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Growing Green: 2013 All-America flower award winners

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If you are interested in trying a new flower in your mixed perennial bed next year, but are confused by all the choices out there, why not try the new All-America Selection (AAS) winners?

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AAS is the oldest, most established international, independent testing organization in North America for flowers and vegetables grown from seed. Each year since 1932, The All-America Selections Board has chosen and promoted new garden seed varieties with superior garden performance. The flower trials for 2013 are complete, and two winners have been announced.

Flower winners are evaluated for color, novel flower form, disease and pest tolerance/resistance, length of flowering season, fragrance and overall ornamental qualities.

This year's first AAS winner is Echinacea "Cheyenne Spirit," a first-year flowering Echinacea (cone flower) that produces a mix of flower colors from rich purple, pink, red and orange tone, to lighter yellow, creams and white. This drought tolerant perennial (hardy to zone 4) has a bushy, upright growth habit (over 24" tall and 24" wide). It has a slight fragrance and attracts bees and butterflies. Cheyenne Spirit works well in containers, as a medium height divider in perennial beds and makes a lasting cut flower.

To produce plants from seed, sow seed no later than January 25. Seed needs light to germinate. Maintain temperatures of 65ºF to 70ºF for 10-15 days (which is the length of time it takes for these seeds to germinate).

Transplant seedlings to larger containers within 20 to 28 days. Plant Echinacea Cheyenne Spirit in full sun in rich, well-drained soil. These plants have very few issues with insects or disease.

The second selection for 2013 is Canna 'South Pacific Scarlet.' Unlike most Canna lilies, this variety is grown from seed, not a tuber. It has a compact habit and is well suited for both landscape and container use. Its scarlet blooms rise on 24" upright stalks sporting bright green leaves. The blooms tolerate both heat and rain. Even though they are not fragrant, as with all red flowers, these blooms attract bees.

Use Canna South Pacific Scarlet in containers, as a tall background flower in a mixed bed and in your water garden. Canna lilies do not hold up well as cut flowers. Seeds should be sown indoors, lightly covered, in late February. Maintain temperatures between 68º F and 77º F.

Transplant seedlings to individual pots when they are large enough to handle. Plant outdoors after all danger of frost has past. Plant in full sun to partial afternoon shade. They tolerate heavy soils, but need generous watering to promote heavy flowering and keep the foliage lush.

Many seed catalogs and seed suppliers carry these varieties. Look for the AAS symbol in your favorite seed catalogs. If you are interested in trying past AAS winners, including bedding plants and vegetables, visit the AAS website at www.all-americaselections.org/

Until next time, happy gardening!

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