The GCA Plant of the Year: Montine McDaniel Freeman Horticulture Award
The Horticulture Committee is pleased to celebrate the 21st Anniversary of the Freeman Horticulture Medal. The Medal honors Montine McDaniel Freeman, a member of New Orleans Town Gardeners. It was given in her honor 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.
The Montine McDaniel Freeman Horticulture Medal is awarded annually to acknowledge the cultivation and use of native plants: trees, shrubs, ground covers, vines, and perennials that are little known but are deemed worthy to be preserved, propagated, promoted, and planted.
The GCA Plant of the Year: 1995 to present
Symphyotrichum oblongifolium var. angustatus 'Raydon's Favorite' Aster 'Raydon's Favorite'
Aster ‘Raydon’s Favorite’ is a cultivar named in the 1980’s and recognized for its marked improvement over most better known asters by presenting a more compact form, fragrance and a dazzling bright blue-purple flower with a yellow center in the fall. Ranging from zones 3 to 9, this cultivar can be grown in almost any sunny or partial shady location as it is tolerant of wind, heat, pollution, and soil compaction, and resistant to diseases, including powdery mildew, deer, rabbits, rodents and insects. While the aromatic compounds of this aster may make it resistant to wildlife, it is a pollinator plant attracting hummingbirds, bees, butterflies and other beneficial insects. Commonly referred to as the aromatic aster, ‘Raydon’s Favorite’ lives up to its name as when brushed against, the plant releases a nice hint of mint. Named by Allen Bush after plantsman Raydon Alexander of San Antonio, Texas, this cultivar is believed to be originally from Lookout Mountain, Tennessee. Photograph courtesy of Caroline Borgman, Glenview Garden Club, Zone VII.
Proposed by: Member of Glenview Garden Club, Zone VII
Seconded by: Member of Glenview Garden Club, Zone VII
Sarracenia flava Pitcher Plant
The carnivorous yellow pitcher plant, Sarracenia flava, traps insects by using a vibrant yellow rolled leaf on top of a pitcher form bloom which can reach up to 3 feet in height. The upper part of the leaf is flared into a lid covering the tubular pitcher preventing excess rain from entering and diluting the digestive secretions within. Once the insect has landed on the upper regions of the pitcher, it is guided down towards the opening of the pitcher tube by short, stiff, downwards pointing hairs and brightly patterned guiding markings. The surface of the opening of the pitcher tube is studded with nectar-secreting glands. These nectars contain not only sugars, but an alkaloid which intoxicates its prey causing it to lose its footing and tumble to the bottom of the pitcher from which there is no escape. Because the pitcher plant traps insects for food, it does not require fertile soil and grows in acidic, low nutrient, damp wet bogs along the eastern seaboard from Alabama, through Florida and Georgia up the coastal plains to Virginia. It spreads by rhizomes and can be propagated easily by seed. In the life cycle of this plant, first the pitcher is produced; then large yellow flowers with long, strap like petals hanging umbrella style at the end of a two-foot scape. In the fall, the plant stops producing carnivorous leaves and produces a flat non-carnivorous leaf called a phyllodia. Photograph courtesy of W. D. and Dolphia Bransford, The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.
Proposed by: Member of New Orleans Town Gardeners, Inc., Zone IX
Seconded by: Member of Garden Study Club of New Orleans, Zone IX
Trillium grandiflorum Great White Trillium
Trillium grandiflorum, (Common names: white trillium, great white trillium or white wake-robin) is a herbaceous perennial native to eastern North America ranging from Nova Scotia south to northern Georgia and west to Minnesota. Common in rich, mixed upland forests, T. grandiflorum is a spring ephemeral recognized by a whorl of three leaf like bracts standing up to 20 inches above the ground above which blooms its single large white three-petaled flower. T. grandiflorum is a slow growing plant whose seeds require two years to fully germinate, and flowering is usually determined by the surface volume of the leaf and the size of the rhizome which can take up to seven to ten years to reach optimal size for flowering. Due to the popularity of T. grandiflorum conservation concerns have been raised as a vast majority of the plants sold in nurseries are believed to be wild collected. When buying T. grandiflorum one must ensure that the plants are raised from seed. T. grandiflorum is thought to be self pollinating and its seeds are spread by ants. Occasionally it is thought that deer will spread the seed. As this plant is particularly attractive to deer, trillium foraging is often used as a gauge of the size of the deer population. Photograph courtesy of Elaine L. Mills.
