2009 All-America selections winners announced

Daniel Gill, Bogren, Richard C.  |  12/23/2008 11:03:47 PM

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Get It Growing For 01/02/09

By Dan Gill
LSU AgCenter Horticulturist

All-America Selections is a nonprofit organization that tests newly developed cultivated varieties of seed-grown bedding plants and vegetables in garden plots all across the United States. Duplicating conditions in the average home garden, the testing program is independent and unbiased. AAS was founded in 1932, and the first winners were announced a year later after the results of the first trial were tabulated. AAS Winners have been introduced each year since 1933, and AAS continues as the oldest, most-established international testing organization in North America.

As always, the 2009 AAS Winners were judged in side-by-side comparison tests with standard varieties and were selected based entirely on the plants’ performances. Only those few that demonstrate unique new characteristics, exceptional productivity and superior garden performance make the All-America Selections list each year.

So, when it comes to bedding plants and vegetables, those that are All-America Selection Winners are generally considered good choices. That’s not to say that every winner is going to be an outstanding choice for Louisiana – we may use them differently than gardeners in other parts of the country. For 2009, four winners have been named.

AAS Cool-season Bedding Plant Award Winner

Viola Rain Blue and Purple creates a spreading pool of cool blue colors in flowerbeds and containers. The plants are cold-tolerant and are best used as cool-season bedding plants in Louisiana. Plant transplants from November through March. Like other violas, Rain Blue and Purple produces flowers smaller than pansies. Don’t let this stop you from giving them a try because they produce flowers in such great quantities their color impact in the landscape is outstanding.

An especially appealing trait of this viola is that the 1 1/2-half inch blooms change color from purple-and-white to purple-and-blue as they mature. Few flowers change colors naturally, and Rain Blue and Purple is a lovely example. The 6-inch-tall plants spread 10 to 14 inches in the garden or container. The trailing habit is perfectly suited for hanging baskets or patio containers.

AAS Vegetable Award Winner

Eggplant Gretel is the earliest white eggplant available. Early production means beating the intense summer heat that can sometimes reduce harvests in Louisiana. The glossy-white mini-fruit are produced in clusters and can be harvested in 55 days after transplanting, depending upon growing conditions. Like all eggplants, Gretel will grow rapidly under warm temperatures.

Transplants are best planted into the garden in mid- to late April or early May. The pure-white fruits contain few seeds and are sweet with tender skin even if they mature beyond the ideal fruit size of 3 to 4 inches. This trait means gardeners have a longer timeline to harvest fruit.

Gretel plants are relatively small – about 3 feet wide and tall. This smaller size makes them adaptable to the popular trend of growing vegetables in containers. If you want to grow a plant in a container, use a rather large one about 16 inches deep.

AAS Vegetable Award Winner

Melons are all about sweet, juicy flesh and excellent flavor. And according to AAS, the melon Lambkin produces the delicious taste gardeners crave. The oval-shaped melon weighs between 2 and 4 pounds and has a thin rind surrounding sweet, aromatic, white, juicy flesh. Another outstanding characteristic is the earliness. Most other gourmet melons of this type mature much later than the 65 to 75 days of Lambkin.

Because of the early harvest, the vigorous vines can produce more melons. The yellow melon skin with green mottling is unique. Lambkin stores well and can be stored longer than other melons in a cool place such as a refrigerator. Seeds are best planted in the garden in April. The vigorous vines grow 6 feet or longer.

AAS Vegetable Award Winner

Acorn squash Honey Bear was bred to be baked and served in the half shell. The honey in Honey Bear refers to the sweet squash flavor when it’s cooked.

In addition to flavor, this squash has three outstanding qualities – a compact plant, high yields and tolerance to powdery mildew. The bushy, compact plant will reach 2 to 3 feet tall and spread 4 to 5 feet. It does not produce a long vine like most winter squashes. Each plant can be expected to produce about three to five fruit.

The dark green acorn squash weighs about a pound, which is a perfect size for sharing between two people. The yield is high due to the powdery mildew tolerance. At the end of the season, many acorn squash plants succumb to the mildew, and fruit on the plant never matures. Honey Bear continues to bear fruit throughout the growing season. The time from sowing seed in the garden until the harvest of the first squash will be about 100 days.

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

Editor: Rick Bogren at (225) 578-5839 or rbogren@agcenter.lsu.edu  

(Note to editors: Royalty-free line images and color photos of these four AAS winners are available online at www.aaswinners.com. When you get there, click on Journalists Only. Enter the User Name “journalist” and the password (PW) “winners.”)

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