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Phyllis Both color for BNR

Phyllis Both

Every year it seems to me I hear complaints about spring. It is either “late” or “unusually cold,” “abnormally dry” or “fantastically wet,” for no one is ever willing to admit that there is no such thing as a normal spring.” — Thalassa CrussoThis time of year the All-American Selections plant winners are announced. All-American Selections is a nonprofit and fosters new and better horticulture and agriculture for gardening success. You can count on AAS winners to perform well in your gardens. There are usually three flowers and seven vegetables chosen. When choosing these plants, look for a red, white and blue label that has an AAS winner on its tag.

The first flower winner this year is a Canna South Pacific Orange F1. This canna is more vigorous, more uniform, and has more basil branching. The color is an outstanding orange and pollinators love it.

The first vegetable winner is a sweet corn called Sweet American Dream. It has excellent germination and very tender, super sweet kernels. It is a 77-day corn and grows to 6 or 7 feet.

Another flower that should be “a must” in an annual or perennial bed is Gypsophilia Gypsy White Improved or baby’s breath (Gypsophila muralis). This plant makes your annual garden look like a bouquet from a florist. This Gypsophilia is a new, improved variety that has double or semi-double flowers. It produces more flowers per plant than its predecessors, has a much longer bloom time, and is more heat tolerant. It is great for containers, small spaces and garden beds. It is also another pollinator-friendly plant.

One of my favorite plants in a flower garden is marigolds. They brighten up any garden throughout the whole season. Marigolds are easy to grow from seed but slugs and earwigs can be a problem. An AAS winner this year is a French marigold called Marigold Super Hero Spry. This is a compact plant with a more stable color pattern and uniform growth. It has dark maroon lower petals and golden yellow upper petals. They are great for borders, baskets and containers in full sun. These marigolds bloom early and are drought tolerant.

If you live in Wisconsin, most of you grow tomatoes. If you don’t, why not? You can tuck them in anywhere, even in large pots. The award winning tomato is called cocktail Red Racer F1. It is a compact, 3-foot tall tomato with no staking required. The tomatoes are uniform in size and produce a huge yield about seven to 10 days early. It is ideal for small spaces. The Red Racer is small in size but big on taste. An important attribute of the plant is that it is disease-resistant. It is tolerant to verticillium, fusarium (1,2), Nematode, tomato mosaic virus and gray leaf spot.

A few other vegetables you may want to try that are AAS winners include a habanero pepper named Roulette which has habanero flavor with no heat. It produces early and each plant produces 10-11 fruits at one time and 100 per season. If you love flavor but not hot, then this pepper is the way to go. For those of you who like a little heat, try a cayenne called Red Embers. Judges described this pepper as thick walled and spicy but tastier than the traditional cayenne, and just enough pungency for interest.

Contact Phyllis Both by email at or by telephone on Monday mornings at the Sauk County UW-Extension office, 608-355-3253.