New All-America selection winners for 2008

Daniel Gill, Bogren, Richard C.  |  1/16/2008 3:50:07 AM

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Get It Growing News For 01/14/2008

By Dan Gill
LSU AgCenter Horticulturist

All-America Selections is a nonprofit organization for evaluating for home garden performance new seed-grown flowers and vegetables from around the world. Although using an All-America Selection Winner in your garden doesn’t guarantee success, these plants are often a good choice for reliable performance.

AAS bedding plant award winner

Osteospermum Asti White (Osteospermum ecklonis)

Pure white daisy flowers with blue centers are the main attraction for Asti White. The large blooms, 2 to 2 1/2 inches across are borne on stems that gracefully wave in the wind. The thick fleshy leaves indicate its drought tolerance, which makes this a preferred annual in any area subject to dry conditions.

Asti White is the first white Osteospermum, or Cape Daisy, propagated from seed. There are several advantages. The flowers will remain open under cloudy conditions, unlike other daisy flowers originating from South Africa, which typically close on overcast days. Asti White plants will flower uniformly about 17 weeks from planting seed. Gardeners have the choice of growing from seed or purchasing plants depending upon their resources.

Asti White plants will bloom and recover from a slight frost and are best grown in Louisiana during the cool months. They can be planted in the fall in South Louisiana and in early spring (March) in the northern part of the state. The uniform plants thrive in sunny, well-drained beds, reaching about 17 to 20 inches tall and wide. Asti White plants adapt perfectly to growing in containers, preferably 6-inch pots or larger.

As the intense heat of summer arrives, these plants will tend to lose steam and decline in blooms and appearance. During hot, rainy, mid-to-late-summer weather they are prone to root rot. For these reasons, once they are not performing well because of heat, feel free to replace them with heat-tolerant summer bedding plants.

AAS cool-season bedding plant award winner

Viola Skippy XL Plum-Gold (Viola cornuta)

Sunny gold colors highlight the bright flowers of Skippy XL Plum-Gold. The flowers are uniquely designed with plum shades surrounding the golden centers, which contain radiating black lines affectionately called whiskers. As is typical for violas, the blooms are smaller than pansies, about 1 1/2 inches, but are not to be underrated. The number of blooms produced more than make up for the size. Violas often cover themselves with sheets of colorful flowers, often outperforming pansies in landscape color impact.

Skippy XL Plum-Gold won the AAS Award for its ability to grow a lavish number of blooms. In the Louisiana garden, a fall planting will produce flowering golden faces throughout the winter and spring until about May. However, you can continue to plant violas through the winter and as late as March with good results. The petite plants grow 6 to 8 inches tall and wide and are an ideal choice for combination planters.

Gardeners can rely on Skippy XL Plum-Gold to provide abundant blooms whether growing in containers, window boxes or garden beds. Bedding plants may be available in garden centers this spring, although you may be more likely to see them next fall. Like their close relatives the pansies, cool-season, spring-planted violas should be planted by February or March at the latest.

2008 AAS vegetable award winner

Eggplant Hansel (Solanum melongena)

Best described as a miniature eggplant, Hansel is a smaller-sized plant with finger-sized clusters of fruit. Just because of its smaller size, don’t make the mistake of thinking it produces less fruit.

The strong-growing compact plants reaching less than 3 feet tall produce clusters of three to six fruits. They mature early, about 55 days from transplanting into warm soil. Gardeners in South Louisiana can plant in early to mid April or after, and gardeners in North Louisiana should plant in late April or May or after. This is about 10 days earlier than the comparison eggplant.

If the 3-inch fruit clusters are left on the plant, they grow in size but remain tender and non-bitter, unlike other eggplants. This trait offers gardeners flexibility in harvest. When you’re taking a much-needed vacation, the fruit will wait for you as long as it’s not a three-week cruise.

If you prefer to garden in containers, Hansel is highly recommended for container culture. Hansel adapts perfectly to container growing conditions and will produce abundantly in a five-gallon container. The diminutive plant fits on smaller patios or decks but provides high yields of shiny purple eggplants ready to marinate and grill. Hansel should be available as seed and young bedding plants in spring. Remember to plant eggplant transplants only after the weather is warm and settled, generally in April or May.

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.

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Contact: Dan Gill at (225) 578-2222 or dgill@agcenter.lsu.edu

Editor: Rick Bogren at (225) 578-2263 or rbogren@agcenter.lsu.edu

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