|We have finally closed the book on a tumultuous 2020, as we turn the calendar page to 2021.|
Over the past twelve months, it suddenly became not only legal, but required to wear masks in public. So, we quickly learned how to work and shop in a mask, we adapted to contactless pickups, eating restaurant food in our vehicles, zooming, and spending inordinate amounts of time with our same-roof families, and an array of other new normals. Both home and public gardens have risen in importance in people’s lives as most folks have had little choice but to shelter in safe places, and what could be safer than outdoors in the garden. Although COVID vaccinations are underway, we’re still a way from achieving herd immunity, so we expect another season of significant garden immersion.
Whether you like social media or not, we’ve seen a dramatic jump in Facebook participation in a time that pretty much every type of plants has its own worldwide group of enthusiasts. I can’t think of a better way to “find your plant people” than to join like-minded plant friends on-line. Here are just a few of the many plant groups that we follow:
Agave (over 14,000 members)
Aspidistra (over 600 members)
Variegated Plants (over 16,000 members)
Asarum (over 700 members)
Solomon’s Seal (over 1,200 members)
Variegated Agaves (over 5,000 members)
Southeast Palms and Subtropicals (over 400 members)
Lycoris and Nerines (over 1,100 members)
Crinum (over 1,200 members)
Thank goodness that our gardens seem oblivious to the craziness in the world. So far, winter 2020/2021 at PDN/JLBG has been consistently cool, but without any cold temperature extremes. While plants are getting their required winter chilling hours (under 40 degrees F), we’ve only seen lows of 21F as of mid-January. Hellebore flowers in the garden are beginning to push as we quickly approach our first Winter Open Nursery & Garden Days. Those potted hellebores which will be for sale on site for our open days are also looking amazing, so we should have a bumper crop of flowering plants for you to choose from this winter.
We’d like to again thank everyone for their patience in 2020, as we navigated the transition to a socially distanced workplace, which coincided with an unpredicted rise in plant demand. Longer than normal wait and response times from our customer service department were simply unavoidable. Although we’d like to think we are better prepared for 2021, we won’t know how well we polished our crystal ball until the shipping season begins.
|While we are always losing loved ones, 2020 seemed particularly difficult. The horticultural/botanical world experienced a number of loses of significant contributors to the field. Below are a few.|
|In January, Southeast US, legendary nurserywoman Margie Jenkins passed away at age 98. It’s hard to have been involved in the nursery business in the southeast US without knowing “Ms. Margie”. Margie was an incredible plantsperson and nursery owner, who traveled the country acquiring new plants and sharing those plants she’d found and propagated. Margie was showered with professional awards from throughout the Southeastern US region for her amazing work. True to the Margie we all knew, she served customers up until the week of her death…life well lived!|
|Contributions can be made to the Margie Y. Jenkins Azalea Garden at the LSU AgCenter’s Hammond Research Station. Please make checks payable to the LSU AgCenter and write “Margie Jenkins” in the memo field. Memorial donations can be mailed to 21549 Old Covington Hwy., Hammond, LA 70403. The Margie Y. Jenkins Azalea Garden was established in 2006 to honor, share and teach about the contributions Ms. Margie made to the nursery and landscape industry by displaying her favorite plants – including azaleas and natives. Other donations can be made to the Louisiana Nursery and Landscape Foundation for Scholarship and Research “Margie Y Jenkins Scholarship Fund” mailed to LNLFSR, PO Box 1447, Mandeville, LA 7047.|
|From the west coast, we were shocked by the February death of 61 year old California bulb breeder William Welch, better known as Bill the Bulb Baron. Bill was a prolific breeder and worldwide authority on narcissus, especially the tazetta group, and amarcrinum…to mention but a few. Bill was incredibly generous with genetics and ideas to improve both genera. Just prior to his death last year, Bill was awarded the American Daffodil Society Gold Medal for his pioneering work with hybridizing narcissus.|
|March saw the passing of plantsman John Fairey of Texas at age 89. John was the founder of the former Yucca Do Nursery and the associated Peckerwood Gardens, which was renamed to the John Fairey Garden just days before his death. Where John grew up in South Carolina, woodpeckers were called Peckerwoods, but in recent years, members of the white supremacist movement began calling themselves “peckerwoods”, which didn’t exactly help garden fundraising, so a name change was dictated. As a career, John taught landscape architecture at Texas A&M, while building the gardens, starting the nursery, and becoming one of the most significant plant explorers of Northern Mexico. I had the pleasure of plant exploring in Mexico with John, and was actually just standing just a few feet away when he had a heart attack on a 1994 expedition.|
