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Welcome to Perennial Plant of the Year

This page features the plants that have been designated the Perennial Plant of the Year (PPOY). The PPOY are display in chronological order from the current year’s designated plant to previously designate plants. The plants are selected by the Perennial Plant of the Year Committee. Each year, the committee considers many plants. Committee members are passionate about their plant nominations and ardent debates about which plant deserves the designation occur.

To be selected as Perennial Plant of the Year, the plant must meet all the criteria:

  • suitable and reliable in Calgary growing conditions
  • not overused
  • readily available in garden centres
  • reasonably affordable to purchase

The Perennial Plant of the Year is announced at the Society’s spring gardening season launching event.

Penstemon ‘Dark Towers’ 2023 Perennial Plant of the Year

Common Name: Penstemon ‘Dark Towers’

The genus name of the plant is Greek in origin and reflects the structure of the flowers: each tubular, two-lipped bloom has five (penta) stamens (stemon). As for the common name “beardtongue”, one of the stamens in each flower is sterile and sports a few tiny hairs. The flowers appear on racemes in late spring into mid-summer, and are huge favourites with pollinating insects, particularly butterflies. Hummingbirds are also attracted to the blooms. If you are growing a cutting garden, these striking beauties will make an excellent addition to your fresh bouquets.

Plant ‘Dark Towers’ penstemon in odd-numbered groupings to best showcase the plant’s good looks. The basal foliage has a tidy, mounding growth habit and when grown in sufficient sunlight, the tall flower stems will not flop over. The plants grow relatively quickly, so do not space them too closely or you’ll be digging them up in no time to eliminate crowding.

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Chelone obliqua 2022 Perennial Plant of the Year

Chelone Obliqua or Pink Turtle head is the 2022 PPOY. Photo by Elaine Rude
Common Name: Pink turtlehead/Chelone

Pink (also sometimes known as red or rose) turtlehead (Chelone obliqua) has dense, upright habit with attractive glossy green, toothed, oval-to-lance-shaped foliage and striking dark pink flowers. These features make it a standout in the perennial garden.

The two-lipped blooms, with the upper lip protruding slightly over the lower lip, lend the plant its common name due to their tubular shape resembling the mouth of a turtle.

Pink turtlehead typically blooms in late summer, so it will put on a show when many other perennials are finished for the season. As a bonus, the plant will bloom for three to six weeks, and the flowers, racemes borne on tall stems, are suitable for cutting. The blooms are also highly appealing to pollinators, including bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. Showcase pink turtlehead most effectively by planting it in drifts, in
mixed borders, or in beds.

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Stachys monieri ‘Hummelo’ 2021 Perennial Plant of the Year

Common Name: Alpine Betony

Although Alpine Betony (Stachys monieri ‘Hummelo’) is related to the familiar lamb’s ear (S. byzantina), it doesn’t have any of the unruly characteristics of its woolly cousin.  Alpine betony has a tidy, non-spreading, mounding form, with medium green, long, narrow, and slightly velvety leaves.

Beautiful, nectar-rich, reddish-purple flowers are borne upright on sturdy stems and are bee and butterfly magnets. (They are also ideal for use as cut flowers!) The blooming period lasts several weeks, from early through midsummer. Alpine betony may be used as a focal point, or in mixed beds or borders. Plant it in drifts for a showstopping effect.

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Achillea ‘Moonshine’ 2020 Perennial Plant of the Year

Common Name: Moonshine yarrow

Achillea ‘Moonshine’. “A yarrow” you say, disbelievingly. Moonshine yarrow does not behave like its beautiful but thuggish cousin Achillea millifolium. Instead, it is a lovely, well-behaved clump-former that never spreads beyond its allotted space. A hybrid between Achillea clyeolata (Balkan yarrow), a low mat-forming species, and Achillea aegyptiaca var. ‘Taygetea’, an upright species native to Greece, ‘Moonshine’ inherited several excellent traits from its parents: drought tolerance, moderate size (60 cm tall and wide), soft colour and silver foliage. What really sets it apart from its more aggressive relatives is that it is sterile so it won’t reseed throughout the garden.

Olive green leaves are covered in soft white hairs giving the foliage a silvery grey cast. Leaves are finely dissected and fern-like creating the perfect backdrop for the dense flattened corymbs of tiny lemon-yellow flowers. Corymbs average 5–7.5 cm across, are upright and long lasting. Smaller side shoots develop below the central head and continue throughout the summer. Snipping off spent blooms ensures an extended show.

Achillea ‘Moonshine’ is easy to incorporate into any sunny perennial border. All it requires is sun and well-drained soils. Its softer colour and silvery foliage allow it to blend well with soft-coloured flower companions as well as with hotter colour schemes too.

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