All-America award-winning flowers and vegetables for 2023
Gardening columnist Don Kinzler rounds up the 2023 All-America Selections winners.
Seed catalogs top the bestseller list for most gardeners in January and featured prominently are enticing new varieties of flowers and vegetables. But how do we know if “new” is really better?
The All-America Selections organization is here to help, selecting the best of the best for its coveted awards, taking the guess work out of new varieties for gardeners. 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 a variety is sufficiently different or better than existing types, it’s awarded top honors. The All-America Selections familiar red, white and blue logo with the abbreviation AAS is found in seed catalogs and on plant tags, denoting award-winning varieties.
Following are the 2023 AAS award winners, with key characteristics provided by judges.
Coleus Premium Sun Coral Candy: The first ever coleus from seed to win AAS designation, having unique multicolored foliage on a compact plant. Narrow serrated leaves drape down the mounded plants, which hold the color well, even when grown in full sun. A great container plant for shade or full sun. Grows 10 to 16 inches high.
Colocasia Royal Hawaiian Waikiki: Also called elephant ears, the plant’s sturdy, large, glossy leaves unfurl with bold coloration featuring pink veins and creamy centers. Reaching 36 inches high and wide, the plants can be grown in full-sun flowerbeds or large containers. Available as plants only, not seed.
Echinacea Artisan Yellow Ombre: This perennial provides vibrant golden yellow blooms all season, with a uniform growth habit and multi-branched plants that produce a prolific quantity of flowers. A great addition to the pollinator garden. Available as seed.
Leucanthemum Carpet Angel: The first-ever perennial groundcover Shasta Daisy, growing only to a height of six inches, it spreads up to 20 inches, acting as a groundcover. Described as pure white blooms looking like angels dancing over a carpet of dark green foliage, it’s available as plants only, not seed.
Salvia Blue by You: This perennial features rich blue flowers that bloom up to two weeks earlier than comparisons. With excellent winter hardiness and heat tolerance, it blooms from late spring into fall, with repeat blooms throughout the season if spent flowers are removed. Resistant to rabbits and deer, it’s available as plants only.
Snapdragon Double Shot Orange Bicolor: Part of a new series of intermediate-height snapdragons, they’re perfect for flowerbed or cut flowers. Open-faced double flowers bloom in warm shades of orange and orange red. Strong stems are well-branched, producing more flowers than similar types. Grows from 18 to 20 inches and is available as seed.
Pepper Cayenne Wildcat: Fruits on the high-yielding plants have thick flesh walls with a great smoky flavor, a peppery sweetness and a mild pungency. The eight-inch fruits are straighter than traditional cayenne peppers.
Pepper Jalapeno San Joaquin: Plants set most of their fruit in a short window, so there’s a generous number of fruits ready all at the same time for canning, pickling or making roasted stuffed jalapenos for a crowd. Each plant produces about 50 fruits with just a hint of heat.
Squash Kabocha Sweet Jade: High yields of single-serving-sized squash have deep orange flesh that’s dry, yet sweet and flavorful whether roasted, baked or pureed.
Tomato Zenzei: Ripening in 70 to 80 days from garden transplanting, Zenzei is a high-yielding Roma tomato for the Midwest. Although classified as indeterminate, the bushy plants are uniformly shaped, making harvest easy. Plants are disease resistant and less prone to blossom end rot than some Roma types. Fruits are meaty and flavorful.
Watermelon Rubyfirm: Bearing small, personal-sized melon about the size of a cantaloupe, each vining plant produces two to three melons with very sweet, crisp flesh and minimal seeds. Ripens in about 80 days from direct seeding into garden.
Note about availability: Newest AAS winners aren’t usually found on in-store seed racks, so mail-order might be necessary. For pre-started plants, check availability early with your locally-owned garden center.