We are fascinated with the wonderful genus zephyranthes (rain lilies). Zephyranthes are unobtrusive, summer-flowering bulbs that can fit in any garden, with a flower color ranging from yellow to white to pink. The great thing about zephyranthes is the lack of large foliage that often accompanies many other spring-flowering bulbs, so site them in the front of the border, or in a rock garden to be best appreciated.
Zephyranthes are one of our specialty collections at Juniper Level Botanic Garden, with 25 species and 257 unique clones. Here are a few of the zephyranthes blooming this morning in our alpine berm. You can view our entire zephyranthes photo gallery here.
Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Hush Puppy’ is a very vigorous fountain grass from the breeding program of Wayne Hanna at the University of Georgia, the result of their fountain grass sterilization program. Other introductions from this program include ‘Cayenne’, ‘Etouffee’, and ‘Jambalaya’.
In the garden Pennisetum ‘Hush Puppy’ forms a 3′ tall x 4′ wide clump that produces a succession of new plumes from early/mid-July (NC), and continuing to fall…an extended flowering season due to a lack of seed production.
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:
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.
Retirements/Congratulations 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.
Welcome 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
For many, autumn 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. If you enjoy autumn in the garden, then you should plant plenty of fall flowering plants to enjoy. Here are some fall beauties blooming in the garden this week.
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.
Zephyranthes has the common name rain lily for a good reason…it has the charming habit of sending up new blooms after a summer rain (it would make an excellent rain garden plant). Zephyranthes (rain lilies) are small perennial bulbs that need to be sited in the front of the border, or in a rock garden to be appreciated.
With an abundance of days in the mid 90’s in July, August has started with an abundance of rain, from hurricane Isaias to afternoon thunderstorms. And the rain lilies are loving it! Here are some of our rain lily collection in our outdoor production beds. Let us know which ones appeal to you and we will try to get them in future catalog!
Variegated plants have part of the normal green portion of the plant leaf being replaced by white, cream, yellow, or occasionally other colors. How cool is that!
As a design element, variegated plants are often used as the center of attention or as a focal point in the landscape to lighten up a normally dark space.
Plants with bold variegation seem to scream for attention in the garden, hence their use as accent plants. As with all brightly variegated plants, they show off best when contrasted against a dark background. Whether planted against a mostly green hedge, or a larger backdrop of deciduous trees, some background is needed to properly display variegated trees, shrubs and perennials.
Opuntia is a rather large genus of cacti, containing some 200 or more species native to the deserts of the Americas. Opuntia are amazingly adaptable and can be found native in almost every US state and Canada. Plant Delights Nursery at Juniper Level Botanic Garden has a large collection of opuntia with over 300 unique clones.
Many of our opuntia clumps have gotten quite large over the years and are in need of dividing. We will be offering pads of select clones to give away (pick up only) during our 2020 Summer Open Nursery & Garden Days. What a great time to start an opuntia collection!
Opuntia species have a distinctive look, with flat pads, beautiful, large flowers and fig-sized, maroon fruits. Both the fruits and the young pads are edible provided that you carefully remove all of the thorns and hairs.
Add summer color to your patio, pool or deck with perennial container gardens. There are many great summer blooming perennials that work well in containers and provide a pop of color even if you have limited garden space to plant. There are many types of containers that can be used and left outside year round. The containers shown here are a resin material that is weather resistant and come in an array of sizes and colors that can fit into any decor. These containers may need to have holes drilled into the bottom for drainage, and many have punch-out holes. They are light-weight and are easily moved even after planting. There are also ceramic and concrete planters that are frost proof and available in every conceivable shape, color and size.
Some colorful and long blooming summer perennials you may want to consider for your containers include colocasia, perennial hibiscus, cannas, verbena, flowering maple, dahlias, monarda (bee balm), and daylilies. Other evergreen and variegated perennials can be grown in containers as well, such as aspidistra (cast iron plants), agave, mangave, and cacti. Hostas also make great container plants for the shady spot on your patio.
