Spring fever has gotten the best of all of us. The warm weather has our appetites wet for the coming spring. Seed and plant catalogues have started piling up on excited gardener’s tables everywhere. How do you know which of the plants out there are really good for our area and which ones are duds?
One organization was founded to truly help make the difficult selection decision easier. All America Selections (AAS) is a non-profit organization that tests new plant varieties across the nation and lets home gardeners know which new cultivars are truly improved. They test new, unsold cultivars then pick out the truly outstanding plants. The first AAS winners in 1932 were announced a year later, after the results were tabulated from the first trial. Today the winning plants must still follow a strict set of criteria, but they are available for sale the year they are announced as the AAS winners.
What exactly does an AAS judge look for? They are looking for improved qualities like earliness to harvest, disease and pest tolerance, novel colors and flower forms, yield, and overall performance, just to name a few. In order to even be considered by judges, the entry needs to have at least two significant improved qualities in the last ten years. Some of the more recognizable AAS winners of the past include ‘Derby’ Snap beans, ‘Big Beef’ and ‘Celebrity’ Tomatoes, ‘Bright Lights’ Swiss Chard, ‘Summer Pastels’ Yarrow, and ‘Purple Majesty’ Millet.
This year AAS announced 10 new selections for gardeners nationally and four new selections for the Heartland Region for 2014. The regional winners’ designation is a new offering for 2014 selections. There are three categories for AAS winners; bedding plants, flowers, and vegetables.
The bedding plant selections are ‘Sparkle White’ guara, ‘Florific Sweet Orange’ New Guinea Impatiens, ‘NuMex Easter’ ornamental pepper, ‘Akila Daisy White’ osteospermum, and ‘African Sunset’ petunia were selected as national award winners and ‘Arabesque Red’ penstemon was the regional winner. ‘Sparkle White’ is a graceful plant in containers or landscape beds that has an exceptionally long bloom period. ‘NuMex Easter’ pepper was selected for its compact size and the range of fruit colors that resemble Easter eggs. ‘Akila Daisy White’ is a unique pale centered osteospermum that has a controlled, branching habit. ‘Arabesque Red’ is the first ever penstemon award winner in more than 80 years. It also is a season-long, repeat bloomer with blooms that are almost an inch across.
The flower selection winner is ‘Serenta Pink’ angelonia. This angelonia is a deep pink flower and is said to be very drought and heat tolerant.
Seven plants were selected for AAS vegetable winners; ‘Mascotte’ green bean, ‘Mama Mia Giallo’ pepper, ‘Chef’s Choice Orange’ tomato, and ‘Fantastico’ tomato were selected as national winners. ‘Mascotte’ is a great dwarf French bean that is adapted for window boxes and container gardens. ‘Mama Mia Giallo’ has large yields of uniform shaped, long tapered, gold/yellow fruit. “Chef’s Choice Orange’ is an heirloom-type, indeterminate, orange, hybrid tomato. ‘Fantastico’ tomato is a very flavorful unique determinate bush tomato. Each plant produces up to 12 pounds of fruit. ‘Pick A Bushel’ cucumber, ‘Mountain Merit’ tomato, and ‘Rivoli’ radish were selected for regional winners. ‘Pick A Bushel’ was selected due to its early fruit set and prolific production on a bush type cucumber that only spreads 24”. ‘Rivoli’ yields uniform, round root 1 ½” in diameter. ‘Mountain Merit’ is a disease resistant cultivar that offers medium to large, round, red tomatoes.
All America Selections have done all of the dirty work for you. They have tried and tested many cultivars to help the home gardener select the newest plant material for the garden. Visit http://www.all-americaselections.org/winners/index.cfm to find out more about AAS and previous award winners.
For more information contact Elizabeth Killinger at firstname.lastname@example.org, 308-385-5088, on Facebook, Twitter, her blog at https://huskerhort.wordpress.com/, or visit the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension website: hall.unl.edu.