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Plant of the Year

The 2014 GCA Plant of the Year: Montine McDaniel Freeman Horticulture Award 

The Horticulture Committee is pleased to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the Freeman Horticulture Medal. The Medal honors Montine McDaniel Freeman, a member of New Orleans Town Gardeners. It was given in her memory by her son and daughter-in-law, Louis and Judy Freeman. The award is given to an outstanding native plant which is underutilized but possesses superior ornamental and ecological attributes. The goal is to encourage the propagation and planting of these plants in our gardens and the landscape. For a list of previous winners, click here


For the 2014 year, we have three plants to celebrate:


The Freeman Medal Winner: Asclepias tuberosa Butterfly Weed

The Butterfly Weed, nominated by a member of The Garden Club of Houston, merits recognition for its combined beauty, hardiness, and environmental value. Its brilliant clusters of fiery orange flowers are fragrant, long lived, and produce a pod that reseeds. Root hardy in USDA Zones 3 to 9, it is drought tolerant and requires well drained soil. Its nectar attracts a wide variety of pollinators, such as butterflies, beneficial insects and birds. Its greatest value is serving as the larval host plant to the endangered Monarch butterfly that migrates from Mexico to Canada every year. If gardeners increase the production and planting of milkweeds, such as the Asclepias tuberosa, there would beneficial affect on the Monarch butterfly, insects and birds that depend on its nectar. Promoting the Butterfly Weed makes a statement regarding the ethos of our mission of gardening and protecting our environment.


Honorable Mention: Polemonium reptans 'Stairway to Heaven'

Polemonium reptans is notable because it is thought to be the best variegated Jacob's Ladder ever introduced. Nominated by a member of St Paul Garden Club, this native variety is vigorous and heat-tolerant. It forms low mounds of medium-green ferny leaves that are broad, bold, and cream colored. The delicate leaf will take on a pink tinge in direct sun or cool weather so the plant is showy in the garden in the autumn. Clusters of lightly fragrant, blue -lavender bell-shaped flowers rise above the foliage in mid to late spring and attracting insects and butterflies. The new leaves that appear all season keep this variety attractive in the garden from spring to late fall. It requires average to moist soil conditions and is root hardy in USDA Zones 3 to 8. This plant is ideal for edging a shady path or growing in a pot.


Special Recognition: Symphyotrichum oblongifolium var. angustus 'Raydon's Favorite'

'Raydon's Favorite', nominated by a member of the Glenview Garden Club, is a stunning aster with yellow-centered, vivid blue-purple flowers. It makes a remarkable statement in the landscape from late spring to mid fall and emits a minty scented perfume. This cultivar received top ranking from the Chicago Botanic Garden for disease and pest resistance, winter hardiness, cultural adaptability and flower production. 'Raydon's Favorite' requires minimal maintenance and attracts desirable bees, beneficial insects, and birds. Hardy in USDA Zones 3 to 9, the plant prefers sun to partial shade and dry soil. Named by Allen Bush after the plantsman, Raydon Alexander, of San Antonio, Texas; the cultivar is believed to be originally from Lookout Mountain, TN.




Scholarship Opportunities Available

The GCA now offers 27 merit based scholarships, fellowships and awards in the areas of horticulture and its related disciplines, botany, including medicinal and tropical, native bird habitat, conservation and ecological restoration, desert studies, landscape architecture, urban forestry, garden history and design, coastal wetlands, and pollinator research.

In March of this year, 86 students and scholars were awarded over $300,000 to support a variety of academic endeavors ranging from summer environmental study and field work, to graduate level research. Their study will take place in institutions across the nation and some will do field work around the world.

GCA Scholarships - supporting the best and brightest.

Plant of the Year

Nominations for the Montine McDaniel Freeman Horticulture Award will be accepted by the GCA Horticulture Committee between March 1st and Dec 1st for the following year.

Nominate a Plant - recognize a plant that is under-utilized but worthy of preservation, propagation and promotion.