Organic gardener growing food and flowers, lovin' pollinators and birds.

Colorful flowers, edibles reign supreme as 2019 AAS Winners

It's not too often that I get excited about melons.

But when viewing the 2019 All-America Selections Winner, 'Melon Orange SilverWave F1', the foodie in me says this must be added to the "must grow" list.

'Melon Orange SilverWave F1'. Photo credit All-America Selections. Used with permission.

The fruit's rind reminds me an exotic bird's egg. "The rind is unique," agreed Diane Blazek, Executive Director for All-America Selections and the National Garden Bureau. "It is light green with dark green mottling."

This AAS Regional Winner can be grown in containers or in ground, and staking is recommended.

Each plant produces up to six oval melons with a sweet orange flesh. According to AAS, the melons can be used in a fruit salad, wrapped with prosciutto or mixed into a smoothie or margarita.

They had me at smoothie and margarita.

The 'Orange SilverWave' is an exotic melon that was bred in South Korea. It also had better disease resistance than the varieties it was trialed against. It was a Regional AAS Winner for the Northeast and Southeast regions. (View the map here.)

Colorful varieties take the crown

There are no wallflowers in this year's winning circle. "It's all about color now," said Blazek, as we chatted about the recently announced Edible and Ornamental Winners.

You'll want to make room in your garden for the 11 new varieties that will produce a pop of color in your garden beds and containers.

Take the vivid yellow peppers from Pepper 'Just Sweet F1', which won consumer taste tests "hands down" according to the AAS website.

"I wish more people grew yellow peppers," said Blazek. This snacking pepper size has four lobes like a larger bell pepper, but smaller. "Peppers of this size are usually smooth," she said. "It's not just another sweet bell pepper."

Pepper 'Just Sweet F1'. Photo credit All-America Selections. Used with permission.

This National Winner is a vigorous grower (36 inches tall and 15 inches wide) and has a bushy habit that does not require staking. Each plant yields between 10-12 peppers.

Another favorite was the pale yellow/translucent white Tomato 'Fire Fly F1', an indeterminate variety that can grow five to six feet tall.

"The flavor on this one is amazing," said Blazek. "It's healthy and yummy. I love this one."

Tomato 'Fire Fly F1'. Photo credit All-America Selections. Used with permission.

This variety was tested against 'Snow White' (also a delicious tomato variety) and one of the judge's comments was: “The entry is mildly acidic, with a pleasant flavor, and vine ripens as clusters better than the comparisons.” This National Winner will need staking and has good disease resistance.

Keeping with the yellow theme, take a look at National Winner Marigold 'Big Duck Gold F1', featuring golden-yellow flowers that bloom longer than the comparisons.

Marigold 'Big Duck Gold F1'. Photo credit All-America Selections. Used with permission.

"This variety has huge flowers," said Blazek. "It forms a short hedge filled with lots of flowers," she said. It blooms a lot later into the season, atop 15 inch plants. "You can start it indoors and transplant it to give it a head start," Blazek recommended,

Another new edition to border the veggie garden — or use in gardens with limited space — is Nasturtium 'Baby Rose', the first nasturtium AAS winner since 1933!

"What's old is new again," said Blazek, referring to the popularity of old-fashioned flowers, and in this case, an improved variety.

Nasturtium 'Baby Rose'. Photo credit All-America Selections. Used with permission.

'Baby Rose' was praised by the judges for having blooms that remained upright. It's a mounding variety and perfect for containers and small space gardens.

The rose-colored flowers (which can be uncommon in nasturtiums), contrasts nicely with the dark-green foliage. It will also attract pollinators to your garden. Bonus: the leaves and flowers are edible.

This nasturtium was a Regional Winner for the Northeast, Heartland and Mountain/Southwest regions. (View the map here.)

One of the highest scoring plants in the 2018 trials was Petunia 'Wave® Carmine Velour F1', the newest addition to the popular Wave Petunias series.

"This is a great new color," said Blazek. "The flower feels like velvet. All the judges were raving about the color."

