Plant Picks 2004
This is my site Written by Geoff on January 1, 2005 – 5:45 pm

Every year we take time out to make a list of those plants which have really out performed all others in our gardens. As always, a few are like old friends, that just keep popping up. We have to admit, that since we are mostly shade gardeners, a good percentage of shade tolerant plants find there way into our lists. 

It is by no means easy for a plant to make our list, with over 500 varieties of plants in our gardens, a plant must really stand out. To be selected, a plant must not only be attractive but also require low maintenance and be exceptionally hardy. All of these plants can be viewed on our Plant Data Base at 

2004 Fern of the Year – Athyrium niponicum Apple Court 
It is a crested Japanese painted fern that not only has lovely purple, silver and green markings, but each leaf is dramatically crested both up the sides and onto the tip. Our specimen has matured at over two foot. This is a superb addition to any woodland garden. 

2004 Grass of the Year – Chasmanthium latifolium Northern Sea Oats 
It is one of the few ornamental grasses that thrives in shady conditions. Northern Sea Oats has a short basal tuft of wide grassy leaves that gives rise to four foot flower stalks with dramatic grain-like flowers. Northern Sea Oats grow best in a naturalistic garden, either in the border or by the water. While it took us a while to get this plant established in an area it liked, it was well worth the effort. 

2004 Shade Plant of the Year – Hosta hybrid Captain Kirk 
It is an amazing new sport of the popular Gold Standard is probably a tetraploid hosta featuring a wide golden center, surrounded by a very wide dark green edge. While only in it’s second year in our garden it has made it’s presents known. A very showy hosta only growing 18 inches tall but over 36 inches wide. 

2004 Bog Plant of the Year – Asclepias incarnata Pink Swamp Milkweed 
It is once again our selection as bog plant of the year. If you wish to attract butterflies to your gardens, be sure to plant some Pink Swamp Milkweed. It is the favorite food for the caterpillar of the Monarch Butterfly. Beautiful and unique, bicolored flowers of white and dark pink appear midsummer in 1-2 inches diameter clusters. As the name implies, Swamp Milkweed grows best in moist locations. 

2004 Groundcover of the Year – Polygonatum odoratum thunbergii Variegatum Variegated Japanese Solomon’s Seal 
Solomon Seals are graceful shade plants that provide nice form and structure to the garden. These plants have long arching unbranched stems, they have nice clean, veined leaves with clusters of bell like greenish yellow to whitish yellow flowers hanging down from the stems at the leaf axis. In late summer and fall showy berries are produced that are blue to dark blue in color. We use these as a backdrop for small wood ferns or under plant with foamflowers. Most Solomon seals grow in spreading colonies that are easy to dig up and divide. 

2004 Conifer of the Year – Abies fraseri Fraser Fir
It is sometimes called Southern balsam or Southern balsam fir. Fraser fir is a uniformly pyramid-shaped tree which reaches a maximum height of about 80 feet and a diameter of 1-2 feet. This fir is somewhat shade tolerant. 

2004 New Introduction of the Year – Echinacea Art’s Pride Orange Echinacea 
It is an amazing coneflower that comes from the breeding program of Dr. Jim Ault of the Chicago Botanic Garden. Each two foot wide clump of slender green foliage is topped with spikes of rustic-orange flowers. 

2004 Butterfly Plant of the Year – Sedum telephium Autumn Joy 
It has round flat flower heads rising above bold, flat-leaved foliage. Flowers then transform to pale pink and gradually change to dark pink. We use this plant everywhere, probably more than we should, but it is one of those plants that just has four season appeal. A must for the beginning gardener. 

2004 Tree of the Year – Magnolia stellata 
It is a deciduous small tree or large shrub growing 12-15 feet, branching is upright-spreading round or oval with multi-stemmed. An excellent specimen focal locations or patios, a tree for small spaces. Blooms are frequently injured by spring frosts, soft-wooded and prone to damage from heavy snow and ice but overall a relatively trouble-free plant. 

2004 Hosta of the Year – Hosta hybrid Whirlwind 
It has a wide central band of white that contrasts dramatically with the darkest black-green leaf that we have seen. In dense shade, the central variegation tends to fade in the summer. The three foot wide clumps are topped with lavender flowers in midsummer. 

2004 Vegetable of the Year – Round French Zucchini Squash
A three to six inch diameter squash that has exceptional flavor and is very prolific. We have grown this squash for the last two seasons without any problems besides not having enough room to grow more. 

2004 Fruit Tree of the Year – Malus Hybrid Donald 
A small flowering tree with buds, which are deep red at first, then turn pink, then finally white when they fully open. Its flowers are very showy, and the “snowstorm” that comes when the petals drop is something out of a fairy tale. The show continues into fall, as the glossy red crabapples that form persist into winter, and provide a beautiful feature. 

2004 Bulb of the Year – Narcissus Hybrid Ambergate 
Ambergate has a bright, brick red cup bleeds into the unusual colored, bronzy orange cup, a real eye-catcher in late spring. Perfect for perennializing, picking, forcing and showing. It is one of the showiest daffodils in it’s division. 

2004 Herb of the Year – Borago officinalis 
It is a decorative annual with coarse, hairy leaves and stems and beautiful sky-blue flowers in a star shape. The plant grows about 2 to 3 feet tall. Borage is easily grown from seed and will sow itself. Use leaves fresh anytime; they are seldom dried. Bees are attracted to the borage plant. We just kind of let it do it’s thing, running wild throughout other border plants. On top of all this the flowers are delicious! 

2004 Shrub of the Year – Sambucus racemosa Sutherland Gold Elderberry 
It is truly a sight to behold with its deeply cut foliage of bright gold. The masses of creamy flowers develop into clusters of red fruit that the birds love. Another first year plant in our gardens that has made it’s mark, a real winner. 

2004 Rose of the Year – Rosa hybrid Voodoo 
This tall Hybrid Tea has Peachy Yellow Blend, heavily perfumed flowers that soften in color to yellow and peach shades, then finally fade to pink. The tall, upright bush carries plenty of dark bronze-green, glossy foliage. Perfect as single specimen plantings or as the featured plant in a mixed bed of roses. 

2004 Tropical Plant of the Year – Syagrus romanzoffianum Queen Palm Feather Palm 
Graceful, arching form adds a delicate look to large gardens. Fast growth rate, single trunk, with green deciduous foliage , reaching a height of 50 feet. 

Many of the choices were very hard to make as there are a lot of good plants out there! The roses Love and Peace, Perfume Delight, and Caribbean all did very well last season. Once again the hosta Great Expectations put on a show, as did, Miscanthus sinensis Morning Light. We also introduced several varieties of elderberry to our wet areas that we expect great things from.

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Modified: March 7, 2009 at 5:47 pm GMT-0800

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