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2005 All America Selections Announced

by Dan Gill

'Arizona sun'

A variety of beautiful flowers and delicious vegetables were named All-America Selections winners for 2005. For more information on the All-America Selections organization, go to www.all-americaselections.org.

Flower Winners

The flowers picked as All-America Selection winners for 2005 were: 'Arizona Sun,' 'First Kiss Blueberry' and 'Magellan Coral.’

'First Kiss Blueberry'

Gaillardia aristata 'Arizona Sun' adds a vibrant note to the landscape. Each 3-inch single flower is mahogany red with bright yellow petal edges. These tough, drought-resistant plants produce flowers continuously over a long summer growing season.

Even the spent blooms are attractive as tufts of seed. When grown in a full-sun garden, 'Arizona Sun' is a compact plant reaching only 8 inches to 10 inches tall, spreading about 10 inches to 12 inches. Gaillardia aristata is commonly called blanket flower and is native to the Great Plains. It actually is a short-lived perennial and may survive mild Louisiana winters to bloom a second year. However, 'Arizona Sun' performs very well as an annual – blooming the first year from seed. 'Arizona Sun' flowers can be cut and used for summer bouquets. They also are attractive to butterflies in search of nectar.

The first near blue-flowered periwinkle (Catharanthus rosea) is an AAS Winner named 'First Kiss Blueberry.' The large 2-inch single blooms have a darker eye, which accentuates the violet blue color. For decades, breeders have been diligently working toward a blue periwinkle (also called vinca). Now 'First Kiss Blueberry' is the closest to that color so far. Heat and drought tolerant, mature plants will be about 11 inches tall and spread about 16 inches. Easy to grow in sunny, well-drained locations, 'First Kiss Blueberry' can be grown in patio containers or combination planters, as well as in garden beds. Plant transplants in late April or May after the weather becomes reliably warm.

'Magellan Coral'

Zinnia elegans 'Magellan Coral' blooms are so radiant they illuminate the garden. The fully double, dahlia flowered 5- to 6-inch blooms have brilliant coral petals. The flower quality and color are reported to be superior to other Zinnia elegans. In addition to the color, 'Magellan Coral' plants

produce large numbers of flowers, and consistent flower production is an improved quality. Earliness to bloom is another exceptional trait – from sowing seed to first bloom requires only six to nine weeks. Mature plants will reach about 15 inches to 17 inches tall and spread about 15 inches to 19 inches, depending upon growing conditions. Like all zinnias, 'Magellan Coral' will perform best in a full-sun location with good drainage. This AAS Winner is adaptable to container culture as well as garden beds.

Vegetable Winners

This year’s AAS vegetable winners are ‘Fairy Tale’ eggplant, ‘Sugary’ tomato and ‘Bonbon’ winter squash.

Eggplant (Solanum melongena) 'Fairy Tale' is a more petite cultivar with decorative miniature eggplants. The fruit appearance is as luscious as the taste. 'Fairy Tale' eggplants are white with violet/purple stripes. The fruit are sweet, non-bitter, with a tender skin and few seeds. Another superior quality is the window for harvest. The elongated oval eggplants can be picked when quite small – at 1 ounce to 2 ounces – or they can be left on the plant until double the weight, and the flavor and tenderness remain. 'Fairy Tale' eggplants are recommended for marinating and grilling whole. The harvest can begin in just 49 days to 51 days from transplanting. This small-growing cultivar reaches only 2˝ feet tall and wide, so it’s perfect for container gardening. An eggplant has not won an AAS award since 1939, so 'Fairy Tale' truly is an exceptional new cultivar.

With tomato (Lycopersicum escluentum) 'Sugary,’ the name says it all. Judges raved about the sweet tomato flavor. The half-ounce dark pink fruit has a sugar content of 9.5 percent – higher than most others. The fruit is produced in clusters like grapes and can be eaten like them. 'Sugary' tomatoes have a distinct shape. They are oval with a pointed blossom end. In addition to the flavor, 'Sugary' plants produced a high yield with a noticeable lack of cracked fruit. Look for ripe fruit on the strong semi-indeterminate vines within 60 days from transplanting into well-prepared garden beds or large containers. Plants are vigorous and should be pruned if trained to a stake, or they may be left unpruned and grown in a cage. 'Sugary' should set a new standard for cherry tomatoes with sweet flavor.

Winter squash (Cucurbita maxima) 'Bonbon' has three improved traits. They are a more compact habit, earliness and superior eating qualities. 'Bonbon' has an upright, semi-bush habit, which means it needs less garden space. Mature vines spread about 8 feet. Look for ripe fruit within 81 days after transplanting Bonbon plants into the garden. This is a full week earlier than other cultivars. 'Bonbon' squash have thick orange flesh. When cooked, they deliver sweet flavor (hence the name 'Bonbon') and creamy texture loaded with vitamin A. The A boxy@ dark green squash has silver stripes and weighs about 4 pounds. Easy to grow, 'Bonbon' is not highly susceptible to diseases and should do very well in Louisiana home gardens.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             

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