AAS 2021 Exhibition Garden Landscape Design Challenge winners tell touching stories about diversity

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DOWNERS GROVE, IL – The theme for All-America Selections 2021 Landscape Design Challenge was Diversity in the Garden, inspiring AAS Display Gardens with a platform to create their own diverse garden using the resources they they choose to represent the theme.

To meet the challenge, AAS supplies gardens with recent AAS Winner seeds and plants. Gardens have the option of incorporating older AAS winners into their design to illustrate the theme. The Gardens are encouraged to generate publicity and host events to share the history of All-America selections and AAS winners.

The gardens are divided into three categories according to the number of visitors per year:

Category I: less than 10,000 visitors per year

Category II: 10,001 – 100,000 visitors per year

Category III: More than 100,000 visitors per year

All-America Selections recognizes and thanks the contest judges who are industry experts in the field of horticulture and landscaping:

Jeff Gibson, Landscape Sales Manager, Ball Horticultural Company

Ron Cramer, retiree, Sakata Ornamentals and past president of the AAS

Barbara Wise, Director of Sales and Marketing, Crescent Garden

A complete collection of photos of all contest entrants is available on All-America Selections website.

AAS is proud to announce the following winning gardens of the Challenge Design 2021:

Category III: More than 100,000 visitors per year

First Place Winner: Ashton Gardens at Thanksgiving Point, Lehi, Utah

For a garden that already follows the principles of biodiversity in their garden every season, Ashton Garden has just added one more element this year. They highlighted people in the community who have had experiences with crops and plants outside of Utah. It ranged from living in other states or countries to experiences with memorable plants throughout their lives. By actively promoting this message to visitors to their garden, Ashton Garden topped its class!

Second place winner: Montreal Botanical Garden, Montreal, Quebec

“Diversity in the garden is made possible by contributions from researchers, hybridizers and gardeners around the world. This statement from the Montreal Botanical Garden inspired their use of the AAS winners in a design using each color of the color wheel in a vibrant and harmonious undulating dance. While the Montreal Botanical Garden has been hit by the pandemic which has deprived them of international visitors, they embrace their many local visitors with magnificent gardens like the one seen above.

Third place winner: State Botanical Garden, Athens, Georgia.

“Diversity in the Garden” for the Georgia State Botanical Garden began by using a diverse group of student interns to help design the AAS 2021 Display Garden. An Environment + Design student led the project and worked with a group of student interns on a design that was approved and implemented by the group. Human diversity was the main focus with the aim of getting visitors into the AAS planting bed and exploring the plants up close, not just seeing them behind a fence. Another type of diversity conceived by the group was the diversity of plant types and textures. Non-AAS winners like Muhley grass and sedges were used to provide such texture and create habitat for a variety of visiting animals.

Category II: 10,001 – 100,000 visitors per year

First Place Winner: Purdue Extension-Marion County Demonstration Garden, Indianapolis, Indiana

The Extension Master Gardener volunteers worked with the local Purdue University Extension office to plan, plant, maintain and harvest the Purdue Marion County Extension Demonstration Garden. When planning the Diversity in the Garden theme, they focused on using a variety of plants and cultivars as well as using a greater mix of colors. To help promote plant diversity this year, they also used the National Garden Bureau’s 2021 Plants of the Year AAS winners in the garden. They also used AAS cultivars of three native plant species (Echinacea, Rudbeckia & Gaillardia). The biggest event for the garden is the Indiana State Fair, which hosted nearly 12,000 visitors during the 18-day event.

Second Place Winner: Powell Gardens, Kingsville, Missouri.

Powell Gardens chose to incorporate diversity primarily by using many “miscellaneous” gardening techniques that included raised beds, containers and trellises made of various materials. The diversity was also displayed in various other ways, such as a variety of colors, shapes, sizes and types of flowers, fruits and vegetables that they incorporated into the garden. Each AAS winner was grown in a way that best matched the growing habit of this strain and in a way that showed its diversity to visitors to the garden.

Third place winner: Domaine Joly-De Lotbinière, Sainte-Croix, Quebec.

