Best bets for 2005

compiled byMEGHAN LYNCH

JANUARY ALWAYS BRINGS CHANGE: new calendars, new resolutions, and, from nurseries and breeders, new plant introductions. In the past, in this space, we’ve reported on new intros. For 2005, we’re trying something new. Every year, arboreta, botanic gardens, and plant societies (both national and regional) recognize certain plants through their award programs. These plants aren’t necessarily new, but they are noteworthy, having stood up to some tough competition and careful judges. In short, they represent the best of the best. Which is why—no matter what part of the country you live in, or what kind of plant interests you the most—you should resolve to try at least one in 2005.


Since 1938. All-America Rose Selections, a nonprofit organization of rose growers and introducers, has judged roses on 15 characteristics, such as hardiness, color, vigor, and fragrance, for their annual award. Winners prove themselves over two-year trials in gardens across the country. This year’s selections are ‘About Face’, ‘DayDream’, ‘Elle’, and ‘Lady Elsie May’.


All-America Selections, begun in 1932, aims to “promote new garden seed varieties with superior garden performance judged in impartial trials in North America.” Volunteer judges start seeds in side-by-side comparison trials and score plants on various qualities. Plants with the highest average scores win. This year’s flower winners are Gaillardia aristata ‘Arizona Sun’, Catharanthus roseus ‘First Kiss Blueberry’, and Zinnia elegans ‘Magellan Coral’; vegetable winners are Cucurbita maxima ‘Bonbon’ (winter squash), Eggplant F1 ‘Fairy Tale’, and Tomato F1 ‘Sugary’.


Named for Shrewsbury, Massachusetts, nurseryman Ed Cary, the Cary Award promotes underused outstanding plants for New England gardens. Winning plants are hardy within at least two of USDA Zones 3-6 and offer winter interest. New England nursery professionals and members of the Worcester County Horticultural Society and Massachusetts Horticultural Society decide the Cary Awards; the Tower Hill Botanic Garden oversees the program. Winners in 2005 are Abies koreana (Korean fir), Syringa patula ‘Miss Kim’ (‘Miss Kim’ lilac), and Vaccinium angustifolium (lowbush blueberry).


The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society awards gold medals to ornamental woody plants that perform well in the Mid-Atlantic region (Zones 5-7). Plants are judged on ease of care, winter interest, resistance to pests and disease, and hardiness. This year’s winners are Calycanthus floridus ‘Michael Lindsey’ (Carolina allspice), Gelsemium sempervirens ‘Margarita’ (Carolina jasmine), and Ilex verticillata ‘Winter Gold’ (winterberry).


The Nebraska Statewide Arboretum, in conjunction with the Nebraska Nursery and Landscape Association, recognizes one tree, shrub, perennial, and grass each year as an outstanding plant. Winners are ornamentally worthwhile, easy to grow, and hardy to Zone 4. Winners in 2005 are Tree of the Year Ginkgo biloba (gingko tree). Shrub of the Year Spiraea fritschiana (Korean spirea), Perennial of the Year Baptisia minor (dwarf blue indigo), and Grass of the Year Bouteloua curtipendula (sideoats grama).


Great Plant Picks’ selection committee of Pacific Northwest horticulturists identifies good plants for Pacific Northwest gardens, in the categories of perennials and bulbs, shrubs and vines, and trees and conifers. Winning plants are hardy in Zones 7-8, grow vigorously, and have long or multiple seasons of interest, among other criteria. The Elisabeth C. Miller Botanical Garden oversees this program. Winners in 2005 include Aster divaricatus, Brunnera macrophylla ‘Jack Frost’, Galanthus elwesii, Iris pallida ‘Variegata’, and Polystichum munitum in the perennials and bulb category; Clematis ‘Constance’, Comus alba ‘Elegantissima’, Kalmia latifolia ‘Sarah’, Pieris japonica ‘Variegata’, and Vaccinium ovatum in the shrubs and vines category; and the trees Abies pinsapo, Fagus sylvatica, Liriodendron tulipfera, Thujopsis dolobrata, and Tilia tomentosa.


In an effort to help hosta growers and home gardeners sort through the many available hosta cultivars, the American Hosta Growers Association selects one excellent hosta each year. This hosta performs well in all regions, is widely available and in sufficient supply, and retails for about $15. This year’s winner is Hosta ‘Striptease’.


Oklahoma State University and the Oklahoma Botanical Garden and Arboretum, along with Oklahoma Garden Industry Cooperators, select annuals, perennials, trees, and shrubs to recommend for Oklahoma gardens. This year’s winners are Ulmus crassifolia (cedar elm), Bignonia capreolata ‘Tangerine Beauty’ (crossvine), Ceratostigma plumbaginoides (perennial plumbago), and Angelonia angustifolia (summer snapdragon).


This program, run by the Denver Botanic Gardens and the Colorado State University Cooperative Extension, seeks out, identifies, promotes, and distributes the best plants for gardens from the intermountain region to the high plains. Recognized plants thrive in the variable conditions of Rocky Mountain gardens. This year’s winners are Penstemon ‘Silverton Bluemat’, Salvia greggii ‘Furman’s Red’ (‘Furman’s Red’ sage). Salvia greggii ‘Wild Thing’ (‘Wild Thing’ sage), Salvia mohavensis (Mojave sage), and Seseli gummiferum (moon carrot).


Developed at the Missouri Botanic Garden’s Center for Home Gardening in 1999. Plants of Merit recognizes plants that do well in lower Midwest gardens (Zones 5-6), but are underused. Plants prove themselves in test gardens for five or more years, with names being added to the Plants of Merit list annually. Currently, the list totals 60 plants, not including plants retired to emeritus standing. The 2005 additions are annuals Isotoma axillaris (laurentia) and Nierembergia scoparia ‘Purple Robe’ (cupflower); perennials Amsonia hubrichtii (bluestar), Hyacinthoides hispanica (Spanish bluebell), Polystichum acrostichoides (Christmas fern), and Sporobolus heterolepis (prairie dropseed); shrubs and vines Lindera benzoin (spicebush) and Symphoricarpos xchenaultii ‘Hancock’ (coralberry); and tree Quercus phellos (willow oak).


The Rhododendron of the Year program informs gardeners about plants that have performed well in American Rhododendron Society members’ gardens. Awards are given in four categories—elepidote, lepidote, evergreen azalea, and deciduous azalea—in six geographic regions. A single award is given for vireya (tropical rhododendrons). Here are the winners for 2005. Northeastern region: elepidote ‘Anita Gehnrich’, lepidote ‘Weston’s Aglo’, evergreen azalea ‘Rose Greeley’, deciduous azalea ‘My Mary’. Mid-Atlantic region: elepidote ‘Calsap’. lepidote ‘Dora Amateis’, evergreen azalea ‘Nany of Robinhill’, deciduous azalea ‘Gibraltar’. Southeastern region: elepidote ‘Scintillation’, lepidote ‘Mary Fleming’, evergreen azalea ‘Stewartstonian’, deciduous azalea R. alabamese. Midwestern region: elepidote ‘Capistrano’, lepidote ‘Landmark’, evergreen azalea ‘Karens’, deciduous azalea ‘Gibraltar’. Northwestern region: elepidote ‘Horizon Monarch’, lepidote ‘Ramapo’, evergreen azalea ‘Hilda Niblett’, deciduous azalea ‘Nifty Fifty’. Southwestern region: elepidote ‘Mrs. E. C. Sterling’, lepidote ‘California Gold’, evergreen azalea ‘Phoeniceum’, deciduous azalea ‘Mrs. Betty Oliver’. Vireya/swisher: ‘Avalon’.

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