Category Archives: Trials

Harris Seeds

Trial seeds

Romaine lettuce fresh from the garden in mid June. It takes very few plants to get a meals worth of green beans. Photo by PBH

Romaine lettuce fresh from the garden in mid June. It takes very few plants to get a meals worth of green beans. Photo by PBH

Harris Seed allowed me to trial 5 seed verities of seed, my choice after I reworked on my garden’s landscape with the help of the professionals from the Drake’s 7 Dees garden center. Later this summer, I’ll report on them all. For now, I want to tell you about these green beans and this beautiful Romaine lettuce. I’m telling you about these two vegetables because you still have time to grow a crop of beans. I’ll plant Kruger lettuce again this fall.

Lewis green beans – These beans are tender and fast growing. The plants  are loaded with beans. Lewis green beans are beautiful long, straight and easy to pick. The beans did not have any disease or insect problems. There is some very minor insect damage on leaves. But the damage is so minor, it’ is not worth treating.

Kruger Romaine lettuce –  This improved Parris Island Cos type is tall and medium green with no insect or disease problems. Kruger out-lasted other varieties and only bolted a full two or three weeks after other lettuce turned bitter. There is very little waste and needs little trimming.

This is the first time I have grown Harris Seed. They sell seeds, herbs, plants and garden supplies for home gardeners and professional growers. They have provided quality garden products for more than 100 years.

Todays Harvest Basket 6/15/2013

Greens and beans

Kale,and lettuce. Mid June and not bitter.  6/24/2013. photo: PBH

Kale,  green beans and lettuce. Mid June and not bitter. 6/24/2013. photo: PBH

It is surprising to find salad greens and kale that are not bitter in mid June.  It’s been a beautiful early summer with plenty of rain and sunshine. So, my guess is that the lettuce and the kale are still tender because they are growing fast and picked as soon as they are mature.  A few days later, the lettuce still in the garden bolted and was very bitter.

Little kale leaves went into the salad bowl. Larger leaves were sautéed with garlic and cooked in a pasta dish with sweet red onions. Since kale is a super food loaded with nutrients. The next seeds of kale will be planted for fall harvest.

They’re Back! Zucchini season

The management and care of home grown zucchini

small zucchini

Space saving summer squash. Container grown zucchini from Renee’s Garden. photo courtesy Renee’s Garden

People are paying premium prices for squash blossoms at Farmers Markets. If you grow zucchini, (or any summer squash) you have access to one of the most popular summer food trends anywhere.

Stuffed, fried squash blossoms are a gourmet delight. It also solves the problem of too many zucchini. Eat those gorgeous flowers before they become a squash problem.

I have a gazillion recipes for zucchini on Pinterest. My favorite is chocolate zucchini cake. I sprinkle the top of the cake with mini chocolate chips before baking. I make two cakes in 8” square foil pans. One to eat as soon as it is cooled. When the second cake is completely cooled, cover it with foil and put it in the freezer. It’s a no-frosting-needed kind of cake. Perfect for picnics, the foil pan makes it very easy to bake and take.

You’ll have to try to believe it, but the zucchini pickles are great.

For all the joking about squash gone wild, I honestly have never had too many zucchini. I love it and only plant what I and the neighbors will eat. Then there are the squash vine borers that will suddenly end the steady supply of zucchini.

Save any extra seed by taping the packet closed or put it in a ziplock. Keep it in a cool, dry, dark place until next year.

Renee’s Garden has a little bush variety that can grow in a container. They have a quick return when you order seeds. There’s still time to grow a zucchini or two.

Obligatory zucchini joke

I have good news, and I have bad news. 

One day two zucchinis, were walking together down the road. They stepped off the curb and a speeding car came around the corner and ran one of them over. The uninjured zucchini called 911 and helped his injured friend as best he could.

The injured zucchini was taken to emergency at the hospital and rushed into surgery. After a long and agonizing wait, the doctor finally appeared. He told the uninjured zucchini, “I have good news, and I have bad news. The good news is that your friend is going to pull through.” “The bad news is that he’s going to be a vegetable for the rest of his life.”

Why are my superbells dying?

photo PBH

Cherry Star Superbells photo PBH


Why are my superbells dying? I water them every other day…they always seem to be dry?
They are in a hanging container that lets them drain well.

I live in California and they receive full sun all day.

Please help.



Hardy and steady blooming plus these bloomers are self cleaning.

Hardy and steady blooming plus these bloomers are self-cleaning. Photo by Patsy Bell Hobson.

My gardening friend, this is what I think.

Of course, I can’t see the problem, but my guess is that your container is too small or you should add some organic matter to the soil. Something like peat moss, core, grass clippings, shredded news paper. In CA, you should not have to water every other day.

The soil does not seem to have much water holding capacity. If, when you water, the water goes straight through the hanging basket, the water is not being absorbed by the soil or basket liner. That’s good, it tells us that the problem is:Proven-Winners-Logo-116x150

A. Too many plants in too small of a space.
B. poor quality soil mix.
C. You need a better and probably a bigger basket.

So, decide if you want fewer plants in your basket or, buy a bigger basket for all the flowers (Or divide the flowers making two baskets.)

