For many, fall is the best time of year to garden. The heat of summer has finally broken and the crisp autumn air is a delight to work in. Fall perennials take over for the summer flowers and keep the garden showy as the days get shorter.
Greetings from Plant Delights! We hope everyone has made it through another summer garden season in good shape. We’re wrapping up the open houses for 2012 with our final three days, Friday through Sunday this weekend. If you’re in the area, we sure hope you’ll join us. It’s been great to meet so many of our nearly 7,000 Facebook fans and friends in person at open house…thanks so much for taking time to follow our plant postings.
As we inch closer to the autumnal equinox, temperatures have begun to fall, which marks a resurgence of many plants that hibernated during the dog days of summer. Dahlias are like many plants that live for fall, and many of us cut our dahlias to the ground in late August so the fall flush will be look fresh and new. Perennial salvias such as the woody-stemmed Salvia greggiis put on their best floral show of the year in autumn when they flower nonstop for several months. Other salvia species like Salvia leucantha, and my personal favorite, the Salvia leucantha hybrid Salvia ‘Phyllis Fancy’, only flower in fall. Salvia ‘Phyllis Fancy’ is a Barry Bonds-sized steroidal monster, producing a 7′ tall x 8′ wide specimen in only 12 months.
What an amazing year this has been for butterflies in the garden…certainly, the best that I remember in over a decade. While butterflies were in abundance, Japanese beetles were nowhere to be found this year…not that we have much trouble with them anyway since we try to keep stressed plants out of our garden. Remember that most garden insects have cyclical population spikes, so don’t get too excited when a pest leaves or a new pest arrives.
One insect that made an appearance in our area starting a couple of years ago was the Genista caterpillar (Uresiphita reversalis). Baptisias have long been considered insect resistant since their leaves contain chemicals that repel most insects. Unfortunately, Genista caterpillars are immune to these leaf toxins. To make matters worse, the caterpillars have chemicals in their bodies that make them immune to most caterpillar predators…ain’t that just grand. While the Genista caterpillar is native to southern and central US, they have not been seen this far east until the last few years.
The unattractive nocturnal moths lay their eggs in spring, which subsequently hatch and the Genista caterpillar larvae begin feeding on the tender new baptisia plant growth. The larvae work fast and can completely strip the foliage of a mature baptisia in a few days…fortunately, this shouldn’t cause permanent damage to the plant. The larvae have 5 stages before they pupate for overwintering. Since the moths are quite prolific, they can actually lay several generations of eggs each year, so you’ll need to monitor your baptisias all summer. When the caterpillars are young they can be easily killed with organic BT (Bacillus thuringensis) products. Spinosad, a biological insecticide composed of Saccharopolyspora spinosa bacteria from crushed sugar cane, has also shown good effectiveness.
While I never expected to commit to writing another regular column other than our monthly e-newsletter, I recently had my arm twisted thanks to one of those once in a lifetime opportunities…the recent launch of Walter Magazine. The name may sound strange for those of you outside North Carolina, but our city of Raleigh, was named after Sir Walter Raleigh, a 16th century English flamboyant dressing explorer/spy. While writing a plant feature column for my hometown magazine was a great oppurtunity, this is also my first time to pair with former New York Times freelance botanical illustrator, the amazing Ippy Patterson.
I can’t believe I’m actually promoting a shrub pruning demonstration, but this isn’t just any shrub pruning. One of my favorite people, topiary artist Pearl Fryar, is coming to Raleigh for an artistic demonstration at NCSU’s new Gregg Art Gallery at 1903 Hillsborough Street. The date is Sunday October 28, from noon until 4pm. This free event is a gathering of artists and musicians…refreshments will be provided. If you’ve seen the movie, “A Man Named Pearl”.
and want to meet this amazing man in person, don’t miss the event.
In the latest news from the nursery world, the 65-year-old Klupengers of Oregon is closing their doors. Klupengers is a 320 acre wholesaler specializing in japanese maples, rhododendrons and azaleas. Klupengers Nursery had sold out once before, but wound up buying the nursery back in 2010 hoping to outlast the downturn, which didn’t work out so well. Everything including land is currently being liquidated, unless someone wants to buy the entire operation.
It was also time for more consolidation in the green industry this month as the world famous, 3rd generation Ecke Ranch was purchased by Agribio International. For those of you not in the horticulture industry, the majority of the poinsettias you buy at Christmas were introduced by the 1000-employee Ecke Ranch of California. Ecke also has a large geranium breeding program. It appears for now the company will remain intact other than a change in ownership.
Agribio Holding B.V. is a Dutch investment firm, specializing in purchasing plant breeding businesses. It recently acquired Barberet and Blanc, a carnation breeder in Spain; Bartels Stek, an aster, solidago, and phlox breeder in Holland; Fides, a bedding and potted plant breeder in Holland; Oro Farms, a production facility in Guatemala; Japan Agribio, a breeder of bedding and potted plants in Japan; and Lex+, a rose breeder in Holland. The acquisition of Ecke makes Agribio one of the largest producers of cutting-produced ornamentals in the world.
