Every year, professional and hobby plant breeders are working on developing new varieties of plants for our gardens. These breeders select for color, growth habit, disease resistance, taste, and a variety of other desired characteristics. But, as a home gardener how do we know that these new plants actually perform as advertised?
There are several organization that independently trial new varieties each year to help determine the validity of new seed varieties. One such group is the All-American Selections (AAS). The AAS was founded in 1932 by W. Ray Hastings.
AAS Trials have been conducted every year since 1932. There is an AAS Gold Medal award reserved for a breeding breakthrough. Gold Medal Awards have been rare, only given once or twice a decade. Since 1984, when the Gold Medal Awards were created, there has only been 5 Gold Medal awards. Early Sunrise Coreopsis won in 1989. In 1999 Profusion Cherry and Orange Zinnia were presented with the award. The white Profusion Zinnia received the award in 2001. And, purple majesty ornamental millet received it in 2003.
Every year, several new plant varieties are awarded the All-American Selection award. For the 2012 growing season there were four plants selected as All-American Selections.
The ornamental pepper ‘Black Olive,' bred by Seeds by Design, is reported to be an all season long beauty . It keeps its upright habit with nicely draping leaves and dark purple/black fruit which appear in small clusters along the stems. As summer progresses, the fruits mature to red giving a beautiful contrast against the dark purple foliage and bright purple flowers.
Salvia ‘Summer Jewel Pink, bred by Takii & Co. Ltd., is a dwarf sized, compact plant that reportedly has a prolific bloom count throughout the growing season. The blooms appear almost two weeks earlier than the other pink salvias. And of course, the hummingbirds love pink, just as much as they do red!
The pepper ‘Cayennetta’ is supposed to be excellent tasting mildly spicy pepper that is very easy to grow. This 3 to 4-inch chili pepper yielded bigger fruits from a very well branched upright plant. It required no staking which makes it a great candidate for container or patio gardens. Unique to this variety, bred by Floranova Ltd., is that it has good cold tolerance as well as dense foliage cover to protect the fruits from sun scorch and it handled extreme heat very well.
The last, but not least, new variety selected for an award this year was the water melon ‘Faerie.’ Bred by You-Know Seed Company, ‘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 who like growing something unique in their garden will enjoy the fact that the vines are vigorous yet spread only to 11’ means it takes up less space in the garden. Each 7-8” fruit weighs only four to six pounds making it a perfect family size melon. This is one selection I might have to try next year as it is also an early maturing variety!
Anne Lenox Barlow is a professional horticulturist who enjoys gardening with her family in Plattsburgh. She also chronicles her gardening experiences at her blog www.northcountrygarden.wordpress.com. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.