Proposed by: Member of Dolley Madison Garden Club, Zone VII
Seconded by: Member of Dolley Madison Garden Club, Zone VII
Amsonia hubrichtii Bluestar
Three feet wide and high, Amsonia hubrichtii is a clump forming, herbaceous perennial with multiple willow-like, leafy stems emerging from a semi-woody rootstock. This graceful, long-lived, shrub-like plant produces feathery, bright green foliage in the spring that remains neat and attractive throughout the growing season. Terminal clusters of steel blue flowers appear in May and June and pendant, chocolate hued seed heads present well into the fall. The mounding billows of this plant’s foliage turn a brilliant pumpkin orange color in October and November, particularly when grown in full sun. Snow and ice on the stems in the winter provide additional textural interest to the landscape in the winter. Suited for mass plantings in sun or partial shade throughout zones 4 to 9, Amsonia is extremely drought and wind tolerant once established and supports butterflies, bees and moths. Photograph courtesy of Rick Darke.
Proposed by: Member of Garden Club of Wilmington, Zone V
Seconded by: Member of Garden Club of Wilmington, Zone V
Quercus macrocarpa Bur Oak
Quercus macrocarpa , Bur Oak, is the 2015 GCA Plant of the Year. This majestic oak is found in USDA zones 4 to 8. It commonly reaches 200 to 300 years of age and often is 100 feet tall and wide. The fiddle-shaped, shiny green leaves are 8 to 10 inches in length and the acorn is the largest of all native oaks. The Bur oak is both pollution and drought tolerant. It provides food and shelter for pollinators, birds, and animals. It is an anchor for all ecosystems.
Proposed by: Member of Garden Club of Cincinnati, Zone X
Arctostaphylos densiflora 'Howard McMinn' Manzanita 'Howard McMinn'
Arctostaphylos densiflora ‘Howard McMinn’ was awarded Honorable Mention. This manzanita cultivar is a California native shrub that reaches 7 to 10 feet. Easily identified by its reddish bark that peels to a smooth surface, ‘Howard McMinn’ is environmentally adaptable. It tolerates average soil conditions and does not require heavy summer watering. Its mounding evergreen foliage has showy clusters of small white flowers tinged in pink during the spring. Its berries in the fall provide food for birds. Hardy in USDA zones 7b to 10.
Proposed by: Member of Orinda Garden Club, Zone XII
Seconded by: Member of Orinda Garden Club, Zone XII
Asclepias tuberosa Butterfly Weed
This native plant merits recognition for it combined beauty, hardiness, and environmental value.The brilliant clusters of fiery orange flowers are fragrant, long lived, and produce a pod that reseeds. Its nectar attracts a wide variety of pollinators, and is beneficial to insects, and birds. The plant requires well-drained soil and full sun. Because of its long tap root, it is difficult to move once established. The greatest value of the Butterfly Weed is serving as the larval host plant to the endangered Monarch butterfly that migrates from Mexico to Canada every year. By growing Asclepias we can make a statement regarding the ethos of our mission of gardening and protecting our environment. Root hardy in USDA Zones 3 to 9.
Proposed by: Member of The Garden Club of Houston, Zone IX
Polemonium reptans 'Stairway to Heaven'
Polemonium reptans is notable because it is thought to be the best variegated Jacob’s Ladder ever introduced. This native variety is vigorous and heat-tolerant. It forms low mounds of medium-green fern-like leaves that are broad, bold, and cream colored. The leaf will take on a pink tinge in direct sun or cool weather so that the plant is showy in an autumn garden. Clusters of lightly fragrant lavender blue bell-shaped flowers rise about the foliage in the mid to late spring and attract insects and butterflies. This plant is ideal for edging a shady path or growing in a pot. It requires average to moist soil conditions and is root hardy in USDA Zones 3 to 8.
Proposed by: Member of Saint Paul Garden Club, Zone XI
Symphyotrichum oblongifolium var. angustus 'Raydon's Favorite'
This stunning aster has a yellow center and vivid blue-purple flowers. It makes a remarkable statement in the landscape from late spring to mid fall and emits a minty-scented perfume. The cultivar received top ranking from the Chicago Botanic Garden for disease and pest resistance, winter hardiness, cultivated adaptability and flower production. ‘Raydon’s Favorite’ requires minimal maintenance and attracts desirable bees, beneficial insects, and birds. This aster 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. Hardy in USDA Zones 3 to 9.
Proposed by: Member of Glenview Garden Club, Zone VII
Cercis canadensis Eastern Redbud, Judas Tree
A small deciduous tree that is often useful for small properties, urban situations, and at the edge of woodlands. Blooms for two weeks in the spring with pink blossoms followed by heart shaped leaves that turn a gentle yellow in the fall. It grows 30’H x 30’W in most soils and likes full sun to partial shade. Avoid wet and poorly drained soils. This tree does not transplant well. Cultivars include “Forest Pansy” and “Appalacia,”. Hardy in USDA Zones 5 to 9.
