Georgia Gold Medal Plant Program


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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.

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.

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.

Coral Bark MapleAcer palmatum

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

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

  • Category Tree
  • 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.