Asclepias tuberosa

2015 – Butterflyweed

Asclepias tuberosa, commonly known as Butterflyweed, is a species of milkweed that has both extremely attractive flowers as well as important ecological values. As a larval host for the Monarch (Danaus plexippus) and Queen (Danbaus gilippus) butterflies, this plant is vital for their life cycle. Butterflyweed also serves as a great nectar source for honeybees and a variety of native bees.

This tuberous, native perennial can grow 1.5 to 2 feet tall, making it great for the edges of perennial wildflower beds. Clusters of orange flowers bloom from June through August. Butterflyweed grows best in full sun and dry to moist soil although it can withstand drought and still performs well in poor soils. Just like most milkweeds, this species can be susceptible to aphids, but it is deer resistant. This milkweed is native from Maine to Florida, and west to Utah and California, leaving it native to all but 6 of the contiguous United States. It is hardy in zones 3-9.

Echinacea purpurea

2015 – Eastern Purple Coneflower

Echinacea purpurea is more than a popular perennial.  This prominent member of the Aster family inhabits meadows across a majority of the eastern half of the United States.  Being native from New York south to Florida, and west to Colorado and Texas, this perennial is hardy in zones 3-8.

The genus “echino” comes from the Greek word meaning hedgehog, directly describing the spiny center disk.  Surrounding the central disk of this flower are the beautiful drooping purple ray flowers.  The most robust plants grow in full sun, but they can withstand part shade as well. Dry, well-drained sandy soil is where Echinacea purpurea will be best suited. Reaching 3-5 feet in height, while spreading 1.5 to 2 feet, this perennial adds color all summer long as it continues to bloom June through August if deadheaded.  The seed heads left at the end of the blooming season will allow for additional plants to self seed into your garden, create winter interest, and act as a great food source for seed-eating birds such as goldfinches.

Lonicera sempervirens

2014 – Coral Honeysuckle

Coral Honeysuckle is a climbing, semi-evergreen vine with beautiful, bright red flowers. This woody vine has a native range from Connecticut to Nebraska and south to Florida and Texas. It climbs its way up supporting structures by twining and twisting its way skyward. In nature, this species can be found growing on fence rows, in open woodlands and along roadsides, but unlike its Asian cousin, Coral Honeysuckle is not invasive. In the spring, the vine is covered in red to reddish-orange, trumpet shaped flowers that are sweetly scented and are often visited by hummingbirds.

Coral Honeysuckle is in the Caprifoliacea or Honeysuckle family. The vine has simple leaves that reach 1”-3” long and are arranged oppositely on the stem. The leaf color is a blue-green with a powdery underside. Its flowers are tubular clusters and each individual flower is up to 2” long. The plant has a very large bloom in spring, and then blooms again sporadically throughout the summer.  In autumn, leaves fall off still green, but deep red berries are left behind as a source of food for songbirds and other wildlife. Coral Honeysuckle will grow in some shade but the flowering will be greatly reduced. The vine can reach 15’-20’ long and is one of the showiest of the vining honeysuckles. The plant is easy to grow; just site it in an area with full sun with moist soil that is well drained.  There are no serious pest problems, but powdery mildew and black spot can cause occasional cosmetic damage to the leaves.  Prune after flowering to open up the plant and increase air flow through the branches. Coral Honeysuckle makes a beautiful specimen plant in the garden and its spring blooms are real showstoppers!

Hexastylis shuttleworthii

2013 – Largeflower Heartleaf

The Largeflower Heartleaf is a small evergreen plant that is prized for its variegated evergreen foliage. Native to the Southern Appalachian Mountains, this small woodland plant can grow in deep shade and acidic soil. It is a clump former that spreads slowly by stolons. While it does take some time, the plant will eventually form a dense clump or mat that can serve as a multi-season groundcover in shade.

This heartleaf has triangular trumpet-shaped flowers which live up to the Heartleaf’s alternate name “Little Brown Jugs”. These speckled, dark purple flowers, although interesting, typically develop under the leaves which are held about 3-4” above the ground. While the flowers may be easily missed, the leaves are very showy with their dark green edges and white venation.

Grow this little plant as an accent or a ground cover in areas of shade. Some dappled light will produce better variegation between the dark green leaf edges and the silvery white leaf veins. The plant is best suited for moist soil with a low pH. Mulching the plant with extra leaf litter in the winter may help protect the plant in colder climates. While this heartleaf is slow to establish, the clumps that will eventually form can be divided to make more plants.

Spigelia marilandica

2012 – Indian Pink

With its vibrant red and yellow trumpet-shaped blooms on top of tiers of paired deep green leaves, Indian Pink is easily one of our region’s most stunning perennials. Take one look at Indian Pink and you’ll understand why this plant is a “must have” for gardeners wanting to attract butterflies and hummingbirds. This early-summer bloomer grows best in lightly shaded or mostly-sunny areas in the garden such as a mixed perennial border or woodland edge.  At 1-2 feet tall, with a spread of up to 2 feet, Indian Pink is the perfect complement to other Green Ribbon natives like Bluestem Goldenrod (Solidago caesia) or Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis).  Indian Pink grows well in moist soil and, once established, requires very little maintenance for gardeners in USDA zones 6-9.