Pycnanthemum flexuosum

2020 – Appalachian Mountain Mint

Appalachian Mountain Mint is an under-used, multifaceted plant. Native to the Southern Appalachians, this plant grows 2 to 3 feet tall and spreads 3 to 4 feet in hardiness zones 6 to 9. Its aromatic, white, tuft-like flowers bloom summer to fall and attract butterflies and other pollinators. The fragrant foliage has a hint of red along the margins and is resistant to deer browsing.

Unlike many other mints, Appalachian Mountain Mint will not take over the garden. It is a clump species and spreads slowly through rhizomes, which is great for helping with soil erosion. Plant in well-drained soils with full to part-sun conditions.

Appalachian Mountain Mint looks nice in naturalized areas, meadows, mass plantings in the landscape, or near vegetable gardens to entice pollinators. Since the flower is showy, it also makes a nice cut flower. To add winter interest to your garden, resist cutting back the spent seed heads. These can add an element of texture to the landscape and are a beautiful addition to dried wreaths and arrangements.

Coreopsis verticiallata

2020 – Whorled Tickseed

Whorled Tickseed is an herbaceous perennial native to Eastern North America. It grows 2.5 to 3 feet tall and spreads 1.5 to 2 feet in zones 3 to 9. Yellow daisy-like flowers appear June through September and are attractive to butterflies and other pollinators. Once Whorled Tickseed is established, it can survive tough conditions including full sun, drought, shallow-rocky soil, and deer pressure.

The foliage has an airy, thread-like appearance. Foliage may be cut back in the summer if sprawling occurs or to encourage fall rebloom. Indicative to its name, tickseed is named after the seeds’ resemblance to ticks.

Whorled Tickseed looks nice in naturalized or cottage gardens where it has room move. It self-seeds and spreads by rhizomes. It pairs nicely with other wildflowers, especially those with purple blooms. Its cheery-yellow color looks nice as a cut flower. Popular cultivars include ‘Moonbeam’, which has a paler yellow flower, and ‘Zagreb’ which is more compact and has slightly darker disks.

Stokesia laevis

2020 – Stokes’ Aster

Despite being native to wet areas, this herbaceous perennial has a surprisingly high tolerance for heat and drought once established. It is native to the Southeastern United States and grows in hardiness zones 5 to 9 with average moisture and well-drained soil. It grows to 2 feet tall and spreads 1 to 1.5 feet, which makes it a great option for planting along the edge the of garden beds or water edge. In full sun, the blue flowers will bloom from May to June and attract butterflies and other pollinators.

Stokes’ Aster can be used in the landscape, in pots, and as a cut flower. There are several different cultivars of Stokes’ Aster and they vary in size and color. Stokesia laevis ‘Alba’ has a similar size, blooms June through September, and has white flower. Stokesia ‘Peachie’s Pick’ has a blue flower and is more compact. Stokesia ‘Colorwheel’ has white flowers that change to lavender then dark purple.

After the flower is spent, they can be removed to promote a second bloom. Stokesia laevis pairs nicely with pale yellow flowers and makes a great addition to home landscapes.

Cladrastis kentukea

2019 – Yellowwood

 American yellowwood is a medium-sized tree native to the southeastern United States, reaching 30-50 feet tall when mature. Indicative of its name, the wood is yellow and encased by smooth grey to light brown bark. It has panicles of white, showy, and fragrant flowers that bloom in the spring. In the fall, it can be identified by its brilliant yellow foliage and bean-like fruits.

Yellowwood grows in full-sun to full-shade, but performs best in part-sun to part-shade with well-drained soil. It makes a great residential tree and can serve as a focal point on smaller properties or can be planted in masses in larger landscapes. Its roots grow deep into the ground making it an ideal tree to plant under. Pruning should occur in summer because the wood is prone to bleeding if pruned in late winter or early spring.  There are very few cultivars of this species with the most notable being ‘Perkins Pink’ which sports light pink flowers.

 

Schizachyrium scoparium

2019 – Little Bluestem

 Little bluestem is a prairie grass native to eastern North America that matures at 2-4 feet tall and 1.5-2 feet wide. As the name implies, this upright perennial grass is noted for its blueish foliage that turns a beautiful copper tone in the fall. In August, a purple-bronze flower reaches over the foliage and turns into a fluffy seed head, making it a fantastic specimen for year-round interest.

This plant is very adaptable. It thrives in full sun, and can tolerate deer, drought, erosion, shallow-rocky soil, and black walnut. It looks best when planted in masses, as a border, or in a prairie-like or meadow setting. Cutting back Little Bluestem should occur in late winter or early spring. There are many cultivars of this plant including ‘Twilight Zone’, which has purple highlights towards the tip, ‘Standing Ovation’, which has dark purple and thicker blades towards the base, and ‘Carousel’, which has a lower and broader base.