Growing Great Places Together

Community Gardens Winning Awards

By: Jeff Gibson, Ball Horticultural IGC, Landscape & University Trials Garden Manager

For the past eight years I’ve had the pleasure to participate as a judge for the All-America Selections (AAS) Display Garden Contest. The theme for the 2021 contest was “Diversity in the Garden.”

For those of you not familiar with the All-America Selections organization, it is the only public trialing and evaluation program for flowers and vegetables in the United States and Canada. Each year, more than 50 garden sites are provided seed and/or young plants of the newest varieties from plant breeders to evaluate in regional locations. They are judged for performance over the course of a season, and then awarded points. The winners are recognized and promoted to the consumer garden media community as well as to the horticultural industry at large.

The AAS Display Garden Contest was created to allow public gardens that are not necessarily a trials site to have access to AAS-winning plants, and to help in the promotion of the importance of a program like AAS.

The contestants for the 2021 design contest were public gardens (large and small) across North America. The gardens were judged on a number of categories: Use of All-America Selections varieties – both flowers and vegetables; incorporation of the chosen theme; publicity and community engagement; and overall garden appearance and appeal.

I am always struck by the amount of community engagement there is for these gardens. All of them mainly rely on volunteers; only the largest public gardens have staff. So this is truly a grassroots effort! I take judging these gardens very seriously as there are many folks at the sites who have spent hours on planning, planting and maintaining their public garden spaces.

These designers tend to be enthusiastic gardeners, but not always at a professional level. However, they all are willing to stop and talk about gardening and landscaping. And their exciting designs go a long way to contribute to community beautification efforts in their cities and towns.

Several of the AAS display garden winners hailed from Canada in 2021, including second-place winner Montreal Botanical Garden (Montreal, Quebec) and third-place winner Domaine Joly-De Lotbinière (Sainte-Croix, Quebec). (Photos courtesy of All-America Selections.)

Montreal Botanical Garden (Montreal, Quebec)

Domaine Joly-De Lotbinière (Sainte-Croix, Quebec)

If you are interested in participating in the annual AAS display garden contest, please visit

For a list of all 2021 AAS display garden winners, visit