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There are lots of new plants coming our way in 2024. Many are old favorites that have been dusted off and improved by plant breeders. There are also new treats to tempt us! Take a look at award-winning flowers, fruit, vegetables, and herbs to try this year.
Adding more disease resistance, shorter time to maturity, larger flowers, cold and heat hardiness, and new colors are just a few of the ways they upgrade the plants we love.
AAS Award-Winning Plants for 2024
For 2024, the judges at AAS (All-America Selection) only found three vegetables worthy of merit, but there were lots of flowers. All but one are national winners. (AAS is the American organization that tests new varieties of seed for use in gardening; the testing program involves horticulture professionals.)
Broccoli has scored big this year, with two varieties being named AAS-winning plants for 2024. The last time broccoli had this honor was ‘Artwork’ in 2015. Surprisingly, it is still available. Before that, we had to go back to the 60s and 70s for award-winning broccoli.
If you like eating the rainbow, you will love ‘Purple Magic’ broccoli. Even the stems are purple!
For green broccoli, check out ‘Skytree.’ It produces small heads and multiple side shoots on 2-foot tall stems, which make it easy to harvest. This veggie is a regional winner for the west and northwest.
A New Red Pepper
Red peppers can be challenging for short-season gardens to grow. Often, there isn’t enough time for them to ripen to fully red before frost threatens.
Sweet ‘Red Impact’ peppers mature in 75 days from transplanting. The large plants are 28 to 36 inches tall, 16 to 24 inches wide, and full of 7-inch long peppers with 10-15 fruits per plant. Similar to ‘Big Bertha’ and 2001 winner ‘Giant Marconi.’
Petunias are so versatile and reliable that they can find a place in everyone’s garden. ‘SureShot White’ is available only as a plant; there are no seeds for home gardeners yet. The 8 to 10-inch mounding plants, perfect for containers and hanging baskets or in front of the flower bed, need no staking or deadheading. In bloom from spring to frost, the pure white blossoms are 2 to 3 inches across.
Petchoas are hybrids that exhibit the best traits from their parent plants, petunias, and calibrachoas. Petchoa ‘Enviva Pink’ has hot pink, 2-3 inch flowers on mounding, 10 to 16 inch tall plants, from spring to frost. Available as a plant only, so keep an eye out for it at the garden center this spring.
Geraniums are another favorite with gardeners everywhere. This spring, look for multi-colored ‘Pink Batik’ from the Big EEZE Series. Plants are 18 inches tall and bear 4 to 5-inch wide round blossoms that blend several shades of pink for a striking effect.
Seeds for Solarscape impatiens are available for home gardeners. This year’s award-winning color is ‘Pink Jewel’. Perfect for growing in full to part sun without fading, they bloom from late spring until frost. The mounding plants are about 12 inches tall; they are resistant to impatiens and downy mildew, which has been the bane of many gardeners.
Marigolds are another annual favorite found in many gardens. This year, try ‘Siam Gold.’ Large, 3- to 4-inch wide, fully double, bright yellow flowers growing on 18- to 20-inch tall plants will stand out in the garden from late spring until frost takes them out in the fall. Easy to grow from seed, they make a great cut flower and will be in bloom all season if kept deadheaded.
Celosia is another striking beauty in the landscape, a container, or for cutting. ‘Burning Embers’ has plumes of red feathery flowers on compact 8 to 10-inch tall plants with dark green, bronze-tinged leaves. The well-branched plant produces more flowers over a longer bloom time. Pollinators love it!
National Garden Bureau Award-Winning Plants
The National Garden Bureau announced its 2024 Green Thumb Awards. (The NGB is a 103-year-old non-profit organization that promotes gardening on behalf of horticulture professionals.)
Shrub Award: First Editions “Eclipse” Bigleaf Hydrangea
This Bigleaf Hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Bailmacseven’) features incredible bright cranberry-red edges that feather into the creamy white centers! Highlighting these gorgeous blooms are dark purple leaves 6 to 8 inches wide.
Hardy in zones 5 to 9, the Eclipse hydrangea grows 3 to 5 feet tall and wide and blooms on the previous year’s growth.
Vegetable Award: Quick Snack Cucumber
Cucumber ‘Quick Snack’ is a “Kitchen Mini” meant to be grown in a container indoors or outside. The 18-24 inch tall plant produces 3-inch long crispy cukes in 3 to 4 weeks from seed or only 1 to 2 weeks from a transplant. Even though it is a mini-plant, it will do best if given support to climb.
Perennial Flower: Catmint
Hybrid nepeta ‘Chartreuse on the Loose’ amplifies the color of its purple blossoms by contrasting them with bright chartreuse yellow-green leaves. Hardy in zones 3 and 8, this perennial forms compact 12-inch tall mounds and performs best in full sun. The foliage allows for a full three seasons of interest.
Annual Flower: Tall Begonias
How about a bronze-leaf begonia that grows to be 4 feet tall? ‘Stonehenge Rose’ is covered with pink blossoms that stand out against the dark foliage. This annual grows well in full to part sun, and it takes the heat if kept well-watered. No need to dead-head, so it is very low-maintenance!
Annual Flower: A Pure White Sweet Sultan
Sweet sultan (Centaurea moschata) ‘The Bride’ is has large, pure white flowers that are scented a sweet vanilla. The shimmery white and tall stems make it an excellent cut flower for weddings.
Easily grown from seed, ‘The Bride’ makes a nice addition to any mixed flower border. Prefers full sun and grows 2 to 3 feet tall.
Terrific New Tomatoes
It wouldn’t be summer without a new tomato or two to try. The tomato research team at Johnny’s Selected Seeds in Maine is constantly at work and has bred several.
‘Marmalade Skies’ Tomato
Late blight is such a devastating disease that we are always glad to see new varieties with strong resistance to late blight coming on the market.
For a dark orange, half-pound slicing tomato, try ‘Marmalade Skies’. Similar to their ‘Chef’s Choice Orange’, which they are discontinuing, it is earlier and more productive, and the color is more uniform with no green shoulders.
‘Harvest Moon’ Tomato
This blight-resistant tomato is golden-hued on the outside with beautiful red blush flesh inside. The 10-ounce tomatoes are firm, round, and delicious.
‘Strawberry Fields’ Tomato
This organic tomato looks and tastes like a juicy pink heirloom but is also blight-resistant! The 10-ounce fruits have a good balance of sweet and acidic flavors with a juicy texture.
Compared to Damsel, more tolerant to blossom end rot and less shoulder cracking. Similar to Martha Washington, except with late blight resistance.
All three of the new tomatoes featured above have been bred for late blight resistance and mature in 75 days from transplanting.
When you are plant and seed shopping, look for more new introductions coming to market this spring. Be brave and add one or two to your tried and true choices. You may find a new favorite among them!