Don’t give up on the Superbells, I have some that have overwinter and lived to bloom another year. They serve me well when other flowers are suffering the summer heat.

Soil quality it is important to give your plants the best home. So invest in a good soiless potting mix. I usually mix my own. But some times it’s just easier to buy

Organic Container Mix from Gardeners Supply loaded with peat moss, perlite. They also have a self watering variety that might solve your problem.

I am a great believer in starting with a good base of moisture holding, well draining potting soil.In my gardens I’m replacing peat with core. It’s cheaper, more readily available and a good environmental choice.


Watermelon slice was a butterfly magnet last spring. Photo PBH.

My advice is to start all over. Using the plants you have. Giving then a better or bigger root space will allow them to thrive.

Please let me know of your success and how you solved the problem.

Getting these reliable Superbell bloomers off to a good start and you will  have summer-long success. Patsy Bell Hobson in SE Missouri. email:

What’s wrong with my plant?

Hey garden guru. Picked up some PW super bells. Yard boy (otherwise known as Dan) planted them… And two days letter they are a wilted dying mess. Any ideas what might have gone wrong?  Becky

Becky, You made a good choice. Superbells are a favorite summer anual. I suggest you give it plenty of water. Even if the plant was well watered the surrounding dry soil will wick off the moisture.

A newly planted flower has yet to establish it’s root system. It needs extra water and attention for a few days until it is well rooted in it’s new home.

The Yard Boy did everything right, in fact, he deserves many tall, iced drinks.

Last summer I grew some beautiful superbells :

Beautiful! Proven Winners Superbells

Because we had such a mild winter, these Superbells survied the winter and are blooming again this year.

I’m growing more superbells this year.There is a new bright yellow and white striped superbell coming. Next spring, look for ‘Lemon Slice’ at the garden centers.


This year, I’m growing containers of mixed annuals. It is a test, to see if I can keep these full sun flowers well watered and blooming.

Superbells are a Calibrachoa. This  new type of plants looks like little Petunias. They are related.

Plants in containers live or die because we remember to water and fertilize. I love that you dont have to deadhead old flowers or pinch back stems.

Once established, water only when the top of the soil feels dry. Too much water makes  roots rot. Full sun. Fertilize once a month.

Only 6 – 10 inches tall, these long, trailing branches cascade over the sides of hanging baskets and containers, or spread over flower beds.

These superbells are hummingbird magnets.



Proven Winners Superbena Royale Iced Cherry Verbena

Look for this flower

Superbena Royale Iced Cherry Verbena hybrid and
Superbena Royale Peachy Keen Verbena hybrid

New, Superbena® Royale Iced Cherry, a verbena hybrid

Verbena are easy care choices for containers and hanging baskets.

If you are looking for a pop of color that will last all season, consider these bright annuals. Last spring, Proven Winners sent these two Superbena verbena hybrids to me for evaluation. This spring they are on the market and easy to find.

Butterfly magnet, Superbena Royale Iced Cherry Verbena hybrid

What I enjoyed was the low maintenance, easy care plants that just seemed to thrive in the full sun and summer heat. I planted these verbena in hanging baskets. They would be a good choice for a low growing pop of color in a flower bed or container.

Talk about easy care, these Superbena do not need deadheading, no trimming or pinching. Container plants are always dependent on us for water and I did regularly water them.

My plants were in full sun all day with only slight shade in the late afternoon. They were a good choice for the  patio, bold, nonfading flowers that attract butterfies. There was no sign of pests or disease. What could be better?

Peachy Keen Verbena

I would grow these Proven Winners Superbena hybrids again. They were a great choice for my humid, zone 6A, Southwest Missouri garden.

By the way, the Proven Winners site also has a tab showing Closest Proven Winners retailers (on the left side of the screen.) It sure makes it handy for finding and supporting local, independent retailers, the folks who are our neighbors. These are the knowledgable experts with practical hands-on experience and the best advice.

These faithful flowers come in several colors. One that caught my attention is this lavender Superbena® Royale Silverdust Verbena hybrid. See all your color choices at the PW site. Click here or just type in the name Superbena Royale Iced Cherry Verbena hybrid.

Beautiful! Proven Winners Superbells

Look for these Plants

Superbells Sweet Tart
Superbells Cherry Star
Superbells Grape Punch

Superbells® Sweet Tart2 - Calibrachoa

Superbells® Sweet Tart – Calibrachoa


Calibrachoas are related to petunias. But they are a new type of plant that can take the fierce drought and continue blooming through the first light frosts of early fall.

Hundreds of continuous  blooms were visited daily by the humingbirds.

If these sweet flowers sound familiar, I couldn’t wait to tell you about them this past summer. A First Look. The bright little trumpets were tumbling over the side of the the container.

Superbells Cherry Star Calibrachoa   photo: Proven Winners

This summer, I’m going to plant Superbells in hanging baskets because these are bright, attention getting colors. Hummers and butterflies love them.

And here is an interesting observation. These Superbells® Calibrachoa are still alive and green. The containers are sitting on my patio. Perhaps they will be as beautiful this summer as last. I’ll keep you posted.

