University of Vermont Extension 
Department of Plant and Soil Science

Winter/Spring News Article
Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension Professor
University of Vermont
Each year the best of the new flowers, blooming the first year from seed, and new vegetables are chosen as winners by the All-America Selections (AAS) program.  These winners are the result of trials across North America, against existing cultivars (cultivated varieties) where they exist.  In this program, the new introduction must show some new or improved trait. 
There are two new AAS winning flowers for 2014.  Gaura ‘Sparkle White’ is sometimes known as “beeblossom” as it is attractive to bees so a pollinator-friendly plant.  From a lower mound of foliage arch dainty stems, one to two feet long, and bearing white flowers tinged with a pink blush.  To me they resemble white moths moving with the breeze.  This improved gaura has a uniform flowering habit right through the summer, and blooms 10 to 12 weeks from sowing. Plant it among other flowers in beds or containers.  Generally grown as an annual, it may overwinter as a perennial where temperatures are above -10 degrees (F) or USDA zone 6.
Petunia ‘African Sunset’ is the second AAS winning flower for 2014.  The mounded, spreading plants reach one foot tall and about half again as wide.  Their main feature is the unique “designer” orange color, a rare color among petunias.  This one begins bloom just over two months from sowing seeds, and continues with many flowers through the summer. 
In addition, for the first time this year, regional winners have been named.  Although none are listed for the Northeast, most still should perform fine here, depending on conditions.  ‘Arabesque Red’ penstemon, or beard tongue, has upright spikes as its relatives, to about two feet tall.  On these through the season are tubular red and white flowers, attractive to hummingbirds.  Although this one blooms from seeds the first year, it is perennial in zone 6 or warmer.  It is the first penstemon to win in over 80 years of AAS trials, and won in several regions.
A new sunflower, ‘Suntastic Yellow with Black Center’, was a Great Lakes regional winner. Its claims are early flowering, repeat flowering (up to 3 times with 5 to 8 flowers each time), and low—only about two feet tall.
There were three AAS winning flowers in 2013 which you should consider too for this year’s garden.  Canna ‘South Pacific Scarlet’ is only the second canna to be a winner since this program began in 1933, the other being ‘Tropical Rose’ in 1992.  ‘South Pacific’ can reach 3 to 5 feet tall, with 6 to 7 flowering stems per plant, blooms being scarlet.  It blooms early, through much of the summer and, like other cannas, this tender perennial tolerates wet conditions as along pond edges. 
Echinacea ‘Cheyenne Spirit’ is a 2013 coneflower winner, the only other one being ‘PowWow Wild Berry’ in 2010.  This selection is actually a mix, plants coming in colors of purple, pink, orange, light yellow, cream, and white.  Even though a hardy perennial, this coneflower will bloom the first year from seed.  Just allow plenty of time, though, from sowing to first flowers—24 weeks—meaning a January sowing.  Otherwise, you’ll need to wait another year to see the flowers.
Geranium ‘Pinto Premium White to Rose’ from 2013 is noted for its unique flower color—starting white and changing to rose.  Also, its blooms are earlier than many geraniums, large (to 5-inches across), long-lasting, and don’t need picking off when through bloom (“dead-heading”). 
All these flowers grow best in well-drained soils, and full sun. Keep well-fertilized after planting.  Ratings on how previous winners to this year, and many other new flowers, have performed at our AAS display garden on the Burlington waterfront can be found online (  More All-America Selections, both flowers and vegetables, can be found on their website (

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