Snowdrop (Galanthus) book review
Ornamental kales on trial

Perennial Plant of the Year

Over on Garden Rant Elizabeth Licata has been having a go at the Perennial Plant Association’s Plant of the Year award scheme. She complains that, basically, the award-winners are dull. Here’s the list, judge for yourself. I’ve updated the names, and marked those which have also been awarded the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit (AGM).

  • 2007 Nepeta racemosa ‘Walker’s Low’
  • 2006 Dianthus ‘Feuerhexe’ (Firewitch)
  • 2005 Helleborus x hybridus
  • 2004 Athyrium niponicum var. pictum AGM
  • 2003 Leucanthemum x superbum ‘Becky’
  • 2002 Phlox paniculata ‘David’
  • 2001 Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’
  • 2000 Scabiosa ‘Butterfly Blue’
  • 1999 Rudbeckia fulgida var. sullivantii ‘Goldsturm’ AGM
  • 1998 Echinacea purpurea ‘Magnus’ AGM
  • 1997 Salvia x sylvestris ‘Mainacht’ (May Night) AGM
  • 1996 Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker Red’
  • 1995 Perovskia atriplicifolia
  • 1994 Astilbe ‘Sprite’ AGM
  • 1993 Veronica ‘Sunny Border Blue’
  • 1992 Coreopsis verticillata ‘Moonbeam’ AGM
  • 1991 Heuchera micrantha ‘Palace Purple’

She right, they’re mainly old favorites or over-publicized newcomers. Phlox paniculata ‘David’, repeatedly touted as mildew-resistant, was plagued with the disease everywhere I saw it last year. And why give the award to Helleborus x hybridus, implying that every single plant of this species is of award standard? No, some are fit for nothing but the compost heap. That’s a cop out. I’d say best plants on the list are the calamagrostis and, as it happens, the AGM winners.

Geraniumrozanne_1 Of course, the 1800 professional nurserypeople, landscape contractors and so on who vote for the PPA Plant of the Year are not going to vote for plants which are difficult to propagate, or difficult to grow or manage in their professional circumstances. Amateur gardeners are not allowed to join as full voting members, and there’s a special membership category for members with a turnover of over $2m a year. You get the idea – which is, basically, to sell plants. A peony or a trillium is never going to get the award, however beautiful, until tissue culture makes these plants widely available at a good price.

But I’m sure the scheme does get people into nurseries and on to websites. They may or may not buy the award winners, but they will surely buy more perennials. Elizabeth suggests an award for the best new plant of the year – great idea. Come on PPA, what about it?

The 2008 Perennial Plant of the Year, by the way, turns out to be a great plant: Geranium 'Rozanne'. Declaration of interest: I’m a PPA member, I voted for it.

Find out more about Geranium 'Rozanne', and the runners up for 2008, at the Walters Gardens 2008 Perennial Plant of the Year page.