By Marion McParland
The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society’s Gold Medal Plant Award program honors little-known and underused plants of exceptional merit. Awards have been given to 138 plants since this program began in 1979.
This year’s winners include two trees, one shrub, and five perennials:
• Acer japonicum ‘Aconitifolium’ (Fernleaf Full Moon Maple) grows 8 to 10 feet tall. One of the best small trees for a garden accent, this tree can also be planted in groups as part of a low-growing shrub border or screen. This tree is easily grown in average, well-drained soils and is relatively disease free.
• Xanthocyparis (syn. Chamaecyparis) nootkatensis ‘Pendula’ (Weeping Alaska cedar) is an evergreen that grows 20 to 35 feet tall. This long-lived weeping conifer is native to the Northwestern United States and Canada, but makes a great addition to gardens along the East Coast. This conifer thrives in regions with high humidity and rainfall.
• Mahonia japonica (Leatherleaf mahonia) grows to be a medium-sized shrub with glossy, pinnately compound leaves similar to holly. This evergreen grows 5 to 7 feet tall and 7 to 10 feet wide. It is great for woodland gardens, shrub borders, or as a privacy hedge. It is best to plant this shrub in areas protected from strong winds and to plant more than one shrub in an area for great berry production.
• Lonicera sempervirens ‘Major Wheeler’ (Major Wheeler Trumpet Honeysuckle) dazzles with its lush foliage and coral-red flowers from late spring through the entire summer. The flowers attract a variety of wildlife, including hummingbirds and butterflies. This extremely disease-resistant vine stays green even during drought conditions. This vine is deer resistant and will climb 8 to 15 feet.
• Polygonatum odoratum ‘Variegatum’ (Variegated Solomon’s Seal) is a shade-loving perennial that grows 2 to 3 feet tall and slowly spreads through an area via underground rhizomes. In late spring, small bell-shaped flowers with a lily-like fragrance emerge on the underside of the stem. In the fall, flowers give way to black berries and leaves turn a dazzling bright yellow. Solomon’s Seal does best in cool climates.
• Actaea simplex ‘Hillside Black Beauty’ (Dark-leaved Bugbane) features dark, deeply lobed foliage that grows in large clumps each spring. Flowers are numerous and white. This plant is great for a shade garden or perennial border, and does best when planted in groups.
• Rudbeckia maxima (Great Coneflower) is a show-stopper with its lush blue-green basal foliage. In spring, 5- to 7-foot-tall flower stalks emerge and reach skyward. Flower stalks are topped with a large, central brown cone surrounded by slightly arching yellow rays. Goldfinches and sparrows are some of the many small birds drawn to the Great Coneflower.
• Panicum virgatum ‘Northwind’ (Northwind Switchgrass) is an outstanding selection of the native switchgrass with 5- to 7-foot-tall, upright, olive-green foliage that stands out as a vertical accent in any garden. This native perennial is deer resistant, disease-free and tolerant of salty soils.
A complete list of Gold Medal winning plants can be found here. Photos of this year’s winners can be found here. Select Gold Medal plants can be purchased at PHS Meadowbrook Farm in Abington Township.
For additional information on Gold Medal plants, please feel free to contact PHS at 215.988.8800 or email firstname.lastname@example.org