Dr. Leonard Perry
Extension Nursery and Greenhouse Crops Specialist
University of Vermont
With patriotism reaching a new high in
recent months, planting All-America Selections (AAS)
flowers in the garden seems very appropriate. And you
have plenty of choices this year as eight new varieties
have earned the AAS designation for 2002, along with
five vegetables for a total of 13 winners.
How does a flower become an AAS winner?
Each year promising new varieties, as determined by
plant breeders and seed producers, are trialled at
more than 60 sites across the country. Those that outperform
similar existing varieties earn the title, “All-America
One of the requirements to be a winner
is that the flower must bloom well the first year.
In the past this limited the winners to annuals, which
only bloom for one year. But with recent breeding advances,
new perennial varieties are being developed that not
only bloom well the first year from seeding (unlike
most perennials), but will overwinter to bloom year
The 2002 AAS winners include two petunias,
‘Lavender Wave’ and ‘Tidal Wave Silver.’ The first
is a flowering ground cover, which grows to only six
inches high but may spread four feet, forming a dense
mat of two-inch lavender flowers. It does not require
pinching or pruning like most petunias and will tolerate
heat and severe weather. This variety prefers full
sun and nutrient-rich soil and can be grown in hanging
baskets and window boxes or as a ground plant.
‘Tidal Wave Silver’ differs from other
petunias in flower color and growth habit. The blooms
are exceptionally attractive, changing from a silvery
white to a light lavender with a dark purple throat
and slight veins. The plant grows into a massive wave
(thus, the name) of flowers about 16 to 36 inches tall,
depending on garden spacing. Taller plants may require
trellising. Like ‘Lavender Wave,’ no pruning or pinching
back is needed.
Geranium ‘Black Magic Rose’ made the list
for its unusual foliage and exceptional vigor. It is
the first hybrid geranium with dark chocolate colored
leaf centers with green edges. The bright rose florets
have a white eye and are about one and one-half inches
in diameter. For best results, plant this prolific
bloomer in full sun.
Cleome ‘Sparkler Blush,’ the first dwarf
cleome, is the perfect choice for small garden spaces.
This old-fashioned annual can be grown from seed or
plants and grows to a height of three feet although
requires no staking. The florets are one and one-half
inches in diameter and pink in color maturing to white.
The foliage is an attractive dark green.
The first pansy with blue and yellow bicolor
blooms and black “whiskers,” Pansy ‘Ultima
Morpho,’ also was selected as a 2002 AAS winner. In
addition to its unique pastel blooms, which range in
color from all blue to mainly yellow and everything
in between, this plant is a joy to grow because it
is heat-tolerant, a prolific bloomer, and can be started
from seed. It grows five to nine inches high and gets
its unusual name from the Morpho butterfly, which has
the same coloration.
Vinca ‘Jaio Scarlet Eye’ has vibrant,
scarlet red, two-inch flowers with rose tones, a new
color for the vinca family. Bloom is continuous from
May until a killing frost, making it an ideal plant
for an annuals garden or to add color to a perennial
bed. This vinca, which attains a height of about a
foot at full maturity, is heat and drought tolerant.
It requires no pinching back. It can be grown from
seed although grows slowly and needs temperatures of
75 degrees or higher to get established.
A cone flower also earned a spot among
the AAS winners this year. Rudbeckia Hirta ‘Cherokee
Sunset’ produces gorgeous double and semi-double flowers
in autumn colors like bronze, yellow, orange, and mahogany.
Flowers are about four inches in size and grow on plants
24 to 30 inches tall. Some staking may be needed as
the plants are upright and branching. This perennial
makes an excellent cut flower although may not overwinter
well in cold climates like Vermont.
The final winner for 2002 is Ornamental
Pepper ‘Chilly Chili.’ Although the two-inch tapered
peppers are edible, most gardeners grow this ornamental
plant for autumn centerpieces, wreaths, and other crafts.
The tiny red, yellow, and orange peppers also add color
to the annual garden or container plantings. The eight
to 12 inch plants prefer full sun and will tolerate
extreme heat and humidity.
All these flowers are available through
mail order catalogs and at garden centers, either as
potted plants or seeds. Look for the red, white, and
blue shield logo, the sign of an AAS winner.