This Week's Podcast: One of these Things is not like the Others with Diane Blazek of the AAS
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Diane Blazek is the Executive Director of All-America Selections® -- the AAS -- and the National Garden Bureau. The mission statement of the AAS is “To promote new garden seed varieties with superior garden performance judged in impartial trials in North America." I have been lucky enough to tour a couple of AAS test fields around the country. They look like vegetable plots with plants in rows. I saw a couple of popular varieties of one plant species right next to a new entry. Is it better, more colorful, perhaps? Does it have more flowers? If it is an edible, how’s the taste? Important to me, is it healthier?
I have to say, I am wary of national programs that promote industry. I have a knee-jerk prejudice that I suppose I carry from the old protest days – don’t trust the “man.” I don’t assume new is improved or better, and sometimes, I am sad when a variety I like is supplanted by a similar plant, and then, is gone forever.
I wondered how the test gardens were set up; where did the seeds come from and how were the winners selected? What was the process of finding subjects to compare to the new entry, and what determined a winner? What were the guidelines as far as fertilizing and pest management? Who paid for all of this testing?
I was glad to discover satisfying answers to these questions in my interview with Diane. The AAS is a non-profit organization. The judging is not completely subjective. More of my concerns were dispelled by some personal contact with one example Louis Bauer grew in containers at Greenwood Gardens this summer. It was Zinnia ‘Profusion Double Hot Cherry’ (above). This plant really is a winner, and one we hope to grow, again in 2014.
Diane and I do not talk about all of this year’s winners. She describes a couple of her orange favorites like petunia ‘African Sunset’ and tomato ‘Chef’s Choice Orange’ (top). These plants really are different, and that petunia – wow! You can find all the winners on the AAS website.