Daniel Gill, Merrill, Thomas A. | 1/9/2007 2:51:00 AM
By Dan Gill
LSU AgCenter Horticulturist
Gardeners are always looking for reliable new plants they can try. When it comes to bedding plants and vegetables, the All-America Selection Winners generally are considered good choices, and four of those have been named for 2007.
All-America Selections is a nonprofit organization that tests newly developed cultivars of flowers and vegetables in garden plots all across the United Sates. Duplicating conditions found in average home gardens, the testing program is independent and unbiased.
The organization was founded in 1932, and the first All-America Selection Winners were announced a year later – after the results were tabulated for the first trial. AAS Winners have been introduced each year since 1933, making AAS the oldest, most established international testing organization in North America.
The 2007 All-America Selection Winners were judged in side-by-side comparison tests with standard varieties and were selected based entirely on their performance. Only those few cultivars that demonstrate unique new characteristics, exceptional productivity and superior garden performance make the All-American Selections list each year.
Flower Award Winner
Among those named this year is one flower – Celosia ‘Fresh Look Gold.’
Celosia ‘Fresh Look Gold’ is said to be correctly named, since these plants look as fresh in late summer as they did when planted in the spring. Plant this warm-season bedding plant in sunny, well-prepared beds after the danger of frost is behind us, and these plants will produce bright golden plumes that remain colorful all season and do not brown with maturity.
Since the plumes remain attractive, there is no reason to deadhead. The golden plumes can be woven into a garden bed like a living tapestry, because the plumes have a soft layered texture. ‘Fresh Look Gold’ proved to be heat, humidity and rain tolerant in AAS trials across North America. Plants will grow to a height of 1 foot and should be spaced 10 inches to 12 inches apart.
Bedding Plant Award Winners
Two bedding plants received the All-America Selection designation this year. They are Petunia ‘Opera Supreme Pink Morn’ and Vinca ‘Pacifica Burgundy Halo.’
Petunia ‘Opera Supreme Pink Morn’ produces iridescent pink blooms that are the unique feature of this vigorous trailing petunia. A silvery shine that gives the blooms a shimmer is even noticeable from a distance.
The 2.5-inch flowers are pink, shading to creamy white in the center, with a yellow throat. When these three colors appear in the flowers a petunia produces, the petunia is named a "morn" type.
‘Opera Supreme Pink Morn’ plants have many qualities that every gardener wants to find. Plants are continuously flowering, so gardeners can relax and let the plants do what comes naturally – flower.
These hybrid plants are capable of growing 3-feet wide in sunny locations. This spreading quality covers garden soil and can choke weeds beautifully. But plants attain a height of only 4 inches to 6 inches. ‘Opera Supreme Pink Morn’ also can be relied on for exceptional garden performance without pruning or deadheading. Less work enables gardeners more leisure time in the garden.
In Louisiana, petunias are best grown during the cool season, so plant transplants as soon as they become available at area nurseries in late winter or early spring.
Vinca ‘Pacifica Burgundy Halo’ is the first vinca with a burgundy halo surrounding a large white center. This bicolor bloom provides a vivid contrast, which is exceptionally visible in an annual garden.
Early flowering with a well-balanced plant form, ‘Pacifica Burgundy Halo’ is recommended for summer flower gardens because of its exceptional heat and drought tolerance. In a full sun garden location, these vincas will reach a foot tall and wide when mature.
Due to the ease of growing and continuous flowering, ‘Pacifica Burgundy Halo’ is perfectly suitable for any garden or patio planters that receive sun. Because a vinca needs less water than other annuals, planting ‘Pacifica Burgundy Halo’ in containers means fewer trips with the hose to water it. Plant vincas into your garden after the weather has warmed up in early May.
Vegetable Award Winner
Finally, the vegetable award winner named this year is Pepper ‘Holy Molé.’
Pepper ‘Holy Molé’ has a memorable name, and this plant will provide a memorable harvest of peppers. It is the first hybrid pasilla-type pepper – the kind of pepper that is used to make the famous molé sauce.
‘Holy Molé’ showed improved vigor, earliness and considerably higher yield than the comparison plants in side-by-side trials. A reason for the higher yield is the virus resistances bred into this cultivar. ‘Holy Molé’ is resistant to two common viruses that stunt plants and reduce pepper production.
The immature green peppers are 7 inches to 9 inches long and can be harvested in about 85 days from transplanting. If fruit is left on the plant, it will mature to a dark chocolate color. The pepper flavor is nutty and tangy. Mature plants are 3 feet tall; a perfect size for patio containers.
‘Holy Molé’ is easily grown in a sunny location and thrives on summer heat. Plant them in late March or April after the danger of frosts is past.
Get It Growing is a weekly feature on home lawn and garden topics prepared by experts in the LSU AgCenter. For more information on such topics, contact your parish LSU AgCenter Extension office or visit our Web site at www.lsuagcenter.com. A wide range of publications and a variety of other resources are available.