Summer is heating up in my garden.
Bright pink "Wave" petunias are climbing the lattice work behind the window boxes, and other annuals are pumping out colorful blooms in pots and along borders. Roma tomatoes are ripening in clusters and peppers are sizing up for salads. Daylilies in a kaleidoscope of colors are blooming alongside lilies, daisies and other perennials, and hostas and sedums are larger than bushel baskets. It isn't yet a chore dragging the hose around to water.
Then comes news that All-America Selections is already anticipating spring 2014. This week, they've announced a pair of AAS winners. "Sparkle White" gaura is a bedding plant winner, and "Mascotte," a bean won in the vegetable category.
Both winners were trialed next to similar varieties currently on the market, according to an AAS press release. "The AAS judges grew each entry and the comparisons then did a side-by-side analysis of growth habit, taste, disease resistance and more to determine if these were truly better than those already available to home gardeners. Only those flower entries with superior garden performance or the vegetables with superior taste and garden performance are given the AAS stamp of approval," it stated.
Interestingly, these 2014 varieties are now available for sale. Brokers and growers are purchasing the varieties, and consumers will see them available in fall catalogs, in seed packets from mail order companies and online sources. The winners should be available as young plants next spring at retail nurseries and lawn and garden stores.
Bred by Kieft Seed, gaura "Sparkle White" is described as bringing a "touch of airy elegance to the garden with its long slender stems sporting a large number of dainty white flowers tinged with a pink blush." AAS reports the closest comparisons on the market are "The Bride" and "Summer Breeze."
Mass plant it in sunny beds or group with perennials or in large containers. "Sparkle White" has a long bloom season and heat tolerance. Suitable for Zones 5B-9, it can be grown as an annual or marketed as a first-year perennial.
"Mascotte," bred by Clause Vegetable Seeds, is the first AAS winning bean since 1991. A compact variety, it's a bush-type bean producing long, slender stringless pods high above leaves, making them visible and easy to pick. The root system is ideal for patio containers and window boxes, as well as garden beds.
The French "Mascotte" (like its English translation "mascot") is a symbol of good luck and was chosen for the variety's gardener-friendly habit, according to AAS. Judges appreciated the crunchiness and taste of this bean as well as the plentiful harvest all season long. Closest comparisons on market are "Cropper Teepee" and "Maxibel."