Proposed by: Member of Garden Club of Mount Desert, Zone I
Nyssa sylvatica Black tupelo Black gum, Sourgum
This stately tree grows on rocky woodland slopes. Its fruit and berries attract beneficial insects and birds. In the autumn the leaves turn spectacular colors. Hardy in USDA Zone 4 to 9, it can reach 50 feet tall at maturity.
Proposed by: Millbrook Garden Club, Zone III
Torreya taxifolia Stinking cedar, Gopherwood
An upright evergreen tree that can grow to 40 feet. This is an endangered tree because of a fungal disease,one of the first federally listed endangered plant species in the United States in 1984; the IUCN lists the species as critical. Seldom found in the wild and grows on bluffs and in ravines. Its cones and leaves have a strong resinous odor when crushed, therefore, the name 'Stinking Cedar.’ Hardy in USDA Zones 6 - 9.
Proposed by: Member of Garden Club of Nashville, Zone IX
Muhlenbergia capillaris Pink Muhly
The exceptional fine textured foliage and dark pink blooms of this grass provide year round interest for this perennial. Seed heads float above textured foliage which stays green most of the year. It thrives in loamy soil from Massachusetts south to Florida and the Gulf Coast. It grows 1’ to 3' in full sun and provides seeds and cover for birds and other wildlife. Hardy in USDA Zones 5 to 10.
Proposed by: The Garden Club of the Halifax Country, Zone VIII
Seconded by: Brian Holley, Director of The Naples Botanical Garden,
This genus has nine species that are commonly called coneflowers. It is noted for its tolerance of many environmental conditions and can be found in open wooded areas. The flowers are bright yellow or purple and attract beneficial insects and butterflies. The plant and its roots have medicinal usages. Hardy in USDA Zones 3-9.
Proposed by: Member of Des Moines Founders Garden Club, Zone XI
Abies concolor White Fir
A columnar evergreen tree, the White Fir boasts soft bluish green needles and cylindrical cones while growing in full sun to partial shade. It prefers medium moisture and slightly acidic, well drained soil. This Fir thrives in long winters with cool summers. When grown in residential landscapes, it typically reaches 40-70’H x 20-30’W. Once established, White Fir is drought tolerant. Hardy in USDA Zones 3 to 8.
Proposed by: Akron Garden Club, Zone X
Pinus palustris Longleaf Pine
A native to the southeastern United States, it can grow over 100 feet and can live to be over 100 years old. Growing in well drained soil, the tree is highly resistant to wildfire. Hardy in USDA Zones 7-10.
Proposed by: Member of The Palmetto Garden Club of South Carolina, Zone VIII
Spigelia marilandica Indian Pink
An herbaceous clump-forming perennial, Pinkroot is easily grown and thrives in moist rich soil. It is drought tolerant. Its showy red flowers are trumpet shaped. Each flower has a yellow interior that flares to the top forming a five pointed star. They attract hummingbirds and prefer shade to full shade in the garden. Hardy in USDA Zone 5 to 9.
Proposed by: Member of Hardy Garden Club, Zone VI
Sibbaldiopsis tridentata Three-toothed Cinquefoil
The three-toothed Cinquefoil is a short, woody perennial native wildflower growing on dry, rocky areas, including mountains. The white flowers cluster on an evergreen branch. It is a good addition to a rock garden. Hardy in USDA Zones 2 - 8.
Proposed by: Member of The Stamford Garden Club, Zone II
Baptisia x 'Purple Smoke' False Indigo
This hybrid cultivar is drought tolerant and grows in full sun but prefers a dry acidic soil. It is a shrubby perennial that produces in the spring smoky violet lupine-like flowers. The flowers give way to a showy bean shaped seed pod which has ornamental interest. Baptisia grows 3- 4’H x 3- 4’W and may need staking. Attractive to butterflies and has no insect or disease problems. Hardy in USDA Zones 3 to 9.
Proposed by: Member of Junior Ladies' Garden Club, Zone VIII
Seconded by: Member of Junior Ladies' Garden Club, Zone VIII
Rododendron vaseyi Pinkshell Azalea
This deciduous shrub has large pink flowers that begin to bloom in April. It grows in moist, well-drained soil in sun to partial shade. Pink Shell can reach 8-12 feet and in the autumn its foliage will turn from bright green to orange and red. Hardy in USDA Zones 5-9.
