Each year the best of the new flowers and vegetables are crowned as winners by the All-America Selections program. They must be new introductions and show some new or improved trait over existing cultivars, explains Leonard Perry, Extension agronomist at University of Vermont.
Two AAS winning flowers and two vegetables got the honors for 2012. Here's Perry's assessment of them and their marketing points.
'Cayennetta' is a chili pepper, with mildly spicy fruits that reach 3 to 4-inches long. The elongated fruits reach about 3-inches long and turn red when mature. One reason to choose this one – aside of its taste – is that it grows upright and branched, requiring no staking. At up to 24 inches high and a bit less wide, it works well in patio gardens and containers. The dense foliage helps prevent sun scorch on fruit, and it has good cold tolerance.
Length of time to harvest: 69 days from transplant, 97 days from sowing.
Closest comparisons on market: 'Andy F1,' 'Gusto Purple F1' and 'Apache F1'.
'Faerie' is the other All-America vegetable winner for 2012. It's a red watermelon with oval fruit about 8-inches long and only weighing 4 to 6 pounds when mature. It's creamy yellow with thin green stripes outside with pinkish-red melon inside. The fruit has a high sugar content and crisp texture. Vines are vigorous yet only reach about 10 feet in spread, making them good for smaller spaces. Another bonus to this selection is its tolerance to insects and diseases. With only 72 days from sowing to harvest in many areas, this watermelon would be good to try in areas with shorter seasons. Closest comparisons on market: 'Golden Crown' 'for color, 'Vanguard' for earliness, and 'New Queen' for fruit size
'Black Olive' is an ornamental pepper flower award winner. It only reaches a foot or more high, and about a foot wide. The shiny, slightly elongated fruits start out purple and turn red as they mature. If you can't find this one nor start it yourself from seeds, look for the similar 'Pretty in Purple' or 'Black Pearl'. And yes, 'Black Olive' fruits are edible and fiery hot. Length of time from sowing seed to flower: 14 weeks (98 days)
'Summer Jewel Pink' salvia is the other winning AAS flower for this year. It's a scarlet sage type, having long stems about a foot and a half high with flowers along these mostly above the leaves. The name is misleading. This cultivar has light pink flowers – not scarlet. This salvia series is more compact and flowers earlier than the species and other selections. Though pink, the flowers attract hummingbirds. That's why it also goes by the name of Hummingbird sage. Length of time from sowing seed to flower: 50 days. The closest thing on the market: Coral Nymph.Here are the All-America veggie and flower winners that cutting-edge gardeners will be looking for in their seed catalogs and farm markets.