Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Perennial Plant of the Year - 2013

The Perennial Plant Association (PPA) has just announced the Perennial Plant of the Year for 2013.  The winner is the variegated Solomon's seal (Polygonatum odoratum 'Variegatum') which is featured throughout this blog.  We've growing this plant in many locations in the gardens for years and I also have it at home.  This quote, from the PPA website (, describes their program:  "The Perennial Plant of the Year™ (POY™) program began in 1990 to showcase a perennial that is a standout among its competitors. Perennials chosen are suitable for a wide range of growing climates, require low maintenance, have multiple-season interest, and are relatively pest/disease-free."  As a member of the PPA, I also get to vote each year for this program which usually includes 3 or 4 good selections.  This perennial certainly helps strengthen the argument that "New plants aren't always good and good plants aren't always new" as this plant has been around a long time and is a stalwart and essential component in the partly shady or shaded border.  The next four photos down show the pattern of emergence in my backyard with these clean "spears" coming up in late April and extending quickly through May for early blooming, spring flowers.  The flowers are fragrant as well and last 2-3 weeks.

Variegated Solomon's seal (hardy in zones 3-8) has classic, upright arching stems with leaves that exhibit different streaks and patterns of cream and white.  This perennial will ultimately get 18"-24" tall although I've seen it a bit taller in very rich soils.  Preferring moist, well-drained, rich soils, this plant does spread by rhizomes and creates quite a colony.  The "spear stage" seen above is the time to divide this plant or thin as needed.  It has never been an aggressive threat out in the garden but at one point, it had taken up a large area and it didn't take long to "condense/edit" the area of coverage in spring.  Some plant it as a taller groundcover as it does fill in nicely (see bottom photo).  Tolerating deep shade and part shade, this plant resents too much sunlight and may exhibit leaf scorch in brighter locations.  This tough perennial also has no serious insect or disease problems and looks good through fall when the leaves and stems turn yellow.  Keeping in mind the "real estate" that this spreading plant will cover, consider the spacing of neighboring plantings.  Variegated Solomon's seal is a nice companion for hostas, ferns, astilbes and other perennials that thrive in that same garden situation of part shade, rich soils and adequate moisture.  

I had to leave early today for a presentation (Ferns & Mosses) in Rockford for the Rockford Garden Club over the lunch hour with a return to a couple of meetings.  Before I left, Pat and Dr. Gredler were in to paint and I saw Kay as well.  The painting is going well although we always seem to have a full Horticulture Center with all of our projects going on (bench sanding, obelisk painting, etc.)!  Adendum.  My talk in Rockford went well and when I got back, Pat was leaving after an afternoon of painting with Gena and Myrt.

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