The new year is here and with it comes a crop of new plants for the garden. It has been too cold to do much of anything except prowl the pages of the seed catalogs looking for the new and notable plants for 2018.
Have you seen the AAS designation on some plants and wondered what that was all about? It stands for All-America Selections. Since 1932, this independent testing group has been evaluating new varieties in trial gardens across the country and choosing to honor those plants that have performed the best. In flowers they look for color, fragrance, new blossom forms, length of bloom, disease resistance and pest tolerance. For vegetables they like to see early maturity, high yields, outstanding flavor, ease of harvest, good growth habit, quality produce, and high levels of disease and pest resistance.
This year there are 14 winners. For a complete list visit their website at all-americaselections.org. Here are just a few.
- A new Asian green to try is ‘Asian Delight’.
A mini pak choi, it forms 5-7 inch tall heads in 50 days and doesn’t bolt in hot weather like other pak choi is likely to do. I’m trying it as a replacement for ‘Toy Choy’ which seems to go to seed at the first hint of heat. This plant was an AAS winner.
There are several AAS winning peppers.
- If you like the citrusy tang of habanero peppers but can’t stand the burn, give ‘Roulette’ a try. It has all the flavor of a traditional habanero without the heat. It is said to bear 100 early maturing fruits per plant over the season.
- Hungarian pepper ‘Mexican Sunrise’ has a bit of heat and can be grown in a container as an ornamental. The peppers change color as they mature from charteuse yellow to green and finally orange to red and can be eaten at any stage.
- Cayenne pepper ‘Red Ember’ is another AAS winner from Johnny’s producing green peppers in 55 days that mature to red at 75 days. They are moderately hot and can be eaten fresh or dried to make your own cayenne pepper flakes.
Tomatoes are the star of the veggie garden and plant breeders are always trying to develop new and improved varieties to tempt us. Take a look at these three AAS winners.
- ‘Chef’s Choice Red’ is a hybrid beefsteak that is high yielding and disease resistant. Its cousins Chef’s Choice Orange, Green, and Pink were AAS winners also.
- ‘Red Racer’ produces clusters of tasty cocktail-size tomatoes (a little larger than a cherry). The three foot tall determinate plants are good for growing in a container.
- ‘Valentine’ is a deep red, high lycopene, grape tomato from Johnny’s. They have heavy, early yields starting at 55 days from transplanting.
Other groups also have their favorite plant picks for the year:
- The Herb Society of America has named hops as their plant of the year.
- The Perennial Plant Association chose the allium ‘Millenium’ for its 2 inch round purple flower clusters. It blooms in July-August, is hardy to zone 5, grows to be about 12 inches tall and wide and is a favorite of butterflies and bees.
- American Hosta Growers Association chose ‘World Cup’ as Hosta of the Year. It has large golden cupped leaves that have a deeply corrugated texture and wavy edges. It grows in an upright habit, 30 inches tall and 48 inches wide.
Fleuroselect has three Gold Medal winners.
- Zinnia ‘Profusion Red’ is a new color for the Profusion series of compact flowering, disease resistant plants.
- Calibrachoa ‘Double Pink Mania’ boasts pink, double flowers (though in this picture they look more like purple!) that won’t fade in hot summer sun. Look for this one at your local garden center!
- Lewisia ‘Elise Ruby Red’ is a perennial in zones 6-10 so I won’t be planting this outside but it can be grown in a container and wintered over in a cool spot indoors. A great little rock garden plant, it blooms off and on all season long.
- The American Rose Garden Selection winners for 2018 are ‘Coral Knockout’ and ‘Promises’. Coral is a new color for the very popular and reliable Knockout family of roses. It is hardy in zones 5-10 and is said to hold its color well even in hot humid conditions. ‘Promises’ is a compact rose growing 3-4 feet tall and bearing bright magenta-pink blossoms all season long.
Have fun perusing the catalogs whether you are an online shopper or like me you prefer the old paper catalog. January is the perfect time for planning this year’s dream garden.
See the Almanac’s #1 garden planner to plan your dream garden. There’s now a free 7-day trial which is ample time to try it out.