Symbol Of Success

Symbol Of Success

For 75 years, All-America Selections’ (AAS) red, white and blue logo has represented a promise of gardening success. This familiar emblem can be found on seed packets, plant tags and pots, in catalogs and a variety of printed and online publications reaching millions of consumers every day.

AAS was planted in 1932 by W. Ray Hastings, who was president of the Southern Seedsmen’s Association in Atlanta, Ga. His vision was to provide a way for home gardeners to learn which new varieties are truly improved.

Before AAS, in the 1920s and 30s, consumer magazine editors knew little about new garden varieties and had few resources to obtain reliable information. The garden club movement was in its infancy and needed material. Home, farm, seed and florist magazines were hungry for garden news. 

Planting The Seeds

The AAS network began when Hastings encouraged seed companies and universities to set up trial grounds to cooperatively test new varieties and develop marketing efforts for new vegetables and flowers. He recommended a national network of trial grounds throughout North American climates where flower and vegetable varieties would be grown and assessed by skilled, impartial judges. The seed trials would accept only new, previously unsold varieties.

AAS Executive Directors

In three quarters of a century, All-America Selections (AAS) has had only six professional directors at seven locations in four states: 

W. Ray Hastings
1932-1971 in Harrisburg, Pa. 

Donald Scheer
1971-1972 in Kingston, R.I. 

Derek Fell
1972-1975 in Gardenville, Pa. 

Jim Wilson
1975-1980 in Los Altos, Calif.
1980-1982 in Sycamore, Ill. 

Kathy Zar-Peppler
1982-1984 in Willowbrook, Ill. 

Nona Wolfram Koivula
1984-1986 in Willowbrook, Ill.
1986 to present in Downers Grove, Ill

While initial funding came from the Southern Seedsmen’s Association and the American Seed Trade Association, it wasn’t long before other sectional, state and Canadian seedsmen’s associations voluntarily gave their endorsements or sponsorships.

AAS was founded in 1932 and the first AAS Winners were announced a year later, after the results were tabulated from the first trial. AAS Winners have been introduced each year since 1933. In 1934, there were 30 AAS award-winning new varieties introduced, a record number. AAS trials have been conducted every year since 1932. The number of judges and sites may vary, but the trials are conducted each year.

In 1984, the AAS board of directors decided to simplify the award system and award only two types. There is an AAS Gold Medal award reserved for a breeding breakthrough. Gold Medal Awards have been rare, only given once or twice a decade. The other AAS Award recognizes a flower or vegetable of significant achievements, proven to be superior to all others on the market.

AAS also recognizes the people behind the varieties with two honors for lifetime achievements. The Medallion of Honor is given to a person who contributes to the advancement of horticulture or the garden seed industry in an exceptional manner. The AAS Breeders’ Cup recognizes a breeder who has introduced significantly improved cultivars, AAS Winners, or varieties that have impacted the course of the home garden seed industry. 

Behind The Scenes

The AAS organization is governed by two groups: the board of directors and a council of judges. The council of judges elects the board of directors and together they establish AAS policies and guide the professional staff. The executive director supervises the trial, display and promotional programs for AAS winners. Seed producers of AAS winners support the program through royalty payments.

The process begins each summer, when judges evaluate unnamed new varieties against comparisons at nearly 50 trial grounds throughout the United States and Canada. Judges score each entry on a scale of 0 to 5 and report their scores in the fall. 

What qualities do the judges score? They look for significantly improved qualities such as earliness to bloom or harvest, disease or pest tolerance, novel colors or flavors, novel flower forms, total yield, length of flowering or harvest and overall performance. In the last 10 years, an entry needs to have at least two significantly improved qualities to be considered by judges for an AAS Award.

An independent accounting firm calculates the average score for each entry. Only entries with the highest average scores are considered for a possible AAS Award. Within three years, the plant breeder or contracted seed company must be able to produce enough seed to supply the flower or vegetable seeds to the public. In addition to seed packet sales, most of today’s AAS Winners reach consumers as plants grown by growers. In recent years, these plants have gotten a point-of-sale push as a premium program at Wal-Mart. 

