“So many seeds and plants; so little time” is almost certainly a refrain among dedicated gardeners. While some gardeners are content to grow tried and true flower and vegetable plants each year, there are also those who like to experiment with new cultivars (cultivated varieties) which show off new trends like size, flower or fruit color, and disease or pest resistance.
Roanoke-area gardeners need to be on the lookout for varieties which show heat and humidity resistance because of summers like that of 2011; disease, pest and especially deer resistance to hinder destruction from increasing herds; and short and compact size as more residents take up apartment and patio-home living.
What is All America Selections (AAS)?
AAS is the oldest, international testing organization in North America, and celebrates its 80th anniversary in 2012. According to AAS website information the group “…is an independent, non-profit organization that tests new varieties then introduces only the best garden performers as AAS Winners.”
The organization’s mission statement is “To promote new garden seed varieties with superior garden performance judged in impartial trials in North America.”
Many seed sellers like Johnny’s Selected Seeds (JSS), an employee-owned mail-order seed producer and merchant located in Albion and Winslow, ME, have their own product development, product testing, and quality assurance programs. Some seed businesses like Sakata Seed, America and Harris Seed, in business since 1879, also have their own programs but support and have confidence in seed testing organizations.
AAS maintains a series of test and display gardens with cooperating businesses and institutions across the U.S. and Canada. Independent AAS Judges, located in geographically diverse areas, determine the AAS Winners by judging and scoring entries. Judges report scores after the growing season for each variety and AAS uses an independent accounting firm to calculate the average score from all entries. Entries with the highest average scores are possibilities as AAS Award Winners. The AAS Judges determine which, if any, new, never-before-sold entries show the qualities necessary to be introduced as AAS Winners.
Qualities judges look for in entries are
- earliness to bloom or harvest,
- disease or pest tolerance,
- novel colors or flavors,
- novel flower forms,
- total yield,
- length of flowering or harvest time, and
- overall performance.
AAS Display Gardens Nearby to Roanoke
There are five official AAS display gardens in Virginia and one in West Virginia. There are 180 AAS Display Gardens in the United States, Japan and Canada.
- Virginia Western Community College (Flowers), Colonial Avenue & Dogwood Lane, PO Box 14007, Roanoke, VA 24038, (540) 857-VWCC.
- Hahn Horticulture Garden at Virginia Tech (Flowers), Washington Street, between West Campus Dr. & Duck Pond Dr., Blacksburg, VA 24061. Distance from Roanoke: about 35 miles, 45 minutes’ drive.
- Norfolk Botanical Garden (Flowers and Vegetables), 6700 Azalea Garden Road, Norfolk, Virginia 23518-5337. Distance from Roanoke: 260-280 miles, five hours’ drive.
- J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College (Flowers and Vegetables), Western Campus, Rte. 6 & Rte. 522, Goochland, VA 23063. Distance from Roanoke: about 165 miles, three hours’ drive.
- Virginia Tech Hampton Roads Agricultural Research and Extension Center (Flowers), 144 Diamond Springs Road, Virginia Beach, VA 23455 Distance from Roanoke via 460E: 245 miles, five hours’ drive.
- Oglebay Resort and Conference Center, 465 Lodge Drive, Wheeling, WV 26003, (340) 243-4000. Distance from Roanoke: about 355 miles, 6 hours’ drive.
Seed Sources for Home Gardeners
There are 33 online seed companies which may sell 2012 AAS seeds. Here are two web sites which sell seeds of all five flowers and two vegetables that are the 2012 winners.
- Park Seed Co. – access AAS Winners in left-hand column
- Jung Seeds – access New AAS Winners in left-hand column