Goodbye Champ!

We were saddened this past week to hear of the passing of our friend, Dr. Larry Mellichamp, age 73, after a three year battle with bile duct cancer. I first met Larry in the late 1970s, when he spoke to our Horticulture Club at NC State. Over the next 45 years, we interacted regularly, mostly during his visits to JLBG.

Knowing that Larry was in the battle of his life, we visited him at his wonderful Charlotte home garden last year (photo below). Even while he was ill, his wit remained razor sharp, and his humor as dry as the Sahara desert.

Dr. Larry Mellichamp at his home garden
Dr. Larry Mellichamp

Not only did Larry teach for 38 years (1976-2014) at UNC-Charlotte, but he also managed the 10-acre UNC Charlotte Botanical Garden, which he turned into a must-see horticultural destination. Larry was a huge advocate of interesting plants, especially US natives. He was constantly dropping off new plants for us to propagate and share with a wider audience.

Larry was best known worldwide for his work with carnivorous plants, particularly with the genus Sarracenia. His “little bug” series, (Sarracenia ‘Lady Bug’, ‘June Bug’, ‘Love Bug’, and ‘Red Bug’, released in 2004, was the first widely marketed collection of pitcher plants, from his breeding work with the late Rob Gardener. In 2021, Larry was the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Carnivorous Plant Society…one of many such awards Larry received.

Larry's home sarracenia collection
Larry’s home sarracenia collection
A lovely clump of Sarracenia 'Red Bug'
Sarracenia ‘Red Bug’

Larry was also a prolific writer. His books include: Practical Botany (1983), The Winter Garden with Peter Loewer (1997), Wildflowers of the Western Great Lakes Region with Wells/Case (1999), Bizarre Botanicals with Paula Gross (2010), Native Plants of the Southeast (2014), and The Southeast Native Plant Primer with Paula Gross (2020).

Larry and I connected on many levels, but we were both strong advocates for making rare native plants available for propagation and commercialization…something that is sadly the exception in the current world of botany. We hope others in the native plant community pick up the torch.

Larry is survived by his wife of 48 years, Audrey, his daughter, Suzanne, and a host of plants he spread throughout the world. Life well lived, my friend.

Memorial donations may be sent to the Foundation of the Carolinas for the “Mellichamp
Garden Staff Enrichment Fund”, 220 North Tryon Street, Charlotte, NC 28202. For bank transfer instructions contact or 704-973-4529. All are invited to share memories and photos of Larry at . A public memorial service will be planned for October at the UNC Charlotte Botanical Gardens. Look for an announcement on their website.

Perennial Gathering

Just back from the Perennial Plant Association meeting in Lancaster, PA, held in person for the first time in three years. It was like a family reunion after such a long period of no contact, except via Zoom. Over 450 people from around the world showed up for the first year back.

The Perennial Plant Association is a professional organization for people involved in production, sales, trials, research, landscaping, or growing perennials. The annual meetings consist of a week of talks, tours, and a trade show. There are plenty of tour options, so attendees can select whether they are more interested in landscape design, retail, or production.

Briggs Nursery booth at PPA trade show in PA
Briggs Nursery booth at PPA trade show in PA

Aris Greenleaf is a large liner producer, who also has a trial garden. Sadly, non of the trial plants here had been planted more than a few months.

Aris Greenleaf production and shipping facilities
Aris Greenleaf production and shipping facilities
Aris Greenleaf trial garden
Aris Greenleaf trial garden

Cavano’s Nursery in nearby Maryland, was one of several top notch perennial growers we visited.

Cavano's Nursery tour
Cavano’s Nursery tour
Cavano's Nursery
Cavano’s Nursery

North Creek Nursery, a leading producer of native plant liners in PA, hosted the group for an amazing dinner

Dinner @ North Creek Nurseries
Dinner @ North Creek Nurseries
North Creek Nurseries production greenhouses
North Creek Nurseries production greenhouses

Owner Ed Snodgrass welcomed the group to his Emory Knoll Farms, an “off the grid” nursery that only produces plants for green roofs. 100% of their power is produced by solar panels on site.

 Ed Snodgrass
Ed Snodgrass

For those unfamiliar with green roofs, shingles are replaced with plants, which help insulate the structure, while also reducing runoff.

Green roof planting at Emory Knoll Farms
Green roof planting at Emory Knoll Farms
Green roof plant production at Emory Knoll Farms
Green roof plant production at Emory Knoll Farms

What interested many on this tour, was their use of an outdoor version of a Stanley Steamer, for weed control. The manufacturer, Weedtechnics is out of Australia, but has a few US distributors.

Steam is applied too kill weeds as you would clean a carpet. The steam only penetrates the ground to 5 mm, but that’s enough to kill both the weed and weed seed, without bothering nearby plants. This is certainly a technology many of us on the tour will be investigating.

Weedtechnics tractor mounted weed steamer
Weedtechnics tractor mounted weed steamer
Weedtechnics steamer in action
Weedtechnics steamer in action

We visited the amazing Mt. Cuba Center in Delaware, a place I’ve had the pleasure of visiting several times over the last 30 years. The gardens have undergrown a dramatic facelift that made a great garden even better. It was great to catch the native Zigadenus glaberrimus in full flower by the lower pond.

Zigadenus glaberrimus
Zigadenus glaberrimus

The amazing Chanticleer Gardens and Longwood Gardens both hosted the group for two incredible dinners and a chance to stroll the grounds. At Chanticleer, we caught the water lotus (Nelumbo) in full flower, looking eerily like something from the Little Shop of Horrors.

Nelumbo @ Chanticleer Gardens
Nelumbo @ Chanticleer Gardens

Of course, we are all there to see the latest and greatest in new plants, and these gatherings never fail to show us something new we need to try. Below are the latest from the world of echinacea breeding.

Echinacea 'Rainbow'
Echinacea ‘Rainbow’
Echinacea 'Green Jewel' @ The Perennial Farm
Echinacea ‘Green Jewel’ @ The Perennial Farm
Echinacea 'Tres Amigos' @ The Perennial Farm
Echinacea ‘Tres Amigos’ @ The Perennial Farm

Lysimachia lanceolata ‘Burgundy Mist’ and Sorghastrum nutans ‘Golden Sunset’ are two new US natives that are just hitting the market.

Lysimachia lanceolata 'Burgundy Mist'
Lysimachia lanceolata ‘Burgundy Mist’
Sorghastum nutans 'Golden Sunset'
Sorghastum nutans ‘Golden Sunset’

Of course, in addition to the plants, these meetings are also about the people and the networking that these meetings afford. It was great to see two former JLBG’ers in attendance, Adrienne and Jon Roethling. Adrienne is now the Director of the Paul Ciener Garden in NC, and Jon heads up the grounds at Reynolda House and Gardens.

Adrienne and Jon Roethling
Adrienne and Jon Roethling

And it was great to catch up with Simple, the Roving Garden Artist…one of the most “out of the box” designers I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting.

Simple, The Roving Garden Artist
Simple, The Roving Garden Artist

It was a lovely surprise to run into an old friend, plantsman Barry Yinger, who was in town, taking a break from his Sanseveria conservation work in Tanzania to visit his sister, and happened to be staying next door to the convention.

Barry Yinger
Barry Yinger

It’s always great to catch up with old friends, Nanci Allen (long time PPA director), and Allan Armitage (retired UGA professor). You never know who you’ll run into at these meetings. If you work in the field, check out the PPA, and perhaps we’ll see you at a future symposium.

Allan Armitage (retired UGA professor) and Nanci Allen (long time PPA director)
Allan Armitage (retired UGA professor) and Nanci Allen (long time PPA director)

2021 January E-Newsletter

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!
Margie Jenkins at Jenkins Nursery
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 Fairey, Mexico border inspection.
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’.
Dan Hinkley and Jerry Flintoff at Flintoff Garden
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.
Camellia sasanqua ‘William Lanier Hunt’ – A Camellia Forest introduction, 1986
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!
Jim Folsom at Huntington Botanical Gardens
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

Brexit Redux – Part II

From Ashwood, we headed south, stopping for the evening near the town of Shaftesbury at the small, but lovely Coppleridge Inn. We arrived just after dark, which made the last hour of driving down narrow winding roads more treacherous than we would have preferred, but at least we arrived before the dinner hour wrapped up. The English love of drinking is legendary and sure enough, it seemed that everyone in the town was at the Coppleridge Inn pub for their evening rounds of drinking and socializing.

Coppleridge Inn Pub

After a lovely breakfast at the Coppleridge Inn, we headed out on the short 10 minute drive into the quaint town of Shaftesbury for the annual Shaftesbury Galanthus Festival…my first chance to see rabid galanthophiles in action. Galanthomania (maniacal collecting of snowdrops) has exploded in the UK, like coronavirus in the rest of the world, with both being quite costly once you become infected.

We arrived at the Shaftesbury Art Center, where we were asked to stand in a very tiny cramped lobby until time for the program to start. The lobby held only a dozen of the nearly 200 attendees of the program.
The registration table was guarded closely by the Galanthus King to make sure no one picked up their badge before the appointed hour. I’m assuming he must be royalty of some kind, by the size of the Mr. T starter kit that hung around his neck.
After two amazing talks, we were directed into the alley behind the Arts Center where we stood in line for nearly an hour to wait for the Snowdrop vending to begin. Perhaps some organizational assistance could help them in minimizing wait times…thank goodness the weather was decent.
The vending area was a bit of a madhouse, being far too small for the number of symposium participants to safely shop from the amazing array of vendors. Snowdrops ranged in price from $10 to several hundred dollars each.

When we arrived for the morning talks, we were informed that the town doesn’t have enough parking and because of that, the pay lots require that you leave for 1 hour, after a four hour stay.

At breakfast, we had discovered that we were only a 30 minute drive from Stonehenge, so we decided that it would be our lunch break. Neither Hans or I had ever visited Stonehenge, so this break allowed us to check out what should be a required mecca for all serious rock gardeners.

Despite not seeing a single road sign until we reached the turnoff to the stones, the site receives over 1 million visitors annually. We arrived to find a bright sunny, but brisk day, where for time’s sake, we opted to ride the buses from the visitor center to the stones. In recent years, the Stonehenge visitor center had been moved quite a distance away from the stones to preserve the integrity of the site.

Transportation to see the Stones….the Stonehenge Stones, not the other famous British Stones
We shot photos from virtually every angle and in every light exposure possible, since you never know if you will have another opportunity.

Time to return to Shaftesbury for the final talk of the day, a lecture by our friend Dr. John Grimshaw.

What’s Growing On?

March 2019 Newsletter

News from JLBG/PDN

2018 was a year of exceptional changes for us here at the gardens and nursery.  Our long-time nursery soil company was sold and the quality of the mix went to hell. Because many of our crops are challenging in containers, before we knew it, our plant losses in the nursery were well into the upper six figures. To say our nursery staff had to scramble is an understatement. After trialing our most difficult crops in a number of new potting soil mixes, is was an easy choice to make the switch to Pacific Organics.

Despite the name, Pacific Organics is a NC-based national company, who have a bigger footprint of users in the northeast US than here in NC, where cheap nursery soil is king. Unbenownst to us, the folks at Pacific Organics have worked closely with the world renowned soil researchers at NC State, so we know the quality of the research they use to formulate their mix.

We take great pride in our plant quality and in 2018 we had numerous growing issues resulting from the quality of our potting media. Many of you were affected by having plants canceled from you order, refunds and shortages on desired crops. This was completely unacceptable! We can already see a dramatic difference in plant growth and quality, and we sincerely apologize for the problems of the past year.

Epimedium and Heuchera in our sales house.

We’d like to welcome several new staff members to our team. Wesley Beauchamp joined us last fall as our nursery grower, coming to us from the mega-greenhouse producer Metrolina. Everyone who purchases a plant will be the beneficiary of Wesley’s plant-growing magic.

In the gardens, we welcome our new garden curator, Amanda Wilkins, a NC State grad, who we lured back to Raleigh after finishing her Masters in Plant Taxonomy at the University of Edinburgh, followed by a stint as Curator at the Mobile Botanic Gardens.

Looking to the Future
As most of you know, in 2018 Anita and I gifted Plant Delights Nursery and Juniper Level Botanic Garden to NC State University. An operational endowment has been set up at NC State University to fund the operation of the gardens. Once the endowment is fully funded, JLBG will open as a full time public botanic garden that will be a sister institution to the JC Raulston Arboretum.

So, what changes will you see and when? For now, not much. We are developing a membership structure for JLBG to mirror that used by the JC Raulston Arboretum. Once that is completed, you will be able to join JLBG as you would any other horticultural organization. At some undetermined point in the future, we will switch to a membership only plant shipping model. Anyone would be able to shop or pick up plants at the nursery, but order shipping would be reserved only for JLBG members.  

This change allows Anita and I to scale back our involvement in daily operations as we age, while allowing JLBG and PDN to continue via a more financially sustainable future model to collect, evaluate, propagate, share, and preserve plants through ex-situ (off site) conservation. In other words, less computer time for Tony and more time in the field and in the garden. We hope that folks who believe in our mission will help us to fully fund the operational endowment. 

Anita and Tony Avent (NC State University)

Hot off the Press
Arizona plantsman Ron Parker has just published his first book, which details the agaves of Arizona, including the Pre-Columbian man-made hybrids. Ron has done a phenomenal amount of field work, visiting each of the sites he writes about. Anyone interested in century plants will have a hard time putting this fascinating book down. You can order directly from Ron or from any of the on-line book sellers.

Industry News
January 2019 marked my first trip to the Mid-Atlantic Nursery and Trade Show (MANTS) in Baltimore. I’ve been hearing about MANTS for years, but my first journey certainly didn’t disappoint. The show is both amazing and huge!  Nursery folks and allied trade vendors lined what seemed to be acres of the Baltimore Convention Center.

Riding the train back and forth from the airport to the convention center is relatively easy, if you don’t mind being entertained by some colorful, non-paying characters who ride along with you. If you work in the green industry, I’d say MANTS is a must. 

Currently the recently reconstituted Southern Nursery Association holds their meeting and Plant Conference just prior to MANTS at the same venue, so if you’re looking for some educational opportunities, this is for you. Unfortunately, this years’ show coincided with the prolonged government shutdown, so many of the stars of the show were MIA.

One of the SNA award winners for 2019 was Tree Town USA CEO Jonathan Saperstein. Why is that interesting, you ask?  Last fall, Tree Town USA, with a little help from their bank, purchased one of the largest nurseries in the US…the Hines divisions of Color Spot Nurseries, which includes over 2,000 acres in California and Oregon. Tree town’s operations now include 19 farms and over 6,000 acres of production.  Did I mention that Jonathan is 29 years old!  Not bad to make Forbes’ list of Top 30 under 30!  We wish him good luck and will be thinking of him when he wakes up in the middle of the night and wonders, “What the hell have I done?”

Connect with Us!

Until next month, connect and follow us and the cats on FacebookPinterestInstagram and Tony’s blog. We encourage you to sign up to follow our regular posts.

Happy Gardening!

-tony and anita

February 2019 Newsletter

February 2019
Greetings from wet Raleigh, where we’re making good progress with our arc construction after a record-setting year of precipitation that topped out at just over 60” of rainfall…the most ever recorded for Raleigh. Of course, both the east and west ends of North Carolina made our 60” look like a drop in the proverbial bucket.  
Our largest coastal town, Wilmington, set a yearly rainfall record of 102”, while at the far western end of our state, Mt. Mitchell recorded just over 140” of rain. I guess we picked a bad year to start growing dryland alpines, but if they survive this year, they should be great going forward.
In the News
A shout out to our friend Jackie Heinricher, founder of the bamboo tissue culture lab, BooShoots in Washington, who has added a new career to her resume…that of race car driver.  I can’t say we have many racers who are also nurserymen. 
After selling her business several years ago, and before restarting it after the post-sale went south, Jackie has taken up car racing. Having spent time with Jackie at her beautiful home, garden, and bamboo collection in Washington, this comes as quite a shock….for someone of our “experienced years.”
She started competing in 2015, and has now put together an all-female team that will compete in the open wheel and sports car series for 2019, with Caterpillar as a sponsor.  The season begins in January with Jackie on the sideline due to a back injury, but we wish her good luck as she heals and returns to the cockpit. Read more of Jackie’s inspirational story.
Jackie Heinricher – Garden Entrance
Back last fall, an article appeared in our local NC paper about a move to limit plantings in new county-owned properties to only native plants. While the move was hailed by native plant advocates, such decisions showcase a sad lack of critical thinking skills and emotional knee jerk decisions that have become sadly prevalent. Here is a link to the original article, followed by an unpublished letter that we wrote to the newspaper editor.

Native Plants Only…Diversity or Adversity?

It’s hard to know where to begin after reading the September 11, 2018 N&O article about new Wake County properties being restricted to using only native plants in landscaping. The article mentioned diversity, yet the entire focus was about restricting diversity.
We believe that diversity is not only desirable, but critical, since it brings together individuals which have unique traits that create a more robust and vital collective population.  We find it fascinating that our society promotes diversity when it comes to humans and edible plants, but decries the absolute need to restrict diversity when it comes to ornamental plants.
City, county, and state borders are geopolitical…they have absolutely nothing to do with plant nativity or adaptability.  Secondly, plant nativity is not a place, but a place in time. To call a plant native, you must consider nature as static (never changing), and then pick a random set of dates that you consider to be “ideal”.  Most of the plants currently considered native to Wake County today, actually speciated tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of years ago. The current conditions are nothing like the conditions then.
Having been born in Wake County 60+ years ago with a passion for “native plants”, I spent my childhood roaming the woods, where houses now stand. As an adult, I have taken over 60 botanizing trips throughout the US, searching for great new garden plants.
Over the last 30 years, we have grown over 60,000 different plants from around the world in our Southern Wake County Botanic Garden, which currently houses, most likely, the most diverse collection of Southeast US native plants in the USA.  Our unique perspective comes from a mix of professional experience, observation, and on-site research. 
The News & Observer article advocates the concept of a horticultural ethnic superiority, ethnic isolation, and ethnic cleansing. This starts with an assumption that “native plants” are superior to non-natives, and that non-natives should be excluded in landscape situations.
If we were having this conversation about the species Homo sapiens instead of ornamental plants, we’d be laughed out of the town.  Also, if “native” plants were actually better adapted and preferred by wildlife, they would take over any site in the county where they were planted, meaning we could then have neither endangered native plants nor invasive exotic plants.
As for the superiority of native plants for both adaptability and for supporting pollinators, that is another great myth, which despite its popularity in the media has no basis in good research. A new book in the works detailing extensive research and pollinator counts from the South Carolina Botanic Garden will show that plants native to a specific region are neither favored by or required by native pollinators.
If you disregard all of the above, and just take the idea as presented in the paper to have all natives at County facilities, then to be consistent, all turfgrasses must also be banned…no lawns or athletic fields.  Bermudagrass (Africa), Tall Fescue (Europe), Zoysia (Asia), and Centipede (China), must never be allowed on county facilities using the same reasoning…or lack, thereof. 
To keep this non-native ban consistent, Wake County must also ban the planting of most fruits and vegetables, since almost none are US natives. That would leave only sunflowers, a single Texas native pepper, grapes, blueberries, cranberries, persimmon, and paw paws. Of course, Wake County Extension Agents should no longer plant or recommend planting any non-native fruits or vegetables.
Then there are those pesky honeybees (Africa by way of Europe) and earthworms (mostly Europe) that must also be banned from all county properties, since they both radically alter what grows and gets pollinated. Pretty much all of our domesticated animals, both food and pets would need to be banned…all except for turkeys.
Wait…there are still those non-native Homo sapiens, who got here via Africa. So, let me understand this….we clear land to build buildings and parks, creating non-native ecosystems for non-native Humans, and then require them to be planted with ornamental plants native only to the human-created county borders. Please excuse the excessive use of logic.
It’s disappointing that many in our country lack the ability to distinguish valid research from poorly constructed research, designed to support a pre-determined agenda. Indeed, it seems that if we hear anything enough times, read it in print, or see it in the media, it automatically becomes a fact. 
How about let’s embrace all diversity and create a better habitat for all, and for goodness sakes include plants that are currently “native” in our region.
Till next time…happy gardening

Chelsea Gardens

Chelsea is always a sell out, so get your tickets early.


Interesting 3D garden

Meatball Garden



A new use for driftwood

Dyslexis hopscotch paving patterns

Larger than life cattails

Run for the metal roses

No one’s going to steel this bull

Plants that never die

Modernist garden

A new take on stained glass

Crevice fountains

Not sure how they did this, but it’s pretty amazing.


About face…

If it looks like a nymph and moves like a nymph….

Can you trust the tags?

One of our long time concerns is the accuracy of plant tags…especially now that 60% of the plants purchased in the country are now sold through the box stores. While we’re thrilled that more plants are available to the masses, most tags are produced from a single national vendor, and the information may not be correct for your climate.  Sizes, in particular vary widely. What may make a 1′ tall x 2′ wide shrub in one climate may reach 6′ tall x 9′ wide in another…yes, we have real life examples. The dirty little secret is that most plant measurements are taken from sheared plants growing in nursery containers, and not mature landscape specimens.

Often information on the web is also quite inaccurate since most sites simply copy from another site and never take time to actually observe the plants in person. We always recommend when possible to shop with vendors who actually grow the plants themselves…in the ground. If that’s not possible, visit local botanic gardens and observe the plants yourselves.  You’ll save so much future garden maintenance time if you get the plant in the right location first time. 

With the quest for cheaper and cheaper plants, time devoted to accuracy of information is often sacrificed. The tag in the photo fails on a couple of details.  In most areas, mondo grass is best in light shade, although it can be fine with a few hours of morning sun. Our favorite faux pas is listing two genera for the same plant. Ophiopogon is correct, but convallaria is a lily of the valley…a completely different plant. We won’t mention the name of the box store where we saw this, but always be wary.

Plant Delights December 2017 Newsletter

Sixty is the new Thirty

It doesn’t seem possible, but both Anita and I hit the big 60 this year.  During my youth, I entertained occasional thoughts about what old age would be like, and wondering if I’d actually make it.  Well, it’s here, I’m here, and whatever it was that I expected, I’m not sure this is it.

I was pretty lucky genetically…other than minor issues like flat feet, an over-curved spine, and bad knees. I realize now that I was fortunate that my prefrontal cortex was overly active early in life, resulting in a low risk tolerance. In other words, I was a real bore growing up.  Other contemporaries led much more exciting childhoods, but in doing so, affected their bodies, at a cost that wouldn’t be evident until much later.  As one whose idea of excitement was spending time alone in the woods, the closest I ever came to real danger was years later after I began overseas plant exploration travels.

When we built our new home last year, I wondered how much of the physical landscaping I’d be still able to do. What a lovely surprise to find the body still functioning remarkably well. To be able to start a new garden at age 60, with a similar vigor as 30 years of age is truly something I never dreamed possible, but it’s sure enjoyable. 

I’ve been very blessed to still be able to garden like a maniac, and to still be able to travel and explore the world for new plants.  As Toby Keith so eloquently put it, “I’m not as good as I once was, but I’m as good once as I ever was.”

News from PDN/JLBG

We’d like to introduce several new members of our PDN/JLBG team. Our former garden supervisor, Keith Lukowski has headed to graduate school, where he is studying public gardens…we wish him the best.  In Keith’s place, we are pleased to welcome Lauri Lawson, who spent most of the last 12 years as the face and backbone of Niche Gardens in Chapel Hill. Since our gardens continue to expand at a crazy rate, we created a second garden position for which we were able to lure back former staffer Thomas Thornton. Thomas has run his own landscape business while studying landscape architecture. We’re sure you’ll enjoy engaging with both Lauri and Thomas when you visit JLBG.
It’s also with great regret that we say goodbye to longtime nursery manager Mike Spafford, who after 15 years at PDN felt it was time to start his new life on the NC coast.  To replace Mike, if such is possible, we’d like to welcome Meghan Fidler, who comes to us after a stint managing Atlantic Avenue Garden Center in Raleigh, and prior to that as an anthropology instructor.  Meghan will be assisted by longtime PDN’er Dennis Carey, who moves from our IT/SEO specialist to our new Assistant Nursery Manager position, where he will oversee the growing and production duties. Dennis’s background in computers and an advance degree in horticulture will allow us to incorporate more technology and analytics in the growing process.  We are thrilled to welcome all these new faces as we plow headlong into the future.
Progress continues on our crevice garden project using recycled concrete. We were thrilled to be able to entice crevice garden master craftsman, Kenton Seth to travel from Colorado to be part of the project. This fall, he and our own crevice specialist, Jeremy Schmidt, installed the second of our three phase of our project along our exit drive.  There are lots of planting pockets for an array of interesting plants…as though we needed more.

Jeremy Schmidt (left) and Kenton Seth during Crevice Garden installation

Bulb taxonomy

This summer we were thrilled to have a visit from two of the country’s top bulb researchers.  Both Gerald Smith (retired from High Point University) and Ray Flagg (retired from Carolina Biological Supply) are extensively published taxonomists who, in retirement, continue to work on the taxonomy of Mexican rain lilies.  We spent quite a bit of time going through our extensive rain lily collections and discussing issues of taxonomic confusion.  If anyone has wild collected rain lilies with collection data from Mexico, we’d love to put you in touch with Gerald and Ray.  They were particularly interested in one of our Mexican rain lilies, which they felt could be a new species.

Gerald Smith (left) and Ray Flagg

Meetings at PDN/JLBG

Plant Delights and Juniper Level Botanic Garden are pleased to be a part of a number of specialty plant group conventions.
In early summer 2017, we were pleased to host the American Peony Society, who took time to tour the gardens, enjoy lunch, and even some plant shopping.  We always meet such fascinating people and learn so much.
In November, we hosted the North American Rock Garden Society for their annual meeting. It was great to welcome rock gardeners from around the world, and learn about more potential plants for our new crevice garden.

