While attending a marriage seminar on communication, Tom and his wife Peg listened to the instructor declare, "It is essential that husbands and wives know the things that are important to each other." He asked Tom, "Can you describe your wife's favorite flower?" Tom leaned over, touched his wife's arm gently and whispered, "Pillsbury All-Purpose, isn't it?" The rest of the story is not pleasant. —Author unknown

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Visit AAS award-winning flowers and veggies

Don’t you love knowing what’s new?  Get close to the horticultural action this summer by visiting one of the 200 All-America Selections Display Gardens.

Echinacea 'Powwow Wild Berry'/AAS photo
2010 winner Echinacea ‘Powwow Wild Berry’/AAS photo

What IS the All-America Selections? The organization exists “to promote new garden seed varieties with superior garden performance judged in impartial trials in North America.”

Every year, AAS (based in the Chicago area) tests new flower, fruit and vegetable seeds in trial grounds around the country. A panel of  judges decides if each variety is improved enough in at least two of these areas: 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.

AAS trials have been conducted every year since 1932. It’s a true education to visit to the trial or display gardens, where you can literally compare various types of say, begonias, side by side. I love to compare the various growth habits and size differences. Below you see a view of a begonia trials at Bluebird Nursery, a wholesale grower in Clarkson, Nebraska, last year. No, it’s not as gorgeous as a botanic garden, but certainly useful to see.

This year’s AAS winners include ‘PowWow Wild Berry’ coneflower; ‘Mesa Yellow’ gaillardia; ‘Moonsong Deep Orange’ African marigold; ‘Twinny Peach’ snapdragon; ‘Endurio Sky Blue Martien’ viola; ‘Double Zahara Cherry’ zinnia; ‘Double Zahara Fire’ zinnia; ‘Zahara Starlight Rose’ zinnia; and ‘Shiny Boy’ watermelon. Though AAS classified the watermelon as a “vegetable,” usually there are several veggie winners. Not this year, proving that none of the new veggies tested were innovative enough to be dubbed winners. Read more about each on the AAS website.

From my preview of this year’s winners, I vote for any of the zinnias. And I must say (completely immodestly) that I really like the photo I got of the new snapdragon, ‘Twinny Peach’.

AAS begonia trials/Deb Wiley photo

AAS begonia trials/Deb Wiley photo

'Twinny Peach' snapdragon/Deb Wiley photo

'Twinny Peach' snapdragon/Deb Wiley photo

Iowa readers: Visit one of these locations to see more this summer: Enabling Garden in Altoona; Noelridge Park, Cedar Rapids; Vander Veer Botanical Park, Davenport; Discovery Garden (at the Iowa State Fair), Des Moines; Dubuque Arboretum and Botanical Gardens; ISU Home Demonstration Garden, Lewis; the Master Gardeners Demonstration Garden, Urbandale; and the Cedar Valley Arboretum, Waterloo.

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