Proposed by: Member of Millbrook Garden Club, Zone III
Garrya elliptica, ‘James Roof’ Silk-tassel bush
Silk-tassel bush is an evergreen shrub or small tree, native to the West coast. It prefers sun near the coast and part shade inland. It is drought tolerant. Its leathery leaves are glossy on the top and hairy underneath. In December it produces beautifully, showy foot long silvery catkins. Its growth habit is 12’H x 12’W and is a tough plant that can withstand wind, pollution, and seaside conditions. Hardy in USDA Zones 8 to 11.
Proposed by: Carmel-by-the-Sea Garden Club, Zone XII
Seconded by: Member of Carmel-by-the-Sea Garden Club, Zone XII
Illicium floridanum, 'Ellis' Florida Anise
Florida Anise is a broad-leaved evergreen shrub that can grow to 10 feet. It has small maroon flowers that mature from a star shaped fruit that grows in moist ravines. Can be poisonous; do use caution! Hardy in USDA Zones 8 - 10.
Proposed by: Member of Bedford Garden Club, Zone III
Viburnum nudum, 'Winterthur' Smooth Witherod
'Winterthur' is a compact deciduous shrub that typically grows 6'H x 6'W in medium to wet well drained soil and in full to part shade. It is native to low woody areas, swamps, and bogs. It features an aromatic white flower followed by clusters of colorful berries that range from pink to dark purple in the fall. Their glossy green leaves turn dark red-purple and are a striking contrast to the berries. It is best to plant in groups for cross-pollination. Hardy from USDA Zones 5 to 9.
Proposed by: Member of Green Spring Valley Garden Club, Zone VI
Wisteria frutescens 'American wisteria'
American Wisteria is a twining vine that is native and a welcome alternative to the invasive Asian cousins. It is the hardiest of all wisterias, the vine matures to 20’ and is tolerant of clay and sand. This plant blooms in May and June with blue to purple flowers with a mild-sweet fragrance. It is a repeat bloomer in August. Plant in full sun or part sun. Hardy in USDA Zones 5 to 9. Nominated with support by Jeff Lewis, Director, State Botanical Garden of Georgia.
Proposed by: Member of Junior Ladies' Garden Club, Zone VIII
Betula nigra, 'Little King' FOX VALLEY
Fox Valley is a multi-stemmed, dwarf ornamental tree with four season interest, suitable for small gardens. The orangish to brownish bark exfoliates at an early age to reveal a lighter brown inner bark. It is highly resistant to the bronze birch borer and has good resistance to leaf spot diseases. Grows 10’H x 12’W. Hardy in USDA Zones 4 to 9.Introduced by Chicagoland Grows, 1991.
Proposed by: Member of Piscataqua Garden Club, Zone I
Amelanchier canadensis ‘Glenform’ RAINBOW PILLAR PP9092
Grown as multi-stems shrubs or as trees, the Amelanchier can reach 20 feet. The early blooming white flowers turn into blueberry-like fruits which attract birds. In the fall the leaves turn a spectacular orange with red. Hardy in USDA Zones 4 - 9.
Proposed by: Member of Akron Garden Club, Zone X
Iris douglasiana, 'Canyon Snow' Douglas Iris
This native iris blooms in the spring and is pure white with yellow markings on the falls. Can grow in sun to partial shade with little to moderate water. It is deer resistant and is hardy in USDA Zones 7 - 9.
Proposed by: Member of Woodside-Atherton Garden Club, Zone XII
Ulmus Americana, 'Princeton' Princeton Elm
Discovered at the Princeton Nursery and tested for over 30 years, the Princeton Elm has proven to be extremely resistant to Dutch Elm disease. It is a fast growing and tough, making it an ideal street tree as well as a specimen shade tree. Grows 50’H x 50’W. Hardy from USDA Zones 3 to 9.
Proposed by: Garden Club of Chevy Chase, Zone VI
Itea virginica, 'Henry's Garnet' Virginia Sweetspire
This cultivar is a deciduous shrub that has a fragrant small flower that falls in draping racemes. Its oval, dark green leaves turn a beautiful red in the autumn. Grows 3 to 4 feet tall in full sun to partial shade. Hardy in USDA Zones 5 - 9.
Proposed by: Carolina Foothills Garden Club, Zone VIII
Seconded by: River Oaks Garden Club, Zone IX
Cladastrus kentukea (syn. Cladrastis lutea) American Yellowwood
American Yellowwood is a choice small shade tree with panicles of white, fragrant flowers in late spring that resemble wisteria flowers. Blooms heavily every 2 to 3 years and its leaves are a showy yellow to gold color in the fall. It grows to 40’H x 30’W. Hardy in USDA Zones 4 to 9.
