Denise Schreiber is the infamous Mrs. Know It All of The Organic Gardeners on KDKA radio and the author of the book Eat Your Roses.

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All-America Selections Winners Take All
by Denise Schreiber       #Edibles   #Flowers

This is the time of year that dedicated gardeners sort through their catalogs picking out their seeds for the upcoming planting season. I’m sure that you have noticed a little identifying mark on a seed packet that says “AAS.” That means it is an All-America Selection that has been grown in more than 30 trial gardens all over the United State and Canada. All-America Selections (AAS, all-americaselections.org) is a non-profit organization that was started by W. Ray Hastings in 1932. He noticed that there were only a few companies doing seed testing, and usually it was just in one area and there was no national clearinghouse. He proposed a national clearinghouse program and took it to the Southern Seedsman’s Association; they approved the idea and they donated money to begin the All-America Selections.


‘Straight Eight’ cucumber

The seeds trialed can be flowers and vegetables. Seeds are donated by the various seed companies who want to know how the plants grow in the North America before selling the seed to the public.

These are seeds that have never been sold before and are judged by professionals. They are grown side-by-side with currently available plants in a one-on-one comparison for characteristics such as fruit size, flowers, earliness or growth habit. Meticulous records are kept then submitted to the All-America Selections organization, which tallies up the scores for each plant then picks the winners. Only plants showing superior qualities are chosen as an AAS winner. There are the Gold Medal winners that go back as far as 1933, including ‘Asgrow Stringless Green Pod’ snap bean, ‘Fresh Look Red’ celosia (2004), ‘Straight Eight’ cucumber (1935), ‘Salad Bowl’ lettuce, (1952), ‘Sugar Snap’ pea (1979) and two of the hottest plants today,  and ‘Profusion Orange’ zinnias, which both won the gold medal in 1999.


‘Profusion Cherry’ zinnias

‘Profusion Orange’ zinnias

One of the Bedding Plant winners for 2014 is ‘African Sunset’ petunia. With deep shades of orange, this petunia is going to be a stunner in the garden. Mix it with white flowers or purple to make it stand out in the flower beds. Another National Bedding plant winner is ‘Sparkle White’ guara. It is a perennial that blooms the first year but can be used as an annual as well. The flowers have a blush of pink on them, making them delicate looking but tough in the garden. Grouping several guara together gives the illusions of hundreds of flowers floating in the wind.


‘African Sunset’ petunia

‘Sparkle White’ guara

There are also AAS regional winners that are also selected because they will do well in a particular region such as the Deep South, where heat and humidity can take its toll on a plant that thrives in Pennsylvania and vice versa. This year’s regional winner for the Northeast is ‘Patio Baby’ an early and very productive eggplant. With its compact habit, it is a good choice for those with limited space in the garden or for container. It has deep purple, egg-shaped fruit that should be harvested at baby size, about 2 to 3 inches. Recommendations for use include dips and roasting. It is thornless and will continue to produce all summer long. For more information on all of the All-America selections, you can check out the links below.

A complete list of trial grounds and judges can be found here:
aaswinners.com/trial_grounds/index.cfm

A complete list of all AAS Winners since 1932 can be found here:
aaswinners.com/winners/index.cfm

Photos courtesy of Denise Schreiber.

 

Posted: 03/24/14   RSS | Print

 

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