A national trade association impacts the introduction of excellent perennial plants we see in our regional nurseries. The Perennial Plant Association consists of growers, retailers, landscape designers, educators and others professionally involved in the herbaceous perennial industry. They began a program, the Perennial Plant of the Year, in 1990 to showcase a perennial that is a standout among its competitors.

Perennials chosen are suitable for a wide range of growing climates, require low maintenance, have multiple-season interest and are relatively pest/disease-free. If you are looking for an excellent perennial for your next landscape project or something reliable for your gardens, make sure to check out the PPOY archive list. A helpful site with pictures can be found on www.waltersgardens.com/photo_essay.php?ID=95.

The PPOY selection process is quite simple-members vote for the Perennial Plant of the Year each summer. At that time, in addition to the vote, each member may also nominate up to two plants for future consideration. The PPYO committee reviews the nominated perennials (more than 400 different perennials are often nominated each year) and selects three or four perennials to be placed on the ballot.

Nominations generally need to satisfy the following criteria:

• Suitability for a wide range of climatic conditions

• Low-maintenance requirements

• Relative pest-and disease-resistance

• Ready availability in the year of promotion

• Multiple seasons of ornamental interest

Stachys "Hummelo" is the Perennial Plant for 2019. The common name for the plant is betony and it is an herbaceous perennial of the family Lamiaceae. It is grown in Zones 4 to 8 and blooms from July to September. It grows best in full sun and has rose/lavender-colored flowers on sturdy spikes approximately 12-18 inches tall. It has a mounding but upright stature that, at maturity, spreads to 18 inches. Leaves are heavily puckered but crisp and dark green and up to 5 inches long. Clumps will spread slowly by creeping rhizomes over time to form a dense ground cover. Although this perennial belongs in the lamb's ear family commonly recognized by their gray woolly leaves, this species is grown primarily for its vivid flowers. It is considered deer resistant and has few pests.

It can be grown in many situations: use it best in borders, cottage gardens, informal naturalized areas and it makes an interesting edging plant. "Hummelo" means bumble bee in German and is noted for attracting pollinators. It is a strong flower producer. Because its flowers are colorful and compact, it also makes a great cut flower. It can be used as a container plant that could be planted in the garden in the early fall. It can be grown as a standout specimen in a large rock garden as well as in raised beds, Mediterranean style and rustic style gardens.

Here in Zone 3, be sure to provide this perennial with a good "winter coat" of mulch. After calling the larger greenhouses in Bemidji, I've learned there are no "Hummelo" available so look to your catalogues and put this perennial in your plan for next year.

For gardening information, click on "Yard and Garden" at the University of Minnesota Extension website www.extension.umn.edu, or call (218) 444-7916, and local Master Gardeners will respond to questions via voicemail. Visit the Master Gardeners Facebook page for more information: www.facebook.com/Beltramicountymastergardeners.