Garden Clippings

All-America Selections has chosen three flowers, four vegetables and four bedding plants as 2006 winners

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'Zowie Yellow Flame' zinnia

All-America Selections

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Auld Lang Syne, black-eyed peas and resolutions for an improved lifestyle are all symbols of this calendar period for Americans. And for gardeners, the release of the All-America Selections winners is just as symbolic.

Since 1932, All-America Selections (AAS) has been testing new flower and vegetable varieties that will be superior to those already available. This year, AAS has chosen 11 new plants to receive the winner distinction.

This year's winners include three flower varieties, four vegetable varieties and four bedding plant varieties - two of which are cool-season bedding plant varieties, which earned their own category this year.

I was glad to see the cool-season plants added. It seems that this category - which includes plants such as violas, pansies and kale - lends color late into the fall and early in the spring, when other annuals are waiting for more temperate weather.

The winners are as follows:

Flowers

'Black Pearl'

This is an ornamental pepper. The foliage of this annual plant has pure black foliage with shiny black fruit. The plants will grow to 16 inches tall and wide, making it a nice plant for a mixed container planting.

The 'Black Pearl' pepper plant would definitely grab some attention planted in conjunction with a golden sweet potato vine. And it would also be a totally edible planting - that is, assuming that the glowing hot peppers it produces don't scare anyone off.

'Evolution' salvia

This is a terrific name for the new salvia, since it has evolved from the blue flowers that we're all used to. Six- to 7-inch-long violet flower spikes are borne on plants that top out at 24 inches tall. The purple salvia will be a nice addition to a group of plants that have very few growing problems.

'Zowie Yellow Flame' zinnia

This plant will be a terrific addition to the cutting garden. Scarlet petals with yellow tips give off a fiery appearance. Two feet tall with a slightly wider spread, this plant will produce blooms through the summer. Like other zinnias, it can easily be directly seeded into the garden and will bloom in eight to 10 weeks.

Vegetables

'Mariachi' pepper

This is a new chili pepper that is considered 'mildly hot.' Cone-shaped, 3- to 4-inch-long fruits come in high yields because of continuous production throughout the season. The shape is ideal for easy slicing or stuffing.

'Carmen' pepper

This is a sweet, Italian-type pepper. It produces horn-shaped peppers about a week earlier than others in its group. This plant is a good selection for those who want a sweet-tasting pepper that produces well.

'Delfino' cilantro

This is an edible herb that is unlike other cilantros in that it has more of a fernlike foliage. With the new foliage, it makes it easy to use as a foliage plant in a container planting that can be snipped when you're ready to make fresh salsa. When 'Delfino' plants flower and go to seed, the seed is used as the spice coriander.

'Purple Haze' carrot

This award-winning carrot really caught my eye. It produces 10- to 12-inch-long purple carrots with orange centers that are ready in 70 days. The purple color fades to orange if they are cooked. I'll be sure to plant these this spring in a container, since my native garden soil inhibits the production of a nice, long carrot.

Bedding Plants

'Supra Purple' dianthus

This is a hybrid that displays vigorous qualities, such as improved heat tolerance and prolific blooming. The 12-inch-tall plants produce 1 1/2-inch-wide, lacy, purple blooms. The improved heat tolerance lends itself to a longer blooming period than other plants in its family.

'Perfume Deep Purple' nicotiana

This plant will make a tremendous container plant for the deck or patio. The easy-to-grow plant will provide abundant color from its deep-purple blooms, and it will also add a nice fragrance. This plant will grow to around 15 inches tall and 20 inches wide.

Cool-Season Bedding Plants

'Diamonte Coral Rose' diascia

This is a hybrid diascia that works well in the container garden. Eight- to 10-inch-tall plants spread to 18 inches and flower early and long on a well-branched plant. One-inch coral blooms will cover the plant well past the first frosts.

'Skippy XL Red-Gold' viola

This plant was selected for its flower size, color and freedom of bloom. The ruby-red outer petals and golden yellow center are adorned on a large, 1-inch flower. 'Skippy' is a dwarf plant that grows to only 6 inches tall, with a similar width. This plant is also tolerant of heat and cold.

Thanks to these plants selected by All-America Selections, I will have something to look forward to after some failed resolutions are long forgotten this year. Happy New Year!