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Can't wait for 2009 gardening season?

One flower and three vegetables are among the top new flower and vegetable introductions for this coming year. They have won the All-America Selections award for 2009.

The All-America Selections program is an awards program for new flower and vegetable introductions, grown from seeds, and that must bloom the first year in the case of flowers. So if a perennial blooms the first year, it too could be a winner in addition to the usual annual flowers. New introductions are tested first at 48 trial locations across North America.

Those that perform best, and are improvements over similar varieties (if they exist) are awarded this designation. They are then showcased at 178 display gardens, one of which is our Burlington Waterfront Park. Since its inception 77 years ago there have been 675 winners.

Viola "Rain Blue and Purple" is a new selection of the Johnny Jump-Up. It performs well in our cooler northern climate. Main features of this new flower are its color, many blooms, and creeping habit. The small flowers, only about one and one-half inches across, are attractive purple and white changing to purple and blue. This unusual trait of flowers changing color provides various colors at any one time, and throughout the season.

This viola only grows about six inches tall, spreading to a foot or so. If planting in masses, or edging a walk or garden, plant about a foot apart. Also it performs well in window boxes and in combination planters. Try it underplanted with upright blue or purple mealy-cup sages, or mixed with white flowers such as alyssum.

Be careful not to plant with vigorous annuals such as petunias or it will get overrun. Mix with red geraniums for a red, white and blue combination. If starting these yourself from seeds, allow a little over two months (about 70 days) from sowing to flowering.

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