WNA names 2012 Plants of the Year

Firebird Crabapple and Summer Beauty Ornamental Onion received this year’s honors.

February 16, 2012
Industry News

GREENFIELD, Wis. – The Wisconsin Nursery Association (WNA) celebrates the 10th anniversary of its Plant of the Year program by announcing its 2012 Plants of the Year.  They were selected as the Plants of the Year at the Wisconsin Nursery Association’s annual membership meeting and workshop.

The Woody Ornamental Plant of the Year is the Malus sargentii ‘Select A’ [PP 12621] (Firebird Crabapple).  It’s a beautiful and versatile tree, perfect as a specimen, in a container or a foundation, in a mixed border, espaliered or as a topiary. In the spring, the Firebird Crabapple is covered with red flower buds that blossom into snow-white flowers, bursting with fragrance. Its small, red crabapples stay firm late into the winter, well after its yellow and orange fall foliage drops. It prefers deep, moist soil in full sun and will reach upwards of 6 to 8 feet in height and 12 to 15 feet in width. Hardy to Zone 4, it is highly resistant to apple scab disease, fireblight, cedar apple rust and mildew. This Firebird Crabapple originated in Wisconsin, from open-pollinated seed collected by Michael Yanny of Johnson’s Nursery.

The Perennial Plant of the Year is Allium ‘Summer Beauty’ (Summer Beauty Ornamental Onion).  Although it is one of the first to come up in spring, ‘Summer Beauty’ blooms later than other Allium varieties. Its long lasting lavender-pink globes attract butterflies, but deer and rabbits stay away. It grows just about anywhere, but you don’t have to worry about it spreading since it is sterile. It resists mildew and is drought tolerant, preferring average, well-drained soil. Summer Beauty Ornamental Onion will grow 16 to 20 inches tall and 18 to 24 inches wide, in full sun to light shade, and is hardy to Zone 4. This trouble-free plant will enhance any perennial bed or border.
The Wisconsin Nursery Association’s Plant of the Year Program was initiated in 2002 to promote quality – and underused – plants to the public. Two categories were created to consider all plants:  the Woody Ornamental category, which includes deciduous trees, evergreens, vines, deciduous shrubs and shade trees, and the Perennial category, which includes herbaceous perennials, subshrubs, grasses and ferns.

Each year, members of the WNA Plant of the Year committee convene to discuss and analyze a collection of plants, narrowing down a field of top notch contenders to just four in each of the two categories. The outstanding characteristics of those eight plants are then presented to all who attend the Wisconsin Nursery Association’s Winter Workshop every February. Attendees consider the candidates and vote for their favorites. The winners are voted on and selected two years before they are presented to the public, to ensure that growers have enough time to acquire the plants.