American Peony Society meeting at JLBG

Upcoming Meetings for 2018

For 2018, we welcome three more National/International plant meetings to PDN/JLBG.
March 23-25 – We welcome the International Magnolia Society, a group of keen plantsmen/women who share a passion for anything magnolia. Great speakers and tours are on the agenda.
Jun 14-17 – We welcome the American Conifer Society, a group of conifer enthusiasts ranging from hobbyist to professionals. If you enjoy conifers, this is meeting not to be missed.
July 30-August 3 – We are pleased to welcome the Perennial Plant Association, a group of professionals from around the world who are involved with perennials, including designers, writers, marketers, growers, and retailers.
We hope you’ll join us for as many of these special meetings as possible. The opportunity to meet and chat with the movers and shakers of the plant world is quite special.

PPA group at Denver Botanic Gardens Chatfield Farms in 2017

Industry News

Another red flag for the nursery industry was recently raised for mega-producer Costa Farms, who sold a majority stake of their nursery to the financial holding firm, the Markel Ventures Corporation. The only part of the Costa business that will remain unsold is the cannabis division…what does that tell us about profit difference between ornamental grass and recreational grass?

I’ve lost track of how many times, we’ve written about these merger/ventures, which never work out….repeat…NEVER.  When each one is announced, its press release touts why their deal to acquire more capital is different from all the rest, yet, within a few years, each one ends in the same fate…bankruptcy or fire sale.  

Why is this so, you ask?  The nursery industry is a cyclical industry, whose ability to make money is directly tied to both the housing economy and the weather.  Even farming, which is considered extremely volatile as an investment, is only tied to weather and very little to the general economy.  

Also, excess capital of this sort is needed when a nursery tries to expand too fast in order to be everything to everybody….think Color Spot, Hines, and most recently Zelenka/Berry Nurseries. So, let’s see…Costa Farms purchased Delray Plants (March 2017), Layman Wholesale Nurseries (2012), and Hermann Engelmann Greenhouses, Inc. (Spring 2014). Costa Farms also purchased the facilities of an orchid and bromeliad producer in Homestead, FL, in 2015, moving its Desert Gems cacti and succulent production to those greenhouses.

Costa Farms currently have about 4,000 acres in production including 19 million square feet of climate controlled greenhouses.  These facilities have revenues of $500 million annually on sales of 150 million plants. Did I mention that they employee 5,000 workers, both in and outside of the US?  If you read plant tags, you’ve undoubtedly purchased their plants through Lowes, The Home Depot, Walmart, Ikea, and other outlets.

In 2016, that was enough to win International Grower of the Year at the IPM International trade show in Essen, Germany, so as a company, they seem to be doing a great job, and we wish them the best, but we’ll be watching the red flag. 


If I’d kept up better with our newsletter writing, I’d have mentioned this earlier, but belated congratulations to NCSU plant breeder Dr. Tom Ranney.  At the International Plantarium Show in the Netherlands, four of Tom’s creations, all in the Proven Winners (PW) program, won top awards.  They are Deutzia ‘Yuki Cherry Blossom’, Deutzia ‘Yuki Snowflake’, Hydrangea ‘Invincibelle Ruby’ and Hydrangea ‘Invincibelle Blush’.  Tom’s work continues to amaze the best plants people around the world. 


Our condolences to the family of Ruth Bancroft, founder of California’s Ruth Bancroft Garden. Ruth passed away at age 109, after a recent stroke.  I’ve had the pleasure of spending of bit of time with Ruth in her garden, and our gardens at JLBG are the recipient of her generosity.  Ruth’s garden was the first garden preserved by the Garden Conservancy. What an amazing life!
We were also sad to hear of the passing of Ohio nurseryman Jim Zampini, 85.  Jim was an amazing plantsman, with a history of introducing over 200 new plants to the market.  Unfortunately, most were introduced with nonsensical name ending in –zam, and marketed under incorrectly trademarked names. A few better known plants include Prunus ‘Snow Fountain’ and Thuja ‘Bowling Ball’, and Berberis ‘Bonanza Gold’ (we aren’t using the nonsensical fake cultivar names).  I had the pleasure of visiting Jim at his Lake County Nursery, back in its heyday, and it was quite the operation.  The nursery continues to be run by Jim’s sons.

On an international scale, Cally Gardens of Scotland owner and plant explorer Michael Wickenden, 61, passed away during a plant trek in Myanmar (Burma) last fall.  Michael became ill and passed away before he was able to reach a hospital for treatment for a suspected case of dengue fever.  Michael was a brilliant plantsman, photographer, and advocate for the free-sharing of plant germplasm…one of the good guys.  He will be sorely missed.

Connect with Us!

Until next month, connect and follow us and the cats on Facebook, Pinterest, InstagramTony’s blog, and Anita’s blog. We encourage you to sign up to follow our regular posts. Our upcoming Open Nursery and Gardens dates are posted on the Plant Delights website. Visit to learn more about Juniper Level Botanic Garden. Keep up with Tony’s speaking schedule here.

Your partners in Conservation through Gardening!  
-tony and everyone at PDN & JLBG

Garden Hood is alive and well!

We were thrilled to hear from the staff at Atlanta’s Garden Hood garden center that indeed they are alive and well.  As it turns out, Scott only closed one part of his nursery/garden center business and sold the other to his nursery manager.  Garden Hood is a delightful garden center, run by plant lovers in Atlanta that I’ve had the pleasure of visiting.  We wish them the best of luck, and hope you’ll drop by for a visit when you’re in the area.

Plant Delights June 2016 Newsletter

Greetings from Plant Delights and Juniper Level Botanic Garden.

Salvia nutans

Salvia nutans – Coming Soon

Botanical Interest

So far, it’s been a great spring at PDN and JLBG. Rains have been pretty regular so far…thanks to two early-season tropical storms. No sign of an imminent summer let-up in moisture. Of course, constant rain can also spell trouble for some more dryland-loving plants like the new perennial snapdragons we’re testing. While the majority of plants we trial from other breeders don’t pass our NC stress test, it is always nice to have a truly stressful spring to let us know what plants are really tough and will survive.

Growth in the garden has been amazing this spring, and the summer show is shaping up to be the best ever. There’s just so much to see in the summer, we really hope you’ll make plans to attend our upcoming Open Nursery and Garden Days, July 8-10 and 15-17. If you’re averse to heat, arrive early when the weather is still delightful, but don’t come without your camera.

Polianthes 'Pink Sapphire'

Polianthes ‘Pink Sapphire’ – Coming Soon

We’re already putting together our fall catalog and have many new exciting plants in store. Several fabulous new hardy hibiscus and salvias will be included and so much more.

2016 Open Nursery and Garden Dates

July 8 – 10 and July 15 – 17

September 9 – 11 and September 16 – 18

Friday and Saturday 8a-5p
Sunday 1-5p

Rain or Shine!
Free Parking!

Click for more info

Happy Open Nursery Days Shoppers

Happy Open Nursery Days Shoppers

The Future of Horticulture

Horticulture enrollments have always been a roller coaster ride, but with the job increases in the technology field, fewer and fewer students are migrating to careers with plants. With a wide range of career paths that includes farming, landscaping, greenhouse and nursery growing, plant breeding, and flower arranging, there is something for anyone who enjoys being around plants.

In a recent survey, only 48 percent of adults aged 18 to 34 said they are familiar with horticulture, as compared with 65 percent of older adults. And, while the majority of respondents view horticulture as essential to food, water, and the environment, only 26 percent strongly agree that horticulture is a diverse area of study that will lead to a fulfilling and respected career.

Cyrtomium lonchitoides

Cyrtomium lonchitoides

According to a 2015 employment outlook report from USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and Purdue University, a total of 35,400 U.S. students graduate each year with a bachelor’s degree or higher in agriculture-related fields—22,500 short of the 59,700 industry job openings available annually. No wonder it’s getting so hard to find good help.

To combat declining enrollments in horticulture programs and a lack of qualified industry workers, Longwood Gardens, The American Society for Horticultural Science (ASHS), and 150 partner organizations announced the launch of the Seed Your Future initiative. The public rollout of Seed Your Future will officially begin in 2017, but fundraising to support the effort has already begun. You can learn more and make a donation to this effort at the Seed Your Future website.

Tom Ranney at JCRA

Tom Ranney at JCRA

There is a wonderful article about NCSU plant breeder Tom Ranney in the most recent issue of the trade magazine Nursery Manager. I expect many of you grow some of Tom’s introductions, even though you may not realize it. We hope you enjoy the article about one of the world’s top woody plant breeders.

We were pleased to be featured in the spring 2016 issue of Garden Design in a fern article by British garden writer Noel Kingsbury.

Industry News

Scott McMahan

Scott McMahan

Georgia plantsman Scott McMahan has closed his McMahan’s Nursery and sold his garden center, Garden Hood to his former manager, and returned to his previous career at the Atlanta Botanical Garden. Scott has been an International plant explorer for many years and will now have the same job full-time with the garden.

A lightning-induced fire has put a damper on the run of Quality Cactus/Select Seeds of Texas. This unique wholesale nursery was the only source for many rare southwest/Mexican native plants from seedlings to mature specimens. Best of luck as they try and rebuild.

Wade Roitsch at Yucca Do

Wade Roitsch at Yucca Do

Our friends at Yucca Do Nursery are calling it quits after 28 years in the mail order nursery business. Owner Wade Roitsch is winding down operations now so, if you want any plants before the doors close, don’t delay. Wade and Carl will continue to explore in the search for new plants, so thankfully they’ll remain an important part of the horticultural community. It’s been a real honor for us to be able to work closely with them during the run of Yucca Do, and our horticultural hats are off to their incredible contribution to our industry and to our gardens.

Our friend and fellow plant explorer, Fred Spicer, has resigned his position as director of the Birmingham Botanic Gardens after over a decade at the helm. The garden has changed dramatically under his leadership, to become one of the major plant collections in the Southeast US. We wish Fred the best of luck in his next great adventure.

In Memoriam

The horticultural world has experienced several significant losses this spring.

Dr. Sam Jones, 83, of Piccadilly Farms in Georgia passed away on February 9. Sam was preceded in death by his wife of 56 years, Carleen. Sam was a professor of botany at the University of Georgia (1967-1991), and he and Carleen ran their side business, Piccadilly Farms. Piccadilly was the first US company to widely promote hellebores and the first to hold a hellebore festival. Sam and Carleen were awarded the Perennial Plant Association’s highest honor, the Award of Merit, in 2005. Piccadilly is now owned and operated by their daughter and son-in-law, Valerie and Bill Hinesley.

Robert Mackintosh, co-founder of Woodlanders Nursery in Aiken, SC, passed away on February 14 at the age of 90. Robert was preceded in death by his wife of 60 years, Julia. Robert enjoyed a career as a Harvard-educated Landscape Architect, while starting Woodlanders Nursery as a hobby in 1975. The nursery, now in its 41st, year is known internationally as a source of rare plants. Woodlanders Nursery is now in the hands of co-owners Bob McCartney and George Mitchell.

Judith and Dick Tyler

Judith and Dick Tyler

Hellebore specialist Judith Tyler, 70, co-founder of Pine Knot Nursery in Virginia, passed away suddenly on March 18, just a week after their annual Hellebore Festival. Judith had just been to a follow-up pneumonia appointment when doctors discovered she had late stage cancer only days before her death. Judith and her husband Dick have run Pine Knot Farms since 1983, during which time they have become known internationally as hellebore experts, due in part to their wonderful book, Hellebores: A Comprehensive Guide, with friend Cole Burrell.


Grower Needed

We are currently looking to fill our position for a greenhouse/nursery grower. If you or anyone you know might be interested in such a position, click here to learn more.

Connect with Us!

Until next month, connect and follow us and the cats on FacebookPinterest, Tony’s blog and Anita’s blog. We encourage you to sign up to follow our regular posts.

Happy Gardening!

~tony and anita

Plant Delights February 2016 Newsletter

Greetings from Plant Delights Nursery and Juniper Level Botanic Garden.

Now hiring shippers!

Now hiring shippers!

We hope you’ve received your 2016 Plant Delights Nursery catalog. If you’re an active customer and haven’t seen yours, drop us an email and we’ll send a catalog. If you’re not an active customer (haven’t purchased recently), you may shop online or order a printed copy. If you’re a garden writer/blogger, garden celebrity, local garden guru, etc., just let us know and we’ll be glad to add you to our complimentary permanent catalog mailing list.

Only a few weeks remain before we begin shipping plants again starting the first week of March. This means we’re beginning to hire seasonal shippers to help during our busy spring season. So, if you’re interested in joining us and are physically fit, please let us hear from you.

Visit Us During Open Nursery and Garden Days

Grading the road near Greenhouse 14

Grading the road near
Greenhouse 14

Our first Open Nursery and Garden days for 2016 are only a short time away. Winter Open Days are actually one of our best attended events, so if you haven’t dropped by, we hope you’ll join us this year. Winter is a great time to see the structure of the garden before the spring flush. In NC, it doesn’t take much gardening prowess to have a nice spring garden, but if your garden looks good in winter, it will be fabulous the rest of the year. You’ll also be amazed how many plants actually flower in the winter season when few people venture out to garden centers. Did we mention our open nursery days also offer the chance to select your own seed-grown flowering hellebores in person?

Renovations are in full swing as we continue with our entrance, exit drive, and parking lot enhancements. You’ll see the progress we’ve made during our upcoming Winter Open Nursery and Garden Days, although neither project will be completed.

2016 Open Nursery and Garden Dates

February 26 – 28 and March 4 – 6

April 29 – May 1 and May 6 – May 8

July 8 – 10 and July 15 – 17

September 9 – 11 and September 16 – 18

Friday and Saturday 8a-5p
Sunday 1-5p

Rain or Shine!
Free Parking!

Click for more info

Happy Open Nursery Days Shoppers

Happy Open Nursery Days Shoppers

Sign Up for New Classes at PDN/JLBG

We have a super list of classes scheduled for 2016 with topics from soil to propagation, and from botanical illustration to relaxing your body. We hope you’ll join us for some of these educational and stimulating events.

Anita will be leading our expanded series of thought-provoking mindfulness and meditation classes, and botanical artist Preston Montague will be teaching us how to illustrate the natural world.

In the Winter Botanic Garden

Helleborus 'HGC Joker'

Helleborus ‘HGC Joker’

Here in eastern NC, we’ve had a mild winter so far, with only one night below 20 degrees F, compared to 2013/2014 when we had thirteen nights below 20 degrees F during the same period. The January ice/freezing rain storm left quite a few memories by removing a couple of large evergreen specimens (one persea and a magnolia) from the garden, while pruning limbs from several other specimens. No structural damage resulted.

Because the temperatures were so mild early in fall/winter, some plants starting growing much sooner than normal including many of the hellebores. The new growth on a few hellebores was kissed by the cold and is looking a bit black, but the next round of new growth will be fine. A few of our later hellebores are already in flower and, in most cases, the flowers can take quite a bit of freezing since they’ve learned how to lose turgidity during very cold weather and regain it when the temperatures warm.

We prefer to remove the old, tattered hellebore foliage to improve the floral show, but we always wait until the flower buds are showing color and have risen above the old leaves. We do this so the old leaves will keep the developing flower buds in shade and consequently cooler, which in turn delays flowering.

Trillium underwoodii

Trillium underwoodii

Many of the southern trilliums also emerged a bit early this year, although they can tolerate temperatures in the teens F once they’ve emerged…just not too many nights of those temps. This year we saw Trillium foetidissimum, Trillium underwoodii, and Trillium recurvatum up in December.

Bananas, cannas, crinum lilies, podophyllums, and the winter growing Zantedeschia aethiopica (calla) have also tried growing above ground several times this winter, getting nature-slapped repeatedly. Fortunately, these have an abundance of underground dormant eyes that will continue to resprout.

The foliage on our lycoris (surprise lilies) looks the best we can remember for this time of year. The longer the foliage grows undamaged, the more food is going into the bulb. It’s looking like we’ll have an exceptional bloom season this summer. We hope you’re going to try several of the choice new surprise lilies that we’re bringing to market for the first time.

Our Research Programs in the Garden and Nursery

Ensete maurelii

Ensete maurelii

We’re always conducting horticultural research, both in the field and the nursery. One of the most recent mad scientist quests was to see if we could cause a non-offsetting banana to offset. Our subject for the experiment was the lovely Ensete maurelii, which is a genus of solitary-trunked banana relatives. We were curious to learn if ensetes had dormant buds around the base that were simply kept from sprouting by the plant’s auxin hormones.

To answer the question, we severed the auxin translocation system by slicing through the stalk about one inch above the soil level. Once the knife came out the other side of the stalk, we applied down pressure until the knife emerged through the root. Next, we rotated the stalk 90 degrees and repeated the process. To our surprise, after eight weeks, the crown began to sprout pups…up to fifteen per plant. This practice, called crown cutting or rossisizing, has long been used on hostas, but now we can use it to multiply some of the rarer bananas and their relatives.


Congratulations to Florida plantsman Adam Black who was named the new Director of Horticulture at Peckerwood Gardens in Texas. We look forward to watching Adam put his stamp on this already amazing garden.


We were saddened to lose plantsman and garden writer Allen Lacy, 80, in December. The former NY Times/Wall Street Journal garden columnist and philosophy professor was given a second lease on life after defying death and giving up his former hard-living lifestyle. He subsequently established the Linwood Arboretum in his home state of New Jersey, all while receiving dialysis. Our thoughts are with his widow, Hella, and their children.

This Christmas season also marked the passing of our friend Rene Duval who, along with his surviving partner of 43 years, Dick Weaver, started the well-known North Carolina mail order nursery, We-Du. In the 1980s, the Polly Spout (near Marion, NC) based We-Du Nursery was one of the most important sources of new and unusual perennials in the country. The opportunity to visit and chat with Dick and Rene was always special, as was the chance to buy plants that were unknown and unavailable elsewhere. After retirement, Dick and Rene moved first to Puerto Rico, then to North Central Florida. Dick, who originally worked at Arnold Arboretum, plans to move north to Pennsylvania to be closer to family. Our thoughts are with him.

Connect with Us!

Until next month, connect and follow us and the cats on FacebookPinterest, Tony’s blog and Anita’s blog. We encourage you to sign up to follow our regular posts.

Happy Gardening!

tony and anita

Plant Delights November 2015 Newsletter

Greetings PDNers!

From all of us at Plant Delights Nursery and Juniper Level Botanic Garden, we give thanks to you for joining our plant-loving family.

Shipping Season Ends Soon

We’re wrapping up our 2015 shipping season on November 30, so if you’ve put off making your fall order, better hurry. We’ll begin shipping again in mid-February, but will try to accommodate any horticultural emergencies between now and then as the weather and our staffing will allow.

Order PDN Gift Certificates for the Holidays

We’ll continue to make Plant Delights gift certificates available, since these are the perfect gift for the gardeners on your list.

A handwritten Plant Delights Nursery Gift Certificate

  • Makes the perfect Hostess gift for your next soiree
  • Makes the perfect gift for Teachers (Way better than a coffee mug!)
  • Has no fees and never expires
  • Can be accompanied by our color catalog and a note with your personalized sentiment
  • Can be emailed as well for fast delivery

PDN Gift Certificate

Check off your shopping list with a PDN Gift Certificate!

PDN’s 2016 Spring Catalog Coming Soon

We’ve been busy writing and assembling the 2016 Plant Delights Nursery catalog, which is now in the design phase. Only a few more weeks before it heads off to the printer on the journey that will land it in mailboxes early in 2016. As always, the catalog will feature over 500 treasures including nearly 100 first time offerings.

Fall in Juniper Level Botanic Garden

Dahlia imperialis

Dahlia imperialis

We’ve enjoyed wonderful fall gardening weather, which featured mild temperatures and a crazy amount of moisture. Thank goodness we missed the deluge that occurred three hours south in South Carolina, where they endured 26″ of rain in a single storm. As you can imagine, plant growth in the gardens this fall has been nothing short of miraculous. Most pitcher plants form new pitchers in spring and fall and, as long as I’ve been growing them, they are truly exceptional with all the moisture this year.

Other plants enjoying an exceptional fall include our fall-flowering Gladiolus ‘Halloweenie’, the giant tree dahlias, Dahlia imperialis, and the stunning Salvia regla. The winter-flowering Iris unguicularis is now beginning to bloom. We and the honeybees have enjoyed great flowering on the fatsias in the garden. We love those alien-like flower spikes in November. Even the dazzling Schefflera delavayi has flowered beautifully sans frost, and seems to be setting another excellent crop of seed.

Projects Around the Gardens

Iris unguicularis

Iris unguicularis

We have a number of fall/winter projects underway including renovations and hedge removal along our nursery and garden entry and exit drive. We’re recycling sections of concrete from the new property to use in constructing a new rock garden section. Weather permitting, we’ll have something new for you to see in spring.

We’ve also finally broken ground on our new retirement bungalow and begun ground-shaping and berm building on the new property, incorporating compost from our nursery. Each fall we receive 400-500 tons of leaves from the local municipality, which are composted here and added to the gardens. As much as it pains us to see people discarding such wonderful resources, we are thrilled to be the recipients.

New Online Customer Reviews Added

We’ve recently added customer reviews to the Plant Delights website, so we hope you’d be willing to take time and share comments on your favorite plants and education center classes. You can do that on the individual product pages here.

Also, these websites have general business reviews, so we’d really love it if you would also review Plant Delights Nursery!

PDN/JLBG Classes

Anita in the Garden

Anita in the Garden

We’ve already posted our greatly expanded education center schedule for 2016 on the PDN and JLBG websites. Because Anita’s first class in 2015 was so well received, we’re kicking off the new year with another Mindfulness in the Garden Retreat on January 30.

Anita will lead you through simple sensory exercises to soothe the body and open the heart. If you’re ready to reduce stress and suffering, you’ll enjoy this intimate opportunity to experience the peaceful and healing effects of sensing the garden from your heart.

Seating for this class is limited and pre-registration is required at 919-772-4794. The class fee is $40. Click here for more information on any of our 2016 classes or call 919-772-4794.

You may learn more about Anita at or read her wonderful Sensuous Garden Blog.

Open Nursery and Garden Dates for 2016

We’ve posted our 2016 Open Nursery and Garden dates on the website…we hope you’ll save these dates for a visit to Plant Delights Nursery and Juniper Level Botanic Garden.

February 26 – 28 and March 4 – 6

April 29 – May 1 and May 6 – May 8

July 8 – 9 and July 15 – 17

September 9 – 11 and September 16 – 18

Friday and Saturday 8a-5p
Sunday 1-5p

Rain or Shine!
Free Parking!

Click for more info

Happy Open Nursery Days Shoppers

Happy Open Nursery Days Shoppers

See You in Germany

Tony looks forward to meeting many of our International Facebook friends in Frankfurt, Germany for the International Hardy Plant Union Conference in February 2016, where he’ll be speaking. We hope you’ll be able to attend this special gathering of plant nerds.

Passing On

It is with sadness that we share the passing of Camellia Forest Nursery founder, Kai Mei Parks, 79, who suddenly passed away from pancreatic cancer in mid-October. Tony treasures his early visits to the 35-year old Camellia Forest when it was once a one woman operation, and his delightful chats with Kai Mai. She was a strong-willed workaholic, without whom we wouldn’t have her nursery treasure today. Camellia Forest has been managed by her son David for the last decade plus, but you could still find Kai Mei pulling orders almost until the end. Please join us in celebrating the life of this amazing lady!

The International Horticultural Community also suffered a huge loss with the untimely death of UK plantsman, Mark Flanagan at age 56, due to sudden heart problems. Mark was the Chairman of the Royal Horticulture Society’s Woody Plant Committee and Keeper of the Gardens at Windsor Great Park (including The Savill Garden). Mark was a world-renowned plant explorer, collecting in Japan, China, South Korea, and the Russian Far East. Mark was also co-author with Tony Kirkham of two widely acclaimed books, Plants from the Edge of the World (Timber Press, 2005), and Wilson’s China (Kew Publishing, 2009). Mark was awarded two of England’s highest honors, as a Member of the Royal Victorian Order (MVO) and with the Royal Horticultural Society’s highest accolade in horticulture, the Victoria Medal of Honor (VMH). We celebrate Mark’s valuable contributions to horticulture, and offer our condolences to his family.

Industry News

A September 2015 study with responses from over 1,400 garden writers shed an interesting light on garden writing as a career. The study showed, of both full- and part-time writers, the majority earn below the National Poverty Level of just over $11,000 per year. Garden writer earnings have declined over 24% since 2009 due to a number of factors, including a decline in bookstores, the domination of Amazon, on-line piracy, the consolidation of publishers, and the increased availability of free on-line content. Of those surveyed, 33% have self-published at least one book. Most have also resorted to additional sources of income to support themselves.

In nursery industry news this month, Mike Shoup, 63, founder of the famous Antique Rose Emporium, is selling his display gardens and garden center facilities. The rose breeding and mail order divisions, however, will be retained.

The eleven-acre garden center and gardens, which include restored historical buildings, gift shops, and a chapel, are located near Brenham, Texas in the town of Independence. Serious inquiries may be directed to Jenny at 979-836-5664.

Garden for Sale

Our longtime customers Sherrill and Joyce Morris are downsizing and are hoping to sell their house and garden to another plant lover. If you’re looking to move to the area just south of Plant Delights, take a look.

Connect with Us!

Until next month, connect and follow us and the cats on FacebookPinterest, and our blogs: Tony’s at https://blog.jlbg.organd Anita’s at We encourage you to sign up to follow our regular posts.

Happy Gardening and Happy Thanksgiving!

tony and anita

Plant Delights September 2015 Newsletter

Greetings PDNers!

