Some flowers and bedding plants can beat the New Mexico summer heat. Others can stand up to a soggy spring in Seattle. But, only a few perform well in regions across the country. New Mexico State University is about to team with other research centers across the U.S. to help All-America Selections determine which varieties are the best garden performers.
"NMSU's Fabian Garcia Science Center is going to become an AAS evaluation site," said Paul Bosland, a professor in NMSU's Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences. This will give Las Cruces a first-look at the new cultivars before they are released by the seed companies."
All-America Selections is a nonprofit organization that tests new varieties of flowers and bedding plants then introduces the best performers as their "AAS Winners." The organization has nearly 200 gardens in geographically diverse areas across the country where judges score the performance of the plants. Bosland said New Mexico was previously one of just two states not represented by the AAS program.
"New Mexico will be an interesting test site because of our hot summers and our cool winters," he said. "We'll definitely look at the heat tolerance in the flowers. A lot of people want plants for landscaping in our region. This will identify which plants will work best."
"It will be my job to track whether the plants are budding, or blooming and how much they are blooming," said Danielle Blackburn, an NMSU student and a lab research assistant at NMSU's Fabian Garcia Science Center.
She said seeds will begin to arrive this fall as part of the program. From there, they will be planted in a greenhouse at the science center and later be transferred outdoors, likely to an area surrounding the center's gazebo.
Each week, Blackburn will fill out a grade sheet to score the performance for each of the varieties. The scores tabulated from around the country determine which, if any, never-before-sold entries have the qualities to be introduced as AAS Winners. She expects to evaluate 40-50 plants each year as part of the program.
"As a student, this project will help Danielle gain experience with landscaping as well as data collection and analysis," Bosland said. "She'll also learn how important it is to take accurate measurements."
All-America Selections tests varieties developed by private companies as well as universities. According to the organization's website, "AAS Winners offer gardeners reliable new varieties that have proven their superior garden performance."