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GCA Medals: Montine McDaniel Freeman Medal

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The Montine McDaniel Freeman Medal: GCA Plant of the Year is the only award presented by The Garden Club of America to a plant. The medal is awarded to a North American native plant worthy of special recognition. The medal strives to acknowledge the cultivation and use of underutilized plants: trees, shrubs, ground covers, vines, and perennials, that are deemed worthy to be preserved, propagated, promoted, and planted. The goal of the medal is to draw attention to select native plants to encourage their use in the landscape, to make them familiar to the gardener, and more available in nurseries. Selection is made by a select group of professionals in the field of horticulture.

How the plant is selected: The medal is awarded to an herbaceous plant in the even years, and to a tree or shrub in the odd years (as vines may fall into either category, please consult your zone representative serving on the GCA Horticulture Committee with questions). The plant is selected from the nominations by the Plant of the Year Selection Committee. The committee is comprised of a chair, plus 3 to 5 leading and nationally renowned horticulturists and experts in the nursery trade. The award is accepted at the GCA Annual Meeting by the group or individual nominating the plant. The Selection Committee may award up to two Honorable Mentions, if merited, and one Special Recognition. Special Recognition goes to an outstanding plant that is limited in range or propagation.

History:  In 1995, the Freeman Medal, which was designed by Patricia Hardin, was given to the GCA in honor of Montine McDaniel Freeman by her son, Louis McDaniel Freeman, and his wife, Judy Freeman, a GCA member. Montine (Tina) was an outstanding horticulturist particularly enamored with native plants. She felt that many awards were given to people but none to plants! As a member of New Orleans Town Gardeners, Zone IX, she served as president from 1958-1959, a director of the GCA from 1969-1972, then a vice president from 1974-1978. In 1973, Tina received the Zone IX Conservation Award for Outstanding Civic Service for her role in restoring historic Gallier House in New Orleans. Mrs. Freeman also received the Amy Angell Collier Montague Medal in 1977 for Outstanding Civic Achievement. Tina and her husband, Dick Freeman, owned the magnificent garden property called "Beechwood Gardens" along the Bogue Falaya River in Covington, Louisiana where over 4,000 native azaleas, camellias, sasanquas, and magnolia grandifloras were nurtured and protected within the 93 acres. Tina also served on the Board of the Pacific Tropical Botanical Gardens (now the National Botanical Tropical Garden) in Hawaii for many years and was followed by her daughter Tina Freeman Woollam. In 2010, the medal’s name was expanded to The Garden Club of America’s Plant of the Year: The Montine McDaniel Freeman Medal. That year, the medal was also designated to alternate between woody plants on odd years and herbaceous plants on even years. The Freeman family remains involved in the medal and its future. 

 Photograph (right): Judy Freeman, Montine McDaniel Freeman & Louis Freeman

 Photograph (left): Judy & Louis Freeman

How often is it presented: Annually

What is eligible: Outstanding or unusual species or cultivars of North American native plants; Not readily available for landscape use in at least one major portion of the country, but in propagation for commercial distribution. In the case of a hybrid, at least one-half of the plant's parentage must be native to North America. Plants with attributes that enhance the landscape, are conducive to the attraction of wildlife, and/or are effective environmental plants, i.e., erosion control.

Which committee is it approved by: Horticulture

Painting: by Angela Overy, Garden Club of Denver


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