Spring Is Here, Do You Know Where Your All-American Selection Winners Are?

Last summer I was able to hang out with some of the smartest plant nerds in the county at the All-American Select Summer Summit. The highlight for me was tromping through the North Carolina Arboretum. The quilt garden was a tribute to gardening and quilting – both cultural institutes in the south.

Vegetable garden ides.

French marigolds in front of purple basil. 

I found some great inspiration for container gardening:

The gardens incorporated these antique olive baskets.

The repetition of rectangular lines was a beautiful foil to the Smokey Mountain backdrop.

The simplicity of red cordyline in these wooden planters was dramatic.

If you are low on space, the Arboretum had a clever display for a vertical edible garden.

And some great use of recycled products with their container plantings.

Cuphea llavae remains one of my favorite full sun, hot & dry loving summer annuals. 

Smoke tree (Cotinus coggygria ‘Royal Purple’) 

Can you spot the rain barrels? 

Agastache – a beautiful perennial for attracting hummingbirds and butterflies. You can also used the leaves of agastache for flavoring drinks. Hardy to zone 6. 

A beautiful bed of Coreopsis. Coreopsis is a reliable perennial for sunny spots that blooms throughout the summer. 

Asclepias tuberosa – butterfly weed – another magnet for hummingbirds, monarch butterflies, and other beneficial insects.

These pitcher plants –Sarracenia – look like organ pipes just singing away in all their beauty! These delicate beauties are actually carnivores, attracting bugs with sap and scent into their delicate-looking throats to become a nutrient source for the plant.

Gate artwork by David Brewin and Joseph Miller

So why should you be checking out places that grow All-American Selections?
Here’s a quick “why AAS plants are worth seeking out” information from their web page:

What is All-America Selections®?

All-America Selections is an independent, non-profit organization that tests new varieties then introduces only the best garden performers as AAS Winners. 

Who determines an AAS Winner? 

Independent AAS Judges determine the AAS Winners by judging and scoring the entries. The Judges score each entry from 0 to 5 points, with 5 being the highest. Judges report their scores after the growing season for that variety. Judges are located in geographically diverse areas all over the U.S. and Canada. AAS uses an independent accounting firm to calculate the average score of each entry. Only the entry with the highest average score is considered for a possible AAS Award. The AAS Judges determine which, if any, new, never-before-sold entries have proven superior qualities to be introduced as AAS Winners.

What qualities do the Judges score? 

Judges look for significantly improved qualities such as 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. In the last ten years an entry needs to have at least two significantly improved qualities to be considered by Judges for an AAS Award.

Why is an AAS Winner important to the home gardener?

The AAS Winners offer gardeners reliable new varieties that have proven their superior garden performance in Trial Grounds across North America, thus, our tagline of “Tested Nationally and Proven Locally®”. When you purchase an AAS Winner, you know that it has been put through its paces by an independent, neutral trialing organization and has been judged by experts in their field. The AAS Winner label is like a stamp of approval.

Rudbeckia Indian Summer was an All-American Selection winner 1995 and continues to be one of my favorite go-to summer annuals for color displays. 

Diane Blazek, the Executive Director of All-American Selections, led our adventure to the North Carolina Arboretum.

Bluebird building her nest in one of the bluebird houses onsite. 

Check out these container plantings:

Rudbeckia Prairie Sun was an All-American Selection in 2003

All In A Day’s Work

 Well, my job is to make other people’s gardens look beautiful. But at night I get to take my garden and see what I can make it look like with photo editing.

 A different view of my peonies

On my front porch – red ivy geranium, euphorbia diamond frost, foxtail fern

 My day job is painting colors in the landscape –

 Angelonia Purple, Begonia Whopper Red, Sweet Potato Vine Dwarf Margarite, and Ornamental Peppers

Angelonia Cascading purple, Whopper Red Begonia, Rudbeckia Tiger Eyes, Verbena Bonariensis, Hibiscus Maple Sugar. 

I love this Marigold Solan 

So what did you do today?

Around the Garden World – Day 2

When I first was planning last month’s trip to Quebec with the Garden Writer’s Symposium, I kept wondering who this Jardin fella was that so many places were named after. Obviously, I never took French in school and “Jardin” is French for garden, which is what Garden Writers would be wanting to see.

What I didn’t realize is that Quebec City is as much a garden city as it is a historical one.

 Hanging baskets and windowboxes abound throughout the city.

 No skippy little containers or garden beds in this city!

The gardens here will capture your heart.

 In front of the Parliament Building is an vegetable garden growing in raised beds and “Smart Pots“.

Nasturtiums are pretty and edible

Cindy Shapton showing the artistic beauty that can be created using the smart pots. 

Love this combination 

I think I’d have a hard time staying inside if I worked in this Parliament building!

