When you are looking at garden catalogs and plants in the garden center, it is sometimes difficult to know how well a plant is going to do in your garden. All-America Selections is an independent nonprofit testing organization that tests new plants. It has more than 60 test gardens, from Alaska and Canada, to California and Florida. It also has over 175 display gardens all across the continent that are used not for judging but for showing gardeners how well the plants grow locally.
The judges evaluate the plants all season long, not just at the end of season harvest. Only the entries with the highest nationwide average score are considered to be worthy of a national AAS award. Some plants will do better in a hot, dry climate or a cool, humid region and therefore wouldn’t win a national award, so the country is divided into six regions and a plant might win one or more regional awards.
The flowering plants are evaluated for desirable qualities such as novel flower forms, flower colors, flowers held above the leaves, fragrance, length of flowering season, and disease or pest tolerance or resistance.
When you see the red, white and blue logo of AAS on seed packets and bedding plant tags or in catalogs, you can expect the plant to do well in your garden. Even AAS winners from several years ago are more likely to prove successful than non-winners. This week we discuss the flowers, and next week the vegetables.
I like canna plants, and the 2013 AAS winner South Pacific Scarlet has a new addition to the family. South Pacific Orange is unusual not only for its flower color but also for being grown from seeds, not division of the rhizomes. It is shorter than most other kinds of cannas, so it can be grown in containers. It will attract hummingbirds and butterflies. Buy the seeds early, and start them indoors a month or two before the date of the last frost.
FloriGlory Diana is a new variety of Cuphea, commonly known as Mexican Heather. It is commonly used in containers and hanging baskets. Gardeners will like the compact size (10 to 12 inches tall), longer flowering time, and drought and heat tolerance.
Baby’s Breath flowers are often so scattered and far apart on the plant that they don’t make a good display. The Gypsophila Gypsy White plant is much more compact; the flowers are larger; and there are a lot more flowers. This variety can be used by itself in containers and to fill spaces in flowerbeds.
Marigolds fell out of favor for a while, partly because the plants require deadheading of old flowers to stay looking good. Marigold Super Hero Spry will help people fall in love with marigolds again, as there is no deadheading required. The short 1-foot-tall plants are covered in bright red and orange flowers that will catch your eye.
Ornamental Pepper Onyx Red has dark-purple leaves that are very unusual. The bright red peppers shine above the leaves. This plant will be less than a foot tall in pots or the garden, but it will be so noticeable that it will seem to be a lot bigger.
Zinnia Queeny Lime Orange is 2 feet tall and has 3-inch flowers. Each flower has a bright red button center that is surrounded by greenish-yellow ray flowers. As the ray flowers mature, they spread out from the center and turn to orange. The resulting effect is the flower heads appear to be glowing.
Email questions to Jeff Rugg at [email protected]
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