Great Plant Picks

I have worked for the Oregon Association of Nurseries for almost 10 years now, but it’s really only in the last few years that I’ve come to realize the terrific plant resource Great Plant Picks (GPP) is to a gardener in the Pacific Northwest. Introduced to the gardening public in 2001, GPP is well on its way to developing a comprehensive list of hardy, reliable plants for home gardeners and industry professionals specifically focused on the maritime Pacific Northwest. GPP is one of the primary educational programs of the Elisabeth Carey Miller Botanical Garden in Seattle, Wash.

Royal Grivillea

I had the privilege and pleasure of attending the March 2013 GPP plant selection meeting where a brain trust of experienced nursery men and women, landscape designers, curators of esteemed botanical gardens and arboreta and passionate estate gardeners assembled to debate the characteristics and performance of plants being considered for selection. The horticulturalists broke into three subcommittees—shrubs and vines, trees and conifers, and perennials and bulbs—and engaged in rigorous and lively discussions. Selections are made by a majority vote. Believe me, you can select a GPP plant with confidence.

To even be considered, a plant must meet the following criteria:

  1. Be hardy in USDA zones 7 and 8;
  2. Be long-lived;
  3. Be vigorous and easy to grow by a gardener of average means and experience;
  4. Be reasonably disease and pest resistant;
  5. Have long season of interest and preferably multiple seasons of interest
  6. Be available from at least two retail plant sources;
  7. Be adaptable to a variety of soil and fertility conditions;
  8. Not require excessive moisture (with the exception of aquatic plants); and
  9. Not be invasive or overly vigorous in colonizing the garden or larger environment.

Additionally, perennials should be of good constitution and low maintenance; plants requiring staking, vigorous deadheading, etc. will not be considered. Trees and shrubs should require little pruning and nominal training to achieve their best form (excluding plans used for hedges). Bulbs should last at least two years. And finally, variegated plants should be stable and not excessively prone to reversion.

Can you think of 10 plants that meet all these criteria and perform as well in British Columbia as they do in Medford, Ore.? I can’t. Yet if you look at the Great Plant Picks website, you’ll find 850 beautiful plants and their outstanding qualities and culture to choose from, as well as images for each selection. Whew! As I was reworking much of my garden this spring, I regularly searched on the GPP website for plants for a particular site.

A special “thank you” to Rick Peterson, Great Plant Picks Manager, and Richie Steffen, Curator, for inviting me for a peek at the GPP process and allowing me to wander the Elisabeth Carey Miller Botanical Garden, a rare treat.

Have you used GPP as a plant selection resource?