Last year I had the privilege and the pleasure of serving as an All-America Selections (AAS) judge and I will do that again this season.
Many of you who have been regular readers of my column know how I feel about testing and trialing plants before they are considered market-ready. You also know that my research revolves around field trials of annual and now ornamental grasses.
The AAS process is a little different but is still nonetheless another opportunity to evaluate plants to determine if they have good performance.
The mission of the AAS program is to promote new garden varieties with superior garden performance judged in impartial trails in North America.
We have the only AAS trial site in Ohio in the Gateway Learning Gardens at the OSU Extension Office, Clark County. There are numerous AAS demonstration gardens where you can see the varieties on display in public gardens, but we are the only site evaluating the plants.
The purpose of this trial is to test new, unsold cultivars and to inform gardeners about the AAS winners. The nonprofit AAS organization has worked over the years to earn gardener’s trust in the winners; therefore, if the plant is selected an AAS winner, you can be assured it will perform well in your garden.
Independent judges across the country receive the same plants to place in the trials. We evaluate over the growing season and report our scores to an independent accounting firm, who then tallies the scores and announces the winners.
As judges, we determine which, if any, new, never-before-sold entries have proven superior qualities to be introduced as winners.
As a judge, I compare the entry plant to two or three already proven plants of the same species. For example, last year one of the entries was a petunia that was compared to two other petunias that were known to have great performance. I compared the qualities of the entry to see if they stood up to the qualities of the proven varieties.
I judged the flower and bedding plant trials last year. They also have vegetable garden trials, as well.
The qualities that I observed in the flower and bedding varieties last year were earliness to bloom, disease or pest tolerance, novel colors or novel flower forms, length of flowering and overall performance.
The new entrants have to have at least two significantly improved qualities to be considered by the judges for an AAS award. Needless to say, the evaluation is vigorous and tested.
The tagline for AAS is “Tested Nationally and Proven Locally.” This means that you know if a plant was a winner, it did well in our trials in Ohio as well as other places around the country.
For more details about AAS and a list of all winters since 1933, go online to: www.all-americaselections.org