You heard it here first: The 2011 Perennial Plant of the Year will be Amsonia hubrichtii 'Arkansas Blue Star', a fast-growing shrub with soft blue springtime flowers and green bottle-brush leaves that turn vibrant gold in autumn. 'Arkansas Blue Star' thrives in full sun to part shade and is considered deer resistant.

What makes this so special is that the announcement isn't expected for almost another  year. There still isn't any word of it on the PPA website and there hasn't been a press release. When this crossed my desk I was a bit skeptical, so I started poking around. Yesterday, I was able to get confirmation from Steven Still, executive director of the PPA: "I'm not sure why people jumped on it now. We have association people in the trade magazines and everyone wants to be the first to announce this type of thing. We also have growers who have the plugs and want to put it in their catalogs."

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Is this a sign of things to come for the Perennial Plant of the Year announcements? "We'll probably take a look at this and see how its announced in the future," Still said.

Every year, the Perennial Plant Association bestows this title on one standout plant. For 2010, the honoree is Baptisia australis, a native blue false indigo that blooms in spring and can reach 4 feet tall and wide. Plant it at the back of the border, in your cottage garden or among bulbs. Once established, this easy shrub-like  perennial is pretty drought tolerant, and it's best grown in full sun with well-drained soil.