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Awards: they're not just for movies

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Awards: they're not just for movies

Plants earn them, too!

In fact, there are numerous awards given out in horticulture for everything from the best daylilies (the prestigious Stout Medal) to the most eco-friendly roses (the A.R.T.S trials) to the best plants for certain regions (Colorado Plant Select, and Pennsylvania Gold Medal Plants, to name just two). And of course, the Perennial Plant of the Year award always earns bragging rights and the attention of gardeners everywhere. When we're picking which plants to offer, we look closely at such awards, because they're such a vote of confidence for us - and you - that they aren't just another pretty face.

To celebrate the film industry's big awards night, we're sharing a sampling of our favorite award-winning plants. 

Aralia c. 'Sun King'

Aralia cordata 'Sun King'

Looking for something uniquely different for shade? Try this tropical-looking golden beauty with large compound leaves that measure up to 3 feet long!

An excellent complement to hostas and woodland perennials, ‘Sun King' emerges mid-spring with bright gold leaves held on nicely contrasting reddish brown stems. If given at least a few hours of sun a day, the foliage will remain yellow all summer. In heavier shade, the foliage ranges from chartreuse to lime green.

Stachys monieri 'Hummelo'

Stachys monieri 'Hummelo'

Unlike Stachys byzantina (Lamb's Ear), this species forms large, rounded clumps of green, long and narrow, textured leaves. It is lovely even when it's not in bloom. From early thru midsummer, sturdy spikes of lavender-rose flowers shoot up through the foliage, putting on quite a display.

Allium 'Millenium'

Allium 'Millenium'

'Millenium' forms a compact, upright clump of glossy green, thick and strappy leaves which emit a slight smell of onion when crushed. In late July and August here in Michigan, a profusion of large 2”, bright rosy purple, tightly rounded clusters of flowers appear on strong stems just above the attractive foliage.

Asclepias tuberosa

A virtually hassle-free, very long lived perennial, offering three months of tangerine orange blooms (occasionally red or yellow) from early through late summer. Deadheading the flowers will stimulate another bloom cycle about a month after the first one. The flowers, which are heavily laden with nectar and pollen, are particularly attractive to hummingbirds, Monarch butterflies, bees, and other beneficial insects.

‘Honorine Jobert' produces single, 2-3” wide, pure white flowers with a cluster of bright yellow stamens in the center of each blossom. They are produced atop tall, wiry stems above an attractive clump of dark green foliage. It is a real standout in partial shade where it is happiest.
Geranium cantabrigiense 'Biokovo'

Prized for its vigorous groundcovering capabilities, 'Biokovo' will look good all season with little maintenance. In late spring, white flowers with pink sepals begin to appear and continue to bloom sporadically all summer long. The fragrant, glossy green leaves take on reddish tints in fall.

Panicum virgatum 'Northwind'

A dark green, upright, rigid clumping selection of Panicum. Roy Diblik from Northwind Perennial Farm, who introduced this variety, describes the unique flower stalks as being similar to an arranged bouquet placed in the center of the clump of foliage. Most of the seed heads are situated in the middle of the clump, rather than arching away from it like most other grasses. 'Northwind' blooms in late summer and is a fast grower.

Polygonatum odoratum 'Variegatum'

A classic beauty for the woodland garden. Grown mostly for its clean variegated, soft green foliage which turns yellow in fall, Solomon's Seal is a charming plant for the shade. Standing about 18" tall and arching slightly at the top, the unbranched stems with large, alternate leaves support the dangling white flowers below. On quiet spring evenings, the flowers exude a subtle lily-like fragrance. The stems are beautiful in cut flower arrangements.

Brunnera macrophylla 'Jack Frost'

A sight to behold! The leaves of 'Jack Frost' are intricately detailed with a crackle-like finish. Though the leaves are dark green, they have a heavily frosted overlay which allows only the green veining to show through. From mid to late spring, baby blue, forget-me-not type blossoms are held in clusters several inches above the shimmering foliage. The effect is breathtaking.

Amsonia hubrichtii

This southern native has very narrow, needle-like leaves that line the stems like bottle brushes. Surprisingly, they are soft as silk to the touch. From late spring thru early summer, 2-3 inch wide clusters of small, light blue, star-shaped flowers are borne above the short mound of ferny foliage. After blooming, it quickly grows to reach a height of about 3 feet.

Baptisia australis

A distinctive perennial with showy indigo-blue flowers carried on tapering spikes up to 1ft. long. They are held just above the dense, bushy mounds of soft blue-green foliage. The blooms appear from mid to late spring, followed by 2-3 in. long, black seed pods which remain attractive well into winter. They can be dried for use in arrangements.

Hakonechloa macra 'Aureola'

An intriguing grass for the shade which is perfect for the formal Japanese garden. Variegated but nearly all yellow, the leaf blades have narrow green stripes, mostly near the margins. Perhaps its most fascinating attribute is the cascading habit in which most of the leaves arch in the same direction, appearing much like a golden waterfall. Plant this grass where it will cascade down slopes, drape over rocks, crawl over the edges of walls, at the front of the garden, or even in containers.

