The best of the best can mean so many different things. How does one association define “best” compared to the next? All-American Selections (AAS) winners are judged and recognized for their consistency to thrive in all areas of North America, plus their exceptional vigor, quality and productivity. The American Hosta Growers Association (AHGA) established the AHGA Hosta of the Year in 1996. The winning hostas, selected by AHGA members, through a vote, are considered good garden plants throughout the country, are readily available and have a retail price of approximately $15. Fleuroselect winners are tested at trials in Europe, Israel and South Africa. Indoor pack performance, annual garden performance, pot and garden performance of first-year-flowering perennials and indoor pot performance are just some of the conditions that could be tested depending on the what type of flower is being judged. Florastar judges look at plant habit and form, genetic uniformity, ease of culture, fragrance, earliness, disease resistance, holding and shipping ability, longevity and an overall impression. The Perennial Plant Association (PPA) looks at a plant’s suitability for a range of climates, maintenance requirements, how easily it can be propagated and if it exhibits multiple-season interest. And now the winners…
‘Perfume Deep Purple’ (Floranova). Nicotiana x sanderae ‘Perfume Deep Purple’ has a flower size of 2 inches and a garden height of 20 inches. Plugs and seedlings can be transplanted directly into packs or 4-inch pots and should stay in a well-ventilated, unshaded glasshouse. A well-drained soilless compost, with a pH of 5.8-6.0, is recommended. Night temperatures should be between 50 and 60° F. Ventilate during the day at 55° F. Perfume is vigorous, and the breeder suggests controlling the habit by restricting water and growing plants cool but emphasizes that each grower should conduct trials before implementing this system. A well-balanced liquid fertilizer should be used. Whitefly, aphids and thrips are the major insects, and downy mildew is the most common disease on nicotiana.
‘Black Pearl’ (PanAmerican Seed). Ornamental pepper ‘Black Pearl’ has excellent vigor with black fruit and foliage, making it good for mixed containers. When growing ‘Black Pearl’ use a well-drained, disease-free, soilless medium with a pH of 5.5-6.3. Night temperatures should stay between 65 and 70° F, with day temperatures between 68 and 80° F. A 20-10-20 fertilization should take place at every other irrigation. ‘Black Pearl’ has a garden height of 14-18 inches and a spread of 12-16 inches. The breeder also suggests that high light levels and spacing will keep plants from stretching.
‘Zowie! Yellow Flame’ (Goldsmith Seeds). ‘Zowie! Yellow Flame’ is an F1 zinnia that will spread 26-27 inches and reach a height of 24-29 inches. This zinnia is also ideal as a cut flower and has a scarlet/rose center with yellow petal edges. Yellow flame prefers warm soil and growing conditions. Maximum sunlight is required. In warmer, Southern locations, seed can be sown directly into warm, prepared garden soil or containers.
‘Diamonte Coral Rose’ (PanAmerican Seed). Intense branching on this Diascia barberae creates a dense, mounded habit. It is a cool-season crop suited for spring and autumn bedding and mixed containers. To finish Diamonte, use a well-drained, disease-free, soilless medium with a pH of 5.5-6.2. Night temperatures should be 50-60° F, and day temperatures should be 60-66° F. Avoid excessive watering and drought. Use a 200-ppm nitrogen fertilizer, alternating between a 15-5-15- and 20-10-20-type fertilizer. No pinching is necessary with Diamonte. No serious disease problems exist, but watch out for thrips and its tendency to spread INSV.
‘Evolution’ (Ernst Benary of America). Salvia farinacea ‘Evolution’ is a single-flowering annual bedding plant with purple flowers. Flowers have a diameter of approximately 1?2 inch, and plants reach a height and spread of approximately 15 inches. ‘Evolution’ will flower June-October. It is suggested to grow at 57° F and plant out in May at about 10x10 inches in a sunny spot.
‘Supra Purple’ (Hem Genetics Research B.V.). This single flowering, purple dianthus has an upright form that reaches approximately 8 inches and a spread of approximately 10 inches, with flowers that reach approximately 11?2 inches in diameter. ‘Supra Purple’ should be grown at 64-68° F and planted out the middle to end of May at approximately 10x10 inches in a sunny spot. ‘Supra Purple’ will flower May-November and is considered to have a compact habit and be early flowering
‘Striptease’ (R. and C. Thompson). This hosta is a sport of ‘Gold Standard’. It has gold-centered leaves with a dark green border and thin white line in between. ‘Striptease’ develops a large mound and is fast growing. It measures 20 inches high and 48 inches wide. Lavender flowers emerge in July, and it is suitable for partial sun or shade.
‘Molimba Mini White’ (S&G Flowers). This cutting variety of Argyranthemum frutescens has single flowers that measure 11?4 inches in diameter and a total height of approximately 10 inches. Its flowering period is May-September, and it will have no yellowing of foliage during that time. Mini White has an upright form and a spread that measures approximately 18 inches. After rooting occurs, plant in a 31?2-inch pot and propagate at temperatures between 57 and 61° F. Flowering will begin after 12 weeks.
‘Ellagance Sky’ (Kieft Seeds). Lavandula angustifolia ‘Ellagance Sky’ is a bedding and container plant that will flower June-August. The breeder suggests growing on at temperatures between 59 and 64° F. Lavender should be transplanted into 41?2-inch pots. Plant out in mid-May in well-drained, lime-rich soil at 12x12 inches in a sunny spot. ‘Ellagance Sky’ has a finished height of 12 inches and will spread to 10 inches. Flowers are a light violet-blue color.
‘Viva Fluor Rose 2006’ (Florensis B.V.). The semi-trailing form of this petunia will spread to 231?2 inches. It can be used as a bedding or container plant or in a hanging basket. ‘Viva Fluor Rose 2006’ will flower mid-May to mid-October and has good outdoor performance. Propagate at 61° F, and pot in 4-inch pots or hanging baskets. Pinching should be done 10 days after potting, and growth regulation is recommended. This petunia has a height of 10 inches and flowers are approximately 3 inches in diameter.
‘Freelander’ (Clause Tezier). A mixture of rose, blue and white make up ‘Freelander’ Prunella grandiflora. It will flower May-October and is used as a bedding plant. ‘Freelander’ should be grown at 59° F and transplanted after six weeks into packs. In April, plant out at 8x8 inches or into 3-inch pots in a half-shade spot. This prunella has a basal-branching form that reaches approximately 6 inches.
‘Super Series Compact Wine Red’ (Schoneveld Twello B.V.). This F1 cyclamen stays compact and can be used indoors and out. It has an excellent shelf life and good heat resistance. Wine Red is fast-flowering and maintains uniformity in plant size and flowering time. Production time from sowing takes 26 weeks. The breeder states that when average day/night temperatures increase above about 81° F the lengthening of the flower Á stems stop. Buds can’t lengthen anymore or flower in between the leaves, which delays the flowering period.
Helleborus x hybridus (Jelitto Perennial Seeds). Growing reliably in USDA Hardiness Zones 4-9, this helleborus is a shade perennial that tolerates dry conditions and requires partial to full shade. It is also known by its common name Lenten rose and part of the Ranunculaceae family. It should be grown in well-drained humus-rich and fertile soil. Good drainage is necessary for helleborus to grow properly. Planting on a slope is also ideal.
GPN’s annual “Winner’s Circle” features award-winning plants from AAS, Fleuroselect, AHGA, PPA and Florastar.