Firespire Musclewood Carpinus caroliniana 'J.N. Upright' American hornbeam This cultivar is a small, narrow upright tree that grows to about 15' tall and 10' wide at maturity. It develops consistent red-orange fall foliage color and is grown in either clump or tree form.
The Cary Award for "Plants of exceptional beauty and durability that are well suited for the New England climate"
And the two winners are ....
Bottlebrush buckeye (Aesculus parviflora) - This native shrub is well-suited to woodland edges and shrub borders. It flowers in mid-July with upright panicles of tubular white flowers, and puts on a welcome show in the doldrums of July. It prefers full sun and forms colonies by suckering - give it enough space to form a big colony (free plants!). Its great for pollinators.
Atlantic white cedar (Chamaecyparis thyoides) - described in the award language as having "elegant blue-green foliage, beautiful winter presence and decay-resistant wood". It needs full sun and doesn't mind moist soil. The Cary award folks think that having so many cultivars gives us lots of form and foliage options. BUT, I have to say I disagree with the notion that Chamaecyparis thyoides is a "plant of exceptional beauty" unless you are really fond of the "bronze winter foliage" look. I concede that in a "naturalistic" setting it could look, well, natural. But up close and personal, your clients will think it is dead during the winter.
GreatPlants program (Nebraska) aims to "bring superior native plants to the challenged gardens of the Great Plains". Their choices add beauty to the garden, and also offer ecosystem services.
- Virginia mountain mint (Pycnanthemum viginianum) was chosen as Perennial of the Year for 2018. Described as "a stout, bushy perennial" it grows 3 ft tall and is topped with flat clusters of flowers with tiny purple spots in July and August. It grows in full sun to part shade and tops most pollinator-friendly plant lists.
- American hazelnut (Corylus americana) was chosen Shrub of the Year. It grows to about 10-16 ft with a rounded, multistemmed habit. It forms thickets and is usually found at the edge of the woodland. It bears hazelnuts (filberts) beloved by wildlife, and can show a rainbow of fall foliage colors - combinations of orange, purplish-red, yellow and green. Its catkins are an excellent pollen source for bees in the early spring and it's a host plant for numerous butterfly and moth species.
- Bristleleaf Sedge (Carex eburnea) was chosen Grass of the Year. Soft, threadlike leaves form dense tufts approximately 6 in tall and wide. It spreads slowly, but forms a hardy ground cover that doesn't have to be cut back in spring. Very useful for erosion control on slopes, as a living mulch in planted borders or in shade gardens to crowd out weeds.
And last but certainly not least: Perennial Plant of the Year for 2018 as awarded by the Perennial Plant Association: Allium 'Millenium'.
'Millennium' grows to about a foot tall and wide and blooms profusely in mid-summer. Bees and butterflies are drawn to the flowers, but deer and bunnies stay away. Since it's a sterile variety, it doesn't spread through the garden by seed, and is very long-blooming (no need to set seed!). Propagate it by division in the spring. Sun or shade, dry or medium soil (not wet!). Needless to say, its a favorite of Roy Diblik - that means its a favorite of mine as well. I've started using it in most gardens, and it definitely "shares the space unselfishly".