Geranium 'Rozanne'

Huge, glowing violet blue, saucer-shaped flowers with distinctive white eyes and reddish-purple veining are held above mounds of deep green foliage that is slightly marbled with chartreuse. Geranium 'Rozanne' is one of the longest blooming perennials in the garden. It is an amazingly free-flowering cultivar as its flowers are sterile; it keeps the blooms coming from late spring into mid-fall.

Nepeta faassenii 'Walker's Low'

Gray-green, aromatic foliage gives way to a plethora of soft lavender-blue flowers which are produced over a long period in summer. Although the stems are 2-3 feet long, the plant's arching habit brings the height down to 18 to 24 inches if it is not staked.

Dianthus gratianopolitanus 'Firewitch'

Shocking magenta-pink, upward-facing blooms which exude the scent of cloves appear in masses above silvery-blue mats of evergreen foliage. Each of the 5 petals have serrated edges, looking as if they have been trimmed with pinking shears, hence the common name 'Pinks'. If deadheaded, this species will flower heaviest in early summer and again in fall.

Helleborus x hybridus

Hellebores are the harbingers of spring, blooming for six weeks or more beginning in late winter. They are often flowering during the Christian season of Lent, from which they get their common name, Lenten Rose. This is the perfect plant for naturalizing in moist, woodland areas where its extensive root system will spread as far as it is allowed.

Athyrium 'Pictum'

One of the most colorful ferns for the garden, the Japanese Painted Fern has silvery-grey fronds which are dusty purple towards the center. They are set off by the purplish-red veins and stems. This fern has a low and mounding habit, slowly spreading by rhizomes to form dense colonies. The fronds are positioned in a way that creates a horizontal layering effect much like you see in Dogwood trees.

Leucanthemum superbum 'Becky'

Prized for its durability in the hot, humid summers of the south and its cold tolerance in the north, 'Becky' has proven to be a sturdy, hardy cultivar. Copious amounts of very large, 3in single, white blooms are produced atop strong stems which are ideal for cutting. Despite its height, this variety does not usually require staking.

Phlox paniculata 'David'

P. 'David' displays enormous heads of fragrant, white flowers from mid through late summer. The bright green foliage and sturdy constitution make this plant beautiful even when it's not in bloom.

Calamagrostis acutiflora 'Karl Foerster'

This is a cool season, clumping grass with a compact, erect growth habit. It is especially prized in the north where the magnificent, wheat-like seed heads appear in late spring and last all season long.

Scabiosa columbaria 'Butterfly Blue'

This selection produces a profusion of lavender-blue, pincushion-like flowers over a very long period beginning in late spring. They sit atop wirey stems which hover over the short mound of ferny basal foliage. They make excellent cut flowers and also attract butterflies.

Rudbeckia fuldiga 'Goldsturm'

Rudbeckia have a long season of bloom and a sturdy, upright habit. The gold daisy-like flowers have a distinct dark brown central cone and are held on branching stems. Do not deadhead these cones if you want winter interest since the black seed heads remain attractive throughout the winter and the seeds provide a source of food for small birds.

Echinacea purpurea 'Magnus'

The classic purple coneflower. Beautiful rose pink ray petals with a coppery brown, spiky central cone. Petals are held horizontally, making the flowers appear even bigger. Newer blooms are more intense in color and lighten to pale rose as they age, lending a bicolor effect to the entire clump of Echinacea.

Salvia nemorosa 'May Night'

This award winning salvia is a top performer in the landscape. Dense spikes of deep violet-purple flowers are produced in early summer and will continue longer if deadheaded. This is a clump forming plant with oblong leaves which are aromatic when crushed. Use it in containers, beds, and borders.

Penstemon digitalis 'Husker Red'

Striking, maroon-red foliage with a dark green underlay distinguishes this Penstemon from the other cultivars. White flowers with a tinge of light pink are borne on strong, upright stems in early summer.

Perovskia atriplicifolia

Airy spikes of lavender-blue flowers top strong stems with small, finely dissected, silvery-green leaves. Its loose, open habit makes this perennial an effective filler in the back of the border.

Astilbe 'Sprite'

A dwarf selection of lovely shell-pink flowers in open, drooping panicles borne on stiff, wiry stems. Finely textured foliage is glossy black-green after starting bronze in the spring. Rust-colored seed heads are particularly outstanding. Blooms in mid to late summer.

Veronica 'Sunny Border Blue'

Vivid violet-blue spikes dart up above the dark green, crinkly foliage of 'Sunny Border Blue' from midsummer into fall. This variety was introduced in 1946 by Robert Bennerup, founder of Sunny Border Nurseries, and is still one of the most popular today. The Perennial Plant Association thought so highly of this plant in 1993 that they selected it for the Plant of the Year Award.

Coreopsis verticillata 'Moonbeam'

Ever-popular and a classic perennial, C. 'Moonbeam' is an excellent performer with bright lemon-yellow flowers produced in profusion from early through late summer. The airy clumps of fine, needle-like foliage on upright stems add a nice fine texture element to the landscape.

Heuchera micanthra 'Palace Purple'

This selection has very large, shiny, and star-shaped leaves, ranging in color from deep olive green to purplish-bronze. Their undersides, which are quite visible in the loosely formed clumps, are a striking metallic amethyst purple. The 20 inch tall, leafed flower scapes bear an abundance of tiny cream flowers.

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