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Neighbors Growing Together | Dec 19, 2014

Trying something new

By JEAN THOMSON, Master Gardener | Feb 21, 2013

Most gardeners have tried-and-true favorites, dependable varieties of vegetables and flowers that have done well year after year. But at the same time, most gardeners enjoy trying something new. A gardening friend may recommend a tomato with great flavor or the prospect of early harvest. A magazine ad may spotlight a new petunia that looks dramatic. A trial in the home garden is the ultimate test.

The All-America selections for 2013 offer an additional source of ‘something new’ possibilities. These plants are field-tested, with winners announced in several categories.

Three varieties share this year’s bedding plant award. Zinnia ‘Profusion Double Deep Salmon’ and zinnia ‘Profusion Double Hot Cherry’ share the characteristics of bright, attractive foliage; disease resistance; and abundant flowering on 8-14 inch plants. The third recommended bedding plant is geranium ‘Pinto Premium White to Rose.’ It features big, uniquely colored blooms and deep green foliage.

In the flower award category, a standout is canna ‘South Pacific Scarlet.’ Showy flowers in a hot tropical tone bloom all summer long on tall back-of-the-border plants. This canna grows from seeds, not tubers, and is especially good in humid conditions.

The other flower winner is Echinacea ‘Cheyenne Spirit.’ The exceptional color range for this plant moves from rich purples and reds through neon pinks and oranges to lighter yellows, cream and white. The sturdy plants don’t topple over, and as with other coneflowers, this variety’s water needs are low.

For fruits and vegetables this year, the first award winner is melon ‘Melemon.’ Its taste is described as similar to a honeydew with tang. The uniform fruit shape makes it desirable for market growers as well as home gardeners.

Tomato ‘Jasper’ is the next award winner. It offers uniform small fruits with sweet taste and appealing texture. Finally, watermelon ‘Harvest Moon’ concludes the 2013 All-America selections. It is similar to the heritage variety ‘Moon and Stars’ but earlier and seedless. It offers good-tasting, crisp flesh.

The All-America competition is not the only source for plant recommendations. Many plant societies name a plant of the year, so you can easily find award-winning daylilies, hostas and roses. The U.S. National Arboretum lists its Gold Medal winners. In addition, marketers such as Proven Winners advertise their efforts to search, test and promote exceptional plants.

With so many sources of plant recommendations available, all we need now is gardening weather!

Right now: Plan to prune raspberries, grapes, gooseberries, currants and blueberries starting in early March.

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