University of Vermont Extension 
Department of Plant and Soil Science

Winter News Article

Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension Professor
University of Vermont
One flower and three vegetables are among the top new flower and vegetable introductions for this coming year.  They have won the All-America Selections award for 2009.

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.  Since its inception 77 years ago there have been 675 winners.

Viola ‘Rain Blue and Purple’ is a new selection of the Johnny Jump-Up.  It performs well in our cooler northern climate.  Main features of this new flower are its color, many blooms, and creeping habit.  The small flowers, only about one and one-half inches across, are attractive purple and white changing to purple and blue.  This unusual trait of flowers changing color provides various colors at any one time, and throughout the season.  

This viola only grows about six inches tall, spreading to a foot or so.  If planting in masses, or edging a walk or garden, plant about a foot apart.  Also it performs well in window boxes and in combination planters. Try it underplanted with upright blue or purple mealy-cup sages, or mixed with white flowers such as alyssum.  Be careful not to plant with vigorous annuals such as petunias or it will get overrun.  Mix with red geraniums for a red, white and blue combination.  If starting these yourself from seeds, allow a little over two months (about 70 days) from sowing to flowering.
The melon 'Lambkin' is a vegetable award winner for this year.  It is a gourmet melon that matures early, and is easy to grow in either large containers or gardens.  The oval-shaped melon weighs between two and four pounds, and has a thin rind surrounding the sweet and aromatic white flesh inside-- perhaps the main reason for growing it.  It only takes a little over two months (65 to 75 days) after setting plants out until fruit ripen.  Since vines are vigorous, if planting in gardens allow six feet between plants.
This melon is among a group with a couple of descriptive common names.  Piel de sapo translates to "skin of the toad", referring to the yellow skin with green mottling.  Since it stores for a long time, it is called the Christmas melon. 
Eggplant 'Gretel' has small fruit on a small plant, making it perfect for small gardens and containers.  It has tender skin, few seeds, the sweetest flavor, and is the earliest of the white eggplants. Fruits can be harvested in less than 2 months (about 55 days) from transplanting.  Harvest regularly to get the most fruit set, and when fruits are at least three inches long.  Plants grow about three feet high, and the same or less wide so space two feet apart.
The third vegetable winner for 2009 is the squash 'Honey Bear', bred here in New England at the University of New Hampshire. (Many of our new introductions are bred in California or Asia.)  It is an acorn squash with a sweet flavor, and a tolerance to powdery mildew.  This is the common disease on squash with moisture and the cooler temperatures late in the season.  'Honey Bear' has a high yield of three to five fruits per plant.  Having a compact and bushy habit, this vegetable, too, is ideal for smaller gardens.  Reaching about two feet tall and about four feet across, space it about two feet by six feet or similar.  Plan on a little over three months (about 100 days) from sowing to harvest.

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.  For more details on these and past All-America winners, visit their website (

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