Canadian AAS Judges are Celebrating the Year of the Garden
All-America Selections has always enjoyed tremendous support from our neighbors to the north. As they celebrate 2022 as the Year of the Garden, we want to thank and recognize our Canadian judges for all the work they put into trialing the many entries into the AAS Trials. Each judge brings their unique perspective to the trial and lends their expertise in helping decide exactly which new varieties have the potential of becoming an AAS Winner.
What is the Year of the Garden?
The Canadian Garden Council (CGC) has proclaimed 2022 as the “Year of the Garden”. It is an important year for the public to be inspired, entertained, and informed by Canada’s Garden-Family – the thousands of plant growers, product manufacturers, retailers, landscape service providers, horticulture societies, garden clubs, and public gardens from across the nation.
“We encouraged everyone in the Garden-Family, from horticulture professionals to horticulture societies and public gardens, to embrace 2022 as an opportunity to share our passion and knowledge to help more Canadians enjoy the benefits of gardens and gardening”, says Michel Gauthier, Executive Director of the Canadian Garden Council. “We want people to ‘live the garden life’ and think about gardens indoors, on their balconies, in their yards, in schools, at work and in their communities. We want them to appreciate gardens while cooking on their barbecues, traveling on trips, and shopping in their downtowns. We will commemorate Canada’s rich garden heritage, celebrate today’s vibrant garden culture, and create legacies for a sustainable future, and in doing so, nurture a nation of gardeners.”
In the list below, you may recognize many of the companies and institutions that host the All-America Selections (AAS) trials. Some trials are open to the public, some are not. In any case, it is this group of horticulture experts that you can thank for bringing only the best of the best new plant varieties to the market as the esteemed AAS Winners.
Connie Bijl, William Dam Seeds Ltd, Dundas, ON
Connie Bijl is the Flower Seed Manager for William Dam Seeds in Dundas, Ontario Canada. She graduated from Sheridan College for Fashion Design and Production and later became accredited as a Floral Design Judge with the Garden Clubs of Ontario. Connie oversees the flower trials and designs the display beds for William Dam Seeds. She devotes a lot of her time speaking to garden clubs and horticulture societies about new seed varieties each season. Connie has been an All-America Selections Judge since 2011.
Solange Blais, Norseco, Inc, Laval, QC
Solange received her diploma as a technologist in agro-environment and horticulture production in 2004. Solange is the seed buyer for the ornamental division.
Naomi Botkin, West Coast Seeds, Delta, BC
Naomi joined West Coast Seeds in 2008 and is currently the Purchasing Coordinator, researching, selecting, and sourcing new varieties. Naomi has conducted trials for West Coast Seeds and is excited to add the AAS Trials to her responsibilities. She is also an avid gardener and enjoys growing many varieties of vegetables, herbs, fruit, and flowers in her own garden and greenhouse.
Ashley MacFarland, Veseys Seeds Ltd, York, PE
Ashley began her career at Vesey’s Seeds in 2009 where she was an assistant worker for the flower trials, planting display, and ground maintenance. In 2010 she began working in the seed germination lab, she enjoyed her work at Vesey’s so much she decided to earn her horticulture certificate from the University of Guelph. In 2016 she became the Flower Horticulturalist at Vesey’s Seeds, where she continues to work with flower trials and the germination lab.
Brian Minter, Minter Country Gardens, Chilliwack, BC
Brian Minter is an author, radio host, professional speaker, and an avid horticulturist. He is a member of GWA and a syndicated columnist. He received his BA from the University of British Columbia and holds an Honorary Doctorate at the University of the Fraser Valley, where he is also their Chancellor. Brian is the recipient of the Order of Canada, one of Canada’s highest honors. He chaired and hosted two major conventions in Vancouver: the GWA Symposium (2005) and the International Association of Garden Center Congress (2008).
Rodger Tschanz, University of Guelph, Guelph, ON
Rodger Tschanz is a University of Guelph plant agriculture technician for the Bovey Greenhouse and manages the trial garden at the Guelph Turfgrass Institute. He received his MS degree from the University of Guelph. Rodger started as an All-America Selections Judge in 2005 and is now an Ornamental Seed, Ornamental Vegetative, and Perennial Trial Judge.
Owen Vanstone, Vanstone Nurseries, Portage La Prairie, MB
Owen Vanstone is an owner of Vanstone Nurseries, a 50-acre nursery operation located in Manitoba. The company produces a wide range of hardy perennials, shrubs, and roses as well as a growing line of herbs, vegetables, and annuals. Owen has also been an extension horticulture instructor at some regional colleges and has served in an advisory capacity at these institutions. He is also a member of several organizations. Vanstone Nurseries has been involved in trialing and testing new varieties for a number of years.
Cody Whynot, Veseys Seeds Ltd, York, PE
Cody’s interest in plants started when he worked in a retail greenhouse after high school for three seasons. Cody loved every aspect of growing and design which lead him to enroll in Nova Scotia Community College where he graduated as Valedictorian of Trades and Technology and earned his diploma in Horticulture and Landscape Technology – Operations, 2018 (greenhouse management). From there, Cody accepted a job as Assistant Head Grower for a wholesale greenhouse that specialized in bedding plants and perennials. He worked there for two years and in the spring of 2020, he landed at Veseys Seeds where he is now the Vegetable Horticulturist.
Alex Augustyniak, Minter Country Garden, Chilliwack, BC
Alex grew up on a farm in Ontario with over 400 acres of vegetables, 15 acres of tomatoes, and a pollinator area of wildflowers; he’s been growing things ever since. Alex is currently a Director and Co-owner of Minter Country Garden as well as Owner of Lucky Sun Farm where they are trialing flowers, trees, herbs, and vegetables. He enjoys growing and farming organically. As well as giving back to the community with in person talks and events to help people learn how to grow their own food in a sustainable method, plus flowering annuals and perennials. We will be expanding their display and demonstration gardens to help customers visualize their options.
Nadine Dam, William Dam Seeds Ltd, Dundas, ON
Nadine Dam is part of the fourth generation at family-owned company William Dam Seeds in Dundas, Ontario Canada. Her company’s philosophy regarding the selling of good seed varieties is that “one must know them to sell them with confidence.” Nadine has been involved in increasing the size of their trials from small family-sized plots to over 1000 varieties of vegetables, herbs, and flowers encompassing five acres.
Brian Campbell, West Coast Seeds, Delta, BC
Brian Campbell is a production manager at West Coast Seeds. His current responsibilities include assessing seed quality and maintaining seed quality at commercial standards. He is the manager of the vegetable and flower trialing program at West Coast Seeds. Besides his work at West Coast Seeds, Brian manages a commercial beekeeping operation at Blessed Bee Farm.