In 2012, All-America Selections (AAS) launched a contest for its nearly 200 Display Gardens to encourage new and exciting landscaping ideas using AAS Winners. Five years in, enthusiasm for the contest has continued to grow, helping bring more inspiration and excitement for gardening to the general public.

This contest is a landscape design contest using AAS Winners announced in the last five years with the option to incorporate more than 80 years worth of past AAS Winners. AAS Winners offer gardeners reliable new varieties of flowers and vegetables that have proved their superior garden performance in Trial Grounds across North America. Each display garden is responsible for creating and executing the design and generating publicity surrounding the contest. The gardens must then submit proof of publicity for the designed garden and AAS Winners, as well as an overall description of their design. All-America Selections is pleased that such a broad range of garden types have participated in the contest for 2015: large and small public gardens, seed companies, community gardens, master gardener programs and university gardens. All-America Selections sends kudos to all the participating gardens and their creative efforts to produce an attractive display of AAS Winners.

The rules for the 2015 Landscape Design Contest were the following:

  1. The 2015 contest theme was: “Geometry in the Garden.”
  2. The entry form must list the AAS Winners incorporated into the design.
  3. A minimum of 50% of the total landscaped area must be AAS Winners and labeled with the variety name, AAS Winner designation and if possible, use the AAS logo.
  4. The entry form must include a written description of the design in 200 words or less.
  5. Eight photographs of each garden must be submitted in digital form.
  6. Local publicity is expected and will be part of the criteria for judging.
  7. The contest is open to current year plantings only, not previous year displays.

The criteria and final score weighting were:

  • 20% on the overall attractiveness of garden design
  • 20% on the creative use of AAS Winners
  • 20% on the promotion of AAS and this contest
  • 20% on the photos and descriptions
  • 20% on the total number of AAS Winners used in the garden explanation

There were three categories, based on number of visitors to that garden in one year:

Category I: fewer than 10,000 visitors per year

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

Category III: Over 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 Business Manager, Ball Horticultural Company

Bruce Hellerick, Senior Horticulture Specialist, The Brickman Group

Susan Schmitz, Trials and Education Manager, Ball Horticultural Company

Barbara Wise, Author and Sales and Marketing Manager, Crescent Garden

THE WINNING GARDENS ARE:

Category I: fewer than 10,000 visitors per year

First Place Winner: Kishwaukee College, Malta, Illinois. The Kishwaukee College Horticulture Department used the Landscape Design Contest as an opportunity to collaborate with the Mathmatics Department to create a display around the theme, “What’s Your Angle?” The beds themselves are a range of geometric shapes. Within each bed they created a geometric theme including circumference, diameter, octagon, perpendicular lines, parallel lines, radius, perimeter, right triangles and trapezoid. The judges felt this multi-discipline effort and excellent use of the theme produced a fantastic visual effect. But the gardens were not just pretty! They were used during the growing season by various student clubs and and departments for projects in horticulture, math, photography, creative writing, biology and early childhood education.

Second Place *TIE* Winner: Pima County Cooperative Extension, Tucson, Arizona. Also using plants to create geometric shapes, Pima’s AAS Display Garden was praised by the judges for being educational, creative and beautiful. The garden used an impressive total of 77 AAS Winning varieties including vegetables, herbs and flowers. The judges were also impressed by the garden’s informative signage and their promotion of the garden, including a plan of the Pima garden on MotherEarthNews.com.

Second Place *TIE* Winner: University of Wisconsin Spooner Ag Research Station, Teaching and Display Garden, Spooner, Wisconsin. A multi-year entrant and last year’s first-place winner in this category, Spooner’s gardens are recognized for their reliability and creativity. As the AAS Winners matured, they grew into the shapes of objects such as a kite, star, hot air balloon and a tic-tac-toe board. The judges found Spooner to be an avid and enthusiastic promoter of the AAS Display Garden. In addition to promoting through state and local newspapers and radio, social media and via the UW Extension program, the garden partnered with the Washburn County Tourism to promote the gardens through their websites and on an LED visitor information sign.

Third Place Winner: Kenosha County Center Demonstration Garden, Bristol, Wisconsin. Noting a good use of the geometry theme, the judges awarded third place to this garden that they called very creative and clever. The theme was based on Geometry in the Kitchen Garden, and the garden displays incorporated kitchen items such as a rectangular bread box, circular plates and triangular hangers. They made the geometry theme clear to garden visitors with fun and informational signage.

