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Winter is the perfect time to think about spring, the garden, and new plants to add to your mix. But how does one choose from all the varieties that are available? First and for most, consider your light conditions – not only is it sun or shade, but when is it sunny? Morning sun is very different from afternoon sun which is very different from all-day sun. Then I suggest looking to plants that are long-flowering or strong performers in the garden. The best place to look is at the lists of award-winning plants. Following are this year’s winners.
HOSTA OF THE YEAR
Those of you with shade gardens may be tired of hostas, but this year’s winner is worth taking a look at. ‘Lakeside Paisley Print’ not only is the Hosta of the Year, it also won the popularity vote among the American Hosta Society members, which means it is loved by everyone. Maybe it’s the dark green, wavy, heart-shaped leaves with the interesting feathery pattern of cream that’s so alluring. This medium- size hosta grows 10” tall and 20” wide and does well in part sun to shady conditions.
HERB OF THE YEAR
For years the Herb Society of America has selected an herb of the year, and this year is no different. Agastache takes top honors in 2019 which some would say is long overdue. Agastache foeniculum (also known as anise hyssop) is part of the mint family and is most often used in herbal teas. The leaves have a licorice/anise flavor with hints of basil. This is one herb that should be allowed to flower. Not only are the flowers edible, but the long candles of florets attract bees and other pollinators. Although it is hardy here in Wisconsin, it is considered to be a short-lived perennial, but worth planting if it doesn’t reseed.
PERENNIAL OF THE YEAR
It’s always exciting to see which perennial is chosen by the members of the Perennial Plant Association. This year’s is a darling in the full-sun to part-shade garden – Stachys ‘Hummelo’. It’s pretty magenta wands dance above compact mounds of attractive foliage. And though deer find it distasteful, pollinators find it irresistible. ‘Hummelo’ looks best when planted in drifts with ornamental grasses, Echinacea and Helenium.
OTHER HIGH-HONOR PLANTS
It seems as though every grower is developing their own award program. Particularly noteworthy are the award-winning shrubs crowned by Proven Winners this year. Keep your eyes open for Aronia ‘Low-scape Mound’ Aronia (chokeberry), ‘Firelight’ Hydrangea, and ‘Sonic Bloom’ Weigela. They take top honors for performance, reliability, and disease-resistance and deserve a spot in your landscape.
Horticulturist and general manager of Burlington Garden Center where you’ll find most of these award-winning plants this spring.