Georgia Gold Medal Plant Program

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All Winners by Year

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Mohr’s Barbara’s Buttons Marshallia mohrii

  • Category Perennial, Georgia Native
  • Winner for Mimsie Lanier Center Native
  • Hardiness
  • Conditions

Mohr’s Barbara’s Buttons occurs on shale outcrops along streams and in small, prairie openings in the Coosa River Valley near Rome and adjacent Alabama; it also occurs in sunny areas such as roadsides and utility rights-of-way that run through these habitats. About 30 populations are known, all within this small Floyd County area

This perennial has erect stems 1 – 2 tall. Its leaves are mostly clustered near the base of the stem and decrease in size and number upward on the stem. The flower heads are held at the tips of branches, and each head is about 1 inch across. The head is composed of many, small pale pink or white flowers that spiral out from the center, giving the heads a lacy look.

 Plant Information :  Mohr’s Barbara’s Buttons is a state and federal Threatened Aster (Asteraceae) pollinated by beetles, butterflies, and other small insects, and must be cross-pollinated in order to set viable fruit. It Produces Flowers from Mid May through June. Its major threats are competition from woody plants, herbicide applications in right of ways, conversion of habitat to pine plantations, and Fire suppression.

Persian ShieldStrobilanthes dyerianus

  • Category Annual
  • Winner for 2016
  • Hardiness
  • Conditions Full Sun to Part Shade

Vibrant variegated bright and dark purple foliage on this plant are highlighted with a metallic sheen and green rib. Persian Shield makes a stunning 18″-36″ mass planting and glows next to silver or chartreuse foliage. It fills a container well, handling heat, humidity and drought better than most annuals.

Wait until the soil is warm enough for tomatoes to plant Persian shield, unless you are in South or Coastal Georgia, where this plant can be a perennial. Pinch this plant back to get thicker, sturdier growth.

Pineapple LilyEucomis ssp.

  • Category Perennial
  • Winner for 2016
  • Hardiness
  • Conditions Full Sun to Part Shade

Need a conversation maker? Pineapple lily got its name because the flower spikes on this South African native actually do look like a pineapple. Bold, strap leaves are a great contrast in a planting, especially if the leaves are a burgundy variety, like “Sparkling Burgundy”.
This plant is deer resistant and can be clustered into a groundcover or planted into a container plant. Most species are perennial to Zone 8, and will have to be overwintered or treated as an annual in cooler North Georgia.

DistyliumDistylium

  • Category Shrub
  • Winner for 2016
  • Hardiness
  • Conditions Full Sun to Part Shade

Distylium can take drought, heat and wet feet. Deer don’t prefer it, but may munch. After hearing those facts, this plant’s glossy evergreen foliage in varieties with upright to spreading forms that range from three to ten feet tall, is almost icing on the cake!
Distylium is considered a tougher, disease-resistant alternative to cherry laurels, junipers, hollies, Indian hawthorn, and boxwood.

BlackgumNyssa sylvatica

  • Category Tree
  • Winner for 2016
  • Hardiness
  • Conditions Full Sun to Part Shade

This is a mid-size (60-80′ tall), native tree that can add shade and fall color to a landscape. Black gum can live over 600 years. Flowers are important for bees, and the fruit is attractive to birds. Deer love the foliage, so protect young trees.

Green leaves turn mainly reds to purples in fall, making a dramatic display. Although this plant is comfortable in wetlands, it also grows in upland habitats and has a high drought tolerance.

Native AzaleasRhododendron ssp

  • Category Shrub
  • Winner for 2016
  • Hardiness
  • Conditions Part Shade

There are 12 species of azaleas that can be found in Georgia, varying from three to fifteen feet. Many of them are white but they also come in shades of pink, yellow, orange and red. When different species are near each other, they can hybridize naturally and create new colors. All of our native azaleas are deciduous.

The earliest native azaleas bloom before leaves emerge, making a beautiful display in the woodland garden, or against evergreens, a fence or a wall. Later blooming native azaleas bring color into the summer and fall garden. Native azaleas attract butterflies, bees and other pollinators.

Cora VincaCatharanthus roseus

  • Category Annual
  • Winner for 2015
  • Hardiness
  • Conditions Full Sun to Part Shade

Suitable for bedding, containers, groundcover, hanging baskets. Larger flowers and more uniform growing habit than common periwinkle. Deer resistant and heat and humidity tolerant. Cora® Vinca was selected to grow around the Beijing Olympic Stadium in its hot and humid climate.

SpurgeEuphorbia

  • Category Perennial
  • Winner for 2015
  • Hardiness
  • Conditions

This deer-resistant plant is great for rock gardens, borders, containers, or wherever you want a tropical look in a dry setting. It will suffer during a wet spring or if overwatered, but laughs at a drought. These plants are attention-getters when the unique flowers appear, turning into what Atlanta garden designer Dottie Myers calls “Dr. Seuss plants.”

‘Shorty’ will form a 12-24″ compact, sculptural, rounded mass of silver-grey in the landscape. Yellow blooms appear in early spring and the foliage is flushed with burgundy in fall.

‘Ascot Rainbow’ has variegated leaves of green and yellow on a 20″ tall plant, with burgundy on the newest foliage each fall and yellow blooms in early spring.

Drift RosesRosa 'Drift'

  • Category Shrub
  • Winner for 2015
  • Hardiness
  • Conditions Full Sun to Part Shade

Drift® roses are a cross of groundcover roses and miniature roses, offering the best of both: disease resistance, repeat blooming, compact size. Works well in the landscape, as container plants, or on a slope. Many feel that Peach Drift Rose has proven to be the showiest, most compact, and toughest of this series for Georgia.

Empress of China® DogwoodCornus angustata 'Elsbry'

  • Category Tree
  • Winner for 2015
  • Hardiness
  • Conditions Part Sun to Shade

This small evergreen tree is a prolific bloomer in May. It will brighten any shade garden. Later, red fruits stand out against glossy green leaves and feed songbirds. Best located where it gets morning sun and afternoon shade.

Dwarf Oakleaf HydrangeasHydrangea quercifolia

  • Category Georgia Native
  • Winner for 2015
  • Hardiness
  • Conditions Part Sun to Part Shade

Same four seasons of interest as the larger oakleaf hydrangeas (large leaves, summer blooms, red fall foliage, and interesting winter bark), but in more compact forms that fit easily into home landscapes.

Rain LilyAtamasco lily

  • Category Georgia Native
  • Winner for 2014
  • Hardiness
  • Conditions Full Sun

Zephyranthes are native throughout the Americas. Atamasco Lily is the Zephyranthes that is native to Georgia, found in moist forests, bottomlands, seepy areas around rock outcrops, wet pastures and roadsides. Give it moisture and full sun and it will fit nicely into the home landscape. Appearing in March and April the show of flowers rise above the grass like foliage and is always a sweet surprise after a rain.

SweetboxSarcococca confusa

  • Category Shrub
  • Winner for 2014
  • Hardiness Zone 6a to 9b
  • Conditions Full Sun

This native of China is related to boxwood, but has a looser, more relaxed form. It is used as low hedging and can be shaped a bit, but its pliable branches form a beautiful, arching shape. Sweet Box’s small, deep green leaves are a perfect background for colorful coral bells and vivid spring bulbs – or plant a few in front of Annabelle hydrangeas to help support floppy stems.

Sweet Box is also an excellent, deer-resistant choice for a shady bank or woodland landscape. Sweet Box can handle dark shade under eaves or trees.

Chinese PistachePistachia chinensis

  • Category Tree
  • Winner for 2014
  • Hardiness Zone 5
  • Conditions Part Shade to Full Shade

Chinese Pistache can take heat and drought. It can also take some shade, but its oval form and the orange-red fall colors are showier in full sun. This tree is tough enough to be used in urban parking lots. This is a good medium-sized tree with an upright form that fits into a home landscape and grows into a dense, uniform canopy.

Red Hot PokerKniphofia hybrids

  • Category Perennial
  • Winner for 2014
  • Hardiness Zone 5 to 9
  • Conditions Full Sun

Tall flower spikes open from the bottom up, rising on strong stems above sword-like leaves. As the blooms open, the lower flowers change color, often creating a two-toned effect that is beautiful, towering above annuals and other perennials. The blooms make great cut flowers and are hummingbird magnets. The Popsicle™ Series bloom all summer on dwarf plants.

Spider FlowerCleome hybrids

  • Category Annual
  • Winner for 2014
  • Hardiness
  • Conditions Full Sun

Compared to old-fashioned Cleome, Señorita Rosalita® and Señorita Blanca™ offer a bushier form, no spines, no seed pods, a tough constitution that can take hot summers, drought tolerance, and foliage that stays on the plant throughout the season. What has been kept are the charming, airy flowers on an upright plant that stands tall in a flower border.

Wishbone or Clown FlowerTorenia fournieri

  • Category Annual
  • Winner for 2013
  • Hardiness
  • Conditions Part Shade to Full Shade

Looking for an annual for a shady spot? Thirsty impatiens are not the only option. Torenia is a compact plant with pink, blue, lavender, white, yellow or bi-color flowers from spring until frost. The flowers look like small trumpets or individual snapdragon blooms. Inside each bloom are stamens that form a little ‘wishbone’ pattern, resulting in the common name. Torenia is also called clown flower because the colorful faces can be as expressive as pansies. The mounding plant matures at 6-12″ tall and a foot or more wide. No deadheading is needed on this self-cleaning annual.
Wishbone flower thrives in light to full shade. It is heat tolerant and can take a variety of soils, but they must be well-drained. The more heat or sun exposure, the more moisture Torenia needs – afternoon shade is a must.