Domaine Joly-De Lotbinière has interpreted diversity as all the struggles that humanity has faced recently such as Black Lives Matter, Native Lives Matter, All Lives Matter, etc. this pain that people endured. Petunia Scentsation was planted nearby to surround the screen in blue color, reminiscent of the AAS logo. Plants were close together, regardless of height or width, just as humans in society should be intertwined. The exhibition was in the French Gardens, the heart of the garden, thus allowing all those who came to visit it. In addition, the display was in front of the vegetable patch, which consisted of AAS vegetables and flowers, to optimize the theme of diversity through flowers and edibles.

Category I: less than 10,000 visitors per year

First Place Winner: Lee College Horticultural Program, Huntsville, Texas.

Horticulturalists at Lee College looked at different structures, textures and colors that play with each other to create a pleasing aesthetic to represent diversity. This year’s assortment of AAS Diversity Challenge winners provided Lee College’s horticulture program with some truly unique plants to use in their landscapes and gardens. The AAS Design Challenge offers Lee College students the opportunity to come together, bringing their own diverse experiences and perspectives into a collaboration that produces beautiful effects. It also helps show that diversity is not exclusive, but inclusive and can deliver powerful and positive results in the Texas prison system.

Second Place Winner (Tie): Mississippi State Univ-South Mississippi Branch Experiment Station, Poplarville, Mississippi.

The AAS Exhibition Garden is the centerpiece of the largest testing and research garden space at the MSU South MS Branch Experimental Station (SMBES) in Poplarville, MS. It is made up of several hard landscaped elements, including a small bridge over the bed of a dried up stream, a fountain, a gazebo and split rail fences with arbors. The Pearl River County Master Gardener Group provided virtually all of the support needed to plan, plant and maintain this garden. The theme of “Diversity in the garden” has been taken to heart on several fronts by designers. First, the garden was designed with a diverse mix of AAS award-winning ornamental and edible plants. A total of 17 varieties of ornamental and 16 edible plants were included in this year’s garden. In addition, a large number of planting methods have been incorporated including traditional underground containers, half whiskey barrels, rail planters, hanging planters, and raised tables.

Second Place Winner (Tie): Pima Country Master Gardener Demonstration Garden, Tucson, Arizona.

The Pima County Master Gardeners program has answered the call to create a garden that reflects diversity by choosing a 700 square foot raised garden bed to showcase past and present AAS winners. The theme of diversity has had unforeseen rewards. During the planning, committee members had an open dialogue about diversity, not only in the garden, but also in the local community and in American society in general. Through these conversations, gardeners realized that there are many diverse plants that can be grown together in southern Arizona. A sign in the garden distilled their mission:

Arizona is not only culturally rich, but the state is also blessed with many habitats and growing seasons. The AAS Display Garden, part of the Pima County Master Gardeners program, celebrates diversity in 2021 by representing the variety of plants found in our deserts, mountains and canyons. Selected plants showcase a variety of colors, sizes and scents. Whether you enjoy Arizona hospitality on tours or call the state home, please welcome our diverse display of succulents, flowers, fruits and vegetables grown in sunny Arizona.. “

Third Place Winner: Knitting Mill Creek Community Garden, Norfolk, Virginia.

Knitting Mill Creek Community Garden wanted to plant a show garden to expose passers-by to proven plants that they could plant in their own backyard. Covid was still in full swing, but they interpreted the theme of “Diversity” by planting edibles as well as native ornamentals and pollinating plants – a little something for everyone! Their spring public education event showcased tomatoes – the different types, growing conditions for success, and more. It also provided an open space during the pandemic that they could visit and feel safe because it was outside and because they needed masks and social distancing. This garden has become a haven for an extremely diverse group – gardeners, neighbors and their children, and people from across town trying to find some beauty and joy during a very stressful time in their lives. The garden provided a respite from all the stress and provided a place of ever-changing peace and beauty.

Honorable mentions winners in each category can be found on the AAS website.

For more information on the contest winners or how to enter in 2022, contact Diane Blazek, All-America Selections.


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