David C. Zlesak, University of Minnesota Extension Educator
All-America Selections (AAS) serves as the oldest (first award winning varieties were designated in 1933), most established, impartial international testing organization in North America. Breeders from around the world enter their best flower and vegetable seed varieties with the hope that their entries would prove themselves to be superior performers across the 46 trial gardens in the United States and Canada and earn this prestigious award. Performance of test varieties are compared with the best commercially available varieties of their class. In addition to the trial gardens, there are display gardens which feature recent and next year’s AAS winners. All together there are 176 AAS display gardens. The five AAS display gardens located in Minnesota are listed at the end of this article. Seeds and transplants of new AAS winners are widely available from leading garden centers and seed catalogs.
Photo 1: Viola ‘Rain Blue and Purple’ All-America Selections
The four AAS winners for 2009 are:
Viola ‘Rain Blue and Purple’ comes in shades of purple, blue, and white. The 1.5” blooms typically open purple and white and darken as they age to a mixture of purple and blue providing a mixed tapestry of monochromatic color. While typical violas will stop flowering in the heat of summer, this one possesses above average heat tolerance and will continue to grow and bloom more reliably. Plants typically grow to 6” in height and spread 10-14” in width. It makes a great low border plant or container plant where it can spill over the edge of containers.
Photo 2: Melon ‘Lambkin’ All-America Selections
Melon ‘Lambkin’ has fantastic flavor! The white flesh is juicy, sweet, and very aromatic and the rinds are thin. Compared to other gourmet melons of the “Christmas type”, this one ripens relatively early at 65-70 days. Plants are vigorous and productive. Melons are oval shaped, two to four pounds, and once mature have a yellow rind color with green mottling. They have great storage compared to other melons when kept cool in a root cellar or refrigerator as well.
Photo 3: Acorn squash ‘Honey Bear’ All-America Selections
Acorn squash ‘Honey Bear’ has a deliciously sweet, honey-like flavor when cooked. Compact plants are high yielding due in part to their great tolerance to powdery mildew, a disease that can stress other acorn squash varieties and result in minimized yield and delayed maturity. Fruits are about a pound in size, a perfect size for and individual serving or sharing between two people. The rind is a very attractive dark green and the flesh is a rich deep golden color. Fruit matures in approximately 100 days,
Photo 4: Eggplant ‘Gretel’ All-America Selections
Eggplant ‘Gretel’ is an exceptional early fruiting, white skinned variety. Days from transplant to first ripe fruit is 55 days under good growing conditions. Fruit are borne in small clusters and the flavor is noticeably sweet and the skin is tender. These exceptional fruit quality characteristics allows fruit to be harvested beyond the optimum size of 3-4” in length and still retain good eating quality. Plants are relatively compact, reaching a height and width of about 3’. This is a great eggplant for those that only have a small area able to devote to vegetable gardening or for container growing.
Photo 5: U of M West Central Research and Outreach Center. David Zlesak.
To view many new flower and vegetable varieties, visit the five AAS display garden sites in Minnesota:
U of M North Central Research and Outreach Center
1861 Hwy. 169 East
Grand Rapids, MN 55744
U of M West Central Research and Outreach Center
46352 State Highway 329
Morris, MN 56267
U of M Display and Trial Garden
Corner of Gortner and Folwell Avenue
St. Paul, MN 55108
Minnesota Landscape Arboretum
3675 Arboretum Drive
Chaska, MN 55318
Lyndale Park Gardens
4125 E. Lake Harriet Pkwy.
Minneapolis MN 55409