Lifestyle

Solomon's seal named Perennial Plant of the Year

THE PERENNIAL PLANT of the year is commonly known as Solomon
THE PERENNIAL PLANT of the year is commonly known as Solomon's seal.
— image credit: PHOTO BY LESLIE COX

Every year since 1990 the Perennial Plant Association has selected a Perennial Plant of the Year. Plants nominated for consideration are evaluated for their performance and endurance in a number of categories. These include hardiness in a variety of growing conditions, disease resistance, pest resistance, multiple seasons of interest in the garden and ease of care.

This year the winner is: Polygonatum odoratum 'Variegatum'...sometimes also known as Polygonatum odoratum var. pluriflorum 'Variegatum' according to the Royal Horticultural Society. Or you may know it by its common name: Solomon's seal.

Well done! I love this plant! Mainly because it is one of the few plants that performs superbly in a shady location. It also holds its own against the matted roots of two mature trees in my front garden. Resistant to pests and diseases, drought tolerant once established and holds its interest for the gardener's eye through three out of four seasons.

Lovely gently arching stems are resplendent with soft green leaves streaked with thin white lines on the outer edges. All the stems have a unique habit of bending in the same direction, like children walking into the wind. Come autumn, the leaves turn a soft yellow and being a herbaceous perennial, it dies back in winter.

The flowers appear in May and June. They dangle in pairs like dancing bells along the underside of the burgundy stems at the leaf axil point. A bit of soft green speckles the white of the flowers adding a pleasing touch. Pass by this plant in the evening and you may catch its delicate scent on the night breeze.

Where the common name, Solomon's seal, came from has become lost in obscurity although there is one theory that seems to have merit. Each year the rhizome grows another branching plant segment leaving a "scar" between the two segments. It is this root-scar that is generally thought to be the reason for the plant's common name.  The plant effectively protects its health by creating a seal at each juncture.

The scar also leaves a mark that some state looks like a Star of David...possibly a sign of its healing capabilities. It was once believed that the juice from Solomon's seal roots were able to seal the wounds of battle, just as it sealed its own wounds.

Polygonatum odoratum 'Variegatum' is native to Europe and Asia. It grows 18 to 24  inches (45-60 cm) high and spreads to about three feet (90 cm) wide. It should be noted the plant benefits from division every three or four years to keep the clump looking its best.

Now for Hosta of the Year 2013...Hosta 'Rainforest Sunrise'. And let me tell you, the American Hosta Association has picked yet another real winner in this one.

I have only had it a year in my garden but I love it. One of those chance spottings in the nursery that caught my eye...and I like the name. Goes with our climate.

'Rainforest Sunrise' is a sport of the dwarf Hosta 'Maui Buttercups' getting only ten to twelve inches (25-30 cm) tall and about sixteen inches (40 cm) wide.

The centre of the puckered leaves is a luminous green-gold colour accented by its border of dark green. Lavender flowers appear in June through July atop a sixteen inch (40 cm) tall scape.

Its form caught my eye. Not your typical mounding habit but more upright with a nice cupping to its round leaves.

Have fun looking for these garden winners in our local nurseries! Wishing all a very happy gardening season in 2013!

Leslie Cox co-owns Growing Concern Cottage Garden in Black Creek. Her website is at www.duchessofdirt.ca and her column appears every second Friday in the Record.

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