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Award-Winning Garden Plants

Switchgrass Northwind

2014 Perennial Plant of the Year Switchgrass Northwind

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

2000 Perennial Plant of the Year Scabiosa Butterfly Blue

Here’s a list of the winners since 1991, the year they started the awards.

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
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 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.

December 26, 2013 · Suzanne DeJohn · 3 Comments
Tags: ,  · Posted in: Gardening in Spring and Summer, Perennials, Vegetable Seeds

3 Responses

  1. Ray Allen - March 4, 2011

    This blog post was really interesting–now I know what “Perennial Plant of the year” means, and what a list! It’s really a who’s who of the best perennials. I live in the North Georgia mountains, and have discovered Hellebores (The Lenten Rose) which I see is an award-winner. I’m not surprised, since it’s such an amazing early bloomer here. Beautiful flowers open in late Feb, and stay in bloom for almost two months! Also, my Phlox Miracle Grace from American Meadows is one of the very best plants in the garden–in bloom for weeks and weeks last summer with no mildew, and already coming up even stronger for this season. Miracle Grace blooms much longer than the other phlox varieties in our border, including the famous “David,” which I see is an award-winner. In fact, Phlox M. G. would be our nomination for “Perennial Plant of the year” this year–it’s outstanding. I really enjoy your blog!–Ray Allen

  2. Suzanne DeJohn - March 6, 2011

    Thanks, Ray. I always enjoy seeing what plants win the various awards and feel like I can trust that they’ll be good choices for my own garden. I didn’t have room in the blog to discuss some of the regional plant recommendations, like Athens Select. This collection of heat- and humidity-tolerant plants is selected by the University of Georgia’s Dr. Allan Armitage. With so many plant choices out there, it’s so helpful to hear from regional experts. Thanks for writing! –Suzanne

  3. Naomi Graham - December 29, 2013

    Will be glad in July to Welcome PPA to Berns Gardencenter in Middletown, Ohio. Great group of people headed to my Perennial Dept. Thank You