Honorable Mention, “Best Garden Visibility”: Meredith Public Library, Meredith, New Hampshire. This garden was honored for not only its visibility (“Can’t miss it driving through town!”) but also as a featured and favorite spot in the community. Because of its location on the library’s grassy slope, the colorful garden is a bright spot in town for summer gatherings.

Honorable Mention, “Best Walkable Design” Garden: William Dam Seeds Unlimited, Dundas, Ontario, Canada. Using a paisley-shaped bed as its base, the gardeners at William Dam Seeds divided this organic shape into quadrants, circles and radiating curves. It was specifically noted by the judges that this garden was roomy for walking and thus a delightful layout.

Honorable Mention, “Best Community Involvement” Garden: St. Louis Community College-Meramec Horticulture Department, St. Louis, Missouri. The “Best Community Involvement” Garden designation is rightly served on this garden. It played host to four garden club visits, six Gateway Greening visits, and is active in promoting pollinators in Missouri.

Honorable Mention, “Best Community Involvement” Garden: Parker F. Scripture Botanical Gardens, Oriskany, New York. This garden was another shining light of community involvement, including the participation of local high school agricultural classes and a local state prison, where some of the plants used had been overwintered.

Additional Honorable Mention Awards were bestowed upon:

  • Breckenridge Endowment Farm and Display Garden, Twin Falls, Idaho
  • Cutler Botanic Gardens, Binghamton, New York
  • Jennings Park, Washington State University Master Gardener Demonstration Gardens, Marysville, Washington

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

First Place Winner: Noelridge Park Gardens, Cedar Rapids, Iowa. This garden had it all—great garden design, props, publicity and community involvement. This year’s garden display was a collaboration of the local parks department, Goodwill and the Friends of Noelridge. As a result, the garden was host to many groups, including a photography event and garden tour. The participants of the Goodwill Dayhab program assisted in planting and maintaining the creative designs, and those participants were able to take home some great AAS-winning vegetables, too.

Second Place Winner: Mississippi State University Truck Crops Experiment Station, Crystal Springs, Mississippi. With 75 AAS Winning varieties incorporated into the 30 raised beds and three-tiered hexagonal mound, this AAS Display Garden is the focal point of MSU’s Fall Flower & Garden Fest each October. The judges were taken away with the beauty and tidiness of the garden, as well as the creativity of the fountain bed, which this year flowed with cascading flowers rather than water.

Third Place Winner: Le Jardin des Graminées, Jardin Daniel A. Seguin, Saint-Hyacinthe, Quebec, Canada. A consistent submission to the Landscape Design Contest, this “jardin” was designed and planted with yet another elegant display. The layout of the vertical garden was a novel spin on incorporating geometry into the garden’s theme.

Honorable Mention, “Best First-Time Entry” Garden: Idaho Botanical Garden, Boise, Idaho. Proving that a big budget isn’t required to build raised beds, this garden employed straw bales as its method to contain soil and grow gardens. They did a fabulous job at it, too! If the mission of a botanical garden is to inspire creativity in its visitors, this garden certainly hit the mark.

An additional Honorable Mention Award was given to Boone County Arboretum, Union, Kentucky.

Category III: Over 100,000 visitors per year

First Place Winner: Norseco at the Botanical Garden of Montreal, Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Winning an Honorable Mention in 2014, Norseco knocked it out of the park for First Place in 2015 with a fantastic interpretation of the geometry theme and stunning displays. The triangular flower bed was entirely separated diagonally with a wide grass path for better viewing from all sides. Inside the triangle visitors could see other planted shapes—circles, squares and triangles. The vegetable beds incorporated both color and textural contrasts. And if it was ever doubted that lettuce could be pretty, the red and green lettuce bed put that question to rest!

Second Place Winner: Boerner Botanic Gardens, Hales Corners, Wisconsin. Noting a good execution of the geometry theme, the judges were wowed by the quilt-like patchwork of triangular plantings at Boerner Botanic Gardens. This “Triangulation” theme was anchored by two antique topiary forms planted with AAS Winner Scarlet O’Hara morning glory, giving the beds an even greater degree of geometrical depth. The vegetable trial bed was also planted in a triangular formation. A path for maintenance and harvest turned this bed into a living peace sign. In all, the garden was planted with a total of 39 AAS Winners.

Third Place Winner: State Botanical Garden of Georgia, Athens, Georgia. Existing plantings getting in the way of your geometry-themed garden design? This garden shows it’s a problem that is easily solved. Judges were impressed by the design’s use of space. AAS Winners were planted in rectangles, circles and diamonds, with two planted towers. The Botanical Garden’s staff noted that the three-dimensional aspect brought to the plantings by the towers prompted visitors to linger longer to view the mingling of varieties.