Though I annually make fun of the design and fashion addicts that sit in rapt attention waiting for Pantone to release their “Color of the Year” (this year’s Greenery might signal a temporary cease-fire to that snark-war), I’m always curious as to the winner of the Perennial Plant Association’s Perennial Plant of the Year. Most of the time I’m growing the plant in question, consider it a garden staple, and ready to fork over some cash to buy the tee-shirt (hey – the PPA is a worthy organization!). This year is no exception.
Asclepias tuberosa (butterfly weed) is a perfect choice for a country that’s increasingly interested in native plants in the landscape but doesn’t want to sacrifice glorious color and a decent growth habit. It’s a pollinator magnet (common name is your first clue), and thrives in average soils. I’ve had trouble with its cousin A. incarnata (swamp milkweed) in the form of aphids so thick they turn the stems orange, but so far the only orange on this impact-heavy perennial is in the form of vibrant, electric blooms. Drought-tolerant and hardy to Zones 4-9, it’s a winner against the color-wheel complement of purple phlox or liatris. Round here, I’m being extremely conservative in pairing it with the pure white of Shasta Daisy, but it’s a conservative pairing that works.
There’s a lot more information on this award winner at the PPA Website, as well as information on PPA regional and nationwide symposia where you’ll hear incredible speakers on up-to-the minute industry topics. The next nationwide takes place in Denver, Colorado on July 23-28th – and I’ll be attending the next Mid-Atlantic in Baltimore on February 25th.