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Sunday, February 5, 2023
Growing Together: And the winners are … high-achieving plants for your garden
Limelight prime hydrangea is the Proven Winners hydrangea of the year for 2023. Joanne Young

At this time of year, we are flooded with award shows like the Golden Globes, Grammys and Oscars.

But why should actors and singers receive all glory?

Did you know that plants receive awards as well? There might not be any extravagant award ceremonies or wonderful banquets to attend (probably some drinks served though), but here are some of the plants that have received special honours for 2023.

Since 1995, the Perennial Plant Association has selected a perennial that is a standout among a list nominated by its members.

Nominations are based on specific criteria that include suitability for a wide range of climatic conditions, low-maintenance requirements, relative pest- and disease-resistance, multiple seasons of ornamental interest and ready availability.

The association has named American Gold Rush Rudbeckia (black-eyed Susan) 2023’s perennial of the year.

In a media release, the group said, “At the height of summer, American Gold Rush black-eyed Susan turns up the volume for a long season of dazzling colour right up to autumnal frosts. The bright golden-yellow flowers feature arching rays and a reddish halo surrounding dark chocolate cones.”

“Three-inch flowers blanket the compact plant, only 22 to 27 inches tall, with a broader width to 40 inches if given room to grow.”

The flowers attract butterflies and other pollinators in the summer months and its seeds help to feed songbirds into the winter.

 The leaves and stems are covered with hairs, giving them a silvery cast. American Gold Rush is also more resistant to Septoria leaf spot than other varieties, looks great in mass plantings and is cold hardy to Zone 4.

The American Hosta Growers Association has awarded Neptune Hosta as its hosta of 2023.

This unique blue plant makes a nice specimen in the home garden. In spring, the narrow, wedge-shaped leaves are bright glaucous blue and they hold their colour well. They turn more blue-green by mid-summer. The heavily rippled leaves also show some resistance to slugs.

It has a lovely cascading form as leaves arch over and it produces lavender-coloured, bell-shaped flowers in late summer to early fall.

It performs best in part-shade or full-shade locations with moist soil.

The foliage grows to be about 24 inches high and has a spread of four feet. Neptune is hardy to Zone 3.

Some garden companions that look great with Neptune are: Brunette Cimicifuga, King of Hearts Dwarf Bleeding Heart and All Gold Hakonechloa Grass.

Proven Winners, the leading plant brand worldwide, is comprised of leading plant propagators from around the globe.

The Proven Winners 2023 flowering shrub of the year is hydrangea “Let’s Dance Can Do.”

The ‘’Let’s Dance” series of hydrangeas is a unique cross between hydrangea serrata (Mountain Hydrangea) and hydrangea macrophylla (Big Leaf Hydrangea).

Hydrangea serrata is a reblooming hybrid that bears lacecap clusters of flowers and is hardy to Zone 4a.

“Let’s Dance Can Do” is a breeding breakthrough that brings something entirely new to cold-climate gardens. This plant sets its flower buds along the entire length of the stem, not merely at the tips. The flowers are strawberry pink.

Because of its repeat blooming habit, you can expect flowers from mid-June through October. Plant in a sunny, protected location that provides some shade during the hottest part of the day.  It grows three to four feet high and three feet wide.

Proven Winners has named hydrangea paniculata “Limelight Prime” its 2023 hydrangea of the year. “Limelight Prime” is an improvement over “Limelight” because it is more compact and will bloom weeks earlier, creating a long display of large panicle-like blooms.

This is especially valuable in colder climates, where “Limelight” might not have bloomed until August. As the lime green/ivory white blooms age, they develop pink and red tones that are far more vivid and showy than conventional hydrangeas. You can count on “Limelight Prime’s” strong stems to hold its big blooms up all summer long.

Its compact habit will reach a very garden-friendly four to six feet tall and four to five feet wide. It is hardy to Zone 3.

I don’t know about you, but I get more excited about these award winners than I do with all the celebrity award winners. Now we just have to wait for the garden centres to open again in spring.

Joanne Young is a Niagara-on-the-Lake garden expert and coach. See her website at joanneyoung.ca.

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