Each year, new plants are tested at almost 200 public and university gardens around the country to help choose plants that will be labeled All-America Selections winners. These plants are considered stalwart performers either all over the United States or for a specific region, and generally an AAS label means the plant is going to grow well.
Minnesota is home to six All-America Selections trial gardens, including those at Como Park in St. Paul, Lyndale Park Rose Garden in Minneapolis and the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. The University of Minnesota — Morris trial garden in the western part of the state is also an AAS garden and has marvelous displays of annuals each year, featuring many new AAS performers.
The 2018 All-America Selections plants include 11 annuals and vegetables that were tested over the past few years. You can see the full list here. Checking over the list, I found four that seem very appealing for those of us who garden in the North.
Valentino Grape Tomato
How about a tomato that is ready to harvest 55 days from transplant? For many gardeners in USDA Zone 3, that would be a real treat, and Valentino not only offers an early harvest but boasts sweet flavor and a prolific nature. This was the top pick among testers for a grape tomato. Valentino has firm flesh and resists cracking. It does require staking, however, as the vines can get quite tall on this indeterminate tomato. Despite its early harvest, Valentino holds up in heat, too.
Red Racer Tomato
Red Racer is a cocktail tomato, larger than a cherry but smaller than a regular slicing tomato. Judges lauded the plant for its good taste and heavy production. It may be the ideal tomato for small space gardens or containers.
Queeny Lime Orange Zinnia
I suppose the world does not absolutely need another zinnia, but isn’t this one lovely? Queeny Lime Orange looks almost like a dahlia, and the color is described as everything from dark coral to peachy to orangish to pink/green. The plant is especially useful as a cut flower. The blooms last up to three week, even without floral food. In the garden, one judge described it as a “showstopper.” One other benefit: Pollinators seemed to like this zinnia.
Gypsy White Improved Gypsophila
This compact baby’s breath is notably for its bright white color; full, dense habit and semi-double flowers. It grows about 10 inches tall and wide and can be used in containers or as an edging or groundcover. It blooms from spring into summer and can be started from seed indoors. One judge described it as “Outstanding!”