Winter News Article
Contact: Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension Professor
University of Vermont
Eight All-America Selections (AAS) flower winners have been announced for 1999. This is certainly the most I remember having won in one year in recent years. The selection includes some of the more common, such as zinnias, and some of the less common, such as Africa Daisy and Red Hot Poker.
The AAS winners were selected for performance, unique characteristics, and adaptability to various climatic conditions, based on trials at more than 60 locations throughout the country. The University of Vermont in Burlington helped trial these new varieties.
There are two new zinnias, both in the Profusion series-- Profusion Orange and Profusion Cherry. Both have good tolerance to late season foliar diseases common to many zinnias, such as powdery mildew and leaf spots.
Another nice trait of these selections is that the old flowers are covered by new foliage, and they keep on flowering. Older varieties had to be "deadheaded," picking old flowers off after bloom, in order to get repeat bloom. Flowers on these varieties are single, two to three inches across, and the color as named.
Plants grow 12 to 18 inches high, and should be spaced 12 to 18 inches apart. The best effect is from massing 10 to 12 plants together. As with other zinnias, these grow best in sun. Zinnias are easily grown from seeds. These can be sown direct in the garden in late May, or in seed flats or packs indoors in early May for later transplanting.
Less well known is the Africa Daisy, or Osteospermum. It is also known as Cape Marigold (though it doesn't resemble marigolds), as it is native to the Cape area of South Africa. It has single, daisy flowers two to three inches across that have a waxy or glossy appearance. The new winning selection "Passion Mix" comes in a mixture of pink, rose, purple, and pure white.
Flowers are held slightly above the dark, glossy green foliage. Plants grow 12 to 18 inches high, and should be spaced about 10 to 12 inches apart. Although this plant is known for tolerating dry conditions, it also survived the unusually wet 1998 season in Vermont trials although it flowered sparsely. Best conditions for this plant are a well-drained soil--or soilless mix in a container--full sun, and heat. To achieve the latter, especially if you garden in a cool location, try these plants near a paved surface, the south side of a building, or in a patio container.
Another less well-known flower is the Tritoma or Red Hot Poker (genus Kniphofia). The winner for 1999 is the selection 'Flamenco,' which in our 1998 conditions was not especially noteworthy. Although reputed to grow 24 to 30 inches in height, ours were about half that. It did bloom most the summer, with yellow-orange-red flowers held above the grass-like leaves. Flowers are four to eight inch spikes of small tubular flower tubes.
Although Tritoma is a perennial in warmer climates (USDA hardiness zone 5 and warmer-- the warmest parts of Vermont and south), Flamenco blooms the first year from sowing by seeds. Because of this, Flamenco can receive this award even though most of the All-America winners are annuals. Since it takes about six months from sowing to flower, either start seeds early indoors, or buy plants at garden stores in spring, if this sounds like a new flower you'd like to try.