Calling All-Americans

By Ray Novitske, Fairfax Master Gardener

Dianthus

Dianthus Supra Pink

All-American Selections Inc. has announced its All-American plant winners for 2017. This year, eight blooming plants and eight fruits or vegetables made the annual list. They represent the plants that demonstrate the best garden performance across North America as a result of growing in trial and test gardens.

History

W. Ray Hastings of the Southern Seedsmen’s Association worked to establish the basis for the All-American Selections beginning in 1932. Home gardening was in its infancy, as our country became more urbanized and was digging out from the Great Depression. He promoted the idea that seed companies cooperatively test new plant varieties through a network of trial gardens across North America. Skilled, impartial judges would then tabulate the results and announce the winners.

The nonprofit All-American Selections Inc. was founded that year and began introducing winners the following year. Since then, All-American Selections have been awarded every year. The group’s highest honor, the AAS Gold Medal Award, is given only once or twice each decade and is reserved for a breeding breakthrough variety. AAS Regional Winner awards are given to varieties that do not perform exceptionally well in all regions, but instead exhibit good performance in a few specific areas of North America.

Judging

Each year, breeding companies submit new seed or plants to be grown in over 40 trial gardens located across North America. The plants are compared with current varieties on the market that have similar traits and that are considered market standards. Judges look at and evaluate earliness, taste, disease resistance, uniqueness, and more, depending on the species and plant. The results are compared and judged by industry experts, past judges, universities, public gardens, growers, brokers, extension agents, and retailers. Winners are based on total results from all regions across North America.

The trials consist of
  • ornamentals from seed
  • ornamentals from vegetative cuttings
  • edibles (fruits and vegetables from seed).
In 2019, Herbaceous Perennials will be added as a category for the first time and will be evaluated over the course of three winters.

See the winners

A partial list of winners is announced in November, and the remaining list is revealed in January. An important part of publicizing the results is to give the public an opportunity to see the winners growing. There are many AAS-designated display gardens throughout the country, and several are found in our region:
  • Brookside Gardens, Wheaton, MD — flower winners only are displayed
  • Clyburn Arboretum, Baltimore, MD — flower winners only are displayed
  • Parkside High A+ Garden, Salisbury, MD
  • Virginia Tech Hampton Roads, Virginia Beach, VA — flower winners only are displayed
  • J. Sargeant Reynolds Community Garden, Goochland, VA
  • Norfolk Botanical Garden, Norfolk, VA
  • Virginia Western Community College, Roanoke, VA

Past year winners and Gold Medal winners can be found on the All-American Selections web site.

2017 winners

Squash Honey Baby (regional)

Honey Baby Squash

patio tomato

Choice Yellow Patio Tomato

penestom

Penstemon Twizzle Purple (regional)

Fennel

Fennel Antares

Celosia

Celosia Asian Garden

Yellow tomato

Tomato Chefs Choice Yellow (regional)

VInca

Vinca Mega Bloom Orchid Halo

Okra

Okra Candle Fire

pea patio price

Pea Patio Pride

Verbena

Verbena EnduraScape Pink

Watermelon

Watermelon Mini Love

Zinnia

Zinnia Profusion Red

Vina Pink Halo

Vinca Mega Bloom Pink Halo

Geranium

Geranium Calliope Medium Dark Red

Pepper Mad Hatter

Pepper Mad Hatter

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