2003 Perennial Plant of the Year

By Charlie Nardozzi

For 14 years the Perennial Plant Association has named a perennial of the year to encourage gardeners to try new plants. This year's winner is a selection of an old favorite, Shasta daisy: Leucanthemum 'Becky'. Shasta daisies were so named by Luther Burbank because the clean, white petals reminded him of the snows that cap California's Mt. Shasta. 'Becky' features sturdy, 40-inch-tall stems that resist flopping over in heavy rain and 3-inch-diameter, snow-white blossoms with yellow centers. It makes an excellent cut flower.

'Becky' is hardy (USDA zones 4-9) and is adapted both to the hot South and the chilly North. It flowers in midsummer, attracting butterflies and adding bright white splashes to perennial gardens and wildflower meadows. For best results grow 'Becky' in full sun or part shade, on moisture-retentive, well drained soil. If you deadhead it in midsummer, a new flush of blooms will occur in September and October.

'Becky's' history is as interesting as daisies are popular. In the 1960s Ida Mae Gatlin discovered this chance seedling growing in a neighbor's garden in Atlanta, Georgia. She purchased a clump, propagated it, and sold it in her nursery and florist shop. Ida Mae passed the plant down to her daughter Mary. In the 1980s Jim and Becky Stewart were visiting the nursery and were taken aback by this daisy selection. Unable to clearly identify the variety, they called it 'Becky' after Becky Stewart. It was passed around the area to notable nurserymen such Ryan Gainey (landscape designer) and Bill Funkhouse (Wayside Gardens). Today it is widely available.

For more on this Perennial Plant of the Year, check out the Perennial Plant Association Web site at www.perennialplant.org.

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