2010 All-America Selections winners announced

Richard Bogren, Gill, Daniel J.  |  1/4/2011 1:07:42 AM

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For Release On Or After 01/01/10

By Dan Gill
LSU AgCenter Horticulturist

All-America Selections is a nonprofit organization that tests newly developed seed-grown varieties of 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 AAS winners were announced a year later after the results were tabulated for the first trial. 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 2010 AAS winners were judged in side-by-side comparison tests with standard varieties and were selected based entirely on the plants’ performance. Only those few varieties that demonstrate unique characteristics, exceptional productivity and superior garden performance make the All-American Selections list each year.

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

These are the four winners named for 2010.

AAS flower award winner – Gaillardia F1 Mesa Yellow

Mesa Yellow is the first hybrid blanket flower with a controlled plant habit and prolific flowering. Its performance was impressive at the LSU AgCenter’s Hammond Research Station in 2009.

The 3-inch, daisy-like flowers and globe-shaped seed heads offer a superior presentation of color that continues throughout the summer. The bright yellow flowers are rich in nectar and will attract butterflies. Especially notable is the improved plant habit of Mesa Yellow – they do not get tall, loose and floppy. The neat, mounded plants reach about 16 inches tall and about 20 inches wide in full sun and are adaptable to smaller gardens or any type of containers. When planted near the outside edge of the container, they will cascade down the container.

They are relatively maintenance-free because they are drought-tolerant and not prone to insect pests. Mesa Yellow plants recover quickly from severe weather and are best grown as summer bedding plants.

AAS bedding plant award winner – Snapdragon F1 Twinny Peach

Kids and adults alike enjoy pinching snapdragon flowers from the sides to make the dragonhead-shaped flowers “snap.” Twinny Peach, however, is a snapdragon without the snap. Why? Because it is a double-flower form that does not have the jaws or joints to snap.

Another unique quality is the blend of peach-tone colors. The soft shades of peach, yellow and light orange are distinct, and no other snapdragon offers this range of colors.

Plants are compact and don’t need staking – growing about 12 inches tall and 8 inches wide. Match Twinny Peach with blue tones of Salvia farinacea or purple-flowered pansies and your garden will be a knockout.

In full sun, Twinny Peach will produce abundant flower spikes with plenty to cut and place in vases for fresh indoor bouquets. Plants will continue to flower all season with little care. Best planted in fall or late winter, Twinny Peach will bloom over a long season.

AAS 2010 cool-season award winner – Viola F1 Endurio Sky Blue Martien

The color blue – true blue – is not common in flowers. That’s why plants that produce blue flowers are so treasured, and Endurio Sky Blue Martien is a welcome addition.

This unique spreading/mounding viola may look delicate, but it delivers tough-as-nails performance in the garden. It will flower throughout the cool season from late October through April when planted in fall. It also can be planted in early spring, covering planters and landscapes with sky-blue blooms until early May.

Like all violas, the flowers are relatively small, at just under an inch, but you will be amazed how they cover plants in beautiful sky blue. These spreading/mounding plants grow to 6 inches tall and 10-12 inches wide. Use these violas along with other cool-season bedding plants in window boxes and hanging gardens as well as in balcony and patio planters.

AAS bedding plant award winner – Zinnia Zahara Starlight Rose

Zahara zinnias are the result of hybridizing Zinnia elegans, the garden zinnia, with Zinnia angustifolia, the narrow-leaf zinnia. The results are compact plants with prolific flowers and excellent disease resistance. Zahara zinnias come in a variety of colors, and the rose-and-white bicolor flowers make Zahara Starlight Rose an excellent addition.

Grown in full sun with good air circulation, they have proven resistances to leaf spot and mildew, which can devastate healthy plants and cause early death. The unique flowers are white with a prominent star-shaped eye of rose – although the rose star may fade some in intense heat. These superior qualities resulted in long-lasting zinnia plants that provide generous color from late spring to late summer.

Zahara Starlight Rose is heat- and drought-tolerant and easy to grow. The mature plants are midsized, about 12 to 14 inches tall and wide – large enough to make a bold statement in beds, containers or patio planters.

Rick Bogren

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