Garden Gems

Garden Gems

Since day one, All-America Selections (AAS) has prided itself on identifying and promoting superior-performing varieties and raising the bar for future introductions. Varieties that are genetic breakthroughs are continuously improved and sometimes even superseded.

After 75 years, which ones withstand the test of time on their own merits? Being very particular, AAS has identified five that stand out above the rest for performance and their longevity and recognition in the marketplace. All are F1 hybrids. These are the All-America Classics:

Dianthus ‘Ideal Violet’

Introduced in 1992, ‘Ideal Violet’ colors a garden with 1 1/2-inch, single violet blooms. It was bred for cold and heat tolerance in France. The breeder, Guy Lassartesse bred ‘Ideal Violet’ while exploring crosses between D. chinensis (China pink) and D. barbatus (Sweet William). This variety was the first dianthus to receive the AAS Bedding Plant Award and is offered by PanAmerican Seed.

Pansy ‘Majestic Giants Mix’

Introduced in 1966, Sakata Seed’s ‘Majestic Giants Mix’ were the first pansies that did not require cool temperatures for flower initiation. This breakthrough allowed for Southern growers to sow in the summer without an artificial cooling treatment. The breeder, Sukeo Miyazaki of Sakata, met his objectives to create a hybrid plant with consistently large flowers. The wide range of colors have made them a consumer favorite.

Petunia ‘Ultra Crimson Star’

Bred by Mathilde “Tilly” Holtrop of Goldsmith Seeds, ‘Ultra Crimson Star’ features pure white stars centered on huge, crimson grandiflora flowers. In 1988, it was the first AAS Bedding Plant Award winner, in which annuals are tested in the greenhouse and the garden. ‘Ultra Crimson’ passed this test with improved traits such as earliness and the consistent star pattern on flamboyant 3- to 4- inch blooms.

Petunia ‘Wave Purple’

Flower judges were awestruck when they saw petunia entry 92F17 in 1992. Unlike all other petunias, this entry did not grow vertically but grew along the soil like an ivy groundcover. Finally, in 1995, the petunia was introduced as an AAS Winner named ‘Wave Purple.’ It was bred by Daigaku Takeshita of Kirin Brewery Co. and marketed by PanAmerican Seed. ‘Wave Purple’ renewed interest in the entire genus of petunias.

Tomato ‘Big Beef’

Introduced in 1994, ‘Big Beef’ answered gardeners’ dreams of a large, beefsteak-type tomato that was early and loaded with disease resistance. Almost foolproof, ‘Big Beef’ can be harvested about 73 days from transplanting into warm garden soil. Breeder Colen Wyatt at Seminis Vegetable Seeds was one of the most successful home garden vegetable plant breeders in the last half of the 20th century.

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