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Amsonia – The Perennial of the Year

Amsonia,PPA.Plant of the Year

Every year, since 1990, the Perennial Plant Association in North America has awarded their Perennial Plant of the Year. Thousands of members across North America, me included, vote each year to choose the plant that best deserves the award.

And, it turns out, they have a great track record of choosing plants that are also good garden plants in Britain. Take a look at the list and see. My only criticism of the selections is that sometimes the choices are too broad – Helleborus x hybridus covers a great many vary poor plants as well as many very impressive ones.

For 2011 the Perennial Plant of the Year is an American native perennial that many British gardeners may not know, and I’d say there’s also likely to be a good range of North American gardeners who’ve never grown it: Amsonia hubrichtii, sometimes known as Arkansas Blue Star or Threadleaf Blue Star.

So, what’s so great about Amsonia hubrichtii?
* Pale blue starry flowers in spring
* Attractive slender green foliage in summer
* Bright and buttery yellow foliage in the autumn
* Very hardy, happy down to -34C/-30F
* Happy in any reasonable soil and situation, and tolerates drought when established

On both sides of the Atlantic, Amsonia hubrichtii is well worth growing – especially for its bright yellow autumn foliage. It's available from nurseries all over North America and, in Britain, from these Royal Horticultural Society PlantFinder nurseries.


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I saw Amsonia for the first time on the High Line in Manhattan in October, and fell in love with it. In its autumn colours, it looked like a chartreuse rosemary. I meant to investigate UK suppliers when I got back, but the winter was so appalling, I didn't do much in the garden after the beginning of November. Thanks so much for reminding me about it.

Graham Rice

It's odd, Victoria, that it's not seen more in Britain in spite of having 22 RHS PlantFinder suppliers.

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