All-America Selections celebrates 86 years of testing and introducing improved flowers and vegetables.

Founded in 1932 to foster the development, production and distribution of new and improved horticultural and agricultural varieties of flowers, bedding plants and vegetables in North America, the organization evaluates plants at a network of almost 200 display gardens across the United States and Canada.

Selection as an AAS Award winner recognizes a flower or vegetable for significant achievements, proven to be superior to all others on the market.

In 2019, AAS announces four national flower award winners. To see pictures of these and other great plants visit the All-America Selection website, www.all-americaselections.org.

Unfortunately, except for this year’s petunia the other three flower winners are not currently available to home gardeners as seed, but transplants may be available this spring at your local nursery. Otherwise, we may have to wait another year for seeds in the garden catalogs.

Begonia

Begonia "Viking XL Red on Chocolate" is a striking new wax begonia cultivar with deep bronze/brown foliage and bright red flowers. Judges loved the darker colored foliage on Viking XL Red on Chocolate, compared to similar begonias -- it provides a great backdrop for the red flowers. One judge commented “The outstanding attribute of this variety was definitely the darker foliage.” Another said, “… excellent season-long performance in the garden, looks fantastic even at the end of the year.”

Wax begonias are annuals, so plant them outside each year after danger of frost has past, in a full or partial sun location. Use a general purpose fertilizer every 1 to 2 weeks until plants are well rooted, then switch to a blooming plant fertilizer. Plants stand 28 to 34 inches tall with a similar spread, resulting in a mounded form. Plants grow well in containers or ground beds and have strong stems so they stand upright. They are also pollinator friendly.

Marigold

Marigold "Big Duck Gold" sports very large golden-yellow flowers, which are three inches across! Plants start the season establishing solid healthy plants with clean, deep green foliage but really put on a show when they start blooming. Blooming continues until frost. Marigolds are easy-to-grow annuals, do best in full sun and are heat tolerant once established. Judges commented “… plants were still producing an excellent display of flowers long after the comparisons were showing reduced flower production and more spent blooms.”

Mature plants are 11 to 15 inches tall with 16 to 18 inch spread. At this height, plants can be used as mini hedges or as the background of an annual flower border. When mixed with perennials, they are an easy-to-grow mid-height filler.

Petunia

Petunia "Wave Carmine Velour" is the newest coloration available in the tremendously popular Wave petunia series, which are extremely vigorous spreading petunias. Wave petunias grow quickly and can fill large areas in the garden. Carmine Velour has large 2.5-inch flowers in a beautiful ruby-rose color; flowers are so numerous they literally cover the plants. Plants don’t need deadheading because new flowers are constantly produced and cover the old flowers.

Plant Carmine Velour in the garden after danger of frost is past, choosing an area with full sun and well-drained soil. Once established plants are tolerant of heat and rain. When spreading across the ground, plants are typically 6 to 8 inches tall and each plant spreads 3 to 4 feet. However, when plants reach a wall or barrier they will grow up or flow over it and can reach taller heights. One judge said, “Great ground cover and a magnificent blanket of blooms.”

Use Carmine Velour in containers or hanging baskets, as well as ground bed plantings. Carmine Velour seed is available from J.W. Jung Seed, www.jungseed.com.

Zinnia

Zinnia "Holi Scarlet" has a compact growth habit, only 6 to 8 inches tall, and large 3-inch vibrant scarlet flowers. Judges loved the large eye-catching flowers, which make great cut flowers and are also attractive to pollinators. Foliage is light green on plants with a uniform mounding growth habit. Plants keep producing fresh, colorful blooms all season long, even through heat, humidity and drought. Holi Scarlet does well in containers or massed in ground bed plantings.

Next week, we’ll take a look at this year’s four AAS national vegetable winners.

Sarah Browning is an extension educator with Nebraska Extension. To ask a question or reach her, call 402-441-7180 or write to her at sarah.browning@unl.edu or 444 Cherrycreek Road, Lincoln, NE 68528.