It’s hard to believe, but September is here and it’s time for our final Open Nursery and Garden for 2015. We hope you’ll join us to see all the gems that look great this time of year and stock up for the fall planting season with all the cool new plants from the fall catalog.

Plants, Plants, and More Plants

Monarda 'Bubblegum Blast'

Monarda ‘Bubblegum Blast’

We also hope you’ve had time to enjoy the Fall Plant Delights Nursery catalog. We’re so excited by the new offerings, especially the clumping, heat-tolerant, mildew-resistant bee balms. These are a huge breeding breakthrough for anyone who likes monardas and attracting pollinators into the garden.

Other members of the same (Lamiaceae) family are also putting on quite a show now.Agastaches, first cousins to bee balm, are simply amazing in fall. In particular, Agastache ‘Peachie Keen’ and ‘Rosie Posie’ have been standouts in our trials and are still in full flower here. These are perfect for a sunny, well-drained spot in the garden where you can observe all the cool insects and hummingbirds which will visit.

Agastache 'Peachie Keen'

Agastache ‘Peachie Keen’

While we’re talking members of the Lamiaceae family, we must mention the salvias. The Salvia greggii cultivars are putting on their fall show, as are many other fall-flowering species. Our favorite fall-flowering salvia has to be Salvia ‘Phyllis Fancy’. We moved a plant of this amazing giant into one of the new beds near the sales greenhouses, so people who don’t wander the gardens extensively will still get to enjoy it.

Final Open House for 2015…and More Plants

Did we mention we’re in the midst of our final Open Nursery and Garden for 2015? Friday through Sunday, September 11-13 and 18-20 (8-5 Friday and Saturday and 1-5 Sunday) are the final opportunities to visit until February 2016. We hope you’ll bring your want list from the fall catalog or just come and stroll the gardens.

Boehmeria 'Glow Light'

Boehmeria ‘Glow Light’

There’s so much to see in the garden this time of year, including an array of ornamental grasses and a number of fall-flowering bulbs.Cyclamen hederifolium is flowering throughout the dry shade woodland garden, Also, an incredible array of shade-loving tricyrtis (toad lilies) are at their peak with their unique orchid-like flowers. For a bright spot in the fall shade garden, there are few plants as capable of adding as much sunshine as Boehmeria ‘Glow Light’…truly radiant.

We’ve had a great lycoris (surprise lily) season and a number of late-blooming crinum lilies are flowering nicely. Peak lycoris season at JLBG is August, but there are several cultivars which flower into September as you’ll see when you visit. Crinum lilies begin as early as May for us, but many re-flower through September, while others don’t start until fall. Their cousin, the mini-hippeastrum-like Rhodophiala bifida is also providing a bright spot of red throughout the garden now. Be sure to see what these genera have to offer for your fall garden.

Silene subciliata

Silene subciliata

Several more fascinating new plants from the fall catalog that are now looking great in the garden include Silene subciliata, Heteropterys glabra,Gloxinia ‘Little Red’, and Sedum ‘Dynomite’. Be sure to enjoy these stars out during open house…they’re hard to miss.

The dark blue-flowering leadworts (ceratostigma) are simply fantastic now as are the light blue-flowered caryopteris. Even buddleias (butterfly bushes) are showcasing their fall blue-lavender flowers. We think you can never have enough blues in the garden.

Other colors abound now including echinaceas (if they were cut back after their early flowering), dahlias, rudbeckia, verbena, hedychiumlobelia, ruellia, achimenes, and so much more. Bring your camera, bring your friends, and we’ll provide the great weather. We hope you’ll be able to visit!

Open Nursery and Garden Dates for 2016

February 26 – 28 and March 4 – 6

April 29 – May 1 and May 6 – May 8

July 8 – 9 and July 15 – 17

September 9 – 11 and September 16 – 18

Friday and Saturday 8a-5p
Sunday 1-5p

Rain or Shine!
Free Parking!

Click for more info

Happy Open Nursery Days Shoppers

Happy Open Nursery Days Shoppers

News from PDN/JLBG

With our steady growth over the last couple of decades, we experienced an office space crunch, so to alleviate this, we were fortunate to recently purchase the adjacent 6-acre horse farm. While it’s sad to lose our wonderful neighbors, the Yde’s, we are excited to have more room. To get more office space, the nursery will be booting us out of our current home in the middle of the garden as soon as we build our downsized retirement home on the new property.

Anita with Frank Harmon

Anita with Frank Harmon

We are blessed to have acquired the services of one of America’s finest architects, Frank Harmon, of Raleigh, who, along with his team, have designed our new residence. (Tony was classmates with Frank’s late wife, Judy, at NC State…back in the day). The purchase will also allow us to re-configure the Open Nursery and Garden parking areas, which we believe you will enjoy. Be sure to follow the changes over the next year during each Open Nursery and Garden.

Demolition of the Yde's Former Residence

Demolition of the Yde’s Former Residence

 PDN/JLBG Classes

garden-retreat-classAnita will be leading her first class at the garden this fall, but it’s not about plants. Join Anita as she leads a sensory garden walk designed to awaken the senses and quiet the thinking mind. Anita will show you how experiencing the gardens through the senses will nourish the body, mind, and spirit. If your mind is open to new experiences, don’t miss this incredible opportunity to gain new insights from a truly amazing woman…yes, I’m prejudiced. You can learn more about Anita at or read her wonderful Sensuous Gardening Blog at Seating for this class is very limited.

Remember to sign up for our other classes offered this fall:

  • Josh Taylor’s Photography Class
  • Tony’s Garden Walk
  • The World of Soils

Read the class descriptions here.

Industry News

In news from the horticultural world, corporate giant, Ball Horticultural has purchased the 153-year-old Conard-Pyle Company from owner Steve Hutton, whose family has owned the business for the past 65 years. Even though you may not recognize the company name, Conard-Pyle is the manger/distributer of Knock-out roses…perhaps you’ve heard of them. They also introduced the “Blue Hollies”, the industry standard holly in the Northeast US.

Gardens of Germany

Our friend, landscape architect, Roland Oehme, son of the late landscape architect, Wolfgang Oehme is taking a plant trip to Germany and is accepting travel companions. This isn’t an organized tour per se, but a chance to visit gardens, nurseries, and study German garden design. The cost is $2500-$3000 including airfare. If you’re interested, you can email Roland at his company, Green Harmony Design, at

Passing On

Athyrium 'Branford Beauty'

Athyrium ‘Branford Beauty’

We were saddened this month to learn of the passing of plantsman Nick Nickou, MD, of Branford, CT, who passed away at the age of 94. In addition to being a physician for 40 years, Nick was a keen gardener and plant explorer (China, Russia, Greece, South Africa, Patagonia and more). We are fortunate to have a number of plants that Nick shared, growing in our garden, including his two most popular introductions, Athyrium ‘Branford Rambler’ and Athyrium ‘Branford Beauty’. What an amazing and wonderful life!

Bruce Usrey

Bruce Usrey

The nursery world lost a giant this month, with the passing of retired Monrovia Nursery President/CEO, Bruce Usrey. Bruce worked with Monrovia for over 45 years, starting in plant production and working his way up to CEO and, in his later years, Managing Director. Bruce oversaw much of the tremendous expansion of Monrovia during the 1980s through the 2000s, when Monrovia became a household brand. Bruce is survived by his wife, Susie, another 40-year Monrovia veteran.

Most everyone who grew houseplants from the 1970s through the 1990s has probably heard of Peters Fertilizer, which is a worldwide industry standard for quality and performance. Many of us vividly remember their famous blue fertilizer dye, which stained our hands and made those we subsequently dined with stare with horror.

We are sad to report that Peters founder, Robert (Bob) Peters just passed away at age 97. Peters rewrote the proverbial book on liquid fertilizer during the green industry heyday. Peters started his fertilizer company in 1947, but sold it in 1979 to the Grace Company, which later became Grace-Sierra. Grace-Sierra was subsequently gobbled up by Scotts in 1993. Disenchanted by the workings of a large corporation and their unequal promotion of their Miracle-Grow brand, Peters re-purchased the rights to their fertilizer in 2002, but not their original name. They subsequently started a new company, selling the old Peters fertilizer as Jack’s at

Connect with Us!

Until next month, connect and follow us and the cats on FacebookPinterest, and our blogs at and, where you may sign up to follow our regular posts from the nursery and the botanic garden.

Happy Gardening!

tony and anita

Plant Delights July 2015 Newsletter

Greetings PDNers!

Summer Open Nursery and Garden

Agave 'Grey Gator'

Agave ‘Grey Gator’

Come see our 30 foot flowering agave at our final Summer Open Nursery and Garden Days this weekend. Visitors from around the country have been showing up to see our giant agave in flower, a 16-year-old specimen of Agave salmiana x Agave asperrima, with the first flowers opening right on cue for our summer open days. This is the tallest century plant we’ve ever flowered, with the tip of the spike topping out just a few inches below the 30′ tall mark. We’ve got our giant ladder perched nearby so Jeremy can make his daily pollinations, all while fighting off attacking hummingbirds.

We hope you’ll have time to walk around the garden while you’re here. The newly-opened, full sun Souto garden is looking fabulous, with so much color it’s almost overwhelming. Changes also abound throughout the older sections of the garden. Anita has suggested the removal of several formerly fenced and hedged areas to create more openness…we think you’ll enjoy these changes as much as we do.

Summer Nursery & Garden Days Final Weekend

July 17 – 19

Friday and Saturday 8a-5p
Sunday 1-5p

Rain or Shine!
Free Parking!

Click for more info

Happy Open Nursery Days Shoppers

Happy Open Nursery Days Shoppers

Daylilies You’ll Notice — Royalty in the Summer Garden

If you visit during the summer, you’ll notice some rather impressive daylilies in the sunny areas. We’ve long enjoyed daylilies for their ability to add color to the summer garden and now have them showcased better than ever.

Hemerocallis 'Freewheelin'

Hemerocallis ‘Freewheelin’

The prevailing daylily breeding trend since the 1970s has been to shrink the height of daylilies to appeal the masses. Obviously, this worked, since Hemerocallis ‘Stella D’Oro’ can be seen lining highway medians across the country. As horticultural contrarians, however, we enjoy taller daylilies, which we feel add much more visual interest to the garden. We don’t object to a few daylilies in the 3′ range, but rarely find the shorter varieties at the top of our favorites list, although some true dwarf rock garden daylilies would be fascinating.

Hemerocallis ‘Autumn Minaret’ is certainly the best known of the taller cultivars, topping out in our garden now at 6.5′ tall…yes, you read that correctly. This 1951 late season introduction was hybridized from one of the taller natural species, Hemerocallis altissima, which is actually a very small-growing plant that just happens to have a 5′ tall flower spike.

Hemerocallis 'Black Eyed Susan'

Hemerocallis ‘Black Eyed Susan’

Hemerocallis ‘Purity’ is another summer-flowering favorite. The well-branched 5′ tall flower spikes hold hundreds of yellow-orange flowers over a very long time. We can’t imagine a summer garden without this gem. While we typically don’t rave about many daylilies that flower below 3′, there are a few noticeable exceptions. One that we continually tout as one of the best is Hemerocallis ‘Black Eyed Susan’. Without question, this amazing plant is one of the most floriferous and stunning daylilies we grow. Although it only manages 32″ in height, its show power in the garden is truly hard to match.

We’ve got many more of the taller daylilies in our trials, and have even moved a bit of pollen around this summer between some of the taller varieties, so we hope you find these “off the bell curve” daylilies worth including in your own garden.

Black Bamboo Death – The End is Nigh

Phyllostachys nigra

Phyllostachys nigra (courtesy Georges Seguin via Wikipedia)

The bamboo world has been rocked over the last few years as most of the black bamboo has begun its flowering cycle. While flowering is good in most plants, such is not the case with bamboo since, like agaves, it dies after flowering. Like century plants, a bamboo plant also takes about 100 years to flower but unlike agaves, bamboo offsets don’t survive. Since most bamboo is grown from divisions, when a particular clone flowers, it flowers everywhere around the world within a certain time window, influenced slightly by growing conditions.

Black bamboo began flowering worldwide in 2008, with many in the US starting only in the last year. Bamboo flowers are brown and insignificant, so most folks won’t even notice until the plant begins a steady decline. The sad part is that everyone’s black bamboo will die, but the up side is that more plants will be grown from seed and the new generation crop will have another 100-year lifespan. Also, all those folks who were lied to by retailers who told them black bamboo clumped will have their problem resolved. The take home lesson is that if you’re buying the running black bamboo (Phyllostachys nigra), be sure to ask if it’s a new generation plant from seed or the clone which is currently flowering.

Yucca Birth Records Confusion — Who’s Your Daddy?

For many years we’ve had a fascination with yuccas and have long been convinced that the taxonomy of the Southeast native species was a mess. Reading several recent DNA papers along with some older works from the early 1900s, we realized that most of what is labeled Yucca filamentosa is actually Yucca flaccida…a completely different species.

We’re in the process of updating all of our names on the website and apologize in advance for the confusion. All of the variegated cultivars of Yucca filamentosa, except for the cultivar ‘Variegata’, are actually selections of Yucca flaccida.

Yucca gloriosa 'Tiny Star'

Yucca gloriosa ‘Tiny Star’

Yucca filamentosa, however, is a real plant. The real plant is what is known in the trade as the coastal boat-tipped yucca. We are currently propagating some true Yucca filamentosa for inclusion in a future catalog. If you vacation along the East Coast from NC south to Florida, the small yucca you see on the dunes is Yucca filamentosa.

Also growing on the southeast coastal dunes are two other species, Yucca aloifolia and Yucca gloriosa. It has long been theorized that Yucca gloriosa might represent a natural hybrid between Yucca aloifolia and Yucca filamentosa and, sure enough, the new DNA work confirms that theory. Consequently, the name should be written correctly as Yucca x gloriosa. Now it makes sense that when we were studying yuccas last year on the NC dunes, many plants seemed to be intermediates between the three parent species. We guess our eyes were not deceiving us after all. Two papers on the subject were shared by Larry Hatch of and are found below if you are scientifically nerdy enough to care.

On our many Southeast US botanizing trips we discovered other natural hybrids along with another new southeastern native yucca species that seems to have never been named. We will be working to get it described and published in the near future…an exciting time for those of us who love yuccas.

Perennial Plant Registrations

Our friend Larry Hatch is looking to fill a gap in the registration of new perennial varieties. There is supposed to be a system in place for anyone who wants to officially register, for posterity purposes, any new perennial that they name and introduce. While some genera of plants like iris, daylilies, and hostas have a dedicated registrar and a functioning system, most genera of plants either don’t have a registrar or the system is too cumbersome. The New Ornamentals Society is working to streamline the process with a new no-cost registration system. We encourage you to give it a try here.

Fern Hardiness Oops

Dryopteris labordei 'Golden Mist'

Dryopteris labordei ‘Golden Mist’

In our trials from this winter, it has become obvious that one of the ferns we offer isn’t nearly as hardy as our liner supplier had indicated. We lost all plantings of Dryopteris labordei ‘Golden Mist’ at 9 degrees F this winter, which is a far cry from its purported Zone 5 hardiness. The problem stems from a taxonomic confusion. Dryopteris labordei is considered a synonym of Dryopteris indusiata, the latter of which is a Zone 5 plant. Obviously, the two plants are not the same. While it’s still a great fern, we are shifting its winter hardiness to Zone 8a-9b. If you purchased this based on our previous hardiness listing, just drop us a note and we’ll add a credit to your account or issue a refund. Please accept our apologies for this incorrect information.

Passing On

Last month saw the passing of one of the giants of the waterlily world, Patrick Nutt, 85, longtime curator of Aquatic Plants at Longwood Gardens. Pat was revered throughout the water lily world for his encyclopedic knowledge and as a water lily breeder, promoter, and educator. Pat will be best remembered as the breeder of the internationally-renowned giant water lily Longwood Victoria, which most summer visitors to Longwood have no doubt gazed on in amazement. Pat began his career at Longwood Gardens in 1957 and remained there for the next 38 years, until his retirement in 1995. Even after his retirement, he continued to be a regular at Longwood Gardens while also traveling around the world, collecting and researching water lilies. Our condolences go out to Pat’s family and friends…life well lived!

Connect with Us!

Until next month, connect and follow us and the cats on Facebook,Pinterest, and our blog, where you may sign up and follow our regular posts from Plant Delights Nursery and Juniper Level Botanic Garden.

Happy Gardening!

-tony and anita

Plant Delights May 2015 Newsletter

Greetings PDNers!

Spring Open Nursery and Garden Days

One more weekend of our Spring Open Garden and Nursery Days remains… this Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. We hope you’ll join us to walk the 10+ acres of gardens and take home a few of the incredibly cool plants for sale in the nursery, many exclusives, available only at Plant Delights. The first open weekend we welcomed visitors from 21 states (Vermont to Louisiana and west to Oklahoma) and even a couple from Germany.

Paeonia 'Bartzella'

Paeonia ‘Bartzella’

Visitors are enjoying the new garden areas including plantings by the sales greenhouses and the recently opened 2+ acre Souto garden section. We hope you’ll allow plenty of time to see all the amazing plants while getting lots of landscape ideas for the garden at your home.

The peonies are peaking now, with our clump of Paeonia ‘Cora Stubbs’ sporting 55 insanely fragrant flowers! Peonies like Paeonia ‘Bartzella’, which are usually finished flowering by Open Nursery and Garden Days, have just opened their first flowers. We also have four agaves in spike so far, including our largest hardy agave, Agave ‘Grey Gator’, whose spike began Thursday night.

A number of plants that sold out earlier are now back in stock with even more right behind. We hope you’ll visit the Plant Delights website often to find the best perennial treasures.

Spring Open Nursery & Garden Days Final Weekend

May 8 – 10

Friday and Saturday 8a-5p
Sunday 1-5p

Rain or Shine!
Free Parking!

Click for more info

Happy Open Nursery Days Shoppers

Happy Open Nursery Days Shoppers

Congratulations Dr. Olsen

Dr. Richard T. Olsen

Dr. Richard T. Olsen (from USNA website)

We recently posted a congratulatory note on social media to let you now about former PDN’er and NCSU graduate, Dr. Richard Olsen, who was recently appointed the new Director of your U.S. National Arboretum in Washington DC. In case you are not connected to social media, we posted how thrilled we are for Richard.

Since finishing his PhD at NCSU in 2006, Richard has worked with the U.S. Department of Agriculture as a tree breeder. Even during Richard’s tenure at Plant Delights as a student, we knew he was an amazing plantsman, destined for horticultural greatness. It’s great to know that the folks at the U.S. Department of Agriculture recognized this too.

The U.S. National Arboretum is best known for a few of its more public plant collections: the Gotelli Conifer Garden, Asian Valley, the Bonsai pavilion, Fern Valley, and the National Herb Garden. Lesser known are many of its amazing tree collections and breeding plots that are rarely explored or off limits to visitors. These breeding programs have so far yielded over 650 plants introduced into commerce.

The 446-acre U.S. National Arboretum had lost its way in recent years. Visitors noticed the lack of general maintenance from unmown lawns to research plots where weeds were taller than the research plants. Most recently, the National Arboretum had greatly reduced their hours and were closed to the public most of the week. Coinciding with Richard’s hiring, the National Arboretum is now open again seven days a week… hooray!

The National Arboretum also endured a PR fiasco a few years earlier when a plan to get rid of parts of several plant collections (boxwoods, daylilies, azaleas) met with a very public backlash. Since that time there has been major behind the scenes strategizing involving Richard and several others to craft a long-range strategic plan for the National Arboretum.

We look forward to the Arboretum regaining the stature it once had as one of the great jewels in the U.S. horticultural crown.



Industry News

In news from the nursery world, comes the closure of Greer Gardens of Oregon. For 50 years Harold Greer and his staff have made a wide assortment of rhododendrons and other amazing plants available to gardeners around the country. The Greer’s fourteen-acre garden and nursery will become a retirement home featuring many of the Greer’s amazing plants. Thanks for a great run and for all the great plants!

In other news from the nursery world, Scarlet Tanager CEO, Niles Kinerk, tells us that because sales have rebounded this spring, he will be able to scale back both Spring Hill Nursery and Michigan Bulb and not close them in June as he had previously planned. It’s always good to avert another significant loss to the mail order industry!

The More You Know

In the “you can’t make this up” file comes news that researchers have determined that moths remember on which plant they lose their virginity. A study of African moths showed that, like humans, the moths recognized and remembered their first time and returned there for subsequent mating. In this case, the moths would return to mate on a plant that wasn’t their natural preferred host simply based on good first time memories. Read the whole store here.

If you’re up for more reading, we’ve recently put a series of new plant articles on-line including many articles we write for Walter Magazine. Enjoy!

American Hosta Society Annual Convention in Raleigh June 18-20

Hosta 'Totally Awe Sum'

Hosta ‘Totally Awe Sum’

Only a few weeks remain until we welcome the American Hosta Society annual convention to Raleigh. Plant Delights Nursery/Juniper Level Botanic Garden will welcome the group to dinner, tours, and shopping on June 18. We really hope you’ll be able to join us. Register to attend the events here.

Let’s Stay Connected!

Until next month, connect and follow us and the cats on Facebook, Pinterest, and our blog, where you may sign up and follow our regular posts from Plant Delights Nursery and Juniper Level Botanic Garden.

Happy Spring Gardening!

-tony and anita

Plant Delights April 2015 Newsletter

Greetings PDNers!

Nursery Update—Made it through Winter

It’s been quite a late winter at Juniper Level/Plant Delights, with the latest-occurring single digit temperature we’ve seen since our records began in the 1970s. Plants like hellebores in bloom when the cold snap hit have recovered, although flowers that were fully open or nearly so were slightly damaged. Hellebores are really tough and, after removing a few damaged flowers, they look great.

Helleborus x hybridus PDN Double Pink w/Spots

Helleborus x hybridus PDN Double Pink w/Spots

Plants and More Plants

Trillium vaseyi

Trillium vaseyi

Some of the very early trilliums, like the Florida forms of Trillium underwoodii, were also damaged. On a few of these, the entire stem collapsed back to the rhizome. When this happens, these trilliums will not return until next year. All of the other trillium species had the good sense to wait until later to emerge and are unscathed.

One of the benefits of cold winters is a good chilling period for most perennials. Like a bear needs to hibernate, the same is true for most perennials and the longer rest and deeper chill they receive, the better they return for the upcoming season. Consequently, we expect a stunning spring display.

Paeonia 'Bartzella'

Paeonia ‘Bartzella’

The fat peony buds have already poked through the ground and started to expand. We moved quite a few of our peonies last year into sunnier areas, so we have really high expectations for 2015. We continue to expand our peony offerings based on the results of our trials where we evaluate for good flowering and good stem sturdiness. It’s a shame that many of the best-selling peonies often don’t meet that criteria.

One of the first plants to sell out this spring was the amazing mayapple, Podophyllum ‘Galaxy’. We have another crop in the production pipeline but they aren’t ready yet…hopefully in the next few months. Thanks for your patience since there was obviously pent up demand.

Phlox 'Pink Profusion'

Phlox ‘Pink Profusion’

The early spring phlox are just coming into their glory here at Juniper Level. Two new offerings from our friend Jim Ault are just superb. If you have a sunny garden, don’t miss trying Phlox ‘Forever Pink’ and Phlox ‘Pink Profusion’.

The flower buds have also begun on the sarracenias (pitcher plants) in the garden. Not only is pitcher plant foliage unique in appearance and its ability to attract and digest insects, but the flowers are also amazing. Each flower arises before the foliage, atop a 6-18” tall stalk (depending on the species). The flowers, which resemble flying saucers, come in red, yellow, and bicolor.

Sarracenia flava

Sarracenia flava

Pitcher plants are very easy to grow in a container of straight peat moss, and kept sitting in a tray of water. In the garden, sandy soils or a combination of peat and sand work great. Just remember…no chemical fertilizers or lime nearby…they need a pH below 5.0. Pitcher plants also like damp feet but dry ankles, so growing them in a swamp is a no-no. We hope you’ll find something you like from our selection of ten different offerings.

In case you missed it, we recently added a number of new hellebores to the website, many of which are available in large enough quantities that we can offer quantity discounts. Of course, this will be the last of our hellebore crop for 2015, so when they’re gone, they’re gone for the entire year.

Greenhouse Filled with Hellebores

Greenhouse Filled with Hellebores

Plant Cartoon

I hope all the aroid collectors saw this wonderful cartoon. If not, check out the link below. We’re not sure what that says about us, but it’s probably true.

Open Nursery and Garden

Thanks to everyone who visited during our winter open nursery and garden days…many braving some unseasonably cold weather. Remember that we will open again the first two weekends of May, and we expect much nicer weather for you to shop and enjoy the spring garden.

2015 Spring Open Nursery & Garden Days

May 1 – 3
May 8 – 10

Fridays/Saturdays 8a-5p
Sundays 1-5p

Rain or Shine!
Free Parking!

Click for more info

Happy Open Nursery Days Shoppers

Happy Open Nursery Days Shoppers

Fern Conference

Pyrrosia polydactyla

Pyrrosia polydactyla

Whether you’re a ferner or a native, you may be interested in the upcoming fern meeting….aka the Next Generation Pteridological Conference, scheduled to start at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington DC on June 1. If you’ve got a fern “jones,” consider joining us for the Smithsonian’s fern conference. Not only will you enjoy fern presentations, but you’ll be able to talk spores, stipes, and croziers while enjoying cocktails in the nation’s capital. For more information visit

Invasive Species

A hot-button topic is invasive exotics and, like with any scientific topic, the best thing we can have is dissenting opinions. Those with an open mind will enjoy these recent eye-opening publications:

Sign Up for Close-Up Photography Workshop and Garden Walks

Josh Taylor Photography Class at PDNWe have a number of educational events scheduled at Plant Delights this spring from classes to conventions and we’d love for you to join us. You’ll find our list of classes here, starting with our Close-Up Garden Photography workshop on Saturday May 2.

