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Drum roll, please.

All-America Selections has announced the first winners of the coveted AAS award designation for 2020. The list includes two herbaceous perennials, “American Gold Rush” rudbeckia and “Sombrero Baja Burgundy” echinacea.

These perennials were judged the best herbaceous perennials in trials by independent volunteer judges. These entries grew next to comparisons in the trials. AAS is North America’s oldest and most prestigious plant trailing organization.

“American Gold Rush” rudbeckia offers solid golden yellow 2-inch flowers with black center eyes. Petals are arched on a compact, upright and domed plant that can reach 22 to 24 inches tall. Foliage is narrow and hairy and bred for resistance to Septoria leaf spot. The hybrid showed no signs of fungus under wet, humid conditions. It blooms from July until frost and is beloved by pollinators. Judges praised it for “great habit and longevity” with “nice full bloom coverage late in the season.” Foliage and flower texture and plant habit have refined appearances, according to judges. One judge described it as”one of the very best rudbeckias I’ve trialed and one of the very best perennials, too.”

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“Sombrero Baja Burgundy” is a striking echinacea with a deep violet-red bloom that is described as “without equal among coneflowers and is perfect for cut flowers.” It was trialed over three tough winters, according to AAS, and judges were impressed by the plant’s hardiness, sturdy branching and floriferous blooming habit. “Baja Burgundy” attracts pollinators and birds, and it is deer-resistant. It blooms from mid-summer until first frost. The upright plant reaches 18 to 20 inches tall and blooms measure 3 inches across.

Trial judges noted the “deep reddish-burgundy flower color was a standout, and the plants were consistently full and compact.” Other comments included praise for the flowers and seed heads in cut flower arrangements, and cones that can be dried and used for fall decoration.

AAS was founded in 1932 as a way for home gardeners to find out about which new varieties are truly improved. There is a national network of trial grounds throughout North America where flower and vegetable varieties are grown and assessed by impartial judges. The first winners were introduced in 1933, and in 1934, a record 33 winning new varieties were introduced.

The 2020 winners list includes several vegetables and melons, which I’ll feature in next week’s column. These new varieties will available in garden catalogs and garden centers next spring.

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