"The American Garden Award is a unique opportunity for the gardening public to vote on a specific flower that they think has the most appealing garden characteristics. Some of the world's most prestigious flower breeders have chosen their best varieties to enter in this competition. Then, in cooperation with 28 highly respected public gardens throughout the United States, we present the entries so consumers can view the plants in person, then vote on their favorite. For those consumers and home gardeners who are unable to make it to view these flowers in person, the above link allows voting on this website."

As you might be able to tell, those words are straight from their website. The 2011 winners of the AGA included third place to a pretty Petunia, second place to a dazzling Dahlia, and first place to 'SunPatiens' 'Sunpatients' Variegated Spreading WhiteVariegated Spreading White impatiens. The variegated foliage and large white flowers make this spreading, sun-tolerant impatiens ideal for sun, shade or moonlit gardens. In 2011 voting began on May 13 and was extended (because the trial gardens were all still looking good) past the original end date at the end of August until the end of September! Will that happen this year? I am certainly not the one to ask.

This year's six entries are all on display at 28 official Display Gardens and many more garden centers from North Dakota to South Carolina, and California to New Hampshire. Look at the front garden entry to the Zilker Botanical Gardens in Austin, Texas or adjacent to the outdoor classroom at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, Tennessee.

First, in the photo top right, I would like to present Gazania 'Big KissTM White Flame'. This annual beauty has huge white and rose striped flowers that cover full, bushy plants. It is described as "carefree, heat loving and drought tolerant" which "loves the sun and thrives in tough conditions, all summer long." G. 'Big Kiss' is appropriate for containers or as a bedding plant. 'Big Kiss' is in the Kiss Series of Gazanias, and is a tender perennial which may overwinter in zones 9 and 10.Sunflower 'Goldie'

Next, to the right, it is my honor to introduce Sunflower 'Goldie'. 'Goldie' is a bright yellow double sunflower. If I were ever to grow sunflowers, I would choose one like this: fluffy and sunny. 'Goldie' will grow to 5 feet tall and is, as you might expect, an easy-to-grow annual.

supertunia deepred

Have you been wishing for a deep, true red petunia? If you have (and somebody must have) here it is: Petunia Surfinia® Deep Red, pictured right. This petunia, part of the Surfinia® series, needs no pinching or pruning and will do well in containers or beds. Maybe this one would make a good part of a red-white-and-blue garden!

Petchoa 'Pink Ice'

To the left is Petchoa SuperCal® 'Pink Ice', which is another mounding flowering plant which looks terrific in counters or in beds. Read this article for information on taking care of calibrachoas. They are also tender perennials, so it's possible that they may overwinter for you, but the petchoa hybrid is probably even more tender than the species.

Begonia Santa Cruz (TM) Sunset

And on the right is, I think my favorite, Begonia boliviensis 'Santa Cruz™ Sunset', appealing not least because of its fabulous description. I know NOTHING about begonias--you're supposed to keep them in shade, right? Well, this is described as one that "thrives in any location from full sun to shade,' it has an "an abundance of scarlet/orange blooms" (which you'll remember is my favorite color) and, best of all, it has an "elegant softly cascading form." Sounds just perfect! I think I will vote for this one. Or maybe the last one.


Last but not least, I am deighted to introduce Angelonia angustifolia 'Serena® Blue'. I might even like this blue-purple color better than the red-orange color of the Begonia above; I just can't decide. They are both very attractive plants. While most of the plants in competition for this award are new to the market, this Angelonia was actually already available from High Country Gardens. (They do not ship this late in the summer.) It is touted as being durable and, like all the plants this year, drought-tolerant, which ia an imporant criterion considering the weather this summer. I really like this color and the delicate appearance of the flowers.

So as the Olympics draw to a close, turn your attention to a different competition--these are the trials that really matter! Make your way to one of the many display gardens around the country, or even ask your local high end neighborhood garden store whether they are trialing any of the plants. If you can't see any of them in person, get your mouse in hand and click over to the website americangardenaward.

I just want to mention--as this article goes to press, the two front runners (I'm not telling) are only a hundred votes apart. DAVE'S GARDEN READERS HAVE A CHANCE HERE TO MAKE A REAL DIFFERENCE! Let's see if we can.

All pictures appear courtesy of All-America Selections/American Garden Award.