Seed and plant catalogs have started piling up on excited gardener’s tables everywhere. Thumbing through the catalog, how do you know which of the latest and greatest plants are really good and which ones are duds? There is someone who has already taken on that difficult task for us.
One organization was founded to truly help make the difficult task of making selections 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 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, so the 2016 winners are available in 2016.
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 announce eight new National and one Regional selections for gardeners. There are three categories for AAS winners; bedding plants, flowers, and vegetables.
The flower selection winners include a pair of unique geraniums and a different colored salvia. ‘Brocade Cherry Night’ Geranium has unique dark colored foliage with large cherry pink flowers. The noteworthy quality on this is the fact that it is heat tolerant and easy to grow in containers, baskets, and the garden. Not to be outdone is the ‘Brocade Fire’ Geranium. This one also boasts heat tolerance, but it has bi-colored foliage with large red blooms. ‘Summer Jewel Lavender’ salvia is the last of the flower selection winners. It is the first lavender colored salvia of its species. It boasts flowering early and will continue to bloom up until frost.
Several plants were selected for AAS vegetables winners. ‘Mizuna Red Kingdom F1’ mustard, is a baby leaf variety of Japanese mustard that has unique red-violet colored leaves. Next there is a pair of peppers. ‘Corniot Giallo F1’ pepper is an early blooming yellow pepper that can be enjoyed up through fall. It is a small, snacking pepper that can be used in a variety of ways. The ‘Excamillo F1’ pepper is another yellow fruited pepper that is larger than is companion ‘Corniot Giallo’ and high yielding and early to bear fruit. A strawberry was included in the AAS vegetable category this year. ‘Delizz F1’ strawberry was selected for it easy to grow, upright habit. It’s compact in size so it is great for containers or hanging baskets as well as for the garden. There was a pair of peppers, why wouldn’t there be a twosome of tomatoes. ‘Candyland Red’ tomato has dark red, sweet round current type fruit. ‘Chef’s Choice Green F1’ tomato is a bigger fruited tomato with a unique color. It’s a green slicing tomato with yellow stripes and is said to have a citrus-like flavor.
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.
Upcoming Programs: Extension Master Gardener Program- Two training sessions will be held at the Nebraska Extension in Hall County meeting rooms in Grand Island. Session 1: Tuesday evenings March 1 through April 5, 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. Session 2: March 21, 23, 25, 28, 30, & April 1 from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Please contact Elizabeth Killinger, 308-385-5088, with any questions about the program. Registrations are due prior to February 15 with the session you are interested in attending. Public welcome. More information, updated schedules, and an application can be found at http://hall.unl.edu
Elizabeth Killinger is the Horticulture Extension Educator with Nebraska Extension in Hall County. For more information contact Elizabeth at email@example.com, her blog at https://huskerhort.com/, or HuskerHort on Facebook and Twitter.