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


Every year since 1932 trials have been conducted at a number of sites across the country to determine the best new or significantly improved varieties of flowers and vegetables. The best of the best are designated as All America Selections (AAS). In 67 years, 323 flowers, 17 bedding plants, and 255 vegetables have earned this prestigious label. This year, five flowers and four vegetables join the list of AAS winners.

W. Ray Hastings, president of the Southern Seedsmen's Association, proposed the idea of AAS as a way to introduce home gardeners to new varieties or ones proven superior to others on the market. The most AAS winners introduced in a given year was 30, in 1934. The first year there were 10 test sites. Today there are more than 60 test sites and 200 display gardens, including Waterfront Park in Burlington, Vt., where gardeners can view the most recent AAS winners.

The 2000 AAS flower winners are Cosmos 'Cosmic Orange,' Dianthus 'Melody Pink,' Sunflower 'Soraya,' Tithonia 'Fiesta Del Sol,' and Vinca 'Stardust Orchid.' Vegetables selected include Cabbage 'Savoy Express,' Pea 'Mr. Big,' Pepper 'Blushing Beauty,' and Sweet Corn 'Indian Summer.' Check seed catalogs and your local garden centers for seeds and bedding plants. AAS winners will be labeled with a distinctive red, white, and blue logo.

Cosmos 'Cosmic Orange' is a no-fuss annual that requires minimal care. It's pest- and disease-free and will grow to a height of 12 inches in a full sun garden. It produces bright orange, two-inch blossoms all summer long.

'Melody Pink' has lacy one-inch flowers with a serrated petal edge that are ideal for cut flower arrangements. Plants grow to 22 to 24 inches tall and are heat and cold tolerant. Its sprays of single pink blooms distinguish this variety from other Dianthus varieties.

Sunflower 'Soraya' is the first sunflower ever to be named an AAS winner. It produces four to six-inch blooms of orange petals with chocolate brown centers. Plants grow to six feet in a sunny location and do not require support. 'Soraya' blooms in 80 to 90 days. Flowers can be left to mature on the stem to produce seed for birds. At a Milton test site this variety did not live up to expectations, exhibiting poor vigor (growth) and a short bloom period. However, it may perform better in other parts of Vermont.

Under ideal conditions of high heat and humidity, Tithonia 'Fiesta Del Sol' will do well in any garden or as a container plant. Flowers are daisy-like, about two to three inches across, and orange in color. Mature plants are about two to three feet high. 'Fiesta Del Sol,' the first dwarf Mexican sunflower, is attractive to butterflies and makes an excellent cut flower for bouquets or arrangements. Its hairy leaves do not appeal to deer, so it's a good variety to try if deer are a problem in your garden.

Vinca 'Stardust Orchid' is basically pest-free and both heat and drought tolerant, making it an easy variety to grow. It will reach 14 to 16 inches in full sun and produces large one and one-half inch pastel blooms throughout the summer. The foliage is glossy and dark green, adding to its attractiveness. This variety did not perform well in trials here. It is probably not an ideal choice for Vermont gardens given the cool conditions typical for most parts of the state.

Cabbage 'Savoy Express' produces small heads (about one to one and one-half pounds) with a sweet, non-bitter flavor. It has a compact growth habit, allowing it to be planted at close spacing of about a foot apart in the garden. 'Savoy Express' heads are ready to eat in 55 days, making it the earliest of all Savoy (crinkled or waffle-like) cabbages to mature. This variety can be planted as a fall or spring crop.

The disease-resistant Pea 'Mr. Big' is a high-producing early English pea (58 to 62 days) with large pods that are easy to shell. It is an indeterminate vine that grows to two to three feet and needs vertical support. The peas are so sweet that there's no need to add butter.

Pepper 'Blushing Beauty' grows on compact, bushy plants with a mature height of about 18 inches. The peppers are sweet, thick-walled, and will change from ivory to pink to red as they mature. Peppers can be harvested at 72 to 75 days.

Sweet Corn 'Indian Summer' is the first sweet corn with festive colored kernels. This variety needs to be grown in isolation from other corn pollen. Ears are large, about eight inches when mature at about 79 days after the seed is sown. The color (yellow, white, red, and purple kernels) develops as the ears grow and will actually intensify when the ears are cooked.

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