Choosing varieties to add to your production always involves some risk. What maintenance will the plant require? How will it stand up to inclement weather? What will it look like as it matures? Will it appeal to the consumer? To help answer these questions, various reputable associations test and evaluate plants each year and reward those that prove to be successful performers for growers, retailers and consumers alike.
In an effort to help you decide which plants to grow, GPN compiles information on the past year’s winners and presents them for you here. So clear some bench space, and make room for these brilliant beauties!
AMERICAN GARDEN AWARD
Dahlia ‘Dahlinova Hypnotica Lavender’ (Fides Oro). This dahlia is a beautifully strong plant with an amazing and striking flower color. ‘Dahlinova Hypnotica Lavender’ flowers over and over again. In a partly sunny environment, this variety will offer color all summer long.
Impatiens ‘SunPatiens Variegated Spreading White’ (Sakata). Although this variety is bred for the sun, it also performs well in shade and cool climates, surviving until the first hard frost. The large white flowers and striking variegated foliage make it an ideal plant in the “night garden.”
Petunia ‘Easy Wave Neon Rose’ (PanAmerican Seed). ‘Easy Wave Neon Rose’ offers vivid, eye-catching color. This variety is easy to flower under short days for early-season sales. These fast-growing spreading petunias bloom continuously all season without cutting or dead heading, and tolerate both hot and cool conditions very well.
PERENNIAL PLANT ASSOCIATION
Brunera ‘Jack Frost’ (Walters Gardens). Brunnera macrophylla ‘Jack Frost’ grows 18 inches tall and wide in a mounded form. This hardy perennial grows well in Zones 3 to 8. It has silvery leaves with green venation and a thin green margin. One common name for this perennial is heartleaf brunnera because the emerging leaf enlarges to a heart shape. It may be used along the front of the shade border, is excellent in a container, or can be combined with other groundcover perennials such as hostas, ferns and epimediums.
Vinca ‘Jams ‘N Jellies Blackberry’ (PanAmerican Seed). This superb accent plant will perform beautifully in combination with blue, pink, white or lavender. It has extremely unique, velvety deep-purple flower color with a white eye. Mature plants will reach 10 to 14 inches tall, making them a perfect medium height divider. The 2-inch flowers are complimented by deep-green, shiny leaves.
Watermelon ‘Faerie’ (Known-You Seed Co.). ‘Faerie’ is a non-traditional watermelon in that it has a creamy yellow rind with thin stripes yet still yields sweet pink-red flesh with a high sugar content and crisp texture. Home gardeners will like growing something unique in their gardens, and the fact that the vines are vigorous yet spread only to 11 feet means it takes up less space in the garden. Growers will appreciate the disease and insect tolerance as well as the prolific fruit set that starts early and continues throughout the season.
Salvia ‘Summer Jewel Pink’ (Takii & Co.) Sister to 2011 AAS winner salvia ‘Summer Jewel Red’, this dwarf-sized, compact plant has a prolific bloom count throughout the growing season. As a bonus, the blooms appear almost two weeks earlier than other pink salvias used as comparisons. Commercial growers will appreciate the earliness, good pack performance and uniformity.
Pepper ‘Cayenetta’ (Floranova Ltd.) ‘Cayenetta is a tasty, mildly spicy pepper that is easy to grow, even for novice gardeners. This 3- to 4-inch chili pepper yields large fruits from a well-branched, upright plant. It requires no staking, making it perfect for a container or patio planter. Unique to this variety is its cold tolerance as well as dense foliage cover to protect the fruits from sun scorch. It also handles heat extremely well.
Ornamental pepper ‘Black Olive’ (Seeds by Design). AAS judges said this entry was a standout, especially in Southern gardens where heat was a major factor during the 2011 trials. This variety kept its upright habit all season long with nicely draping leaves and dark purple/black fruit, which appeared in small clusters along the stems. As summer progresses, the fruits mature to ref giving a nice contrast against the dark-purple foliage and bright purple flowers.
Lewisia ‘Elise’ (Floragran). Unlike any current Lewisia cotyledon cultivars, ‘Elise’ flowers in the first season without a cold period and brings to the market an excitingly new, almost exotic annual for rockeries, beds and containers. This variety starts flowering four to five months after sowing. It has fleshy, succulent leaves and flowers in shares of pastel pink, rose, salmon, orange, white and yellow, and bicolor patterns.
Celosia ‘Arrabona’ (Research Institute for Fruitgrowing and Ornamentals). Named for an ancient Hungarian city, ‘Arrabona’ is a creation of Professor Dr. Zoltán Kováts, master breeder at the Research Institute in Budapest. Judges were particularly impressed with the variety’s vivid novel color. This striking red-orange celosia has outstanding garden performance and a long flowering season. It is tolerant to drought, loves the heat and is excellent for tropical, subtropical and continental climates.
Dahlia ‘Dalaya Yogi’ (Selecta Klemm). Growers and retailers visiting the trials fell for this variety’s charming pink flower with its contrasting dark centers. This early-flowering, medium vigorous, mildew-tolerant dahlia is a new addition to the current range of cutting-raised garden dahlias. Growers can successfully produce floriferous, sturdy plants from cuttings in eight to 10 weeks following a straightforward scheme of topping and pinching requiring no growth regulation.
AMERICAN HOSTA GROWERS ASSOCIATION
Hosta ‘Liberty’ (Machen 2000). This hosta was the sensation of the 2000 American Hosta Society convention. This sport of ‘Sagae’ features a wider, more dramatic margin. Like ‘Sagae’, the margin changes from yellow to creamy white by mid-season, and it has an upright, vase-shaped habit. Coupled with its mature size, it makes a stunning specimen plant.
ASSOCIATION OF SPECIALTY CUT FLOWER GROWERS
Lily ‘Royal Sunset’ (World Flower Breeding Co.) ‘Royal Sunset’ has soft, bright-pink blooms with golden yellow centers colored with dark speckles. This variety carries several upward-facing flowers on long stems. Its healthy stem length, disease resistance and tolerance to viruses make it exceptional as a cut flower and a garden specimen.
Zinnia ‘Queen Red Lime’ (Benary Seed). This variety was a favorite in the ASCFG Cut Flower Trials. Growers admired its unique, “old-fashioned” color, and its ability to produce straight stems without netting. Its continuous bloom from early August through frost provided a high flower count per plant.
Viburnum ‘Wentworth’. Although grown mainly for its large fruit, the striking red fall foliage of ‘Wentworth’ makes it a great multi-season cut. The red fruits are technically edible, but only for those with strong palates, and reach full color mid to late summer. Side shoots can be removed in the spring to enhance fruit send and improve presentation.