Variegated Japanese Solomon’s SealPolyganatum odoratum

  • Category Perennial
  • Winner for 2013
  • Hardiness Zone 3 to 8
  • Conditions Part Shade to Full Shade

Variegated Solomon’s seal is one of the best perennials for the shade garden. The boldly striped foliage brightens any shady spot, contrasting well with the rich green that often fills these wooded areas. Individual arching stems rise about 2’ high. The green leaves have bold, splashed stripes of cream. In late spring, lightly fragrant bell flowers dangle from the stems. This long-lived perennial grows by underground rhizomes, creating colonies. For a quick start, place several plants about 12” apart. In a few years you will be able to divide the rhizomes and increase the distribution of Solomon’s seal in your garden. The foliage turns wheat gold in fall then disappears for the winter.

Compact GardeniaGardenia jasminoides

  • Category Shrub
  • Winner for 2013
  • Hardiness Zone 7 to 11
  • Conditions Full Sun to Part Shade

Evergreen leaves and sweetly fragrant blooms help to make this Asian native one of the quintessential landscape plants of the American South. No Southern garden should be without a gardenia. Compact new hybrids help make gardenias easier to incorporate into urban landscapes at the front of shrub borders.

Gardenia jasminoides ‘Radicans’ matures at 2′-3′ tall by three feet wide and has been available for several years. ‘Double Mint’ (3′) Heaven Scent® (4′) and ‘Frost Proof’ (5′) are examples of smaller gardenias that work as low shrubs, create evergreen groundcovers or add to a container planting.

Pink Muhly grassMuhlenbergia capillaris

  • Category Georgia Native
  • Winner for 2013
  • Hardiness Zone 6 to 10
  • Conditions Full Sun to Part Shade

Muhly grass really shines in early fall, when a fine-textured pink cloud hovers above the green foliage, catching the breeze and the sunlight. This ‘cloud’ is actually the pink inflorescence – the flowers of this native grass. White-flowered cultivars are available, but the traditional soft pink species is most often found in area nurseries. Many improved selections of this lovely native grass are easy to find. All will age to a tan color and hold on to those flowering stems through winter. Cut back as new growth begins to emerge in the spring. This is also a good time for dividing the clumps. One mature muhly grass can be divided into many plants, and placed 18″ apart to create a dramatic groundcover.

Golden Sweetflag grassAcorus gramineus 'Ogon' & 'Minimus Aureus'

  • Category Ground Cover
  • Winner for 2013
  • Hardiness Zone 5 to 11
  • Conditions Full Sun to Part Shade

Acorus is best known as a groundcover, but also very useful in container planting. Try combining it with it bright purple pansies, parsley, kale and an azalea for winter or with Torenia and autumn fern in summer.

Golden sweetflag is evergreen, but the foliage can look tired by the end of winter. You may want to cut back sweetflag before the new flush of growth in spring. Sweetflag thrives on the edge of a pond or stream or in a boggy site and spreads to create a groundcover. Dividing your plants every three years or so will enable you to enlarge your groundcover planting or share with friends. The golden foliage works well for brightening dark areas, contrasting with rich green or burgundy foliage, or filling between stepping stones. When crushed there is a pleasant scent which helps to make this plant deer resistant.

Coral Bark MapleAcer palmatum

  • Category Tree
  • Winner for 2012
  • Hardiness Zone 6 to 8
  • Conditions

Rabbit Eye BlueberryVaccinium birgatum

  • Category Shrub
  • Winner for 2012
  • Hardiness Zone 7 to 9
  • Conditions

Athens SweetshrubCalycanthus floridus

  • Category Shrub
  • Winner for 2012
  • Hardiness Zone 4 to 9
  • Conditions NULL

Coral BellsHeuchera

  • Category Perennial
  • Winner for 2012
  • Hardiness Zone 4 to 9
  • Conditions

Million BellsCalibrachoa

  • Category Annual
  • Winner for 2012
  • Hardiness Zone 9
  • Conditions Full Sun

Million Bells is a close relative of the petunia, with flowers that have the same form but that are smaller in diameter. These finely textured plants are perfect for the front of a border, container, or a rock garden and for blanketing space between immature or high branching shrubs. Two things are needed for abundant blooms: lots of sun and good drainage. Hanging baskets and containers work well, since wet feet will cause problems.

Blooms are available in bright and watercolor shades, including varieties with dark centers, bicolors, and even double blooms

Black-eyed SusanRudbeckia hirta

  • Category Annual
  • Winner for 2011
  • Hardiness
  • Conditions Full Sun

Native black-eyed Susans are familiar, cheerful flowers, often seen in meadows, woodland edges and roadsides. Indian Summer, Denver Daisy,and Irish Eyes are three great cultivars of Rudbeckia to try. Indian Summer has the classic golden yellow petals around a brown center cone. Denver Daisy has two-toned petals creating a golden halo around a large chocolate-russet center. Irish Eyes has bright yellow petals around a green cone.

These black-eyed Susans bloom from early summer until first frost, offering months of bright blooms on plants that stand taller and brighter than many annuals. Removing spent seedheads will encourage more blooms, but toward the end of the season you may choose to leave the seedheads on to feed the birds and encourage self-sowing of new plants.

Sacred Lily or Nippon LilyRohdea japonica

  • Category Perennial
  • Winner for 2011
  • Hardiness
  • Conditions

This perennial is a great solution for gardeners who cannot grow hosta because of browsing deer. Rohdea leaves rise from the ground, slowly creating a 2 foot wide clump. Thick green leaves about 12 inches long and two inches across are similar to amaryllis leaves. All leaves rise from the base like a hosta, only more upright, thick and shiny. The wonderful bonus is that rohdea is evergreen, adding year-round color to the shade garden.

Spring blooms on a short spike are barely noticeable, but then each bloom turns into a fat, bright red berry in late fall, creating a colorful berry cluster that contrasts with rich green leaves and the brown mulch of winter. Liven up the winter woodland with rohdea’s bold evergreen foliage.

Nuttall’s Oak or Texas Red OakQuercus nuttalli (syn Q. Texana)

  • Category
  • Winner for 2011
  • Hardiness Zone 6b to 8b
  • Conditions Full Sun

Nuttall’s oak is native to North America, although not Georgia. It is frequently found along riverbanks and streams, in bottom land and in other low-lying areas where wet conditions prevail. Nuttall’s oak has smooth bark, a deep acorn cup, a rich red fall color, better branching structure, and higher transplant survival due to a stronger root system.

The Nuttall oak is often used in residential plantings for shade and as a specimen tree in landscape settings. It can also be used in parks, to line parking lots, in median strips and along highways. Nuttall oak is also an important species for wildlife management, due to its heavy acorn production, a valuable food source for squirrels, deer and other animals.

Sasanqua CamelliaCamellia sasanqua

  • Category Shrub
  • Winner for 2011
  • Hardiness Zone 7 to 9
  • Conditions Full Sun to Part Shade

With the exception of the azalea, there may not be a more historical “southern” garden plant than the Camellia. Sasanqua Camellia, boasts a less formal (but still dense) rounded habit when compared to a Japanese Camellia, but flowers one month earlier (September) and is less likely to suffer the effects of early GA freezes.

Flower color varies from white to pink to red (including mottled flowers) and includes single and double flowers. Camellia petal blight can also negatively affect sasanqua camellia, although the sasanqua camellia is more tolerant of this disease than Japanese camellia. If petal blight becomes a problem in your garden, removal of spent blooms after petal drop is the most effective means of control.

Old Man’s Beard Fringe TreeChionanthus virginicus

  • Category Georgia Native
  • Winner for 2011
  • Hardiness Zone 5 to 9
  • Conditions Full Sun to Part Shade

Chionanthus virginicus is native from eastern TX east and north to MD, including all counties in Georgia. Fringe tree is one of the most beautiful flowering small trees available to gardeners in the southeastern U.S. Fringe tree blooms roughly the same time as dogwoods and azaleas, yet the bloom period of fringe tree can be as long as six weeks, far outlasting dogwoods and most azaleas in the landscape.

At the end of bloom period, the emerging lime-green leaves accent the snowy blooms for an impressive finale. Fringe tree bark has been used as the source of a tonic said to be a diuretic and a fever reducer. Fringe tree is attractive to a variety of insects while in bloom, and to birds and small mammals when fruiting in late summer.

Diamond Frost EuphorbiaEuphorbia

  • Category Annual
  • Winner for 2010
  • Hardiness
  • Conditions Part Shade

From spring until fall frost, Diamond Frost Euphorbia produces clouds of dainty white bracts (colored leaves) that elegantly complement other plants in containers or landscape beds. Its sprawling growth habit cascades over the sides of containers or fills in spaces within landscape beds. It also gives a dramatic solo performance in hanging baskets, engulfing them with spherical mounds of color that look like snowballs in the summer landscape.

The true leaves of Diamond Frost Euphorbia are tiny, gray-green and masked by the colorful bracts. They tend to fade into the background and are strictly a supporting actor in the color show.