American Hosta Society National Convention in Raleigh June 18-20

Hosta 'Showbiz'

Hosta ‘Showbiz’

In June, we welcome the American Hosta Society, as hosta lovers from around the world descend on the Raleigh area to share and learn about their favorite genus of plants.Plant Delights Nursery/Juniper Level Botanic Garden will welcome the group to dinner, tours, and shopping on June 18. We really hope you’ll be able to join us. Register to attend the events at

Let’s Stay Connected!

Until next month, connect and follow us and the cats on FacebookPinterest, and our blog, where you may sign up and follow our regular posts from the nursery and the botanic garden.

Happy Gardening!

-tony and anita

Plant Delights Nursery February 2015 Newsletter

Greetings PDNers!

Buy Valentine’s Day Gift Certificates

Valentine’s Day is rapidly approaching and it’s time to forget those cut flowers that only last a few days and give the gift of long-living perennials which will remind your love of your thoughtfulness each year. The easy, stress-free way to share your love is with a Plant Delights gift certificate for your plant-loving Valentine so they can select their own favorites.

Show your love with a PDN Gift Certificate

Show your love with a PDN Gift Certificate

Visit and Shop Winter Open Nursery & Garden Days

New Walkway to Souto Garden

New Walkway to Souto Garden

Our upcoming Winter Open Nursery and Garden Days are only a few weeks away. We are happy to officially open the new 2-acre, full-sun Souto Garden to visitors. To facilitate entrance into the new garden section, we’ve opened up a walkway through the Nellie Stevens holly hedge from the Sunken Rain Garden. We hope you’ll enjoy this new addition with thousands of amazing new sun perennial plants and plantings.

Buy Hellebores and More

Helleborus 'Rose Quartz'

Helleborus ‘Rose Quartz’

Visit us during Winter Open Nursery and Garden Days and you’ll experience a hellebore extravaganza! We’ll have an amazing selection of flowering hellebores to choose from….most in full flower. Hellebores aren’t the only plants to see, as there are many other winter-flowering gems in the greenhouses. Of course, if you’re ready to get a jump start on your planting, all plants in the Plant Delights Nursery catalog and website will also be available, although some are still asleep for the winter. Others which are grown in greenhouses at 55 degrees will be available, but must be kept indoors until all danger of frost has passed.

Greenhouse Filled with Hellebores

Greenhouse Filled with Hellebores

See our New PDN and JLBG Signage

New Garden SignAnita and her team spearheaded the creation and installation of an array of new directional and informational signs around the nursery and garden offices, starting with our new entrance and exit signs. Our goal is to make navigation of our campus easier during Open Nursery and Garden Days as well as for visitors, tours, and groups.

Let’s Scan Those Purchases!

We’ve enhanced our shopping procedures for you with our new bar code scanning system. We trialed the system during our later 2014 open nursery days so we’re ready to make your checkout experience faster and more efficient for your shopping pleasure.

Happy Open Nursery Days Shoppers

Happy Open Nursery Days Shoppers

Sign Up for Close-Up Photography Workshop and Garden Walks

We have a number of educational events scheduled at Plant Delights this spring from classes to conventions and we’d love for you to join us. You’ll find our list of classes here, starting with our Close-Up Garden Photography workshop on Saturday May 2.

American Hosta Society National Convention in Raleigh June 17-20

Hosta 'Showbiz'

Hosta ‘Showbiz’

In June, we welcome the American Hosta Society, as hosta lovers from around the world descend on the Raleigh area to share and learn about their favorite genus of plants. Plant Delights Nursery/Juniper Level Botanic Garden will welcome the group to dinner, tours, and shopping on June 18. We really hope you’ll be able to join us. Register to attend the events at

Drones in the Garden and Nursery

Take a look at these two brand new drone videos of our botanic garden and our nursery! Our daughter, Katie, is a software architect at SAS by day and an aspiring filmmaker at night. We asked her to help us edit these two raw videos captured with the aerial drone provided by Heli-Cam Aerial Photo and Video. If you haven’t had the chance to visit the garden or the nursery, or haven’t been here in a few years, we believe these videos will give you a glimpse of how we are growing and beautifying the landscape in southern Wake County. Share these videos with your family and friends and help us raise awareness of how cool it is to visit PDN and JLBG!
PDN Video
JLBG Video

A Drone in the Garden

A Drone in the Garden

Knock Out the Nonsense…

We recently received a note from a garden writer, detailing the strong arm tactics now being used by the marketer of Knockout Roses ®, in an effort to keep their Knockout ® trademark valid. Garden writers around the county were send cease and desist letters, telling them to stop using Knockout ® as part of the cultivar name. The company, Conard Pyle of Pennsylvania, is technically correct to try and protect their trademark, but they’ve shot themselves in the proverbial foot by misnaming the individual roses.

USPATUS Trademark law does not allow a trademark to be used as the public-known name of any product. Trademarks can only be used to designate origin of the product…for example, for a series of roses. If the public, however, recognizes the trade name as the product name or part of the product name, then the trademark, despite being legally acquired, becomes invalid.

Conard Pyle would have been on solid legal footing if they had actually given the Knockout ® roses good cultivar names that the public would remember, but they intentionally didn’t do that. The official names of the Knockout roses are non-words like Rosa ‘Radrazz’, ‘Radcon’, ‘Radcor’, etc. Most of the public have no idea these are the real plant names. The public, instead, knows the rose names as Rosa ‘Pink Knockout’, Rosa ‘Rainbow Knockout’, Rosa ‘Double Knockout’, etc. That’s because this is exactly what Conard Pyle intended…even in their own marketing brochures.

The Knockout ® roses were given these non-sensical cultivar names so, when the 20-year patents expired and everyone could legally propagate the roses, they wouldn’t be able to sell them under the Knockout ® names that the public knew as the plant names. In other words, it seems that their intent was to fool the public into knowing the plants by the trademark name only…despite the non-sensical real cultivar names being included on the tag in “mice type.” By the way, the first of the Knockout ® patents to expire will be Rosa ‘Radrazz’, which will lapse in 4 years (January 2019), hence the sense of urgency.

Rosa 'Radrazz'

Rosa ‘Radrazz’

It appears Conard Pyle’s legal team is now trying to close the proverbial barn door after the horses have left the stable. Legal letters have been so frightening to garden writers that some bloggers have gone back and changed 8-year-old posts. Perhaps this will finally be enough for garden writers to grow a spine and stop using these illegal trade names in print and on-line…a practice that would stop the nurseries from using them in short order.

One newspaper writer that we spoke with has even gone so far as to stop writing about any trademarked plant…hurrah! We need to continue to publicly shame those in our industry who persist with this confusing and improper plant naming as a way to get around the intent of US Patent and Trademark law. It’s a shame no plant people have the time or deep pockets to challenge these perpetrators in the courts. If you’d like to read more about this subject, including settled case law, you will find our other article here.

Read circa 1904 Plant Catalogs

Fellow plantsman Larry Hatch, founder, sent me this interesting link from a 1904 Suzuki and Iida plant catalog. Many of the plants we consider new to the trade were actually grown and sold quite a while ago. Larry tells us that now has 12,600 different old nursery catalogs online so, if you’re snowed in or have no social life outside of gardening, like us, check these out.

Ask Tony a Question!

We love to receive queries from customers…like this great series of questions:

“Over the past 10 years we have seen the price of florist orchids plummet so that now an in bloom, good size orchid can be $10 at Trader Joes or your local grocer. I assume this is due to the fact that growers have figured out tissue culture propagation and how to grow orchids fast to flowering size. The price of many garden/terrestrial orchids has not similarly plummeted whether from PDN or other nurseries. Why not? Are they just such a different beast physiologically? Is it just because the market is so much smaller for garden orchids vs florist orchids? Or is it on the horizon but not here yet? Not suggesting you should be making less of a percent profit on each plant but just curious and would rather be able to buy (and potentially kill) a couple $30 vs one $65 Cypripedium. Thanks for any insight and absolutely no rush on an answer.”

Katie and Tony

Katie and Tony

Indeed, a company in Holland has tried to fast-track Cypripedium orchids like they have done with tropical Phalaenopsis orchids. We’ve grown quite a few of these, which arrive in the US at about 50% of the price of 8-year-old, outdoor grown ladyslipper orchids. The problem is the high mortality rate of these fast-tracked plants, which is due to something in the process of the plants being grown in accelerated growth greenhouses. So yes, but until we figure out why the plants are dying at nearly a 50% rate, you won’t see the prices coming down immediately, but there is hope.

Nursery Industry Updates

When woody plant guru, Dr. Mike Dirr officially retired from the University of Georgia, he started a plant breeding company with two local Georgia nurserymen, Jeff Beasley of Transplant Nursery and Mark Griffith of Griffith Propagation. The company, Plant Introductions Inc., founded in 2007, and its First Editions line of plant introductions was just sold to Bailey Nurseries of Minnesota.

Dr. Dirr has worked closely with Bailey’s for years, especially since he spotted the reblooming Hydrangea ‘Bailmer’…the plant you know as ‘Endless Summer’, in their fields. Bailey’s already has production facilities in Oregon so, with the addition of PI’s southeast US facilities, they’ve got much of the US covered. Despite the sale, Dirr, Beasley, and Griffith are scheduled to remain a part of PI’s team. Jeff and Lisa Beasley have also transitioned to the next generation with the sale of their own Transplant Nursery to their daughter Camilla and husband Gatlin. We wish everyone the best in the transition.

Look…NC Crops Washed Away

Are you aware of the current dangers to the North Carolina marshmallow crop? If not, please see this video right away and expect to pay more for NC marshmallows at the store. Farming is full of weather-related perils, as this video so aptly points out.

The Blues Brothers

Jake and Elwood

Jake and Elwood

And at the Avent home, many of you already know we adopted two less-than-healthy twin male kittens from the Best Friends Pet Adoption late in 2014. Now, Jake and Elwood are healthy, hearty, and robust, weighing in at 10 lbs and 8 lbs, respectively. These little love machines are about 9 months old and keeping us well loved and entertained. Anita continues working with Jake in the kitchen so he can take over cooking duties for Tony and Elwood loves to play in the laundry room and nap in the sun on the cat trees. If only we could teach them to vacuum and pull weeds.

Let’s Stay Connected!

Anita and Tony

Anita and Tony

Until next month, connect with us and the cats on Facebook, Pinterest, and our blog, where you may sign up and follow our regular posts from the nursery and the botanic garden.

Happy Valentine’s Day and Happy Gardening!

-tony and anita


Featured Plants

Cyclamen coum Silver Leaf

Cyclamen coum Silver Leaf

Euphorbia rigida

Euphorbia rigida

Helleborus 'Painted Doubles'

Helleborus ‘Painted Doubles’

Helleborus 'Cinnamon Snow'

Helleborus ‘Cinnamon Snow’

Iris unguicularis 'Purple Snow'

Iris unguicularis ‘Purple Snow’

Ranunculus ficaria 'Brazen Hussy'

Ranunculus ficaria ‘Brazen Hussy’

Plant Delights Nursery December 2014 Newsletter

Greetings and Happy Holidays from all of us to you!

We hope your holiday season is merry and bright, and those of you in climates where winter gardening is possible are enjoying time in the garden. Now that the new catalog writing and proofing are completed, we’re back to spending time planting new plants and relocating old ones around the garden.

New Plant Sales Catalog at the Printer!

Our new and re-designed Plant Delights catalog is at the printer and scheduled to be on the way to your mailbox at the end of December. As always, there are plenty of cool new plants as well as many returning favorites. We’ll be featuring a few of these between now and the end of the year on our blog. We’ve (mostly Anita) been working hard with our catalog designer, Shari Sasser, to make the new print catalog more user friendly and visually appealing.

We’re Leafing in the Garden…

Epimedium leaves at JLBG

Epimedium leaves at JLBG

Here at Juniper Level, Todd and the garden staff are wrapping up the leaf raking for the year since all the leaves have finally fallen. The next step is re-mulching the entire garden, which will begin shortly. For this, we use a triple-shredded hardwood mulch, which we purchase locally. We like this type of mulch since it doesn’t wash in heavy rains, while allowing air and water to penetrate.

Our leaves, garden and nursery debris, and leaves from the nearby town of Garner are being piled up here to become compost. After sitting for a month, new organic debris is then mixed with our native soil at the rate of 50% each. We turn the piles five times at intervals of at least two weeks to make the compost, from which we build and rebuild our garden beds.

Look What’s Changing at JLBG

We’re also spending quite a bit of time this fall removing some large footprint plants; after which we add more of our compost mix, then replant with cool new plants. You’ll see lots of these newly replanted areas when you visit for our next open house in February.


New plantings at JLBG

New plantings at JLBG

2015 Open Nursery and Garden Dates
Winter 2015
February 27 – March 1
March 6 – 8

Spring 2015
May 1 – 3
May 8 – 10

Summer 2015
July 10 – 12
July 17 – 19

Fall 2015
September 11 – 13
September 18 – 20

Fridays/Saturdays 8a-5p and Sundays 1-5p
Rain or Shine!     Free Parking
Click for more info

Interesting Plant Data, Anyone?

We always enjoy sharing business trivia, so this month, here are a couple of our favorite top 10 lists. The first is our top 10 states by plant purchases during 2014. As you can imagine, our home state of North Carolina leads the list, but some of the others may come as a surprise, including two West Coast states that made the list. We are so grateful for all of you, no matter where you are located, who adopted our plant children this year to enjoy in your gardens.

Fall hydrangea leaves at JLBG

Fall hydrangea leaves at JLBG

Top 10 States by Plant Purchases for Plant Delights in 2014

  1. North Carolina
  2. New York
  3. Texas
  4. California
  5. South Carolina
  6. Pennsylvania
  7. Florida
  8. New Jersey
  9. Ohio
  10. Washington

How many would you have predicted correctly?

Top 10 Best Selling Plant Groups for Plant Delights in 2014

  1. ferns
  2. hosta
  3. helleborus
  4. agave
  5. salvia
  6. colocasia
  7. epimedium
  8. canna
  9. iris
  10. echinacea

How many items would you have predicted correctly?

Wow! This News is Helpful

And on the theme of fabulous garden news, we received a press release from a new non-profit sharing news of a brand new website, dedicated to our gardening friends who are dealing with extraordinary medical challenges.

This unique, non-commercial website connects people with the tools they need to create an accessible garden: information, photographs, videos, building plans, links to helpful government and private agencies, seed catalogs, and designs for accessible gardens.

Accessible Gardens is an outreach project of Ophoenix, a Public Benefit Corporation in San Francisco.

The Perfect Tree – According to Anita

We’re sure many of you have seen news stories about the Tree of Forty Fruits, but if not, check out this TED video. Syracuse University art professor Sam Van Aken started a project to graft 40 different fruit trees onto a single trunk. While this certainly isn’t a new idea, Sam’s take on fruit tree grafting is to perform the grafting for artistic reasons as well as for fruit production. We think you’ll find this pretty cool. By the way, Sam received his Masters of Fine Arts degree in 2001 from the University of North Carolina.

Munchkin, Spring Hill and Michigan Bulb Closing…

It’s always sad to lose another mail order nursery family, but we will be saying goodbye to more stalwarts. Plantsman Gene Bush ofMunchkin Nursery in Indiana has retired from the mail order business. Although Munchkin was not a large nursery, Gene did a superb job offering rare and hard-to-find treasures, while doing a great job educating gardeners. Thanks for all your hard work, Gene!

On a much larger scale, two of the largest and oldest mail order nurseries in the country are scheduled to close this June…Spring Hill Nursery (1849) and Michigan Bulb Nursery (1943). Both nurseries were rescued (along with many others) from bankruptcy in 2001 byNiles Kinerk of Gardens Alive.

Niles and his team have been able to rebuild the sales volume for all of the purchased companies, but Spring Hill Nursery and Michigan Bulb have not provided the positive cash flow needed to remain viable. Consequently, to avoid bankruptcy and be sure that all vendors are paid, both companies will operate through the spring season before closing in June 2015. This is a sad day for the mail order nursery industry, and there is always a glimmer of hope for a white knight to ride in to save the day, but the prospects don’t look good.

Mystic Creek at JLBG in Autumn

Mystic Creek at JLBG in Autumn

Plant Breeding Honors Go To…

Congratulations to Dr. Mike Dirr, retired professor from the University of Georgia, for being named a fellow by the National Academy of Inventors (NAI). Mike is one of only 170 inventors, and the first plant breeder to receive the honor. Fellow status is granted to those who have created or facilitated outstanding inventions that have made a tangible impact on quality of life, economic development, and the welfare of society. Kudos to Mike!

The Life and Times of Henry Ross

We were saddened to learn of the loss of Gardenview Horticultural Park founder Henry Ross, who passed away at age 87. Most likely, few people outside of Cleveland, Ohio, or the plant nerd community have ever heard of Henry, but he was quite a horticultural force. Since 1949, Henry worked tirelessly at transforming a 16 acre plot of overgrown land in the town of Strongsville, Ohio (now in the middle of Cleveland), into a horticultural paradise. We’ve had the pleasure of visiting Henry many times, starting in 1993, and always learned new plants we didn’t know about before.

Henry Ross in his garden

Henry Ross in his garden

Henry was an amazing plantsman, but his lack of people skills kept him from receiving the accolades other contemporaries received, turning Henry into a bitter curmudgeon. As Henry tried to raise an endowment to continue the garden after his death, he consistently shot himself in the proverbial foot, alienating the majority of people who tried to help. Henry was the classic paradox, one of the most kind and gentle people we’d ever met, but his bitterness and resentment were his own worst enemy.

Gardenview Horticultural Park

Gardenview Horticultural Park

Henry had trouble finding garden help because few people could match Henry’s standards of rising before dawn, living in a proverbial shack, sans paycheck, and working in the garden until falling asleep at night…regular bathing was a time luxury that Henry simply couldn’t afford. Finally, in 1995, that one in a million person showed up in the person of Mark LaRosa, who moved into the property’s guest shack and became Henry’s protégé. LaRosa has worked at Gardenview since 1995, and continues there after Henry’s passing. Just like with Henry, who lived off his military retirement, LaRosa is not paid.

Henry introduced several plants during his lifetime, most notably, Ajuga ‘Arctic Fox’, Hosta ‘Solar Flare’, and Monarda ‘Gardenview Scarlet’. Henry had many more plants that should have been introduced, but his deepening neurosis of not getting enough credit kept him from sharing further.

Gardenview‘s Board of Directors is now attempting to move the non-profit garden into its post-founder phase, finally without Henry’s resistance. Their hope is to build both an endowment and generate funding so the garden can finally have paid staff. If you’d like to visit or donate, you can find out more here and here…of course the garden couldn’t afford a real website. Henry…you’ve lived a full and amazing life and here’s to the prosperous future of Gardenview Horticultural Park.

Let’s Stay Connected!

Until next month, connect with us on FacebookPinterest, and ourblog, where you may sign up and follow our regular posts from the nursery and the botanic garden.

Happy Holidays and Happy Gardening!

-tony and anita

Featured Plants

Agave striata 'Live Wires'

Agave striata ‘Live Wires’

Cardamine douglassii 'Southern Lady'

Cardamine douglassii ‘Southern Lady’

Illicium parviflorum 'Florida Sunshine'

Illicium parviflorum ‘Florida Sunshine’








Liriope muscari 'Okina'

Liriope muscari ‘Okina’

Ranunculus ficaria 'Orange You Cute'

Ranunculus ficaria ‘Orange You Cute’

Rohdea chinensis var. chinensis 'Green Panda'

Rohdea chinensis var. chinensis ‘Green Panda’

PDN Gift Certificate - Always the perfect gift!

Always the perfect gift!


Plant Delights Nursery November 2014 Newsletter

Happy Thanks-Gardening PDNers!

As we approach the holidays we are so thankful to share our plant passion with each of you. Thank you for ordering from PDN, reading our blog, and sharing our passion on social media. We are so blessed on many levels.

New Catalog Update

As you probably know, October and November are both catalog writing months at Plant Delights. This year, it’s been great to take advantage of our improved wireless access at Juniper Level Botanic Garden to write from a golf cart as we traverse the garden with tape measures and cameras in hand.

We’re still amazed how often our measurements and observations in the garden are at such odds with information published by plant marketers on-line. So much of the discrepancy is because most plant breeders and plant marketers only trial plants for container production. You’d be shocked how many new plants are sold to an unsuspecting public that have never been trialed in a garden.

We are in the process of assembling our 2015 spring catalog for you and it will contain over 100 new perennials including quite a few of our own introductions of asarum, arisaema, baptisia, epimedium, and more. We’re continuing to tweak the format of our print catalog layout to include larger plant images…we hope you enjoy the changes. Let us know what you’d like to see in the catalogs going forward, as well as your comments on format.

Cypripediums and Rohdea japonica

Cypripedium at JLBG

Cypripedium at JLBG

Speaking of plants, the fall harvest of cypripedium ladyslipper orchids is complete and everything is now potted, so if you’d prefer to get your cypripediums in the ground now while they’re dormant, the new crop is on-line.

We also have a one-time offer this fall. Our seed crops of Rohdea japonica have been quite prolific the last few years, so we have more than we currently need. While our surplus lasts, they are available in quantities of 100 or more for $4 each, what a bargain! Email us at if you’re interested.

Shipping Season Ends

We’re wrapping up our 2014 plant shipping season in the first week of December, so this is your last chance to get your fall order shipped before our shipping season resumes in mid-February, weather permitting. That being said, we are always willing to work with you should a horticultural emergency arise between now and then, weather permitting.

JLBG – Autumn Nudity

The fall gardening season is fully upon us now that we’ve had our first hard freeze. Thank goodness, we haven’t had weather like Denver, where it dropped to -14F on November 13…yikes! There are plenty of things in the fall garden we could do without…hibernating perennials and leaf raking come to mind. While the process of leaf raking is tedious, we sure love the resulting compost, so let ‘em fall.

As horticultural voyeurs, we also enjoy watching the garden embrace its fall nudity. Just like disrobing for a shower, the clothes, jewelry, and makeup comes off the garden in fall. Instead of seeing the flashy garden bling of spring and summer, the fall season puts an emphasis on structure and good bones.

Hydrangea and Fall Color at JLBG

Hydrangea and Fall Color at JLBG

JLBG – Evergreens

Evergreens, which mostly fade into the background during spring and summer, suddenly become more visible. Sans foliar clothes, butchered trees and shrubs scream to the world…look at me…I’ve been abused. Late fall is always a great time to take stock of your landscape. How does it look after all the leaves have fallen? The proverbial fall horticultural mirror will indeed show all the garden faults that could stand to be corrected. Would additional evergreen shrubs or perennials help the garden look better through the winter months? We happen to be quite enamored with evergreen plants and have created a website category to make it easier to find these plants: Evergreen Perennials.

JLBG – Compost

Surely, by now, everyone has a compost pile. If you’re short of space, it’s easy enough to rake fallen leaves into a path or lawn, mow them with a mulching mower, and then sprinkle them back into the beds, where they will feed the microbes and, eventually, the plant roots below. Remember the microbes in the soil are responsible for feeding your plants as well as fighting off diseases. These microbes must feed on carbon, which comes from organic compost, so if you compost properly, you should never need to buy salt-based chemical fertilizers.

JLBG – Soil Moisture and Temperature

Also, be sure to also keep a check on garden soil moisture. High fall winds in some parts of the country tend to dry out both foliage and soils at a time when many gardeners don’t think about soil moisture due to the cooler temperatures. Most plants really need good soil moisture going into the fall. Be sure to keep a check to make sure your soil and plants don’t become too dry.

If you grow tender perennials and are in a region where they need to come indoors, hopefully you’ve already taken care of those chores. If not, you can read our article about overwintering tropicals for some helpful information. If your ground doesn’t freeze early, this is still a great time to plant perennials. We haven’t slowed down getting new plants in the ground, and in a typical winter, we only have a few weeks when we can’t plant.

JLBG – New Garden Beds, Displays, and Designs

We’ve updated many of our perennial beds and have created several beautiful new display areas throughout the garden showcasing our unique and rare perennials. Right now we’re in the midst of a major new planting renovation around our sales greenhouses that we can’t wait for you to see in spring. We’ve removed over 30 18-foot-wide Nellie Stevens hollies to make room for some of Jeremy’s rockwork and a host of cool new plants. Plan to come see us at the 2015 Winter Open Nursery and Garden Days in late February and early March to see Jeremy’s gorgeous rockery designs.

2015 Open Nursery and Garden Dates
Winter 2015
February 27 – March 1
March 6 – 8

Spring 2015
May 1 – 3
May 8 – 10

Summer 2015
July 10 – 12
July 17 – 19

Fall 2015
September 11 – 13
September 18 – 20

Fridays/Saturdays 8a-5p and Sundays 1-5p
Rain or Shine!     Free Parking
Click for more info


Purchase PDN Gift Certificates for the Holidays

We’d like to make your holiday shopping experience easier this year by suggesting you visit our website to purchase our Plant Delights Nursery Gift Certificates for all the gardeners and plant lovers on your shopping list.

Our gift certificates are a great way to give or send expressions of your love and good wishes without going through the hassle of driving, parking, and dealing with the holiday crowds! Gift certificates are available from $40.00, and we will gladly mail one directly to the recipient with a nice personal note and our latest plant catalog.

Our gift certificates may be used any time (they do not expire) and will take the guesswork out of gift-giving for that hard-to-buy-for gardener in your life. And we’ll even cover the cost of postage to mail your gift certificate and catalog to each recipient this year!

So cozy up to your tablet or laptop and let us assist you with sending plant and gardening cheer to all your gardening and plant-loving family and friends!

Plant Delights Gift Certificates, a great way to say "I love you!"

