Every year I look forward to the announcement of the winners of the All America Selections award trials. This organization of volunteers oversees a wonderful program of trial gardens throughout North America to test new plant varieties released by seed houses.
The new varieties are tested against established varieties and must show a substantial improvement over existing varieties before they receive a nod from the judges that they are worthy of an AAS distinction.
From my experience of growing many former AAS award winners in my garden, I can attest to the success of the program as their winning varieties indeed are superior.
For 2013, the AAS judges gave the nod to three flowers and three vegetables. Let’s look at each one and see if we will want to fit some of them into our 2013 gardening plans.
The flower that caught my attention for sure is Canna ‘South Pacific Scarlet’. This is the first F1 hybrid to be grown from seed and the results are good; I grow a lot of cannas in my garden so I am very interested in trying this one out.
The plants grow about one and a half metres tall, and are heavily branched — each plant produces six to seven branches. It is a robust plant, with green foliage and scarlet blooms that occur earlier than those of most cannas.
One unusual trait is that this variety seems to tolerate early light fall frosts better than other cannas. I will be interested to see how early the seeds have to be planted to get blooming plants early in the summer — the literature doesn’t seem to mention this fact.
Another flower, Echinacea ‘Cheyenne Spirit’ was an AAS award winner. Echinacea are popular plants in prairie gardens and this variety continues their reputation for being durable, drought tolerant, and sturdy.
The range of colours, including dark purple, pink, red, orange, yellow cream and white, captured the judges’ attention, and of course, the fact that this variety can be grown from seed and produce blooming plants the first year earned it some bonus points.
I have grown Echinacea from seed before and I think I will try this variety. I hope the seed company will develop and market individual colours as I prefer that to a mix, but I may have to grow the mix, mark the plants according to colour and do some transplanting the following year to get the individual colours where I want them.
The final flower to receive a 2013 AAS winner designation was a geranium — and you all know about my love of geraniums.
Pelargonium ‘Pinto Premium White To Rose’ seems like a long and unusual moniker, but this is an unusual plant.
This geranium variety produces blooms that change colour as they mature. They start white and gradually develop a pink-rose colour as the blooms age.
The blooms themselves are large at 12 centimetres in diametre and the flowers are long lasting and stand up well to heat. Leaves have nice dark zonal markings — I think this would be a great container plant.
One tomato variety is a 2013 AAS winner. It is a Cherry Tomato ‘Jasper’, and it purports to produce a long harvest of good textured, sweet and uniformly sized tomatoes.
The fruit holds well on the vine and has some resistance to the common tomato diseases that seem to be so prevalent in our area. I love cherry tomatoes and like to experiment with new ones, so I may give this one a try.
For some reason I do not include melons in my summer garden and I am not sure why since we love to eat them.
Melon ‘Melemon’, chosen by the AAS judges for its sweet yet tart flavour as well as its crisp flesh, would be a good one introduction to growing these vegetables.
It is a more compact variety that most existing ones, although even so-called compact melons do take up considerable space in the garden.
The last vegetable to get an AAS award also is touted to have a compact growth habit; it is Watermelon ‘Harvest Moon’. It is a seedless variety with crisp pink-red flesh
It is an early variety suitable for prairie gardens and has the typical dark green rind with yellow dots. It would be great for a gardener in our area to be able to pick ripe watermelon off the vine.
Perhaps you will consider some of these new AAS award winners when you are planning your 2013 garden. They have proven their worth in trial gardens — one of them located not that far away at the International Peace Garden.
Albert Parsons is a consultant for garden design and landscaping who lives in Minnedosa.