University of Vermont Extension 
Department of Plant and Soil Science

Winter News Article


By Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension Professor

Lisa Halvorsen, Extension Associate Professor
University of Vermont

Five flowers and four vegetables have made it into the All America Selections (AAS) winner's circle for 2001. One, a new zinnia variety, earned the AAS Gold Medal, an honor bestowed only rarely to varieties that are a breeding breakthrough.

The nine winners earned the AAS distinction by showing promise for superior performance or uniqueness at trials conducted by independent judges at various sites across the country. And the winners for 2001 are:

Zinnia 'Profusion White' was named an AAS Gold Medal Award winner for the length of bloom time, as well as being easy to grow. It is the only white zinnia with two and one-half inch single daisy-like flowers. It is resistant to powdery mildew, continuing to bloom profusely in the fall when most other zinnias have succumbed to mildew. This zinnia prefers full sun and does not require pinching back for continuous bloom. It's ideal for flower beds with a spread of 12 to 24 inches.

Three flowers have been named AAS Bedding Plant Award winners this year. They are Portulaca 'Margarita Rosita,' Eustoma 'Forever Blue,' and Nicotiana 'Avalon Bright Pink.'

'Margarita Rosita' is another easy-to-grow plant that likes the sun and heat and does better in dry conditions than wet. It is heat and drought tolerant and can be grown in the garden or in containers. It has a compact mound habit, spreading 12 to 14 inches under ideal growing conditions. Plants grow only three to four inches tall, producing large, one and one-half inch, semi-double, vibrant pink flowers on fleshy green leaves.

The distinct branching habit of 'Forever Blue' means an abundance of large, single purple-blue blooms, each about two and one-half inches in diameter. This lisianthus (estoma) likes the heat and needs full sun to reach its mature height of one foot. For best results, be sure to deadhead spent blossoms.

The third bedding plant award winner, 'Avalon Bright Pink,' can be grown in patio containers or in annual or perennial border plantings. Its small star-shaped blooms are an unusual shade of bright pastel pink, making this a good plant to use in distant beds as the color can be seen well from a distance. Plants are about 10 inches when mature and will spread 10 to 12 inches.

AAS Flower Award winner Sunflower 'Ring of Fire' is a five-inch sunflower with golden petal edges and a ring of red--thus the name--surrounding the rich chocolate brown center. It blooms later in the season, maturing 120 days after planting. Given the optimal growing conditions of full sun, this well-branched sunflower will reach heights of five feet. It makes a good cut flower or can be allowed to go to seed for wildlife.

Although the University of Vermont is not an official AAS trial site--there are only 30 in all of North America--it does maintain an AAS display garden at Waterfront Park in Burlington. Of the five 2001 AAS flower winners planted there this past wet summer, 'Profusion White' and 'Ring of Fire' did the best. 'Ring of Fire' also outperformed the two dozen other sunflower varieties trialed in a separate research project.

The AAS Vegetable Award winners include Sweet Corn 'Honey Select,' Pepper 'Giant Marconi,' Tomato 'Jolly,' and Onion 'Super Star.'

'Honey Select' lives up to its name by producing eight-inch ears with kernels with a sweet honey flavor. Unlike other supersweet types, it does not require isolation from other corn pollen. Ears mature in 79 days although can be picked over a longer period of time without loss of eating quality.

'Giant Marconi' is an improved Italian grilling pepper, which may be eaten raw but tastes best when grilled. This disease-resistant variety grows to 30 inches tall and produces six to eight-inch tapered green peppers that mature to red. The peppers, which have a sweet, smoky flavor, are ready for harvest about 72 days after transplanting.

A new pink tomato hybrid, 'Jolly' produces large clusters of one and one-half ounce peach-shaped fruit around 70 to 72 days after transplants are set in the garden. Although fairly easy-to-grow, vines require pruning and staking for an abundant harvest of meaty tomatoes.

The last AAS Vegetable Award winner is an improved white sweet onion suitable for all North American gardens. 'Super Star' matures in 100 days, producing onions weighing up to a pound or more. It is resistant to pink root. This mild flavored onion is excellent eaten raw in salads or sandwiches.

AAS award winners are available through mail order and at many garden centers. Look for the red, white, and blue shield-shaped logo.

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