By Heidi Sutton
If you’re like me, you are just chomping at the bit to get your garden started.
After a winter plagued with one snowstorm or nor’easter after another, it’s hard to believe that spring has finally arrived. Avid gardeners hibernating in their homes for what seemed like months have been keeping their spirits high by perusing the gardening catalogs for the latest plants and products, all the while patiently waiting for the ground to thaw.
In perfect timing, All-America Selections recently announced National Winners for 2018 — new varieties of flowers, fruits and vegetables that will do well in any climate throughout the United States and Canada. With fun names like Sweet American Dream, Super Hero Spry, Queeny Lime Orange, Valentine and South Pacific Orange, these cultivars are the best of the best, beating out thousands for the ultimate title.
Since 1932, this nonprofit organization has annually tested new varieties of flowers and vegetables in various locations throughout the United States and Canada. Judges look for improved qualities such as disease tolerance, early bloom or harvest dates, taste, unique colors and flavors, higher yield, length of flowering or harvest and overall performance.
Here’s what the judges had to say about some of the award winners:
1. Zinnia Queeny Lime Orange: A “WOW” color in an easy-to-grow zinnia is what this flowering annual brings to the garden. Sporting lovely, large, dahlia-like blooms on a sturdy, compact plant, this variety provides cut-flower gardeners and growers with a wonderful hue for today’s floral trends. The unique color evolves from dark coral/peach/orange to a light peach with a dark center as the flowers age and each uniform plant produces prolific deeply fluted blooms that last about 3 weeks without preservatives or feed.
2. Canna South Pacific Orange F1: This variety is more vigorous, more uniform and has more basal branching than comparison cannas. It offers an outstanding bloom color in an attractive, vivid bright orange that contrasts nicely with the bright green foliage. Pollinator gardens will love this addition of an attractive canna that sports uniformly colored flowers over a long blooming period. Bonus: This canna is grown from seed, not tuber, meaning less chance of succumbing to disease.
3. Marigold Super Hero Spry: Super Hero Spry is a lovely compact (10 to 12 inches) French marigold with dark maroon lower petals and golden yellow upper petals perched on top of the dark green foliage. The list of winning attributes includes a more uniform and stable color pattern, earlier to bloom and no deadheading required. These stunning blooms make any garden fit for a Super Hero!
4. Tomato Valentine F1: Hands down, the judges agreed this was the most appealing grape tomato they trialed. With an appetizing deep-red color, it has a very sweet taste and will hold longer on the vine without cracking or losing the excellent eating quality. The plant is quite prolific and will mature early (55 days from transplant). Gardeners should plan on staking the indeterminate vines for best results. Tomato lovers will appreciate the sweet, firm flesh that is meaty enough to resemble a Roma tomato but in a smaller, grape-type fruit. These easy-to-harvest tomatoes can take the summer heat and keep on producing.
5. Corn, Sweet American Dream: With its excellent germination, very tender, super sweet kernels, this newbie will make a great addition to the home garden. American Dream matures slightly earlier than the comparisons and produces vigorous, healthy plants with cobs that have good tip fill of bicolored kernels. Plants grow 6 to 7 feet tall and mature in 77 days after planting the seed. Perfect fresh, roasted, grilled, canned or frozen.
For a complete list of the new plants chosen by the AAS, as well as other information about the organization, visit its website at www.all-americaselections.org