The Cary Award is a program to promote outstanding plants for New England gardens. Named in honor of Shrewsbury plantsman Ed Cary the award promotes home landscape plants that have proven their performance in New England.

Edward A. Cary, was born at the turn of the 20th century, he lived and worked in Shrewsbury MA at his nursery where he cultivated and collected plants throughout his life.   Ed was known for his amazing collection of plants.   “Ed was a true plantsman, who lived year by year to grow plants, to experiment with new plants, and to share his plants with others,” according to fellow nurseryman Richard Bemis of Spencer, MA.Image

Ed Cary in front of the Cary Brothers Nursery

on Route 9, Shrewsbury MA, 1960

Ed Cary died in 1987 at the age of 86. He left his estate to local charities, including the Worcester County Horticultural Society–half to support the library, and half to go toward awards and prizes for horticultural endeavors. The Horticultural Society in an attempt to interpret and carry on Ed’s life work of helping others and promoting underused and unusual plants established the Cary Award Program which was modeled on the Gold Medal Plants program of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society

The Cary Award program has thus far selected forty-four woody shrubs, trees or vines for distinction. The winning plants are chosen for their hardiness, uniqueness, and ability to extend the New England growing season. Nominations for the Cary Awards are encouraged; anyone can nominate a plant.

The criteria for nominations are the plant must be:

  1. A woody shrub, tree, vine or ground cover that is especially appropriate for New England.
  2. Hardy within at least 2 of the 4 USDA hardiness Zones in New England (Zones


  1. A season-extender with priority given to notable winter features.
  2. Available in the nursery industry.


 Winners are selected by a panel of regional experts, along with members of the Worcester County Horticultural Society. 


 Greg Tormey is a horticulturist and head propagator at the C.R. Burr, Ratcliffe Hicks Teaching Nursery at the UConn Plant Science Research and Education Farm. Greg is also member of the Cary Award Selection Committee. In November 2012 Greg taught a class about the Cary Awards for the UConn Master Gardener program as part of their Garden Master Classes series.  


The class took place at the Waxman Conifer Collection classroom where Greg shared his knowledge of many of the award winning plants in a power point presentation.  Several of the Cary Award winning plants were donated by Prides Corner nursery for class use and after to be added to the landscape at the Waxman Conifer collection. One of Dr. Waxman’s plant introduction- Pinus strobus ‘Soft Touch’ a Cary Award winner was planted during class.Image


For more information on the Cary Awards see

For a catalog of the winter/spring 2013 Garden Master Classes see


Leslie Alexander