Looking through seed catalogs and online, I notice three letters, AAS, in a circle with a red banner that says “Winner,” pictured on the description or photo of the vegetable or flower.

Often, it is seen in the “what is new” section, but it is also found within different plant type sections. What does this mean and how is it important to me?

The symbol with the AAS stands for the All-American Selections Winners. These plants have been tested in garden situations throughout the United States. The 2021 AAS flowering plants and vegetables are ready for release. Past winners are available as well.

All-American Selections is a non-profit organization in North America which tests and introduces significantly improved flowering ornamentals (bedding plants) grown from seed or by cuttings.

They also trial edibles, such as fruits and vegetables, grown from seed that have unique and improved qualities. Trials have been conducted every year since 1932.

The award-winning plants are selected by judges from across the United States and Canada. The recent AAS winners are available to see at different Display Gardens.

Luckily for us, the Western Kentucky Botanical Garden serves as one of those gardens for the flower winners. Also, The Arboretum, State Botanical Garden of Kentucky, on the campus of the University of Kentucky serves as another Display Garden for flowers and edibles.

For 2021, there are two national winners and two regional winners for the southeast. Two of them are flowers and two are vegetables.

The first National AAS Flower Winner is Zinnia Profusion Red Yellow Bicolor (Zinnia hybrida). This annual zinnia has bicolor flowers with golden-yellow on the edges of the petals and a red center ring. But that is not all. As the flowers age, they are described as turning to soft shades of orange, apricot, dusty rose, and pink.

It is hard to believe all of this color is supplied by one plant. New bicolored red and yellow flowers continue to develop over the top of the older flowers. Deadheading to remove spent flower blossoms is not required. It blooms throughout the late spring, summer, and fall.

This zinnia has a compact, mounded plant habit. It is 8 to14 inches tall and spreads out 15 inches. It prefers to grow in full sun, but partial sun will work. Plant seeds outdoors after frost or start them indoors to transplant into the garden.

Another benefit of this zinnia is that it tolerates heat, rain, and wind throughout the growing season. Uses in the garden include in a hanging basket, as a low edging along a sidewalk or patio, or as a ground cover. This plant is highly disease-tolerant and is certainly a plant for many gardens.

A Regional AAS Flower Winner is Celosia Kelos Candela Pink (Celosia spicata), which is grown from a cutting instead of seed. As the name indicates, the flower color is pink. Also, the small flowers cover a stem that is 10 to 15 inches in height and shaped like a tall, tapered candle.

The plant is very showy because the flowers appear above the green foliage. The plant habit is upright and reaches 25 to 30 inches tall. It flowers from spring to fall. Another characteristic is its tolerance of heat, rain, and wind.

This celosia adds height to a container with a combination of flowers. Another use is as a tall background for other plants in the garden. It is also effective in a mass planting. An added bonus is to use the flowers in fresh and dried floral arrangements.

The National AAS Vegetable Winner is Squash Goldilocks F1 (Cucurbita pepo), which is an acorn squash. This edible squash matures in approximately 85 days from planting the seed in the garden after the threat of frost has passed. The flavor of the squash is described as rich, sweet, and nutty.

The 4-inch by 4-inch orange fruit are round to oval and weigh about a pound. Approximately 10 fruits are produced per plant. They make nice fall decorations as well.

The squash is produced on compact, bushy plants that are about 30 inches tall. The suggested garden spacing is 2 feet by 6 feet since the plant spreads 4 to 5 feet.

This squash grows best in full sun and well-drained soil. The good news is that it is powdery mildew tolerant.

The Regional AAS Vegetable Winner is Echalion Crème Brulee (BHS-270) F1 (Allium cepa). This shallot is easy to grow from seed. It takes 98 days as a transplant to mature. It is described as having an outer skin that is coppery pink with an interior that has thick rings and is rosy-purple in color.

It has a sweet taste when caramelized in cooking and when eaten raw, a mild shallot flavor. The total plant height is 24 to 36 inches. The shallot is oblong and 4-5 inches long.

This shallot requires full sun and well-drained soil. The final spacing in the garden should be 2 inches apart. They are also suited to grow in containers.

For more information about AAS Winners, contact the Daviess County Cooperative Extension Service at 270-685-8480 or annette.heisdorffer@uky.edu.

Annette’s Tip

I am often asked where to locate seeds for the AAS Winners. It is best to look for the All-America Selections Winners logo in catalogs, at the local garden centers and nurseries on the plant tag, and through websites. Have fun growing these plants!

Upcoming Event

“Pruning Apple Trees,” a virtual presentation, will be available on Feb. 17 at 11:30 a.m. through the University of Kentucky Horticulture Webinar Wednesdays at https://kentuckyhortnews.com/horticulture-webinar-wednesdays/.

Annette Meyer Heisdorffer, PhD, is the horticulture extension agent with the Daviess County Extension Office. She can be reached by calling 270-685-8480.

Annette Meyer Heisdorffer, PhD, is the horticulture extension agent with the Daviess County Extension Office. She can be reached by calling 270-685-8480.

Annette Meyer Heisdorffer, PhD, is the horticulture extension agent with the Daviess County Extension Office. She can be reached by calling 270-685-8480.

 

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