CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Whether you realize it or not, a plant that could reside in your garden is considered a champion in plant circles -- or at least a highly regarded individual.
Many different garden industry and enthusiast organizations name a "plant of the year," based on either member votes or variety trials. The aim is to both educate gardeners about new and interesting plants and to encourage sales of those certain plants in garden centers.
The All-America Rose Selections picks a rose of the year (this year it is a pink number called 'Francis Meilland'), and the American Hosta Growers Society picks a hosta of the year ('Rainforest Sunrise'). All-America Selections (separate from All-America Rose Selections) releases several flower, vegetable and bedding plant awards each year.
Today, though, let's take a look at the Perennial Plant of the Year, which comes to us from the Perennial Plant Association. The association has released a plant of the year since 1990, with awardees ranging from ornamental grasses to ferns to flowers. This year the award went to variegated Solomon's Seal (Polygonatum odoratum'Variegatum'), which is a close relative of our native Great Solomon's Seal (P. biflorum var. commutatum or P. commutatum, depending on whom you ask).
The genus name Polygonatum means "many knees" in Latin, referring to the many-jointed nature of the plant's rhizomes. The Solomon's Seal name also has two possible origins: from the leaf scars on the rhizome resembling the wax seals of a king to the fact that the plant was used medicinally to "seal" wounds.
There is also disagreement as to which plant family Solomon's Seal belongs to. It looks like the most recent information places the plant in the family Asparagaceae, with, you guessed it -- asparagus.
With everybody disagreeing about proper Latin names and common names, it's about time that people started agreeing about this plant. Any Solomon's Seal is a wonderful addition to the landscape.
Dainty pairs of white, bell-shaped flowers hang from gracefully arching shoots lined with oval leaflets. The flowers give way to inky blue-purple (and inedible) berries in the fall, followed by a foliage change to showy golden yellow.