With a well-organized website, an annual poster, and list after list of pictures and tips, GPP is your go-to garden tool.
IF YOU’RE LOOKING for the perfect plant for a particular spot in your garden, check out the Great Plant Picks website at greatplantpicks.org before you head to the nursery.
The GPP program, administered by the Elisabeth C. Miller Botanical Garden, is made up of a panel of regional plant experts who evaluate hundreds of trees, shrubs, vines, grasses, bulbs and perennials (including the newest introductions) in order to select the best plants for our Pacific Northwest climate and conditions.
Having served on the committee, I can vouch for the fact that these horticultural professionals take their jobs very seriously. Sometimes the process of arguing for a favored plant seemed more like a wrestling smackdown than a discussion!
To be selected as a Great Plant Pick, a plant must be hardy; long-lived; easy to grow; disease- and insect-resistant; commonly available; relatively drought-tolerant; noninvasive; and, above all, extremely attractive. The result is that only plants that perform especially well in Northwest gardens make the grade.
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Although the program’s emphasis is for gardeners living west of the Cascade Mountains from Eugene, Oregon, to Vancouver, B.C., many of the plants listed are quite hardy, so GPP is a valuable resource for gardeners east of the mountains as well. To date, more than 900 exceptional plants have been picked.
The website is well-organized, user-friendly and informative, making it a valuable resource for new and experienced gardeners. The site includes lists of plants that excel in all sorts of difficult situations, especially helpful if you need a plant for deep or dry shade, baking sun or drought. It even lists plants that deer will leave alone. There are also lists to help you find plants for small spaces, plants with striking foliage, those with great fragrance and much more.
If you are looking for a specific plant, such as a Japanese maple, the search feature will give you a list of the recommended varieties to help you make an informed choice. There are detailed descriptions about each plant, including expert growing tips to help you keep the plant healthy and vigorous. Need to know what a plant looks like? The site has excellent plant photos.
Every year, Great Plant Picks highlights plants with special characteristics in a beautiful color poster. Last year’s poster, entitled The Birds & The Bees, showcased plants that attract winged fauna to the garden. Earlier themed posters included scented plants, early bloomers, plants for shade and drought-tolerant plants.
This year’s poster (included in the Feb. 4 print edition of Pacific NW magazine) presents a selection of Perfect Plants for Great Containers. According to Richie Steffen, director of the Miller garden, the committee decided to focus on container plantings because they facilitate gardening in nearly any outdoor space.
Many GPP plants are well-suited to containers and are easy to care for, and provide interest and enjoyment for more than one season. Using GPP plants in a mixed container creates the perfect framework to showcase your annuals and temporary color spots.
The poster is divided into three sections, featuring plants that add bright color, stylish form or spectacular texture to container designs. You can order the poster online (as well as a limited number of past posters) for minimal shipping and handling fees, or you can get one for free by visiting the GPP booth at the Master Gardener Plant Sale, Saturday, May 5, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the UW Center for Urban Horticulture (3501 N.E. 41st St., Seattle). At the same time, you also should be able to find most of the plants highlighted in the poster at the sale. While you’re there, talk to Rick Peterson, manager of GPP. He’ll answer all your questions and help you decide which GPP centerpiece to use for your new container.