Winners Circle By Jasmina Dolce

Growing extraordinary plants is critical to your business and reputation. As you know, the success of your plants greatly depends on various factors: climatic conditions, use of plant growth regulators, vulnerability to pests and/or diseases, and so on. And of course, you have to take the end consumer into consideration. The product must ship well and remain attractive on the retail bench.

It can be difficult to foresee which plants will be successful for you and your customers. That is why GPN puts this list together each year. All-America Selections, American Garden Award, American Hosta Growers Association, Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers, Fleuroselect and Perennial Plant Association are all respected and recognized for the valuable information they provide growers and retailers. Read on to learn more about how these award-winning varieties performed in trials and impressed judges across the country.


Salvia 'Summer Jewel Red' (Takii & Co.) Winning two awards this year, 'Summer Jewel Red' impressed Fleuroselect judges with its earliness and short cultivation time (nine weeks from sowing to flowering). It is earlier and more compact than any dwarf salvia on the market.

Echinacea 'Cheyenne Spirit' (PanAmerican Seed) This vivid new mixture is a complete innovation in first-year flowering seed perennials and in echinacea. In addition to raving about the color mix, the Fleuroselect judges also praised this variety for its good plant habit, flower quality and its uniformity. Growers will appreciate the ease, economy and programmability of producing a beautiful color mix in one sowing.

Agastache 'Astello Indigo' (Van Hemert & Co.) This highly versatile hybrid can be grown for perennial and annual borders, containers and patio pots, alone or in mixed containers. The judges were impressed by the strong, bushy plants, showing the ideal combination of vigorous growth and compact habit. Upright spikes are fully covered with fragrant, deep indigo-blue flowers that attract butterflies and bees.

Viola 'Sorbet XP Delft Blue' (PanAmerican Seed) Growers are universally impressed by the uniformity, plant structure and flower power of this multi-season performer. Judges noted the flower color as well as the plant's earliness and stable garden performance. 'Sorbet XP Delft Blue' is ideally suited for spring and fall use in garden beds, pot and patio containers, and baskets.

Alcea 'Spring Celebrities Crimson' (Sahin/Takii & Co.) The newest and most compact variety in the Spring Celebrities series has unique, bushy dwarf plants that produce sturdy stems with an abundance of large, rich crimson, double blooms. It is an excellent container plant ideal for production in 6-inch pots, as well as in mass bedding, landscaping and public gardens. Growers can produce this variety in 14 to 16 weeks from sowing to planting, without the need for a cold period.

All-America Selections

Gaillardia 'Arizona Apricot' (Ernst Benary of America> This Flower Award winner offers a unique color; blooms have yellow edges that deepen to a rich apricot in the center. Judges noted the distinct flower color of the 3- to 3_-inch flowers, described as lighter in color than traditional gaillardia. Just 105 days after sowing seed, 'Arizona Apricot' will bloom from early summer into fall. This long-flowering perennial is hardy to Zones 2 through 10 and drought tolerance once established.

Viola 'Shangri-La Marina' (Tokita Seed Co. Ltd.) This Cool Season Bedding Plant Award Winner is an early-flowering, mounding viola in a vibrant new color for its type. In trials, the 6-inch tall plants kept a low-growing mounding habit. Blooms have light-blue petals with a dark-blue face that is surrounded by a narrow white border. This vigorous frost-tolerant biennial provides a solid mat of fall color until covered with snow followed by a great recovery in spring.

Salvia 'Summer Jewel Red' (Takii & Co.) Winner of the Bedding Plant category, this salvia was consistently rated "superior" or "above average" by the AAS judges because of its early and abundant flower blossoms that continue from spring to fall. Each dwarf and densely branching plant remains a tidy 20 inches tall, even at maturity. As an added bonus, the bright-red color acts as a magnet for hummingbirds. 'Summer Jewel Red' is ideal for full-sun containers, mixed beds and borders where uniformity is desired.

Ornamental Kale 'Glamour Red' (Takii & Co.) This is All-America Selections' first winning kale in more than 70 years of trialing! Winning the Cool Season Bedding Plant category, 'Glamour Red' is a fringed leaf type Brassica oleracea with flower head size of 10 to 12 inches. The waxless quality of the leaves makes them shiny with an intense, vivid color. Judges noted that the shiny foliage is striking in the landscape and it outperformed comparisons with outstanding success.

