After the polar vortex of last winter, many are wondering if those cold blustery temperatures will return this season to affect our plants in Illinois. According to winter predictions, and University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator Bruce J. Black, this winter should be cold, but with enough snow, plants will be successfully insulated.
“When planning your garden, it is essential to choose plants that can tolerate our cold temperatures and still have blossoms all year long,” Black says. “After mapping out cold-hardy perennials you currently have planted, begin to 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 several 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 in 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.
Six 2020 AAS Winners have been announced, which include four vegetables and two flowers. They are:
Cucumber, Green Light F1 (Cucumis sativusvar. Green Light F1): Green Light is a vining cucumber, with a plant height of 80 inches producing 40 3.5-inch sweet and crisp fruits per plant. National Vegetable Winner.
Tomato, Celano F1 (Solanum lycopersicum var. Celano F1): Celano is a patio-type grape tomato with a bushy habit, producing uniform oblong sweet fruits. With excellent late-blight tolerance, Celano is considered to be sweet, with a phenomenal yield. Ideal for container gardens, but may require trellising and some pruning according to the judges’ observations. National Vegetable Winner.
Tomato, Early Resilience F1 (Solanum lycopersicum var. Early Resilience F1): Early Resilience is a determinate, uniform, Roma-type, great for cooking and canning. Judges noted Early Resilience was very resistant to blossom-end rot and other diseases, and was overall one of the healthier plants and fruits in the trial. National Vegetable Winner.
Watermelon, Mambo F1 (Citrullus lanatus var. Mambo F1): Mambo is a round, dark green rinded watermelon averaging 11 pounds per fruit. It doesn’t overripen and yields well in cool, cloudy weather. Judges said it is easy to grow, due to high seed germination rates and healthy vines. Seventy-five days to maturity from transplants. National Vegetable Winner.
Echinacea, Sombrero® Baja Burgundy (Echinacea hybrid var. Sombrero® Baja Burgundy): Sombrero® Baja Burgundy is a beautiful violet-red coneflower that was noted for its hardiness, sturdy branching, and beautiful habit. A great cut flower blooming mid-summer to frost, Sombrero® Baja Burgundy is pollinator and bird-friendly and deer-resistant. National Herbaceous Perennial Winner.
Rudbeckia, American Gold Rush (Rudbeckia x American Gold Rush): American Gold Rush is a compact, dome-shaped black-eyed Susan with narrow 2-inch hairy foliage. Bred for its resistance to Septoria leaf spot, this July to September bloomer shows no signs of fungus in humid and wet conditions. The blooms are pollinator-friendly and are great as cut flowers. National Herbaceous Perennial 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 vegetable and flower winners since its founding in 1933.
“Reading about these new plant introductions has me excited for spring,” Black says.
For more information about gardening, check out the University of Illinois Extension Horticulture YouTube Channel: http://go.illinois.edu/UniversityOfIllinoisExtensionHorticulture.