Ball vs. Bob



Under some of the most rigorous testing conditions possible, I have decided to try the mettle of some Ball FloraPlant starts against basement-grown seedlings provided by my neighbor Bob. Most of the Allentown street planters have been filled with Bob’s seedlings. I usually add in some storebought plants just to let people know the containers have been planted—Bob’s seedlings are very small. I filled one planter (seen above) with only the Ball starts, which include petunias, marigolds, calibrachoa, and verbena.


Here are Bob's seedlings, planted at the same time (about 6 weeks ago). He's been sticking to the Tidal Wave petunias for the most part, in silver and purple varieties. He also gives me a couple flats of Blue Horizon ageratum (not used in this one) and some marigolds.

I know that many tend to turn up their noses at bedding annuals. I don’t. They provide cheerful, summer-long color for public beautification projects, like the ones in which I am involved, and I’m not ashamed to say that I really like a lot of these plants.  They’re beautiful and many have fragrance.

Not only that, but free is important. Bob donated his plants and Ball sent 2 boxes out of similar kindly impulses. Without free, beautification doesn’t happen—not these days.

The race is on.

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Elizabeth Licata has been a regular writer for  Garden Rant since 2007, after contributing a guest rant about the overuse of American flags in front gardens. She lives and gardens in Buffalo, N.Y., which, far from the frozen wasteland many assume it to be, is a lush paradise of gardens, historic architecture, galleries, museums, theaters, and fun. As editor of Buffalo Spree magazine,  Licata helps keep Western New Yorkers apprised about what is happening in their region. She is also a freelance writer and art curator, who’s been published in Fine Gardening, Horticulture, ArtNews, Art in America, the Village Voice, and many other publications. She does regular radio segments for the local NPR affiliate, WBFO.

Licata is involved with Garden Walk Buffalo, the largest free garden tour in the US and possibly the world, and has written the text for a book about Garden Walk. She has also written and edited several art-related books. Contact Elizabeth: ealicata at


  1. Both look great. I’m really glad I don’t have to choose between bright vibrant colors and cool pastels. With two containers you can have both.

  2. I appreciate that you didn’t just fill the containers with bedding annuals, but also put a nice tall, meaty plant (looks like cannas?) in the middle, to give the planters some structure. In my mind that’s the perfect use of petunias- low budget beautification projects, with something a little extra added to spice them up.

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