Last week, I wrote about the All America Selections award program, one of the few focused on the home gardener. This week we’ll review the 2019 winners, the latest in the program’s 85-year history.

Four flowering plants and seven edible plants are being recognized, with three national winners in each category.

Begonia Viking XL Red on Chocolate is a stunning addition to super-sized wax begonias that have become popular in recent years. Vibrant red, 1-inch flowers glow against the plant’s deep brown-bronze foliage and big bushy plants grow 28 to 24 inches tall with an equal spread. Looks fantastic all season in full sun or partial shade.

Marigold Big Duck Gold is aptly named. Enormous, 3-inch diameter, full double flowers start blooming in summer and cover plants through to a hard frost. Plants grow 11 to 15 inches tall and need full sun. Just the right size and flower-power for containers, in the landscape as a mini-hedge or mass planting, and tucked into perennial gardens for a reliable contribution of color.

It’s been years since the last addition to the original Wave petunia series.

Wave Carmine Velour is a unique carmine rose with a smoldering, deep burgundy throat. I’ve always been a big fan of the Wave petunia, and the new dark-centered velour pattern is one of my favorites. Trial performance was true to the Wave reputation, with profuse flowering and no need to trim spent blooms. The judges were very impressed with Carmine Velour’s color — vibrant, lively, intense, fabulous — and outstanding even on dull, dreary days. Plants grow in full to partial sun, 6 to 8 inches tall with a spread of three to four feed. Spacing is recommended at 12 to 24 inches. I’m looking forward to giving this one a try in my garden.

Nasturtium Baby Rose is a tidy, mounded plant with robust foliage and bright flowers that are held upright among the leaves. It did not take a national prize, and was not top rated for our Great Lakes region, but I would give it a try in a container in the herb garden, where I could easily pick some flowers and leaves for a summer salad.

Just Sweet is a delightful mini sweet bell pepper, just 3 inches long with the classic block-bell shape.

Peppers are thick-walled, sweet and bright, vivid yellow — perfect for snacking or cut into a salad. Expect ripe peppers 60 to 65 days after plants are transplanted into the garden.

Two small-fruited tomatoes round out the national winners in the edibles category.

Fire Fly is a pale yellow, almost white mini-cherry, with half-ounce fruits less than an inch in diameter. Exceptionally sweet and flavorful, with just the right acid/tartness and a delicate, almost translucent skin. Perfect for snacking and salads. Plants are indeterminate — which means that they will continue to grow and fruit all season, and will need a solid support in the garden. Harvest begins 80 days from transplant.

Red Torch is a lovely, red and orange striped grape tomato with excellent flavor and texture. Plants start producing early — about 60 days from transplant — and like Fire Fly is an indeterminate type that will continue to grow and produce through fall. Disease resistant plants also have excellent tolerance for harsh growing conditions.

Watermelon Cal Sweet Bush is a winner only in our Great Lakes region. A breakthrough variety with compact vines that grow only 14 to 18 inches long. Each plant produces two to three melons at 10 to 12 pounds each, with sweet, crisp red flesh and exceptional flavor. Perfect for small gardens, and even in a large container, trial plants produce at least one fruit. Harvest-ready 60 days from transplant.

Three additional winners outside our region are Orange Silverwave melon and tomatoes Chef’s Choice Black and Sparky XSL. Visit all-americaselections.org for more details.

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