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All About Award Winning Plants


Winter means Awards Season - but for more than just the movie and music industries! January is also the 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.

Why Award-Winning Plants Matter

Just like watching movies that have won top accolades means that you're more likely to enjoy your time viewing them, you can also have better luck working with plants that have been vouched-for.

More than just a popularity contest, award-winning plant lists are a great way to get familiar with plants that really perform. You can be sure that any plant who's received one of these prestigious honors will be an easy to grow, eye-catching variety. After all, these are the flowers that help set the standards plant breeders are aiming for.

Who Chooses 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, like the non-profit plant trialers at All-America Selections, limit their choices to varieties available as seed.

Many organizations pick winning plants in very specific categories, such as: Daylily of the Year, Hosta of the Year, and even the Urban Tree of the Year.

Since 1990, the Perennial Plant Association (PPA) has chosen a stand-out flower variety to bestow their greatest honor upon: the Plant of the Year. With the entire membership casting their vote, plant contenders must be able to grow in a wide variety of climates, be easy to care for, and fairly-resistant to disease.

To date, there are 30 winning varieties that have laid claim to the Plant of the Year Title:

millenium allium in bloom2018: 'Millenium' Allium
Allium Millenium
a monarch visits butterfly weed in bloom2017: Butterfly Weed
Asclepias tuberosa
honorine jobert japanese anemone in bloom2016: 'Honorine Jobert' Anemone
Anemone hybrida
biokovo geranium in bloom2015: 'Biokovo' Cranesbill
Geranium cantabrigiense
northwind switchgrass in bloom2014: 'Northwind' Switchgrass
Panicum virgatum
2013: Variegated Solomon's Seal
Polygonatum odoratum
award winning plant jack frost brunnera2012: 'Jack Frost' Brunnera
Brunnera macrophylla
arkansas blue star forms a low-growing hedge2011: Arkansas Blue Star
Amsonia hubrichtii
baptisia australis in bloom2010: Blue False Indigo
Baptisia australis
aureola Japanese forest grass in garden bed2009: 'Aureola' Japanese Forest Grass
Hakonechloa macra
rozanne geranium in bloom2008: 'Rozanne' Cranesbill
walkers low catmint in bloom2007: 'Walker's Low'
Nepeta faasenii
close-up of firewitch dianthus in bloom2006: 'Firewitch' Pinks
Dianthus gratianopolitanus
mix of lenten roses in bloom2005: Lenten Rose
Helleborus x hybridus
japanese painted fern in the garden2004: Japanese Painted Fern
Athyrium 'Pictum'
becky shasta daisy in bloom2003: 'Becky' Shasta Daisy
Leucanthemum superbum
david phlox in bloom - white tall garden phlox2002: 'David' Phlox
Phlox paniculata
karl foerster feather reed grass at maturity2001: 'Karl Foerster' Feather Reed Grass
Calamagrostis acutiflora
butterfly blue scabiosa in bloom2000: 'Butterfly Blue' Pincushion Flower
'Scabiosa columbaria
goldsturm black eyed susan in bloom1999: 'Goldsturm' Black Eyed Susan
Rudbeckia fulgida
magnus echinacea in bloom1998: 'Magnus' Purple Coneflower
Echinacea purpurea
may night meadow sage in bloom1997: 'May Night' Meadow Sage
Salvia nemorosa
husker red penstemon in bloom1996: 'Husker Red' Beardtongue
Penstemon digitalis
russian sage in bloom1995: Russian Sage
Perovskia atriplicifolia
astilbe-sprite-in-bloom-light-peach1994: 'Sprite' Dwarf Astilbe
Astilbe simplicifolia
sunny border blue veronica in bloom1993: 'Sunny Border Blue' Speedwell
moonbeam coreopsis in bloom1992: 'Moonbeam' Tickseed
Coreopsis verticillata
palace purple coral bells in the garden1991: 'Palace Purple' Coral Bells
Heuchera mincanthra

More Award-Winning Plants

Veggie varieties and annual flowers are also planted in trial beds and put through rigorous observation and testing before being selected and promoted as award winners.

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:

Fleuroselect Home Garden Association - International Selections

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:


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 us, 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.

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