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Grow History: All-America Selections Winners

Submitted by on August 9, 2020 – 8:34 amNo Comment

Tithonia Torch Special to Road Trips for Gardeners
By Mark Dwyers
Landscape Prescriptions by MD

When I was the Director of Horticulture at Rotary Botanical Gardens in Janesville, Wisconsin, we enjoyed our relationship with All-America Selections (AAS), and we were always proud to display a wide range of award-winning plants with a heavy focus on the annuals. The beauty and performance of these winners was matched by the enthusiasm of our visitors who enjoyed seeing such wonderful color and texture in the garden. We created displays of historic AAS Winners three separate times, always to rave reviews. It was amazing to see how AAS Winners from 50-80 years ago have stood the test of time and continue to delight today.

Varieties of all sorts of plants come and go every year due to breeding improvements, new introductions, crop failures, and changes in consumer preferences. The fact that many AAS winners are still available is a testament not only to their breeding but also to their popularity with gardeners for so many years. “Imagine growing a zinnia that your great grandmother may have grown in her garden.“

Rotary Garden, Janesville, Wisconsin

Rotary Botanical Garden’s 2016 Historic AAS Winners Display

AAS winners are destined for broad promotion and enjoyment and the history of this well-managed organization and program (founded in 1932) is filled with wonderful plants for growers and home gardeners alike! Being designated an AAS Winner not only means proven performance but also an impressive longevity in regards to future availability.

Why not consider trying some of these historic winners in your own garden in the future?
Knowing these selections have a proven track record of decades of success makes them a slam dunk for performance in the garden. Imagine showing your neighbors a nasturtium variety from the 1930s, a petunia variety from 1950, and marigold varieties that are over 50 years old! These varieties and more are listed below as just some of the winners still available. Growing these varieties also helps ensure their future availability.

12 AAS Historical Winners To Grow in Your Garden

Hummemannia Sunlite
Hunnemannia Sunlite (1934)
The Mexican tulip poppy (left) features feathery, blue-green foliage with clear lemon-yellow blooms hovering above the foliage from summer until fall. While drought-tolerant, drainage is vital. Reaches 24” in height.

Nasturtium Scarlet Gleam
Nasturtium Scarlet Gleam (1935)
Smothered in bright scarlet, semi-double blooms, this semi-trailing form (right) is excellent for hanging baskets, window boxes, and containers. Reaching 12-24” in size, the leaves and flowers are edible (peppery taste).

Cleome Pink Queen
Cleome Pink Queen (1942)
This low-maintenance, fast-growing, and weather-resistant selection (left) features large, open pink blooms followed by spidery seed pods. This classic variety (3-5’ tall) never disappoints and is mostly pest and disease-free.

Zinnia Royal Purple
Zinnia Royal Purple (1942)
The fully or semi-double blooms (3-4” diameter) on this classic variety (right) are a deep purple fading to lilac with age. Strong stems and mildew resistance make this 30-36” tall selection a standout in any full sun garden.

Morning Glory Blue Star
Morning Glory Blue Star (1949)
This heirloom sport of the popular ‘Heavenly Blue’ variety (left) features powder-blue flowers with a darker blue star radiating from the center. Excellent coverage from this vine. Be aware of reseeding issues.

Petunia Fire Chief
Petunia Fire Chief (1950)
This free-flowering, bushy and compact selection (right) was the first “true red” petunia although the older flowers fade to a soft red. Reaching 12-18” tall, this Gold Winner classic selection is also lightly fragrant.

Tithonia Torch
Tithonia Torch (1951)
This Central American native (left) doesn’t mind it hot and dry. Featuring velvety stems and quick growth to 6’ or taller, ‘Torch’ produces 3” diameter, orange-red blossoms from summer until fall and will be a magnet for monarchs.

Celosia Toreador
Celosia Toreador (1955)
The deep magenta-red, textural blooms (right) are held on stiff stems and lend themselves to both fresh and dried arrangements. This selection is also quite tolerant of both heat and humidity and will reach a height of 24”.

Rudbeckia Gloriosa Double
Rudbeckia Gloriosa Double (1961)
This robust selection (left) will reach 36” in height and features 4-5” diameter, golden-yellow, double blooms on sturdy stems. The dark center of the flower is also evident on this old classic – perfect for cutting!

Marigold First Lady
Marigold First Lady (1968)
This still popular selection (right) reaches 20” in height and features 4” diameter, double, sunny yellow flowers that are held above the foliage. Weather-resistant with strong stems, this is an excellent variety for mass plantings!

Hollyhock Summer Carnival
Hollyhock Summer Carnival (1972)
This selection (left) features 4” double and semi-double blooms in a mix of yellow, salmon, red, rose, pink, orange, and white. A great flower to add to your background and reseeds itself to come back year after year.

Marigold Queen Sophie
Marigold Queen Sophia (1979)
Blooming reliably through the heat, this variety (rifht) displays a profusion of semi-double blooms featuring dark orange petals rimmed in gold. Reaching only 10-12” in height, this blooming powerhouse also won the RHS Award for Garden Merit in the UK.

(Photos courtesy of All-America Selections)

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