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Garden Centers of America:
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This Year's All-America Selections Winners

This Month's GCA Member Profile


The 2017 GCA Summer Tour is headed to Virginia, June 25-28, for an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at garden centers' operations from Virginia Beach to Newport News to Richmond. Be sure to pack your notebook and camera to capture all the merchandising and indie retailing inspirations!

Sunday, June 25
Registration 3pm-5pm

Welcome and Opening Reception
 5pm-7pm
Discussion 5:30pm-6:30pm 
Based on the topics submitted upon registration, you will share ideas and solutions with your fellow GCA members. Last year's discussion time was a big hit!

Dinner on your own
This is a wonderful time to gather with friends, make new ones, catch up and share insights.


Monday, June 26

American Revolution Museum At Yorktown

Yorktown was the last major battle of the Revolutionary War where General George  Washington besieged British General Charles Cornwallis' Army, effectively ending the war and ensuring independence. What better place to begin our tour than a visit to this historic birthplace of our country?The American Revolution Museum tells the story through films, timeline displays, immersive exhibits and outdoor living history in a recreated encampment and farm.

The self-guided tour takes you from the British Empire And America, through the Revolution to a look at The New Nation.
American Revolution Museum

Ken Matthews Garden Center   
Located along busy Rt. 17, a newly expanded six-lane retail haven, Ken Matthews Garden Center stands out as an escape from the ordinary. With a parklike setting showcasing over 500 varieties of trees and shrubs and 1000 varieties of annuals and perennials, shoppers gather ideas and plants from inspiration gardens with themes focused on Butterfly Gardens, Coastal Living and Entrance Ways.

The water garden is front and center as shoppers begin their journey through the nursery yard as a visual reminder that the company provides both landscape design and installation services.
http://kenmatthewsgardencenter.com

Norfolk Botanical Garden & Lunch
Spring and summer colors will be on full display throughout 52 themed gardens across 175 acres here. Through a Works Progress Administration (WPA) grant, the creation of the gardens began in 1938 with the transition of a tree-filled swamp into the Azalea Gardens. Now, the Japanese, Bristow Butterfly and Perennial Gardens are must-see stops. The World of Wonders Children's Adventure Garden covers three acres with themes like Frog Bog, Plant Safari and Dirt Factory - a great place for ideas to bring back the kid in all of us.

After lunch in the Rose Garden Hall overlooking the All-America Rose Selections Bicentennial Garden, attendees can enjoy a tram ride of the gardens or wander the gardens on their own.
http://norfolkbotanicalgarden.org

Anderson's Newport News
Our first of two Anderson's locations on the tour began as a wholesale grower in 1954. Owner Clark Anderson shifted the focus to retail in 1977 with a major expansion to the entire site in 2009. With the confidence that the public wants more from their shopping experience than the traditional garden center offers, the renovation included a 15,000-square-foot showroom for gifts, apparel and home decor; new greenhouse; full-service cafe and fudge shop; an expansive plant selection; landscape services and space for over 250 cars.

Anderson believes, "Our goal is to create a shopping experience that equals or exceeds that of other types of retail locations. We want people to come to Anderson's to browse, eat, shop and enjoy the whole experience and stay for hours if they desire."

Signage, merchandising and their new "rolling walls" will provide a long list of ideas and examples.
http://loveandersons.com

Tuesday, June 27
McDonald Garden Market
Now operating 10 seasonal plant markets throughout the area, with intentions of expanding, McDonald Garden Center was a front-runner of the industry's interest in seasonal, high-volume outlets focused on plants. Located throughout the region, the markets offer shoppers with a wide array of options and tour attendees with a proven example of how to make both shopping and facilitation function smoothly in small space locations. 

Ideas on how to make plants and plant-related products the focus of impulse shopping cultivated here can be transitioned to any size garden center retailer.
https://www.mcdonaldgardencenter.com

Sneed's Nursery and Garden Center
Don't let the small road frontage fool you - this is an in-town gem that's been inspiring plant geeks and garden bauble shoppers since 1975. This center provides customers with a boutique shopping experience, a full-service landscape division and a custom-design florist - all set within the charm of a cottage village. With a focus on organic offerings, shoppers mingle with free-range chickens to search for the next gardening surprise found under the trees throughout the property.

Don't miss the florist/gift shop that the staff says "is held together by vines growing through the roof," or the landscape design center tucked away in a relaxed garden setting. This is a stop with a lot of character that's sure to get your merchandising ideas flowing.
http://www.sneedsnursery.com

Cross Creek Nursery and Landscaping
The deeper you move through the pine-covered entrance, the more you'll discover, including a greenhouse filled with annuals and perennials from their farm, a full-service florist, landscape and stone yard divisions, ponds, streams and a farm, which is home to goats and turkeys. Relax in the natural shade house under a 1,200-square-foot wisteria. This stop serves up one surprise after another.  

