Itís official. The All-America Selections winners for 2005 have been announced. Seeds will be available in garden centers and mail-order catalogs, while plants should show up at local nurseries and garden stores in the spring.
For 2005, there are three flower award winners. Tough hot summers call for rough and ready plants. That pretty well describes Arizona Sun blanket flower, a new kind of Gaillardia aristata. This weather-resilient plant can take heat and dry weather. The colors of the blossoms are reminiscent of the desert. They are mahogany red with bright yellow along the edges of the petals. The single, daisy-style flowers are three inches across. They appear continuously throughout the season. In mild climates, they should overwinter just fine.
This variety is very suitable for butterfly gardens. The stems make great cut flowers. Though I would normally deadhead the plants, Iím thinking of letting some blooms go to seed to see if goldfinches and other seed-eating birds like them. This often happens when I leave the dried purple coneflowers in place.
Arizona Sun blanket flower is a very quick blooming plant. It begins flowering much earlier than other kinds of blanket flowers. For that reason, it can be grown as an annual, even though it will likely survive as a perennial in many gardens.
Arizona Sun is a neat, compact plant, less than a foot in height with about an equal spread.
In addition to an All-America Selection award, this worthy plant also received a Fleuroselect Gold Medal. Fleuroselect is a European flower organization that trials new flower varieties, and bestows honors on the most worthy ones. The judges noted that the plants had an abundance of blooms and a uniform mounding growth habit.
Like other blanket flowers, Arizona Sun is easy to grow. Give it a place in full sun, and let it shine.
Arizona Sun blanket flower is suitable for perennial beds and borders as well as container gardens. Some gardening experts recommend combining it with scabious, blue-flowering sages, white bellflowers, and delphiniums. This combination would be a knockout in any landscape.
When growing Arizona Sun from seed, donít cover them. They require some light for germination. They may take two to three weeks to germinate, but mine didnít seem to take that long. I sowed them directly into some plastic packs. They need a warm temperature to germinate, about 65 to 72 degrees Fahrenheit. In cold climates, gardeners may want to plant them indoors about eight to ten weeks before the last expected frost date.
After Arizona Sun blanket flower is planted outdoors in the garden, they require very little fertilizer. Once theyíre established, watering can be reduced.
This plant with winning ways can liven up a landscape.