Touring the Burpee Trial Gardens

Bob visits the Burpee trial gardens in Ambler, PA, to review the current and future catalog of plants and flowers.

Clip Summary

Bob visits the Burpee trial gardens in Ambler, PA, with George Ball, Burpee president and CEO. George explains the objectives of a trial garden and shows off new plants and flowers.
We're in Ambler Pennsylvania, just outside of Philadelphia, visiting the Burpee Company's trial gardens, and let's meet president of Burpee, George Bob.

Hi George. Good morning.

Good morning Bob.

How are you?

Fine thank you and welcome.

What is a trial garden?

Well its a Burpee catalog in living form.

Both the present catalog and the future catalogs to come.


So everything in here is kind of, in a way, experimental right?

Yeah, exactly its both the confirmation as well as future stuff.

So here we are Sharron Kazan [sp?], my chief gardner Bob.

Hi how are you?.

Nice to know you.

Nice to meet you.

What are you creating here Sharron? We're testing some new varieties and some old variety standards, trying different ways with pots and containers.

These looks suspiciously like flu liners.

They are.
We are using them because we wanted to give a different height variation and when we do design something one of the trials wanted to see how the plants do growing in them.

Keeps the plants, from invasive plants, from getting out of hand.

That's a mint that you have there, and boy I know how How invasive that can be.

That can take over your whole flower bed.

This is one way to grow it without a problem.


Plus get the hay.

OK, and what are some of the colorful things that we see here like this little yellow.

This is a sunflower that Burpee is very proud of this year.

Its called Elk and everybody can grow a sunflower.

But usually it get six feet tall.

Does this get very tall?


This is what it will be in a pot.

Exactly what your seeing.

Everybody can enjoy it.

And what is this little vignette on the ground in front of me?

We have a lot of plants we're trialing that are very dainty and tiny and we wanted to just show them in a form that's dainty and tiny.

Certainly is. This is cute.

This is a great project to do with your kids I guess.

Exactly, we call this the dollhouse.

Yeah, its very neat.

It gets very full and a child can sit in there and a little girl could play with all her dolls out here.

Now, George, my understanding of Burpee is that they really are a seed company and that they pioneered.

Yeah, seeds and plants.

We brought seeds over from Europe a hundred and twenty years ago, and Europe is like The cave, it's cool, it's dark and it's damp, and America is really sunny, very sunny and very hot.

So when the immigrants came over, we took their seeds and planted them in these test gardens, like you see here, and starting many years ago, and we created a race if you will or generation of American vegetables and American flowers that could take the high heat and the high humidity and the extremities of...

What kind of peppers are these?

This is a paprika.

Paprika, so is it a Hungarian?

Hungarian and those are Hungarian sweets over there.
The Hungarians love the really white skin on those Hungarian types, it's a very favorite thing.

Well, I'll tell you, we can talk about vegetables all day, because I love them, but we are really here to learn a little bit about flowering material.

The flowers. Sure, yeah, let's go over here and talk about the new flowers.

Now this is just cosmos right?

Yes, this is experimental variety that we're testing.
It blooms much earlier than your standard type and it doesn't get as floppy.

Now, does it have a name yet?

It's still experimental variety.

These came over from India on a routes to central Europe, and they're wonderful carpet-like colors and that's why the Germans and Poles really love them.


Now, next to it, I am familiar with this, it's a Marguerite, right?

Marguerite daisy, it's a chrysanthemum, an annual chrysanthemum, it has that lush buttery flower. It looks like the sun is shining.


It also has wonderful foliage for the garden which looks fresh.

And next year, hopefully you'll be able to find these in your garden center?

Absolutely, yeah. We're looking at the future here.

What's this?

This is the cockscomb. It's a tall cockscomb celosia cristata, a very tall form and it looks very exotic almost like alien and you want to use it as an accent plant. Very dramatic. Does very beautifully, has a rich color, and very tall. People like height nowadays.

Can you use this as a cut flower and bring it inside?

And you can also dry it, yes.

Neat. Now these are all annuals and I really want to learn more about perennials.

Let's go to our perfect perennial garden.

This is extraordinary.

Yeah, what you want in a perennial garden is a lot of space. So we got two borders facing each other, sort of mirroring in a classic border style. tile. English, Italian, American blend.

So, the size is one of the key things.

The size is the key thing here, Bob, because what you want height in a perennial garden. You want to mix it with some annuals. You want to sort of have variation in both time and space so you always have a show of color.

It's such a joy to walk through all these flowers that are quite this tall. There's something right here that catches my eye.

This is the coceana .


This is the verbena bonariensis. The beautiful tall Verbena.

What do you call this?

This is a rubrum lily, which is in the lilium family, and it consists of a bulb.

So it's a bulb that you plant, but it keeps coming back every year?

Yes .

And it's so fragrant.


Now, that's what I like about these things, they keep coming back every year, you don't have to buy more plants.

Right and a lot of texture as well as color. This one of the giants of the perennial garden.

What do you call this?

This is echinacea purpurea magnus and it's named after the fellow who bred it, although it is very large, it's a rich purple cone flower with a beautiful head and a wonderful intense petals and it was bred Island off Sweden in the 1960's.

So the common name is coneflower?

Purple coneflower, yes.

Fabulous, fabulous. And then over here you've got more of it and...


The way you balance the colors with the darker...


What is the plant with the dark red?

That's coleus, and although it's an annual, it does add a punch of color to the other perennials.

Yeah, nice rich color and texture. Here you don't you have a flower blooming, you have the foliage, in a sense, blooming and pouring out.


The rich, rich color with that...


Hot pink stripe down the middle of it.

An undervalued crop, that coleus crop.

Now what's on the other side of the hedge?

Let's take a look at some of our native plants.

So all of these plans are native to Pennsylvania?

To North America.

This is blinding. What is it?

This is rudbeckia gold storm.
Black eyed Susan.


Gold storm. And it was taken from North America to Germany and cultivated, made in to this gold storm, and then brought back and introduced. So it's sort of the opposite of what burpee normally does.

But can you start this from seed?


Neat. That's really terrific. And everything in here Looks vaguely familiar.

Well this looks just like the, what was it?

That's the Echinacea White Swan. This is the white cone flower.

It's very unusual. It's not quite as popular as the deep purple one.

And over there, we have the Joe Pye Weed. That's a real popular item.

Wow, that's very tall.
Now, what is it called, Joe Pye?

Joe Pye weed, Eupatorium.

And is that again a perennial, something you can start from seed?

Absolutely, so tall and it comes out from, no, this would come from plant, and this is so tall and it comes, it's great for insects.

You know, one of the the great things about natives that the insects love them so much and you get this glorious display in that you get height. You know, you're not always looking down, you're looking up.

Spectacular idea. Sharon great meeting you.

Thank you for the tour.

Nice to meet you.

George, thanks so much.


Happy gardening.

Alright and thank you.

Stick around. We'll be right back after these messages.