Power Of Promotion

Five audiences are targeted for promotion â€” the seed industry, bedding plant and nursery growers, retailers, garden media and consumers. AAS does not advertise the AAS Award Winners. It relies on a public relations program to inform gardeners about AAS Winners that are announced each March to the trade. The consumer wave follows in September, when the winners are announced to 7,500 garden media contacts, who look forward to and plan on announcing the AAS Winners each year.

These include consumer magazines, newspapers, garden club bulletins and cooperative Extension agents, which are depended upon to introduce AAS Winners to home gardeners. It’s not unheard of for AAS to generate more than 300 million media impressions valued at more than $2.5 million, if conducted through advertising.

Summer Celebration

The grand finale of All-America Selections’ (AAS) diamond anniversary celebration will be at the AAS Summer Meeting, Aug. 1-3, in Blue Bell, Pa.
The 2 1/2-day event is designed for seed company buyers, breeders, sales people, account representatives, AAS judges and invited guests. The purpose is to evaluate AAS trials, view flower and vegetable trials courtesy of a host company, tour AAS display gardens and network with colleagues in the home garden seed industry. The meeting venue moves from site to site on a 5- or 6-year cycle.
This year’s venue is the Normandy Farm Hotel & Conference Center. Planned tours include W. Atlee Burpee flower and vegetable trials at Fordhook Farm and Longwood Gardens. Blue Bell is located near Philadelphia.
For more information on the event, visit www.all-americaselections.org.

In addition to reading about AAS Winners in local newspapers and favorite magazines, consumers can see the winning varieties in their full glory at more than 200 display gardens and trial grounds.

A Model For Others

AAS proved to be so successful in creating greater interest in improved flowers and vegetables that it served as a model for other programs, including All-America Rose Selections, All-America Gladiolus Selections and Fleuroselect in Europe.

Today, AAS is led by Nona Wolfram-Koivula, who has served as executive director for 23 years. The office is in Downers Grove, Ill., where she also manages the National Garden Bureau. She also is past president of the Garden Writers Association and its foundation, which funds Plant A Row For The Hungry.

Leave a Reply

More From Varieties...

February 11, 2016

Succulents: A Mainstay Of The Green Revolution

Succulents offer many options for growers to provide waterwise, low-maintenance plants that work well for green infrastructure and other environmentally focused projects.

Read More

February 10, 2016

Poinsettia Production On The Decline

Poinsettia production is on the decline in several of the top 15 poinsettia-producing states.

Read More
Dr Allan Armitage

February 8, 2016

Why Succulents Have Become The Hippest Plants On The Market

Allan Armitage says succulents used to be relegated to the far end of the display bench, but their adaptability, decorative value, and low maintenance requirements have now made them a staple.

Read More
Latest Stories

February 11, 2016

Succulents: A Mainstay Of The Green Revolution

Succulents offer many options for growers to provide waterwise, low-maintenance plants that work well for green infrastructure and other environmentally focused projects.

Read More

February 10, 2016

Poinsettia Production On The Decline

Poinsettia production is on the decline in several of the top 15 poinsettia-producing states.

Read More
Dr Allan Armitage

February 8, 2016

Why Succulents Have Become The Hippest Plants On The Ma…

Allan Armitage says succulents used to be relegated to the far end of the display bench, but their adaptability, decorative value, and low maintenance requirements have now made them a staple.

Read More

February 4, 2016

Poinsettia Growers Discuss Their Recent Trials And Triu…

Growers from Pennsylvania, Illinois, and North Carolina describer their experiences trialing everyone’s favorite holiday season flora.

Read More
Rhododendron ‘Dandy Man’ (Proven Winners ColorChoice Shrubs)

February 2, 2016

Spring Meadow Nursery Partnering With Proven Winners Eu…

The expansion creates a cohesive brand for what is now a global market, immediately introducing more than 24 shrubs to the European market, with the potential for 125 or more in the future.

Read More

February 1, 2016

12 New Poinsettias For Holiday Growing

Poinsettias are still a consumer favorite during the holidays for home décor and gift giving. For greenhouse growers looking to get a jumpstart on purchasing young plants for the 2016 poinsettia growing season, there is no shortage of great varieties to choose from. Here are 12 new varieties to keep in mind for holiday product offerings.

