakers and flasks and the flowers of some obscure genus? Plant breeding is less mad scientist than you might think. Luckily for us, most plant breeders are plant lovers themselves, gardeners in their own fashion who are acutely aware of what types of plants are missing from the gardener’s palette and dedicated to using their time, passion, and know-how to filling those gaps. It was that kind of plant breeder that developed Invincibelle Spirit, the first pink ‘Annabelle’ hydrangea:

Invinvibelle Spirit
'Invincibelle Spirit' hydrangea photo courtesy Proven Winners Color Choice 


Salvia 'Black and Blue'

As a gardener who is always seeking out dark flowers and plants I can’t believe that salvia ‘Black and Blue’ has escaped my notice all these years. The salvia guaranitica ‘Black and Blue’ cultivar is remarkable for the bright blue flowers, dark stems and almost black calyx. Unfortunately, ‘Black and Blue’ is hardy USDA Zones 8-11, and here in Chicago it would be grown as an annual. I encountered it by accident after brushing against the leaves of the plant growing in a public planter and released the most wonderful scent and discovered why one of the common names is ‘Anise Sage.’

Salvia guarnitica 'Black and Blue'


Seed Lab at Ball Horticultural Company

Even though the average home gardener, like myself, isn’t a direct customer of the Ball Horticultural Company many of the packaged seeds and plants we buy at garden centers and nurseries were developed by Ball Hort. An example being petunia ‘Black Cat’ which is the world’s first black petunia. Recently, I was invited on a tour of the gardens at Ball in West Chicago, Illinois., which include container gardens, a seed lab, example gardens for vegetable and shade gardening, and a trial garden where Ball Hort plants are grown alongside competitor’s plants. If you’ve read this garden blog with any regularity you may have noticed that seeds are regular topics so I jumped at the chance of touring a seed lab. Below are a couple of pictures from the seed lab that I thought other seed-obsessed gardeners may find interesting.

Seed Coating Ball Horticultural Seed Lab


Lettuce 'Sea of Red'

Up until recently I'd never been the kind of gardener who thought of vegetables as beautiful. Sure, I believe that vegetable gardens as a whole can be beautiful, but taken individually the plants in vegetable gardens never struck me as beautiful. Does it even matter if your vegetables, fruits and herbs are beautiful? Don't they all end up looking the same after they've served their purpose? When I knew I would be growing petunia 'Black Cat' in my container garden this year I went in search of other things, primarily vegetables and herbs, I could grow around it that would compliment the dark hues of 'Black Cat.' Lettuce 'Sea of Red' is one of those vegetables with style.

Lettuce Sea of Red, dark lettuce variety