28 Nov Great Plant Picks – A resource for plants
One of my favorite resources, and one that is always high on my list for sharing with budding Northwest gardeners, is the Great Plant Picks program.
The program originated at the Elisabeth C. Miller Botanical Garden in Seattle, Washington. The first list was published in 2004, and now each year a panel of regional horticultural experts, whose membership reads like a veritable who’s who of Pacific Northwest hort-heads, gathers to evaluate and make recommendations for plants to add to the list. This volunteer selection committee meets three times each year to nominate, debate, and generally hash out what to include on upcoming lists.
The list now includes almost 500 outstanding plants for Pacific Northwest gardens – trees, conifers, shrubs, perennials, vines, grasses, and bulbs; a more than adequate palette of garden-worthy plants to employ as you build or add to your garden. The searchable website is chock full of fantastic photographs and each plant has a comprehensive fact sheets that can be read online. Or, if you prefer, you can use the printer-friendly fact sheet for easy offline reading.
Stewartia pseudocamellia, pictured left, is just one of the many under-used plants that the Great Plant Picks program has helped bring into the spotlight. A smallish tree with multi-season appeal, this tree bears delicate camellia-like flowers in summer, fabulous fall color, and beautiful exfoliating bark in winter.
This team knows how to pick a winner!
What makes this list so valuable for Northwest gardeners, especially beginning gardeners, is that rigorous selection criteria are applied before a plant is included in the directory. This helps to ensure that the average gardener stands an excellent chance of success growing these plants, as long as their growing requirements are met (i.e. moisture, light, and soil requirements).
For instance, the list includes plants that:
• Have proven to be hardy in USDA Zone 7 and/or 8.
• Do not require excessive or elaborate pruning or deadheading to look their best.
• Have been assessed for reasonable maintenance & water needs.
• Are reasonably resistant to pest & disease.
• Are not invasive or overly vigorous.
• Are relatively long-lived.
• Have a long season of interest.
While a number of common plants are included on the list, this is not just another dull list of pedestrian plants – the list includes plenty of fresh, new and unusual plants so that even longtime gardeners will likely find plants that they aren’t familiar with or haven’t grown. Beginning gardeners or those starting a new garden will discover that this list is an outstanding place to start when selecting plants.
The 2008 additions to the list will be announced by the time the NW Flower & Garden Show rolls around – be sure to stop by their booth for the most up-to-date booklet and information.