From the Civil War era until the 1930s, rose varieties had increased so much in the United States, there were several thousand named roses being offered to the public. Many of the roses were duplicates being sold under different names, and many were of inferior quality. No overall standard existed to provide the home gardener with a comparison of the merits of the different varieties. The enactment of the Plant Patent Law did little to improve the situation, because of mass introductions of patented inferior-quality rose varieties, which soon destroyed the public's confidence in roses.
All-America Rose Selections (AARS) is a nonprofit association created by the American rose industry and dedicated to the introduction and promotion of exceptional roses.
With so many options, how could we select roses that would perform well in our gardens - no matter where we lived in the United States? For a long time, this was a daunting question for both the home gardener and the rose industry.
Many of the large rose companies, including Jackson & Perkins, knew something needed to be done. The American Seed Trade Association's "All-America Selections" testing program helped set the stage for a similar organization for the rose industry.
In the summer of 1938, W. Ray Hastings, the prime organizer of "All-America Selections," contacted Charles Perkins, President of Jackson & Perkins Company, to create a testing program for roses. On January 8, 1939, a meeting of 17 of the largest and most respected rose firms was held in Chicago. This group approved a set of by-laws and rules & regulations that established the organized existence of All-America Rose Selections, Inc. The first trials began that year in AARS Test Gardens nationwide, and the first 4 AARS winners were introduced in 1940.
Thus the creation of the AARS trialing program finally took the guesswork and confusion out of rose buying in America. For over sixty years AARS has provided a seal of approval and assurance for the American gardener.
Every year in certified AARS Test Gardens across the country, new roses are evaluated by experienced judges for a period of two years (three years for climbing varieties). Roses are evaluated on bud and bloom color and form, fragrance, floral impact, habit, vigor, foliage, disease resistance, repeat bloom, aging quality and novelty. There is also the judge's personal opinion to be factored in - that intangible "something special" category. And, in order for a rose to win AARS status, it must perform well in all American gardens, whether they are growing in California or New England, the Midwest, Northwest, Deep South or Far North. Considering how diverse the growing conditions are throughout the United States, this is a pretty tall order! But the few exceptional roses that are selected truly do rise to the task.
AARS award-winning roses are exceptional roses for the American home gardener. But the prestige of AARS winners goes beyond the borders of the United States. AARS standards of excellence are recognized and respected worldwide. There's just no higher award bestowed on a rose than AARS status.
A founding member of All-America Rose Selections, Jackson & Perkins is proud of its long-standing relationship with AARS and its heritage of AARS award-winning roses. To date, Jackson & Perkins has introduced 67 AARS-winning roses - a record in the industry. Jackson & Perkins' small group of hybridizers also holds the record for creating the most winners. William Warriner holds the all-time record, with a phenomenal 20 winners over his J&P career. Dr. Keith Zary, Vice President of Research and Jackson & Perkins' current hybridizer has been carrying on this tradition.