With the excitement of the Academy Awards finally over, it seems a good time to start thinking about red-carpet plants. What will the best-dressed gardens be wearing this season? You can get a preview of what's likely to be popular by looking at this year's award-winning plants.
Several organizations offer awards for outstanding plants and each has its own criteria for selecting winners. Some of the groups are regional and promote plants that are particularly well-suited to that climate; others are international in scope. Some promote only new varieties, while others award plants of outstanding merit, new or not. Some limit their choices to varieties available as seed.
Whether spring weather is knocking at your door or you're still in daydreaming mode, browsing these award-winning plants is not only enjoyable, it's also a way to narrow down your plant choices if you're feeling overwhelmed by all the options.
Perennial Plant Association
A professional trade association dedicated to "improving the perennial plant industry by providing education to enhance the production, promotion and utilization of perennial plants," the Perennial Plant Association (PPA) chooses one perennial as its annual Perennial Plant of the Year™. There are four criteria. The plant must be:
- suitable for a wide range of climate types
- low maintenance
- easily propagated
- exhibit multiple seasonal interest
Here's a list of the winners since 1991, the year they started the awards.
- 2014 Perennial Plant of the Year: Switchgrass Northwind
- 2013 Perennial Plant of the Year: Solomon's Seal Variegatum
- 2012 Perennial Plant of the Year: Brunnera macrophylla Jack Frost
- 2011 Perennial Plant of the Year: Amsonia hubrichtii
- 2010 Perennial Plant of the Year: Baptisia australis
- 2009 Perennial Plant of the Year: Japanese Forest Grass Aureola
- 2008 Perennial Plant of the Year: Geranium ‘Rozanne’
- 2007 Perennial Plant of the Year: Catmint Walkers Low
- 2006 Perennial Plant of the Year: Dianthus gratianopolitanus ‘Feuerhexe’
- 2005 Perennial Plant of the Year: Helleborus x hybridus
- 2004 Perennial Plant of the Year: Athyrium niponicum 'Pictum'
- 2003 Perennial Plant of the Year: Shasta Daisy Becky
- 2002 Perennial Plant of the Year: Phlox David
- 2001 Perennial Plant of the Year: Feather Reed Grass Karl Foerster
- 2000 Perennial Plant of the Year: Scabiosa Butterfly Blue
- 1999 Perennial Plant of the Year: Black Eyed Susan Goldsturm
- 1998 Perennial Plant of the Year: Echinacea Magnus
- 1997 Perennial Plant of the Year: Sage May Night
- 1996 Perennial Plant of the Year: Penstemon Husker Red
- 1995 Perennial Plant of the Year: Russian Sage
- 1994 Perennial Plant of the Year: Astilbe 'Sprite'
- 1993 Perennial Plant of the Year: Veronica Sunny Border Blue
- 1992 Perennial Plant of the Year: Coreopsis Moonbeam
- 1991 Perennial Plant of the Year: Coral Bells Palace Purple
All-America Selections Awards for Outstanding Seed Varieties
The mission statement of All-America Selections (AAS) is "To promote new garden seed varieties with superior garden performance judged in impartial trials in North America." To this end, since 1932 AAS has worked with seed companies to conduct trials nationwide to evaluate plants under a range of growing conditions. Many of the winners have been around for decades and continue to be popular in home gardens. For example:
- Golden Beauty Yellow Corn Seeds, 1955 Winner
- Zinnia Seeds Persian Carpet, 1952 Winner
- Cosmos Seeds Radiance, 1948 Winner
- Straight Eight Cucumber Seeds, 1935 Winner
An international trade group of the ornamental plants industry, Fleuroselect tests and promotes new annual and perennial flower varieties, and also acts as a watchdog for illegal propagation of patent-protected varieties. Toward its goal of supporting growers and stimulating plant breeding efforts, Fleuroselect conducts plant trials across Europe. Here are a few past winners:
- Bellflower Champion Blue, 1998 Winner
- Bellflower Champion Pink, 1998 Winner
- Coreopsis Early Sunrise, 1989 Winner
So what will the best-dressed gardens be wearing this season? You can bet this year's award-winning plants will be in vogue. However, if you're like me, your garden might wear the latest plant fashions but you, on the other hand, will be far less fashionable — unless old T-shirts and muddy work boots find their way to Paris runways.