Two flowers, 5 vegetables plus a strawberry received All America Selections (AAS) Awards for 2016. Whether a novice gardener or an experienced doyenne of dirt, All America Selection winners are a great addition to the garden and many are suitable for container growing as well. They have been evaluated for their productivity and endurance throughout test sites in the United States and parts of Canada. Try them and we bet you’ll approve of their performance!
Both 2016 AAS Flower Award Winners are vegetatively-propagated geraniums. Not only do these 10 to 20 inch tall cultivars have semi-double flowers but they have banded foliage to enhance their appeal before flowers begin to emerge and later into the fall when blossoming often dwindles. Geranium ‘Brocade Cherry Night’ has semi-double cherry pink blossoms with bronze colored leaves edged in green.
Geranium ‘Brocade Fire’ is loaded with semi-double orange flowers, perfect for either planting beds or containers, that contrast well with the deep crimson centered, green-edged foliage.
Both of these geraniums are quite heat tolerant and also have a low to medium moisture requirement so if you forget to water them occasionally, they should survive just fine. Their flowers are 5 inches across and they will appreciate a site in full to part sun. Do remove the spent flowers for continuous blooms from early summer until hard frost.
The six 2016 AAS Vegetable Award Winners are a curious category that includes one strawberry as well. Strawberries are easy to grow and quite nutritional and I’ve been growing day neutral and pineapple ever-bearers for years. Strawberry ‘Delizz F1’ can be grown from seed or transplant and produces berries all summer. The plants tolerate heat and are compact so they work well in garden beds as well as hanging baskets or containers.
These strawberry plants are reputedly hardy to zone 3 so they should overwinter well, once established. Each plant will produce an average of 45 berries over the growing season if well kept. If growing from seed, berries will be ready to harvest in about 4 months but harvest time will be cut in half if transplants are used. Each plant has a 12 inch spread so plant on one foot centers. Plant them in full sun in a well-drained soil and make sure they receive at least an inch of water each week.
Mustard greens may not be on everyone’s top ten favorite vegetables but I think that is only because they have not tried them. For the first time, AAS has awarded a Japanese mustard, ‘Red Kingdom F1’ as one of their 2016 AAS award winners. Not only is the color just a beautiful addition to salads and stir fries, but this mild tasting green could be grown as an ornamental in garden beds or even containers. I grow mustards each year and since they bolt (flower and produce seeds) as soon as summer temperatures begin to rise, I pull all but a few plants which I allow to reseed. This gives me a second crop in the fall and sometimes new plants for the following year.
‘Red Kingdom F1’ is said to tolerate higher temperatures than other mustards so the new leaves can be harvested over a longer growing season. Also yields are reportedly higher so this may be a great new plant to try.
Two peppers and two tomatoes also made it to AAS winners. While I acknowledge that new studies are finding that the compound in hot peppers, capsaicin, may be slowing the growth of prostrate and other cancers, I still grow mostly sweet peppers as I like them better for salads, stir fries and kabobs.
Pepper ‘Cornito Gallo F1’ produces bright yellow fruits that have a sweet flavor. Fruits are plentiful and early and from 25 to 35 fruit are produced per plant. This seems like a lot so I will give this cultivar a try this next season. Fruits are generally used like traditional Italian frying peppers. Space plants about 18 inches apart and in full sun for maximum yields.
Another sweet pepper to be selected for the 2016 award is pepper ‘Escamillo F1’. This Italian roasting pepper tastes great raw, cooked or fire roasted. It has a compact habit growing a bit over 2 feet high and 18 inches wide. The peppers are about 8 inches long and 2.5 inches wide. I imagine they could be stuffed and grilled too. Yields are reputedly generous and fruits are held high for easy harvesting and less chance of rotting.
Tomato ‘Candyland Red’ is a currant tomato. Usually currant tomatoes are much smaller in size than cherry tomatoes but the plants have a tendency to sprawl quite a bit and are forever in need of staking. ‘Candyland Red’ is supposed to have a much tidier habit than the older currant tomato varieties. Fruits form on the outside of the plant for easier picking. The one-half inch fruits are sweet and rich and over 100 are produced by each plant. You can begin picking 95 days after seeding or 55 days from transplants. Plants are still vigorous and need 3 to 4 feet between them as well as staking.
The last 2016 AAS winner is a unique green tomato with a distinctive yellow blush called ‘Chef’s Choice Green F1’. The slightly flattened green globe-shaped fruits are 6 to 7 inches in diameter. The flavor is described as citrusy as well as sweet and tangy likely perfect for those green fried tomatoes, relishes, soups and sauces. The tall 5 foot plants are indeterminate and need staking. They are resistant to several common tomato diseases. Plants are only 24 inches wide and will start producing fruit about 90 days from transplant.
Check out this year’s AAS winners. They should be available at local garden centers, nurseries as well as in seed and plant catalogs. They are sure to be winners in your garden.