Better late than never! The PPA responds—or at least one of them



I doubt many Rant readers will be checking back on my February Perennial of the Year post, so I want to bring this new response to that long-ago rant to the fore. It is from John Friel, a member of the Board of Directors of the Perennial Plant Association. I’m guessing the post was just brought to his attention or it came up during a google.

– Elizabeth, you skipped a crucial stage in “how the magic is made:” A committee does indeed select a short list and send it as a ballot to the members. But that short list comes from a longer list nominated BY the members. 

– firefly, for our Mission Statement, click on “About Us” and you’ll find the following: “A professional trade association dedicated to improving the perennial plant industry by providing education to enhance the production, promotion and utilization of perennial plants.”

– Elizabeth, you make an excellent point about Scabiosa ‘Butterfly Blue’. It’s not as reliably hardy nor as trouble-free as originally believed. But it performs very well in many areas. Seven years after it was Plant of the Year, it’s still a big seller industry-wide. No promotion lasts that long if the plant doesn’t work.

– It’s not really all about promotion. Yes, the PPA is an industry association, and most of our members need to keep the bottom line in mind. But we’re not all mega-growers, or even plant sellers. We also count as members many educators, students, garden writers, photographers, plant breeders, designers, and representatives of public gardens and arboreta.

– Do you want an exciting new plant, or a proven reliable plant? Choose one. Introducing new plants is wonderful, invigorating, profitable and essential. But promoting a hot cultivar that hasn’t been tested thoroughly, and/or can’t be found at retail anywhere, is a great way to disappoint gardeners and damage credibility.

– Thanks for the loan of the soapbox. Love this site.

Thank you, John. So, any personal nominations for perennial of the year? I just planted geranium Rozanne, which was the PPA’s choice for 2008, and have a few thriving hellebores (2005). As for a new one, I love the new orangy heuchera strain, whatever it’s called.

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Elizabeth Licata

Elizabeth Licata has been a regular writer for  Garden Rant since 2007, after contributing a guest rant about the overuse of American flags in front gardens. She lives and gardens in Buffalo, N.Y., which, far from the frozen wasteland many assume it to be, is a lush paradise of gardens, historic architecture, galleries, museums, theaters, and fun. As editor of Buffalo Spree magazine,  Licata helps keep Western New Yorkers apprised about what is happening in their region. She is also a freelance writer and art curator, who’s been published in Fine Gardening, Horticulture, ArtNews, Art in America, the Village Voice, and many other publications. She does regular radio segments for the local NPR affiliate, WBFO.

Licata is involved with Garden Walk Buffalo, the largest free garden tour in the US and possibly the world, and has written the text for a book about Garden Walk. She has also written and edited several art-related books. Contact Elizabeth: ealicata at


  1. I’m still appalled that they picked a patented plant for last year. Someone is making a lot of money off of that!

    The biggest problem is restrictions — there’s basically a monopoly on that plant since resellers can only buy the plant from licensed distributors. That drives the price up even higher.

    Ironically, it does limit distribution of the plant in some venues too. I tried selling some nursery stock at a local farmer’s market, but they won’t allow participation unless the plants are started locally. Guess that rules out anything with a patent!

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