Gold for the Garden: PHS Names Gold Medal Plant Winners


The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society has chosen four outstanding woody plants as the 2011 winners of the Gold Medal Plant Awards.

Since 1979, the Gold Medal program has honored and promoted woody plants of exceptional merit. Nominations for plants come from home gardeners, garden designers, horticulturists, landscape architects, nursery owners, propagators—just about anyone who loves trees, shrubs, and vines.

The winners are chosen for their superb eye-appeal, performance and hardiness in the growing region of Zones 5-7. Three are native cultivars to the eastern United States; the fourth, a tough shrub from Europe, is an absolute must for winter interest. They are also judged for their beauty in many seasons, whether it be their foliage, flower or structural form.

When home gardeners acquire a Gold Medal winner, they can be assured the plant will exhibit standards of excellence for hardiness, disease and pest resistance, and ease of growing when planted and maintained as recommended.

The 2011 winners were announced by Joe Ziccardi Jr., PCH, manager of the PHS Gold Medal Plant Award program, at the Woody Plant Conference held in July at Swarthmore College.

For a complete listing of plants with profiles and sources, go to

The 2011 Gold Medal winners are:

Photo Credit: Novalis

Diervilla sessilifolia Cool Splash ‘LPDC Podaras’
(Southern Bush Honeysuckle)

Native to the southeastern United States, Southern Bush-Honeysuckle is a low-growing deciduous shrub. Vigorous and adaptable, it spreads by suckers into a reliable mass. Cool Splash tolerates all light conditions but performs best in full sun, where its variegated glossy leaves develop vivid tones of green and cream. “It’s the only readily available variegated form of this under-utilized shrub,” says Gold Medal Committee chair Steve Mostardi, of Mostardi Nursery in Newtown Square, PA. The plant’s small yellow flowers, borne on new wood, huddle together from June to August. Perfect for massing or the perennial border, it grows 2 ½ feet high and 3 ½ feet wide and benefits from a moderate spring pruning. Hardy in Zones 4 to 7.



Photo Credit: PHS

Liquidambar styraciflua ‘Slender Silhouette’
(American Sweetgum)

‘Slender Silhouette’ is a very narrow, low-maintenance cultivar of the American sweetgum tree, growing 50 feet high and only 4 feet wide. Unlike the species, ‘Slender Silhouette’ produces little fruit (those brown spiky orbs), which when dropped lands in a small, easily cleaned-up area. The tree’s dark green glossy leaves turn yellow with a tinge of red in the fall. This is a great park or allée tree, but you can use it anywhere you need a narrow tree. It prefers moist soil and space for root development. Hardy in Zones 5 to 9.

Photo Credit: PHS

Taxodium distichum var. imbricarium Debonair ‘Morris’
(Pond Bald cypress) 

Heidi Hesselein of Pleasant Run Nursery in New Jersey describes Debonair ‘Morris’ this way: “A particularly beautiful deciduous conifer with interesting green pendulous foliage that strikingly contrasts with its formal, pyramidal habit.” With lovely bronze fall color and a dramatic winter silhouette, Debonair flourishes in most landscape situations, especially those with moist soil. It grows to 60 feet high and 20 feet wide. Hardy in Zones 5 to 9.




Photo Credit: Richard Bitner

Cornus sanguinea ‘Midwinter Fire’
(Blood twig Dogwood)

This is a truly superior winter-interest plant. A large deciduous shrub, it spreads by suckers to form a dense clump. In the fall, its leaves turn greenish-purple and then drop to reveal spectacular stems that provide an intense display of yellow, orange, and red hues from late fall to early spring, especially when placed in front of a dark backdrop. “It looks as though it’s lit from within,” says Richard Hesselein of Pleasant Run Nursery. Full sun and a hard spring pruning will produce the best stem colors. Abundant clusters of white flowers appear in mid-May. It grows about 8 feet high by 10 feet wide. Urban-tolerant and adaptable to almost any soil condition (except wet), ‘Midwinter Fire’ looks great in the shrub border, in masses, or in containers. Plant it in full or part sun. Hardy in Zones 4 to 7.


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