Sunday, February 12, 2012

What is New for the Garden

First, I'll tell you what is new for me - both knees. I had bilateral knee surgery in December and have spent most of the winter recovering, exercising, and generally getting back on my feet again.

We are having a mild winter here in northern Vermont and I know the lack of snow has been difficult for anyone associated with winter recreation. We covered our perennials in pots later than usual, but I still worry that they got too warm under the various layers. We shall see.

Meanwhile I am ready to start blogging again about one of my greatest pleasures - gardening.

Every year the All-American Selections competition (AAS) chooses the “best new, never-before-sold plant varieties.” Four entries with “superior garden performance” are given the AAS Award. The competition has introduced a total of 637 plants since 1933.

Some of the past AAS winning plants, like ‘Bright Lights’ swiss chard or ‘Sensation’ cosmos have gone on to become classics. Others, like ‘Harkness’ tomato and ‘Melody’ marigold have disappeared from the horticultural marketplace.

The two winning flowering plants for 2012 are salvia ‘Summer Jewel Pink’ and an ornamental pepper, ‘Black Olive.’ Normally I grow every every new AAS selection, but I’m stepping back this year.

‘Summer Jewel Pink’ (above) is the sister of ‘Summer Jewel Red’ which won the AAS award last year and I did grow that plant last summer. Perhaps it was the wet season, but its performance was underwhelming.

’Black Olive’ (above) is a decorative pepper with dark purple fruit growing along the plant’s stems. It is edible, but if I’m going to grow a showy pepper I choose ‘Super Chile’. It is very pretty and a great producer of inch long bright red hot peppers. Super Chile was an AAS winner in 1988 and it produces three times as many peppers as regular chile peppers.

The two vegetable winners are ‘Cayennetta’ peppers (above) and ‘Faerie’ watermelon. ‘Cayennetta’ pepper is a “mildly spicy pepper that is easy to grow.” This variety produces red chili peppers about 3 to 4 inches long on a compact, well branched upright plant. It is 69 days to maturity and I may be tempted to try it as a container plant.

‘Faerie’ watermelon (above) has a yellow rind with thin stripes. It yields “sweet pink-red flesh with a high sugar content and the vigorous vines spread only to 11 feet .” You can grow melons in our area, but for me they use up too much garden space for their relatively small yield.

A new concept that is turning up more and more in retail seed catalogues is the “fuseable” seed. This is when more than one seed is combined in a pellet form. Different colored coleus or petunias are often combined, and sometimes two different species are combined, like bacopa and petunias. The idea is to take the guesswork out of nice color or plant combinations.

I’ll pass for now. I’d rather create my own combinations and I also worry about one of the seeds in the pellets not germinating. It will be interesting to see how successful this new trend becomes. I will discuss more new plants the next time I blog.

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