It's no easy task to call out a single fabulous perennial when there are thousands upon thousands to choose from. But the Perennial Plant Association is up to the task, as proved by their choice of Hakonechloa macra 'Aureola' as the Perennial Plant of the Year for 2009. Native to Honshu Island, Japanese forest grass is famous for its bright yellow foliage striped in green. The effect is of a liquid puddle of sunshine, shimmering and undulating in the slightest breeze.
By summer's end the grass turns golden, then tinges pink and red with autumn chill. It can be used to great effect in containers, massed as groundcover, or to trim a flower bed, walkway or border. Japanese forest grass prefers partial shade, moist soil, and turns to bleached straw in winter. Cut it back in March, and it'll quickly grow back into silky, golden mounds (below).
2008 Geranium ‘Rozanne’
2007 Nepeta ‘Walker’s Low’
2006 Dianthus gratianopolitanus ‘Feuerhexe’
2005 Helleborus x hybridus
2004 Athyrium niponicum 'Pictum'
For a complete list and photos, check out the Perennial Plant Association website.