More Ornamentals Trials Chit Chat – All-America Selections Trials at Harris Seeds

I thought you might be interested to read about the All-America Selections trials that are part of the Harris Seeds trial grounds. First of all, it might be helpful to know what AAS is all about:

The mission of All-America Selections is “To promote new garden seed varieties with superior garden performance judged in impartial trials in North America.” AAS oversees a collaborative testing program involving horticultural professionals all across the United States and Canada. It is a non-profit organization that is governed by a Board consisting of four officers and six directors.

Plant breeders and developers submit new, unreleased flower and vegetable seed varieties to AAS for evaluation. The plants are then grown and tested at more than 50 independent sites located in North America. A test site is a trial garden or trial ground, and is usually part of a seed company trial ground, university, professional grower site, or other horticultural institution such as a botanical garden. Each trial ground has at least one official AAS judge, a horticultural professional that has been approved by the AAS Board of Directors. The judge supervises the trial and evaluates entries for AAS at no charge. The objective is to have well managed sites in different parts of North America.
The judges evaluate AAS trials all season, reporting their scores each fall. AAS uses an independent accounting firm to tabulate the scores and calculate the average score of each entry. Only the entry with the highest average score is considered for a possible AAS Award. The AAS judges determine which, if any, new unsold entries have proven superior qualities to be introduced as AAS Winners.

AAS relies upon a public relations program to inform gardeners about AAS Winners as they are released. About to celebrate its 80th anniversary, AAS continues as the oldest, most established international testing plant organization in North America.

Harris Seeds is an official AAS Vegetable and Flower trial ground. Mark Willis, our vegetable product manager, is the AAS vegetable judge, and I am the AAS flower judge. Each year we sow, plant and grow the entries along with the recommended comparisons that come from AAS. In addition, the AAS office also sends each trial site the most recent AAS winners, as well as any ‘holdover’ winners. A ‘holdover’ is an entry that has achieved a high enough score to merit an award, but it has not yet been released because the breeding company is working on producing enough seed for a release.

It’s really enjoyable to evaluate these trials for a few reasons. It’s fun to see what new varieties are coming down the pipeline, and to observe why a breeder may think it has superior qualities to what is already in the marketplace. When an entry is scored high enough to merit an award, it tells me that it is has proven performance across the U.S. and Canada because it had to score high across a number of different climatic areas of North America. That gives me confidence that growers and gardeners will be successful in growing an AAS winner. I also like being able to see the more recent winners and holdovers again because our summers can vary enough that it gives us an opportunity to observe consistency of performance over a few seasons.

Marigold Moonsong Deep Orange
Recent AAS flower winners are Echinacea PowWow Wild Berry, Marigold Moonsong Orange, Zinnia Zahara Double Cherry, and Zinnia Zahara Double Fire. Plus AAS has just announced the first batch of 2011 winners. I’ll be sharing more with you about all of these winners very soon.

If you think I’m dangling the proverbial carrot, you’re right! So stay tuned.


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