Each year the best of the new flowers, blooming the first year from seed, and new vegetables are chosen as winners by the All-America Selections (AAS) program. These winners are the result of trials across North America, against existing cultivars (cultivated varieties) where they exist. In this case, the new introduction must show some new or improved trait. There are two AAS winning flowers and two vegetables for 2012. All grow best in well-drained soils, and full sun.
‘Black Olive’ is an ornamental pepper flower award winner. This low plant only reaches a foot or more high, and about a foot wide. The shiny, slightly elongated fruit start out purple and turn red as they mature. These contrast nicely with the purple leaves. If you can’t find this one nor start it yourself from seeds, look for the similar ‘Pretty in Purple’ or ‘Black Pearl’. And yes, fruit of ‘Black Olive’ are edible and fiery hot.
‘Summer Jewel Pink’ salvia is the other winning AAS flower for this year. It is a scarlet sage type of salvia, having long stems about a foot and a half high with flowers along these mostly above the leaves. The common name is misleading, as this cultivar has lovely light pink flowers rather than the scarlet of the species, and of its relative ‘Summer Jewel Red’. This salvia series is more compact and flowers earlier than the species and other selections. The flowers, even though pink, attract hummingbirds. Another common name is Hummingbird sage.
‘Cayennetta’ pepper is one of the award-winning new vegetables. It is a chili pepper, with mildly spicy fruits that reach 3 to 4-inches long. The tapered and elongated fruit reach about 3-inches long, starting green and turning red when mature. One reason to choose this one, in addition to its taste, is that it grows upright and branched, requiring no staking. At up to 24 inches high and a bit less wide, it works well in patio gardens and containers. The dense foliage helps prevent sun scorch on fruit. This pepper grows better than many in cold climates, having good cold tolerance.
‘Faerie’ is the other winning vegetable for 2012, a watermelon with oval fruit about 8-inches long and only weighing 4 to 6 pounds each when mature. The fruit are unusual in their color, as well as attractive, being creamy yellow with thin green stripes outside while remaining watermelon red inside. Fruit also have a high sugar content and crisp texture. Vines are vigorous yet only reach about 10 feet in spread, making them good for smaller spaces. Another bonus to this selection is its tolerance to insects and diseases. With only 72 days from sowing to harvest in many areas, this watermelon would be good to try in areas with shorter seasons.
To learn about more recent winners, visit the All-America Selections website (www.all-americaselections.org). Ratings on how these, and many other, new flowers have performed at our award-winning AAS display garden on the Burlington waterfront can be found on Perry’s Perennial Pages (perrysperennials.info/aaswp.html). Use this information in selecting which you may want to grow this year for best performance in the north, and for the longest lasting blooms.