|By Rosie Lerner
Yard & Garden
Consumer Horticulturist, Purdue Extension
This year brought a bumper crop of 11 new All-America Selections (AAS) garden flowers and vegetables judged to be superior based on their performance in test gardens all over the country.
Dianthus ‘Supra Purple’ was selected for its early and prolific blooming and improved heat tolerance. The 1.5-inch, fringed, purple blooms literally cover the 12-inch plants. ‘Supra Purple’ also makes excellent cut flowers and performs best in full sun.
Diascia integerrima ‘Diamonte Coral Rose’ was selected for early flowering, branching habit and long bloom season. This relatively unknown plant reaches just 8-10 inches tall with an 18-inch spreading habit, making it ideal for container gardening or as an edging plant. Diascia is related to snapdragons but is much larger in flower. The 1-inch blooms continue opening all season in full sun.
Nicotiana ‘Perfume Deep Purple’ was selected for the delicately fragrant, deep purple blooms. The single, 2-inch star-shaped flowers are produced on plants reaching 20 inches tall with a spread of 15-18 inches. This plant performs best in full sun but also adapts to part shade.
Salvia farinacea ‘Evolution’ was chosen for the 6-7-inch flower spikes that are distinctly violet, rather than the traditional blue. ‘Evolution’ is a medium-height annual reaching 16-24 inches tall.
Viola cornuta ‘Skippy XL Red-Gold’ won over the judges on its flower size, color and continuous bloom. The large, 1.5-inch, round flowers are ruby red with violet-red shading below the golden-yellow face containing penciling or whiskers. ‘Skippy XL Red-Gold’ promises heat tolerance combined with winter hardiness in protected locations. The compact habit reaches about 6 inches tall, spreading about 8 inches.
Zinnia ‘ Zowie ! Yellow Flame’ was selected for its unique bicolor pattern. The 3-4-inch semi-double bloom contains a scarlet/rose center with yellow petal edges, reminiscent of a yellow flame. Expect flowering plants in about 8-10 weeks from sowing seed. Plants will reach 24-29 inches tall, spreading 26-27 inches in full sun.
Ornamental Pepper ‘Black Pearl’ produces shiny, pearl-like, black peppers against a striking backdrop of black foliage when grown in full sun. The vigorous, compact plants reach just 18 inches tall and are quite heat tolerant. The peppers turn red as they mature and are edible, if you like fiery hot.
In the vegetable department, Carrot ‘Purple Haze’ is the first purple imperator-type carrot, reaching 10-12 inches long and tapering to a point. The purple beauty is only skin deep - the sliced, raw roots reveal a bright-orange center and cooking will dissolve the purple color. ‘Purple Haze’ can be harvested in about 70 days from sowing seed.
Cilantro ‘Delfino‘ is an improved selection with decorative fern-like foliage, ready to harvest in about 4-5 weeks from seed. Mature plants reach about 20 inches tall when grown in full sun. ‘Delfino‘ can also be grown for its flavorful seed, known as coriander.
‘Carmen’ is an improved Italian-type sweet pepper selected for early production of the distinctive horn-shaped peppers with wide shoulders, tapering to a smooth point. An excellent choice for container gardening, the upright plant reaches only 28 inches tall. Expect ripe peppers about 75 days from transplanting.
Chile Pepper ‘Mariachi’ was chosen for superior fruit size, early production, high yield and mildly hot flavor (500 to 600 Scoville heat units). The colorful fruit ripen from yellow to red, and flavor can become more pungent when plants are under heat or drought stress. ‘Mariachi’ produces an abundance of 3-4 inch peppers beginning about 65-68 days from transplanting.
AAS winners are selected from many new cultivars, based on performance in the garden as well as in the greenhouse. Although no plant offers a guarantee of success in an individual garden, AAS winners have proven themselves worthy over a broad range of growing conditions. AAS winners should be available through local garden centers and mail-order catalogs next spring. For more about these winners, visit www.all-americaselections.org/
Published in the December 7, 2005 issue of Farm World.