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Growing Green: Perennial Plant of Year is Solomon's seal

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The Perennial Plant of the Year program began in 1990 to showcase a perennial that is outstanding among its competitors. The selection process is quite simple. PPA members vote for the Perennial Plant of the Year each summer.

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Nominations generally need to satisfy the following criteria:

• Suitability for a wide range of climatic conditions.

• Low-maintenance requirements.

• Relative pest and disease resistance.

• Ready availability in the year of promotion.

• Multiple seasons of ornamental interest.

The 2013 winner is Polygonatum odoratum "Variegatum," commonly known as variegated Solomon's seal. This hardy (zones 3-8), shade-loving perennial grows 18 to 24 inches tall and will spread by rhizomes to form colonies.

With its graceful, arching stems, polygonatum Variegatum adds an exotic, architectural touch to shady landscapes. It develops pink new shoots, pink to burgundy colored stems and alternate lance-shaped green leaves with creamy ivory edges.

Pairs of small white flowers appear in May and June, dangling beneath the variegated leaves. The sweet fragrance is somewhere between that of lilies and hyacinths and is strongest on warm, still evenings.

In fall, the foliage turns a lovely yellow and sometimes bears bluish/black berries.

Variegated Solomon's seal is a classic choice for the shady woodland garden or the part-shade to full-shade border. It is a great companion plant to other shade lovers, including hostas, ferns and astilbes.

Like many shade-loving perennials, it prefers moist, well-drained soil, but the plant is otherwise non-demanding, with few insect or disease problems. The shallow rhizomes are easily transplanted and divided.

If you are looking for an excellent perennial for your next landscape project or something reliable for your gardens, make sure to check out the Perennial Plant of the Year plant database at www.perennialplant.org/educated/plant-database.

Until next time, happy gardening!

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