Beginning as a tropical plant retail and service company in 1974, Cross Creek Nursery & Landscaping is a family affair with a father and his three sons guiding the ever expanding list of products and services. Be sure to check out their water reclamation process that provides 100 percent of the water needed for the entire property.
http://www.crosscreeknursery.com

The Great Big Greenhouse & Meadows Farms Nurseries & Lunch
A family business in Richmond since 1977, The Great Big Greenhouse was purchased by the well-known industry family Meadows Farms Nurseries in 2010. 
The retailer promises the best of both companies: "The plants you expect. The prices you'll love. The people you know. The experience you'll remember.” The store is located in a busy shopping center with more than 15 other retailers, providing a constant flow of shoppers throughout the year. A year-round weekly farmer's market, now in its eighth season, adds to the attraction. 

Shoppers find a full array of plants, gifts, home decor, indoor foliage, statuary and landscape products. This stop is all about garden retailing, and you'll want to ask about the store's weekly TV news call-in segment.
http://www.greatbiggreenhouse.com

Colonial Williamsburg's Merchants Square
With its conception dating back to 1927, Colonial Williamsburg's Merchants Square is recognized as one of the first planned shopping districts in the country. And who was at the forefront of this "new" shopping concept? Why John D. Rockefeller Jr., of course. Local retailers in the area of the original colonial town were relocated to this customer-oriented shopping district to make room for restoration of the town. Buildings were set back on the property to offer easy pedestrian access, and the streets were later closed to traffic, creating a pedestrian-friendly outdoor shopping environment.

The shopping district, envisioned by the early "developers" well ahead of their time, creates the quaint, personal experience that is frequently copied by so many shopping districts today, replacing the ubiquitous indoor mall.

Shop, eat, drink, relax, and learn in "theme-retailing" surroundings - there's even a little garden center to discover - and be on the lookout for residents and performers from the adjacent Revolutionary City of Colonial Williamsburg's Historic Area, where separate admission tickets are required.
http://www.merchantssquare.org


Wednesday, June 28
White's Nursery & Garden Center
For more than 50 years, White's Nursery & Garden Center has strived to perfect the art of grower, wholesaler and retailer. With more than 20 acres in production, the company has become known as one of the country's premier growers of florist-quality seasonal color. Owner Norman White has set a record for being the cover story for various trade magazines. In one article, Vic Ball says, "You've got to see it! Near-perfect uniformity and quality, spic-and-span cleanliness of it all - the epitome of growing."

This attention to detail spills over to the garden center division of the company, located in a quiet neighborhood of Chesapeake, VA. The stop will include a behind-the-scenes tour of the production area for those interested in the grower's side of business. Retail time will focus on how garden centers can use seasonal color and exclusive color combos to set them apart from the competition.
http://www.whitesnursery.com

McDonald Garden Center Virginia Beach
Our second McDonald Garden Center stop of the tour takes us to the Virginia Beach site opened in 1980. This year-round location was converted from a horse farm to a multi-division garden center. Shoppers are guided from the entrance courtyard through a series of plant departments and free-standing buildings with ties to the area's historical connection. The stroll under mature trees past display gardens adds to the village atmosphere.

Famous for their "Myrtle Money" promotion adapted by many garden centers around the country, McDonald Garden Center also hosts a number of other events throughout the year, including their own 4-H Club. Our visit will focus on using unique site design to create shopping environments that become part of a garden center's feel and character.
https://www.mcdonaldgardencenter.com

The ViBe Creative District & Lunch On Your Own
The ViBe Creative District was established to serve as a vibrant center for the arts, culture, technology and creative industries. This is where life is art in a setting like no other. Unique retailers, galleries, locally grown farm-to-fork dining, farmers and craft markets reside in this economically vibrant neighborhood where artists live and work. Their goal to be "a little off the main drag and a lot off kilter" creates a 10-block learning (and shopping) haven with so much to learn for any type of retailer. Take it all in, grab lunch, then head home with ideas to jumpstart your company's sense of discovery for your customers.
http://vibecreativedistrict.org

Atlantic Garden Center
Talk about diversification! How about adding a full-service post office to your mix? After a redesign of the shopping center property where they're located, including the arrival of CVS Pharmacy on the lot, Atlantic Garden Center found itself with enough room and opportunity to add a post office to their product mix. After two and a half years in operation, the company sees the blending of stamps and plants as a perfect fit.

The property redesign also provided a new receiving area, bulk bin location, two new office areas and, best of all, more parking in the now shared lot. This is your chance to discuss property redesign and greenhouse upgrades with an owner who has been through the process.

