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The GCA Announces the Montine McDaniel Freeman Medal


November 09, 2022

Lonicera sempervirens named 2023 Plant of the Year

Lonicera sempervirens, commonly known as Coral Honeysuckle, has been named the 2023 Plant of the Year: Freeman Medal winner by The Garden Club of America.

Annually, the GCA identifies a stellar North American native plant to receive the Montine McDaniel Freeman Medal: GCA Plant of the Year

Native plants are those that would naturally be found in the region where they evolved. Using native plants in a garden supports biodiversity and minimizes water usage. Native plant habitats are part of a greater collective that supports birds, insects, and other wildlife. 

Lonicera sempervirens is a long-bloomer, tolerant of a wide variety of soil conditions and is drought tolerant, requiring little water. 

Lonicera sempervirens's leaves support the larvae of Hummingbird Clearwing moths, Snowberry Clearwing moths, and Spring Azure butterflies. Lonicera sempervirens is also the secondary host plant for the Baltimore Checkerspot butterfly. The long tubular red flowers are a nectar source for Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds as well as various bees and butterflies. The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Protection has identified this plant to be of  “Special Value” to bumblebees. The plant's lipid and protein-rich berries are of particular interest to migrating birds, Purple Finch, Goldfinch, Hermit Thrushes, American Robins, and Quail. 

Lonicera can create an interesting groundcover when allowed to sprawl, otherwise it is well-suited to climb arbors, trellises, fences, and climb/cascade over walls. It’s highly resistant to deer browse, and tends to naturalize. Lonicera naturally occurs along roadsides and stream beds, in forests and thickets. It is an excellent candidate for large container gardening in urban settings, in addition to suburban and rural settings. Not to be confused with the invasive Asian honeysuckles, our native Lonicera sempervirens is an excellent garden plant.

A few medicinal qualities worth noting include drying and steeping the leaves to create a tea that provides asthma relief. The leaves may be chewed and applied to bee stings to lessen swelling. They have also been found to be useful for the relief of sore throats and coughs.

An Honorable Mention was awarded to Lindera benzoin, commonly recognized as spicebush for the leaves that are fragrant when crushed. The genus name salutes a Swedish doctor and botanist named Johann Linder. This shrub is dioecious, so one must have both male and female to produce fruit. Lindera attracts many birds, butterflies, bees, and flies. It is a larval host of the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, Spicebush Swallowtail, and many more. Its fruit is high in lipids, which makes it especially valuable to migrating birds. Over twenty species of birds enjoy Lindera’s red fruit, especially during fall migration. 


A second Honorable Mention was awarded to Callicarpa americana, commonly known as American beautyberry. The fruit provides spring nectar for bees, and year-round sustenance for at least 40 species of mammals and birds. The fruit is also high in moisture content and is an important food source for more than forty species of songbirds including the American Robin, Brown Thrasher, Purple Finch, and Eastern Towhee. The drupes or clusters are eaten by armadillo, foxes, opossum, raccoons, and squirrels. White tailed deer consume the fruit in the fall after leaf drop. Crushed leaves deter mosquitos. 


Please check with local experts about the hardiness of these plants in your area.

The Montine McDaniel Freeman Medal was established in 1995 to highlight underutilized, but highly worthy, native trees, shrubs, groundcovers, vines, and perennials. The goal is to draw attention to select native plants, encourage their use in the landscape, and make them familiar to gardeners and more available in nurseries. The annual medal selection is carried out by a group of highly respected horticulturists from across the country. Woody and herbaceous plants are nominated in alternate years. The 2023 winners were selected from 15 herbaceous plants nominated by members of GCA clubs.

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



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