It is important to consider plant hardiness when creating your planter. Remember that since the plants roots are above ground and not insulated, they will be subjected to colder air temperatures during the winter. Depending on the length and severity of the winter, some plants may be just fine through the winter, or your container garden may benefit by being brought into the garage, sun room or porch area during the winter, or situated in a micro-climate, like next to a south facing brick or stone foundation.
We always enjoy when our customers share pictures of our plants in their gardens. Patrick, in Savannah, GA, recently shared images of a pair of xMangave ‘Kaleidoscope’ that are now a couple of years old, and apparently they are happy, multiplying, and blooming.
Stay up to date with what’s going on in the world of xMangaves on the Facebook page Mad About Mangave. Thanks for sharing Patrick!
Hostas are incredibly tough plants and will get along fine in almost any garden…but they look their absolute best with just a little extra attention. Here are some tips to grow beautiful hostas in your garden.
Despite hostas durable nature, there are many myths circulating about growing hostas, one of which is the term Originator’s Stock. Originator’s stock is simply a superfluous term for saying that the plant in question is the correctly named clone. Click here for more debunking!
Plants in the genus asarum are small but exquisite, deer-resistant woodland perennials that thrive in moist but well-drained conditions with light shade. Many asarum species are evergreen and make a great ground cover in the woodland garden. Here are some images of asarum in the garden this morning.
Asarum are one of our specialty collections at Juniper Level Botanic Garden, with 86 species and 529 unique clones. Join Tony in the gardens during this Gardening Unplugged video garden chat about wild gingers.
The flower color of asarums are usually burgundy or purple, but we are always on the look out for variants. Towards the end of the video Tony shows a yellow flowered form, Asarum ichangense ‘Ichang Lemon’, which we hope to have available for 2021. We do have another yellow flowered form we are offering for the first time this year, Asarum ‘Tama Rasya’.
For 2020, we’ve added over 90+ new plants in the catalog, with more than 50 being Plant Delights Nursery exclusives, thanks to the incredible work of our staff who scour the world, in addition to our own selecting and breeding, to bring you these amazing new plants. View the digital version here!
As we allude to on the cover, keeping up with the plant name change carousel is a feat itself. Continual advances in DNA are revealing relationships we never dreamed possible. When a name change is supported by good research and conclusions, we include both names for several years, since the purpose of nomenclature is about facilitating communications. We apologize for what often seems like confusing name changing, but really, we have more nomenclatural clarity now than ever.
Cyclamen hederifolium is a great addition to the winter garden. They begin flowering in late fall/early winter before the foliage. When foliage emerges it will remain during the winter. The foliage is quite dramatic with intricate patterning of silver and shades of green. Most hardy cyclamen are grown from seed, so like snowflakes, no two are alike.
Here are some of the cyclamen growing in our crevice garden. Notice the variation in variegation, leaf shape, and differences in flower color.
We get really excited about adult (mature) forms of ivy (Hedera) that are shrubs (arborescent). Juvenile (young) ivy vines, like a young child, run around the garden and get into things they shouldn’t. Like kids, ivy goes through puberty, which happens only after it crawls high (30-40′) into a tree or other tall object. It then settles down, stops running and becomes woody, with a compact, evergreen growth habit. It also begins flowering (an amazing pollinator attractant), sets attractive fruit, and we have seen no errant seedlings in our trials.
Just as adult people grow rounder with age, arborescent ivies also change shape and the leaves lose their lobed appearance and the growth becomes dense and woody. By propagating from these difficult-to-root adult parts of the plant, the adult ivy plant retains the mature characteristics and no longer feels the need to crawl around and conquer the rest of your garden.
We have offered selections of adult ivy in the past. We feel they offer a great year-round interest feature in the garden but they have not been particularly well received (maybe this is due to the stigma inherited from their younger siblings). Would adult forms of ivy be a plant you would like for us to offer again?
When you think about fall flowers, pansies, mums and asters are what many people think of. But there is a myriad of plants that bloom in the fall or begin blooming in summer and will continue through fall, often up until we get our first frost.