Plant Delights Gift Certificates, a great way to say “I love you!”

Congratulations JCRA, Duke Gardens, and UNCC Gardens!

In case you missed it, an academic website called just published a new list of the Best University Associated Arboretums and Botanic Gardens in the world. Congratulations to the three NC university gardens that made the list…well deserved!

  • UNC-Charlotte #26
  • JC Raulston Arboretum #8
  • Duke Gardens #4

Garden Industry News

In other news, we recently received a note from Jacque Wrinkle, widow of the late plantsman Guy Wrinkle, that she has put their dream home and one acre garden in Vista, California, up for sale. The property also includes a 3,000 square foot greenhouse and a wide array of cool plants. So, if you’re in that area, or want to move to this horticulturally rich area…especially if you’re a plant collector, here are a couple of links where you can find out more:

On a sad note this month, longtime friend Joe Gray passed away on October 16 of pancreatic cancer at the far too young age of 58. Many of you in the horticulture industry knew Joe from trade shows, but many more were affected by Joe’s work without knowing it.

Joe spent nearly 30 years working for Hines Nurseries, starting as a salesman and quickly rising to COO. Joe was one of the leaders of Hines Nurseries when they were the largest nursery in the US. As an avid plantsman, Joe’s passion for plants was reflected in many of the plants Hines made available, mostly through independent garden centers around the country.

Joe was one of the truly top notch people in our industry and he’ll be sorely missed. Joe is survived by his wife Carol and three sons, Nicholas, Miles, and Christopher. In lieu of flowers, the Gray family requests donations to American Pancreatic Action Network, 1500 Rosecrans Ave #200, Manhattan Beach, Ca 90266.

Until next month, we’ll see you here on the Plant Delights blog where you may sign up and follow our regular posts from the nursery and the botanic garden.

Happy Thanksgiving!

-tony and anita

Garden Color for Fall and Winter

Rohdea japonica

Rohdea japonica

Rohdea japonica is a highly-prized, tropical-looking, oriental native that mimics the appearance of an evergreen hosta. The 1′ long x 2″ wide, thick, dark green leaves form an upright vase-shaped clump to 2′ wide in 10 years. Late in the season, the insignificant flowers produce attractive short stalks of red berries that persist through the winter at the base of the plant. When used en masse, rohdeas are a dynamite evergreen winter interest addition to the deep shade garden. We have masses of Rohdea japonica growing at the base of giant black walnut trees…can you say tough?

Illicium parviflorum 'Florida Sunshine'

Illicium parviflorum ‘Florida Sunshine’

We brought three golden seedlings of the rare Florida endemic Illicium parviflorum back from a 2000 visit to Florida plantsman Charles Webb. After several years of evaluation, we selected one plant for introduction as Illicium ‘Florida Sunshine’. Our 7-year-old specimen has become a small shrub to 5′ tall x 3′ wide of anise-fragranced, chartreuse gold foliage during the spring and summer. As the weather cools in fall, the leaf color brightens to screaming yellow, then becomes a near parchment color by midwinter. During the same time, the upper stems take on a brilliant red cast, contrasting vividly with the leaves. In sun, the winter foliage will scorch, so we recommend this be grown in light shade…a stunning beacon in the winter garden.

Iris unguicularis 'Dazzling Eyes'

Iris unguicularis ‘Dazzling Eyes’

Iris ‘Dazzling Eyes’ is a 2004 Rick Tasco hybrid that has shown incredible vigor in our trials. Iris ‘Dazzling Eyes’ has a nice white and purple striped eyezone inside the blue-lavender petals. As with all Iris unguicularis cultivars, Iris ‘Dazzling Eyes’ likes a bright sunny location and good drainage…best beside a large rock. For us, flowering usually begins in November and continues through March, pausing only for extremely cold weather.

Featured Plants

Euphorbia x martinii 'Ascot Rainbow' PP 21,401

Euphorbia x martinii ‘Ascot Rainbow’ PP 21,401

Helleborus niger 'HGC Josef Lemper' PP 15,615

Helleborus niger ‘HGC Josef Lemper’ PP 15,615

Heucherella 'Solar Eclipse' PP 23,647

Heucherella ‘Solar Eclipse’ PP 23,647








Oxalis fabaefolia

Oxalis fabaefolia

Verbena canadensis 'Snowflurry'

Verbena canadensis ‘Snowflurry’

Yucca filamentosa 'Color Guard'

Yucca filamentosa ‘Color Guard’

Plant Delights Nursery September 2014 Newsletter

Greetings PDN’ers!

PDN Fall Nursery News

We hope you’ve received your copy of the Fall 2014 Plant Delights Nursery catalog. Kudos to our graphic designer Shari Sasser at Sasser Studios for the catalog redesign and new look. Among other things, the fall catalog includes three new aucubas, six new crinum lilies, and twenty new fern offerings. These are a fraction of the many exciting new plants you’ll find either in the print version or online.

Hibiscus 'Kopper King' PP# 10,793

Hibiscus ‘Kopper King’ PP# 10,793

It’s always interesting for us to see what sells and what doesn’t. Top sellers from the fall catalog so far include, Adiantum venustumAgapanthus ‘White Heaven’Agave ‘Huasteca Giant’Agave ‘Shadow Dancer’Alstroemeria ‘Koice’Aster ‘Fanny’Begonia ‘Pewterware’Bouvardia ‘Scarlet Hummer’Canna ‘Pacific Beauty’Dryopteris erythrosora v. prolificaEchinacea ‘Fatal Attraction’Epimedium ‘Domino’,  Eucalyptus neglectaHeuchera ‘Citronelle’Hibiscus ‘Kopper King’Hibiscus ‘Midnight Marvel’Hosta ‘Orange Marmalade’Juniperus conferta ‘All Gold’Lespedeza ‘White Fountain’Ligularia ‘Chinese Dragon’Lilium formosanum Giant formOxalis ‘Francis’Patrinia scabiosifoliaPhlox ‘Peppermint Twist’Ruellia ‘Black Beauty’Salvia greggii ‘Teresa’, and Salvia ‘Golden Girl’.

Aspidistra crispa 'Golden Freckles'

Aspidistra crispa ‘Golden Freckles’

On the other end of the scale, plants which will be severely disciplined for not selling to this point include Aspidistra crispa ‘Golden Freckles’Aucuba ‘Sagama’Begonia henryi,Buddleia ‘Blue Chip Jr.’Buddleia ‘Pink Micro Chip’Choisya ‘Limo’Crinum x digweedii ‘Mermaid’Harpochloa falxLycoris x jacksoniana ‘Caldwell’s Rose’Ophiopogon ‘Tuff Tuft Lavender’Taxus bacatta ‘Aurescens Nana’, and Trismeria trifoliata. We know how well these plants perform, and how hard they auditioned just to earn a spot in the catalog. We really hope you’ll save these gems from the whips and chains of our growing staff and give ’em a try!

October Photography Class with Josh Taylor

Saturday, Oct. 11, 2014, 8am–4pm
Garden Photography – Photo Capture and Processing with Josh Taylor

Photo Class

Photo Class

Learn how to get the best possible images from your camera and how to process your images in Lightroom with Photoshop/Photoshop Elements.

The morning focus of this all-day workshop will be on learning and getting reacquainted with your camera ISO settings, histogram, exposure compensation, shooting modes, bracketing, white balance, etc. You’ll spend 3 hours in the garden with your camera and the instructor.

The afternoon session will be devoted to post-processing with Lightroom using participants’ images for demonstrations. Register hereor call to register at 919-772-4794. See some examples of Josh’s work on his website:

Sweden & Germany 2014 Expedition Log

We’ve finally finished the online version of Tony’s expedition log from his trip to Germany and Sweden this spring…lots of cool plants, great gardens, and amazing people. If you’d like to travel along, enjoy the trek here.

Main building at the Munich Botanical Garden

Main building at the Munich Botanical Garden

Last Open Nursery and Garden Days for 2014 are Sept. 19-21

Grasshopper on Hibiscus 'Turn of the Century'

Grasshopper on Hibiscus ‘Turn of the Century’

This weekend, we’re putting the wraps on our final open nursery and garden days for 2014, so we hope you can make the trip to Plant Delights Nursery and Juniper Level Botanic Garden to share the splendor of the fall gardens. Not only is there lots to see here in September, but our muscadine grape trials are ripe, so you can sample each variety while you’re here…or park your spouse under the grapevines to keep them from pestering you while you peruse the gardens and shop.

2015 Open Nursery and Garden Dates
Winter 2015
February 27 – March 1
March 6 – 8

Spring 2015
May 1 – 3
May 8 – 10

Summer 2015
July 10 – 12
July 17 – 19

Fall 2015
September 11 – 13
September 18 – 20

Fridays/Saturdays 8a-5p and Sundays 1-5p
Rain or Shine!     Free Parking
Click for more info

Juniper Level Botanic Garden

Juniper Level Botanic Garden

Fall is a fabulous time to plant!

In most parts of the country, it’s a fabulous time to plant…everything except agaves, echinaceas, bananas, and elephant ears (from Zone 7b north). North of us, just don’t plant anything marginally hardy in your zone as your first frost approaches and, in climates where the ground freezes in winter, allow enough time to get the roots anchored to keep the plants from heaving out of the ground.

Four months ago, we posted photos of our new four seasons garden that we’d just installed near our retail greenhouses. This section of the garden is now 16 weeks old, so we’d love for you to see what it looks like now and see how much it’s grown…a great demonstration why good organic soil preparation is so important and how much plants will grow when they’re properly cared for.

Four Seasons Garden - May 2014

Four Seasons Garden – May 2014

Four Seasons Garden - September 2014

Four Seasons Garden – September 2014

Nursery Industry News

PDN kudos to Plant Delights customer Allen Lacy, the founder and chief weed puller at the new Linwood Arboretum. Allen received some great publicity recently in an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer that we’d like to share.

We were also glad to see a recent article about our friend, the late Logan Calhoun, that just appeared in the Dallas News. Logan was a Plant Delights customer who shared many special plants that we still offer today…fifteen years after his untimely death.



In other news from the nursery world, Q&Z Nursery of Rochelle, Illinois, a major wholesale hosta tissue culture lab, is closing its doors. Although very disappointing, I can’t say I’m surprised. Q&Z, which has operated for 22 years since splitting from its former retail division T&Z, chose its market niche to be a hosta liner supplier to small mom and pop backyard nurseries.

They did this by offering a huge selection of new hostas (over 400 of their own introductions), without much, if any, in-ground evaluation, introducing seemingly every mutation that they found in the lab. If they tissue cultured a variegated hosta and it mutated back green, they would name and introduce the plant, knowing these small nurseries were usually more interested in having new hosta names in their catalog than having the best new hostas. This business model cost them the business of larger, more discriminating retailers, especially because they rarely had good photography of mature clumps of their new introductions…the single most important factor in properly introducing a new plant. Still, a few of their hostas turned out to be good plants that had staying power, including Hosta ‘Diamond Tiara’,  ‘Pineapple Upside-down Cake’, Hosta ‘Radiant Edger’, Hosta ‘Sugar and Cream’, Hosta ‘Sugar and Spice’, Hosta ‘Summer Breeze’,  ‘Summer Lovin’, and Hosta ‘Victory’.

Hosta 'Summer Lovin'

Hosta ‘Summer Lovin’

Once the economy tanked, it took many of the smaller nurseries with it, making it even more difficult for such a business model to be sustainable. The founder/owner, Mark Zilis, is one of the most knowledgeable folks in the hosta world, as witnessed by his landmark hosta book, The Hostapaedia, which you can currently still purchase on the Q&Z website.

We’d like to publicly thank Mark and his staff for their contributions to the world of hostas, and wish them the best in their future endeavors.

Garden Director Needed

In local news, one of our neighboring botanic gardens is in need of a new director. Dr. Peter White, director of the NC Botanical Garden, is stepping down to return to teaching and writing, so the garden is in need of a new director. Interested? If so, you can find out more here.

Wedding Anniversary Flowers

Hydrangea macrophylla 'Yofloma'

Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Yofloma’

Do you struggle with what to get that special gardener in your family? Consider giving a wedding anniversary flower. Not only are there designated precious stones to celebrate wedding anniversaries, but there are designated plants. The list below suggests what you might present plantwise.

  • 1st Carnation
  • 2nd Lily of the Valley
  • 3rd Sunflower
  • 4th Hydrangea
  • 5th Daisy
  • 6th Calla
  • 7th Freesia
  • 8th Lilac
  • 9th Bird of paradise
  • 10th Daffodil
  • 11th Tulip
  • 12th Peony
  • 13th Chrysanthemum
  • 14th Dahlia
  • 15th Rose
  • 20th Aster
  • 25th Iris
  • 28th Orchid
  • 30th Lily
  • 40th Gladiolus
  • 50th Yellow rose, violet
  • Source: Wikipedia


We try to share important life events from the horticultural world, but here’s one we missed. Ken Durio, 84, founder and president of the infamous Louisiana Nursery passed away last fall on October 28. I say infamous because Louisiana Nursery, was always the topic of customer stories whenever plant people gathered to discuss their new acquisitions. From the 1960s through the 1990s, if you wanted a rare plant…especially a woody plant, there were few sources other than Louisiana Nursery of Opelousas, Louisiana.

Hemerocallis 'August Flame'

Hemerocallis ‘August Flame’

While Louisiana Nursery listed virtually every plant you could imagine, to the tune of 5,000 listings in their prime, the quality of the plants you received, combined with the extravagant prices and their less than stellar customer service, made it a major frustration for most consumers. I’ll never forget ordering their $5 catalog in the late 1980s only to get a return note asking which of their 12 catalogs I wanted…at $5 each…the iris catalog, the hemerocallis catalog, the magnolia catalog, etc.

Ken Durio was an avid and knowledgeable plantsman who started Louisiana Nursery soon after graduating from LSU in 1950. Although it seems hard to imagine today, back in the 1950s and 1960s, Louisiana was one of the epicenters of plant exploration and introduction in the US.

By the 1980s, Ken Durio had developed a reputation as one of the most ornery and curmudgeonly nurserymen in the country, which is why, when I was asked to speak in Baton Rouge in 1996, I told them I would only come if they’d take me to meet the infamous Ken Durio. After trying to talk me out of it, they reluctantly relented and off we went. Despite many tales of people being run off the nursery for no apparent reason, I found Ken both welcoming, hospitable, and glad to chat plants. By this time, however, the nursery had become quite run down as sales had dramatically declined. Louisiana Nursery (no relation to the garden center, Louisiana became a victim of the Internet, as gardeners were now able to find better quality plants cheaper and without so much hassle.

Iris unguicularis 'Purple Snow'

Iris unguicularis ‘Purple Snow’

No matter what you thought of their business, their plant collections and breeding efforts in groups like iris, daylilies, magnolias, and figs were truly remarkable. One of Ken’s surviving sons, Dalton, recently returned home to take care of his dad in the last stages of life and is currently trying to resurrect the nursery. Fingers crossed for a successful re-launch. You can watch his progress at

Until next month, join us on the Plant Delights blog , where you can sign up and follow our regular posts from the nursery and garden.

-tony and anita

Featured Plants

Bouvardia ternifolia 'Scarlet Hummer'

Bouvardia ternifolia ‘Scarlet Hummer’

Buddleia 'Pink Micro Chip' PPAF

Buddleia ‘Pink Micro Chip’ PPAF








Canna 'Pacific Beauty'

Canna ‘Pacific Beauty’

Harpochloa falx

Harpochloa falx








Phlox 'Peppermint Twist' PP# 18,196

Phlox ‘Peppermint Twist’ PP# 18,196

Ruellia 'Black Beauty'

Ruellia ‘Black Beauty’


Plant Delights Nursery July 2014 Newsletter

Greetings PDN’ers!

We hope you are enjoying your garden this summer and taking time to relax a bit, especially when the temperatures are soaring.


It was so nice to see and chat with many of you at the Summer Open Garden and Nursery Days last weekend.

Echinaceas in the Souto Garden June 2014

Echinaceas in the Souto Garden June 2014

The garden has been brimming with colors this summer, especially the new Souto Memorial Garden which is currently under development. We installed irrigation throughout the garden beds and paths in the Souto Garden earlier this year, and the plantings are displaying nicely. We’re excited to finally showcase this area of Juniper Level soon!

As we mentioned in our last newsletter, we’ve had eight more agaves (century plants) flowering this year, so our research horticulturist, Jeremy Schmidt, has been busy on one of several ladders making crosses between the species. From his crosses last year, we now have hybrids of Agave striata x Agave lophantha. We’re still a year away from these being large enough for the garden, but the potential is wonderful. We also have nice pots of seedlings from our giant hybrid of Agave salmiana v. ferox x Agave scabra that visitors marveled over during Summer Open Nursery and Garden days.

Not quite the mile high club, but Jeremy and an agave getting it on. Onlookers optional.

Not quite the mile high club, but Jeremy and an agave getting it on. Onlookers optional.

No guns banned here: lots of pistils and anthers.

No guns banned here: lots of pistils and anthers.

In the arisaema world, we now have confirmed hybrids from our crosses of Arisaema fargesii x A. triphyllum and Arisaema triphyllum x A. taiwanense. Our first hybrid arisaema, a cross of Arisaema fargesii x A. heterophyllum, that we named Arisaema ‘Crossing Over’ will finally be available for spring 2015. It’s a rather amazing plant!

Although these are a bit farther in the future, many other horticultural gems will be available in our upcoming fall Plant Delights Nursery catalog, which we’ve been compiling since May. First, we decided which new plants made the garden performance cut, and then we propagated in enough quantities to share. The new catalog will be mailed, and available on-line, around mid-August…more anticipation than in a bottle of Heinz® ketchup.

Is Life a Drag? Volunteer at JLBG!

Juniper Level Botanic GardenFor over 20 years, we have been blessed to have incredible volunteers assist us in the gardens and research sections of Juniper Level Botanic Garden. We’d love for you to join us to volunteer and learn at one of the top plant collections in the country. Volunteer opportunities involve a range of activities from planting to labeling to garden maintenance. If you have some spare time or are nearing those treasured retirement years and you want to immerse yourself in horticulture, we hope you’ll consider becoming a garden or research volunteer. For more information, contact Heather Brameyer at 919.772.4794 or e-mail

Volunteers Sally & Eric Benson keeping JLBG beautiful.

Volunteers Sally & Eric Benson keeping JLBG beautiful.

Southeast Palm Society Summer Meeting

Sabal uresana

Sabal uresana

We are pleased to announce we will be hosting the summer meeting of the Southeast Palm Society on Saturday, August 9, 2014. Guests are welcome to attend as well as SPS members. There are no reservations needed for the event…all we ask is that you let us know by August 1, if you’ll be here for lunch so we can have enough food. Please email us at no later than August 1, 2014.



Schedule: Southeast Palm Society at Plant Delights
Nursery/Juniper Level Botanic Garden

9:15-10:00am History of PDN & JLBG (slide show in PDN Education Center)
10:00-11:00am Explore Juniper Level Botanic Garden on your own
11:00-Noon General meeting (Patio Garden)
Noon-12:45pm Lunch at PDN, provided by PDN (Patio Garden, must sign up by August 1, 2014)
12:45-1:45pm Guided Tour of JLBG Palm Collections
2:00-3:00pm Guided Tour of JLBG Succulent Collections

PDN and JLBG will be open to attendees from 9:00am – 4:00pm on August 9, 2014.

New! Photography Class with Professional Garden Photographer Josh Taylor

JLBG's Grotto Garden October 2013

JLBG’s Grotto Garden
October 2013

Saturday, Oct. 11, 2014, 8am–4pm
Garden Photography – Photo Capture and Processing with Josh Taylor

Our instructor, Josh Taylor, is a professional garden photographer, workshop leader, and Canon camera instructor. Josh limits the class to 15 attendees so he can offer individual instruction, so please register early to ensure a spot! Learn how to get the best possible images from your camera and how to process your images in Lightroom with Photoshop/Photoshop Elements.

The fall landscape of the Juniper Level Botanic Garden at Plant Delights Nursery will be the setting for practicing camera skills. The morning focus of this all-day workshop will be on learning and getting reacquainted with your camera ISO settings, histogram, exposure compensation, shooting modes, bracketing, white balance, etc. You’ll spend 3 hours in the garden with your camera and the instructor.

The afternoon session will be devoted to post-processing with Lightroom using participants’ images for demonstrations. If you’re new to Lightroom or moving from Aperture or iPhoto to Lightroom, this workshop will be most helpful in getting you up to speed. You will learn how to import and process your photos in Lightroom. This workshop is designed for increasing your photographic skills and the joy of using your camera. Register here or call to register at 919-772-4794. See some examples of Josh’s work on his website:

New! Hosta Society National Convention – June 18, 2015 at Plant Delights Nursery

Please mark your calendar for June 18, 2015 to attend the 2015 Hosta Society National Convention. More details as we receive them.

Hosta 'Ice Follies' PPAF

Hosta ‘Ice Follies’ PPAF

2014 Fall Open Nursery and Garden Days

This will be our last Open Nursery and Garden event until late February 2015. Plan to join us to see our gorgeous fall offerings in the greenhouses and the botanic garden.

September 12-14 Friday/Saturday 8a-5p and Sunday 1-5p
September 19-21 Friday/Saturday 8a-5p and Sunday 1-5p
Rain or Shine!     Free Parking
Click for more info

Heronswood: East Coast Edition Sunken Garden at JLBG July 2014

Heronswood: East Coast Edition
Sunken Garden at JLBG July 2014

It’s All About the Plants

Growing and propagating plants is a lot like taking care of newborns. We have to feed them around the clock, keep the temperature and humidity comfortable for them, and diagnose and treat them when they are sick. And yes, we have to check them in the middle of the night when the monitor sounds off next to our bed indicating something is wrong in the environment or the equipment – even when it’s 9 degrees outside. Plantsmen and their families seldom sleep through the night, just ask them!

Wilbur, our irrigation system, has been an integral part of caring for our plants over the last two decades. He had become a part of the PDN family, so it was hard to retire him this year when finding replacement parts for him, a program written in DOS in the 1980s, proved impossible.

Our weather station rocks like Beyoncé!

Our weather station rocks
like Beyoncé!

After much research and review, Mike Spafford, PDN’s Nursery Manager, selected the replacement for Wilbur to be a new and sophisticated Tucor irrigation system. The fine folks at John Deere helped Mike and his staff through the process to procure and install the new system. Since May this year, our brand new irrigation system keeps the 30 greenhouses programmed to water plants according to current temperatures, humidity, and some other variables the new technology provides. The staff named the new irrigation system Beyoncé, since it’s so cool, sleek, and a real performer! Now the staff can rest a little bit easier since parts are readily available for Beyoncé when she needs a new gig.

Bar Code Scanning

We finally made another leap (with some trembling) into the 21st century with bar code scanning in the nursery for inventory and during checkout at Open Nursery Days. We’ve been practicing using the scanners and working out the software bugs since last fall and we did a test drive last weekend at the Summer Open Nursery and Garden Days. The response was very positive from our onsite customers since the lines at order write-up and checkout were significantly reduced. Thanks for your patience as we continue to enhance your shopping experience when you purchase unique and cool plants from us!

Staff News

We welcome Charlotte Saine as our new JLBG Research Assistant for Field Production. Working with JLBG Research Horticulturist Jeremy Schmidt and current JLBG Research Assistant Jared Chauncey, Charlotte will be doing lots of digging in the dirt in our acres of field trial and research beds, helping keep the data on each plant accurate and updated. Charlotte earned an Associates Degree in Horticulture from Sandhills Community College and was also our Summer Intern from Sandhills CC last year. We are delighted to see the younger generation of plant geeks be as passionate about plants as we are!

In Science News

Caterpillar on JLBG Dahlia June 2014

Caterpillar on JLBG Dahlia
June 2014

Interesting research at the University of Missouri demonstrated plants have the ability to “hear.” It seems that their “hearing” affects a plant’s ability to ward off pests. Researchers played noises of caterpillars munching on foliage to one group of plants while keeping a control group in silence. Later when the real caterpillars were set loose on the plants, the group that had been exposed to the caterpillar sound earlier produced more natural caterpillar repellents. Plants exposed to different vibrational sounds, opposed to silence, acted like the control group and didn’t produce the repellents.

Researchers are unsure how the plants “hear,” but assume it involves pressures on mechanoreceptor proteins, which calls for more research…i.e. another grant. You can read more here.

Retirement News

“Moving on to new adventures” is the phrase uttered with the retirement of two preeminent horticulturists. Holly Shimizu retired as director of the US Botanic Garden in May, after holding the position since 2000. Holly had previously served as the Herb Garden Curator at the US National Arboretum and later as the Director of the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in Virginia. Holly is a true national treasure, and I’m sure many of you have read Holly’s writings or enjoyed her wonderful presentations. Holly tells me that she has many interests in retirement but isn’t sure yet where her new chapter in life will take her. Re-working her home garden and starting one at her vacation home top the list.

Rocking into Retirement!

Rocking into Retirement!

Also, slated for retirement this fall is Dr. Larry Mellichamp, professor of Botany at UNC-Charlotte and Director of the UNC-Charlotte Botanical Gardens. Like Holly, Larry has had a huge impact on the world of horticulture through his writing and many presentations…as well as his hybrid pitcher plant introductions. If you’ve never visited the gardens at UNC-Charlotte, check ’em out before Larry departs the scene in October.

Life Passages

We’ve learned of the deaths of several prominent members of the horticultural community since our last newsletter, including Rosemary Bloom, wife of UK plantsman Adrian Bloom (Blooms of Bressingham) on May 26. We mentioned Rosemary’s illness in our last communication.