Read More

January 27, 2016

Costa Farms’ Season Premier Provides Sneak Peek A…

Costa Farms presented the 2016 Season Premier at its 2-acre Trial Gardens in Miami, FL, in the third week of January. The event showcases varieties from breeders of all sizes to growers and major retail buyers, providing a look at what genetics are coming to the market and how they’ll perform in retail settings and in the landscape, when consumers bring them home. The mild winter climate in South Florida allows Costa Farms’ Research and Development Department to simulate the spring growing conditions of various regions in the country. Because each group of visitors to Costa Farms’ Trial Gardens wants to see what the new plants look like in the environments that matter to them, Season Premier offers several areas within the Trial Gardens that highlight different ways to look at the wealth of new varieties. The New Product Showcase offers a way for retailers to see how plants will […]

Read More

January 26, 2016

Beekenkamp And Danziger Partner To Distribute Poinsetti…

Danziger is continuing to expand its portfolio of products to the U.S. market with the addition of poinsettia cuttings of Beekenkamp’s varieties.

Read More

January 24, 2016

Positive Consumer Experiences Help Advance The Orchid C…

HGTV HOME Plant Collection plans to expand its Fresh Style product line through a partnership with Green Circle Growers (Oberlin, Ohio), which will supply decorative orchids, tropical plants, and indoor garden combinations. Greenhouse Grower asked Maxwell Sherer about Green Circle's orchid program, the latest trends he’s seeing, and where he thinks orchid growing is headed in the future.

Read More
Sansevieria in Corner of home

January 21, 2016

Tropical And Indoor Foliage Plants Emerge As A Lifestyl…

Consumers are incorporating houseplants into their everyday lives, which is driving the trends toward smaller-size plants and unique products that appeal to a younger demographic.

Read More
Pollinator-Conference-NC State

January 20, 2016

How To Promote Pollinator-Friendly Plants This Spring

Following last year’s launch of the National Pollinator Garden Network, groups like the National Garden Bureau and others remind growers that offering pollinator-friendly plants is a great way to keep up with consumer demand.

Read More
Caladium Painted Frog Series (Plants Nouveau)

January 17, 2016

16 New Foliage Plants To Round Out The Garden

Every garden needs a good mix of flowering and foliage plants for an attention-grabbing show of thrillers, fillers, and spillers. These new foliage varieties will not only act as a lush backdrop for colorful blooms, they can also stand on their own with their noteworthy textures and colors.

Read More
California Coast

January 13, 2016

Mark Your Calendars For The 2016 California Spring Tri…

It’s time to think about registering for the 2016 California Spring Trials. You won’t want to miss any stops along the way, so use this quick reference to help with planning for your trip.

Read More
David Roberts Bailey Nuseries Feature Image

January 12, 2016

Bailey Nurseries’ David Roberts Says New, Novel Varieti…

Roberts was recently hired by Bailey Nurseries to be the General Manager and Breeder for Plant Introductions, Inc., which Bailey acquired last year.

Read More
Kelly Norris - feature

January 11, 2016

Kelly Norris: Questioning The Purpose Of New Plants

Norris asks if the time has come to rethink new plant introductions, or how we market them to consumers.

Read More
Weeks Roses Miss Congeniality

January 11, 2016

Weeks Roses Introduces New Lineup Of Roses For 2016

Weeks breeds and grows a wide range of rose bushes, all of which are field tested for many factors.

Read More
CAST2015_Floranova_Vegetalis_Ageratum Cloud Nine Blue

January 8, 2016

Floranova Opening New Chile-Based Research Station, For…

Floranova has announced it is building a new research station in Chile that will open in mid-2016. As a result, the company will not participate in the 2016 California Spring Trials, but says it will be back in 2017.

Read More
Streptocarpus 'Yellow Blue Eye' (Green Fuse Botanicals)

January 5, 2016

15 Flowering Foliage And Tropical Plants For The Home A…

Tropical and foliage plants are the ultimate lifestyle plants because they enrich the environment and provide mood-boosting benefits. Take into account some of these new introductions for a crop mix that helps your customers realize the true benefits of plants.

Read More
[gravityform id="35" title="false" description="false"]