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R & E Garden Named All-America Selection
By Crystel Bailey
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Mississippi gardeners and landscapers no longer have to travel several states away to see which new flowers will qualify as the best varieties, now that Poplarville is named an All-America Selection trial ground site.
In August, the All-America Selection board of directors voted the Poplarville display garden at the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station's Coastal Research and Extension Center to be an All-America Selection trial ground for flowering plants. It is the only such garden between Georgia and Texas.
"It's a very prestigious honor in horticulture because there is only a limited number of sites and the awarding of those sites are based on the previous success as an evaluation site," said Patricia Knight, MAFES horticulture expert.
All-America Selection, the oldest international testing organization in North America, was started in 1932 as a way to improve flower varieties at trial grounds and display them to the public at display gardens in places such as shopping malls, colleges and state fairgrounds.
Before being named an All-America Selection trial ground, the display garden in Poplarville met several requirements. It was a display garden for at least two years and was maintained by the person who applied for this honor, which was Knight. In addition, Poplarville's trial ground had access to a greenhouse and irrigation, contained space for growing All-America award winners and was located in a public place.
"Having this designation is an asset for horticulture growers. Herbaceous producers and landscapers in Mississippi benefit because they can see new varieties before they are on the market without having to travel to Georgia or Texas," Knight said.
Besides local convenience, another benefit of having an All- America Selection garden in Mississippi is to gain accurate knowledge of how plants will respond to the climate.
"We can see how flowers perform in our climate instead of another climate, so we have a more accurate understanding of what to expect," Knight said.
This past summer, Knight grew vincas, coleus, petunias, sunflowers, and basil and plans to grow vincas, celosia, zinnias, impatiens, begonias and assorted perennials in 2001.
"We decide what to grow based on markets, availability of plant material and what is entered in All-America Selection trials," Knight said.
Each garden is expected to grow and maintain 25 to 35 varieties of All-America Selection award winners. Winners are chosen on a point scale from 0 to 5. Gold Medal Awards for plants scoring 4 or 5 are given out only once or twice each decade.
Plants are judged on color, disease resistance, insect and weather stress, prolonged flowering, attractiveness of blossoms, uniformity, uniqueness, fragrance, and flower form and quality.