All-America Selections make good garden options

posted Jan. 2, 2018 9:20 a.m. (CDT)
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Get the new year off to a rousing start and choose All-America Selections for your 2018 garden. Since 1932, AAS has trialed and reviewed new varieties and published their list of winners. It never hurts to plant a few proven varieties to give yourself that extra edge for a successful garden.

The selection I am most excited about is the Hungarian Mexican Sunrise, a hybrid semi-hot fruit. This new pepper promises large yields and an early harvest. Quite tangy when fresh, the pickling process tames the heat and the pickled slices add a delightful piquancy to soups and salads.

Two other peppers made this year’s list. If you are a fan of truly hot, check out the Cayenne Pepper Red Ember or the Habanero Roulette. Both hybrids, the Red Ember cayenne matures earlier than the standard cayenne pepper, a feature important enough to Midwest gardeners to earn this pepper a slot as a winner. In what could pass as a “fake fruit,” the Habanero Roulette gives you the citrusy flavor of a true habanero, but with no heat. No heat at all! Productive and early to mature, it could add a new depth of flavor to your Mexican cuisine.

Three tomatoes also made the list. There’s the cocktail tomato, Red Racer. Larger than cherry tomatoes, these fruits are the perfect size for snack platters. Maturing in clumps on determinate vines, these tasty tidbits are perfect for container growing. Considered the most appealing grape tomato the judges had ever tried, the new Valentine produces loads of firm but tiny tomatoes on indeterminate vines. Slow to split, these morsels are incredibly sweet and delicious. For a more standard size tomato, look to Chef’s Choice Red F1. A part of the popular Chef’s Choice series, this cultivar produces 8-ounce beefsteak-like tomatoes with the “perfect balance of sweetness and acidity.”

There’s a new corn in town, namely American Dream, a bicolor hybrid that produces 7-inch cobs, full of deliciously sweet kernels in only 77 days. You can’t go wrong with this one. Perhaps not as sensational as a new breed of corn, there’s also a new Pak Choi in town. Asian Delight “outperformed the comparisons by leaps and bounds.” Praised for its refusal to bolt even under adverse conditions, the white rib is as tasty and tender as the leaves.

In the decorative category, several winners would stand out in your garden. First on the list is the compact canna, South Pacific Orange. Featuring a long blooming season of soft orange flowers, this canna is started from seed, not from bulbs and must be purchased as a plant or started indoors in mid-February. Easier to grow for sure, Marigold Super Hero Spry will give you loads of maroon and golden flowers which never need to be dead-headed.

Another sure winner is the zinnia Queeny Lime Orange, which offers large, dahlia-like blooms with color that evolves from dark coral/​peach/​orange to a light peach. These colors are popular this year and this plant wins the prize. There’s nothing like a few sprigs of baby’s breath to highlight your more colorful blooms and this year we have Gypsophila Gypsy White Improved. The flowers are not only a bit larger, but semi-double as well.

Last, but not least, there’s the Cuphea FloriGlory Diana. Also known as Mexican heather, this variety has larger flowers and is stunning in containers or borders. Rounding off the list with one more pepper, the ornamental Onyx Red offers a bevy of shiny red fruit offset by striking dark-black foliage.

Check for more details on all of these at https://​​winners.

Beverly Carney can be reached at

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