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14 new fruits and vegetables for a show-stopping garden

Pepper, Cayenne Red Ember All-American Selections / Special to The Forum1 / 14
Zinnia, Queeny Lime Orange All-American Selections / Special to The Forum2 / 14
Tomato, Cocktail Red Racer All-American Selections / Special to The Forum3 / 14
Canna, South Pacific Orange All-American Selections / Special to The Forum4 / 14
Pepper, Hungarian Mexican Sunrise All-American Selections / Special to The Forum5 / 14
Ornamental Pepper, Onyx Red All-American Selections / Special to The Forum 6 / 14
Tomato, Chef’s Choice Red All-American Selections / Special to The Forum7 / 14
Marigold, Super Hero Spry All-American Selections / Special to The Forum8 / 14
Pepper, Habanero Roulette All-American Selections / Special to The Forum9 / 14
Cuphea, FloriGlory Diana All-American Selections / Special to The Forum10 / 14
Gypsophila, Gypsy White Improved All-American Selections / Special to The Forum11 / 14
Pak Choi, Asian Delight All-American Selections / Special to The Forum12 / 14
Sweet Corn, American Dream All-American Selections / Special to The Forum13 / 14
Tomato, Valentine All-American Selections / Special to The Forum14 / 14

Once upon a time, the phrase 'new and improved' carried weight. Then it became an advertising cliché and the overused words lost their luster.

Well, each year the All-America Selections organization picks award-winning flowers and vegetables that actually are new and improved, but maybe we should call them unique and upgraded.

Since 1932, All-America Selections' volunteer judges across North America have tested new varieties, comparing them to the current best-in-class flowers and vegetables. If it's sufficiently different or better than the existing, a new variety is awarded the prestigious All-American Selections award. Hundreds of popular favorites have won the coveted award, like Purple Wave Petunia, Celebrity Tomato and Sugar Snap Pea.

Here are the new 2018 award winners with a summary of characteristics.

  • Canna, South Pacific Orange: The unique, soft orange flowers grow on compact, green-leaved plants reaching up to 52 inches high. They're suitable for large containers or flowerbed backgrounds. Unlike many cannas, these are grown from seed that's best started in late winter.
  • Cuphea, FloriGlory Diana: This variety of Mexican heather has larger flowers and more intense color, with five times the flower quantity of comparable cupheas. Growing 10 to 12 inches high, the compact plants are well-suited for containers or flowerbeds, thriving in heat and full sun. These are cutting-grown, so starter plants must be purchased.
  • Gypsophila, Gypsy White Improved: Blossoms of this semi-double annual baby's breath are larger and more abundant than previous types, creating a fluffy, 10-inch mound for hanging baskets, containers or flowerbed borders. Sow seed indoors in mid-March for May planting.
  • Marigold, Super Hero Spry: Two-tone maroon and yellow flowers grow on compact 10 to 12-inch plants. Easily grown from seeds started indoors in mid-March for mid-May outdoor planting.
  • Ornamental Pepper, Onyx Red: Compact, well-branched plants have black-purple foliage with small shiny red fruit. Eight-inch plants are eye-catching in containers or flowerbeds.
  • Zinnia, Queeny Lime Orange: Large, dahlia-type flowers on sturdy, compact plants. Described as a show-stopping color with shades of lime, yellow, peach, salmon and orange. Grows 18 to 24 inches tall and loves full sun and heat. Sow seed indoors in mid-April for mid-May planting.
  • Sweet Corn, American Dream: Bi-color type with tender, super-sweet kernels that are ready for harvest slightly earlier than comparable types. Stalks are 6- to 7-feet tall with 7-inch cops ready in 77 days from planting.
  • Pak Choi, Asian Delight: A Chinese cabbage that's slower to bolt than others, forming mild-flavored heads ready in 35 to 50 days from direct garden seeding, or 25 to 40 days from pre-started transplants. Container friendly.
  • Pepper, Cayenne Red Ember: Reportedly tastier than other cayenne types, and its earliness makes it better suited for northern growing. Pre-started transplants produce usable peppers 75 days from planting into garden.
  • Pepper, Habanero Roulette: Truly unique, because it's got all the habanero flavor, but no heat. Earlier ripening, with high yields 85 days from transplanting into garden. Can be grown in containers.
  • Pepper, Hungarian Mexican Sunrise: Colors progress from green to yellow to orange to red, and semi-hot fruit can be eaten at any of these stages.
  • Tomato, Chef's Choice Red: Globe-shaped beefsteak-type has a full-flavored sugar to acid balance. Indeterminate vining plants are disease resistant with fruits ripening 80 to 85 days from garden transplanting, making it slightly later than our 65 to 75-day midseason tomato types.
  • Tomato, Cocktail Red Racer: Larger than cherry tomatoes, the sweet fruits grow in heavy clusters. Compact, determinate habit is ideal for small-spaces and containers. Earlier than comparisons, fruits ripen 57 days from transplanting.
  • Tomato, Valentine: Sweet grape tomato with a high lycopene content, giving fruits redder-than-normal color. Fruits hold longer on vines without cracking, ripening 55 days from transplanting on indeterminate vines.

Note about AAS availability: Some garden centers carry starter plants of AAS award winners, others don't.

For gardeners wishing to start their own transplants, seed of this year's winners is readily available and a quick online search lists mail-order suppliers.

Don Kinzler, a lifelong gardener, worked as an NDSU Extension horticulturist and owned Kinzler's Greenhouse in Fargo. Readers can reach him at forumgrowingtogether@hotmail.com.

He also blogs at growingtogether.areavoices.com.

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