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Native Mountain Mint Named 2018 Plant of the Year by the GCA


January 30, 2018

Pycnanthemum muticum has been named 2018 Plant of the Year by The Garden Club of America (GCA).  Annually since 1995, the GCA has identified a stellar North American native plant to receive its Montine McDaniel Freeman Medal for Plant of the Year.  

Click here to download the press release as a Word document.

Commonly known as mountain mint, the plant is a native perennial that attracts a diverse abundance of bees, butterflies, moths and other beneficial insects as an excellent source of nectar.  The easy-to-grow ornamental plant has noteworthy blue-green foliage, silvery bracts, aromatic leaves and pinkish to white flowers that bloom from July through September.  

Mountain mint can be grown in full sun or partial shade and in both drought and wet conditions.  It naturalizes politely, producing an attractive upright tiered clump that is two to three feet high and wide.  Mountain mint grows in USDA zones 4 to 8, from Maine to Michigan and south to Florida and Texas.  The plant helps with erosion control and is resistant to diseases, insect pests, deer, rabbits and rodents.

“Mountain mint is a pollinator magnet,” says Lulu Lubbers of the GCA.  “Not only is it a lovely addition to a garden, it’s a lively addition – there is such a buzz of activity, it’s like watching wildlife TV,” she says.  The plant was nominated for the award by a member of the Garden Club of Madison in New Jersey.

The 2018 honorable mention Plant of the Year was awarded to Maianthemum racemosum, formerly known as Smilacina racemosa and commonly known as false Solomon's seal.  It is a three-season woodland beauty, with fragrant white panicle flowers in spring, arching stems and ridged green leaves that provide graceful architectural form through summer and golden foliage and showy red berries in fall.  False Solomon’s seal colonizes naturally in shade or partial shade, is extremely resilient, adaptable, low-maintenance and hardy and provides nectar for pollinators and food for wildlife.  Maianthemum racemosum is hardy in USDA zones 3 to 9 and found in every state except Hawaii.  False Solomon’s seal was nominated by a member of the Seattle Garden Club.  

Caltha palustris, a spring ephemeral plant commonly known as marsh marigold, was awarded special recognition by the selection committee.  This yellow-flowered plant produces nectar and copious amounts of pollen that attract flies, bees and butterflies.  The seeds provide food for small wildlife and ducks.  Marsh marigold grows in shade to sun, in wet and marshy areas and along edges of streams, wetlands and rock crevices where it provides natural erosion control.  For home use, it is well-suited for rain gardens, water's edge and ephemeral ponds.  Hardy in USDA zones 2 to 7, it is one of the first plants to bloom as a harbinger of spring.  Marsh marigold was nominated by a member of the Saint Paul Garden Club, Saint Paul, Minnesota.

Special recognition was awarded to raise awareness that Caltha palustris needs promoting, planting and protecting from takeover by the nonnative invasive Ficaria verna, commonly known as lesser celandine and also blooming yellow in spring and growing in wetlands.  Native to Europe and eastern Asia, Ficaria verna now is naturalized in 19 states and can form large colonies covering several acres of wetland that can displace and eliminate less-vigorous native spring ephemerals.  

The Freeman Medal was established to highlight underutilized, but highly worthy, native trees, shrubs, groundcovers, vines and perennials.  “The goal is to draw attention to select native plants to encourage their use in the landscape and make them familiar to gardeners and more available in nurseries,” explains Lubbers.  Annual selection is made by a group of nationally renowned horticulturists and experts in the nursery trade.  Woody and herbaceous plants are nominated in alternate years.  The 2018 winners were selected from 14 plants nominated by members of GCA clubs.

The medal honors Montine McDaniel Freeman (1915-98), member of the New Orleans Town Gardeners GCA club, and was established by her son and daughter-in-law.  Freeman was an outstanding horticulturist particularly enamored of native plants.  Her 93-acre Beechwood Gardens in Covington, Louisiana, boasted more than 4,000 azaleas, camellias and magnolia grandifloras.

The GCA, founded in 1913, is composed of 200 clubs with nearly 18,000 members who devote energy and expertise to projects in horticulture, conservation and civic improvement across the United States.

Click here to read about the Freeman winners.


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