URBANA, Ill. — Fluctuating weather patterns over the past few months have brought snow and rain, warmth and dangerously cold temperatures, ice and now flooding in parts of the state. These weather patterns can have an impact on our mental states, giving us the winter blues. The joy of garden planning, complete with garden catalog deliveries, can change those winter blues into spring green.
“Thumbing through catalogs is a great way to get new ideas for changing your landscapes in the coming year,” says Bruce J. Black, a University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator. “Finding newly available varieties, such as the All-America Selections, can help to fill holes in your landscape or help you theme a new garden space.”
All-America Selections (AAS) is a non-profit organization that releases a number of trialed plants each year as AAS Winners. All-America Selections tests new varieties every year at their 80 private and public trial sites located around the United States and Canada. Currently, there are five trial locations in Illinois (three northern, one central, one southern). Independent judges, who are professional horticulturists in geographically diverse areas, evaluate trial entries against comparison plants. The results and observations are compiled and winners are chosen. For the best plants suited to the area, Illinois residents should look for Great Lakes winners or National winners on the AAS Winners lists.
Eighteen 2019 AAS Winners have been announced, which include nine vegetables and nine flowers. The nine winners best suitable for Illinois are:
Pepper, Just Sweet F1 (Capsicum annuum var. Just Sweet F1): Just Sweet F1 is a sweet, yellow, four-lobed snacking pepper. Gardeners can expect to harvest in 65-75 days after transplanting. National Vegetable Winner.
Potato, Clancy F1 (Solanum tuberosum var. Clancy F1): Clancy F1 is the first potato from seed to be an AAS winner. The red- or rose-blush-skinned, creamy yellow tuber is good for boiling and mashing. Gardeners can expect to harvest in 90-110 days after transplanting. National Vegetable Winner.
Tomato, Fire Fly F1 (Solanum lycopersicum var. Fire Fly F1): Fire Fly F1 produces pale yellow, less-than-one-inch tomatoes. Maturing in 80 days from transplanting, this indeterminate tomato has a mild acid flavor and is great for snacking. National Vegetable Winner.
Tomato, Red Torch F1 (Solanum lycopersicum var. Red Torch F1): A prolific early-season producer, Red Torch F1 is an oblong, variegated or striped tomato. This indeterminate tomato ripens 60-70 days from transplanting with great flavor and texture. National Vegetable Winner.
Watermelon, Cal Sweet Bush (Citrullus lanatus var. Cal Sweet Bush): A compact, bushy vine growing to 14-18″ long, Cal Sweet Bush plants yield two to three 10-12 pound fruits. Maturing in 65 days from transplants, Cal Sweet Bush would be a good flavor-packed, container watermelon. Great Lakes Vegetable Winner.
Begonia, Viking™ XL Red on Chocolate F1 (Begonia x hybrid var. Begonia Viking™ XL Red on Chocolate F1): Noted for keeping its intense color all growing-season no matter the location, Begonia Viking™ XL Red on Chocolate F1 is a compact, red-flowered begonia that keeps its shape. Great for containers or landscapes, and blooms late spring/summer until frost. National Flower Winner.
Marigold, Big Duck Gold F1 (Tagetes erecta var. Big Duck Gold F1): Large, 3-inch golden continually blooming flowers are an attractive complement to the deep-green foliage of the Big Duck Gold F1 marigold. Multiple uses for beds, containers, or mini hedges aid its versatility. National Flower Winner.
Petunia, Wave® Carmine Velour F1 (Petunia x hybrid var. Wave® Carmine Velour F1): One of the highest-scoring plants in the 2018 trail, Wave® Carmine Velour F1 has large 2 to 2.5 inch flowers covering this easy-care spreading petunia. Continuously blooms with little to no deadheading required. National Flower Winner.
Zinnia, Holi Scarlet F1 (Zinnia elegans var. Holi Scarlet F1): Long-lasting, vibrant red and yellow colored zinnias, Holi Scarlet F1 was called an “excellent flower” by judges. Uniform and compact mounding habit, with great disease resistance. National Flower Winner.
The All-America Selections website (all-americaselections.org) contains a list of all past vegetable and flower winners since its founding in 1933. Utilizing the search functions, gardeners can search for a specific year, plant type, or region.
“I am looking forward to trying some of these new varieties for the upcoming garden season,” Black says. “Reading about the edible winners has definitely made my mouth water and I can’t wait to grow, harvest, and make a salad with these deliciously described introductions.”
For more information about gardening, check out the University of Illinois Extension websites Watch Your Garden Grow at extension.illinois.edu/
— Bruce J. Black, University of Illinois
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