It’s with sadness that I report Ohio hosta breeder and nurseryman Bob Kuk, of Kuk’s Forest Nursery passed away on August 14 after a short illness. During his lifetime, Bob developed and introduced over 50 hostas including Hosta ‘Bizarre’, ‘Emerald Necklace’, ‘Golden Empress’, ‘Queen Josephine’, and ‘Unforgettable’. In 2011, Bob was awarded the Distinguished Hybridizer Award by the American Hosta Society for his body of work. Our thoughts go out to both Bob’s hosta family and friends. < href=”http://www.americanhostasociety.org/2011FisherSpeech.html”>Learn more about Bob.
I recently got an email from Dr. Charlie Keith, whose Chapel Hill, NC Arboretum I’ve written about several times. Charlie is turning 80 soon, and has come to the realization that he hasn’t been able to raise adequate funds to preserve the arboretum as he had hoped. Consequently, he’s looking to sell the arboretum property which houses one of the largest woody plant collections in the country. Charlie will be hosting an open house on October 21, from 1-5pm, with plantsmen Mark Weathington of the JC Raulston Arboretum and author Tom Krenitsky as tour guides. The arboretum is located at 2131 Marion’s Ford, Chapel Hill (for more information). If you know of anyone interested in purchasing the 80 acre property, please get in touch with Charlie, as his collection is simply too important to lose.
From the medical world, recent research from The University of Sichuan, published in “Current Chemical Biology” (Volume 3, 2009), has shown the common snowdrop, Galanthus nivalis, has great potential as an anti-fungal, anti-viral (including HIV), and anti-tumor agent for several cancers, including breast cancer. The report also studied the significant anti-tumor lignin activities of other related monocots including Aspidistra elatior (cast iron plant), Polygonatum odoratum and P. cyrtonema (Solomon’s seal), Narcissus pseudonarcissus (daffodil), Ophiopogon japonicus (mondo grass), Typhonium divaricatum (dwarf voodoo lily), and Viscum sp. (mistletoe).
Other common ornamental plants with very specific anti-HIV activity include Lycoris radiata (surprise lilies), Polygonatum multiflorum and P. cyrtonema (Solomon’s seal), Hippeastrum hybrids (amaryllis), Cymbidium hybrids (orchids), and Narcissus pseudonarcissus (daffodil). This is just another reason that the federal government should be doing much more to make plant exploration and importation easier and reverse the current trend toward plant exclusion and making plant importation exceedingly difficult.
Enjoy, and until the next newsletter, we’ll keep in touch on Facebook!
It’s starting out to be a great fall at PDN. It’s actually hard to believe that it’s already fall…especially since we still haven’t seen those major hurricanes that we’ve been promised! Not only has the weather been superb, but fall has brought out garden visitors en mass. We just finished the best attended fall open house in our history, followed by a wonderful visit from participants at the 30th Anniversary J.C. Raulston Arboretum Symposium. It was great to have so many folks visiting for the first time and seeing others returning for the first time in a decade. We would like to personally thank everyone who took time out of their busy schedules to attend either of these events.
We’d also like to welcome a great new crop of PDN volunteers. Our volunteer program, which started in 2003, has swelled to 12 people, including some that have been here since our program began. Volunteers spend their time helping in either the botanic garden or research divisions. In exchange for their invaluable hard work, they not only go home with excess plants and knowledge, but know that they have contributed to making the gardens even better for the next group of visitors. It is our hope that in the next few years we’ll begin laying the groundwork for a foundation and friends group to assist in the eventual transition of Juniper Level Botanic Gardens to a public garden (hopefully a long time from now). We’ll keep you posted.
From the nursery end, we have a couple of plant snafues to report regarding plants shipped early in the year as Hemerocallis multiflora. Due to a vendor error, the plants that we shipped are Hemerocallis fulva instead of the plant pictured in our catalog, which also turned out not to be H. multiflora. We got the original plant from China and thought we had it identified correctly…guess not. The plant we pictured is now most likely an exceptional form of H. citrina. Also, we had a few of the Echinacea ‘Sunset’ to flower with distorted petals. If you have Hemerocallis multiflora and your plant flowered orange, or an Echinacea ‘Sunset’ with distorted petals, simply contact our Customer Service Department at firstname.lastname@example.org for a credit or refund. Please accept our apologies for this error.
We’ve made quite a few production changes that have helped us produce even better plants for the upcoming season. Due to our hot summers, we have very high losses on some plants that do not fare well in containers. This year, we switched many of our production houses to a new silver reflective shade cloth… the one that many open house visitors asked about. This has made a huge difference in over-summering plants such as hellebores. Where we lost virtually our entire crop in 2005, this year was the exact opposite due to the new reflective shade. I think you are going to be amazed when you attend our winter open house in February.
