All gardeners have favorite plant varieties. Whether it’s a new hybrid or heirloom seed saved by great Aunt Matilda and passed down through the generations, mention seeds in gardening circles and you can expect a vigorous discussion.

All-America Selections is a non-profit organization founded in 1932 that conducts nationwide trials of newly introduced ornamental and vegetable plants, all bred or produced without using genetic engineering (i.e., without “GMO”). AAS winners are selected by an independent panel of expert judges, and offer gardeners varieties with superior garden performance.

Below are extracts from the AAS descriptions of their 2021 winners. For more information go to https://all-americaselections.org/product-category/year/2021/.

2021 AAS Flower Winners

Celosia Kelos® Candela Pink

Bright pink blooms rise above the foliage and keep their color all season long. Excellent for adding interest to a combination container planting, but also useful in mass plantings and borders. And this celosia works as a dried flower! Available only as plants.

Zinnia Profusion Red Yellow Bicolor

A beautiful new bicolor addition to the popular Profusion series of zinnias. Early in the season the flowers have a bold red center surrounded by golden-yellow outer petals. Aging flowers slowly change into soft shades of apricot, salmon, and dusty rose. Very floriferous yet compact.

2021 AAS Perennial Winner

Leucanthemum Sweet Daisy Birdy

A Shasta Daisy with large (5 inch), long-lasting pure white blooms on plants with a tidy, sturdy habit. The only maintenance is deadheading spent blooms, but even that is optional. Excellent for cut flowers, Shasta Daisies also provide food for many pollinators. Available only as plants.

2021 AAS Edible – Vegetable Winners

Echalion Creme Brulee

A shallot that is easy to grow from seed and matures earlier than many varieties. Easy to peel, single-centered bulbs have a rosy-purple interior. A fantastic variety for the home gardener.

Pepper Pot-a-peño

This new jalapeño pepper is perfect for containers and hanging baskets. Fruits left on the vine a few extra weeks ripen to red with a sweet, spicy flavor. Earlier to mature than other jalapeños.

Squash Goldilocks

A new acorn squash with high yields, disease tolerance, and a rich nutty flavor. The bright orange fruits are uniform in shape and color, and are great as ornamental decorations.

I’ve grown many AAS winners over the years and had exceptional luck with them. The varieties above should be available from seed catalogs or as transplants from local vendors this spring. Give them a trial of your own!

Jim Janke is an Extension Master Gardener Volunteerin Haywood County. For more information visit https://haywood.ces.ncsu.edu, or call the Haywood County Extension Center at 828-456-3575. ©2020 NC State University. Pictures courtesy All-America Selections.

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