Pumpkin 'Hijinks' (Sakata Seed America) Vegetable Award winner 'Hijinks' produces small-sized, 6- to 7-pound fruits of a very uniform size and shape. It has smooth, deep-orange skin with distinctive grooves giving it a classy appearance for fall decorating. Allow plenty of space in the garden for long vines that spread up to 15 feet.

Pepper 'Orange Blaze' (Seminis) This Vegetable Award winner proved itself a winner due to early maturity, sweet flavor and disease resistance. It matured to a beautiful orange color earlier than the comparisons. 'Orange Blaze' produces 3- to 4-inch long fruits about 1_ inches wide with two to three lobes.

Tomato 'Terenzo' (Pro-Veg Seeds Ltd.) Also winning the Vegetable Award category, 'Terenzo' is a 'Tumbler' type of tomato that is a prolific producer on a tidy, low-growing plant. This easy-to-grow determinate bush variety requires little maintenance and produces fruits that are more resistant to cracking.

Tomato 'Lizzano' (Pro-Veg Seeds Ltd.) This Vegetable Award winner is a vigorous semi-determinate tomato with a low-growing, trailing habit, making it ideal for patio containers or hanging baskets. The durable plants grow 16 to 20 inches tall with a compact spread of only 20 inches. Expect generous yields of high-quality, bright-red, cherry-sized fruits.

American Garden Award

Rudbeckia 'Denver Daisy' (Ernst Benary of America) This first-place winner wowed voters with masses of reddish ringed golden flowers. It demands attention with huge 4- to 6-inch blooms that cover attractive deep-green foliage. The long-lasting dark-eyed blooms proved their ability to stand up under extreme weather conditions.

Echinacea 'Prairie Splendor' (Syngenta Flowers) Second-place winner 'Prairie Splendor' creates a show-stopper display with its large and abundant flowers that bloom from early summer into the fall. Voters liked the large 3- to 31/2-inch soft, rosy purple blooms. Butterflies will also be attracted to this 24-inch tall beauty.

Ornamental pepper 'Purple Flash' (PanAmerican Seed) Unique and exotic looking, third-place winner 'Purple Flash' will enhance mixed containers and in-ground plantings with its striking color. Its layered leaves are almost black with "flashes" of bright purple, topped with small, round, glossy pepper fruits. Be warned — this is one spicy pepper!

American Hosta Growers Association

Hosta 'Praying Hands' (G. Williams 1996) This hosta is a unique cultivar with a very upright habit. It will grow to 16 inches high by 30 inches wide. The 7×2-inch dark-green leaves with a narrow white margin are cupped along their length and very wavy. Narrow, funnel-shaped, lavender flowers open in late July into August.

Perennial Plant Association

Amsonia hubrichtii The 2011 Perennial Plant of the Year carries the common name Arkansas blue star. This all-season perennial has blue star-shaped flowers in spring and light-green foliage all summer. The foliage turns a beautiful golden yellow in fall. Arkansas blue star is very soil adaptive, and insects and diseases are rare. Once well established, this variety is drought tolerant and can withstand a season of neglect.

Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers

Physocarpus 'Coppertina' (Proven Winners) This native shrub winning the Woody Cut Flower category can grow to 8 to 10 feet, producing long stems of coppery-orange foliage in the spring, which changes to a darker red later in the summer. Growers use mainly the bronze foliage, which is particularly attractive for fall arrangements, and sometimes the small white flowers and seed pods. The flowers are short lived, however, and should be cut just before the petals open. Physocarpus foliage has a two-week vase life when harvested in the summer or fall.

Pepper 'Nippon Taka' Dried Cut Flower of the Year 'Nippon Taka' boasts bright-red fruits borne in upright clusters, adding a splash of color to mixed bouquets. Plants grow about 26 inches tall and are said to be disease resistant. This versatile cut flower can also be used fresh — be sure to remove the foliage first as it turns yellow quickly. The peppers can be eaten but are hot, so handle accordingly. Seed of this mainstay cultivar is available from many sources.

Lisianthus 'Mariachi Carmine' (Sakata Seed America) With its elegant flowers often compared to a rose, lisianthus has become a premier cut flower due to its long vase life and broad range of colors. The number of series and cultivars has ballooned in recent years, but Fresh Cut Flower of the Year 'Mariachi Carmine' stands out among them all. Cut flower growers will appreciate its large double flowers on long, strong stems. Participants in the ASCFG Cut Flower Trials praised this variety for its unique color and substance of the petals. Its vase life was almost 12 days in recent North Carolina State University testing. Flower foods should be used.

Jasmina Dolce

Jasmina Dolce is managing editor of GPN magazine. She can be reached at [email protected]

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