One way that I know a plant could work well in my garden is by looking for the red, white and blue logo of All-America Selections on seed packets, bedding plant tags or in catalogs. Even AAS winners from several years ago are more likely to prove successful than nonwinners.
The AAS testing program is an independent nonprofit organization that tests new plants. They have about 80 test gardens from Alaska and Canada to California and Florida. They also have almost 200 display gardens all across the continent that are not used for judging but are used to show gardeners how well the plants grow locally.
The judges evaluate the plants all season long, not just 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 will 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 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. This week we discuss the flowers and next week, the vegetables. This year, the AAS produced several first-time winners.
Coral Candy is the first seed coleus to ever win the coveted AAS Winner designation. It has unique, multicolored foliage on a uniformly compact plant. This new plant form has narrow, serrated leaves that gracefully drape down the mounded plants. The judges noted that this variety holds its color well, even when grown in full sun. This variety was entered into the container trial, meaning it’s perfect for small space gardens. Most coleus plants begin producing straggly flower stalks by the middle of summer, but Coral Candy had almost no flowers, even late in the season. Just three seeds will produce big enough plants to fill a 14- to 16-inch pot.
I want this first-time winner in my garden. I have grown colocasias with plain green leaves, but never again as this plant is very striking. Waikiki was entered into the non-seed container trial, but it can be grown in the garden. It has large glossy leaves with a bold leaf coloration featuring pink veins and creamy white centers. Waikiki is part of the Royal Hawaiian series and produces these striking colors earlier than other variegated leaf colocasia. The deep burgundy stems produce a lush, compact plant that holds up well even in wind and rain.
Artisan Yellow Ombre is a vibrant yellow echinacea. It has color all season long in the perennial garden, or you can use it as a cut flower. It has a uniform growth habit, and the multi-branched plants produce a prolific number of flowers. Pollinators will flock to this echinacea, and gardeners will love this low-maintenance, long-blooming beauty. Hardy in zones 4a to 10b.
The first-ever groundcover Shasta daisy, Carpet Angel is daylength neutral, meaning earlier blooms that continue all season long. Large 3-inch flowers cover the 6-inch-tall plants that grow up to 20 inches wide. A little deadheading of spent flowers will reward you with even more blooms. Hardy in zones 4a-10b.
Blue by You salvia has rich blue flowers that bloom from late spring into fall. It is adored all season long by hummingbirds and butterflies and it is not favored by deer or rabbits. Hardy in zones 4b to 9a.
DoubleShot Snapdragon Orange Bicolor is part of a new series of intermediate-height snaps perfect for the garden or as cut flowers. The stunning open-faced double flowers emerge in beautiful warm shades of orange and orange-red that transition to a dusty shade as they age. Trialed in both the in-ground and container trial, DoubleShot will be your new go-to snapdragon.
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.