URBANA, Ill. – Cold, blustery temperatures have been moving across Illinois lately and gardeners are starting to put the landscape to bed for the winter. Why not weather the season indoors and start designing next year’s garden?
“Planning your garden is essential to make sure that you have enough space for your plants while ensuring your garden has color and bloom all year long,” says Bruce Black, a University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator. “After mapping out perennials you currently have planted, think about what new plants could be added to your landscape. A great starting place is the All-America Selections.”
All-America Selections (AAS) is a non-profit organization that releases a number of trialed plants each year as AAS Winners. All-America Selections tests new varieties every year at their 80 private and public trial sites located around the United States and Canada.
Currently, there are five trial locations distributed throughout Illinois: three northern, one central, one southern. Independent judges, who are professional horticulturists in geographically diverse areas, evaluate trial entries against comparison plants. The results and observations are compiled and winners are chosen. For the best plants suited to the area, Illinois residents should look for Great Lakes winners or national winners on the AAS Winners lists.
Three 2018 AAS National Winners have been announced, which include two vegetables and a flower.
Corn, Sweet American Dream (Zea mays var. American Dream): American Dream has super sweet bi-colored kernels, is very tender and has excellent germination, reaching maturity in 77 days. National Vegetable Winner.
Tomato (cocktail), Red Racer F1 (Solanum lycopersicum var. Red Racer F1): Red Racer is a compact determinate tomato, producing cocktail-sized (1.5 inches), uniform, red-clustered tomatoes with a good sweet/acid balance. Ideal for container gardens and available in conventional and organic seeds. National Vegetable Winner.
Ornamental Pepper Onyx Red (Capsicum annuum var. Onyx Red): Onyx Red is a 6-12-inch compact annual with dark purple foliage with purple-red fruit. National Flower Winner.
Looking for something else to fill in your landscape and gardens?
The All-America Selections website (all-americaselections.org) contains a list of all past vegetables and flowers winners since its founding in 1933.
“Reading about these new plant introductions is sparking my excitement for spring,” says Black. “I may start planning our youth summer gardens a bit earlier this winter.”
For more information about gardening, check out the University of Illinois Extension websites Watch Your Garden Grow, https://extension.illinois.edu/veggies/ or University of Illinois Extension Horticulture YouTube Channel, http://go.illinois.edu/UniversityOfIllinoisExtensionHorticulture.