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Award-winning new flowers and vegetables for 2022

"Growing Together" columnist Don Kinzler runs through the All-America Selections picks of favorite new flower and vegetable varieties for the new year.

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This yellow Bee's Knees petunia was deemed a gold medal winner by All-America Selections.
Contributed / All-America Selections
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What better way to start a new year, than to dream about new flowers and vegetables! Experimenting with new things keeps gardening fresh.

New varieties are developed by plant breeders every year, featured in the front pages of garden seed catalogs. How do we know if they’re any good? The All-America Selections organization selects the best of the best, taking the guesswork out of new flower and vegetable varieties .

Since 1932, All-America Selections judges across North America have tested new varieties, comparing them to the current best-in-class flowers and vegetables. If it’s sufficiently different or better, a new variety is awarded the coveted honor.

All-America Selections' familiar red, white and blue logo with the abbreviation AAS is often found in seed catalogs and on plant tags, denoting award-winning varieties.

The following are the 2022 award winners, with key characteristics provided by judges.

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  • Begonia, Viking Explorer Rose on Green: This trailing begonia spreads and spills its branches over the edges of hanging baskets and containers. Large rose-colored flowers stand out against the glossy green foliage all season long. Tolerates heat, diseases, and both wet and dry conditions.
  • Petunia, Bee’s Knees: This yellow petunia was so outstanding and eye-catching in the AAS trials that judges deemed it a Gold Medal Winner with its lush blooms of intense, deep yellow, non-fading flowers all season long. Its mounding habit works great in mixed containers, hanging baskets, or in flower beds. It’s propagated by cuttings, not by seed, so search garden centers for plants.
  • Sunflower, Concert Bell: Unique flowers are borne in clusters of 10 to 12 flowers on an erect columnar stem, instead of singly. Beautiful golden yellow blooms on plants growing to a height of 5 to 6 feet, and if used as a cut flower, makes an instant, ready-made bouquet from just one cut.
  • Torenia, Vertigo Deep Blue: Ideal for both containers and the landscape with a large number of flowers on each 12-inch plant with vibrant non-fading blue petals that contrast beautifully with the sky blue and yellow centers.
  • Eggplant, Icicle: This cylindrical white eggplant has fewer spines than most eggplants, and each plant produces eight to nine fruits 7 inches in length, with fewer seeds than other types. The improved taste and texture has universal appeal, whether fresh or cooked.
  • Lettuce, Bauer: Oakleaf lettuce produces dense heads with sweet, crisp, sturdy leaves. Harvest at the baby leaf stage or grow into the rosette-shaped full-sized head. Can be grown in-ground, containers, or window boxes. Harvest in only 58 days from seed.
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    Bauer lettuce can be grown in the ground, containers or window boxes.
    Contributed / All-America Selections
  • Pepper, Buffy: Produces a high yield of juicy, attractive, thick-walled green to red fruits on strong, healthy upright plants. Highly pungent with good aroma, fruits measure 500,000 Scoville units with up to 250 fruits per plant. Harvest 78 days from transplants. Judges described it as having “Excellent flavor with crazy heat.”
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    The Buffy pepper.
    Contributed / All-America Selections
  • Pepper, Dragonfly: Produces beautiful purple peppers with thick, sweet walls, changing from a green pepper into a purple fruit that is deliciously sweet at all stages. If left on the vine, fruits turn a beautiful, bright red color.
  • Tomato, Pink Delicious: This tomato has the trending heirloom look, flavor and texture with hybrid disease resistance. The beautiful big fruits resist cracking, and have an excellent flavor with a nice balance between sweet and acidic. With a harvest in 84 days from transplanting, it’s slightly later than main-season tomato types in the Upper Midwest.
  • Tomato, Purple Zebra: A fun new addition to striped tomatoes, fruits are rich with complex flavors. Dark red fruits with green stripes and a deep mahogany red interior have a taste that’s slightly acidic leaning to sweet. Produces 150-200 small fruits per plant in 80-85 days from transplanting.
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    Purple Zebra tomatoes are a fun new addition to striped tomatoes.
    Contributed / All-America Selections
  • Tomato, Sunset Torch: Strong, dramatic striping on a salad-type tomato with less splitting, good yields and a mildly sweet, fruity flavor. Produces up to 250 2-inch fruits on vining plants ripening 75 days from transplanting.
  • Watermelon, Century Star: A new seedless watermelon similar to the popular heirloom variety Moon and Stars. Century produces a good yield of 10-pound fruits on long vines. Fruits have attractive spotted rinds with great tasting, crisp, sweet internal flesh with harvest 75 days from seed.
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    Century Star watermelons have attractive spotted rinds.
    Contributed / All-America Selections

A note about availability: The newest AAS winners aren’t usually found on in-store seed racks, so mail order might be necessary. If pre-started plants are desired, check availability early with your locally owned garden center.

Don Kinzler, a lifelong gardener, is the horticulturist with North Dakota State University Extension for Cass County. Readers can reach him at donald.kinzler@ndsu.edu.

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