Here is a sampling of some of the plants blooming in our sales houses yesterday.
Plant Delights Nursery and JLBG focuses on preserving genetic germplasm
through ex-situ conservation and assembling complete collections of specific
plant groups. This aides in conducting scientific and taxonomic research to
clarify mis-information and nomenclature issues in the industry.
One of these specialty collections is Aspidistra, also known as cast iron plant. JLBG’s collection currently contains 32 species, 109 unique clones and 12 unidentified species.
Aspidistra is a group of evergreen woodland perennials typically grown for their foliage and unique variegation. Many people never notice their flowers, which are borne at ground level, below the foliage. Here are some flower images from the garden this week.
Humanity could not exist without plants. People’s interactions with plants have evolved throughout history from medicinal, to magical, to nutritional. These interactions often resulted in whimsical, fanciful tales tied to oral history passed from one generation to the next.
Take for example the genus Adiantum, maidenhair fern: The genus is derived from the Greek for “unwetted” because water rolls off the fronds. The individual pinnae were thought to resemble the hair of Venus, from Roman mythology, when she was born from the sea, fully formed and with dry hair, thus the common name maidenhair fern.
As part of our Gardening Unplugged garden chat series held in conjunction with our Open Nursery & Garden Days, assistant nursery manager, Dennis Carey, leads a brief tour through the gardens discussing the plant folklore surrounding some popular garden plants. Learn more about adiantum and other plant folklore here!
Tony’s first encounter with hardy cyclamen was in the garden of the late Rachel Dunham of Cary, NC in the 1960s. He was amazed to see what he thought was a rare perennial, seeding all through her woodland lawn and was immediately struck by how tough cyclamen were, and obviously, how easy they were to cultivate. This started him on a lifetime of cyclamen fondness. Here is some of Tony’s insights on growing hardy cyclamen.
Cyclamen coum and Cyclamen hederifolium are the most commonly grown garden species with C. hederifolium blooming in the fall before the foliage emerges and C. coum blooming in the winter. Here are a couple of images of C. hederifolium blooming in the garden.
Art is subjective! Whether in a museum, your home, or the garden, art can be aesthetically pleasing , functional, and whimsical. There is art that will fit into every garden situation. Here are a few examples from the garden yesterday.
During each day of our Open Nursery & Garden Days, we offer a free garden chat as part of our educational outreach, “Gardening Unplugged”. These are 15 minute discussions walking through the gardens, focusing on seasonally prominent topics, plants and garden design ideas. Join Tony and our expert horticultural staff as we explore all that nature has to offer. Meet at the Welcome Tent near the parking lot to join us!
When will they develop scratch and sniff smart phones?
“I’ll never forget my first encounter as a preteen with Hedychium coronarium, when my dad took me to the garden of a local gardener, Rachel Dunham. There, in the midst of her lawn was a huge clump of hardy ginger plant in full flower. I was amazed how a plant that looked so tropical and had such fragrant flowers could be so winter hardy and easy to grow. Since Mrs. Dunham was overly generous, I went home with a huge sack of plants for my own garden. As with every OCD gardener, this would mark only the beginning of my hedychium collecting phase, which continues today. Thirty five years later, I would finally see ginger lilies in the wild on a botanical expedition to North Vietnam.” Tony Avent
Hostas are often touted as the best shade-loving plants for the perennial garden. At Plant Delights Nursery our hostas are all container-grown and are multiple-division plants that you can immediately divide.
All of the hostas that appear in this post are from our own breeding program at Juniper Level Botanic Garden. Learn more about our breeding program here.
Each year we offer nearly 1,500 unique, rare and native perennials for sale, out of the 26,000 taxa in the garden.
As we are constantly trialing new plants coming to the market and evaluating underutilized or unknown perennials from around the world, we must retire hundreds of plants each year to make room in our greenhouses for new treasures. Here are a few of our favorite plants being retired at the end of this year, so don’t miss out!