Proposed by: Garden Club of Nashville, Zone IX
Seconded by: Michael Berkley of Growild Inc., Fairview, TN,
Aster laevis, 'Bluebird' Smooth Aster, 'Bluebird'
This cultivar has lovely blue flowers with bright yellow centers and is a profuse bloomer in September-October. Easily grown in well-drained soil and reaches 3 feet tall. Attractive to butterflies and insects, it thrives in full sun. Hardy in USDA Zones 4-8. Introduced by Mt. Cuba Center.
Proposed by: Member of Garden Club of Wilmington, Zone V
Cornus florida, 'Appalachian Spring' Flowering Dogwood
Noted for its resistance to diseases that affect dogwoods, ‘Appalachian Spring’ is vigorous and quick growing. It reaches 20 feet tall and its white flowers bloom in the spring. The green foliage turns an intense red in the autumn. It is hardy in USDA Zones 5 – 9. Introduced into cultivation by The University of Tennessee.
Proposed by: Member of Knoxville Garden Club, Zone IX
Heteromeles arbutifolia Toyon or California Holly
A drought tolerant native, this holly can grow 6 - 10 feet tall. It's summer white flowers attract butterflies and its showy red winter berries feed the birds in the winter. Hardy in USDA Zones: 8 - 10.
Proposed by: Member of Diggers Garden Club, Zone XII
Thuja plicata Western Arborvitae
Western Arborvitae is an extremely handsome conifer that is tolerant of a wide range of conditions and soil pH. This giant red cedar prefers cool and moist areas and grows well from coast to coast. It can be used as a single specimen or in groups for screening and windbreaks. It stands up to snow, salt and wind. Grows to 80’H x 30’W. Hardy in USDA Zones 5 to 8.
Proposed by: Member of Stony Brook Garden Club, Zone IV
Itea virginica Virginia Sweetspire
As a deciduous shrub that grows up to 8 feet tall, the Virginia Sweetspire is noted for its white flowers in the spring and red foliage in the fall. It is semi-evergreen and can grow in moist to sandy loam. Performs best in full sun. Hardy in USDA Zones 5 - 9.
Proposed by: Member of Carolina Foothills Garden Club, Zone VIII
Seconded by: Member of River Oaks Garden Club, Zone IX
Chionanthus virginicus Fringetree
The Fringetree is noted for its slightly fragrant fringe-like white spring blooms. It grows 12 - 20 feet tall in rich moist woodland soils. The female flowers produce an olive-like fruit that when ripened is a good food source for birds and wildlife. Hardy in USDA Zones: 3 - 9.
Proposed by: Member of Little Garden Club of Birmingham, Zone VIII
Franklinia alatamaha Franklin Tree
The Franklin tree is noteworthy for its interesting history and rediscovery by John Bartram. Fragrant white camellia-like flowers bloom from late summer to early autumn. It can grow 10 to 20 feet high and prefers well-drained soils in full sun. Hardy in USDA Zones 5-8.
Seconded by: Proposed by GCA Philadelphia Committee, Zone V & Historic Bartram's Garden,
Acer pensylvanicum Striped Maple or Moosewood Maple
Known also as Snakebark Maple, this small under story tree is graceful and broadly upright. It grows in well-drained, acidic forest soil. The three lobed leaves emerge pink in the spring, become dark green in the summer, followed by bright yellow in the fall. It has a distinctive green and white striped bark. Grows to 40’H x 30’W. Hardy in USDA Zones 3 to 7.Nominated by Joanne Lenden, Fort Orange Garden Club, Zone III and Betsy Whitman, Garden Club of Englewood & Essex County, Adirondack Garden Club, Zone III and Bill Pollard, Rocky Dale Gardens, Bristol, VT.
Ilex verticillata 'Sparkleberry' Winterberry
A large multi-stemmed deciduous holly with brilliant red berries, winterberry often lasting through the winter. It is best planted in full sun and is tolerant of most soils including wet sites. Hardy in USDA Zones 3-9.
Proposed by: Member of Fort Orange Garden Club, Zone III
Viburnum bracteatum 'Emerald Lustre'
‘Emerald Lustre’ viburnum is a hardy, deciduous shrub with lustrous dark green foliage, profuse white flowers and producing blue black fruit that attract birds. It requires well-drained soils though it is drought tolerant. Plant in full sun to partial shade. Hardy in USDA Zones 5a-8b.
Proposed by: Member of Junior Ladies' Garden Club, Zone VIII
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.