Limelight HydrangeaHydrangea paniculata

  • Category Shrub
  • Winner for 2010
  • Hardiness Zone 4 to 8
  • Conditions Full Sun to Part Shade

Light up your landscape with Limelight Panicle Hydrangea. Its large, chartreuse flower clusters set the summer landscape aglow and are sure to be the envy of neighbors and friends.

In July, creamy white flower clusters, up to 8 inches across, emerge on strong, upright stems. As flower clusters mature, their color changes from creamy white to chartreuse in summer, rosy pink in fall, and beige in winter. They can be harvested fresh or dried and used in floral arrangements. If left on the plant, they will persist all winter on the tips of naked stems.

Angelina StonecropSedum rupestre

  • Category Ground Cover
  • Winner for 2010
  • Hardiness Zone 3 to 11
  • Conditions Full Sun to Part Shade

Growing just 6 inches tall and spreading 2 to 3 feet, Angelina Stonecrop is a tough, vigorous groundcover that does well in the front of dry, sunny landscape beds. It looks particularly nice in rock gardens or along the edges of containers where it can spill over the sides.

The succulent colorful foliage combines well with plants having dark contrasting foliage, like purple passion, ajuga, black mondograss or purple fountain grass. Flowers arise on short stems above the foliage from June to July. They are a nectar source for hoverflies, whose larvae feed on aphids.In addition to bright yellow flowers in summer, Angelina Stonecrop has colorful foliage that changes with the seasons. It is chartreuse in spring, bright golden-yellow in summer, and orange-red in fall.

Ogon Dawn RedwoodMetasequoia glyptostroboides

  • Category Tree
  • Winner for 2010
  • Hardiness Zone 5 to 8
  • Conditions Full Sun

At first glance, Ogon Dawn Redwood looks a lot like our native bald cypress. However, the needle-like leaflets are larger than those of bald cypress. Also, the leaflets of dawn redwood are arranged opposite each other on the stem, while those of bald cypress alternate along the stem. The foliage of Ogon Dawn Redwood is golden yellow throughout the growing season, eventually fading to orange-brown in the fall.|The bark is reddish brown on young trees. It becomes chocolate-brown with age and exfoliates into narrow strips that peel back from the trunk and appear to be flaking off.

Butterfly WeedAsclepias tuberosa

  • Category Perennial
  • Winner for 2010
  • Hardiness Zone 3 to 9
  • Conditions Full Sun to Part Shade

Butterfly Weed is one weed you will want in your landscape – because it is a butterfly magnet! Its leaves are the preferred food source for the larvae of several species of butterflies, including Monarchs; and the flowers provide nectar for both butterflies and hummingbirds. The brilliant orange flowers brighten a perennial border and provide a striking contrast to purple coneflower, blue salvia, Persian shield and other summer favorites.|Butterfly Weed is a member of the milkweed family. From June to September, flat-top clusters of bright orange to yellow-orange flowers are borne on terminal stems. They hold up well in cut flower arrangements.

Armand ClematisClematis armandii

  • Category Vine
  • Winner for 2009
  • Hardiness Zone 7 to 9
  • Conditions Full Sun to Part Shade

Unlike other clematis that are prized for their flowers, Armand Clematis (Clematis armandii) would be a great vine, even if it didn’t flower. Its glossy, evergreen leaves are attractive year round and provide visual interest to fences, arbors, trellises, walls or pergolas.

Spring flowers are an added bonus of Armand Clematis. White, fragrant, star-shaped flowers appear as early as March and persist nearly a month. Flowers have a spicy, subtle fragrance that is not over-powering. Expect Armand Clematis to grow 20 to 30 feet by the end of two to three growing seasons.

Fragrant Tea OliveOsmanthus fragrans

  • Category Shrub
  • Winner for 2009
  • Hardiness Zone 7 to 10
  • Conditions Full Sun to Part Shade

For a heavenly scent in the landscape, plant Fragrant Tea Olive. Its sweet perfume is a pleasant surprise in September and October, a time when other plants are tapering off in their growth and preparing for their winter rest. One whiff of its intoxicating fragrance and you’ll fall in love with this award-winning plant.

Creamy white flowers are often hidden among the foliage and are not usually noticeable until their fragrance infiltrates the landscape. There are several cultivars of Fragrant Tea Olive in the trade, such as ‘Apricot Gold’, which produces apricot-gold flowers and ‘Butter Yellow’, which produces creamy yellow flowers.

Lavender Twist RedbudCercis canadensis

  • Category Tree
  • Winner for 2009
  • Hardiness Zone 4 to 9
  • Conditions Full Sun to Part Shade

In spring, Lavender Twist Redbud begins the show with lavender-pink pea-like blossoms borne along its cascading branches, like sprays from a fountain. Soon after flowering, heart-shaped leaves emerge, and the tree assumes an umbrella-like form in the summer landscape.

Finally, when winter arrives and the leaves drop, the tree becomes a living sculpture in the landscape with zig-zag branches, a contorted trunk and persistent pea-like seed pods that hang from its weeping branches. Each tree develops a different and unique growth habit, and no two trees look alike. Lavender Twist Redbud is a weeping form of our native redbud.

Arkansas Blue StarAmsonia hubrectii

  • Category Perennial
  • Winner for 2009
  • Hardiness Zone 4 to 10
  • Conditions Full Sun to Part Shade

Arkansas Blue Star is a clumping herbaceous perennial, reaching 3 feet tall and wide. Numerous upright shoots bearing thread-like leaves emerge from the base and have a delicate, feather-like appearance. In spring, light-blue star-shaped flowers with yellow center are borne along the upper portions of the stem and persist three to four weeks. The early flowers are the most visible, while the foliage often masks those formed later.

The real show begins in fall when the foliage turns golden yellow and literally glows when the sun strikes it. It’s a showstopper when planted in groups of three or more plants and backed up by taller evergreens, ornamental grasses or plants with burgundy foliage. After the fall display, the foliage turns brown but continues to add winter interest in the landscape.

Summer SnapdragonAngelonia angustifolia

  • Category Annual
  • Winner for 2009
  • Hardiness
  • Conditions Full Sun

The flowers of Summer Snapdragon look a lot like those of its cousin, the winter snapdragon. Summer Snapdragons are available in a wide range of colors, including white, rose, lilac, violet, blue and many shades in between. Some cultivars have speckled or bicolor flowers. Flowering occurs over an eight- to 10-week period in summer, peaking in June and July.

Plants have a bushy growth habit. They are quite vigorous and may flop over in late summer. If this happens, cut them back to stimulate new growth and additional blooms in fall. Flower spikes consist of about a dozen flowers, each approximately 1-inch across. They open in sequence from the bottom of the spike upward. The flowers hold up well in floral arrangements.

American HornbeamCarpinus caroliniana

  • Category Tree
  • Winner for 2008
  • Hardiness Zone 3 to 9
  • Conditions Full Sun to Shade

American Hornbeam is an excellent alternative to Bradford Pear. American Hornbeam has a broad, oval growth habit, similar to that of Bradford Pear, and reaches 30 to 40 feet high and 30 feet wide at maturity. Its dense foliage casts cooling shade in summer, and then turns shades of yellow, orange or red in fall to brighten the autumn landscape.

American Hornbeam is sometimes called “Ironwood,” a name used to describe its very hard wood and dark-red to brown twigs. American Hornbeam bears separate male and female flowers on the same tree. In late summer, the female flowers become distinctive clusters of winged nutlets that hang down from the twigs on short stalks.

Amazon Dianthus SeriesDianthus Barbatus 'Amazon' Series

  • Category Annual
  • Winner for 2008
  • Hardiness
  • Conditions Full Sun

The Ama­zon dian­thus series are cool-sea­son annu­als, so it’s best to plant them in fall for win­ter and spring color. They make good com­panion plants for pan­sies, pars­ley, orna­men­tal cab­bage and orna­men­tal kale. In some loca­tions, the plants may live two years, but it’s best to grow them like annu­als, so you won’t be dis­ap­pointed if they don’t come back a second year.

Plants in the Ama­zon dian­thus series have strong stems, eas­ily reach­ing 24 inches in height, mak­ing them excel­lent for cut flo­ral arrange­ments. They hold up in a vase for up to two weeks. To ensure a cont­in­u­ous dis­play of blooms and to main­tain a neat appear­ance, pinch out and remove the old blooms when they fade.

Rozanne Cranesbill Hardy GeraniumGeranium

  • Category Perennial
  • Winner for 2008
  • Hardiness Zone 5 to 8
  • Conditions Full Sun to Part Shade

Rozanne Cranesbill Hardy Geranium grows in a well-rounded mound to a height of 18 to 20 inches and from late May until frost, the plant produces an abundance of blue-violet flowers with pale centers, approximately 2½ inches across. Attractive, deeply-lobed foliage turns brownish-red in fall and is quite showy.|This plant is a vigorous grower and is likely to decline in bloom during mid-summer when the sprawling foliage competes for the plant’s energy. At that time, a light shearing will encourage new growth and more flowers to brighten the fall landscape. After the first frost, cut back the plant and mulch it with leaves to provide a warm winter rest. Use Rozanne Cranesbill Hardy Geranium in perennial borders, rock gardens or decorative containers.

