2013 Perennial Plant of the Year

By Susan Littlefield

If you are looking for an easy-to-grow plant that adds a touch of quiet elegance to a shady spot, the Perennial Plant Association's 2013 Perennial Plant of the Year is for you. Variegated Solomon's seal (Polygonatum odoratum 'Variegatum') makes a lovely addition to a woodland garden or a shaded border.

Growing 18-24 inches tall, its graceful, arching, unbranched stems carry light green, oval leaves accented with creamy white at their tips and edges. In late spring, small, fragrant, green-tipped, white, bell-shaped flowers dangle beneath the foliage. In fall, the leaves add yet more interest as they turn a lovely golden color that sets off the blue-black berries that sometimes form.

A trouble-free addition to the garden, variegated Solomon's seal has no serious insect or disease problems. It does best in moist, well-drained soil in zones 3-8 and will thrive in light to deep shade. Plants spread slowly and established clumps are easily divided in spring or fall.

There are several theories regarding the origin of Solomon's seal's interesting common name. One is that the scars that remain on the rhizome after the stems die back in the fall resemble the marks left by a signet ring when it was pressed into wax to seal documents of old, like the legendary magical signet ring said to belong to King Solomon. The botanical name Polygonatum, meaning ″many knees″ in ancient Greek, also refers to the character of the rhizome, which has multiple joints.

Variegated Solomon's seal makes an excellent companion to other shade garden standbys such as ferns, brunnera, hostas, bleeding heart, and foamflower (Tiarella). It is pictured blooming here with Tiarella 'Spring Symphony.

To read more about this Perennial Plant of the Year, go to Perennial Plant Association.

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