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Thursday, April 21, 2005 12:50 pm

gardening 4-21-05

art2009

Three annual flowers and three vegetables were chosen as the 2005 All-America Selections winners. The mission of AAS is “to promote new garden seed varieties with superior garden performance judged in impartial trials in North America.” AAS is the oldest, most established international testing organization in North America.

First, the flowers:

¥ The bright colors of the Arizona Sun Gaillardia mirror the desert sun in Arizona. Each three-inch single flower is graced by a mahogany-red center and bright yellow petals. This full-sun dwarf annual grows just 8 to 10 inches tall. Arizona Sun flowers may attract butterflies in the garden and may be cut for summer bouquets.

¥  First Kiss Blueberry is the first blue-flowered vinca (Catharanthus rosea). The single two-inch blue-violet blooms have darker centers. Proved heat- and drought-tolerant, mature plants grow about 11 inches tall and spread 16 inches, and look great in patio containers.

¥  The Magellan Coral zinnia radiates with brilliant coral fully double, dahlialike five- to six- inch blooms. Two exceptional traits of this zinnia: Consistent flower production and early blooming. Mature zinnia plants grow 15 to 17 inches tall. The plants are easily started from seed.

Now the award-winning vegetables:

¥   Fairy Tale is an exceptional new variety of eggplant. This petite plant, which grows just two-and-a-half feet tall and wide, is easily grown in a container garden. The elongated oval fruits are white with violet/purple stripes and may be harvested when they have grown to a diameter of one or two inches and a length of six inches. The fruit are sweet and nonbitter, with tender skin and few seeds. Whole fruits may be marinated and grilled.

¥   The Sugary tomato’s name says it all. The plant produces half-ounce dark-pink fruit with a higher sugar content than that of most others tomatoes. The small oval fruits may be put on salads, or you can just pop them into your mouth. The plants produce clusters of tomatoes through the summer. Plants are vigorous, growing six feet high.

¥   The Bonbon winter squash produces a boxy, dark-green fruit adorned with silver stripes. The orange-fleshed fruits, which weigh about four pounds, are stringless and have a creamy texture. This easy-to-grow squash is not susceptible to disease. Mature vines spread to about eight feet in a full-sun garden location.

For more information and to view photos of the winners, visit www.all-americaselections.org. Most of this year’s AAS winners should be available at many garden centers this spring. The winning flowers may be seen this summer in the Washington Park Botanical Gardens’ AAS display garden.

What’s wrong?

If you’re having disease problems with your ornamental plants, consider attending the “Recognizing and Diagnosing Ornamental Plant Diseases” workshop on Thursday, April 28.

Jim Schuster, horticulture educator with Countryside Center, will present the program. The workshop, which runs 9 a.m.-1 p.m., will be held at the University of Illinois Extension Building on the Illinois State Fairgrounds.

Schuster has a collection of about 300 dried disease specimens.  Participants will have an opportunity to choose a disease sample to learn more about it. Seating is limited; register by calling 217-782-4617 by Friday, April 22.

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