Winner’s Circle

May 7, 2008 - 15:24

With so many exciting and unique cultivars being introduced each year, it can be quite challenging for growers to decide which crops to grow and sell. Plus, there are all the older varieties that have been around for years that consumers just can’t get enough of. You want to grow crops that will perform well in the garden and those that will be successful at retail. So how do you choose?

To help with your selection, GPN compiles a list of all the winning varieties chosen by various groups and associations throughout the year. These winners are chosen for multiple characteristics such as vigor, fragrance, hardiness, color, size, pest and disease tolerance, and the list goes on. Growing exceptional plants is crucial to the success of your business. All-America Selections, American Hosta Growers Association, Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers, Fleuroselect and Perennial Plant Association are reputable organizations dedicated to providing valuable information and services to growers. Read on to learn more about this year’s winning varieties.

All-America Selections

All-America Selections (AAS) is the oldest international, independent testing organization in North America for flowers and vegetables grown from seed. The organization’s purpose is to test new, unsold cultivars; to inform gardeners about the AAS winners; and to earn gardeners’ trust in AAS winners. Before an AAS winner is introduced, it is tested at independent test sites across North America. Judges evaluate entries based on novel flower forms, flower colors, flower show above foliage, fragrance, length of flowering season, and disease or pest tolerances or resistance. There are four AAS trial categories: vegetable, flower, bedding plant and cool-season bedding plant.

‘Rain Blue and Purple’ (Tokita Seed Co. Ltd.) This viola, winner of the cool-season bedding plant category, changes from purple and white to purple and blue as it matures. This results in a spreading pool of cool-blue shades. ‘Rain Blue and Purple’ exhibited heat and cold tolerance in AAS trials. In winter Southern trials, it produced color all season, drawing high scores. Flowering 3- to 4-inch pots can be produced in 70 to 75 days from sowing seed.

American Hosta Growers Association

The American Hosta Growers Association (AHGA) is a trade organization for nurseries that specialize in the growing and sale of hostas. AHGA aims to foster interest in hostas through marketing and educational programs, disseminate information on cultural practices and pest problems of hostas, and help to standardize hosta nomenclature. The Hosta of the Year Award was established in 1996. It is selected by a vote of AHGA members. Award winners are hostas that are good garden plants in all regions of the country, are widely available and in sufficient supply, and retail for about $15 in the year of selection.

‘Blue Mouse Ears’ (E. & J. Deckert) This popular hosta makes a very tight miniature mound of very thick, rounded, mouse-like, blue-green leaves. A mature plant can grow to 8 inches high by 19 inches wide. Leaves grow to about 2½ inches long by 2¼ inches wide. In July, the plant is topped with dense clusters of lavender flowers on scapes that rise to 12 inches. This is the first time a small hosta has been chosen, so it should be adaptable in any size shade garden.

Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers

The Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers (ASCFG) provides information on growing techniques, marketing strategies and new developments in the cut flower industry. Each year, the association tests the latest in cut flowers to determine those that perform best.

‘Blue Glitter’ (Benary) Eryngium ‘Blue Glitter’ serves a dual purpose: It adds height in the back of a perennial border and provides stem length for fresh and dried cut flower production. This variety has silvery-blue stems that unfold into an abundance of small shimmering blue pincushion flowers. The interesting texture and color draw attention in the garden and in arrangements. Growers appreciate this eryngium for the long postharvest life of the cut flowers.

Fleuroselect

Fleuroselect is an international organization for the ornamental plants industry providing a unique platform for its members, 90 companies involved in breeding, producing and distributing ornamentals. Its main activities include the testing, protecting and promoting of new flower varieties. The Fleuroselect Gold Medal is awarded to cultivars that have been tested by Fleuroselect’s team of independent, expert judges and proven to clearly surpass any existing variety in terms of breeding innovation and beauty.

‘Ballerina Red’ and ‘Ballerina White’ (Kieft Seeds Holland) Armeria ‘Ballerina Red’ and ‘Ballerina White’ impressed judges with their excellent garden performance. These new varieties are early and produce an abundance of ball-shaped flower heads on short, strong stems from June to September. These first-year flowering perennials have increased compactness and uniformity in their plant and flowering habit. They also are heat tolerant. The main target for these varieties is the general bedding plant market due to the uniformity, short production time and floridity.

‘Freelander Blue’ (Clause) Besides being compact and uniform, prunella ‘Freelander Blue’ flowers early and in great profusion from May to October. It is a vigorous, hardy perennial that is excellent for the front of borders. It can be used for fine edgings in herb or vegetable gardens. ‘Freelander Blue’ is also appealing in flowerbeds and containers. Sown from seed, this variety will produce masses of flowers in the first year and come back year after year. Its spikes of tubular flowers attract bees and butterflies.

Perennial Plant Association

The Perennial Plant Association (PPA) is dedicated to improving the perennial plant industry by providing education to enhance the production, promotion and utilization of perennial plants. The Perennial Plant of the Year program promotes the use of perennials. Four perennials are selected by the Perennial Plant of the Year committee from an extensive list of nominations made earlier by PPA members. Each year, members cast their vote for one of the four selected plants with the following attributes: suitable for a wide range of climate types, low maintenance, easily propagated and exhibits multiple seasonal interest.

‘Rozanne’ (Blooms of Bressingham). ‘Rozanne’ is a long-season flowering geranium that may be used as a ground cover, as a border-front specimen, as a mass planting or in a patio container. The large violet-blue flowers with purple-violet veins and small white centers offer nonstop flowering through the growing season. Hardy to Zones 5 through 8, this variety thrives in full sun to partial shade and boasts exceptional heat tolerance and drought tolerance. It prefers moist, well-draining soil. The 20-inch high ‘Rozanne’ mounds to a 24- to 28-inch spread.

About The Author

Jasmina Radjevic is associate editor of GPN. She can be reached at jradjevic@sgcmail.com or (847) 391-1004.

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