PaperbushEdgeworthia chrysantha

  • Category
  • Winner for 2008
  • Hardiness Zone 7 to 10
  • Conditions Part Shade

Paperbush is a plant for all seasons. Enjoy its showy, fragrant flowers and attractive bark from December to February. Paperbush is a deciduous shrub, with coarse-textured summer foliage is somewhat tropical in appearance. They are bluish-green on top and silver-green below. As fall approaches, the older foliage gradually turns yellow and drops, and then the remaining foliage sheds after the first real hard freeze.|The young flower buds are silvery in appearance, turning white as they expand, then creamy yellow when open. Smooth, chocolate-brown bark creates a striking contrast to the flowers and helps show them off.

Pride of Augusta Carolina JessamineGelsemium caroliniana

  • Category Vine
  • Winner for 2008
  • Hardiness Zone 7 to 10
  • Conditions Full Sun to Part Shade

Pride of Augusta is a double-flowering form of our native Carolina Jessamine, the state flower of South Carolina. Bloom time varies from February to April, depending on geographic location and location within the landscape. Although the spring bloom is most dramatic, additional blossoms are produced sporadically throughout the growing season.

Peak bloom lasts two to four weeks.|Like other Carolina Jessamines, Pride of Augusta needs help climbing a support, since it lacks the tendrils and holdfasts that other vines use to cling to a structure. Pride of Augusta Carolina Jessamine is a versatile vine. Not only does it adapt well to arbors, trellises and fences, it also can be used to cascade over large containers or walls.

FirespikeOdontonema strictum

  • Category Annual
  • Winner for 2007
  • Hardiness NULL
  • Conditions Full Sun

Firespike is a vigorous, shrub-like annual that grows 4 feet tall and 3 feet wide. Its dark green leaves have wavy margins and long, pointed tips. In late summer, abundant upright panicles of brilliant, crimson-red, tubular flowers open over three to four weeks and persist on the plant until the fall’s first frost. As a bonus, the flowers produce sweet nectar that attracts hummingbirds and butterflies like magnets

Plant it as a background plant in a mixed-shrub border where it can rise above smaller plants in the foreground. It’s a knockout in large containers.

Swamp HibiscusHibiscus coccineus

  • Category Perennial
  • Winner for 2007
  • Hardiness Zone 6 to 9
  • Conditions Full Sun to Part Shade

Swamp Hibiscus is a perfect choice for water gardens, pond edges, rain gardens or other moist, sunny sites. But you don’t have to live in a swamp to enjoy Swamp Hibiscus. It will grow and thrive in normal garden soil as well if you can provide it adequate moisture. From late spring until frost, they produce blood-red flowers 3 to 5 inches across on side shoots and terminals.

To encourage re-blooming, deadhead spent flowers before they form seedpods or prune plants back by one-third after a flush of bloom. In the northern half of Georgia, Swamp Hibiscus freezes back to the ground in winter and re-sprouts in spring. Cut old stems back to the ground in late winter to rejuvenate the plant and make way for new growth.

Green Giant ArborvitaeThuja standishii x PLICATA 'GREEN GIANT'

  • Category Tree
  • Winner for 2007
  • Hardiness Zone 5 to 8
  • Conditions Full Sun

Green Giant Arborvitae is fast growing, tolerates almost any soil condition, withstands adverse weather, such as ice storms and wind, and has shown excellent pest resistance, including deer browsing. It is an excellent alternative to Leyland Cypress, which has serious disease problems in the Southeast.

As the name implies, Green Giant is a large plant, growing 50 to 60 feet tall and 20 feet wide, so it’s better suited for parks and large spaces. Once established, its growth rate exceeds 3 feet per year.

Madison Confederate JasmineTrachelospermum jasminoides 'Madison'

  • Category Vine
  • Winner for 2007
  • Hardiness Zone 7 to 10
  • Conditions Full Sun to Part Shade

A tough, fragrant, evergreen vine, Confederate Jasmine has all the characteristics of a garden standout. Madison Confederate Jasmine is a fast-growing, twining, evergreen vine reaching 20 to 40 feet at maturity. It needs help climbing because it lacks clinging aerial roots.

Like clockwork each year creamy-white, phlox-like flowers emerge and overshadow the foliage. The five-pointed, star-shaped flowers are borne on short stalks and in clusters at the leaf axils of the previous season’s growth. Soon after flowering, the plant will enter a vigorous growth phase, so regular summer pruning and training are necessary to keep it in bounds.

Cuphea Species and SelectionsCuphea spp.

  • Category Annual
  • Winner for 2006
  • Hardiness NULL
  • Conditions Full Sun

Planting Cuphea in your landscape is like watching nonstop fireworks at one of the Disney theme parks. These dependable, low-maintenance flowers not only tolerate the heat and humidity of the South, they have an exceptionally long bloom period, attract butterflies and hummingbirds like magnets and are versatile enough for container plantings or in-ground beds.

Firecracker Plant ignites in color like nonstop fireworks on Independence Day. Tubular, scarlet-red flowers edged in black emerge in abundance at the leaf axils along the stem. Mickey Mouse Plant and Tiny Mice were given to the plant by the trade because the flowers resemble the face of a mouse, with two red petals tinged in purple. Tall Cigar Plant blooms in mid to late summer and produces cigar-shaped blooms on the upper axils, and flowering continues until frost.

Perennial Plumbago or LeadwartCeratostigma plumbaginoides

  • Category Perennial
  • Winner for 2006
  • Hardiness Zone 5 to 9
  • Conditions Full Sun to Part Shade

Just a glimpse of the bright, true-blue flowers of Perennial Plumbago and it will be love at first sight! It’s hard to find a more durable and attractive flowering groundcover. Perennial Plumbago, also called Leadwort, belongs to a group of deciduous perennials and shrubs from eastern Africa and Asia. It is a semi-woody, mat-forming perennial that spreads by rhizomes (shallow underground stems).

Plumbago has a late spring green-up that makes it an excellent plant for inter-planting with spring-flowering bulbs, because its leaves will be emerging just as the foliage of bulbs is dying back. The shiny green leaves are up to 2 inches long and turn bronze-red in the fall. Medium-blue flowers, resembling those of woodland phlox, emerge in terminal clusters in late summer and continue to emerge until fall frost, providing an exceptionally long bloom period.

Overcup OakQuercus lyrata

  • Category Tree
  • Winner for 2006
  • Hardiness Zone 5 to 9
  • Conditions Full Sun

Overcup Oak typically grows 50 feet high and 50 feet wide under cultivation. It’s a tough shade tree for large landscapes, public parks, golf courses and office parks. While most oaks have a reputation for being slow growers, Overcup Oak grows fast, particularly when young. Its initial growth is somewhat pyramidal. Then it gradually becomes more rounded with age.

The unique shape of the acorns gives the tree its name and helps distinguish it from other oaks. A warty cap almost completely covers the nut. At first glance, Overcup Oak looks similar to its white oak cousin in many respects, including its rough-textured, gray-brown bark, deeply lobed leaves and yellow fall color.

Chinese Snowball ViburnumViburnum macrocephalum

  • Category Shrub
  • Winner for 2006
  • Hardiness Zone 6 to 9
  • Conditions Full Sun to Part Shade

It seldom snows in Georgia, but it’s possible to have snowballs in April and May if you plant Chinese Snowball Viburnum. The showy white flower clusters, up to 8 inches across, look just like snowballs, only without the ice crystals. Chinese Snowball Viburnum is a large, deciduous shrub. It looks best when used as a background plant in the perennial border or woodland garden, where it disappears into the winter landscape, then pops to the foreground in spring to become a focal point of the landscape.

The flowers emerge green, and then gradually fade to pure white. Eventually they become light brown, persisting on the plant for several weeks. Sometimes a second flush of bloom occurs in late summer. The flowers are commonly cut and used, both fresh and dried, in floral arrangements.

Amethyst Falls WisteriaWisteria frutescens

  • Category Vine
  • Winner for 2006
  • Hardiness Zone 5 to 9
  • Conditions Full Sun to Part Shade

While the Asian types of wisteria may take 10 years or more to begin flowering, Amethyst Falls Wisteria begins flowering at one year of age. Flowering occurs on new growth of the season and is about two weeks later than that of the Asian types (late April to early May in Athens, Ga.), so late-winter frosts seldom affect flowering. If lightly trimmed after flowering, new shoots will produce a second flush of blooms in the summer.

Considered by some to be a dwarf wisteria, Amethyst Falls has smaller leaves and flowers than the Asian types. Flowers are fragrant, lavender-blue.

Rose Creek and Canyon Creek AbeliasAbelia hybrids

  • Category Shrub
  • Winner for 2005
  • Hardiness Zone 6 to 9
  • Conditions Full Sun to Part Shade

Rose Creek and Canyon Creek Abelias are seedling selections of Chinese Abelia, Abelia chinense. They were open-pollinated with other abelia cultivars, so their exact parentage is unknown. Rose Creek Abelia was selected for its low mounding growth habit, crimson stem color, fragrant white flowers, and exceptionally long bloom period (May to frost).

Rose Creek Abelia has evergreen leaves that emerge with a pinkish cast, turn lustrous dark green in summer, and then darken to purple-green in winter, giving the plant an ever-changing seasonal interest. Cluster after cluster of white, fragrant, tubular flowers about a half-inch long are borne throughout the growing season.