Anderson's Virginia Beach
Is it a garden center with a restaurant or a restaurant located in a garden center? You decide. Either way, Anderson's second location on the tour has created what is probably one of newest, uniquely designed garden and lifestyle retailers the industry has seen. Opened just one year ago, the site is home to Sage Kitchen, a breakfast to dinner experience they call "from greenhouse-to-table dining."  A ladies boutique presents clothing, shoes, jewelry and accessories alongside gifts and home decor departments.
Add a greenhouse of plants, outdoor seating, a kid's play area, live music every Wednesday evening to the mix and their slogan, "This is where you'll find your friends," - it all makes perfect sense.

This is the perfect spot to end our tour with a chance to kick back, enjoy new friends, compare notes and plans for the future, eat, drink and listen to live music, while savoring the hospitality the area has been known for since the inception of our country.
http://loveandersons.com

Arrive Back at Hotel:    7:30

To reserve your hotel room, click HERE or call the Newport News Marriott at City Center directly at 757-873-9299. Be sure to tell them you are booking for the Garden Centers of America event.


A HEARTY THANK YOU TO OUR SPONSORS!

   
   
   

2016 GCA Summer Tour Social Media Recap

In case you missed all of the coverage of this year's GCA Summer Tour in Portland, OR, here are some of the highlights from social media:

"Opening night festivities were in high gear as the 2016 GCA Summer Tour in Portland kicked off Sunday with a lively discussion on hot IGC retailing topics, including the importance of IGCs receiving early market rights to new plant introductions from growers. Owner of Mesquite Valley Growers Nursery, Thomas Birt, known for his ever-present white cowboy hat and a regular GCA Tour attendee, was among those taking place in the multi-topic discussion led by Tour Director Robert Hendrickson. The room traded insights on Internet sales, and those garden centers on the tour who are having great success with them shared their strategies. The three-day tour of Portland-area garden centers starts early Monday."




"Yesterday [Monday], GCA Summer Tour buses hit the Portland area under glorious, bright, sunny blue skies for a robust first day that took them to five leading garden centers. An amazing lunch was featured on the grounds of grower Sester Farms in Gresham, OR, who - along with the delicious mid-day meal - gave a tour of its growing grounds, a hands-on session on how to refresh tired plant material that's still in your sales area and a raffle with a grand prize of $3500 of delivered wholesale-valued plants from the grower, won by Sandi Hillermann of Hillermann Nursery & Florist in Washington, MO. Sester Farms generously provided all retailers on the GCA Tour with a $1000 certificate for free plants on any Fall 2016 orders. Two more busy days lie ahead, and weather reports call for a bright day, and spirits are sky high. For those who are missing this great networking experience among 120+ IGC retailers, make plans now to attend the 2017 GCA Summer Tour, just announced to take place in Norfolk/Virginia Beach!"




"First stop for Tuesday on the GCA Summer Tour Portland was Gardener’s Choice in Tigard, OR. One of the intriguing highlights from this stop includes these display units that are actually built on repurposed pallets. The overall concept for these is that when store management wants to rearrange display units, a forklift can easily be brought in to pick up and relocate the entire unit. It’s an experiment in progress for the store, but certainly an interesting concept - just another example of the insights you get by attending the GCA Summer Tour."


"On Tuesday night, the GCA Summer Tour Portland dined in the historic setting of McMenamins Edgefield - a renovated turn-of-the-century "poor house" that is now a restaurant, bar and entertainment center on the outskirts of the Portland metro area. Our special guest after dinner was Jeff Stone, Executive Director and CEO of the Oregon Association of Nurseries, (pictured with GCA Executive Director Jeff Morey). Stone spoke on the unique implications of the recent laws in the state of Oregon that legislated minimum wage on both growers and what the end effects will impose on finished plant prices from Oregon to retailers across the country, as well as the forced wage minimums on local Oregon garden center retailers. A lively discussion ensued for nearly an hour between the 120+ attending IGC retailers on the tour and Stone. This dinner and discussion followed a day of garden center stops that earned rave reviews from all. By every measure, there seems little doubt that this is the best GCA Summer Tour in many, many years!"




UPCOMING EVENTS

June 25, 2017 5:00 PM • Newport News, VA
August 15, 2017 • Navy Pier, Chicago, IL
August 15, 2017 10:00 AM • Room 324, Navy, Pier, Chicago, IL
August 16, 2017 11:30 AM • Room 324, IGC Show, Chicago, IL

GCA MEMBER PROFILE:

Chris McDonald, Hardgoods Buyer Ray Wiegand's Nursery, Macomb, MI

Buying Direct from Manufacturers, Magical In-store Experiences Allow Northern IGC to Compete with Big Boxes

Capitalizing on more than 153 years of growing experience, Ray Wiegand's Nursery has translated that background into running successful retail and re-wholesale divisions at their property in Macomb, WI. Wiegand's has come a long way since Francis Wiegand purchased the family's first farm in the 1860s in Warren, MI – the independent retailer now operates a state-of-the-art growing facility that spans approximately more than 1,000 acres, as well as a 7-acre retail garden center, according to Hardgoods Buyer Chris McDonald. The store's offerings have expanded over the years to include a Garden Pharmacy, landscape design services, patio furniture, decor, grills, containers, gifts and anything else that customers need to beautify their outdoor spaces.

