All American Selections (AAS) for 2018: When you start looking for seed varieties to grow for next year, consider growing some AAS winners. AAS is a plant trialing nonprofit established in 1932 with a mission “to promote new garden varieties with superior garden performance judged in impartial trials in North America.” AAS was proposed by W. Ray Hastings, president of the Southern Seedsmen’s Association of Atlanta, Georgia, for home gardeners to learn which new varieties were truly improved. Seed companies cooperatively test new vegetable and flower seed varieties across the country. Judges evaluate characteristics like earliness, taste, disease-resistance and uniqueness, etc. There are nearly 200 trial sites around the U.S. and Canada, of which about 80 participate each year. Three types of awards are given in four categories. An AAS Gold Medal Award is only given once or twice a decade for a plant breeding breakthrough. AAS National Winners show ornamental, edible or other breeding achievements proven through the trials nationwide to have superior performance as compared to other similar varieties. AAS Regional Winners are varieties performing best in a few specific regions of North America. The four trialing categories are Ornamentals from Seed, Ornamentals from Vegetative Cuttings, Edibles (fruits and vegetables from seed), and a new category, Herbaceous Perennials (first winners to be announced in 2019). There are seven trialing regions around the country; we are in the Great Lakes Region. In Wisconsin, we have AAS trial gardens (although they may not trial AAS varieties every year) in Verona, Milwaukee, Antigo, Green Bay, Hancock, Kenosha and Spooner. The West Madison Agricultural Station on Mineral Point Road in Verona is the closest locally to Madison. Visit the AAS website to learn more: https://all-americaselections.org/.

A few selected winners for 2018 are the following:

2018 AAS National Flower Winner

Onyx Red Ornamental Pepper is a compact, well-branched ornamental pepper adorned with eye-catching dark black foliage. The contrast between the black foliage and tons of shiny red fruits is striking and makes a bold statement in the garden. Plants are vigorous, but retain their neat, compact habit, making Onyx Red a wonderful plant for beds, borders, containers and mass plantings.

2018 AAS National Edible – Vegetable Winner

Asian Delight F1 Pak Choi (or Bok Choy) outperforms the similar varieties by leaps and bounds. Judges noted how this Pak Choi does not bolt like the comparisons, meaning the yield from this AAS Winner can be double or more than that of other Pak Choi on the market. Asian Delight forms small to mid-size (5-7 inch) heads that have a tasty, tender white rib and dark green, textured leaves.

2018 AAS National Flower Winner

Zinnia Queeny Lime Orange brings a “WOW” color to the garden. Large, dahlia-like blooms on a sturdy, compact plant are suitable for cut flowers. The unique color evolves from dark coral/peach/orange to a light lime ring around a dark center. Its show-stopping color and large blooms made it this year’s fan favorite.

Lisa Johnson, Dane County UW-Extension horticulture educator

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