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A Look Back at Top-Performing Perennials From the 2022 McCrory Gardens Trial

Updated May 22, 2023
Professional headshot of Kristine Lang

Kristine Lang

Assistant Professor & SDSU Extension Consumer Horticulture Specialist

Several visitors examining plants at the McCrory Gardens perennial trial gardens.
Visit McCrory Gardens to tour the perennial trial gardens and vote for your favorite plants!

Written collaboratively by Kristine Lang, Christopher Schlenker, Amy Knofczynski, Bryanna Chipley, and Regan Jacoby.

Are you looking for new ideas of what to grow in your garden? Let’s take a look at six top-performing perennials as judged during the 2022 growing season at McCrory Gardens. These plants are commercially available at many local garden centers.

Trial Summary

Perennials are grown in the trial gardens for three years to allow for two seasons of overwintering survival to be assessed. McCrory Gardens is in USDA Hardiness zone 4b, and all perennials were grown in full-sun conditions. Top-performers in this article only include plants that were established in 2020 or 2021 which demonstrated strong winter survival. Perennial plant evaluations were collected monthly and assessed plant health, vigor, growth habit, uniformity, bloom performance, and overall appearance. The top-performing plants had evaluation scores greater than 3.25 based on a five-point scale. Plant height and width were measured on September 15, 2022. All photos of these selections were taken when plants were at peak bloom in early August through September courtesy of Regan Jacoby.

Top-Performing Perennials

Ornamental Oregano (Origanum)
‘Drops of Jupiter’

Drops of Jupiter oregano plant with bursts of delicate, bright-pink flowers.
  • Bloom Time: July through September
  • Flower Color: Lavender to deep purple
  • Height: 23 inches
  • Spread: 31 inches
  • Establishment Year: 2020

A 2021 and 2022 top-performer and winner of the 2022 People’s Choice Award as voted on by garden visitors! This ornamental oregano has scented foliage that is lime-green to creamy-yellow in appearance and provides contrasts to deeper greens within the garden. The foliage provides a backdrop to the purple blooms that cover the plant. Even after its petals drop, the deep-purple calyces remain very attractive. This ornamental oregano grew together as a carpet in the garden for an excellent mass planting. Bees and hoverflies were seen visiting the abundant blooms throughout the season.

‘Luminary™ Ultraviolet’

Luminary Ultraviolet phlox plant with clusters of bright-pink flowers throughout.
  • Bloom Time: July through August
  • Flower Color: Fuchsia
  • Height: 34 inches
  • Spread: 25 inches
  • Establishment Year: 2020

A 2021 and 2022 top-performer and winner of the 2022 People’s Choice Award as voted on by garden visitors! This phlox had bright-green, upright stems with a spread that was contained in 2021; however, the plants filled out considerably in the 2022 season; give this phlox some room! In July and August the plants were covered in blooms with a slight fragrance noted. Pollinators could be seen visiting the flowers as well. This phlox was noted as one of the healthiest looking perennials throughout the trial season.

Russian Sage (Perovskia)
'Denim 'n Lace'

Denim 'n Lace Russian Sage plant with spires of light-purple flowers rising throughout.
  • Bloom Time: July through September
  • Flower Color: Lavender
  • Height: 25 inches
  • Spread: 19 inches
  • Establishment Year: 2021

Attractive blooms are supported on well-branched, sturdy stems for multiple months of a soft, lavender color in the garden. Denim ‘n Lace is more compact than other Russian sage, which makes it worth considering if you’ve been turned off by other, spreading forms. The texture of the leaves was very delicate and a nice complement to bolder plants in the garden. Russian sage is a drought-tolerant plant, and this one performed and bloomed well all summer long!

Russian Sage (Perovskia)
'Sage Advice'

'Sage Advice' Russian Sage plant with spires of bright-purple flowers rising throughout.
  • Bloom Time: July through September
  • Flower Color: Lavender
  • Height: 33 inches
  • Spread: 24 inches
  • Establishment Year: 2020

Sage Advice had a noticeable fragrance to the mint-green foliage that was on display in 2022. While taller than the other top-performer, stems remained sturdy, and foliage was dense throughout the growing season. Flowering peaked in August and September, with evaluators rating the bloom performance as “Excellent.” Apparently, pollinators agreed, as the flowers were full of bees and butterflies in late August!

Stonecrop (Sedum)
'Rock 'N Grow® Back in Black'

'Rock 'N Grow® Back in Black' sedum plant with dark, purple leaves and bright-pink flowers.
  • Bloom Time: Late August through September
  • Flower Color: Maroon
  • Height: 17 inches
  • Spread: 19 inches
  • Establishment Year: 2021

A winner of the 2022 People’s Choice Award as voted on by garden visitors! A unique quality of this sedum is the dark-purple to nearly-black leaves. Early in the 2022 season, the sedum were dark-purple balls of dense foliage, making a statement among all the green of the garden. Even when not in bloom, the buds and the seedheads were both noted as attractive. By late August, blooms were abundant. The petals are a creamy pink with a deep-maroon center.

Stonecrop (Sedum)
'Rock 'N' Grow® Coraljade'

'Rock 'N' Grow® Coraljade' sedum plant with thick, green leaves and clusters of light-pink flowers.
  • Bloom Time: Late August through September
  • Flower Color: Coral
  • Height: 13 inches
  • Spread: 21 inches
  • Establishment Year: 2021

The bright-green foliage, which has hints of pink along the margins, is supported by pink to purple stems, which provide contrast to dull greens in the garden. This is a compact stonecrop, with good branching, dense foliage, and sturdy stems. A pink blush of opening flowers overtook lime green buds, and then there was a pop of pink against the bright foliage; there was an abundance of flowers covering the plants in the fall. Bees and butterflies could be seen visiting the plants for late-season pollinator activity!

Additional Cultural Information

In 2022, the trial beds at McCrory Gardens were utilized to showcase and evaluate 43 perennial varieties from Proven Winners planted in a 500-square-foot trial bed. In 2020 and 2021, perennials were transplanted into the trial garden from one-gallon pots. View the full trial report for all cultural information, numerical ratings, and evaluator comments.

McCrory Gardens also serves as a trial site for annuals and serves as a collaborating site for national trials coordinated by All American Selections and the American Rose Trial for Sustainability. Visit McCrory Gardens this season to see the current trials in-person!


Special thanks to Walters Gardens for providing perennial plants for this trial. Extreme gratitude to the McCrory Gardens staff, under the direction of Christopher Schlenker, for caring for these plants and aiding in evaluations and data collection.

Related Topics

Flower, Horticulture Research