New Varieties For The New Millennium

All-America Selections (AAS), the well-known nonprofit organization that evaluates seed-grown flowers and vegetables for home garden performance, has selected nine varieties of flowers and vegetables to take us into the next century. Why only nine, you say? Plant breeders and seed companies from around the world select only a few varieties each year as AAS winners among the hundreds of new seed varieties submitted. Whenever you see the red, white and blue All America Selections Winner emblem, you can be assured these varieties have been tested and proven to have superior performance at independent test gardens across North America. Each winner has unique traits or qualities that set it apart from all others in the garden. Selected vegetables have excellent taste, disease resistance, flowers that stand up to heat and drought, compact growing habits for home gardens and container gardening.

For more information about All-America Selections Winners, retail seed sources, color photos and more, log on to their Web site at


Savoy Express Cabbage
(plant in fall and winter gardens in Alabama)

Savoy Express is an early, small savoy cabbage which makes an ideal plant for the home garden. This small-headed cabbage -- weighing less than 2 pounds -- is ready for harvest in about 55 days (compared to 100 days for most varieties). If you haven’t tried savoy cabbage, you’ll enjoy the sweet tasting, crinkled leaves, which can be cooked or eaten in raw salads.

This easy-to-grow vegetable has a waffle like leaf texture. It can be planted in the front of an annual or perennial garden, in the same way you would grow ornamental cabbage or kale, as a mass planting for its course foliage texture.

Mr. Big English Pea Graphic


Mr. Big English Pea
(plant in fall and spring gardens in Alabama)

English peas or garden peas as they are often called are best grown in an early spring garden in Alabama. And if you want more peas and larger pods, Mr. Big is your plant! Not surprisingly, AAS selected this variety for its sweet taste and improved yield, setting two pods per node on 2 to 3 feet bushy plants should be trellised. Mr. Big also has disease resistance to Fusarium oxysporum and powdery mildew.


  Blushing Beauty Pepper Graphic

Blushing Beauty Pepper

Blushing Beauty describes the color changes that occur on this sweet bell pepper. These small 2-foot-tall compact pepper plants produce 4-inch bell peppers changing from their pale green or ivory color to a pastel pink, and finally to a deep rosy red at the fully ripe stage. Pepper plants should be transplanted into the garden. Blushing Beauty peppers will be ready for harvest in about 75 days after transplanting. This pepper makes an ideal container garden plant, allowing you to watch the beautiful color changes throughout the summer season.

Indian Sweet Corn Graphic Indian Sweet Corn

If you enjoy good, sweet corn and want a conversation piece, this new AAS winner will fit the bill. The first sweet corn with colored kernels, Indian Summer has a mixture of yellow, white, red and purple kernels. It's categorized as a supersweet, multi-colored variety comparable to Honey & Pearl and Appaloosa. Indian Summer matures early -- about 79 days -- but be careful to allow full ear development. Ears harvested at the young stage may not show the full color development. Kernel colors intensify even more when cooked.


It's always exciting to visit garden centers to see the latest flower varieties with improved color and performance. Some garden centers have AAS winners planted in display beds and container gardens. This spring, look for the AAS emblem on these and other bedding plants in garden centers and in your favorite mail order catalogs.


Cosmos Cosmic Orange Graphic


Cosmos Cosmic Orange (Cosmos sulphureus)

Cosmic Orange is an improved Cosmos sulphureus deserving a sunny site in your garden. ‘Cosmic Orange’ reaches a height of 12 inches in full sun. This "no fuss" annual thrives on minimal care. With adequate water and fertility, it will produce bright orange 2-inch blooms all summer long and well into the fall. Cosmos is easy to grow from seed or setting out bedding plants. Cosmic Orange performs well as a container plant, with possible overall performance being improved through deadheading or removal of spent blooms. Plant height – 12 to 22 inches.


Dianthus Melody Pink Graphic


Dianthus Melody Pink (Dianthus interspecific)

If you are a fan of China pinks, Melody Pink is sure to win a place in your garden. Dianthus typically grows best in the cool season months in Alabama, often blooming in spring and fall for several years. Melody Pink was bred specifically for use as a cut flower, producing sprays of single pink flowers on 20 to 22 inch stems. The light sprays of 1-inch pink blooms give an airy look to the garden providing many months of flowering. In containers, Melody Pink plants are tall enough to be a focal point (about 2- feet-tall).


Sunflower Soraya Graphic


Sunflower Soraya (Helianthus annuus)

Soraya is the first sunflower to win an AAS Award. One of the distinct qualities is its orange petals; most sunflowers have golden petals. Soraya sunflowers are vigorous bloomers in full sun, producing 4 to 6-inch blooms on long stems, perfect for cut flowers. Plants reach a mature height of 5 to 6 feet. Soraya blooms are perfect for cut flower arrangements, maintaining perky flowers and leaves for about seven days. Soraya does produce flower pollen, which can stain some materials; however, outdoors, flowers can produce seed for birds if left on the plants to mature. Sow seeds when soil temperatures have warmed to 60 to 70 degrees F. Flowering begins 90 to 100 days from the time of sowing seed.


Tithonia Fiesta del Sol Graphic

Tithonia Fiesta del Sol (Tithonia rotundifolia)

If you love the butterflies and hummers attracted to Mexican sunflower (Tithonia), but hate the way it takes over your garden, Fiesta del Sol may be your answer. The orange daisy-like flowers of Tithonia thrive in the heat of summer. Previously, all orange Tithonia have grown to heights of six feet or more, invasively taking over the garden. Fiesta del Sol is the first dwarf Tithonia reaching only 2 to 3 feet tall and about 12 inches wide. This plant is pest free, not even deer will find the hairy leaves of Tithonia worth eating! Fiesta del Sol needs full sun to produce an abundance of 2-inch, single orange flowers that stand up like Mexican sun hats (hence the reason butterflies and hummingbirds love them – they can land on them and enjoy!). Fiesta del Sol – Ole’!


Vinca Stardust Orchid Graphic

Vinca Stardust Orchid (Catharanthus roseus)

Even when you find it unbearably hot, vinca also commonly called periwinkle, just keeps going! And why not, it's one of our best performers in full, hot sun. And now, AAS introduces the first Catharanthus roseus with large orchid flowers and white centers. Stardust Orchid’s orchid and white flower color would make a nice addition to the garden and increase reflected light in nightscapes. Plant this AAS bedding plant winner in full sun for dependable flowering all summer long.

SOURCE: Mary Beth Musgrove, Extension Associate-Horticulture, Alabama Cooperative Extension System, (334) 844-5481