Accolades for Vegetables, Annual Flowers, and Perennial Plants

News Article

While winter has just officially begun, many Iowans have already developed a bad case of
cabin fever. An excellent way to overcome this
condition is to leaf through the seed and nursery catalogs
and start planning next year's garden. When
browsing through the catalog, don't forget to check out
the award winning flowers and vegetables for 2001.

The Perennial Plant Association is a national organization of growers, landscape
designers, educators, and researchers. Each year the
members select a Perennial Plant of the Year. Criteria used
in selecting an outstanding perennial include low maintenance, adaptability to a wide range of
climates, multiple season interest, and ease of
propagation. The 2001 perennial plant selection is
'Karl Foerster' Feather Reed Grass
(Calamagrostis x acutiflora 'Karl Foerster'). The botanical name
s come from the Greek kalamos, a reed, and agrostis, a grass.

'Karl Foerster' produces loose, feathery,
light pink inflorescences in early summer. The
seed heads eventually mature to a golden tan and
persist into winter. The deep green foliage appears in
early spring and provides early winter interest turning
a light tan color. The tight habit of this
cultivar creates an 18-inch wide clump. 'Karl Foerster'
was imported into the United States from Denmark
in 1964. Since that time, this highly acclaimed
ornamental grass has been distributed and has
grown well in USDA hardiness zones 4 through 9.

Five new flower varieties were given All-American Selection awards for 2001. To
receive this award, the variety must possess unique
or improved characteristics compared to existing cultivars. The number of award winners
makes 2001 a great opportunity to try some new
flower varieties.

Nicotiana x sanderae 'Avalon Bright
Pink' Flowering Tobacco is a great choice to include
in plantings as it provides season long color with
little garden maintenance. Plants produce bright
pink flowers on bushy, well-branched, 8 to 10 inch
tall plants. 'Avalon Bright Pink' is an excellent
plant for use in borders, beds, and containers.
Ideal growing conditions are partial to full sun and a
well-drained soil. The AAS judges noted freedom
of bloom and the plant's ability to adapt to cool,
wet weather then hot summer conditions as two outstanding qualities of 'Avalon Bright Pink'.
Flowering tobacco requires minimal care and is bothered
by few pests.

A second AAS winner is 'Margarita Rosita' Moss Rose
(Portulaca grandiflora 'Margarita Rosita'). Plants have a mounded bushy habit
and grow approximately 4 to 6 inches tall and 12
inches wide. Flowers are semi-double, deep pink and
1.5 inches in diameter. 'Margarita Rosita' requires
no special care for superior performance. It will
bloom heavily throughout the growing season when
planted in a sunny location and a well-drained soil.
However, like other Portulacas, it can tolerate poor
soils and hot, dry conditions. The double pink
blooms appear to be made from thin tissue paper yet
are quite durable.

'Ring of Fire' Sunflower (Helianthus
'Ring of Fire') was selected for 2001 because of
its distinctly colored flowers. The 5 inch flower
head consists of a deep mahogany red ring that
surrounds a chocolate brown center. The edge of the petals
are gold. Plants are well-branched and grow from 3.5
to 4.5 feet tall. Sunflowers are easy to grow.
The major requirement is full sun. If starting from
seed, wait until the garden soil has warmed to about 60
to 65 degrees Fahrenheit. Space plants two or three
feet apart due to the plant width.

Zinnia interspecific 'Profusion White'
Zinnia provides abundant 2 inch white flowers from
spring to fall. Unlike many zinnias that succumb to
powdery mildew by late summer, 'Profusion White' possesses clean foliage and flowers to the first frost.
Plants grow approximately 10 to 12 inches tall
and have a slightly wider spread. Minimal garden care
is needed to produce good results. Only sun,
nutrients and water are needed; no staking, pinching or
pruning. 'Profusion White' like all zinnias, prefer
warm soil and growing conditions. Waiting for
warm temperatures will reward gardeners with
strong vigorous plants.

The final AAS flower winner is 'Forever Blue' Lisianthus
(Eustoma grandiflorum 'Forever Blue') and is one to add to your garden if blue is what
you desire. 'Forever Blue' has a distinct
branching habit. This results in a lush, full plant
continuously producing new flowers throughout the
growing season. 'Forever Blue' offers blue flowers
throughout the growing season. 'Forever Blue'
performs best in moist, fertile soils. However, it will
tolerate hot, dry conditions. Because of its compact
size, 'Forever Blue' is highly recommended for
patio containers.

Accomplished gardeners can grow 'Forever Blue' from seed. However, it is a challenge.
Lisianthus requires precise growing conditions
and is slow growing. Flowering occurs approximately
21 weeks after the seeds are sown. For most
gardeners it would be easier to purchase young plants at a
local garden center.

Four vegetable varieties were chosen as All-America Selection winners for 2001. The first
AAS vegetable winner is 'Super Star' onion (Allium
'Super Sweet'). It is the first hybrid onion to win
an AAS designation. Most onions leave the judges
in tears, but not this one. 'Super Star' produces
sizeable sweet onions, earlier than the comparison.
Onions can reach the weight of one pound if the growing season is 100 days or more. 'Super
Star' can be grown almost anywhere in the U. S.
because it is the first day neutral white onion. Most
other onion varieties require long or short days to bulb.
'Super Star' has a mild sweet flavor and is
suitable raw for salads or lightly grilled. Sow seeds
indoors 4 to 6 weeks before transplanting into your
spring garden or purchase transplants from mail
order catalogs or local garden centers. Space or
thin onions 3 to 4 inches apart in the garden.
Rows should be spaced 12 to 18 inches apart.

'Jolly' tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum 'Jolly') is the second AAS recipient for 2001.
'Jolly' produces large numbers of cherry-type tomatoes. The pink, 1.5-ounce fruit are
peach-shaped with a distinctive point on the blossom end.
The meaty tomato has a sweet flavor perfect for salads. 'Jolly' has the distinction of being
almost crackless increasing the yield of edible tomatoes.
Tomatoes on the plant are produced in grapelike clusters of 9 to 14 fruit. Space plants 3 feet apart.
'Jolly' plants can be started from seed indoors
or purchased from local garden centers.

'Honey Select' (Zea mays 'Honey Select') is
a new sweet corn offering gardeners a wider
harvest window. The ears remain edible longer on the
plant due to supersweet kernels. Unlike many
supersweet types of sweet corn 'Honey Select' does not
need isolation. This improved yellow sweet corn
was noted by judges for its flavor and quality. Ear size
is approximately 8 inches long with 16 to 18 rows
of kernels. Space seeds 8 to 10 inches apart in
the rows. Rows should be spaced 2 to 3 feet apart.

The final AAS selection is the 'Giant Marconi' pepper
(Capsicum annuum 'Giant Marconi'). Bred in Italy, 'Giant Marconi' produces exceptional
8-inch long, tapered fruit. The deep green fruit
turn red at maturity. 'Giant Marconi' has improved
traits such as high yield, adaptability to severe
growing conditions and resistance to Tobacco Mosaic
Virus and Potato Virus Y. The virus resistance is
important because the plants will live longer,
providing higher yields. Plants can reach heights of 30 to
36 inches and a width of 24 inches. Recommended garden spacing is 2 feet between plants. To
insure the pepper blossom end does not touch the
soil, place organic mulch around the base of the plants.
This prevents a rot caused by contact with the soil.
These quality peppers can be eaten raw, baked or grilled, depending upon your meal plans. The
best place to plant 'Giant Marconi' is as close to the
grill as possible.

This article originally appeared in the January 12, 2001 issue, pp. 2-3.