Winter is for dreaming about the garden.
It's always exciting when AAS announces their winning varieties for the season. Since 1932, All-America Selections has been testing plants and choosing their favorites..
They have trial grounds all over the country where new varieties are grown and tested. There's one in South Park run by my friend Denise Schreiber, the greenhouse manager for Allegheny County Parks. During the season you can stop by and see how next year's plants are doing. It's always fun to get a sneak peak at what's being grown.
Some of my favorite plants are AAS selections including 'Torch' tithonia (1951), 'Juliet' tomato (1999) and many more. The fact that they are grown in many different regions under a variety of conditions. Until this year all plants were started from seed, but now AAS has started testing plants which are propagated vegetatively. In some cases it's easier for growers to make more plants through cuttings and other techniques.
The first two winners grown this way are impatiens. Impatiens SunPatiens 'Spreading Shell Pink' and Bounce Pink Flame PPAF 'Balboufink.'
I've grown the SunPatiens series, it's performed well for me. Even though SunPatiens are bred to take more light than standard impatiens, I find them a perfect substitution in shady areas. They are immune to downy impatiens mildew, a disease which has become virulent across the country.
The Bounce series is also immune. They are bred to look like the Impatiens walleriana we normally grow as a bedding plant but will not succumb to the disease like walleriana does. The bounce series is named for its ability to return to form with watering after a dry period.
There were 10 varieties grown from seed which also won this year. One regional winner which sounds interesting is a thick walled hat wax pepper called 'Hot Sunset.' It's brings the heat, but also offers great flavor, sets early and produces all season long. There are some other interesting peppers which won too.
Basil 'Dolce Fresca' stays pretty all season and is compact, only reaching two feet tall maximum. After harvesting, the plant rebounds quickly and retains its compact shape. I'm always looking for plant like this which can be planted in corners and other tight spots in the vegetable garden. Basil is a wonderful ornamental plant too. I've grown them in hanging baskets in consort with flowers.
Another plant I'm intrigued with is salvia 'Summer Jewel White.' I saw red and pink varieties of this plant last year, they were beautiful and prolific. This is a great way to get a tough sun lover with white flowers in the garden.
All of the winners will be available locally or through the Internet. Adding something new to grow along side old favorites is one of the fun things about gardening.
The AAS website has a complete list of this year's winners and every plant which has ever one the coveted title of All-America Selection. You might be surprised to find how many of your favorites are listed. I love to look through the older listings to find plants which have gone out of fashion. I know any plants which capture my attention will perform well in the garden.
There's also an AAS display garden at Schenley Plaza which I did a story and video on last season. Spending time in that garden is a great way to get ideas for your own plantings.
Winter is for garden dreams, planning and making lists for next year's season. There are plenty of cool AAS winners to consider.