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Great Plant Picks 2004
The experts enlist an exciting troop for Northwest garden duty

A peek at Plant Picks
Variegated Pagoda Dogwood Redbud Hazel Silvervein Creeper
Variegated Pagoda Dogwood Redbud Hazel Silvervein Creeper
Variegated Pagoda Dogwood Plant Picks gallery »
IT'S HARD TO BELIEVE that just four years ago Great Plant Picks was unveiled. The ambitious program has already compiled a fine, comprehensive list highlighting more than 200 choice plants for Northwest gardens.

This week, a team of experienced horticulturists from Oregon, Washington and British Columbia is announcing 45 new winning trees, shrubs, vines, perennials and bulbs. We no longer need to fear falling head-over-heels in love with a beauty that isn't garden worthy, for level-headed Plant Picks experts screen out less-than-desirable plants to come up with a dependable guide to the best and brightest.

Sadly, the comprehensive Great Plant Picks book planned for publication early this year has been delayed indefinitely. In the meantime, gardeners will have to be content with a new brochure that profiles all the winners and includes companion suggestions, as well as lists of plants for specific situations. If you're looking for plants with winter interest, exceptional drought tolerance or great fall color, the brochure will help you match plant to place.

You can pick up a brochure and peruse this year's winners displayed in the North Hall of the Washington State Convention and Trade Center during the Northwest Flower & Garden Show Feb. 4-8. As you admire the 2004 champions, remember the rigorous criteria applied to their selection: All are hardy in USDA zones 7 and 8, each is disease and pest resistant, long-lived, interesting in more than one season and refrains from spreading too aggressively. My favorite criterion reads, "Plants must be vigorous and easy to grow by a gardener of average means and experience." Isn't that reassuring?

You can count on these plants' virtues being more than cambium deep — they all have more to recommend them than their lovely, leafy looks.

I think you'll find the 2004 selections the most exciting yet. The first couple of years, the judges scrambled to round up all the "do-gooders" central to any list of Northwest plants. But now that a creditable selection of clematis, crabapples and witchhazels have made the list, the judges have branched out a bit with more unusual choices. This year there is a clutch of maples, vines for shade, showy ferns and perennials noteworthy for their flashy foliage. For a comprehensive list, visit the Web site at

Valerie Easton is a Seattle free-lance writer and contributing editor for Horticulture magazine. Her book, "Plant Life: Growing a Garden in the Pacific Northwest" (Sasquatch Books, 2002) is an updated selection of her magazine columns. Her e-mail address is

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