Around the same time, we’ll miss cycad (sago palm) giant Loran Whitelock, who died on May 14 at age 84. Loran first worked for the City of Los Angles before becoming a garden designer and cycad nurseryman. Cycad Gardens, which Loran started in 1972 at his home in Eagle Rock, California, held one of the most extensive cycad collections in the world. Loran, preceded in death by his wife Eva in 2007, had already laid the groundwork for his entire collection to be donated to the Huntington Botanical Gardens after his death.

Passing on...

Passing on…

During his lifetime, Loran regularly traveled to remote locations around the world to study cycads, and was very active in conservation work of this highly exploited group of plants. Not only did Loran travel, but he also wrote extensively about cycads. His most famous publication is the encyclopedic book The Cycads published by Timber Press in 2002. Loran’s contributions to the world of cycads were so extensive he was honored by having two cycads named after him: Encephalartos whitelockii and Ceratozamia whitelockiana.

Although we only met Loran once for dinner during our 2009 Agave summit in San Diego, he was a charming man, encyclopedic in his knowledge and gentle and giving in spirit. Job well done!

On the east coast another giant recently died, Kurt Bluemel, on June 4. Kurt was fondly known as the King of Ornamental Grasses for his pioneering work with the group. In 1964, the Czech Republic immigrant started his nursery in Fallston, Maryland, with German immigrant the late Wolfgang Oehme. The focus of Kurt’s nursery was ornamental grasses at a time when grasses were virtually unknown commercially in the US.

Kurt was always very generous with his time and knowledge when Tony was a young plantsman making regular pilgrimages to visit Kurt’s nursery and gardens in the late 1980s. At the time, there were very few nurseries with the selection of perennials and ornamental grasses that were available from Bluemel’s. Although Bluemel’s Nursery had both wholesale and retail divisions, it was the landscaping division that generated the lion’s share of their income, thanks to Kurt’s artistic eye and exacting understanding of design. Kurt would later open a Florida Nursery, Floraland, to supply plants for the Deep South, particularly to Disneyworld. Some of Kurt’s own introductions are still industry staples, Schizachyrium ‘The Blues’, Panicum ‘Heavy Metal’, and Eupatorium ‘Gateway’.

Kurt’s loss was a shock to all that knew him as he was indeed larger than life and had just returned from a botanizing trip to, of all places, Death Valley, just prior to being diagnosed with a very aggressive liver cancer. These trips were regular adventures with his famed traveling friends, plantsmen Ratzeputz Gang. Through the years, Bluemel’s Nursery served as a training ground for many of the world’s current crop of top horticulturists, so his influence will live on well into the future.

Solitude in JLBG's Woodland Garden July 2014

Solitude in JLBG’s
Woodland Garden July 2014

On a more local note, Raleigh plantsman Norman Beal died on July 12 after a four year battle with auto-immune disease. Three years ago, Norman sold his amazing Raleigh garden, which had been featured on countless regional and national garden tours.

Norman started his garden in the early 1990s, after retiring from the Virginia Cooperative Extension service and moving to Raleigh to garden like a crazed person for his remaining years. Garden he did, not only filling his garden with a plethora of aesthetically arranged rare treasures, but then taking over the adjacent gardens of four neighbors and gardening their land like his own. Norman was indeed a one of a kind…as generous as opinionated, always wearing his long tan pants and blue oxford shirt, which we all assumed he slept in as well. When you see a plant with the prefix Greystone, it is likely one of Norman’s many introductions. We’ll miss you my friend…life well lived and garden well grown!

Happy gardening!
~tony and anita



Featured Plants

Canna 'Blueberry Sparkler'

Canna ‘Blueberry Sparkler’

Colocasia esculenta 'Black Coral'

Colocasia esculenta ‘Black Coral’









Crinum x herbertii 'Carroll Abbott'

Crinum x herbertii ‘Carroll Abbott’

Echinacea 'Secret Glow' PPAF

Echinacea ‘Secret Glow’ PPAF








Musa 'Picasso'

Musa ‘Picasso’

Plant Delights Nursery May 2014 Newsletter

Dear PDN’ers!

Greetings and Happy Spring!

The Perfect Storm

As we mentioned in an earlier email, we experienced the perfect storm of events which impacted our order processing and shipping operations this spring. The combination of delayed ordering due to the long winter, a nearly universal demand for plants to be shipped in May, and the poorly-designed e-commerce system we purchased in December have created an operational and shipping nightmare. The entire company is working in crisis mode and we are burning the midnight oil to fulfill orders and work through the issues.

We know these delays are unacceptable to you and they are unacceptable to us as business owners. We appreciate your patience and your notes of support as we work to ship the orders that were delayed.

Despite seeming like spring has only just begun, we’re actually only a few weeks from the official start of summer. Rains have been steady so far this year, although our recent May rain of 5.17 inches was a bit more than we would have preferred for a single weather event. Fingers crossed for a great gardening summer in most parts of the country, although our thoughts are with those in the already drought stricken areas like California, Texas, and Oklahoma.

Spring open garden and nursery days were well attended and it was wonderful meeting so many folks, including visitors from as far away as California. It’s always great to put faces with the names that we’ve previously met only on social media. Because our growing season was two weeks later than normal, visitors were able to see different plants than they normally see in spring, including peak bloom on many of the early peonies. At least it was dry during open garden and nursery, which is always a relief.

Cattail Bridge at Mystic Creek

Cattail Bridge at Mystic Creek

Weathering the Winter in JLBG

Juniper Level Botanic GardenIn the last couple of weeks, the agaves here at Juniper Level B.G. have awoken from their winter slumber with seven species so far sending up flower spikes. It looks like we’ll be breaking out the tall ladders for some high-wire sexual liaisons before long. We didn’t get great seed set on last year’s century plant breeding, but the highlights of the successful crosses were hybrids of Agave victoriae-reginae and Agave americana ssp. protamericana which we expect will turn out to be quite interesting. Although only six months old, we can already tell they’re truly unique.

We continue to watch as plants in the garden recover from the severe winter. Most of the cycads (sago palms) we cut back have resprouted, with a few still to begin. So far, the only sure loss from that group was a several year old Dioon merolae. Most of our palms came through the winter okay, except for those in an out-lying low part of the garden, where damage to windmill palms was quite severe.

Cycas panzhihuaensis

Cycas panzhihuaensis

Many of the butia, or jelly palms, we thought survived have now declined to a brown pile of branches. We’re not giving up quite yet, as one Butia x Jubaea that we thought was a goner when the spear pulled (a term for the newly emerging leaves rotting so that they easily pull out of the top) has just begun to reflush.

Bananas have been slow to return for many customers, including the very hardy Musa basjoo. It seems that gardeners in colder zones who mulched their bananas have plants which are growing now. Perhaps this past winter will put a damper on the mail order nurseries who continue to list plants like Musa basjoo as hardy to Zone 4 and 5, (-20 to -30 degrees F), which is pure insanity.

Tony’s Travels


Hans and Tony courtesy of C. C. Burrell

Hans and Tony
courtesy of C. C. Burrell

We are grateful Tony had the opportunity to speak recently at the relatively new Paul J. Ciener Botanic Garden in Kernersville, NC. This small botanic garden is truly delightful, and the staff, including former JLBG curator Adrienne Roethling, have done a great job in the first phase of their development. We hope you’ll drop by if you’re heading through NC on Interstate 40.

Tony also spoke in Memphis last month, and then he headed into the Ozarks for some botanizing in northwest Arkansas. He had an amazing several days that resulted in finds like a stoloniferous form of Viola pedata, several trilliums he’d never seen before, and a new clematis species that’s still waiting to be named. We’ve posted some photos from the trip on our blog.

Connecting Socially

Zircon says "Don't mess with my social media links!"

Zircon says
“Don’t mess with my
social media links!”

We both love to share our plant passion with you on the PDN blog and our social media sites. We originally posted only on Facebookthen Google+, Twitter,  Pinterest  and LinkedIn, so we created a PDN Blog as our main social media platform. Tony uses the blog to share his perspectives with you about the plant and gardening world as he sees it. The PDN blog, in turn, propagates his posts to Facebook, Google+, and Twitter and allows him to get back out in the garden and greenhouses where he finds meaningful content to share with you!

Anita manages the Juniper Level Botanic Garden  website and the JLBG page at Facebook, along with the PDN and JLBG pages at Pinterest and LinkedIn. Thus far, the only issue we seem to have with social media is when the blog sends our posts to other social media sites, FB and Google+ remove the links to the plants, as well as some of the post. We have no ability to control or change this, and FB’s customer service is as responsive as asking a flat tire to change itself. Hopefully, one day we’ll discover a way to work around this challenge.

Suspending Web Ordering for Inventory June 17-18

Please note we will be closed to take plant inventory in the greenhouses on the above dates. This will require us to empty all shopping carts and suspend website ordering from 12:01am EDT on June 17 through 6:00pm EDT on June 18 in order to obtain accurate inventory numbers. We apologize for any inconvenience during inventory in June and October each year.

Taxonomy and Nomenclature

Longtime readers know Tony’s fascination with plant taxonomy and nomenclature. He always assumed plant naming and renaming had to do with science and taxonomy, but it seems that politics and nationalism are also at play. A recent example is the genus acacia, a member of the Mimosa family. It was determined in 2005 from DNA analysis that acacias from Africa and acacias from Australia were genetically different enough that they were not actually the same genus. Since the original type specimen, named by Linnaeus in 1773, was from Africa, the acacias in Australia were changed to racosperma.

What should have been cut and dried got hijacked when Australia protested, arguing that since they had so many more acacias than Africa (960 vs. 160), it would be too disruptive to change the Australian plants so Australia should get to keep the genus acacia, and a new type specimen (a replacement for the original African standard) should be declared as being from Australia. Follow me here…this would require the original African acacias to be renamed.

As it turned out, even the African acacias weren’t really all the same genus either, so they would then need to be divided anyway. This probably wouldn’t have garnered much in the way of horticultural headlines were it not for the fact that acacias are iconic cultural trees for both cultures. The result was a six-year heavyweight taxonomic and political rumble, the likes of which had never been seen before in the botanical world.

In 2005, the International Botanical Congress voted to officially give the name acacia to Australia. Africa vehemently protested, and accused the committee of stealing African Intellectual Property rights. In 2011, the International Botanical Congress, in a split decision, re-affirmed leaving Australia with the rights to acacia, and handing a still-steaming African delegation two new genera, vachellia (69 species) and senegalia (73 species), which taxonomist are still sorting out to this day. And you though taxonomy was boring!

A dramatic re-enactment by Jasper and Henry

A dramatic re-enactment by Jasper and Henry

Sticky Bees

Phlox paniculata 'Purple Eyes' with bees

Phlox paniculata ‘Purple Eyes’ with bees

In a recent discovery, scientists found bumblebees use electrical signals to determine which flowers have more nectar, allowing them to forage for pollen more efficiently. Bees build up positive electrical charges as they fly, which helps the pollen stick to them as they land on the flowers. Scientist found that this electrical charge is transferred to the flowers when they land to feed. Subsequent bees pick up on this electrical charge, telling the bee which flowers have already been foraged so they don’t waste their energy where little pollen will likely remain. This use of electrical signals had previously been documented in sharks, but not in insects. This fascinating research was first published in the February 21, 2013 issue of Nature magazine.

Industry Updates

Industry mergers are back in the news this month as the 1,000,000 square foot Kentucky wholesaler Color Point (74th largest in the US) has signed a letter of intent to purchase the 3,500,000 million square foot Mid-American Growers of Illinois, which ranks number 13. Interestingly, both nurseries are owned by siblings…the two youngest sons of the famed Van Wingerden greenhouse family, who made their fortunes supplying plants to the mass market box stores.

In sad news from the gardening world, UK plantsman Adrian Bloom of Blooms of Bressingham shared the news that his wife of 48 years, Rosemary, has been diagnosed with advanced terminal cancer, falling ill after returning from a Swiss skiing trip in March. Adrian underwent prostate cancer treatment back in 2011. Please join us in sending thoughts and prayers to the Bloom family.

2014 Summer Open Nursery and Garden Days

Mark your calendar for July Summer Open Nursery and Garden Days. We’ll have the cooling mister running full blast to keep you cool while you shop for colorful and fragrant perennials for your summer garden. And of course, the greenhouses will be full of many cool plants, including echinaceas, salvias, phlox, cannas, dahlias, crinum lilies, and lots of unique ferns. JLBG is especially lush and green during the summer so come and walk the shady paths of the Woodland Garden, or cool off at the Grotto Waterfall Garden and Mystic Falls Garden. It’s always great to see you and meet you in person and to reunite with our long-time customers and friends.

Days: July 11-13 and July 18-20 Rain or Shine!
Times: Fridays and Saturdays 8a-5p, Sundays 1-5p

Woodland Garden Paths near the Water Oak Garden

Woodland Garden Paths near the Water Oak Garden

Southeast Palm Society at PDN/JLNG on August 9th


 Sabal uresana

Sabal uresana

Just a reminder that we will be hosting the summer meeting of the Southeast Palm Society at Plant Delights Nursery/Juniper Level Botanic Garden on Saturday August 9, 2014. You are welcome to attend but you will need to register in advance by July 1, 2014. You will find the details here.

Soothing Stress in the Garden

As crazy as things have been in the nursery, the botanic garden here at Juniper Level provides a paradoxically exciting calmness. As a stress reliever, as well as a passion, we spend as much evening and weekend time as possible in the gardens viewing the amazing plants and plant combinations through the lens of our cameras. We each see the garden differently, so Anita shares her photos on the JLBG Facebook page and her Google+ profile, and Tony shares his photos on the PDN blog.

In addition to the sensory beauty and serenity of gardens large or small, researchers worldwide have documented the positive and calming benefits to the human nervous system of spending time in the garden. So relax, refresh, and restore your natural state of balance and calm by spending time in your favorite garden spot.

Until next time, happy gardening!

-tony and anita

Henry in the Grotto Garden at dusk

Henry in the Grotto Garden at dusk

Featured Plants

Crinum 'Lorraine Clark'

Crinum ‘Lorraine Clark’

Curcuma longa 'Snowdrift'

Curcuma longa ‘Snowdrift’

Canna 'Lemon Punch'

Canna ‘Lemon Punch’

Echinacea 'Secret Glow' PPAF

Echinacea ‘Secret Glow’ PPAF

Kniphofia 'Redhot Popsicle' PPAF

Kniphofia ‘Redhot Popsicle’ PPAF

Salvia 'Amistad' PP# 23,578

Salvia ‘Amistad’ PP# 23,578

Saururus cernuus 'Hertford Streaker'

Saururus cernuus ‘Hertford Streaker’

Plant Delights Nursery April 2014 Newsletter

Greetings PDN’ers!

It looks like we’ve finally moved past our persistent winter at Plant Delights, as have many of you in much of the country. Yes, we feel for those of you living in more northerly climates who still have snow and will continue having frosts into early June. Interestingly, most of our gardening friends in the UK have experienced an exceedingly warm winter, along with those in northern Florida, who were just below the southern-dipping polar vortexes this winter.

Our last spring frost at Plant Delights was March 27, and the long range forecast doesn’t show anything below freezing for the remainder of the spring season…if you put any faith in long-range weather forecasts. Actually, March 27 isn’t too far off our normal average last frost date of April 1. Like carrying an umbrella to prevent rain, we attribute the predicted lack of late spring frosts this year to the installation of permanent heaters in all of our previously unheated hosta cold frames. We were simply tired of lugging portable space heaters into the cold frames with each late spring frost and waking up several times through the night to refill the heaters with fuel.

Here at Juniper Level, we see many signs of spring in the garden…hostas popping through the ground, early arisaemas coming into flower, and toad lily foliage emerging. We had to cover a few early-emerging perennials with frost cloth once last week when our temperatures dropped to 26 degrees F, but hopefully that’s it for freezing weather until fall. We might actually have a decent magnolia bloom this year, although our largest plant of Magnolia ‘Butterflies’ tried to open the day before we dropped to 26 F, so it was seriously frost-slapped.

After our colder than recent normal winter, it’s been interesting reading social media comments from around the country. Keen gardeners seem to be divided into two distinct groups…controlling gardeners who want to be assured that all their plants will perform exactly as they have been told or as the books indicate, regardless of the vagaries of nature. These are in contrast to garden gamblers, who expect the unexpected and are always pushing the limits by trying plants that may not grow in their climate.

Controlling gardeners like predictability, which by nature is the very antithesis of gardening. It’s winters like the one we just encountered that cause the most distress for these controlling gardeners, since nature is, at best, predictably unpredictable. Controlling gardeners are the ones who always strive for perfection based on an expectation that exists in their head. These are the gardeners who believe gardening books and magazines which list plant color combinations and themes for events, which will reportedly all flower together in perfect harmony. Most folks don’t realize that what flowers together in one region and even in one year will rarely do the same in a different climate or different year.

Our current spring is a classic case where you can throw most of your garden flower combination planning efforts out the proverbial window. Here at Juniper Level Botanic Garden, most plants in the garden are currently three weeks behind our normal timing in terms of emergence and flowering. Once the weather warms, however, the timing gap, compared to normal, will shrink as plants that normally don’t overlap in bloom will flower together. This creates combinations that we wouldn’t see in milder winters, when more favorable winter temperatures allow plants that received adequate winter chilling requirements (number of hours below 45 degrees F) to go ahead and begin growing much earlier.

Like a conventional game of chance, where gamblers always lose far more times than they win, garden gamblers are used to disappointments and find that a few occasional “wins” or gardening successes gives them an emotional joy that far outweighs their disappointments…we resemble that remark. Here at JLBG we often plant-out dozens of seedlings of a marginally hardy plant in the hope that just one plant will be genetically more tolerant of low winter temperatures. For a garden gambler, few things in life compare to these successful eureka moments.

So, what’s the point? The point is to relax and enjoy gardening, remembering that nature is always in charge. Life and death in the garden are no different than life and death outside the garden. Our options are to dwell on the sadness of death or celebrate the life that passed and embrace the next life that lies ahead. Death creates wonderful new opportunities, whether we desire it or not. The death of a large tree creates opportunities for a sun garden, while the death of a plant with a large footprint presents the chance for many, new, smaller-growing plants. To not accept gardening realities is to introduce stress into our gardening life…again, the antithesis of why most of us garden. We need to cherish everything in our gardening life as a wonderful opportunity. Of all the different plants we’ve tried to grow (48,000 at this point), we’ve killed 26,000. Focusing on the plants that didn’t survive doesn’t allow the celebration of the 22,000 successes.

Realistically, both groups of gardeners mentioned above have short memories, combined with an incredible gift of rationalization. We remember after our winter of 1984/1985, almost every camellia in the region was killed to the ground. Over and over, we heard gardeners claim they would never grow camellias again and they should never be planted in our region. That lasted about two years. After a short time, we rationalized it wouldn’t get that cold again, or wondered what would happen if a plant that died was planted in a slightly different location or soil type. As gardeners, this is what keeps us going. We’re reminded of the Ben Franklin quote…”I didn’t fail the test, I just found 100 ways to do it wrong.”

Garden curator Todd Wiegardt and the Juniper Level Botanic Garden staff have been busy cleaning up our plant damage from the winter. Agaves were particularly hard hit this winter, due to the wet cold. We lost a number of trial agaves, but our older specimens fared pretty well, although they show cosmetic damage. Now is the time of year when we cut off those dead leaves, and cut the live agaves back to green tissue. Usually by late May or June, the rapid new growth will make the plants look as good as new in most cases.

We also perform lots of perennial cutbacks now to plants like salvias. We like to wait on the perennial salvias until the danger of late freezes has passed. Woody salvias like Salvia greggii are also cut back now, so they will have time to re-flush for the spring flowering season. Ornamental grassesliriope, and ophiopogon should also be cut back now if the old foliage shows winter damage. Waiting until the new foliage begins to emerge will find you snipping off the ends of the new growth, which isn’t optimal for the plants appearance.

We also do quite a bit of grooming now of our evergreen ferns, just before the new growth begins to emerge. These are cut now, along with any other evergreen perennials that show winter foliar damage. Several folks have asked about hellebores, and we’ll repeat our advice…we always remove all of the old foliage, just prior to the first flowers opening. This makes the plant more attractive in flower without reducing the future growth of the plant by cutting the energy-producing leaves too early in the season.

Also, after the danger of severe freezing has passed, it’s time to cut the dead fronds from palms and cycads, which we’ve just completed here at JLBG. Remember that virtually all hardy cycads will lose their fronds below 12 degrees F, but should reflush within 4 weeks after the old fronds are removed.

There are plenty of plants, however, you also shouldn’t cut back now and that list includes hydrangeas, whose flower buds are hidden from view up and down those dead-looking stems. Also, until you’re sure if a shrub or tree has died back, don’t cut. Scraping the bark is a good way to see if the stem is still green under the bark, but be careful to actually scrape below the bark to see the green tissue.

Then of course, there is the bizarre ritual of crape murder, where mindless people destroy the appearance and health of perfectly innocent crape myrtles, simply because they saw a neighbor or uneducated landscape wannabe do the same. Something is out of whack when waterboarding is illegal, but we have large numbers of recidivist crape murderers running free in area subdivisions without so much as a chainsaw ankle bracelet. Obviously, the SPCP (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Plants) needs better lobbyists to get this insane practice criminalized.

We’ve recently increased our social media interactions. We’re posting more frequently on our Plant Delights blog, which in turn, will also post to FacebookTwitter, and Google+. For those who don’t participate in our conversations on Facebook or other social media, you may now subscribe to our PDN blog using the subscribe button to the right of the posts on the PDN blog page. We’ve also created new boards at Pinterest for Plant Delights Nursery so if you participate in social media, follow us at Pinterest as well as FacebookTwitter, and Google+.

New JLBG Logo

We’ve created a social presence for Juniper Level Botanic Garden now that we are moving forward to obtain a 501(c)(3) designation for JLBG from the Internal Review Service. JLBG was recently recognized as a non-profit entity by the State of NC so we’re excited to be taking steps to preserve and endow the Garden for future generations. We’ve added social media options for you to follow JLBG on FacebookGoogle+PinterestLinkedIn and Twitter. Please check out the initial posts from JLBG and stay tuned to our progress as we move JLBG into awareness as a non-profit foundation and special destination for plant lovers and serious plant enthusiasts.

You’ll notice on the PDN website that we’ve refreshed the PDN logo (see it at the top of this email, too) and we’re also working now to completely change the format and content of the JLBG website. By June you’ll see a new JLBG website with a new look and logo.

We’ve also updated many of our email contact addresses to shorten our response time to your emails. Instead of sending all inquiries to, please, going forward, use the emails listed below:

We are pleased to announce that we will be hosting the summer meeting of the Southeast Palm Society at Plant Delights Nursery and Juniper Level Botanic Garden on Saturday August 9, 2014.

All members and guests interested in this wonderful group of plant people may join us for the event…see the schedule below. To help us properly accommodate and provide lunch for everyone, please email us at no later than July 1, 2014 to let us know if you will be attending.

Schedule: Southeast Palm Society at Plant Delights Nursery/Juniper Level Botanic Garden

9:15-10:00am – History of PDN & JLBG (slide show in PDN Education Center)
10:00-11:00am – Explore Juniper Level Botanic Garden on your own
11:00-Noon – General meeting (Patio Garden)
Noon-12:45pm – Lunch at PDN, provided by PDN (must sign up in advance (Patio Garden))
12:45-1:45pm – Guided Tour of JLBG Palm Collections
2:00-3:00pm – Guided Tour of JLBG Succulent Collections
PDN and JLBG will be open to attendees from 9:00am – 4:00pm on August 9, 2014.

We recently received a note from our friend Dr. Charlie Keith of the Keith Arboretum in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Dr. Keith, now 81, is looking for someone to purchase and run his amazing arboretum that contains probably the most diverse tree collection in the US. Interested parties may contact Dr. Keith through his website.

We also heard from NC Master Gardener Bob Kellam that the deadline is approaching to get your official NC Master Gardener license plate. Don’t miss this one-time opportunity. You’ll find more information here.

Happy Gardening!

-tony and anita

Plant Delights Nursery February 2014 Newsletter

Dear PDN’ers

It’s hard to imagine winter is finally nearing an end when outside today we see the ground covered in snow with freezing rain forecasted to develop tonight and tomorrow. But to help us remember spring is just around the corner, at least in NC, the greenhouses are bursting with colorful hellebores and other lovely treasures to soothe away any winter blahs and blues. It’s less than two weeks until our 2014 Winter Open Nursery and Garden and we’re eager to show you our plant goodies!

‘Anna’s Red’ hellebore
Photo courtesy Visions, NL

Our selection of hellebores is so outstanding it’s hard to really show it justice in words. We have over 500 gallon-size hellebores in flower and over 1000 one quart hellebores in bloom. The quality of hellebore colors we have available are better each year and 2014 is no exception.

Speaking of weather, winter 2013/2014 has been quite an event in many parts of the country, with temperatures finally returning to more “normal” winter levels. We’ve amusingly watched the last fifteen years as zone creep, aka: zone denial, has taken hold of much of America. It’s been fascinating to observe how quickly peoples’ memories of hard winters fade when they are only a couple of years removed. Some gardeners have recently admitted being lulled into a false sense of security by the constant media drumroll that our climate has dramatically warmed forever.

Gardeners in Zone 4 or 5 have a few Zone 7 winters where the winter low temperatures don’t drop below 0 degrees F, and all of a sudden they decide that Zone 7 plants will actually survive in Zone 4 and 5. It’s not uncommon these days to find less than reputable online nurseries listing plants like the hardy banana, Musa basjoo, as hardy to Zone 4 and 5, which is pure insanity. Windmill palms, which we consider marginally hardy for us here in Zone 7b, have now been planted throughout the mid-Atlantic states and even into parts of the Midwest. Because of the recent mild winters, some windmill palms have actually achieved good size before this winter’s reality check. My friend Al Hirsch recently reminded folks on one of the hardy palm groups that he had actually freeze-tested windmill palms in the lab, and 5 degrees F was their low temperature tolerance…except for some of the hardier forms. Just because we’ve had a string of mild winters doesn’t mean the winter temperature tolerance of plants change.

