The PHS Gold Medal Plant program helps gardeners of all levels by spotlighting and promoting woody plants of outstanding merit. Since 1979, PHS experts have chosen plants for their exceptional beauty, performance, and hardiness in the growing region of Zones 5 – 7.
“The Gold Medal Plant program highlights exceptional trees, shrubs, vines, and perennials for the home gardener,” says Stephen Mostardi, Chair of the Gold Medal Plant Selection Committee. “These plants are easy to grow, pest free, and add beauty to the landscape for many seasons.”
Home gardeners and professional landscapers can purchase these plants with confidence knowing they have been carefully evaluated by the committee.
This year’s Gold Medal Plant exhibit at the 2019 Philadelphia Flower Show will showcase a dozen of these special plants. “It’s a resource for people who attend the Show,” Steve explains. “They can experience the perennials, shrubs and trees that are going to be the most reliable to plant in their own yards. That’s the one distinctive thing about this exhibit. People gain knowledge about plants that will work for them throughout the region.”
The exhibit will be staffed by PHS with volunteers from the Gold Medal Plant Committee and Pennsylvania Certified Horticulturists from the Pennsylvania Nursery Association. “They’ll be able to talk in detail and answer questions,” says Steve.
All the Gold Medal Plants on exhibit at this year’s Show were grown at PHS Meadowbrook Farm. “The growers at Meadowbrook nurture this collection of plants from year to year,” Steve says.
Among the top plants in the Gold Medal exhibit is Polygonatum Odoratum Variegatum (Variegated Solomon’s Seal). A 2015 Gold Medal winner, this perennial is durable, adaptable, and loves the shade but will tolerate partial sun. It is best suited for woodland gardens or shady sections of rock gardens. Growing 2 to 3 feet tall, it slowly spreads throughout an area via underground rhizomes. Each stem features 8 to 15 variegated leaves. In late spring, small, bell-shaped flowers with a lily-like fragrance will blossom on the underside of the stem. In the fall, these flowers give way to black berries and the leaves change to a beautiful bright yellow. This perennial is noteworthy for its fragrance and low, gracefully arching stems.
Another exceptional Gold Medal Plant to become acquainted with is Itea Virginica ‘Henry's Garnet’ (Virginia Sweetspire). “This native shrub was originally found locally, and since being awarded the Gold Medal Plant distinction in 1988 has become an important plant for naturalistic landscapes,” Steve notes. “It's particularly useful as an upgrade and replacement for the invasive plant known as Burning Bush.”
All Gold Medal plants are available at retail plant locations in the area. “People can use these as a mainstay in a perennial garden,” says Steve.