University of Illinois Extension

2006 All-America Selections

Starting next garden season, gardeners will have the chance to include six new flowers and four new vegetables designated as All-America Selections, says Greg Stack, University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator.

“Winter is a good time to be planning next season’s garden, including possible additions to it,” says Stack. “Each year, the All-America Selections organization awards its designation to flowers and vegetables that have demonstrated superior performance after rigorous evaluation in 32 trial gardens across the country.”

Beginning with the flowers, Stack calls attention to the ‘Diamonte Coral Rose’ diascia.

“This first ever F1 hybrid diascia has improved prolific early flowering and good branching habit. It grows to about 10 inches in height with a spreading habit, making it great for a low border or for use in containers. Diascia does best in cool weather. While it would be good for early spring planting, it would probably be best as a fall fill-in when it could take advantage of the cool, fall weather and bloom right through light frost.”

‘Supra Purple’ dianthus, another AAS Selection, offers exceptional garden performance and improved heat tolerance, he notes. This dianthus grows to about 12 inches in height and produces an inch and a half flower with highly fringed petals. The flowers also make good cut flowers for indoor use.

“For those that enjoy fragrance, there is ‘Perfume Deep Purple’ nicotiana,” Stack says. “This nicotiana produces two-inch star-shaped purple flowers with a delicate evening fragrance. It grows to about 20 inches in height and is good for the sunny border or mixed containers.”

Black Pearl’ ornamental pepper is unique among ornamental peppers. The leaves are pure black and the black shiny peppers, about the size of marbles, are similar to pearls and also black. ‘Black Pearl’ grows to about 18 inches in height and gets its best color when grown in full sun. This pepper is great in the garden or as a striking accent plant in mixed containers.

“And, yes, the peppers are edible but fiery hot,” Stack notes.
There are several blue salvia on the market but ‘Evolution’ expands the color range to violet. ‘Evolution’ grows to about 24 inches in height and is a plant for gardeners who want minimal maintenance and maximum flower impact. It is drought tolerant and free of any major insect and disease problems. It is a must-have garden annual for the sunny border.

‘Zowie Yellow Flame’ is a zinnia that will wake up the garden with its color, Stack adds.

“The semi-double, three-inch blooms have petals that are scarlet on the interior and yellow on the tips,” he says. “The petals look like a yellow flame. Plants grow 24-to-30 inches in height and are great for the sunny border. It also produces armloads of cut flowers all summer.”

Vegetable gardeners, too, have some new things to consider.

“The first is a real shocker, especially if you’re used to traditional orange carrots,” he says. “’Purple Haze’ is the first purple carrot. The long, 10-to-12-inch roots have a purple exterior and a bright orange interior. The purple color is best enjoyed when the carrots are sliced and used raw in salads as the purple color disappears when they are cooked. The flavor is sweet and nothing special needs to be done to enjoy an abundance of carrots.”

For the herb gardener, ‘Delfino’ cilantro offers an improvement over regular cilantro. The foliage is aromatic and flavorful plus it is fine and fern-like, making it very decorative. Plants grow to 20 inches in height and are good container garden plants. The plants can be allowed to go to seed, producing the spice coriander.

“Both sweet and hot pepper fans will enjoy the next two AAS winners. ‘Carmen’ is an Italian-type sweet pepper,” Stack says. “It is a week earlier than other peppers and produces a six-inch long pepper with wide shoulders. The shape is very similar to Melrose peppers. The peppers mature to a red color and are very sweet. ‘Carmen’ also produces over a wide temperature range.

“On the other side of the pepper world is ‘Mariachi.’ This pepper is a mildly hot chili pepper about three-to-four inches long. ‘Mariachi’ ripens from yellow to red. The plant is vigorous and grows to about 18-to-24 inches in height and produces fruit continuously all summer.”