I love to spend the short, cold days of January poring over seed and garden catalogs. Before trying plants that are new to me, I do a little research to gauge the chance of the plant thriving in my garden. There are hints to the probable success of some selections in the catalogs. For instance, the labels AAS and Perennial Plant of the Year convey some valuable information.
"AAS" stands for All America Selection. These vegetables and flowers perform consistently throughout the continental United States. In standardized test gardens across the nation, new annuals are judged against existing standard varieties. Winners are not necessarily the most flavorful or bountiful but they do well in the short, cool growing season of New England, the hot, humid Southeast, the scorching Southwest, the Pacific "fog belt," and across the fruited Plains.
The AAS program began in 1933 to promote seed company introductions. Only truly qualified new cultivars receive the award. There are some winners which have remained unsurpassed for decades.
One doesn't have to be a Master Gardener to know that there are selections, not necessarily AAS winners, which do better here. The Extension Service has a list of recommended vegetable cultivars for our area.
Perennial Plant of the Year winners are almost guaranteed to thrive! The 2,000 members of the Perennial Plant Association are nursery owners and other professionals. They nominate and vote on a winning plant annually. The winners are not necessarily new to the market. They are all plants that make desirable landscape additions in a wide variety of situations and without special care. Because winners are known in advance, they are widely available when announced to the public. The winner for 2017 is butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa).
The American Rose Society has done away with its All America Rose Selection program and is beginning regional award programs. The Tri State Rose Society website has a list of roses which perform well here. This group has consulting rosarians in North Georgia, Alabama and the Chattanooga area. If you have questions about your roses, contact one near you. Don't let these rose experts sit around like Maytag repairmen!
Native Californian Ann Bartlett never lets lack of experience with a plant stop her from trying it in the ornamental gardens around her home.