University of Vermont
Department of Plant and Soil Science

Winter/Spring News Article
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AAS FLOWER WINNERS FOR 2016

Dr. Leonard Perry, Horticulture Professor
University of Vermont

Each year the best of the new annual flowers are judged, and the winners given the All-America Selections (AAS) designation.   In the past these have all been grown from seeds, but starting in 2015 those grown from cuttings have been included as well.  This year’s flower winners include two annual geraniums, and a salvia.
   
To be an AAS winner, flowers must show improvements over any similar existing cultivars (cultivated varieties).  If grown from seeds, as most are, they must bloom that year sown.  So a few perennials that bloom the first year from sowing have won as well. 
   
In the past, the winners only were those that were deemed worthy across much of North America.  While there are still these “national” winners, there are now regional winners as well—those performing particularly well in a particular region. 
  
Salvia Summer Jewel Lavender is one of these regional winners for 2016 (Southeast, Heartland, Great Lakes), although the other three colors in this series have grown and bloomed quite well in the past in our Northeast region too.  This Texas sage is a different species from the usual bedding out forms that most gardeners may know, having taller and thinner flower spikes reaching 18 to 24 inches high.  Flowers are spaced a bit more up the stalks than with the compact bedding scarlet sages. 
   
Summer Jewel salvias bloom through the summer, and are quite attractive to bees and hummingbirds.  The other colors in this series all have been winners too—red (2011), pink (2012), and white (2015).  All are easily grown from seeds sown indoors about 8 weeks before planting outside.
   
There are two annual geraniums in the Brocade series that are national flower winners for 2016—Cherry Night with semi-double blooms of cherry pink, and Fire with semi-double orange blooms.   Both reach 12 to 18 inches high, and should be spaced similarly apart.  Brocade Cherry Night has attractive bronze leaves with green margins, while Brocade Fire has bicolor bright green leaves with dark centers. As with many other annual geraniums, it helps with these to promote more blooms by removing (“deadheading”) spent flowers. These two geraniums can be purchased as plants grown from cuttings.
   
Each year, the last five years of winners are displayed in about 200 official All-America Selections gardens across North America, including our own Waterfront Park in Burlington.  If traveling this summer, make sure to look up which gardens may be near your route (all-americaselections.org/display_gardens/index.cfm). 
  
Also check out our ratings and listings online, along with some photos, of which flowers have performed best in Vermont (pss.uvm.edu/ppp/aaswp.html).  Of the 100 or so new flowers in the Burlington display garden each year, many are not All-America winners, and most are those grown from cuttings. 
   
One of our top flowers over several years has been the AAS winning (2011) Glamour Red ornamental kale.  It has very uniform, large bluish heads with pink centers that last well and darken through fall.  Moonsong Deep Orange marigold, another AAS winner (2010) has large orange flowers about 3-inches wide on plants about one foot or so high.  We’ve had good luck interplanting this marigold with a contrasting color, such as purple alyssum or fan flower.


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