Sunday, April 4, 2010

Great Plant Picks

Great Plant Picks (GPP) is an educational plant awards program originating from the Miller Garden that recommends outstanding plants for the maritime Pacific Northwest. The garden is known for its exceptional collection of fine trees and shrubs and an expansive variety of woodland herbaceous perennials.

Elisabeth Miller was very interested in horticultural education and she Athyrium niponicum var. pictum  Photo by Aleta Mueller founded the Elisabeth C. Miller Library; it seems very natural that the public garden she endowed would be the originator of this exciting program to educate the public about terrific plants ideally suited to our area.

GPP was started 10 years ago to select and promote plants that are: hardy in USDA zones 7-8; are relatively long lived, vigorous and easy to grow; are reasonably disease and pest resistant; and have a long season of interest. The plants are divided into Perennials and Bulbs; Shrubs and Vines; and Trees and Conifers. Each division has a selection committee made up of industry experts: retail and wholesale nurseries, public gardens, landscape professionals-all from western sections of WA, OR and BC.

Assisting the Selection Committees are Advisory groups that focus on types of plants that require more specific experience to evaluate: ferns, Rhododendrons and roses.  As part of the selection process, members meet with subject experts and visit public and private gardens throughout the Pacific Northwest for field evaluations.  Some evaluation reports are available on the GPP website if you’d like to see how the process works.

Every year an eagerly awaited list comes out,  usually in conjunction with the NW Flower Epimedium × perralchicumand Garden Show in February. To date, over 800 exceptional plants have been selected for gardeners living west of the Cascade Mountain range from Eugene, Oregon to Vancouver, British Columbia.

This year, some care was taken to fill in some of the gaps perceived in the list, such as bulbs and grasses. In addition to their new picks for 2010, Great Plant Picks presents ‘Fantastic Foliage’, a selection of plants with exceptional foliage gleaned from the last ten years of award-winning picks. The program hopes to assist the public to choose from all plants selected over the past 10 years by providing different ways of categorizing them.

The GPP website is a treasure trove of useful information on these plants; each plant has its own page listing itsAcer shirasawanum ‘Aureum’ outstanding qualities, cultural requirements, growth habit and, in most cases, at least one photo. If you are interested in any plant, you can print a fact sheet for future reference. You can print the entire list of almost 800 plants-be warned it is 17 pages. You can also search the plant lists for a keyword, such as “berries” and print the resulting list (43 plants!)

If you happen to be lucky enough to live in the lovely Snohomish County, watch for completion of GPP focused mixed borders now being renovated by Master Gardeners at both Jennings Park and Legion Park Demonstration gardens.

If you are looking for the perfect plant, renovating a garden or starting from scratch, check out Great Plant Picks. It is an extremely valuable tool for PNW gardeners.

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