Best heucheras for Britain (America’s choice coming soon)
Floral meadows

Transatlantic plant awards

Weigela Wine & Roses ('Alexandra') has both a British and a Pennsylvania award. Image © Garden
There’s a big difference between Britain and North America in the ways in which awards are given to plants. In Britain, there’s really only one award that’s worth anything: the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit (AGM). The award has just been completely revised and updated, and the new RHS hardiness ratings applied to each of the just over 7000 ornamental and edible plants that now have the award.‬

‪Of course in a small country - England is the size of Pennsylvania – one award is fine for everyone. In North America, with its vast variety of climates, having just one award is far less useful. However, it’s only fair to say that the All-America Selections do a good job within narrow parameters by focusing only on seed-raised plants – ornamental annuals, herbs and vegetables. But, being industry-funded, they are not impartial and independent. And the Perennial Plant Association has its Perennial Plant of The Year™ award, chosen each year by the Association’s members.‬

‪But it’s local awards that count, so here in Pennsylvania we have the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society’s Gold Medal Plants program, which features 212 plants but only cover trees, shrubs and vines – no perennials, annuals or edibles. In Missouri there’s the Plants of Merit scheme, covering 228 plants, although the only edibles included are ornamental ones. From the Elisabeth Carey Miller Botanical Garden in Seattle, WA, there’s the Great Plant Picks scheme with just under five hundred plants, but no edibles or annuals. ‬
Coleus 'Pink Chaos' is a Dallas Arboretum FlameProof Plant Award winner, but is rarely seen in Britain. Image ©Proven Winners
‪In the south there’s Athens Select, from the University of Georgia, which picks the best heat- and humidity-tolerant plant varieties while the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden has its FlameProof™ Plant Award, which at present includes over 350 plants, but only those that perform “from May right up until first frost”.‬

‪This American focus on state-by-state awards of course makes perfect sense, which makes it especially pointless for North American nurseries to crow about their plants having the AGM, an award for top performers in Britain  – it’s just not relevant. Although occasionally a plant is good enough to be awarded on both sides of the Atlantic: Weigela Wine and Roses (‘Alexandra’) has an RHS AGM, and is also a Pennsylvania Gold Medal plant.‬

‪But I was interested to see that Helleborus x hybridus, given the Perennial Plant of The Year™ Award in 2005, has just been cut from the AGM list; rightly, it is seen as far too variable and gardeners just can’t be sure of getting a good plant under that name. And the whole point of all these awards is to recommend plants that gardeners can depend on.‬


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growing tomatoes at home

Like famous people gets awards for their achievement, its fair enough to give awards to plants according to what one deserves. Quite interesting information shared in this blog. Loved it!

Graham Rice

Thank you, growing tomatoes at home - what awards are there over in New Zealand where you are?


The revision of the AGM was long overdue and I'm glad that more Japanese maples and conifers have been awarded the AGM. Some genera like Camellia and Fuchsia are overrepresented in my opinion and I question the awards given to some plants. Choisya ternata Sundance for example does not look very happy in most Dutch gardens (but looks good when seen at nurseries!). I also question the general availability of some of plants given the AGM.
In the Netherlands the Koninklijke Vereniging van Boskoopse Culturen (KVBC)[translated: Royal Society for Boskoop Cultures] each year surveys some plant genera. The results are published in the Dendroflora yearbook (

Ron Rabideau

Hi Graham,
There is also the Cary Award for New England.

Ron Rabideau
Rare Find Nursery

garden shop nursery

The splendidly named Heucheraholics and Plantagogo are streets ahead of everyone else in the wide range of heucheras they offer and the promotion that they’ve given heucheras over the last few years.

Graham Rice

Yes, Theo, I'm afraid some unexpected plants have retained their AGM, and I agree that Sundance is one of them. It needs exactly the right situation to thrive. Availability, as you say, is also a big issue and I've noticed this especially amongst the veg that have been added. The new RHS PlantFinder is out next month and that will certainly be a help with ornamentals.

Graham Rice

Thanks, Ron, for pointing out the Cary Award although unfortunately it only covers trees, shrubs and vines.

Graham Rice

Anyone know of plant awards programs in Kansas, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, West Virginia? Thanks.


Hi there, just wanted to mention, I loved this blog post. It was funny. Keep on posting!

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