But growing quality trees, shrubs and perennials isn't the only strong suit of Wiegand's – the IGC sends a team of buyers, including Chris, directly to lawn and garden manufacturers in China to purchase hardgoods and decor, giving the retailer the ability to offer prices that compete with the big boxes.

"Not a lot of people are willing to get on a plane and go to China – it sounds intimidating," Chris says. "I started traveling overseas to buy artificial Christmas trees and other holiday merchandise. We used to go to shows in New York, but as the showrooms became too expensive, those vendors moved to Asia. The big boxes go over there, so we followed that model."


Chris says they've been buying their holiday merchandise directly from manufacturers for more than a decade. The retailer is starting to purchase more garden products overseas, too.

"By doing this, we're able to offer better merchandise at a better price, and it's a win for the customer and a win for us," he says. "For IGCs out there that have a lot of potential, they should really check into buying through this method. It has allowed us to compete much more closely with the box stores, and it has raised our margins significantly. The only part that may present a challenge for most IGCs is you have to be able to buy in some large quantities."

For stores that aren't quite large enough to buy on their own, Chris recommends partnering with other IGCs similar to your store and combining buying power. In fact, Chris says Wiegand's frequently partners with the Bordine's stores located throughout Michigan and Donzell's Garden Center in Akron, OH.

"We buy very, very similar product, so why not pool our efforts and get a better price? It's been a really beneficial relationship," he says. "We share all kinds of business tips and strategies, too."

The GCA Summer Tours provide a great avenue for meeting new garden center owners and managers, according to Chris. "When you start talking to people on the tour, you make a lot of friends," he says. "Then people start forming these new relationships, and actions, such as buying product in China, become a reality more so than one person doing it on their own."

Chris confirms that camaraderie and the distribution of ideas are the biggest benefits to being involved in Garden Centers of America. "As I talk with people in different industries, they're always really surprised at how friendly independent garden centers are with each other. That's a fun aspect of this industry."

Chris garnered other key store functionality elements on the GCA Summer Tour Portland last June, such as the importance of directional signage to help guide the customer on her shopping journey and answer questions."The most important takeaway for us is the need to develop a strategy for directional signage, because that relates directly to our size," he says. "We're a pretty big garden center, and on the tour, we saw some stores that were smaller than us really help the customer find where everything was through signage."

He continues, "I think a lot of times people forget and become comfortable in their garden center setting. When we tell our customers that 'it's in the greenhouse' or 'it's by the gazebo,' they look at us confused. We all know the layout of our stores, but our customers don't."

The GCA Summer Tours are great for re-energizing you and your staff, says Chris. "We've all just become complacent with our stores. But after touring the stores in Portland, I said, 'Wow, we've got to go home and create some colorful displays.'"

Creating a Magical Customer Experience

For IGCs, finding ways to attract the Millennial consumer is a hot topic – one that Chris recognized as a focus for many retailers on the GCA Summer Tour. But he says his view on the matter is different from most.

"My philosophy is that we sell beauty," he says. "I believe that most of our customers come here for one reason: to buy beauty for inside and outside their homes. I feel that as these Millennials and younger generations grow up and purchase homes, they'll naturally shop at our garden center. Trying to force someone's hand isn't going to work."

Wiegand's has started diving into advertising on social media and other creative marketing tools, such as buying a drone to gather aerial footage of the store and events, but Chris isn't worrying about capturing the younger consumers.

Instead, the retailer is focusing on creating exceptional experiences in-store that will make customers of all ages happy. "More than ever, Millennials want the experience, and they're more into the experience than any generation before them."

Chris says their good customer experience begins with a knowledgeable staff. "A lot of our customers come here for our customer service, as well as our selection," he says.

Special events and workshops are hosted at the store throughout the year to bring more excitement and fun to the customer experience. Open houses are held in the spring and at Christmastime. Wiegand's Pumpkin Walk donates proceeds to a different charity every year, while entertaining families with trick-or-treating stations and carved pumpkins.

Customers can tour the permanent Butterfly House on-site on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays – or through a private group tour – from June to September. Wiegand's display garden runs behind the retail store, weaving a path right to the screened-in Butterfly House. Chris says there are usually eight to 12 different species of native butterflies in the house, where they complete their entire life cycle from eggs to hatching from their chrysalises.

Every June, the retailer hosts a special launch to mark the opening of the house, giving away pollinator-friendly plants to customers. Then, in September, the monarchs are tagged and released into the wild.

Chris says, "We've created some magic here in different ways."

It's that magic that enthralled 19-year-old Chris years ago after he took a part-time job at Wiegand's while he attended college. "It basically sucked me in from there," he laughs. "We joke that it's like the Hotel California around here – you come in, but you can never leave.