Glowing Embers Japanese MapleAcer Palmatum

  • Category Tree
  • Winner for 2005
  • Hardiness Zone 5 to 8
  • Conditions Full Sun to Part Shade

Aptly named, Glowing Embers Japanese Maple provides a kaleidoscope of color in fall as the leaves fade from green to purple, fluorescent orange or yellow, much like the ever-changing and mesmerizing embers of a wood fire. The color sequence of each leaf varies, and a single branch may display four distinctly different colors at the same time.

Glowing Embers Japanese Maple is a medium-size deciduous tree, growing 30 to 40 feet tall with an equal spread. The tree has a dense canopy when in full leaf and is an excellent shade tree for residential landscapes where space is limited.

Dragon Wing BegoniaBegonia x hybrida 'Dragon Wing'

  • Category Annual
  • Winner for 2005
  • Hardiness NULL
  • Conditions Part Shade

Dragon Wing Begonia is not a typical begonia. It’s like a begonia on steroids! Its leaves and flowers are larger than most begonias, and its growth rate is phenomenal. It adapts well to landscape beds, containers or hanging baskets and blooms non-stop from spring until fall frost. A hybrid cross between angel wing begonia and wax begonia, Dragon Wing Begonia offers the best qualities of both plants.

It grows denser and larger than most angel wing types and has the heat tolerance of wax begonias. Leaves are wing-shaped, large, and dark glossy green. Plants tend to branch readily and grow dense without pruning. Red and Pink flowering plants are available. The flowers are borne on stalks growing from the leaf nodes near the tip of each branch. Flowers shed naturally after bloom as new ones take their place.

Georgia Blue VeronicaVeronica peduncularis

  • Category Perennial
  • Winner for 2005
  • Hardiness Zone 5 to 8
  • Conditions Full Sun to Part Shade

Georgia Blue Veronica is an herbaceous perennial with a growth habit like a groundcover and beautiful sky-blue flowers in early spring. When planted over bulbs such as daffodils, it provides a dramatic color contrast and spectacular floral display as it blooms in concert with the bulbs. Yellow, white and cream-colored daffodils look particularly nice against the carpet of blue. The plant is an excellent choice for container plantings and rock gardens, providing the visual appeal of a woodland stream spilling over the sides of containers or cascading over rocks.

Gardeners who like plants that bloom over a long time will love Georgia Blue Veronica. From February to April, the plant bears an abundance of tiny, true-blue flowers with white centers. There are times during the bloom cycle that the foliage is literally masked by all the flowers. The flowers are highly attractive to bees and butterflies.

Creeping RaspberryRubus pentalobus syn. R. calycinoides

  • Category Ground Cover
  • Winner for 2005
  • Hardiness Zone 7 to 9
  • Conditions Full to Part Sun

Creeping Raspberry is a fast-growing, evergreen ground cover imported from Taiwan. It grows 3 to 6 inches and spreads 3 to 6 feet in all directions. As the name implies, Creeping Raspberry creeps along the ground by forming runners – much like strawberries – which root at their nodes and establish new colonies. Although it is aggressive, Creeping Raspberry is not invasive. It doesn’t climb trees or smother nearby shrubs, and it can readily be controlled with mechanical edging.

Creeping Raspberry has coarse-textured leaves with deep veins that make them appear puckered. During spring and summer, the leaves are shiny, dark green above and gray-green below. They turn burgundy in fall and winter. White flowers are borne in mid-summer, but they are lost in the foliage and not very showy. The flowers are followed by tiny, raspberry-like fruit in late summer. Although the fruit are tasty and edible, they are tiny, so don’t expect an abundant harvest for your breakfast table. Fruiting is not one of the plant’s outstanding attributes.

Chartreuse Joseph’s CoatAlternanthera ficoidea

  • Category Annual
  • Winner for 2004
  • Hardiness NULL
  • Conditions Full Sun

Landscapers call Chartreuse Joseph’s Coat an “echo plant” because it tends to enhance or echo other colors, making them appear more vibrant — particularly magenta, purple or blue. It’s also a favorite addition to container gardens and hanging baskets, where it spills over the side like froth from a bubbling stream.

Joseph’s Coat is actually an heirloom plant that was popular in the Victorian era when formal gardens were in vogue. It is an excellent plant for today’s busy gardener because it provides season-long color while requiring little routine care.It is a summer annual prized for its yellow-green foliage. Small, greenish-white flowers are borne in leaf axils, but they are usually hidden within the foliage. Stems as well as leaves are bright yellow-green.

Anise Hyssop HybridsAgastache spp.

  • Category Perennial
  • Winner for 2004
  • Hardiness Zone 7 to 8
  • Conditions Full Sun

How many plants can you name that bloom non-stop from May until fall frost, attract butterflies and hummingbirds like magnets, have fragrant pest-free foliage, resist deer browsing, and come back each year with vigor? If that sounds too good to be true, then you need to plant one of the Anise Hyssop Hybrids and discover for yourself the award-winning qualities of this remarkable plant.

The Native American species of Anise Hyssop, Agastache foeniculum, has long been a prized perennial herb known for its anise (licorice) foliage scent and its culinary and medicinal qualities. The leaves are ground and used as seasoning on meats, vegetables and salads. The leaves are also used in teas, perfume and aromatherapy. Native Americans used Anise Hyssop as a breath freshener and in poultices for various ailments. Although our Gold Medal selections are relatives of the native species, they were bred for their flowering qualities and may lack some of the herbal qualities of the native species.

Bald CypressTaxodium distichum

  • Category
  • Winner for 2004
  • Hardiness Zone 4 to 10
  • Conditions Full Sun

Bald Cypress is a Native American tree with a wide growing range. It’s a common wetland plant from Delaware to Florida and from Indiana to Texas. Bald Cypress is a deciduous conifer. It grows to a large, stately tree, reaching 70 feet or more at maturity, so it’s best used in large, open spaces such as parks or large residential properties.

It is a large, deciduous tree, growing 50 to 80 feet tall and 20 to 30 feet wide. It has soft-textured, flat needles spirally arranged around the twigs that emerge yellow-green in spring and turn bright green by summer, then bronze-orange in fall before dropping.

Summer Snowflake ViburnumViburnum plicatum

  • Category Shrub
  • Winner for 2004
  • Hardiness Zone 5 to 8
  • Conditions Full To Part Sun

The vibrant, snow-white flowers are show-stoppers in the spring landscape. Then as spring blossoms fade and other plants begin their summer growth phase, Summer Snowflake Viburnum gears up for an encore performance, flowering repeatedly throughout the summer and fall, often as late as November. Summer Snowflake Viburnum is a deciduous shrub, so it’s best to plant evergreens nearby to mask its winter nudity.

It grows smaller and is more compact than many other viburnums, reaching 4 to 8 feet tall at maturity.If Summer Snowflake Viburnum has one flaw, it’s a lack of drought tolerance. Water is essential during periods of limited rainfall or leaf-scorching and a decline in bloom will result.

Miss Huff LantanaLantana camara

  • Category Perennial
  • Winner for 2003
  • Hardiness Zone 7 to 8
  • Conditions Full Sun

While most lantanas lack winter hardiness and are grown as summer annuals, Miss Huff Lantana, Lantana camara ‘Miss Huff,’ is a proven perennial as far north as hardiness zone 7. Like other lantanas, it’s “tough as nails,” blooming continuously from spring until fall frost. It attracts butterflies like magnets, while the pungent foliage repels deer, a growing landscape pest in Georgia. Drought tolerance is another outstanding feature that should not be overlooked.

Flowers are dense heads, 2 to 3 inches wide, composed of many small florets, each about 1/8 inch across. Florets range in color from pink to orange and yellow, depending on their stage of maturity, giving the flower a multicolored appearance. Flowers are borne continuously throughout the growing season on short stalks arising from the leaf axils along the stems. Flowers are followed by pea-size green fruits that turn black with maturity. The fruits, however, produce no viable seeds, so unwanted seedlings are not a problem.|

Mexican ZinniaZinnia angustifolia 'Star Series'

  • Category Annual
  • Winner for 2003
  • Hardiness NULL
  • Conditions Full Sun

As the name implies, Mexican Zinnia is native to the hot, dry regions of Mexico, where average annual rainfall is less than half that in Georgia. The plant is genetically programmed to withstand summer drought and actually prefers dry soils over moist, soggy conditions. Once established, Mexican Zinnia will provide a fiesta of color in your landscape while requiring little routine maintenance.

Once established, Mexican Zinnias are low-maintenance. Unlike other types of zinnias, they don’t require dead-heading (removal of old blossoms). The old blossoms simply fade into the background as new ones take their places.

Chinese FringetreeChionanthus retusus

  • Category Tree
  • Winner for 2003
  • Hardiness Zone 7 to 9
  • Conditions Shade to Part Sun

“Billowing clouds of white” is perhaps the best description of Chinese Fringetree when it is in bloom. Its pure white, strap-like flowers are borne in profusion on new growth, often in such large numbers that they mask the foliage. It also blooms about a month later then dogwood, thus extending the spring floral display.

Another outstanding feature of Chinese Fringetree is its grayish-brown bark that exfoliates into paper-like curls as the plant ages. Although the tree is deciduous, the leaves often persist into December. Flowers have long, narrow, snow-white petals and are borne in profusion on new growth in late April to early May.

