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GCA Plant of the Year for 2013

Submitted by on June 9, 2013 – 8:35 amNo Comment
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redbudThe Garden Club of America Horticulture Committee has announced that three plants have been chosen to be be honored this year in recognition of GCA’s centennial:

Freeman Medal Winner: Cercis Canadensis (Eastern redbud, Judas tree — pictured at left)

Redbud, nominated by a member of the Mount Desert Garden Club, is a special sentinel for spring. Flowers, in shades of pale to deep pink and purple, bloom before leaf growth from March to May throughout USDA Zones 4-9. After blooming, leaves begin to grow and gradually turn dark green. The redbud attracts butterflies, hummingbirds and honeybees and Native Americans boiled its bark for tea to treat whooping cough and dysentery. Redbud occurs natural as scattered trees or small populations and is an understory species in open woods. It is happiest on south facing slopes on most, loamy or sandy soils. Pruning helps develop a strong structure and a deep taproot grows quickly under conducive conditions.

Honorable Mention: Nyssa sylvatica (Black tupelo, Black gum, Sourgum)

Nyssa sylvatica is known for its spectacular fall color and is a beacon for hungry migrating birds. Nominated by provisional members of the Millbrook Garden Club, it can grow to 75 feet and is able to thrive on difficult sites throughout USDA Zones 4-9. Black tupelo’s myriad benefits to wildlife make it a tree worthy of greater use in American landscapes.

Special Recognition: Torreya taxifolia (Stinking cedar, Gopherwood)

Torreya taxifolia is a stately evergreen tree that gains its unusual common name from the pungent odor it produces when any leaves or cones of the tree are bruised. Torreya was one of the first species to be listed on the Federal Endangered Species list due to a catastrophic population decline in the 1950’s following a widespread fungal infestation. The Nashville Garden Club, a member club of the Garden Club of America, and the Howe Garden at Cheekwood, have undertaken a restoration project of the tree through sexual and asexual reproduction. It grows in USDA Zones 6-9.

The Freeman Medal is the only award given by the Garden Club of America to a plant. Beginning in 1995, the award has been given to a choice native plant which is under-utilized but which possess superior ornamental and ecological attributes. The goal of the award is to encourage distribution of these plants furthering their use in the landscape. The Medal honors Montine McDaniel Freeman, a member of the New Orleans Town Gardeners, and was given in her memory by her son and daughter-in-law, Louis and Judy Freeman.

(Photo of Cercis Canadensis by Will Cook, Duke University, courtesy of Garden Club of America)

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