"I always had an interest in gardening, and that's what brought me here to begin with, but I never really planned on this being my career. I was lucky to have a good mentor for many, many years, who was great at store merchandising. I've learned a lot over the years."


Click here to read more Member Profiles.



All-America Selections Introduces 24 Exciting AAS Winners for the 2017 Garden Season

Anyone watching the movements of All-America Selections lately will notice an ever-increasing number of exciting and wonderful plants that are being named AAS Winners. This announcement is no different with 24 new plants that have been trialed by horticulture experts throughout North America and deemed worthy of the All-America Selections® brand. Each of the following varieties was trialed in North America by professional, independent volunteer judges during one growing season next to comparison varieties that are currently considered to be the best on the market.

This grouping of AAS Winners for 2017 includes:
Bean, Pole Seychelles (National)
Celosia Asian Garden (National)
Dianthus Interspecific Supra Pink F1 (National)
Fennel Antares F1 (National)
Geranium Calliope Medium Dark Red (National)
Okra Candle Fire F1 (National)
Pea Patio Pride (Regional: Southeast)
Penstemon Barbatus Twizzle Purple (Regional: Heartland and Southeast)
Pepper Aji Rico F1 (National)
Pepper Chili Pie F1 (National)
Pepper Mad Hatter F1 (National)
Pepper Sweetie Pie F1 (Regional: Heartland, Northeast and Southeast)
Petunia Evening Scentsation F1 (Regional: Great Lakes, Heartland and West/Northwest)
Squash Sugaretti F1 (Regional: Southeast)
Squash Winter Honeybaby F1 (Regional: Heartland)
Tomato Chef's Choice Yellow F1 (Regional: Southeast)
Tomato Midnight Snack F1 (National)
Tomato Patio Choice Yellow F1 (National)
Verbena EnduraScape Pink Bicolor (National)
Vinca Mega Bloom Orchid Halo F1 (National)
Vinca Mega Bloom Pink Halo F1 (National)
Watermelon Gold in Gold F1 (National)
Watermelon Mini Love F1 (National)
Zinnia Profusion Red (National)
 
With this announcement, these varieties become available for immediate sale to the commercial market. Brokers and growers can purchase these varieties immediately. Retailers and consumers will find these Winners for sale for the 2017 gardening season as supply gradually becomes available throughout the chain of distribution. 
 
A complete list of trial grounds and the judges behind our awards can be found here.
 
A complete list of all AAS Winners since 1932 can be found here. Note that this list of AAS Winners can be sorted by Flowers from Seed, Flowers from Cuttings, and Vegetables.

Bean, Pole Seychelles 
AAS 2017 Edible Vegetable Winner
National Winner

A Dutch breeder developed the Seychelles pole bean to produce long (5-6”), uniform, straight stringless pods with an excellent flavor. This AAS Winner produces high yields in multiple crops over the growing season and is easy to maintain. Whether grown in the garden or in a pot on the patio, Seychelles grows 7-9 feet tall on vigorous dark green vines and should be grown on supports, thus, its classification as a pole bean. Foodies, vegetarians, and vegetable-lovers will all enjoy this productive bean that is fast-growing and early-to-produce crisp delicious pods. Bred by Bakker Brothers/Pure Line Seeds, Inc. Click here for more information.

Celosia Asian Garden
AAS 2017 Flower Winner
National Winner
This spiked beauty claimed victory in North America’s trial sites to become the first ever AAS Winner from Japanese breeding company Murakami Seed. The judges gave this entry high marks in the greenhouse for the good branching, almost bushy growth habit and early to bloom flower spikes. In the garden, Asian Garden Celosia continued to bloom on sturdy stems, keeping the bright pink color all summer long, holding up even through some of the first frosts of the season. The AAS Judges commented on the fact that this celosia was a pollinator-magnet, making this AAS Winner a sure bet for pollinator-friendly gardens. Bred by Murakami Seed Co. Click here for more information.

Dianthus Interspecific Supra Pink F1
AAS 2017 Flower Winner
National Winner

Supra Pink joins its sister, 2006 AAS Winner Supra Purple, to give us two fantastic colors in an easy-to-grow interspecific dianthus for three-season (spring, summer, fall) garden color. This compact, bushy plant blooms prolifically with novel mottled pink flowers sporting frilly petal edges that hold up even in summer heat and drought. No deadheading needed on this winner. One judge attempted to deadhead this entry but it re-bloomed too fast to do so! Supra Pink grows to just under a foot in height but is a vigorous grower and will deliver fancy, clear pink flowers for a long time as observed over and over by the AAS Judges. Supra Pink was tested as an annual and won the award based on first-year performance, but similar to other dianthus, it may overwinter in some regions. Bred by Hem Genetics. Click here for more information.

