As planning will begin soon for annual vegetable and flower gardens, look for something new to try.

 There is nothing wrong with growing what has worked well for you in past years. This is why we encourage gardeners to keep track of plant varieties; but if you’d like to try something new, check out All America Selections (AAS) at

 The goal of this nonprofit program, which began in 1932, is to promote new varieties with superior performance. Never before sold plant varieties are grown and judged in many impartial trials across North America.

 One trial site is the Backyard Farmer garden located behind Keim Hall on the UNL East Campus. Did you know you can visit the Backyard Farmer garden? It is open to the public and along with viewing AAS plants, you’ll see a rain garden chain, solitary bee hotel, many perennial flowers, unique growing techniques and more.

 Now that my commercial for the visiting the Backyard Farmer garden is over, which by the way is free to visit, I’ll get back to All America Selections.

 Annual vegetables and flowers are the focus of this program as these plants can be grown and evaluated in one growing season. For 2019, there are 11 All America winners. Four annual flowers and six vegetables.

 You do not have to select what’s new this year.  Any variety that has been named an All America Selection is marked with the AAS logo. When shopping in garden centers, catalogs or on-line, watch for the logo. If the variety being described fits your garden needs, chances are it will be a good plant to grow.

 If you are in need of a perennial plant like a tree, shrub, flower or ornamental grass, a good resource for plants to grow is the Great Plants for the Great Plains program right here in Nebraska.

 Growing conditions in the Great Plains can be challenging.  Selecting the right plant for the right place is key to success with landscape plants; not to mention conserving resources, water and pollinators. 

 For help in selecting quality plants, the Nebraska Statewide Arboretum and Nebraska Nursery and Landscape Association started the Great Plants for the Great Plains program.

 Their goal is to identify quality landscape plants that meet the challenging growing conditions of the Great Plains. These are not new plants in most cases but good plants that tend to be underused. Many are natives best adapted to our growing conditions.

 If you are planning to plant a new shade tree, evergreen, shrub, perennial or ornamental grass this spring, begin by searching for the Great Plants program on the web or go to At this site, selected plants are listed for each category back to 1998.

 For 2019, the Great Plants are Sweet Birch tree (Betula lenta), Norway Spruce (Picea abies), Witchhazel shrub (Hamamelis vernalis), Aromatic Aster perennial (Aster oblongifolius), and Pennsylvania sedge to use as a low growing an ornamental grass for wetter areas (Carex pennsylvanica).

By: Kelly Feehan, Extension Educator