Henry Anise-treeIllicium henryi

  • Category Shrub
  • Winner for 2003
  • Hardiness NULL
  • Conditions Full to Part Shade

Henry Anise-tree, Illicium henryi, is not really a tree but a coarse-textured evergreen shrub growing 6 to 8 feet tall and wide. It thrives in dense shade and is an excellent choice for woodland settings. Added benefits are glossy, pest-free foliage and crimson-pink flowers borne in April to May. Its pungent aromatic foliage smells like licorice when crushed.

Several species of Anise-trees are on the market today, but Henry Anise-tree is the cream of the crop. While other Anise-trees thin out in dense shade, Henry maintains a dense, pyramidal growth form, mimicking rhododendron but requiring must less fuss.

CrossvineBignonia capreolata

  • Category Vine
  • Winner for 2003
  • Hardiness Zone 6 to 9
  • Conditions Full Sun to Part Shade

Crossvine is a vigorous climber, reaching 30 to 50 feet. Thread-like tendrils along the stem wrap around nearby objects and help the plant climb up a structure. Small, root-like disks along the tendrils help them attach to concrete, brick and other porous structures. Leaves are lustrous, dark green, 2 to 6 inches long and a half to 2 inches wide, turning reddish-purple in winter.

Flowers are tubular, 1 and a half to 2 inches long and up to 1 and a half inches wide, brownish-red with a yellow-orange throat. They are borne in clusters of 2 to 5 flowers on short stalks in April. Flowering continues for three to four weeks with a few additional flowers opening sporadically throughout the season. They have a pleasant, mocha-like fragrance.

Lady in Red SalviaSalvia coccinea

  • Category Annual
  • Winner for 2002
  • Hardiness NULL
  • Conditions NULL

Lady in Red Salvia is somewhat self-grooming in the landscape and does not require frequent dead-heading (removal of old blossoms) like many other salvias do. The old flower stalks just seem to fade into the background as they are replaced by new ones.

Another advantage of Lady in Red Salvia is that it is a reseeding annual, so you’re likely to experience many happy returns from the original planting. Seed can also be collected in fall and planted in March for April transplants and a head start on the growing season.

Blue Mist BluebeardCaryopteris x clandonensis

  • Category Perennial
  • Winner for 2002
  • Hardiness Zone 5 to 9
  • Conditions Full Sun

Blue Mist Bluebeard is an herbaceous perennial, growing 3 to 4 feet tall and wide. Leaves are 3 to 3.5 inches long, bright green above and gray-green below. The flower clusters, containing as many as 20 flowers each, are borne in pairs at the upper leaf axils on each branch.

Blue Mist Bluebeard prefers full sun and well-drained soils. It has excellent drought tolerance and good deer resistance. In south Georgia and along the coast, it may grow as a woody evergreen shrub; but in north Georgia, it is grown as a herbaceous perennial because cold weather often nips the leaves and causes die-back. In extreme north Georgia, cut plants back each fall and mulch them heavily for winter protection.

Forest Pansy, Oklahoma and Texas White RedbudCercis canadensis

  • Category Tree
  • Winner for 2002
  • Hardiness Zone 6 to 9
  • Conditions Full Sun to Part Shade

Most people are familiar with the native Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis) that bursts into bloom in March and April in our moist woodlands, signaling the arrival of spring. Forest Pansy Redbud us sure to stand out in the landscape with its striking purple/red foliage. The heart-shaped leaves emerge a shimmering red-purple in spring, fading to a deep plum-purple as the season progresses. Rose-pink flowers coat the twigs and branches in March and are another dramatic feature of the plant.

Oklahoma Redbud has glossy, somewhat leathery green leaves with wavy margins. The leaves alone make the plant worth having, while the showy magenta-rose flowers in March are an added bonus.

Texas White, discovered in Fort Worth, Texas, has glossy green leaves similar to those of Oklahoma, but it bears milky-white flowers.

Purple BeautyberryCallicarpa dichotoma

  • Category Shrub
  • Winner for 2002
  • Hardiness Zone 5 to 8
  • Conditions Full Sun to Part Shade

Few fruiting shrubs can match the eye-catching display of Purple Beautyberry in September and October. That time of year, it boasts long, arching branches and clusters of shiny, lavender berries. Purple Beautyberry is a deciduous shrub growing 3 to 4 feet tall with a mounded growth habit.

It blooms on new growth, so thinning old branches in winter should not deter flowering and fruiting. The plant looks best, however, when allowed to develop long, arching branches that cascade to the ground like streams from a fountain, bearing lavender droplets along their entire length.

ChastetreeVitex agnus-castus

  • Category Tree
  • Winner for 2002
  • Hardiness Zone 6 to 9
  • Conditions Full Sun to Part Shade

Chastetree is tough as nails, heat tolerant and cold hardy with good pest resistance and excellent drought tolerance. It flowers consistently in May and June with a minimum of care. Also known as summer lilac, Chastetree flowers on new terminal growth. Flowers may be blue, lavender, pink or white, depending on the cultivar.

Like crape myrtle, Chastetree can be encouraged to repeat bloom in late summer by removing the terminal seed clusters soon after the first bloom finishes. Some call Chastetree a large shrub. Others call it a small tree. It grows 15 to 20 feet tall with an equal spread. Train it as a single-trunk tree or a multi-trunk specimen for use as an accent plant in the landscape.

Ornamental Sweet PotatoIpomoea batatas

  • Category Annual
  • Winner for 2001
  • Hardiness
  • Conditions Full Sun to Part Shade

Blackie Sweet Potato, with its purple, almost black foliage, was the first overnight sensation. Its vigorous, trailing growth habit, heat tolerance and ability to cover large areas in a short time are a landscaper’s delight. The dark foliage provides a dramatic contrast to vivid colors, like those of pink and purple wave petunias.

Margarita Sweet Potato, with its striking chartreuse foliage, sets the summer landscape aglow. It makes a dramatic statement when planted with Blackie. Another selection is Tricolor, which has shades of pink, magenta and green all in the same leaf.

Autumn FernDryopteris erythrosora

  • Category Perennial
  • Winner for 2001
  • Hardiness Zone 4 to 9
  • Conditions Part Shade

To achieve a lush, rain-forest-like ambiance in shady, moist sites, consider Autumn Fern, Dryopteris ertythrosora. Unlike many of our native wood ferns that die back and disappear in winter, Autumn Fern is ever-green, providing year-round interest in the landscape.|An outstanding merit of Autumn Fern is the color of the new fronds. They unfold a bright, coppery red, and then gradually fade to olive green. Although freezing temperatures, ice and snow sometimes burn the foliage, the plant is reliably evergreen in most parts of the state.

InkberryIlex glabra

  • Category Shrub
  • Winner for 2001
  • Hardiness Zone 4 to 9
  • Conditions Full Sun to Part Shade

Inkberry is a native Georgia shrub, found in the wild along stream banks and flood plains.Bee keepers have long valued the plant as an excellent honey source. Early settlers dried and roasted the leaves to make an herbal tea.

Inkberry is a great evergreen plant for perennial borders, hedges or simply for naturalizing in low-maintenance areas. It looks particularly nice when planted in groups of three or more plants. Classified as a rhizomous shrub, Inkberry spreads gradually from the parent plant by forming suckers along the root. Eventually, the plant takes on a clump-like appearance.

Sun Loving ColeusColeus

  • Category Annual
  • Winner for 2000
  • Hardiness
  • Conditions Full Sun to Part Shade

Today sun-loving coleus is revolutionizing the bedding plant and landscape industries. Their leaf colors are dazzling, ranging from deep crimson to brilliant chartreuse and golden sunset orange. Some plants have three or more colors on a single leaf.

The leaves of Solar Sunrise, for instance, one of the most popular plants in the series, are deep brick red with chartreuse veins blending to a halo of yellow and white toward the leaf margins. Other popular selections in the sun-loving series are Solar Flare, Red Ruffles, Alabama Sunset, Cranberry Salad and Purple Ducksfoot.

Dave and Robert Poore PhloxPhlox paniculata 'David' and 'Robert Poore'

  • Category Perennial
  • Winner for 2000
  • Hardiness Zone 4 to 9
  • Conditions Full Sun to Part Shade

Until recently, summer garden phlox has gotten mixed reviews from southern gardeners. Some say they flower poorly during hot summers, while others say they simply thin out and die over time. The main culprit for the plant’s poor performance has been powdery mildew. Frustrated phlox growers will delight at the heat and mildew tolerance of David and Robert Poore Phlox. Although they are not totally mildew resistant, they have proven to be less susceptible to the disease than other garden phlox commonly grown in the South.

Robert Poore Phlox bears vibrant purple flowers from May to June. It was introduced by Kim Hawkes of Niche Gardens in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. David Phlox has white flowers. It too blooms over a long period. Dr. Allan Armitage, Professor at the University of Georgia, says it’s “the best of all the white cultivars.”

Little Gem MagnoliaMagnolia grandiflora

  • Category Tree
  • Winner for 2000
  • Hardiness Zone 5 to 9
  • Conditions Full Sun to Part Shade

Southern magnolia has long been the aristocrat of southern landscapes. It’s hard to imagine an Antebellum home without a couple of magnolias framing its entrance. Little Gem Magnolia provides the same grace and charm as its native parent, but on a much smaller scale. Mature height is 15 to 20 feet with about a 10 feet width.