Fennel Antares F1
AAS 2017 Edible Vegetable Winner
National Winner

This winner is a “First in Class,” as AAS has never before trialed and declared a fennel an AAS Winner. What is extremely fun about this winning plant is its many uses: as an edible bulb; for its ornamental fronds; as a seed producer; and as a favorite food of pollinators, namely swallowtail caterpillars. The AAS Judges described Antares as a very uniform, pure white, beautiful plant with a much improved, almost sweet, licorice/anise flavor as compared to other market varieties. It was also 7-10 days slower to bolt than comparison varieties. Many AAS Judges said they plan to plant this easy-to-grow fennel in their own gardens next year! Bred by Bejo. Click here for more information. 

Geranium Calliope Medium Dark Red
AAS 2017 Ornamental Vegetative Winner
National Winner

With an outstanding deep red velvety flower color and great branching habit, Calliope® was unmatched in the AAS Trials when compared to other market varieties. Calliope® Medium Dark Red geranium is an interspecific hybrid with zonal-type flowers and leaves. This AAS Winner has a mounded, semi-spreading growth habit with strong stems supporting the flower heads that are loaded with deep red blossoms. These plants work great in containers, combination plantings, hanging baskets as well as in an in-ground landscape. Gardeners will enjoy exceptional landscape performance in normal conditions as well as in more challenging high heat and drought conditions. Available in plant form only. Bred by Syngenta Flowers. Click here for more information.

Okra Candle Fire F1
AAS 2017 Edible Vegetable Winner
National Winner

A unique red okra with pods that are round, not ribbed, and a brighter red color than the reddish burgundy okras currently available. This high-performing AAS Winner received high marks for productivity, taste, texture and tenderness as well as the ornamental value of red pods on red stems. One judge noted that Candle Fire okra was quite maintenance free to grow, except for the frequent harvesting, which is a great thing! Candle Fire thrives in the heat and is disease resistant even in hot humid climates like the south where it’s perfect for traditional fried okra. Suitable for both fruit producing and ornamental usage. Aged fruit can be used in flower arrangements. Dry seed can be used as coffee (without caffeine). Bred by Known-You Seed. Click here for more information. 

Pea Patio Pride
AAS 2017 Edible Vegetable Winner
Regional Winner: Southeast

This compact beauty produces sweet, uniform pods that are very tender when harvested early. With only 40 days needed to maturity, Patio Pride can be one of your first spring harvests or one of the last fall harvests from your Southeastern garden! This pea is wonderful when planted in containers and is ideal for succession planting yielding a consistent harvest over many weeks. Plant in patio containers with cool-season flowers for a beautiful combination ornamental and edible display. Bred by Terra Organics. Click here for more information. 

Penstemon Barbatus Twizzle Purple F1
AAS 2017 Flower Winner
Regional Winner: Heartland and Southeast

Vibrant purple blooms present a new and unique color in penstemon! Twizzle Purple was judged as a first-year flowering perennial by judges who were impressed with the upright plant habit and superb flowering performance. This North American native blooms profusely with 1-inch tubular flowers on long slender stalks that grow up to 35 inches high, making this beauty a magnet for pollinators from mid- to late summer. Twizzle Purple can be used to add height to combination planters or in landscapes for high-impact color. Bred by Van Hemert & Co. Seeds. Click here for more information. 
 
Pepper Aji Rico F1
AAS 2017 Edible Vegetable Winner
National Winner

Aji Rico is the first of its kind: a hybrid hot pepper from the Capsicum baccatum species that matures early for short-season production or early summer enjoyment. The large plant produces many thin-walled, crunchy fruits which have a narrow conical shape. Fruit matures from green to red and can be eaten at any stage. “Ají” is the term for chili in South America. These fruits have a refreshing citrus flavor and warm heat level, perfect for eating fresh or cooking into salsas or hot sauces. Simply incorporate the desired number of seeds from the pepper to add some heat. Aji also dries well for a flavorful homemade flavorful “paprika.” Bred by PanAmerican Seed. Click here for more information. 
 
Pepper Chili Pie F1
AAS 2017 Edible Vegetable Winner
National Winner

A unique miniature Bell Pepper that is mildly hot when fruits turn red. These peppers are compact, easy to grow and adapt well to a container or small garden planting. Another plus is their dark green foliage and ability to set fruit even under hot humid conditions. Each plant yields 25 to 30 fruit and can be eaten fresh or cooked. “A word to the wise,” cautioned one judge, “plant these opposite side of your garden from your sweet bells – I only absentmindedly confused the two once!” Bred by Clover Seed Co. Click here for more information. 

