top of page
  • Greg Graves

‘Great Plant Picks’

It’s that time of year to revisit ‘Great Plant Picks’. While I was working at the Miller Botanical Garden the ‘Great Plant Picks’ program was developed as an outreach program so I had the opportunity to work on it from the beginning and still do. I am now a member of the perennial committee. I reference the program often when I do the daily Facebook posts if the plant happens to be a ‘Great Plant Pick’. I thought it may be useful to make people not familiar with the program aware of it (many of you are, I’m sure). It is a great resource for reliable plants in our area.  Although it is geared for zones 7 and 8 much of the plant information is useful for other areas. There are fact sheets with photos and cultural information for every plant that has been chosen over the last 20 years.

Mahonia x media 'Charity'

Mahonia x media ‘Charity’

The Mission of Great Plant Picks is to build a comprehensive palette of outstanding plants for maritime Pacific Northwest gardens. Great Plant Picks debuted in 2001 with the first recommendations. To date over 1000 exceptional plants have been selected for gardeners living west of the Cascade Mountains from Eugene, Oregon, USA to Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. 

Acer japonica ‘Aconitifolium’

The success of the program is due in large part to the expertise of the committee members. The Miller Garden assembled about 35 top notch horticulturist from all aspects of the industry, wholesale, retail, growers and botanic gardens. They are also divided amongst Washington, Oregon and British Columbia. There are 3 committees, trees and conifers, shrubs and vines, and perennials and bulbs.

Each plant selected must meet the following requirements.

1. Be hardy in USDA zones 7 and 8 (0° to 10°F/-18° to -12°C).

2. Be long-lived.

3. Be vigorous and easy to grow by a gardener of average means and experience. 

4. Plants requiring specialist knowledge should not be considered.

5. Be reasonably disease and pest resistant.

6. Have a long season of interest and preferably multiple seasons of interest.

7. Be available from at least two retail plant sources in Canada and the United States.

8. Be adaptable to a variety of soil and fertility conditions.

9. Not require excessive moisture (with the exception of aquatic plants).

10. Not be invasive or overly vigorous in colonizing the garden or larger environment.

Dryopteris lepidopoda

In addition, Great Plant Picks selections should follow these guidelines:

Perennials should be of good constitution and low in maintenance. Plants requiring staking, vigorous deadheading, etc. should not be considered.

Trees and shrubs should require little pruning and nominal training to achieve their best form (excluding plants used for hedges).

Bulbs should be considered long term perennials, lasting at least two years.

Variegated plants should be stable and not excessively revert.

The new GPP’s are released each year in conjunction with the Northwest Flower and Garden Show which was just a few weeks ago. This year’s theme is ‘Plants for a Better Planet’. It focuses not just on the new picks but also the picks from previous years that relate to the theme. If you are looking for ways to punch up your garden so that it is a little more in step with nature, this years theme will be particularly interesting to you. With more emphasis on gardening combinations and creating balance with nature Great Plant Picks strives to aid gardeners in this pursuit. 

When I’m working on a garden design the GPP website,  is my ‘go to’ place to jog my memory or inspire me to come up with just the right plant. I recently helped a friend design a new garden where deer were a major concern. I was able to come up with a complete garden just using Great Plant Picks list of deer resistant plants. I encourage you to use the website. I hope it is as valuable to you. This years theme ‘Foliage Fashion’ will help inspire you year-round. For much more information on this years theme, please go to the website. .

The photos used for this blog are from ‘Great Plant Picks’.

Hakonechloa macra ‘All Gold’

Arisaema consanguineum

Acer palmatum ‘Shishigashira’

Polysticum setiferum ‘Divisilobum Group’

Trillium luteum

Primula kiosoana

Primula kiosoana

368 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All



bottom of page