The Wisconsin Nursery and Landscape Association (WNLA) announced its 2015 Plants of the Year. They were selected as the Plants of the Year at the Wisconsin Nursery Association’s annual membership meeting and workshop.

Carpinus caroliniana (Musclewood) has been selected as the Woody Ornamental Plant of the Year. Musclewood is a tree that will grow in full sun, full shade, and everything in between. This small, attractive tree, growing to a height of 20 to 30 feet, gets its name from its muscular-looking branches and smooth bark. It sports shiny bluish-green leaves until fall when the tree explodes in color, with leaves turning bright yellow or scarlet-orange. Many songbirds love to eat its pendulous fruit. With moist, slightly alkaline soil, Carpinus caroliniana is tough enough for zone 2 right through zone 9.

The Perennial Plant of the Year is Penstemon ‘Dark Towers’ PP20013 (Dark Towers Beardtongue). The glossy burgundy leaves of Dark Towers Beardtongue set off a profusion of tubular, soft pink flowers which bloom in late summer, attracting hummingbirds. Sunny borders benefit from the color and height of this exceptional plant, which grows to 30” to 36” tall. It’s a fast grower and will fill any sunny space with dazzling color and texture, taking all the heat and humidity that Mother Nature dishes out. Plant Penstemon ‘Dark Towers’ PP20013 in well drained soil in zones 3 through 8.

The Wisconsin Nursery and Landscape Association’s Plant of the Year Program was initiated in 2002 to promote quality – and underused – plants to the public. Two categories were created to consider all plants: the Woody Ornamental category, which includes deciduous trees, evergreens, vines, deciduous shrubs and shade trees, and the Perennial category, which includes herbaceous perennials, subshrubs, grasses, and ferns.

Each year, members of the WNLA Plant of the Year committee convene to discuss and analyze a collection of plants, narrowing down a field of top notch contenders to just four in each of the two categories. The outstanding characteristics of those eight plants are then presented to all who attend the Wisconsin Nursery and Landscape Association’s Winter Workshop every February. Attendees consider the candidates and vote for their favorites. The winners are voted on and selected two years before they are presented to the public, to ensure that growers have enough time to acquire the plants.