University of Vermont Extension
Department of Plant and Soil Science

Winter News Article


Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension Professor
University of Vermont

The All-America Selections is a national non-profit organization of the horticulture industry.  Each year they receive the best new seed selections from breeders, and send them out to trial across North America.  Those showing a new trait such as color or habit, or an improvement over existing varieties, become All-America Selections (AAS) winners.  They must bloom from seed the first year, so most are annuals.  For 2005 there are three winning flowers.

From my pre-introduction trials this past season, Magellan Coral zinnia was my favorite and held up quite well during our unusually rainy summer.  As the All-America Selections description points out, the fully double, coral blooms truly are stunning and quite noticeable from a distance. 

Magellan Coral is an old-fashioned type zinnia, only with three improvements.  The flower color is new and unique.  The flower form is a very full four to six inches across.  And the plants are quite uniform in height, making nice full plants about one to one and a half feet high.  Also, unlike older varieties, the spent blooms are covered with new ones and so don't need "deadheading."  Although the flower stems are short, they are useful as cut flowers in short, summer bouquets.

There have been several new gaillardia, or blanket flowers, introduced in recent years including Arizona Sun this year.  This is an improved wildflower native to the American Great Plains.  In fact, all of its relatives are native to the Plains and the Southwest, which is interesting as it was named for Gaillard de Charentoneau, an eighteenth-century French patron of botany.  As it turns out, this plant's ancestors were studied and first named by a French botanist.

Arizona Sun definitely does not resemble a wildflower, with plants low (eight inches or so high), large uniform flowers (two to three inches across), and quite uniform among each other.  It does have the typical blanket flowers with mahogany red centers, and golden yellow petal tips.  These short stems can be used as cut flowers as well in low summer bouquets, or left on the plant to provide nectar for butterflies.  Although grown as an annual, blooming the first year from seed, in some areas it may overwinter as a perennial.

In the quest for blue flowers, First Kiss Blueberry comes closer and is the first vinca with violet-blue flowers and darker centers.  This is truly an annual, not hardy, native to the tropics.  It should not be confused with the perennial periwinkle (Vinca), this Madagascar periwinkle being in a different genus (Catharanthus). 

Although this vinca, as its kin, tolerate drought and love heat, First Kiss Blueberry performed surprisingly well during a cool, wet summer.  As with most annuals, these need full sun to perform best.  They have the glossy dark green leaves and one foot or less height of other annual vinca.  Place them in masses, along walks, or in raised beds or containers for best effect.

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