By Stephanie Schupska
University of Georgia
And the 2009 winners, by category, are: summer annual - Summer snapdragon; herbaceous perennial - Arkansas blue star; evergreen vine - Armand clematis; evergreen shrub - Fragrant tea olive; and deciduous tree - Lavender twist® redbud.
Selection processEach year an elite group of green industry and academic professionals from throughout Georgia select a slate of outstanding ornamental plants in five categories, said University of Georgia Cooperative Extension horticulturalist Gary Wade. Only one plant in each category can earn the plant selection committee’s coveted gold medal award. The committee is made up of nurserymen, flower growers, landscapers, landscape designers, garden center managers and University of Georgia horticulturists. It was organized in 1994 to promote the production, sale and use of superior landscape plants.
“The nominees are judged on a strict list of criteria including pest tolerance, ease of maintenance, survivability, seasonal interest and availability,” Wade. “The list of nominees is long and the selection process is tedious, but in the end, all on the committee agree that the plants chosen are deserving of their gold medal designation.”
2009 winners’ descriptionsArmand clematis is a low-maintenance annual flower that provides an explosion of blooms from summer though fall. It’s most noted for its heat and drought tolerance, extended bloom period and performance in the landscape. The annual is available in a wide range of colors, including white, rose, lilac, violet, blue and many shades in between. Its flower spikes have about a dozen flowers. The flowers hold up well in floral arrangements.
Arkansas blue star, a clumping herbaceous perennial, has soft foliage texture and outstanding fall color. In the spring, light-blue, star-shaped flowers with yellow centers are borne along the upper portions of the stem and last three to four weeks. In the fall the foliage turns golden yellow and literally glows when the sun strikes it. It’s a showstopper when planted in groups and backed up by taller evergreens, ornamental grasses or plants with burgundy foliage.
Armand clematis is an evergreen flowering vine with few pest problems. Its glossy, evergreen leaves are attractive year-round. Spring flowers are an added bonus of Armand clematis. White, fragrant, star-shaped flowers appear in March in Athens, Ga., and persist nearly a month. Its flowers have a spicy, subtle fragrance that is not overpowering.
Fragrant tea olive, a flowering shrub, lives up to its name with outstanding fall fragrance. A tough, low-maintenance plant with few pest problems, it adapts to a wide range of soils. This large shrub is best used as a background plant in a perennial border, a specimen plant or an evergreen hedge. Its creamy white flowers are often hidden among the foliage and aren’t usually noticeable until their fragrance infiltrates the landscape.
Lavender twist® redbud is sure to be the focal point in any landscape. The plant stops traffic when in bloom. Flowers are borne not only along the branches, but along the main trunk as well. When winter arrives and the leaves drop, the tree becomes a living sculpture with zigzag branches, a contorted trunk and persistent pea-like seed pods that hang from its weeping branches.
To learn more about on the Georgia Gold Medal Winners program, visit www.georgiagoldmedalplants.org.
(Stephanie Schupska is a news editor with the University of Georgia Public Affairs Office.)