Plant Trial Results: The Best of the Best Plants for Every Garden

One of the best parts of being a gardener is plant shopping. But the variety of options for any given plant can be overwhelming. Every year new cultivars come out, but are they any good? Or is one just OK when another is an amazing performer? If only there was a way to know how the plant might perform when it is finally planted in your garden.

There is one way, thanks to Richard Hawke—aka Mr. Plant. As the plant evaluation manager for the Chicago Botanic Garden, he has researched, monitored, and written about more plants than most experts in the field. Since 1986 his area of focus at CBG has been ornamental plant evaluation. He grows every variety of a plant he can find and evaluates them in a head-to-head comparison. He also focuses on invasive-species testing of wild-collected and ornamental plants, and the evaluation of native and cultivated plants for green roofs. In his “spare” time you’ll find Richard lecturing around the country about the best plants or organizing the Midwest Regional Perennial Plant Symposium in his role as regional director for PPA.

Fine Gardening is lucky to have Richard as a contributing editor, and in this role he has shared numerous highlights from his plant trials over the years. Chances are, if there’s a plant you’re looking to buy, Richard has evaluated it. His list of in-depth articles includes:

Ornamental grasses
Butterfly bush
Garden phlox

And this just scratches the surface. Now, for the first time, we’ve collected all of our Richard’s plant trial articles in one place. Here you will not only find charts filled with ratings on a myriad of plants, but also helpful insider tips and tricks on how best to grow those plants. Every article includes information on pests, diseases, and even how to propagate. Think of this as the most in-depth look at a given group of plants you could ever want. Finally, once you determine which ones sound best for your own garden, look for our list of sources of where to buy those plants via mail order.