Lelan’s Perfect Day

Here’s the recipe for the container planting from my visit with Meryll Rose on WTVF NewsChannel5 Talk of the Town:
2 Tropical Plumbago Plumbago auriculata – 1 gallon sized
1 Tropical hibiscus ‘President’s Red’ – 1 gallon sized
1 Ornamental Pepper ‘Chilly Chili’ – 1 gallon sized
1 Russellia Scarlet Firecracker plant – 1 gallon sized
2 Petunia ‘Sky Blue’ – 4″ size


Loves full sun and the occasional spring rain.

Learning To Tell The Story


This past week at the Seattle Garden Blogger’s Fling, David Perry challenged us to tell our own story through our pictures. After hearing him speak, I spent the next several hours in a magical misty world of the Bloedel Reserve looking through my lens to frame the story that I wanted to tell. And a story did emerge, but that will be for another post when I’m not 36 hours into no sleep from the red-eye flight back from Seattle. Tonight’s post is a reflection of the story that my husband heard upon my return. It seems that though the objective of this trip was to learn about, see, and record the incredible gardens of Seattle, what I seemed to enjoy the most was the relationships with fellow bloggers that grew from hearing each other’s stories.

Lunch at the home of Denise Lane – a park-like garden filled with surprises at every turn.
Miss Sassypants aka Jean McWeeney

Lunch on the grounds (literally) of Dunn Gardens
Carol Michel telling stories to Anneliese Valdes and Shayna Lashway in gardens of Michelle and Christopher Epping.
Layanee and Cindy enjoy a break from the toasty 78 degree weather of Seattle.
Danielle Smith Ernest of Proven Winners Plants treated us to a blooming treat at Dragonfly Farms Nursery. She’s being interview here by Theresa Loe of Growing a Greener World at the Epping’s home.
Lisa Wagner and I enjoyed checking out the planters at the University Shopping Mall near Ravenna Gardens. This hanging basket is bigger than she is!
Lorene Edwards Forkner treated us to a sneak preview of her new book, Handmade Garden Projects– we got to see all the finished projects at her home
Melissa’s not too sure that this un-airconditioned trailer life at Lorene’s garden would last too long in her Houston environment
Katie posing beautifully and Theresa trying to sneak out of the picture. Gotcha!
Lorene welcoming us to her homeMy Molbak mates!

West Seattle Farmer’s Market – Tonnemaker Family Orchard
A very special treat during lunch at Bloedel Reserve was listening Victoria Summerly’s ethereal piano playing.
Dee Nash captures the moment at Bloedel Reserve

The lovely Robin Ripley at Lorene’s homeSusan Cohan and Andrea Fox solved most of the world’s problems in the sanctuary of Denise Lane’s garden.
Helen Battersby and I are already plotting our next gardening adventure, and I’m sure she was telling me something vitally important in this picture …. oh yes, “I wish we could grow this Acuba in Canada”. Friends let friends despair over unattainable plants. It’s just one more excuse to meet up and commiserate together at some new incredible garden spot.

Day 173 – My Husband Plants This to Attract Ducks

The folks at Watercolor Place on the Panhandle of Florida planted this to bring in the plant quacks like me. I make a special detour through this development every year to see what interesting and beautiful plantings these folks have come up with and this one really rocked my boat.


Millet! Surrounded by interesting things like Scaevola, Verbena, Candy Corn vine, or the variegated potato vine in the top photo. I’m wondering if this is Ornamental Millet Purple Majesty.

Orchids in My Office



Yesterday I was out to dinner when a sweet lady from one of the neighborhoods that I maintain came by my table to thank me for making her neighborhood so colorful and beautiful all year round. She then asked about my home – wondering if I had such beautiful containers and plantings at my own house.
My husband almost snorted out his iced tea.
Now I discussed this topic a couple of weeks ago in this blog – the shameful agony of my “cobbler’s children” containers. I went to the greenhouse this week and with the pleasant weather gathered all the plants I needed to make my late winter containers look incredible so I wouldn’t feel so negligent to my little planters (and in case this sweet little lady decided to drive by my house). But then I got an email from my publisher with the first deadline on my book, and the boys had activities they needed me to attend, it rained all day on Saturday, and on and on… so, my planters were still empty.
Yea, I know. I just need to hire myself.



But every once in a while someone does something to help me keep a little beauty in my close up
world to calm the anxious beast in me that works way to many hours doing what I love to do, just at other places than my own home. My husband brought me cyclamen for Valentine’s Day. Costa Farms sent me this gorgeous orchid to bring life to my office full of planting schedules, community lot maps, plant catalogs, order forms, stacks for billing, and very outdated pictures of my children.

And last Saturday one of my sons said he would help me get our vegetable garden ready for planting. I think he was just hungry. But a few hours of teenage muscle made a big difference in our readiness to plant. I didn’t even mind that he thought taking pictures of me sweating and dirty was a fun way to take a break.


So what exactly am I communicating in this post?
That life sometimes seems out of focus – that I often concentrate on clean, crisp jobs well done in all that goes on in my working world, and that can leave the rest of life a blur. Sometimes the little things – the small flowering orchid in my office, the gift of time to help in the garden – can help bring the priorities of life back into focus.


One down, 17 more to go.