Learned members of the RHS form a committee to assess the relative merits of specific plants within a family. They grow some of their own in extensive trials, visit specialist growers and then debate the various merits of a particular plant. For example, after deciding to assess perennial sweet peas they will form a group of members interested in sweet peas, grow a wide range of varieties in extensive trials, visit specialist collections and nurseries and then have a round table discussion to decide which particular sweet pea should get an award.
The criteria they look for are:
- It must be of outstanding excellence for ordinary garden decoration or use
- It must be available
- It must be of good constitution
- It must not require highly specialist growing conditions or care
- It must not be particularly susceptible to any pest or disease
- It must not be subject to an unreasonable degree of reversion in its vegetative or floral characteristics
So a plant may be truly outstanding in every area, but be too rare to be awarded a medal.
Based in Cambridgeshire, England, but with trials held all around England and Wales, NIAB concentrates on plants for eating. Not just for farmers, but equally important for market gardeners and any commercial growers. We feel that what is relevant for commercial growers is equally important for those of us that want to grow consistent, high yield vegetables. Remember though, the slightly quirky, unusual or heritage varieties that make growing your own food so exciting, are unlikely to be accredited by NIAB.
Very similar to the RHS AGM, but obviously awarded by judges in America to plants/varieties specifically suited to the USA. Though, due to the huge range of climates enjoyed in USA, this doesn't make it any less useful than the RHS awards.