Proven Winners sent these Superbells to me as a trial last summer. They will be in the garden centers this spring. The colors are intense, fadeproof, and do not need to be deadheaded. These little bells are fuss free.

I am buying these plants again. I can recommend these new flowers and suggest you look for these three Proven Winners:

Superbells® Cherry Star – Calibrachoa hybrid

Superbells® Grape Punch – Calibrachoa hybrid

Superbells® Sweet Tart – Calibrachoa hybrid

I like that you can find local retailers on their web site. Just type in your zip code find out where to buy this plant.

Superbells Grape Punch    Photo: Patsy Bell Hobson


Dragon Wing™ Red Begonia

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Dragon Wing™ Red Begonia
The Biggest Success in my garden last year was Dragon Wing™ Red Begonia. I have these begonia plants in a big 14” hanging basket. It took a couple of weeks and the basket was ablaze with pure red flowers. They bloomed all summer giving the patio a big burst of color.

These exotic looking Begonias have loose clusters of Red stop-and-look-at-me blooms. Glossy green, wing-shaped leaves support the beautiful Chinese red flowers. My plants are healthy and thriving in a full sun environment, but they will take part shade. Everybody looks better and does better with a little afternoon shade in summer, including begonias.

This trial plant has made me a convert. I am now a great fan of begonias thanks to Dragon Wing Red Begonia. You should know, if a plant survives the summer at my house, it must be hardy and thrive on neglect. Sure I plant them (home of the famous $10 hole for the $5 plant) and irregularly water. I fertilized these plants once during the summer.

Last summer was hell on most plants. Even the tomatoes stopped producing. Much to my delight, the Dragon Wing™ Red Begonia was non stop blooms all summer. Thanks to Dragon Wing™ Red Begonias, there were always a lot of flowers but no deadheading is needed.

The mail box planter is in the full sun all day. They are bright, beautiful, and attracting attention with their red floppy flowers. These Dragon Wings are thriving on the heat and humidity of my zone 6a southeast MO patio and mailbox planter.

Ball Horticulture sent this plant to me for evaluation last spring. Dragon Wings are a no fuss, low maintenance plant. I would use Dragon Wing Begonias again as an informal bedding or border plant. It’s one of the prettiest begonias I’ve seen.

Bonanza Deep Orange French Marigold

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French Marigold

Bonanza marigold (Tagetes patula) photo PBH

Bonanza Deep Orange French Marigold (Tagetes patula)

Marigolds are always in my garden. Every year Marigolds are included in the flower garden border. Faithful bloomers, even during the hottest of summer. Brilliant hot colors stretch into some of the last colors of the season.

Ball Horticulture sent this plant for trial last spring and I was happy to see it. Marigolds are drought tolerant, sturdy plants that need little care. It grew to about 10 inches tall, making a color splash where ever it is planted.

Marigold (Tagetes patula) photo PBH

I’m not nuts about the fragrance of marigolds but I love their looks and the coninus blooms all summer. This plant is a season stretching annual, bloomimg nonstop until we get that hard frost some time in October or November.

Look for the mix of yellow, gold-red, and bicolor flowers. The double crested flowers are one of the largest marigold flowers that I’ve grown. These marigolds did not have any insect or disease problems.

This Bonanza Deep Orange Marigold has bright, intense color, required little water and minimal fertilizer. The mounded green plants faithfuly bloom throughout the summer drought. It takes a hard freeze to kill them.

Look for the plants or the seed. I can never have too many marigolds.

More colors

Bonanza Gold French Marigold photo Ball

Bonanza Mix French Marigold photo Ball




Serena® Blue Angelonia

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Serena® Blue Angelonia

Serena® Blue Angelonia is a lush green plant with  true blue flower color.  photo by PBH

(Angelonia angustifolia) is some times called Summer Snapdragon. This sweet blue flower bloomed late spring, all summer and until frost.

No matter where you plant it, this perky upright flower is drought tolerant, heat tolerant and low maintenance. Honestly, this plant received no extra attention. I did not fertilize the angelonia all season. It did receive occasional watering during a long summer of drought.

I can only imagine how beautiful the angelonia would be with a little attention, regular watering and fertilizer. The plants reached over a foot tall with bright green foliage and narrow leaves. I planted this Ball trial in a raised bed in full sun.

The plant grew to just over a foot tall and at least that wide. Blooming nonstop all season, Angelonia needs no pinching or deadheading.

This Serena® Blue Angelonia is a clear blue upright continuous bloomer. Two more new varieties, Serena Waterfall Mixture Angelonia and Serena Mixture Improved Angelonia are beautiful color combinations. Also in this series are lavender, purple and white.

Serena® angelonia blue was a trial plant sent to me by Ball Horticultural Company  for evaluation. Angelonia is much hardier than the delicate looking blooms and foliage appear. It is truly care free. There was no hint of disease or insect damage.

I love the non fade blue color that was not phased by last summers extreme heat. I would buy this plant again and would recommend it to my friends.

More color choices:

Waterfall Mixture photo: Ball

Mixture Improved photo: Ball






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