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.

Physostegia virginiana

2017 – Obedient Plant

The obedient plant or false dragonhead is a very fun plant that has some very unique qualities. First of all, the obedient plant’s common name comes from the flowers’ unique pliable nature. The flower heads can be pushed along the axis of the stem and will remain wherever they are moved. This makes the plant very useful for cut flowers or flower arrangements. This plant is a rhizomatous perennial that is a member of the mint family, Lamiaceae. A common characteristic of this family is a square stem. The flowers a pale lilac with a tubular shape and snapdragon appearance that grow on terminal spikes. The flower spikes bloom from the bottom to top from late June to September. P. virginiana has sharply toothed, lanceolate leaves arranged in an opposite manner. The square stems can reach up to 4 feet but may fall over if the soils are too rich or it is not receiving enough sun. Beware this plant can spread rather aggressively either by seed or rhizomatously with stolons. To prevent this a gardener can pull up the undesired shallow roots to keep the plant tamed.

Obedient plant lives in a wide variety of habitats from open meadows to stream banks. It is native to much of North America from Quebec to Florida and even west to New Mexico. This plant is great because it can tolerate moist soils with poor drainage or soils on the drier end of the spectrum. The nectar of this plant is desirable to many species of butterflies and even attracts hummingbirds. Overall this is an excellent plant and can really give a show in the late summer, early fall especially if used in a rain garden.

Gelsemium sempervirens

2018 – Carolina Jessamine

Carolina Jessamine is a 10 to 20-foot-long, twining evergreen vine native to the southeastern United States.  As it is a southern species, in southeastern Pennsylvania it is best to use the cold-hardy variety called ‘Margarita’ and plant it in a location where it will be protected from harsh winter winds.

Gelsemium is among the first plants to bloom every year – a welcome sign that winter is over and the long-awaited spectacle of spring is about to begin.  The bright yellow, trumpet shaped flowers are very attractive and their sweet, candy-like fragrance can be enjoyed from a distance, though you should never pass up an opportunity to get a close-up sniff.

This vine will grow best, and will flower most profusely in moist, well-drained soils and full, bright sun.  It is highly deer resistant and looks wonderful grown on a trellis, arbor, pergola, fence or wall and even makes a good porch cover.  If desired, prune immediately after flowering to control its height.