Pepper Mad Hatter F1
AAS 2017 Edible Vegetable Winner
National Winner

This exotic pepper wins on uniqueness alone! However, the plant’s vigor, earliness, high yields, large size and awesome taste all contribute to its high score among AAS judges. Mad Hatter is a member of the Capsicum baccatum pepper species from South America commonly used in Bolivian and Peruvian cuisine. You can impress your friends by growing this pepper and showing off the novel three-sided shape and deliciously sweet taste. The taste has a refreshing, citrusy floral flavor that remains sweet, only occasionally expressing mild heat near the seeds. Be prepared for vigorous and robust plants that are easy to grow because they were bred for North America’s many growing conditions. Use your abundant harvest raw in salads, pickled or stuffed with cheese…a new favorite! Bred by PanAmerican Seed. Click here for more information. 

Pepper Sweetie Pie F1
AAS 2017 Edible Vegetable Winner
Regional Winner: Heartland, Northeast and Southeast

A miniature bell pepper that is easy to grow with excellent fruit set even under hot and humid conditions. An attractive plant that is well-adapted to a container and small garden growing. Fruits can be harvested 60 to 70 days from transplanting either in green or red. These small 3 oz cuties are 2.5 inches x 3 inches in size and are thick-walled, sweet and flavorful. These peppers can be eaten fresh, grilled, stir-fried or stuffed. The possibilities are endless. As one judge said, “A cute way to introduce bell peppers to kids.” Bred by Clover Seed Co. Click here for more information. 

Petunia Evening Scentsation F1
AAS 2017 Flower Winner
Regional Winner: Great Lakes, Heartland & West/Northwest

Evening Scentsation is the first petunia to receive an AAS award for its lovely fragrance and stunning color. This is “One of the best blue petunias I have seen, nice mounding and spreading habit. Excellent fragrance too!” wrote one judge. Evening Scentsation’s fragrance has notes of hyacinth, sweet honey and rose. As the name implies, the scent is stronger in the evening hours, though it can be experienced throughout the day as well. Scent is perceived differently by each individual. Evening Scentsation is a medium-sized multiflora type, reaching a height of 5-8 inches, and a width of 30-35 inches and will work well in containers, hanging baskets and in mass. Bred by Takii & Co. Click here for more information. 

Squash Sugaretti F1
AAS 2017 Edible Vegetable Winner
Regional Winner: Southeast

Sugaretti is a new spaghetti winter squash that prolifically produces a  generous crop of mid-sized orange-fleshed vegetables. These striped beauties are the perfect size for culinary gardeners who want to grow a great tasting, healthy fall treat on semi-bushy vines that spread only about two feet wide/long. The nutty sweet flesh (somewhat reminiscent of a sweet potato) can be used as a pasta substitute simply roasted or blended in soups.  Determinate vining plants have good disease resistance to powdery mildew and produce fruits slightly earlier than other similar varieties. Sugaretti produces so many fruits that it’s good that their hard shells protect the flesh for a long shelf life. Bred by Seeds By Design. Click here for more information.

Squash Winter Honeybaby F1
AAS 2017 Edible Vegetable Winner
Regional Winner: Heartland

Honeybaby is a very productive variety of winter squash producing numerous fruits on a compact plant. These shorter vines grow 2-3 feet in a semi-bush habit showing great garden vigor. Short, wide fruits are slightly larger, sweet and nutty and meatier than similar comparison varieties. Honeybaby is delicious steamed, baked or made into soups and stews. Bred by Seeds by Design. Click here for more information.

Tomato Chef's Choice Yellow F1
AAS 2017 Edible Vegetable Winner
Regional Winner: Southeast

The fourth addition to the popular Chef’s Choice tomato series is Chef’s Choice Yellow which produces hearty beefsteak type tomatoes in a beautiful yellow color. Tomato lovers and culinary gardeners will fall for this large meaty delicacy that has a sweet, citrus-like flavor with just the right amount of acid and the perfect tomato texture. AAS Judges raved about the quantity of the 10-ounce fruits that each 5-foot indeterminate vines produced. You’ll enjoy harvesting 30 or more fruits throughout the season from this disease (Fusarium Wilt, Verticillium wilt, Tomato Mosiac Virus, Crack, and Scab) resistant plant with dark green leaves and well-behaved form. You’ll be the envy of all your tomato-growing friends! Bred by Seeds By Design. Click here for more information.

Tomato Midnight Snack F1
AAS 2017 Edible Vegetable Winner
National Winner

Midnight Snack is a unique indigo-type cherry tomato that ripens to red with a beautiful glossy black-purple overlay when exposed to sunlight. This coloration comes from the accumulation of anthocyanin pigments, the same reason blueberries are blue and contain healthy antioxidants. The indeterminate growth habit means vines should be staked and, lucky for us gardeners, plentiful fruits will ripen all season long! Midnight Snack is great in salads or eaten straight off the plant…a guilt-free treat any time of the day or night. Judges commented on the improved taste of this indigo tomato and said this is a “Big improvement in purple tomatoes!” This novel AAS Winner matures earlier than the comparisons, is very easy to grow and will be a unique addition to any garden. Bred by PanAmerican Seed. Click here for more information. 

