Each year many horticultural organizations select a plant of the year. These plants are typically noted for their excellent performance and durability in the landscape. 2002 has brought us some outstanding performers for Iowa gardens.
Perennial of the Year
Phlox 'David' has been available from garden centers and nurseries since the late 1980's. In the intervening years, it has proven itself as a winner in gardens around the world. In recognition of its outstanding performance, the Perennial Plant Association has selected 'David' phlox as the 2002 Perennial Plant of the Year. The white flowering garden phlox stands 36 to 40 inches tall and blooms for several weeks in mid to late summer. The pure white flowers are fragrant and shine against the mildew-resistant foliage. This hardy perennial prefers partial to full sun and moist, organic soils. Removal of spent blossoms or deadheading will extend blooming into early fall.
Herb of the Year
The International Herb Society has selected Echinacea as the Herb of the Year. This perennial plant, commonly known as purple coneflower, produces showy purple to white blooms in summer. Echinacea is native to prairies and woodland openings in the Midwest. Reports suggest it was used medicinally by at least 14 Native American tribes for a wide range of ailments. Today it is a popular herb for preventing colds and improving overall health. Plants perform best in a site with full sun to part shade and well-drained soils.
Tree of the Year
The Iowa Nursery and Landscape Association has selected 'Ivory Silk' Japanese Tree Lilac (Syringa reticulata) as the 2002 Tree of the Year. 'Ivory Silk' should not be confused with the shrub lilacs of spring. This 20-foot tree is noted for its creamy white blossoms, ornamental bark, and resistance to powdery mildew. The blooms appear for weeks in early to mid summer after most trees have finished blooming. While the flowers are not as fragrant as the spring-blooming lilacs, they compliment the dark green, disease-resistant foliage. However, flowers are not its only ornamental feature. After leaf drop in the fall, its attractive bark provides interest through the winter months. While plants prefer full sun sites with well-drained soils, they also are tolerant of clay soils.
This article originally appeared in the February 22, 2002 issue, p. 16.
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