The first winter hardiness maps from the Arnold Arboretum comprised 40 years of temperature data because weather scientists had noted that temperature patterns typically varied in 15-20 year swings. Using the 20 year model, below are statistics for our nursery in Raleigh, North Carolina, not including the still-trending winter of 2013/2014. The last time we got as cold as we have during this current winter 2013/2014 was all the way back during the winter of 1999-2000. I have posted our actual minimum low temperature charts for Juniper Level Botanic Garden…weather geeky stuff, to be sure.

Winter 1993-2012 8 nights per winter below 20F (Zone 8 temperatures)
Winter 1973-1992 12.5 nights per winter below 20F (Zone 8 temperatures)
*Record winter 1976-1977 38 nights below 20F
Winter 1993-2012 8 nights total below 10 degrees F (Zone 7 temperatures)
Winter 1973-1992 25 nights total below 10 degrees F (Zone 7 temperatures)
*Record winter 1980/1981 8 nights below 10 degrees F

So, what does all this mean? It means that despite all the predictions of a perpetual warming trend there is a good chance that we will see more “normal” winters, so plant accordingly and pay attention to proper hardiness zones. With cold winters returning, it’s been great to finally get useful hardiness data. Obviously, since having a Zone 7b temperature only once in the last fourteen years (2008/9) it’s been hard to truly evaluate winter hardiness of new plants.

Because we trial so many plants, we expect our loss rate of new plants to be fairly high. From this year’s trials, we were surprised to see dramatic foliage burn on the hardy bromeliad, Puya dyckioides. The plants look fine at the base…just fried. Another bromeliad, Dyckia choristaminea ‘Frazzle Dazzle’, however, looks fabulous…what a great plant. Several of the aspidistras (cast iron plants) are showing foliage burn this year, including many of the white-tipped cultivars. As is the case with so many white variegated plants, the white variegated parts of the leaf simply aren’t as cold tolerant at the green tissue. We attribute this to a reduction in sugar content (plant antifreeze) in those parts of the leaf.

Sarcococca saligna also took a bit hit and has foliage that is completely fried brown, although it should reflush fine when cut the ground. All of the other sarcococca species look fine. The evergreen Schefflera delavayi looks good with only slight leaf burn on one plant. Edgeworthias look fine and are starting to flower, although customers in Virginia report bud drop after a low of 2 degrees F. Our Exbucklandia populnea also got a good bit of leaf burn, but the stems are all fine. Our Arbequina olive looks great, but some of the other clones we had on trial are already showing foliar damage.

Since we mentioned hardy palms earlier, our Trachycarpus fortunei (Windmill palms) looks fine, other than a few scorched older leaves. The Trachycarpus fortunei ‘Wagnerianus’ also look great. Surprisingly, our plant of Trachycarpus takil got some unexpected leaf scorch. Needle palm, Sabal minor, Sabal x brazoriensis, Sabal sp. ‘Tamaulipas’, Sabal minor var. louisiana, all look fine, although some of our less hardy forms of Sabal palmetto took a hit. Butia catarinensis looks quite dead, as does our Butia odorata. Surprisingly, one of our Butia eriospatha growing nearby shows minimal damage along with one specimen of Butia capitata. The real palm shocker was two Serenoa repens from Colleton County, SC showing little or no damage. We say, surprising, because we have never been able to over-winter a Serenoa repens.

The xButyagrus nabonnandii look pretty fried and the spears have started to pull. Spears are the undeveloped newer emerging leaves, which give us the first indication of cold damage on palms trees. Spear pull isn’t always deadly, but it’s certainly not a good sign. xJubautia splendens ‘Dick Douglas’, a hybrid of Butia x Jubaea looks better than the xButyagrus, but the spears have also pulled from several of these…most disappointing. Most of our Cycas looks okay, although all have lovely tan-brown foliage. After last frost we’ll cut back the old fronds and they should promptly reflush with new leaves.

We have quite a collection of winter-hardy cactus in the garden and had planted out quite a few more in 2013. As expected, we had a number of those which didn’t survive the winter, but overall, we were quite pleased. Bamboos also took a bit hit this year and we expect all members of the genus Bambusa to be killed back to the ground. Time will tell, but perhaps there will always be a surprise. Rohdea chinensis var. chinensis provided quite an unexpected surprise. The Taiwan form shows no ill effects from the winter, while the mainland China form shows substantial leaf burn.

We’re always interested in pushing the envelope when it comes to agaves. Overall, there are few surprises from the winter so far. We’re thrilled our first sacrificial planting of Agave albopilosa looks great so far. Agave gentryi ‘Jaws’ got hit pretty hard but the central stalk seems fine so they should recover quickly once the weather warms. Ditto for Agave ‘Green Goblet’. Agave filifera, Agave parviflora, Agave difformis, Agave ‘Mateo’, and Agave ocahui…all burned pretty bad but should be fine. One real surprise was Agave neomexicana ‘Sunspot’, which looks to have made the journey to the big compost pile in the sky. Since the parent species it quite hardy, we’re guessing it simply got too wet and cold at the same time, since we know it has overwintered in much colder regions.

As expected, Agave ovatifolia looks absolutely superb…always one of the best over-wintering agaves in our climate. Agave horrida perotensis was hit pretty hard, which was expected based on past winters.

Agave ovatifolia

What we didn’t expect was Agave striata ‘Live Wires’ which was severely burned although we think it will return okay. Agave flexipes again proved to be an excellent agave for our climate with only burn on the lower most leaves. Surprisingly, Agave multifilifera looks only slightly burned so far. Honestly, we were hoping for a little more carnage in the agave world since we’ve got over 100 new agaves potted and waiting for a trial spot in the garden.

Last fall we offered a new selection of aucuba, Aucuba japonica ‘Male Man’, grown from cuttings from another friend who picked this up overseas. When it flowered, we were shocked to learn that unbeknownst to us, our male aucuba had undergone previously undisclosed sex reassignment surgery and was now a female. Please accept our oops, and change your tags to Aucuba japonica var. borealis ‘Bored Female’.

In other non-plant matters, Plant Delights has several cool job openings.

Jasper at work

First, we have one opening for a full time Customer Service representative (CSR). If enjoy working and chatting on the phone with customers, and you like plants and chocolate, and you reside in the Raleigh, NC area, learn more. Additionally, we are also now hiring energetic and friendly seasonal staff to work 25-40 hours per week in our Shipping department starting in March and extending into the fall. Occasional weekend (daytime) work will be required. Please send resumes and cover letters to our Business and HR Manager, Heather Brameyer to:

Our friends at Peckerwood Gardens in Hempstead, Texas are looking for a Garden Manager. This is an incredible opportunity to work with one of the southernmost gardens being managed by the Garden Conservancy and the chance to work with garden founder, John Fairey. You can find out more at

So, you want to start a nursery? Here’s your chance…not to start from scratch, but to buy an existing mail order nursery. Bob Roycroft of Roycroft Daylily Nursery in Georgetown, SC is retiring and has his nursery up for sale. Bob has 33+ acres near Myrtle Beach that is available, along with his nursery and website. You can reach Bob for more details at

If you’re in the world of garden design, you’ll want to know that Pantone has declared the color Radiant Orchid (18-3224) as the color of the year for 2014. We’re sure you’ll want to change all of your landscape color themes to keep in step with this important development.


If you’re looking for a unique gift for that half-cocked gardener in your life, how about Flowershells? So, what’s a flowershell, you ask? Flowershells are made for the hunters-gardeners in your life who want to be more sustainable with their pastimes. Flowershells are 12 gauge shotgun shells filled with a mix of gunpowder and flower seed, so every time you blast away, you’re planting flowers. Instead of taking a life when you shoot, you’ll be giving life…what a unique concept. If you find the idea intriguing, check out Unfortunately, Flowershells don’t really exist, but this delightful parody comes from the fertile minds of Studio Total…a creative Swedish advertising agency.

Until next month…happy gardening!

-tony and anita

2013 Plant Delights Nursery November Newsletter

Dear PDNers,

Greetings from Juniper Level Botanic Gardens, where a low temperature of 26 degrees has left the garden feeling and smelling like fall. I was just noticing the strong smell of chrysanthemum foliage yesterday, whose oils were released after the recent cold snap, like collards after a frost. So, where did the year go? It seems like just yesterday we were enjoying epimedium flowers and now the early hellebore season has already begun. As we age, it seems like the world spins faster on its axis every year.

Iris unguicularis 'Dazzling Eyes' (Dazzling Eyes Winter Blooming Iris)

Iris unguicularis ‘Dazzling Eyes’ (Dazzling Eyes Winter Blooming Iris)

I apologize for being silent so long, but I’ve been sequestered away in our underground horticultural bunker, writing the 2014 Plant Delights Nursery spring catalog. Now that the main text is complete and the photos have been selected, I’m playing catch-up on long overdue writing. We’re very excited about our 2014 catalog, which will head to the printer in a few more weeks and will subsequently arrive at your home shortly after the first of the year. We’re wrapping up our 2013 plant shipping season, which ends the week of November 25-29. Plant shipping will resume in mid-February, weather permitting, but if you encounter a horticultural emergency between now and then, please let us know and we’ll see if we can help.

T-Shirts Sale!

T-Shirts Sale!

It’s that time of year to consider gift certificates for your favorite gardener or that hard-to-buy-for family member. You can find them online here.

We’re discontinuing our t-shirts so from now until the holidays we are having a 50% off sale. We hope you’ll check out our selection for the gardeners in your family at T-Shirt Sale!  When they are gone, they are GONE! Order yours while supplies last.

As we transition from fall to winter, we’re excited to see the next gardening season begin.  One of the first signs of late fall is the winter-blooming Iris unguicularis. We’ve always considered ourselves to be at the northern end of where Iris unguicularis is winter hardy, but as more and more success reports come in from places like Kansas City, we realize we have severely underestimated the range in which this gem can be cultivated.

During the fall rain lily flowering season, we discovered there was a mixup in our stock of Zephyranthes grandiflora, which had been infiltrated with Zephyranthes rosea…a smaller and less winter hardy pink-flowered rain lily. If you got a Zephyranthes grandiflora from us in 2013, you may have received the wrong plant, so please contact us for a credit or refund…very sorry.

The latest name revision to come about because of DNA research was to the aroid genus, Alocasia, when the odd, deciduous Alocasia hypnosa underwent re-assignment therapy to become the only member of the genus Englerarum. Englerarum hypnosum is an odd bird, growing on limestone rock outcrops from southern China south into Thailand. You may read more at here.

Speaking of plant name changes, one of the funniest parodies we’ve seen regarding these changes has been floating around YouTube, so if you haven’t seen it, here’s the link. It probably won’t make much sense, however, unless you’re a plant name geek.

In the “you just can’t make this stuff up” department, a newly built Premier Inn in England reacted hastily when it was pointed out, on social media, that a landscape firm with an obviously wicked sense of humor, had installed new plantings around the hotel that resembled male genitalia. Instead of embracing their unexpected publicity, uptight corporate executives ordered the offending plants removed.

There was huge news from the nursery industry recently with the merger of the two largest industry associations, the OFA (Association of Horticulture Professionals), and the ANLA (The American Nursery and Landscape Association). As of January 1, 2014, the new organization will join all members of the horticultural supply chain together under one organization called the American Horticulture Association…aka American Hort. American Hort’s mission will be to unite, promote, and advance our industry through advocacy, collaboration, connectivity, education, market development, and research. The headquarters will be in Columbus, Ohio, with a government relations office in Washington DC.

In other nursery news, two of the country’s largest nurseries have joined forces. Color Spot has purchased the last three, recently bankrupted, Hines Nursery locations (270 acres in Rainbow, California, 1,100 acres in Winter, California, and 1,000 acres near Portland, Oregon). Reportedly, the deal to buy Hines was finalized last October, but not announced until this October…nearly a year later. Color Spot president, Jerry Halamuda, said the management team at Hines would remain, just days before they all departed. With this acquisition, Color Spot is now the largest nursery/greenhouse operation in the country with just over 18 million square feet of greenhouse crop production and 2,500 outside acres…more than double its next closest rival, Kurt Weiss Greenhouses of New York. That’s seriously big, but then when you sell to box stores, you need lots of plants.

Our plant explorer friend, the UK’s Tom Mitchell, has finally launched his new mail order nursery and he is willing to ship to the US with a phytosanitary certificate, if you find some gems you can’t live without.

Congratulations to our friend and native plant guru, Jan Midgley of Alabama, on the publication of her new book, Native Plant Propagation. I had a blast reading through her 100+ page manual and learned quite a few new tips that we’ll be using here at the nursery. You can purchase your own copy directly from Jan, by emailing her at

Happy birthday to California plantswoman, Ruth Bancroft, who celebrated her 105th birthday on September 5. For those who have never visited, Ruth’s cactus and succulent garden in Walnut Creek, California, was the first garden ever selected for preservation by the Garden Conservancy.

Congratulations also go out to our friend, Ozzie Johnson of Marietta, Georgia, whose plant introduction, Mahonia eurybracteata ‘Soft Caress’, was named the 2013 RHS Chelsea Flower Show Plant of the Year!

Many customers who visit our gardens are enamored with the dwarf loblolly pines, which were grafted from the amazing specimens at the JC Raulston Arboretum in Raleigh. These dwarf pines are almost never available for purchase since grafting them is extremely difficult. The most successful grafter of these in Texas had excellent success this year and consequently, they are available for a short time from our friends at Yucca Do Nursery. Don’t miss this rare opportunity to buy one.

Since our last newsletter, we’ve lost several friends, including some giants in the horticulture world. PDN lost a dear friend in mid-October with the passing of Janie Bryan, 57, following a decade-long battle with breast cancer. Many gardeners knew Janie through her work running the Index Seminum seed exchange for the NC Botanic Garden in Chapel Hill, where she worked for 25 years. Janie handled her illness and impending death with a tremendous amount of grace, and I’ll treasure the time we had to chat through the years, most recently at last year’s PDN open house. Our thoughts go out to her husband, son, grandson, and other family.


Swan Island Dahlias

The dahlia world suffered a huge loss in late summer with the death of Ted Gitts and his wife Debbie, both 59, who passed away after a tragic car accident. Ted and Debbie owned the Oregon-based mail order nursery, Swan Island Dahlias. Swan Island, the largest dahlia farm in the country and perhaps the world, is known not only as a retailer, but as a breeder and introducer of dahlias. Ted’s parents had purchased Swan Island Dahlias 50 years ago so Ted, along with his brother Nicholas, was part of the second generation of family running the business.

October also saw the passing of Welch plantsman, Ray Morgan, whose 2007 book, Impatiens: The Vibrant World of Busy Lizzies, Balsams, and Touch-Me-Nots, took our knowledge of impatiens to a new level. Ray was a retired nurseryman and the holder of the UK’s National Collection of Impatiens.

xFatshedera lizei 'Angyo Star' (Angyo Star Tree Ivy)

xFatshedera lizei ‘Angyo Star’ (Angyo Star Tree Ivy)

Also overseas, we lost one of the giants in the variegated plant world with the passing of Japan’s Dr. Masato Yokoi, at age 82. I had the pleasure of Dr. Yokoi’s visit in the 1990s, when he was taking photos for his book, Variegated Plants in Color, Volumes I and II. Dr. Yokoi was a retired professor at Chiba University and one of the most respected people in Japanese horticulture. One phone call from Dr. Yokoi could open the door to even the most secluded plant collector. The plant world is so much richer for his contributions.

Finally, this fall (September 20) also saw the passing of Jim Van Sweeden, co-founder of the world-renowned landscape architecture firm, Oehme and Van Sweeden. Jim was preceded in death by his business partner, Wolfgang Oehme, less than two years earlier. Jim was the polished front man for the firm, originating the concept of the New American Garden which featured large sweeps of perennials, especially ornamental grasses. Jim was a highly honored designer (ASLA Design Medal 2010) and writer, whose literary works include Bold Romantic Gardens (1990, co-authored with Wolfgang. Oehme), Gardening with Water (1995), Gardening with Nature (1997), Architecture in the Garden (2003) and Art in the Garden (2011). Job well done, my friend!

Until next month…happy gardening!

2013 Plant Delights Nursery August Newsletter

Dear PDN’ers

We’re fast approaching our final Open Nursery and Garden dates for 2013 and, to put a fitting exclamation point on our 25th anniversary year, we’ve invited one of the country’s TheEmbersmost famous beach music bands, The Embers, to perform in the gardens on Sunday, September 8, from 1:30-4:30pm.  Our Fall Open Nursery and Gardens will be held from Friday, September 6 through Sunday, September 8 and from Friday, September 13 through Sunday, September 15.  Hours are 8:00am-5:00pm on Fridays and Saturdays and from 1:00-5:00pm on Sundays.  We hope you’ll join us to enjoy and learn about great plants as you shag through the gardens…and take plants as well as design ideas home with you.

We hope you’ve received the fall catalog by now and found some gems you can’t live without…if not, give us a holler at and we’ll fix that.  In the meantime, you can find the new fall catalog plants online here.

1308_Tony&AnitaAvent_254C copykkFor those who missed our announcement on Facebook a few weeks ago, I am blessed to have found a new soul mate, Anita, and the two of us began our married life together on August 3 with a private ceremony here in the gardens.  Anita and I were born the same year at the same Raleigh hospital and she grew up just around the corner from the nursery.  We actually knew each other growing up in the 1960s, but both went our separate ways…she to become an insurance administrator and mother of three adult children and I to start a plant business.  Although we hadn’t seen each other in 40 years until this spring, we knew immediately when we re-connected that we were destined to spend the rest of our lives together.  Anita looks forward to meeting all of my unique plant friends, both at nursery open house days as well as traveling with me to speak around the country.  At the nursery, Anita will be working as our Vice President of Planning and Development, which will include getting our foundation for the preservation of the gardens at Juniper Level established.  Please join me in welcoming Anita into the Plant Delights family!



We’ve been enjoying an incredible year for summer-flowering bulbs, especially lycoris.  Lycoris are often better known by their common names; surprise lilies, hurricane lilies or, my favorite…naked ladies.  While most people only grow one or two clones, we have been collecting surprise lilies for years and currently grow 435 lycoris clones…you’ve gotta love obsessive compulsions. The common name comes from their trait of flowering in the summer before the foliage emerges.

Lycoris are divided into two basic groups; those that produce leaves in early fall and those that produce leaves in late winter.  As a rule, those that produce leaves in early fall are winter hardy from Zone 6b-7b and south, while those that produce late winter foliage are hardy as far north as Zones 3-4.

Under proper garden conditions, lycoris should be reliable bloomers but the lack of regular annual flowering is usually weather related.  For instance, Lycoris x squamigera must have a cold winter to flower.  When we experience mild winters that don’t drop below 15 degrees F, we rarely see flowers on Lycoris x squamigera. The opposite is true for Lycoris aurea…a cold winter will kill off the foliage before it produces enough food to support next year’s crop of flowers.  Most lycoris also need occasional summer moisture to flower well.  Although lycoris are amazingly drought tolerant, they rarely flower well without a few summer showers…the exception being the drought-loving Lycoris incarnata.



Also remember that to flower well, lycoris need sunlight when their foliage is out.  Most lycoris grow fine in either full sun or light deciduous shade.  Since tree leaves drop in fall when the lycoris foliage is above ground, the plants actually get plenty of light during the winter months despite growing in what is light shade in summer.  Evergreen shade, however, is a no-no for lycoris.  Although we already offer a nice selection of lycoris, our field production is such that our offerings will be increasing dramatically over the next few years. You can view our current lycoris selections here.

We are looking to fill the position of Administrative Horticulturist. Qualified individuals must have advanced MS Office Suite skills, be proficient using and maintaining relational databases, websites and, preferably, Adobe Photoshop. The ideal candidate will possess strong communication skills, a positive attitude and be detailed oriented. This position is responsible for plant inventory management, including plant purchasing, support work on the print and online catalog production/website and other related duties as needed,. We are seeking a team player who enjoys working in a friendly and fast-paced environment. Understanding plant nomenclature is preferred. Send resumes with cover letters of interest to   You can find out more here.

Nursery News and Happenin’s

Our friends at the South Carolina Botanical Garden are recovering from a massive rainstorm on July 12 and 13 that dumped 8 inches of rain on the garden in a matter of hours, completely overwhelming their inadequate storm water management system.  The damage was exacerbated by 20 inches of rain that had fallen in the previous 10 days.  For those who are familiar with the SC Botanical Garden, the duck pond flooded, overtopping and undermining the dam and scouring the mountain meadow and the new Natural Heritage Garden trail.  Small trees, shrubs, and several bridges were lost along with large numbers of incredibly rare and endangered perennials.  Other planted areas of the garden are now covered with deep layers of silt and gravel.  Costs to restore the infrastructure alone will be $200,000, which is not covered by insurance.  You can donate to their recovery effort at  Let’s all help get this great garden back on its feet!

In the nursery industry, consolidation continues this month with the recent engagement of two of the country’s largest wholesale nurseries.  Monrovia Nursery, which has been hanging on by a financial thread for the last few years, has agreed to purchase another of the country’s largest wholesale nurseries, Imperial Nurseries of Connecticut, from owner Griffin Land and Nurseries Inc.  Imperial Nurseries is a 450-acre wholesale ornamentals nursery, started in 1955 as part of the American Sumatra Tobacco Company.  Negotiations aren’t complete, but it is planned that when the deal concludes this fall, Imperial may continue to operate under their current name.  This is all quite fascinating since Monrovia has been struggling with its own severe financial issues and only recently closed its entire NC operation.  This reminds me of 2004, when the bankrupt K-Mart purchased Sears.  I’m obviously not smart enough to figure out how debt-ridden, nearly bankrupt companies can buy other companies.  Sounds like fuzzy math to me, so it’s probably good that I only have to worry about growing plants.

Gardeners in the Deep South are mourning the loss of Marion Drummond, who passed away on August 24, at age 83, from melanoma cancer.  The tenacious Drummond got her first full-time job in 1992 at age 62, when she was named as the first site director of LSU’s Hilltop Arboretum, shortly after finishing her Landscape Architecture studies.  During her tenure, she coordinated plantings as well as starting a gardening symposium and the now well-known plant sale.  Throughout her career, Marion was honored with a number of awards including the Southern Garden History Society’s Certificate of Merit and the Robert Reich Service Award from the Louisiana Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects. Marion is survived by a daughter, Laurie Lynn, and sons Findlay and Carter.  Donations can be made to Marion’s Greenhouse Project at Hilltop Arboretum.

The tropical plant world lost a gentle giant when noted plantsman John Lucas of Tradewinds Signature Botanicals in LaBelle, Florida recently passed away due to complications from an automobile accident.  We offer one of John’s introductions, Agave ‘Tradewinds’, but he was much better known for his work with bougainvillea, serving as founder and current president of the Bougainvillea Society of America.  John was recognized as having introduced every new bougainvillea cultivar to the US since the 1920s and at the time of his death had 125 cultivars in his nursery.  John traveled extensively around the world and was responsible for helping assemble the bougainvillea collections at the famed Nong Nooch Tropical Gardens in Thailand.  John was born in southeast Pennsylvania and later attended Oberlin College in Ohio before serving in the Air Force in Homestead, Florida and falling in love with the tropical climate, subsequently founding his nursery in Florida in 1969.

Tropical garden pathway

PDN Tropical garden pathway

In the not-so-tropical plant world, we lost another horticultural giant with the passing of Dr. William Ackerman, 89, on July 6, as a result of complications from a recent fall.  Anyone interested in camellias will recognize his name as the man who started the winter hardy camellia breeding program at the US National Arboretum.  After the great freezes of 1978 and 1981 at the US National Arboretum in Washington DC killed virtually all of the 956 camellia in the collection, Ackerman took note of fifteen survivors including two unfazed camellias, Camellia oleifera (later named Camellia ‘Lu Shan Snow’), and Camellia ‘Plain Jane’.  He used these two parents, adding Camellia hiemalis to the mix, to create over 50 cold hardy camellia hybrids.  Even after retiring from the US National Arboretum in the early 1980s, Ackerman continued his cold hardy camellia breeding program at his 7-acre farm in Montgomery County, Maryland.  Most of Ackerman’s camellias are fall/winter flowering types that belong to either the Winter series or the Ashton series.  Bill’s 2007 book, “Beyond the Camellia Belt,” details his life’s work with camellias.  Job well done!

We lost another friend this month when Woodlanders Nursery co-founder, Julia Mackintosh, passed away on August 24 at the age of 88.  Julia was born in England, but received her Master’s degree in Architecture from Harvard.  Julia and her husband, Robert, headed to Grenada, where Julia taught at the newly-founded Westmoreland School.  In 1975, they moved to Aiken, SC, and started the well-known mail order nursery, Woodlanders.  Julia and Robert finally retired and moved to Raleigh in 1997, where they managed the conserved Margaret Reid Wildflower Garden until her death.  Julia is survived by her husband of 60 years, Robert, brother Michael, and three daughters, Amy, Louisa, and Susan.  Julia will be remembered both by the people whose lives she touched and those who grow the plants she helped make available.

Speaking of Woodlanders Nursery, July 14, 2013 was declared “Bob McCartney Day” in Aiken, SC, by Aiken mayor, Fred Cavanaugh.  McCartney, 76, is co-owner of Woodlanders Nursery in Aiken and has spent the last few decades turning Aiken into a citywide arboretum of rare trees.  Bob grew up in Virginia then went off to school, receiving a BS from Utah State followed by a Masters in Wildlife Management from LSU.  After a 4-year stint in the Coast Guard and a horticultural career at Colonial Williamsburg, Bob moved to Aiken in 1980 to become a partner in Woodlanders Nursery, where he remains today.  A big PDN salute for a job well done!