As you might expect, leaves and flowers on Little Gem Magnolia are also smaller than the native species, which are an added benefit since leaf litter is much less of a problem. Leaves are four to six inches long, dark glossy green above and fuzzy brown below. Flowering begins in summer and continues through fall. Flowering also begins at an early age. A three-gallon size plant is likely to flower the first growing season. Flowers are delightfully fragrant.

Alice Oakleaf HydrangeaHydrangea quercifolia 'Alice'

  • Category Shrub
  • Winner for 2000
  • Hardiness Zone 5 to 9
  • Conditions Morning Sun to Afternoon Shade

Oakleaf hydrangea is no stranger in the southern landscape, but Alice Oakleaf Hydrangea is a superior selection taking the landscape and nursery trade by storm. Alice Oakleaf Hydrangea has an exceptionally long bloom period. Flowers emerge in June and remain in bloom four to six weeks, gradually fading to rosy pink, then tan by the end of summer. They make excellent cut flowers for summer floral arrangements.

A rich burgundy fall color and cinnamon-colored exfoliating bark are other outstanding features of Alice Oakleaf Hydrangea.

Nova PentasPentas lanceolata 'Nova'

  • Category Annual
  • Winner for 1999
  • Hardiness
  • Conditions Full Sun

Plant pentas, also called “Egyptian starflowers,” in your summer landscape, and swarms of butterflies and flocks of hummingbirds will suddenly appear. Pentas are native to tropical Arabia and east Africa. They thrive in hot, humid summers like Georgia’s.

Pentas prefer warm soils. So it’s best to plant them after April 15 in South Georgia and after May 1 in the northern half of the state. If you plant too early, you will be disappointed, because they stall out and stop blooming.

Lenten RoseHelleborus orientalis

  • Category Perennial
  • Winner for 1999
  • Hardiness Zone 4 to 9
  • Conditions Shade

Lenten rose is a “tough as nails” perennial plant Georgia gardeners have quietly loved for more than 100 years. It never got much fanfare but was always welcome as a gift or pass-along plant. Sometimes called Christmas rose, Lenten rose heralds spring. It blooms in midwinter and bounces back consistently each year regardless of the previous season’s hardships.

Its blooms are white, pink, plum, green, magenta and many pastel shades in between. Once the flowers fade, the foliage seems to darken, providing a glossy, evergreen ground cover year-round.

American YellowwoodCladrastis kentuckea

  • Category Tree
  • Winner for 1999
  • Hardiness Zone 4 to 8
  • Conditions Full Sun

A native tree that gets its name from the color of its heartwood, American yellowwood can be found growing in fertile upland sites, limestone ridges and cliffs of Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama, Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma.

It’s a medium-sized tree, reaching 30 to 50 feet tall at maturity. That makes it an excellent specimen for today’s urban landscapes.The tree looks best when trained to grow as it does in the wild, with low-growing branches. It develops a broad, rounded crown with delicate-looking, but surprisingly strong, branches.

Mohawk ViburnumViburnum x burkwoodii 'Mohawk'

  • Category Shrub
  • Winner for 1999
  • Hardiness Zone 5 to 8
  • Conditions Full Sun to Part Shade

If fragrance is your fancy, add Mohawk viburnum to your landscape. It’s one of the most aromatic shrubs in the landscape, filling the early spring air with its spicy, clove-like fragrance during bloom. It’s also an early bloomer, flowering from mid to late March in north Georgia and even earlier farther south.

Leaves 2 to 4 inches long emerge soon after flowering and become glossy green on top and light-gray underneath. Insect pests and diseases don’t bother the foliage. Fall color ranges from bright orange to wine red, depending on weather conditions.

Trident MapleAcer buergeranum

  • Category Tree
  • Winner for 1998
  • Hardiness Zone 5 to 9
  • Conditions

Trident maple was introduced from China in 1890 and has been in the nursery trade for many years. However, due to short supply, its merits have not been fully appreciated.

Trident maple is an excellent small shade tree for the landscape or city street tree planting. It is particularly attractive when grown as a multi-trunk tree next to a patio. It grows well in full sun or partial shade and is adapted to a wide variety of soil types. The bark takes on a mottled orange-gray appearance with age and is a striking feature, particularly in the winter landscape. Fall brings a collage of leaf colors, ranging from red to orange and yellow.

Athens Gem PlectranthusPlectranthus

  • Category Annual
  • Winner for 1998
  • Hardiness
  • Conditions Full Sun to Part Shade

Unlike most annual plants grown for their flowers, the foliage is the most outstanding characteristic of Athens Gem Plectranthus. The leaves are thick and fuzzy, yellow green in the center with a pure green border. When touched, the plant gives off a spicy fragrance much like fresh oregano.

Athens Gem Plectranthus is a great plant for the garden or patio pots or for enhancing statuary, boulders or even mailboxes. It combines well with shrubs having dark green foliage as well as a wide variety of herbaceous perennials and herbs. Ease of propagation and excellent pest resistance are additional benefits that helped earn Athens Gem Plectranthus a Georgia Gold Medal Award.

Japanese AsterKalimeris pinnatifida

  • Category Perennial
  • Winner for 1998
  • Hardiness Zone 4 to 8
  • Conditions Full Sun

Toughness, durability and a long bloom period helped earn Japanese Aster a Georgia Gold Medal Award for superior performance. Landscape professionals rave about this herbaceous perennial. It adapts to a wide variety of soil types and provides consistent color from May to August with a minimum of care.

Having pure white, double, daisy-like flowers, Japanese Aster lends a bright spot to perennial borders or shrub beds and combines well with a wide variety of plants. In garden centers, it is sometimes labeled Asteromoea instead of Kalimeris. By any name, it’s still a winner in the landscape.

Bottlebrush BuckeyeAesculus parviflora

  • Category Shrub
  • Winner for 1998
  • Hardiness Zone 4 to 8
  • Conditions Shade to Part Sun

Few plants can match the summer flowering spectacle of bottlebrush buckeye with its tall, upright spikes of white flowers. A native shrub from South Carolina to Alabama and Florida, bottlebrush buckeye is a large, mounded shrub for a shady understory planting under pines or shade trees.

Bottlebrush Buckeye looks particularly nice when grown in groups of three to five plants as a background plant behind herbaceous perennials or smaller shrubs. Coarse, pest-free foliage adds textural interest to the landscape in summer and seasonal interest in fall as it fades from deep green to bright yellow. Pest resistance and tolerance to deer browsing are additional award-winning qualities.

New Wonder Blue Fan FlowerScaevola aemula

  • Category Annual
  • Winner for 1997
  • Hardiness
  • Conditions Full Sun

New Wonder Scaevola, introduced from Australia, is a low-maintenance annual and a non-stop bloomer providing a continuous display of small sky-blue fan-shaped flower from spring until the first fall frost. In the landscape, this versatile bedding plant makes a dramatic color statement.

New Wonder Scaevola preforms best in full sun in moist, well-drained soils high in organic matter. It does well during hot, rainy periods, but does not tolerate drought and will need irrigation during periods of limited rainfall.

Three Lobed ConeflowerRudbeckia triloba

  • Category Perennial
  • Winner for 1997
  • Hardiness Zone 3 to 10
  • Conditions Full Sun

Three-lobed Coneflower is a knockout in the late summer landscape with its showy floral display of bright yellow flowers. Like other Rudbeckia species, it is very drought, heat, and pest tolerant. It is an excellent choice for rock gardens, banks, or other drought prone sites. Native to the U.S., it is well adapted to poor soils and requires little care.

Three-lobed Coneflower starts blooming about the first week in August and continues well into September making it a great plant for a garden suffering from the midsummer blahs!

Yoshino Japanese CedarCryptomeria japonica 'Yoshino'

  • Category Tree
  • Winner for 1997
  • Hardiness Zone 5 to 9
  • Conditions

Yoshino Japanese Cedar provides a tall, dense, evergreen screen or graceful specimen for the landscape. It lends textural and color contrast into the landscape. THe summer needle color is glistening blue-green and growth rate is fast. It provides a shade tolerant alternative to leyland cypress when used for screening purposes.

Yoshino Japanese Cedar will grow and prosper in either sun or shade. It prefers moist, rich soils, but is tolerant of sandy and clay soils. Little pruning is required and looks best if lower branches are allowed to remain on the plant

Pink Chinese LoropetalumLoropetalum chinese var. Rubrum

  • Category Shrub
  • Winner for 1997
  • Hardiness Zone 7 to 10
  • Conditions Full Sun

Billowing clouds of hot pink flowers and ruby-red to purple-red foliage make Pink Chinese Loropetalum one of the most exciting plants in the Georgia landscapes. It grows to be a large shrub or small tree, making it best used as a background plant.

Pink Chinese Loropetalum is a broad-leafed evergreen in the Witchhazel family. Major flowering occurs in spring with sporadic flowers produced throughout the growing season. Flowers virtually blanket the plant at peak bloom.

Purple Wave PetuniaPetunia spp.

  • Category Annual
  • Winner for 1996
  • Hardiness
  • Conditions Full Sun

Purple Wave Petunia is an extremely vigorous summer annual. A single plant will cover four square feet by midseason. When planted in full sun, it forms a dense mat about six-inches high. It does not get leggy like other petunias late in the season.