Petunia Wave® Carmine Velour F1. Photo credit All-America Selections. Used with permission.

This variety features large two to two and a half inch carmine rose flowers that cover the spreading plants. Unlike other petunia varieties, this one rarely needs deadheading. It can be used in the landscape or in containers and hanging baskets. This National Winner can spread three to four feet.

Another red flowering National Winner is 'Begonia Viking™ XL Red on Chocolate F1'. The 'XL' refers to both the mounding nature of the plant and the size of the leaves, which remain deep bronze/brown throughout the season.

'Begonia Viking™ XL Red on Chocolate F1'. Photo credit All-America Selections. Used with permission.

The leaf color was its claim to fame, according to Blazek. "It had the most consistent leaf color," she said. The color remained sharp throughout various seasons across the U.S. The leaves are complimented by its red colored flowers. This begonia is a National Winner.

Heading back into the edible category is Tomato 'Chef's Choice Black F1', the sixth color in the Chef's Choice series. This beefsteak type tomato features a dark green/brown/black hue that is highly productive and disease-resistant.

Tomato 'Chef's Choice Black F1'. Photo credit All-America Selections. Used with permission.

This variety was tested against 'Black Krim', a popular heirloom tomato, and one of the judges noted that 'Chef's Choice Black' matured earlier.

This hybrid yielded more than 30 juicy tomatoes per plant. It's flavor is sweet with a hint of saltiness. It's an indeterminate vine with disease resistance.

This was a Regional Winner in the Southeast, Mountain/Southwest and West/Northwest regions. (View the map here.)

Tomato 'Red Torch F1'. Photo credit All-America Selections. Used with permission. 

Tomato 'Red Torch F1' is a red and yellow striped oblong tomato with one and a half inch fruits. It produces fruit early and does well in heat and harsh growing conditions. The indeterminate vines grow five to six feet tall.

"The color made it a win, but it also had good taste," said Blazek. High yields means you can expect more than 100 tomatoes per plant! This was a National Winner.

Tomato 'Sparky XSL F1'. Photo credit All-America Selections. Used with permission.

Another red and yellow striped AAS Winner is Tomato 'Sparky XSL F1' (Regional Winner: Heartland). It produces with very sweet fruits with an average Brix score of 8.5.

XSL refers to the X-tended Shelf Life, and this variety is an early-maturing and prolific producer. Plan on getting 60 to 70 tomatoes per plant.

Watermelon 'Cal Sweet Bush'. Photo credit All-America Selections. Used with permission. 

Last but not least is another Regional Winner (Great Lakes): Watermelon 'Cal Sweet Bush'. A traditional seeded watermelon that yields personal size watermelons and are also good for growing in containers. "They are very manageable to grow," said Blazek.

It will bear at least one fruit per vine in a container, and at least two to three when planted in the ground. Fruits range from 10-12 pounds.

I'm so excited to grow many of these varieties in my garden next year, and I've already been scouting garden companies where I can purchase seeds from. (Retailers who sell AAS Winners seeds and plants can be found here.)

About AAS Trials

I've grown other AAS Winners and I know that these varieties are tested to perform well in my garden. Most recently I've grown 'Queeny Lime Orange' zinnia, 'South Pacific Orange F1' canna, 'Diva' cucumber, 'Mad Hatter F1' pepper and 'Midnight Snack F1' tomato. (I recently wrote about the veggies here.)

Each year AAS evaluates numerous entries into its ornamental and edible categories. AAS is the only non-profit plant trialing organization in North America, and the plants are grown in multiple locations to see how they perform.

To see how well the submitted entries grow, each one is assigned a code number and is grown alongside at least two comparable varieties currently available on the market. They all need to be planted at the same time and throughout the growing season, and all plants must be treated equally (for example, same amounts of water).

Throughout the season, the judges take notes on the way the AAS entry plant grows and how it compares with the varieties it is being compared to. Once the data has been collected, AAS entry plants that performed well across the country are announced as National Winners. If an entry performed well in a certain region, it is declared a Regional Winner. (Read more about the process here.)

View the 2018 AAS Winners here.

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