Tomato Patio Choice Yellow F1
AAS 2017 Edible Vegetable Winner
National Winner

Patio Choice Yellow is a new compact, determinate tomato developed specifically for small spaces and container gardens. This AAS Winner produces very large yields of 1/2 ounce bright yellow cherry tomatoes on short vines that grow only 18 inches tall. This mild flavored cherry tomato sets over 100 fruit on compact plants which are perfect for urban or small space food gardeners. Consider using these beautiful tomatoes either fresh or in the oven or sun dried for a deliciously sweet treat. For even easier picking, plant in a hanging basket. Bred by Seeds By Design. Click here for more information.

Verbena EnduraScape Pink Bicolor
AAS 2017 Flower Winner
National Winner

EnduraScape™ is described as “tough as nails” because it is the first verbena that can tolerate drought and heat plus survive cooler temperatures down to the low teens. This long-blooming pink bicolor verbena is spectacular in the landscape, edging a walk or border as well as in large containers and baskets. Vigorous plants are sturdy spreaders that pop with abundant soft pink blossoms that darken in intensity toward the center of the bloom. Pink Bicolor is the newest color in the series and the AAS Judges deemed it truly spectacular! Available in plant form only. Bred by Ball FloraPlant. Click here for more information.

Vinca Mega Bloom Orchid Halo F1
AAS 2017 Flower Winner
National Winner

Mega Bloom is an exciting new series of vinca bred to withstand heat and humidity without succumbing to disease. Orchid Halo produces huge bright rich purple blossoms with a wide white eye creating a striking look for the garden, even from a distance. Plants maintain a nice, dense habit with flowers staying on top of the foliage for full flower power color. Growers will like the early bloom time, compactness in the greenhouse and plant uniformity. Bred by AmeriSeed. Click here for more information.

Vinca Mega Bloom Pink Halo F1
AAS 2017 Flower Winner
National Winner

Mega Bloom is an exciting new series of vinca bred to withstand heat and humidity without succumbing to disease. Pink Halo produces huge soft pink blossoms with a wide white eye. These flowers present a striking look in the garden, even from a distance. Plants maintain a nice, dense habit with flowers staying on top of the foliage for full flower power color. 
Growers will like the early bloom time, compactness in the greenhouse and plant uniformity. Bred by AmeriSeed. Click here for more information. 

Watermelon Gold in Gold F1
AAS 2017 Edible Vegetable Winner
National Winner

“Eye-catching and fun” was one judge’s comment about “Gold in Gold” Watermelon. The fruit’s outer color is yellow with golden stripes while the inner flesh is a lovely orange/gold. Crisp texture with high sugar contents is also an advantage. This winner is an early producing, high yielding, and improved disease-resistant melon with a strong rind that resists cracking or bursting. The unique oblong shape of the 11-16 pound fruit makes it a perfect “icebox” watermelon and the tasty fruit is superior. Judges said, “We loved it!” Bred by Asia Seed Co. Click here for more information.

Watermelon Mini Love F1
AAS 2017 Edible Vegetable Winner
National Winner

This personal-sized Asian watermelon is perfect for smaller families and smaller gardens. Shorter vines (3-4 feet) still produce up to six fruits per plant and can be grown in smaller spaces. Several judges commented on the crack and split resistant rinds, important for reducing crop loss. For culinary purposes, this deep red fleshed watermelon has a thin but strong rind that can be carved into attractive shapes for fruit salad presentations. Mini Love has a high sugar content resulting in sweet and crisp, juicy flesh that will be a true summer delight for watermelon lovers. Bred by HM. Clause. Click here for more information. 

Zinnia Profusion Red
AAS 2017 Flower Winner
National Winner

This newest Profusion Zinnia winner is the fourth color in the single flower series to win the coveted AAS Winner award. The original Profusions were ground-breaking plants because of their compact form, disease resistance, early and continuous blooms all season long and ease in growing. Judges raved about the vibrant, perfectly true red color of this zinnia which doesn’t fade in summer’s intense rays. As one judge stated, “We have waited for years for this true red color in zinnias!” Gardeners will find many uses for the true red zinnia that’s easy to grow and a favorite of pollinators. Uniform plants and outstanding greenhouse and garden performance will be especially important for growers producing Profusion Red for retail sales. Zinnia Profusion Red is also a Fleuroselect Gold Medal Winner for garden performance in Europe. Bred by Sakata Seed Corporation. Click here for more information.

All-America Selections® was founded in 1932 and continues as the oldest independent testing organization in North America. Every year, new, never-before-sold varieties are trialed in our Trial Grounds and professional horticulturists determine which varieties will be deemed winners based on their garden performance. AAS relies upon a public relations program to inform gardeners about AAS National and Regional Winners that are announced three times each year.

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