Tooele Transcript Bulletin – News in Tooele, Utah

February 2, 2012
AAS winners boast superior garden performance

Last week’s “Garden Spot” introduced two of the four All-America Selections (AAS) winners for garden plants for 2012. Since that time another winner has been named bringing the total of top new varieties for 2012 to five.

Why does this matter? AAS winners are tested and proven varieties that should perform well in any garden. AAS is an independent, non-profit organization that tests new varieties and introduces only the best garden performers as winners.

AAS winners represent reliable new varieties of garden plants that have proven their superior garden performance in neutral, independent and trial grounds across North America.

The varieties must be new, never-before-sold entries and must prove themselves superior to other similar varieties. Judges look for significantly improved qualities such as early bloom or harvest, disease or pest tolerance, novel colors or flavors, flower forms, yield, length of flowering or harvest, and overall performance. The entry must have at least two significantly improved qualities to be considered for the AAS award.

Here are the final three AAS winners for 2012 in addition to the two pepper plants discussed in last week’s column.

Watermelon “Faerie” F1

When Tom and Huck thought of watermelons they envisioned large, juicy red flesh surrounded by a green rind. They would have had to look twice at Faerie’s creamy yellow rind with thin stripes before sampling it — but odds are they’d have liked what they tasted. The sweet pink-red flesh is crisp with high sugar content.

Besides the delicious flavor and novel color, the shorterthan- normal vines are vigorous so they take up less space in the garden. Fruits are 7 to 8 inches in diameter. You won’t win giant watermelon contests with Faerie, but your family will be able to enjoy these bounteous four to six pound delights in many meals throughout the harvest season which starts earlier than other varieties. In addition, the plants are disease and insect tolerant.

Plant the seeds for these melons in well prepared potting soil in full sun when the soil is warm, and provide 8 to 10 feet between hills. Allow 72 days from sowing to harvest. If you choose to grow transplanted seedlings, allow 60 days between transplant and harvest. To start your own plants, sow seed four weeks prior to the last frost date into peat pots filled with moist potting soil. Wrap in plastic to keep the moisture uniform. Expect germination in one to two weeks. Keep the plants warm for optimum growth and place them outdoors after soil and air temperatures warm or provide night time protection.

The closest market comparison is Golden Crown for color, Vanguard for earliness and New Queen for fruit size.

Salvia “Summer Jewel Pink”

Salvias have long been favorite bedding plants and the dwarf, compact Summer Jewel Pink has a place in the landscape. The pink blooms, which appear nearly two weeks earlier than other pink salvias, are attractive to hummingbirds and bees. Summer Jewel Pink’s sister, Summer Jewel Red, was an earlier AAS winner. They grow uniformly in flower beds creating a lovely mass of solid pink blossoms above green foliage. Deadheading is not necessary. Plant these flowers 10 to 12 inches apart in well-prepared soil in full sun. Irrigate them as the soil dries out to the touch. They will reward you with half inch blossoms through late spring, summer and fall until frost. Plant indoors in warm soil (68 to 70 degrees) and the seedlings will emerge in three days. Keep them in an area with a temperature between 60 and 85 degrees until time to transplant them 20 to 25 days later. Flowering begins in 45 to 55 days. The closest comparison plant is Coral Nymph.

Vinca “Jams ‘N’ Jellies Blackberry”

Jams ‘N’ Jellies Blackberry is the AAS Flower award winner that was recently added to the list for 2012. Its velvety deep purple blossoms with a white eye in the center set it apart from all other vincas and will make it a real eye catcher in summer gardens. Deep green, shiny leaves compliment the dark 2-inch flowers. In some settings the flower petals look almost black, making it a vivid contrast to other flowers.

Although you will have to irrigate these vincas in our area, they seem to be made for our climate as they tolerate both heat and drought and are easy to grow. The plants grow to 10 to 14 inches tall—perfect for a medium height divider. These plants will make lovely accents as uprights in containers but not as hanging plants in hanging baskets.

Place these plants 10 to 12 inches apart in full sun and well prepared soil. Start these plants from seed indoors 11 weeks before the last frost (about the end of February in Tooele). Sow seed into a seedling flat with well-moistened media and cover with a light layer of media and water lightly. Cover the flat with a clear plastic dome and keep out of direct sunlight. The seeds germinate in three to five days at 75 to 78 degrees. Remove the dome and move the seedlings to a well lit area. When the plants are well rooted, after about five weeks, transplant them to pots and grow them for five to six weeks. After that, plant them outdoors into a garden or patio container.

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