Have your garden seed catalogs started to arrive? I have several so far, and when I see a plant name that I don't recognize, I am always happy if it has the All-America Selections logo in the description. I know these plants have been tested and proved to be excellent. Even AAS winners from several years ago are more likely to prove successful than non-winners
AAS is an independent nonprofit organization that tests new plants. It has approximately 80 test gardens from Alaska and Canada to California and Florida. It also has nearly 200 display gardens all across the continent that are not used for judging but to show gardeners how well the plants grow locally.
The judges evaluate the plants all season long, not just at an 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 do better in a hot, dry climate or a cool, humid region and wouldn't win a national award, so the country is divided into six regions, where plants might win one or more regional awards.
The flowering plants are evaluated for desirable qualities like novel flower forms, flower colors, flowers held above the leaves, fragrance, length of flowering season, and disease or pest tolerance or resistance.
This week, we discuss the flowers, and next week the vegetables.
Begonia Viking XL Red on Chocolate is a long name, fitting for a large begonia. Most bedding plant begonias grow less than a foot tall, but this one grows between 2 and 3 feet tall. The large leaves are a deep-bronze color. The plant is covered with vibrant red flowers. It seems to be more disease-resistant than most large-leaved begonias. It doesn't become floppy, like you might expect with such a large begonia, making it a good choice in both landscapes and containers. It is an annual that can be grown in full to partial sun.
Big Duck Gold F1 is a large flowering marigold on a compact plant. The 3-inch-wide golden-yellow flowers last longer than many marigolds. At 15 inches tall, the plant can be used in containers, in landscapes as mini hedges, on the back of the border plants or even as filler in new perennial beds. It is an annual that loves full sun and can tolerate dryer soil than most annuals.
The last nasturtium to be an AAS winner was in the 1930s. Baby Rose has rose-colored flowers that are unusual in nasturtiums. The flowers are held near the top of the leaves, so they don't flop over like many nasturtiums. The plant grows a compact 12 inches high. It is an excellent addition to a salad bowl garden because both the flowers and leaves are edible. They add great color and texture to a salad. A taste test may be necessary, as they can be a bit peppery. They grow in full to part sun and tolerate a slightly dry soil.
This newest color of the popular Wave petunias was one of the highest-scoring plants in the 2018 trials. Like the other Wave petunias, the large 2-to-2.5-inch flowers cover the plants. Maintenance on petunias can be a hassle, as you have to deadhead the plants regularly to keep the old flowers from ruining the display. Wave petunias need less deadheading because new blooms continuously cover the spent blooms. They do equally well in containers or hanging baskets the landscape.
Email questions to Jeff Rugg at [email protected] To find out more about Jeff Rugg and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.