Today is National Black Cat Appreciation Day, so we would like to recognize past and present nursery cats of JLBG. If you’ve visited the gardens during open house and gardens, you have, no doubt, met some or all of our family of cats over the years.
At Juniper Level Botanic Garden, rain lilies (zephyranthes), are one of our specialty collections. We work with top rain lily breeders and collectors around the world and our collection contains 25 species, several unknown species, and 257 unique clones. Here is a link to our photo gallery of zephyranthes that are part of our collection.
We currently have a dozen varieties of rain lily available online.
This past week I went to our catalog printer in Lynchburg, VA for the press check of our Fall Catalog. The whole scope of the process and vast size of the printing presses is quite fascinating.
A printed copy of the cover off the press is compared to the initial proof and any minor tweaks or color adjustments are made. Once the color is approved, the printer starts up again. It first puts down the yellow components of the cover, followed by the red, green and then blue. Here are some samplings, ending with the final cover!
Look for catalogs to arrive in mailboxes mid-August. You can request a copy here, or you can preview the digital version.
While exploring the garden yesterday, I was admiring the cardinal flowers, Lobelia cardinalis, in the bog garden. Most of the flowers were red, there were a couple that were more magenta and a few blooming white .
And then several feet away there was one that was a bicolor. Not sure who was the baby-daddy and who was the baby-momma, but we like the results! What happens in the bog garden stays in the bog garden.
A cold front that came through Raleigh, NC yesterday brought much needed rain and cooler temperatures. Coupled with the hit and miss showers last week, the first of our lycoris (surprise lily, hurricane lily, spider lily) have started to emerge in the garden. We look forward to a steady procession of “surprises” as we move into late summer and fall.
Lycoris have long been a geophyte (bulbs, corms, tubers, etc.) of interest, and since our climate is perfect for their growth, we are attempting to assemble a complete lycoris collection, and sort out some of the taxonomic misinformation, as well as to make many unavailable clones available to more gardeners. Here at JLBG, we currently grow all of the Lycoris species and over 650 unique clones, making this most likely the largest lycoris collection in the world.
We are currently working on our fall catalog and eleven lycoris made the fall catalog cut, including eight first time offerings. Keep your eyes out….we’re coming to a mailbox near you
What sweltering weather we have been having in Raleigh, NC the last couple of weeks. But the gardening must go on! We welcome you to the last weekend of our Summer Open Nursery & Garden Days. Saturday 8 am – 5 pm and Sunday 1 pm – 5 pm.
Don’t forget about our Gardening Unplugged garden chats: 10 am – Ex-situ Conservation, 2 pm – Hardy Palms, just meet at the welcome tent!!
Expect the unexpected around every turn at Juniper Level Botanic Garden! Yesterday, during our Gardening Unplugged garden chat with Garden Curator, Amanda Wilkins, we came upon a happy pair of white satin moths enjoying the sun and each others company upon an Echinodorus leaf in the sunken garden.
Simply meet at the welcome tent at 10 am and 2 pm on Fridays and Saturdays, and 2 pm on Sundays, and explore a wide range of seasonally pertinent topics such as Fragrant Plants in the Garden, Hardy Palms, and Floral Arranging.
We are continually on the hunt for new cold hardy palms. When we find an individual clone of hardy palm tree growing in a particularly cold climate, we do what all good plant nurseries do, we propagate it for our plant catalog! There is no reason why gardeners in Tennessee or Virginia cannot have a cold hardy palm tree in their yard just like a Floridian.
Try pairing hardy palms with other tropical looking plants like colocasia, musa, and hedychium. Join Zac Hill, our taxonomist, July 20 at 2 PM as he discusses hardy palms in the garden. This is part of our free garden chat series, Gardening Unplugged, during each Open Nursery & Garden Days.
When designing your garden, incorporate as many visual treats as possible. So in addition to selecting plants for their attractive flowers and leaves, consider choosing some perennials for their ornamental seed or fruit.
Here are some decorative seed pods in the garden this morning!