PHS has chosen four outstanding woody plants as the 2012 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. They also are 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 2012 Gold Medal winners are:
Cercis canadensis The Rising Sun™ (Cercis canadensis ‘JNJ’ PPAF) is a novel addition to the native eastern redbud roundup. Small-but-showy rosy orchid flowers climb the naked branches in early spring, attracting bees and butterflies. The distinctive bark is smooth tan with a yellowish cast. Emerging heart-shaped foliage is brilliant tangerine to apricot and reputed to hold its color well into fall, surpassing other gold-leaved redbuds. Heat tolerance, drought resistance, and cold hardiness are other desirable attributes.
Cornus officinalis ‘Kintoki’ (Japanese Cornel Dogwood) produces abundant clusters of radiant yellow flowers from March through April, blooming two weeks earlier than Cornus mas. Attractive exfoliating gray, brown, and orange bark develops with age. Reddish-purple, large, cherry-like, edible berries form by September. Fifteen feet high and just as wide, it is smaller than the species and puts on a spectacular display in full sun or partial shade.
Prunus lusitanica was first described by Linnaeus in 1753. The Portugal laurel is an evergreen shrub or small tree reaching 10 to 20 feet, but trees can grow up to 50 feet tall in the wild. Allowed to grow into a respectable cherry tree, it produces a profusion of gorgeous five- to ten-inch racemes or white flowers in late May, followed by small purple-red cherries that ripen to shiny black by autumn (caution: the leaves and berries are toxic). The shiny bright green foliage on red stems gains a bluish tinge in winter.
Viburnum x rhytidophylloides ‘Darts Duke’ is a superior selection prominent for its extra large, leathery, dark green leaves; massive 6 to 10 inch creamy-white flower heads in May; and heavy set of bright red fruit that changes to black in autumn. Growing 8 to 10 feet high with equal spread at a medium rate, this semi-evergreen shrub tolerates heavy shade or full sun and can potentially re-bloom in October if the season allows.
(Descriptions by Ilene Sternberg.)