The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society has selected its 2014 winners of the PHS Gold Medal Plant awards, recognizing exceptional plants for the home gardener and professional landscaper. This year, PHS and its Gold Medal committee have decided to enhance the list with the addition of some workhorse favorites in the perennial category.
“With the widespread use of perennials, this was a good time to recommend a few plants in this category for both sun and shade,” explained Drew Becher, PHS President.
The Gold Medal program has honored and promoted woody plants of outstanding merit since 1979. Nominations for plants are submitted by home gardeners, garden designers, horticulturists, landscape architects, nursery owners and propagators. The program was originally conceived by noted nurseryman Dr. J. Franklin Styer, who realized homeowners and gardeners needed to learn about superior woody plants for their landscapes. These plants are evaluated and chosen for their superb eye-appeal, performance, and hardiness in the growing region of Zones 5-7. Many winners are hardy in a much broader geographic range.
When a gardener acquires a plant designated a Gold Medal winner, he or she can be assured the plant will exhibit standards of excellence for pest and disease resistance, as well as ease of growing when planted and maintained appropriately. Gold Medal Plants are also chosen for their beauty through many seasons, whether it be foliage, flower, form or bark.
We are presently updating and improving our database of Gold Medal-winning plants. In the meanwhile, please browse this listing of all past and present winners. Print it out and keep it handy for frequent consultation.
Chionanthus virginicus (American fringe tree) is a deciduous American fringe tree with fragrant flowers that satisfies three current popular consumer demands – compact size, infrequent bug or disease trouble, and native to the United States. In a home landscape, it will reach 12 to 20 feet tall at maturity, either as a large, multi-stemmed shrub or pruned as single-stem tree. Narrow, attractive fleecy white flowers appear in spring, giving the tree its common name, “old man’s beard.” This fairly adaptable tree does well in full sun to partial shade when grown as an understory tree, and has reliable yellow fall foliage.
Pinus koraiensis (Korean white pine) is one of the hardiest pines but is less known than the native Pinus strobus (Eastern white pine). It produces longer, bluer needles that remain on the plant for two extra years, creating a fuller, more attractive appearance. Slightly smaller than other pines, it grows 30 to 40 feet at maturity in a landscaped setting. This white pine is more adaptable to stressful conditions, and suffers less branch breakage than other pines during snow and ice storms.
Cryptomeria japonica ‘Globosa Nana’ (Dwarf Japanese-cedar) grows 3 to 4 feet tall, and as much as 4 to 8 feet with age. It prefers partial to full sun as well as moist but well-drained soil. The slow-growing conifer is sensitive to dry conditions and requires weekly watering in extreme heat. Attractive green sprays of foliage during the growing season turn rusty red in winter when grown in full sun. This dense-domed dwarf shrub is a superior replacement for a dwarf hemlock which may fall prey to woolly adelgid.
Fothergilla x intermedia ‘Mount Airy’ (Mount Airy witch alder) is a particularly strong cultivar that is virtually trouble-free (even fairly deer-resistant). In April, the plant displays upright, white, bottle-brush flowers that smell like licorice. In the fall, it is one of the last landscape shrubs to turn color, with foliage that is a blend of yellow, orange, and red, and sometimes red-purple. Mount Airy can be used anywhere from sun to shade in most home landscapes.
Amsonia hubrichtii (Blue Star) was named “Perennial Plant of the Year” by the Perennial Plant Association in 2011. This species is truly distinctive and extraordinary, with clusters of powder-blue flowers in April and May. It grows to a height and width of 2 to 3 feet. In the fall, its golden-orange color rivals the best trees and shrubs. This clump-forming herbaceous perennial prefers full sun to partial shade and is native to the central and northeastern United States. Additionally, it is deer and disease resistant.
Epimedium x perralchicum ‘Frohnleiten’ (Frohnleiten fairy wings) is a clump-forming herbaceous perennial growing 6 to 12 inches tall and 12 to 18 inches wide. An attractive ground cover for shady area, it tolerates dry shade once established. Bright yellow flowers up to 1-inch wide bloom in airy clusters in spring. New leaves emerge green marbled with bronze in spring and turn green by summer. Bronze marbling reappears on the leaves in autumn. Also known as barrenwort, bishop’s hat, bishop’s mitre or fairy wings, this perennial shows excellent deer resistance.
Hakonechloa macra (Japanese forest grass) creates a graceful 18- to 36-inch tall and wide clump in partially shaded areas. This deer-resistant grass will tolerate full sun if given ample moisture. With its arching habit of growth, this grass is often used to represent flowing water in Japanese gardens. In winter, foliage turns a delicate, tawny brown, which continues to add movement in the winter landscape.
Polystichum acrostichoides (Christmas fern) is a native fern adapting to both dry and moist wooded slopes, banks, and ravines. Growing in fountain-like clumps to 2 feet tall, it features leathery, lance-shaped, evergreen fronds. This deer-resistant evergreen fern offers winter interest for any landscape and is an excellent groundcover fern for woodland sites.