In the jobs department, we have an opening and are looking to fill our Propagation/Production Supervisor position with a very special person. This is the person who propagates and overseas the potting of every plant that we sell, so it goes without saying that this is a very important position. If you have an interest in learning more or to forward an application, please email Heather Brameyer in our HR Department at email@example.com.
Last month, I talked about some of the plants in flower this fall, but I didn’t have time to write about all the ones I wanted to mention, so here’s a little follow-up.
Fall is certainly the season for salvia… especially the S. greggii and S. microphylla types. These desert salvias simply love the cooler nights and begin to flower equally or better than they do in spring. The range of colors is from reds through to whites. If blue is your color, then Salvia guaranitica is your plant. S. guaranitica ‘Argentina Skies’ (light blue) and Salvia guaranitica ‘Black and Blue’ (dark cobalt blue) are both still in full flower. Need lavender?…no problem, the range of Salvia leucantha cultivars are ready and flowering. If yellow is your color, Salvia madrensis ‘Red Neck Girl’ is just what the doctor ordered. The huge spikes of butter yellow will be opening shortly. If this is too tall, Salvia nipponica and Salvia koyamae are woodland groundcover salvias…very cool.
One of my favorite groups of the fall garden is the hardy gesneriads (African Violet cousins). For purples, try the colorful achimenes with their pansy-like flowers. If orange is your color, the continuous-flowering Sinningia sellovii is just waiting for the hummingbirds… birds not included in the shipment. If you like your plants a little on the bright and gaudy side, the brilliantly stunning Gloxinia ‘Evita’ is one of those plants that you just have to see to believe – just ask anyone who has attended our fall open house. For a little more demure shade of red, Gloxinia ‘Chic’ is just perfect. One last favorite gesneriad is the breathtakingly beautiful Titanotrichum oldhammii with its long tubular yellow flowers highlighted by an orange-red throat.
While many of the hardy hibiscus are still producing a few scattered flowers, several other mallows are still in full swing. The US native, Malvaviscus drummondii with its unusual reddish-orange turban-like flowers is a hummingbirds’ delight. Another great native mallow for fall is Pavonia lasiopetala. The small but bright pink flowers are a welcome addition to the fall garden.
I mentioned a bit about hummingbirds, but this is a great time to think about plants that will entertain and feed hummers as they pass through your garden. If you garden in the South and you don’t grow cestrums, why not? Few plants provide the duration of color and look splendid as we head further into fall. Think big yellow and orange mounds of color! Another hummer favorite is manettia or firecracker vine. This amazing non-intrusive vine doesn’t really get going until late summer and fall, when it becomes a feast for hummers and gardeners who like bright orange flowers. More hummer food… how about Cuphea micropetala? Think flowers that look like miniature cigars. Your hummers won’t mind this smoking section. Finally… I promise, another hummer favorite is Bouvardia ternifolia. The brilliant tubular flowers on this Mexican native just scream for the hummers. If you plant all the aforementioned plants together, you’ll need body armor to get near the bed to tend the flowers.
What else is blooming now? Plenty! Lantanas are at their peak, as is one of the late Elizabeth Lawrence’s favorites, Kalimeris pinnatifida … both, virtual flowering machines.
If you’ve got shade, we’ve even got fall flowers for you. The easy-to-grow hardy Cyclamen hederifolium is in full flower throughout the woodland, as is the stunning pink Begonia grandis ‘Herons Pirouette’. How could we talk about fall shade gardens without mentioning the wonderful Tricyrtis ? …many of which are currently in full flower, with flower colors from purple to yellow. I’ll end with one of the least known, but most spectacular fall woodland plants that we grow, the underappreciated Rabdosia longituba …won’t you please adopt one today?
There’s so much more that I don’t have time to mention, from solidago to aster, and from polygonum to costus. While some of you in the northern zones have already closed down your planting for the year, much of the rest of the country is still in full fall planting mode. We’ll let you continue to browse and hope you’re enjoying your fall garden as much as we are.
While I’d love to join you in the garden, it’s that time of year when the staff locks me away to begin writing the 2007 Plant Delights Nursery catalog. You’d be amazed how well solitary confinement works to stimulate the creative juices and make the imagination run wild… quite similar to too many shots of an adult beverage. Surely, you didn’t think a sane person writes this catalog? As always, there are many cool new plants in the pipeline… just waiting for the 2007 catalog to hit the presses.
For those who entered our Top 25 Contest, be sure to check out how your favorite plants are selling. There was some minor shuffling in the Top 25, but the only new entry was Selaginella braunii that nearly cracked The top 25, by rising to #27. Only a few more months remain before we announce the winner of our Top 25 contest… we hope your picks are measuring up. If not, you’d better get your gardening friends busy!
Please direct all replies and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks and enjoy,