|John was recipient of many of the country’s top horticulture awards and the 39-acre garden he created probably holds the most significant ex-situ conservation collections of Northern Mexican flora in the world, thanks to over 100 expeditions south of the border. Our best wishes are with the gardens as they navigate the funding obstacles to keep the garden intact and open to the public.|
|In the Pacific Northwest, plant legend Jerry John Flintoff also passed away in March, after a period of declining health. I first had the opportunity to visit Jerry’s garden in 1995 with my friend, Dan Hinkley. Jerry was a consummate plantsman and a voracious consumer of horticultural information. His numerous introductions are legendary in plant collector circles, the best known being Pulmonaria ‘Roy Davidson’, Primula sieboldii ‘Lois Benedict, and the semi-double Sanguinaria canadensis ‘Jerry Flintoff’.|
|Across the pond, March also saw the passing of UK conifer guru Derek Spicer, 77, owner of the wholesale Killworth Nursery. Derek traveled the world studying conifers, which culminated in his epic 2012 book with Aris Auders, The RHS Encyclopedia of Conifers. This incredible encyclopedia lists all 615 conifer species, 8,000 cultivars, and 5,000 photos. If you like conifers, be sure to put this treasure on your gift list. Just last year, Derek was posthumously awarded the prestigious RHS Veitch Memorial Medal for his lifetime contributions.|
|We were saddened by the passing in May of one of our closest friends, plantsman Alan Galloway, age 60. In addition to serving as an adjunct researcher for Juniper Level Botanic Garden, Alan was a close friend and neighbor, living less than two minutes from the garden/nursery.|
|In July, we lost another plant legend in the southeast region with the passing of camellia guru and breeder, Dr. Cliff Parks at age 84 after a short period of declining health. Cliff was a repository of knowledge about the genus camellia. He was co-author of the highly prized book, Collected Species of the Genus Camellia. Cliff traveled throughout China studying the genus and returned with species that had never been cultivated in the west. These genetics were used in his breeding, the best of which were eventually introduced through Camellia Forest Nursery, run by his son, David.|
There were several significant horticultural community retirements also in 2020.
|In California, Jim Folsom retired at the end of 2020 as director of The Huntington Botanical Gardens, after a 36-year career at the garden. If you’ve visited The Huntington, then you are well aware of Jim’s amazing accomplishments. If you haven’t visited, put it on your garden bucket list. The Huntington Gardens have one of the most extensive plant collections in the US. It’s rare that I can go to a botanic garden and see many plants that I don’t know, but at The Huntington, I have spent three consecutive days in the garden and constantly find arrays of unknown plants. Jim is an Alabama native, who tells me that he and his wife look forward to more traveling in retirement. Last year, Jim was honored by the American Hort Society with their highest honor, the L.H. Bailey Award. Congratulations!|
|Also from the botanical world, taxonomist Dr. Alan Meerow hung up his microscope after a distinguished 20 year career at the USDA-Agricultural Research Service’s National Germplasm repository in Miami. Alan’s work included work with tropical and subtropical ornamentals with a specialty in Amaryllids. His work has helped elucidate the relationships between members of the Amaryllidaceae family with some recently published and still controversial relationship discoveries. Alan was a key contributor to the now defunct International Bulb Society, and the recipient of a number of top awards including the American Society of Plant Taxonomists’ Peter Raven Award for Scientific Outreach and the David Fairchild Medal for Plant Exploration by the National Tropical Botanical Garden.|
|Longtime NC State plant breeder, Dr. Tom Ranney was just selected as a Fellow in the prestigious National Academy of Inventors. Congratulations for another well-deserved honor.|
January starts a new chapter in plant breeding at NC State as we welcome plant breeder, Dr. Hsuan Chen to the JC Raulston/NC State staff. In addition to new plant breeding projects, Dr. Chen will take over much of the work of retired plant breeder and redbud specialist Dr. Dennis Werner. We look forward to more introductions from a plant pipeline full of great new plants.
|Southeastern Plant Symposium|
We had planned to welcome visitors to Raleigh for the 2nd annual Southeastern Plant Symposium last June before COVID intervened. We pivoted and moved on-line to the Zoom platform along with everyone else and we were thrilled at the participation and comments. For 2021, we are still planning to hold our event in person in mid-June, with the realistic expectation that we may need to switch to on-line, depending on the COVID situation, but we will make that decision when time nears. The symposium dates for 2021 are June 11 and 12. Below is the current speaker line up.
Speakers confirmed for 2021 include:
Dan Hinkley, Heronswood founder
Hans Hansen, plant breeder, Walters Gardens
Kelly Norris, Des Moines Botanic Garden
Hayes Jackson, Horticulture Director
Ian Caton, Wood Thrush Nursery
Dr. Aaron Floden, Missouri Botanic Gardens
Dr. Peter Zale, Longwood Gardens
Dr. Patrick McMillan, SC Botanic Gardens
Janet Draper, Smithsonian Institution
Richard Hawke, Chicago Botanic Garden
Mark Weathington, JC Raulston Arboretum
Tony Avent, Juniper Level Botanic Garden
Until next time…happy gardening