University of Vermont Extension 
Department of Plant and Soil Science

Spring News Article

Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension Professor
University of Vermont
A viola, African daisy, and eggplant are among the top new flower and vegetable introductions for this coming year.  They have won the All-America Selections award for 2008.

The All-America Selections program is an awards program for new flower and vegetable introductions, grown from seeds, and that must bloom the first year in the case of flowers.  So if a perennial blooms the first year, it too could be a winner in addition to the usual annual flowers.  New introductions are tested first at 48 trial locations across North America.  Those that perform best, and are improvements over similar varieties (if they exist) are awarded this designation.  They are then showcased at 178 display gardens, one of which is our Burlington Waterfront Park.

The program celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2007.  Since its inception there have been 668 winners.  The most flowers to win in a year was 32 in 1934, the lowest was one in 1954 and 1976, with an average of almost nine winners a year.  The flower with the most winners (65) has been the petunia.  The vegetable with the most winners (36) has been beans.

Viola ‘Skippy XL Plum-Gold’ performs well in our cooler northern climate.  The small flowers, only about one and one-half inches across, are attractive plum shades with golden centers (often called the “face” in violas and pansies).  A main feature of this new flower are not only its color, but its many blooms. 

This viola only grows about six to eight inches tall, making it great for edging a walk or garden, window boxes, or in combination planters.  It will provide color early in the season before other annual flowers become showy and fill in the spaces it provides, dying back later in hot seasons.

African daisy or osteospermum ‘Asti White’ has pure white daisy flowers with blue centers—a unique combination for most flowers.  Blooms are large, up to two inches or more across, and held on stalks about a foot or more high.  A main feature of this new flower is its color, the first such in varieties of this species grown from seeds. 

Like other African or cape daisies, this one tolerates drought, and doesn’t like to remain too wet. These plants also tolerate slight frost, so can be planted earlier than more tender annual flowers.  ‘Asti White’ is attractive in masses, along walks or in large containers.  Since white is such a powerful color, try this plant with other white flowers, or in small numbers with blue flowers such as mealy-cup sage or lobelia.

Eggplant ‘Hansel’ is the only vegetable winner for this year, and has several advantages over other eggplants.  It has fewer seeds than most, the fruit is tender and non-bitter, and the fruit can be harvested from three to a full ten inches.  It remains tender and sweet at all sizes of harvest, beginning about 55 days from sowing the seeds. Being a small plant, less than three feet high at maturity, it can be grown in large containers as well as in the garden. 

Ask your local garden store or greenhouse if they will carry these All-America selections this year, otherwise you may need to start them yourself from seeds.  Look for seeds in mail-order catalogs, and seed racks this spring at your local garden store. 

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