The flower color of Purple Wave Petunia is not a true purple, but rose-purple with a velvet sheen. Each flower stays in bloom several days, and then fades away as it is replaced by another one, providing continuous waves of color from spring until first frost.

Wild IndigoBaptisia spp.

  • Category Perennial
  • Winner for 1996
  • Hardiness Zone 3 to 9
  • Conditions Full Sun to Part Shade

Wild Indigo is a member of the legume or pea family, producing flowers resembling the garden pea and sweet pea. Flower color varies from deep blue to creamy yellow or pure white. The flowers are borne near the tips of grey-green branches having three-lobed leaves. Flowers are followed by black seed pods that provide summer interest in the landscape. Plants may reach five feet high with an equal spread. They die down after the first killing frost and remain dormant until spring.

Wild Indigo does best in full sun and well-drained soils. Plants grown in partial shade may grow large and require staking to hold them upright. They are ideal as background plants in a perennial border where they have room to grow. Plants grow in clumps, spreading slowly outward from the parent planting, but they are not invasive. Dividing the clump every two to three years during the fall will result in additional plants for the garden or for sharing with friends.

Lipan, Sioux, Tonto, & Yuma Crape MyrtlesLagserstroemia indica x L. Fauriei

  • Category Tree
  • Winner for 1996
  • Hardiness Zone 6 to 9
  • Conditions Full Sun

If your landscape plans call for a small flowering tree, give close consideration to four crape myrtle introductions from the U.S. National Arboretum: Lipan, Sioux, Tonto and Yuma. Unlike other crape myrtles that may grow very tall, these crape myrtles stay compact and make ideal landscape specimens. Other award-winning qualities include attractive flowers, unusual bark and superior disease resistance.

With proper pruning, these crape myrtles will add an artistic, sculptural quality to the landscape when trained as multi-trunk specimens. Select three to five main trunks and raise the canopy by pruning off low-growing branches. Prune in late winter by thinning branches and avoid cutting back large branches to unsightly stubs. After flowering, remove seed clusters to encourage repeat flowering.

Summersweet or Hummingbird ClethraClethra alnifolia

  • Category Shrub
  • Winner for 1996
  • Hardiness Zone 3 to 9
  • Conditions Full Sun to Part Shade

Hummingbird Clethra provides spicy-fragrant white flowers during July and August when color and fragrance are limited. The pleasant fragrance permeates the summer garden and spreads great distances, attracting butterflies and bees. “It’s a wonderful, carefree plant for the low-maintenance gardener,” says Dottie Myers, a landscape architect in Atlanta.

Over time the plant forms new sprouts from the crown and main roots and begins spreading outward as a colony. These plantlets can be separated front the parent plant and transplanted to another part of the landscape or cut off at ground level for a neater appearance.

New Gold LantanaLantana camara 'New Gold'

  • Category Annual
  • Winner for 1995
  • Hardiness
  • Conditions Full Sun

“Mounds of glowing gold”is the best way to describe Lantana ‘New Gold’ in the landscape. Durability is an asset in that the plant is tolerant of heat and wet weather. It attracts hordes of butterflies and is highly resistant to deer browsing.

Lantana ‘New Gold’ prefers full sun and is excellent for sunny borders, embankments or cascading from a hanging basket. The golden yellow flowers are best showcased by deep blue plants such as Salvia guaranitica (planted behind), or Scaevola ‘Blue Wonder’ (planted in front). Lantana ‘New Gold’ may be considered a semi-hardy annual and may come back after mild winters if mulched well for cold protection.

Blue Anise SageSalvia guaranitica

  • Category Perennial
  • Winner for 1995
  • Hardiness Zone 7 to 11
  • Conditions Full Sun

Salvia guaranitica is a trouble-free selection, growing upright to five feet with a spread of two to four feet. Mature, established plants can produce several thousand nectar-producing flowers that strongly attract hummingbirds and swallowtail butterflies.

The plant is classified as a semi-hardy perennial and is reportedly winter hardy as far north as Southern Tennessee. It overwinters easily in Athens, Atlanta and areas further south. If Salvia guaranitica begins to decline in floral display at any time, simply cut the plant back by one-third to one-half and it will branch and re-bloom. Few pests affect Salvia guaranitica.

Athena ElmUlmus parvifolia 'Athena'

  • Category Tree
  • Winner for 1995
  • Hardiness Zone 4 to 9
  • Conditions Full Sun

This unique selection of the lacebark elm offers a broad-rounded, compact outline and leathery, lustrous dark green foliage that is densely carried at the ends of the fine branches. In leaf, the tree has the appearance of a dark green cloud. The bark is quite spectacular and exfoliates in puzzle-like patterns that expose light gray and gray-green to orangish-brown colors.

Athena is a superior small tree for street and urban plantings but also meshes with residential landscapes because of its aesthetic qualities, freedom from insects and diseases, lack of messiness, and smaller size. The 40 year-old parent tree is approximately 35 feet high and 50 feet wide. It will make a superb small shade tree.

Annabelle HydrangeaHydrangea arborescens

  • Category Shrub
  • Winner for 1995
  • Hardiness Zone 3 to 9
  • Conditions Part Shade

This Georgia Gold Medal Award Winner is a magnificent June-July flowering shrub ideally suited to shady, moist areas of the garden. The plant averages three to five feet in height, 4 to 6 feet in width. Flowers develop on new growth of the season, so pruning should be initiated before new growth occurs. Regardless of methodology, abundant flowers will be formed at the end of the shoots.

The green buds are generally evident in May to early June and pass through the apple green (‘Granny Smith’) color to white, again light green, and age to straw brown.A second flowering occurs in August-September, but the flowers are smaller. The medium to dark green leaves may develop respectable lemon-yellow fall color when environmental conditions are perfect.

Homestead Purple VerbenaVerbena canadensis

  • Category Annual
  • Winner for 1994
  • Hardiness Zone 7 to 10
  • Conditions Full Sun

When Homestead Purple verbena becomes over-grown, simply cut it back to stimulate new growth and flowering. Fertilize lightly two to three times during the growing season with a complete fertilizer such as 16-4-8 or 10-10-10.

Homestead Purple verbena is also an excellent container plant for patio pots or hanging baskets. When combined with plants having white, yellow or pink flowers or foliage, it makes a spectacular show.

Bath’s Pink DianthusDianthus gratianopolitanus

  • Category Annual
  • Winner for 1994
  • Hardiness Zone 3 to 8
  • Conditions Full Sun

Bath’s Pink dianthus is a choice herbaceous perennial for sunny garden spots, named in honor of Jane Bath of Stone Mountain, Ga., who discovered it. Plant Bath’s Pink dianthus 12 to 18 inches apart and within two seasons you will have a handsome ground cover of gray-green foliage 4 to 6 inches high. The foliage remains attractive throughout the year, and the plant is remarkably heat-resistant and cold-tolerant.

It prefers well-drained soils. When spring arrives, Bath’s Pink dianthus is literally covered with bright pink, ruffled flowers 1 to 2 inches across that persist for about four weeks. It is not necessary to remove the old blossoms; they just fade away as new growth begins

Japanese Plum Yew (Low Growing Forms)Cephalotaxus harringtonia

  • Category Tree
  • Winner for 1994
  • Hardiness Zone 5 to 9
  • Conditions Sun to Shade

Low-growing forms of Cephalotaxus harringtonia, Japanese plum yew, add a new dimension to our landscapes with their feathery texture, compact growth habit and adaptability to many soils and microclimates. The plant is evergreen and maintains its deep green color throughout the year. Japanese plum yew is both shade and sun tolerant. It is an excellent substitute for junipers in shady environments.

Moist, well-drained soils are preferred. The plant is adaptable to the wide range of soils and climates in Georgia, from the Coastal Plains to the Piedmont. It also is highly deer-resistant. Prune lightly and only when necessary.

Mt. Airy FothergillaFothergilla major

  • Category Shrub
  • Winner for 1994
  • Hardiness Zone 5 to 8
  • Conditions Full Sun to Part Shade

Fothergilla Mt. Airy is a real conversation piece in the spring landscape, with its creamy-white, bottle-brush- type blooms 1 to 2 inches long that provide a sweet honey fragrance. The flowers are borne on naked stems before the foliage emerges, which makes the floral display even more dramatic. Flowers are followed by coarse-textured blue-green leaves 2 to 3 inches long and about 2 inches wide.

The foliage is resistant to insects and diseases. When fall arrives, fothergilla Mt. Airy becomes a kaleidoscope of orange, yellow and red and provides a dazzling display of rich autumn color in the landscape. Fothergilla Mt. Airy prefers full sun or partial shade and well-drained soils. It grows 5 to 6 feet tall with a spread of 6 feet.

What is Georgia Gold Medal Plant Program (GGMP)?

The Georgia Gold Medal Plant Program promotes the use of superior ornamental plants in Georgia.

It represents the combined effort of the State Botanical Garden of Georgia; the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension; University faculty members; and nurserymen, flower growers, garden retailers and landscape professionals across the state.

Winners are chosen from five categories: Natives, Annuals, Perennials, Trees, Shrubs and Vines and Groundcovers.

Get Involved!

Tell us what plants you would like to nominate for the Georgia Gold Medal Plant Program.