Yours truly was very humbled last month to receive the Perennial Plant Association’s Award of Merit.  Unfortunately, I was on the road to several speaking engagements during the July 23 ceremony in British Columbia and was unable to accept in person, but many thanks to all who made this possible.

Congratulations go out to two botanical garden giants who have recently landed new positions.Plantsman and showman, Jimmy Turner, who has been the public face of the Dallas Arboretum for the last decade, will be heading around the world to Australia, having been named the Director of Horticulture Operations for the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney, Blue Mountain Botanic Garden Mt. Tomah, and the Australian Botanic Garden Mt. Annan. Jimmy has been one of the true rock stars in the world of American horticulture, establishing and promoting great heat tolerant plants from his trials at the Dallas Arboretum. You can read more about Jimmy’s great work in Dallas at   Good luck, my friend…a huge loss for American horticulture.

Additionally, plantsman Rick Lewandowski, formerly the Director of Mt. Cuba Center in Delaware, has been named the new Managing Director of the 252-acre Shangri La Botanical Gardens and Nature Center in coastal Orange, Texas. Congratulations to Rick, and we look forward to watching as he puts his stamp on the gardens.

Until next month…happy gardening



2013 Plant Delights Nursery July Newsletter

Dear PDN’ers,

This weekend marks the start of our 25th Anniversary Summer Open House at Plant Delights Nursery.  The weather and moisture levels have been incredible this year, the gardens look amazing and the plants lush.  I never imagined having this many lushes in the garden at one time.  Also I don’t ever remember a time in July when the US Drought Monitor map showed no drought conditions east of the Mississippi River…incredible!  If you haven’t been to our Open House in a few years, we hope you will join us and experience the joy of the summer garden for two weekends this July – the 12, 13, 14 and July 19, 20, 21.  For details, click here.

The Sunken Aquatic Garden

The Sunken Aquatic Garden

We still have a few spaces remaining in the second section of our Propagation Class which will be coming up soon on Saturday, August 17, from 10-4pm.  This class will be taught by PDN staff member Aaron Selby, who is in charge of producing all of the plants we sell.  You can sign up online here.

Many of you who have attended our past propagation classes have heard us talk about the valuable information in Dr. Norm Deno’s home-published books, “Seed Germination Theory and Practice”, Volumes 1,2, and 3.  One of our recent class participants let us know that the USDA now has Dr. Deno’s books available online.  You can download the .pdfs here at the page.

Stone steps out of the Sunken Garden

Stone steps out of the Sunken Garden

The American Horticulture Society has recently announced its 2013 awards and congratulations go to our friend, Dr. Paul Capiello of Yew Dell Botanic Gardens in Kentucky, for receiving the LH Bailey Award, given to an individual who has made significant lifetime contributions to at least three fields of horticulture; teaching, research, communications, plant explorations, administration, art, business, or leadership. Dr. Dennis Werner of NC State University received the Luther Burbank Award for extraordinary achievement in the field of plant breeding and our friend, Neil Diboll of Prairie Nursery, won the Paul Ecke Jr. Commercial Award for commitment to the highest standards of excellence in commercial horticulture. Congratulations to these friends!

In another very special award on July 22, the academic scientific organization, American Society of Horticultural Science, will posthumously induct the late Dr. J.C. Raulston into its Hall of Fame. The ASHS Hall of Fame is a distinguished group of individuals who have made extraordinary contributions to horticulture and the greater public good. Well deserved!

Agapanthus (lily-of-the-nile)

Agapanthus (lily-of-the-nile)


Interesting Stuff

In the “you can’t make this up” category this month, comes a new organic gardening book by Gene Logsdon, “Holy Shit – Managing Manure to Save Mankind.”  I will admit to not having read it yet, but I’m certainly adding it to my “must read” list…anything with a title like that can’t be missed.

A heads up for gin and tonic drinkers out there to perhaps stock up.  It seems that a new fungal blight (Phytophthora austrocedrae) is following in the footsteps of the famed Irish potato blight and threatening junipers in the UK where many of the berries that provide the flavor to gin are sourced.  So far, the fungus is limited to the UK, where losses have reached nearly 70% of the crop, but EU producers are very concerned since there are no plant movement restrictions within the EU.

In North Carolina, some sorry SOB stole more than 1,000 venus fly-trap plants from the Stanley Rehder Carnivorous Plant Garden in Wilmington, NC over the Memorial Day weekend.  The NC Coastal Land Trust is offering a $1,500 reward to anyone who can help find the thieves, so if you have information about the stolen plants please call the Wilmington NC Police Department at 252-343-3600 or send an anonymous text to CRIMES (274637).  The message must start with TIP708.

Eucomis 'Sparkling Burgundy' (Sparkling Burgundy Purple Pineapple Lily)

Eucomis ‘Sparkling Burgundy’ (Sparkling Burgundy Purple Pineapple Lily)

In case you missed it, the Barrel Monster creator, Joe Carnevale has been outed as the daredevil who posted photos and videos of himself on top of some of Seattle’s tallest buildings, including the Space Needle.

You can see more amazing photos at Joe’s website or if you have a fear of heights, you’ll find less extreme photos of Joe as he created our Plant Delights Barrel Monster here at the nursery.

Nursery News and Happenin’s

I mentioned a few months ago that one of the country’s most noted wholesalers, Briggs Nursery of Washington state, was in bank-ordered receivership.  Well, the good news is that Briggs was just purchased out of receivership for $12 million dollars by one of its competitors, Sidhu Nursery of Canada.   Briggs’ CEO, J. Guy, who had been brought in a year earlier to reorganize the nursery, had resigned just prior to the bidding in order to form a private group to launch an unsuccessful bid for Briggs.  Sidhu expects the nursery to remain in operation at its current site.

In another not so surprising move, Stacy’s Garden Center of York, South Carolina, has also filed for bankruptcy with a balance sheet showing $5 million in debt.  Stacy’s includes 260 acres of production in York County, SC where 16 million plants are produced annually.  Since retired naval officer, Louis Stacy, founded the company in 1969, Stacy’s has been known as an annual and perennial supplier to the larger box stores in 24 states.  Despite a work force that peaks at 800 people in spring, Stacy’s had fallen on hard financial times in recent years and many of us in the industry were surprised they lasted this long.  A contract with Metrolina Greenhouses (the VanWingerden clan) of Huntersville, NC has been signed to buy the assets of Stacy’s pending the approval of the bankruptcy court.  Once approved, the operations will go forward under the Metrolina name.  Creditors who will get financially screwed to the tune of between $500,000 and $1.5 million include Express Seed of Cleveland, OH, Container Centralen of Winter Garden, FL, Sun Gro Horticulture of Chicago, IL, Bank of the West, Temecula, CA, and Ednie Flower Bulbs of Fredon, NJ.

Agaves on the patio

Agaves on the patio

Last July, I wrote about the financial travails of the 72-year-old Waterloo Gardens in Pennsylvania. Things didn’t look good then and the final nail has been driven in the proverbial coffin as they recently announced the closure of their last garden center location.  I can only imagine how tough it is from going from being the toast of the industry a decade ago to the toast, itself, now.  Thanks for an incredible run and for being an industry standard for so long.

From across the northern border, more disappointing news as Minter Gardens of Chilliwack, British Columbia is closing due to funding challenges.  The world-class Minter Gardens was started by nurseryman, Brian Minter, after he and his wife purchased the 32-acre site in 1977.  The gardens opened to the public in 1980 and have been regarded as one of British Columbia’s top public gardens.  Minter Gardens was even included in Rae Spencer-Jones’s book, “1001 Gardens You Must See.”  The gardens contain various theme areas including a rose garden, children’s garden, fragrance garden, rhododendron garden, fern garden, formal garden, water gardens, and much more.

While Brian’s garden center operations will continue, the gardens, located about 90 minutes from Vancouver, will close on October 14, due primarily to a dramatic drop in attendance from highs of 100,000+ annually before the last five years of recession. If you’ve been looking for a vacation spot, this appears to be your last chance to visit before it closes. You can find out more at

Although it’s not going out of business, the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society is in a world of financial hurt after the weather didn’t cooperate for this year’s Philadelphia Flower Show.  The show usually generates about $1 million in profits, but this year the show fell $1.2 million short…oops.  This leaves the PHS scrambling to make up the difference through a series of cost cutting, insurance claim filing, and fund raising measures.  PHS blames a botched weather forecast and local media hype of an impending massive winter storm that never fully materialized in Philadelphia for the lowest attendance since 2001.   Sorry, but I find it a bit humorous about all this ruckus over an incorrect forecast.  Aren’t the words “weather forecast” listed in the Thesaurus as a synonym for “inaccurate”?

In sad news, plantsman Charles Applegate of Ohio’s Kingwood Center passed away at the age of 82, due to complications from recent surgery.  When I first visited Kingwood Center, probably three decades ago, it was evident before you even entered the main gardens that there was a plantsman extraordinaire on staff.  I was fortunate to meet the master behind the plants, who I would visit several more times over the next few decades when I was in the area.  Charles had an incredible passion for both new plants and garden design…two skills that unfortunately rarely mix.

Charles’ design skills had roots in his dual master degrees…one in art and a second in theater.  As an actor, he had a feature role in the 1963 movie, “Red Runs the River.”  What most people knew Charles for, however, was his work with plants.  Charles was a plant breeder, working primarily with daylilies but dabbling in other genera. He introduced over 45 daylilies; Hemerocallis ‘Blessing’ and ‘Guile’ are his most famous.  In addition, two of his most recognized annual introductions were Coleus ‘Kingwood Torch’ and Talinum ‘Kingwood Gold’.  Charles was passionate about keeping great plants in cultivation even if they had been dropped by commercial horticulture in favor of the latest and greatest.

In his 48 years at Kingwood, most as Senior Gardener (he refused promotions to administration), Charles made a huge impact on everyone he met personally and also on those who only saw his handiwork.  Charles is survived by his wife, Linda, and sons Johnathan and Seth.  Great job, my friend.

We lost another amazing plantsman on May 30, when University of Arkansas professor and plant breeder, Jon Lindstrom, passed away from melanoma skin cancer at the untimely age of 54.  As a plant breeder, Jon always took the road less traveled, creating a number of revolutionary hybrids like Buddleia ‘Orange Scepter’ and Sinningia ‘Arkansas Belle’, which he allowed us to introduce.  Jon also developed bigeneric hybrids of sinningia x paliavana as well as tri-generic hybrids between agave, manfreda, and polianthes (tuberose).  A PDN salute for a job well done and a life cut far too short.  Memorial contributions may be made to “The Jon Lindstrom Scholarship” in care of the Department of Horticulture, 316 Plant Sciences Bldg, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, AR 72701.

Until next month…happy gardening.



2013 Plant Delights Nursery May Newsletter

PDN patio garden

PDN patio garden

Dear PDN’ers

Thanks to everyone who took the time to visit during our recent Spring Open House.  In contrast to our Winter Open House, the weather was excellent and the threat of rain never materialized.  We were delighted to meet visitors who came from as far away as Canada to the north and Oregon to the west.  We’ll do it again in July, so we hope your vacation plans include Plant Delights, where we promise a garden and nursery both filled with amazing plants!

Hosta greenhouse

One of our two hosta greenhouses

Despite having a very busy spring, many great plants remain, including many full pots of hostas.

If you purchased any of our hardy cypripedium ladyslipper orchids this year, you no doubt noticed the amazing, often multi-crowned plants that we were able to supply.  There are still a few varieties that have not sold out.

While lots of other cool plants remain, work has already begun on the fall catalog, as descriptions are now being written on an array of very cool, exciting new plants that we’ve selected and propagated for fall.

In other good news on the plant front, our first crop of Amorphophallus paeoniifolius ‘Thailand Giant’  sold out in record time this spring, but a second crop is now ready and online.  Just remember that when these are gone, they’re all gone.

In the “oops” plant category, our production assistant and resident plant nerd, Zac Hill, recently brought to my attention that the plant we originally acquired and now sell as Verbesina microptera is actually Verbesina olsenii.  It turns out the true Verbesina microptera is a much smaller plant with white flowers than the massive yellow-flowered giant we grow.  Time to change your tags…sorry.

Since our late spring propagation class has filled and has a waiting list, we have added a second section on Saturday August 17, from 10am – 4pm.  This class will be led by PDN staff member, Aaron Selby, who is in charge of producing all of the plants sold at Plant Delights.  You can sign up online here.

We empathize with those suffering from weather disasters around the country this spring.  For many, the annoyance of late spring freezes and even late snows have been the worst in many years…unfortunately these weather events have been enough that we may lose more garden centers that have been hanging on by a financial thread.  All this pales, however, to those who suffered the terrible tornadoes this month, especially in Moore, Oklahoma.  Our thoughts and prayers go out to all of those affected!

Echinacea 'Evan Saul'

Echinacea ‘Evan Saul’

In the “I’m from the Government and I’m here to help” section this month, comes NC House Bill 476, designed to protect underground cables.  Instead, the bill makes many home gardening chores a criminal offense.  The bill will ban all homeowners from digging at a depth greater than 10”, all trenching for water lines, etc, and all farm plowing greater than 12”…without first calling 811 underground utility locators and then waiting two business days which, including weekends, adds up to 4 days.  The new proposed law even makes these acts illegal on your own property!  Now, you may not be aware that Chapter 785 of the North Carolina Damage Prevention Act currently exempts homeowners from these requirements, except when digging in the utility easement right-of-ways.  Not only is this proposed new law a further intrusion into personal property rights (don’t worry…the fine can’t exceed $2500 each time you dig), it eliminates the spontaneity that is a backbone of gardening.  Let’s say you just watched a HGTV show on goldfish ponds and want to add a wildlife habitat to your back yard…sorry, a 2 day wait.  How about planting that large tree you just purchased at your neighborhood garden center…a 2 day wait.  That farm field or vegetable garden that finally dried out enough for some deep cultivation on Saturday…sorry, a 2 business day wait.  How about your mailbox smashed by drunken teenagers on Saturday night…sorry a 2 business day wait.  You all could really help us send a message that this is a bad idea, by emailing your legislator…or if you’re from out of town, just pick a name from the list that sounds interesting and sound off.  To borrow the old Bartles and James line, we thank you for your support!

Interesting Stuff

The garden world was shaken to its core this month with the announcement that England’s Chelsea Flower Show had agreed to temporarily rescind its long-time ban on garden gnomes for its 100 anniversary.  This is the equivalent of US Open golfers being allowed to compete in Speedos and flip flops…it just doesn’t happen.  Until now, gnomophobia ran rampant at Chelsea, where the only thing at Chelsea that was allowed to get in the way of the plants were the upturned noses of the UK’s gardening elite.  Garden gnomes, as you may be aware, are the antithesis of everything Chelsea, since they are associated with the less tasteful gardens of the great unwashed lower class.  Reportedly, many exhibitors enjoyed the relaxation of the gnome ban for a year, while others stayed as far away from the gnomes as possible.  Even singer Elton John donated his famous pink rhinestone-studded sunglasses to adorn one of the gnomes auctioned for a garden education charity.

Speaking of gnomes, you may not be aware that some experts on the subject think gnomes aren’t as meek and mild as they are often portrayed in the press.  Author Chuck Sambuchino has actually written a book, How to Survive a Garden Gnome Attack…I’m not making this up.  If you start feeling a soft spot for gnomes and are thinking of including them in your garden, read this book first.  Then, of course, there is the wonderfully educational Gnome Management in the Garden video that’s also a must see from researchers at Utah State.

Hibiscus 'Summer Storm'

Hibiscus ‘Summer Storm’

Over the last hundred years, many insect plant pests have entered the country and have become major problems for gardeners and nurserymen.  I’m glad to report success on one front…the Asian longhorned beetle.  New Jersey is the second state to report complete eradication after an eleven-year battle…the other being Illinois in 2008.  This is great news, since the Asian longhorned beetle has been reported to have eliminated 70% of the tree canopy in an infected area.  So far, Asian longhorned beetle has been responsible for the death of over 80,000 trees in the US.  The key is early detection and the US Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is asking for your help in watching out for and reporting sightings of this pest.  You can find out more at

Nursery News and Happenin’s

One of the business casualties of the recession was one of the older professional nursery associations, SNA…the Southern Nursery Association.  Like so many nursery businesses, SNA was slow to adjust to changing times and didn’t reduce its expenses to match its declining income.  SNA was a wonderful organization, but the aspect that many of us missed the most was their event, the Southern Plant Conference.  The late JC Raulston was one of the key players in getting this started as an event where plant nerds in the nursery business could get together and talk about all their new plant favorites.  Finally, this year, SNA is trying the Freddie Kruger thing and resurrecting itself with a new edition of the Southern Plant Conference as the centerpiece of its new multi-day event.  The new SNA Southern Plant Conference, sandwiched between the trade show and other educational sessions, will be held on August 5 at the Georgia International Conference Center across from Hartsfield Airport in Atlanta.  The incredible speaker list includes: Allen Armitage, Paul Capiello, Steve Castorani, Rick Crowder, Mike Dirr, John Elsley, Joseph Hillenmeyer, John Hoffman, Richard Olsen, Tom Ranney, James Owen Reich, Ted Stephens, Brian Upchurch, Takay Uki Kobayashi of Japan, and yours truly.  I sure hope to see you there. You can find out more here.

If you’re looking to manage a garden and can deal with the climate of Texas, then Peckerwood Gardens may be looking for you.  The Garden Conservancy along with garden creator, John Fairey, are looking to hire a Garden Manager for their extensive property in Hempstead, Texas (outside of Houston).  Since John has recently turned 80, it’s time to transfer more of the operations of the garden over to this position.  You can find more about the position on their website and if interested, email a cover letter expressing interest and a resume to:

Congratulations are in order to our friend, landscape artist Pearl Fryar, who on May 2, received the prestigious Verner Award from the South Carolina Arts Commission.  If you’ve never been to Pearl’s topiary extravaganza in Bishopville, SC, don’t miss it while Pearl’s still around.  Of all the people I’ve met in my life, I can think of no one that better embodies all that’s wonderful about our great country.

In news from the nursery world, Bob Hoffman, owner of NJ’s Fairweather Gardens mail order nursery is suspending all operations for the next year.  As you may recall, Bob lost his partner Bob Popham suddenly three years ago and has been running the nursery alone since then, so a respite is sorely needed.  Bob’s current plans are to rest, regroup, and re-open in a year.  Enjoy the time off!

In sad news, one of the best known names in plant nerd circles passed away on May 14.  Plantsman Don Jacobs, 93, had been in declining health for the last two years, battling cancer, heart failure, and a series of strokes.  I always enjoyed stopping at Don’s backyard nursery in the suburbs of Atlanta and was fortunate to make a final stop in 2010, just prior to Don becoming ill.  To say Don was a quirky nurseryman would be the understatement of the century, but Don’s impact on the number of rare and unusual plants available to gardeners was huge.  Don ran a small mail order nursery that never published a catalog…just a single page typed list that you could only get if you requested it each year.  When you ordered, Don would then propagate or divide your plant which you would receive…usually within a year or two.  Don’s nursery wasn’t for gardeners without patience, but was instead for serious plantsmen who realized that rare plants were worth the wait.  I always enjoyed following Don around the garden, shadowed by his pet parrot who oversaw our every step from the tree limbs above.

Few people ever took the time to chat with Don about his life, which included a PhD in Ecology from the University of Minnesota in 1944.  Don taught ecology for nine years at the University of Georgia, before becoming frustrated with the university system and starting a wholesale tropical fish and pet store.The store became the largest of its kind in the Southeast US and during the 24 years he ran it he also developed and patented seven water treatment systems for aquariums, which are still used today.  In 1979, Don sold his business and started a mail-order plant hobby business that he named Eco Gardens.  You’ll find Don’s plants grown worldwide, most named with the cultivar prefix “Eco”, such as Viola pedata ‘Eco Artist Palette’.  There was rarely a time when I visited and didn’t find other nurserymen and plant collectors from overseas that had flown to the US just to visit Don and purchase plants.  Don also authored 2 books, “Know Your Aquarium Plants” (1971), and “Trilliums in Woodland and Garden; American Treasures” with his son, Rob (1997).  Don is survived by his three children and their families.  Those who want to honor his memory, please make donations in his name to The American Cancer Society, The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society or the American Heart Association.

Also, from the botanical world, those of us who love ferns suffered a huge loss on May 14 with the death of South Africa’s Koos Roux.  Koos, 59, was the fern taxonomist at the Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden’s Compton Herbarium.  Koos, an avid bicyclist and South African national cycling champion was out riding with his son, Kobus 19, when he was hit and killed in a hit and run accident.  Our thoughts go out to his surviving family.

Until next month…happy gardening.



2013 Plant Delights Nursery April Newsletter

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Stone wall in the spring woodland garden







Dear PDN’ers

It’s been quite a spring so far…very cool for much longer than usual…at least until early April.  Plant emergence was far behind recent springs when, out of nowhere, temperatures rose in the 80s for ten days and the garden sprung to life.  The subsequent late April temperature cool down, however, kept plant development about 1-2 weeks behind recent springs.  Because of the sudden warm-up we experienced in early April, many smaller perennials will wilt despite the soil still being moist.  As a gardener, this drives me a bit mad, but you have to realize the plants will adjust their stomatal openings (breathing holes) and be fine once they acclimate to the new temperature regimen, which usually only takes a couple of days.

One of the garden tasks that need attention in spring is assessing the amount of shade in your woodland garden.  Spring is a great time to take stock of your woodland perennials, who will tell you if they are unhappy with the amount of light they are receiving.  They won’t tell you via email or through their union reps, so you have to tune in and observe.  If your plants seem to be going backwards in vigor or size…they used to flower but they no longer do so, you need to stop and figure out why.  In almost all cases, spring ephemerals suffer a gradual decline in the woodland garden. Hostas that get smaller, trilliums that no longer flower and other woodland perennials that simply aren’t as vigorous as they once were are a sign of trouble.  There are a number of potential culprits, from voles to a lack of summer moisture, but the cause that I see more than any other is an increase in the amount of shade.

Most shade plants need some light.  In the case of spring ephemerals (plants that go through their entire life cycle in late winter/early spring), they need light during the short window of time before the trees develop their leaves.  If you try growing spring ephemerals under evergreens, the results are usually not good.  If all you have are evergreen trees and shrubs as an overstory, you can still help the situation by thinning out or removing selected limbs until you see rays of light reaching the plants below.  Even plantings under deciduous trees can decline if the overstory isn’t selectively thinned on at least an annual basis.  Now is a great time to monitor the perennials in your shade garden and determine which limbs need to be either removed or thinned, so get the hand pruners and pole saw ready.  If you do this early enough in the year, plants can recover in only one season.

Interesting Stuff

Athyrium (Lady Fern, Japanese Painted Fern) and Azalea 'Redwing'

Athyrium (Lady Fern, Japanese Painted Fern) and Azalea ‘Redwing’

As most of you know, we are rapidly approaching our Spring Open House, May 3-5 and May 10-12.  This a very special open house for us as it marks our 25th year in existence.  Plant Delights and the gardens here at Juniper Level have come a long way since 1988, and we hope you will join us to celebrate this very special occasion.  All of this would never have been possible without your tremendous support and for that, we can’t thank you enough.  The dates for this and future open nursery and garden dates can be found at here.

The gardens here at Juniper Level look amazing thanks to garden curator, Todd Wiegardt, and his amazing staff and volunteers.  I’m writing this from the garden patio where the evening aromas are in stronger than a Willie Nelson tour bus…from phlox to michellias (banana shrubs), to chionanthus and amorphophallus…there’s an aroma for everyone.  Although the garden is perfumed all day, many of the best fragrances occur in late afternoon, so schedule your visit accordingly.  If you’re attending open house for the first time, plan to be a bit overwhelmed.  With over 20,000 different plants in the garden, it’s impossible to even begin to see everything in one trip.  Heck, even I find new plants every day that I’ve forgotten.  Our horticulture staff is stationed throughout the garden and nursery to answer any of your gardening questions, so don’t hesitate to ask anything that comes to mind as you stroll through the acres of gardens.

Cypripedium 'Paul'

Cypripedium ‘Paul’

We also still have some room in our close-up photography class which takes place during the first Saturday of our open house.  We are fortunate to have Josh Taylor, of Maryland, who also teaches photography at the Smithsonian, here to lead the class.  You can sign up online here.

Strangely, we also have room remaining in our June propagation class for the first time in over 20 years.  Again, don’t hesitate if you’d like one of the last spots.

Spring has been too busy for much traveling, but a recent 4-talk speaking trip through Tennessee, Virginia, and North Carolina did provide a bit of time for some spring botanizing.  The highlight of the trip was the chance to see the recently discovered and soon-to-be named Trillium tennesseense….see the image we posted on the Trillium facebook page.  Lots of other gems along the way, too numerous to mention here.

In the “in case you missed it file” this month, scientists have discovered that some plant nectar comes laced with caffeine, which enhances the Pavlovian response of garden pollinators.  A bevy of bees in your garden may be, in fact, more like a line of latte-lovers standing in line at Starbucks than we ever realized. This adds to the stack of mounting evidence of how plants manipulate animals for mutual benefit.  Although this relationship has been know for years using nectar sugars, this is a first for plants resorting to psychoactive drugs to lure suitors.  These results come from honeybee expert, Geraldine Wright, of England’s Newcastle University, as an offshoot of her research to study human abused drugs.

Under the arching oak in the woodland garden

Under the arching oak in the woodland garden

Nursery News and Happenin’s

A recent shocker in the horticulture world was the fatal heart attack of Glasshouse Works co-founder, Tom Winn, age 67, on March 8.  Tom is survived by his long-time partner, Ken Frieling.  In 1985, Tom and Ken created one of the world’s finest sources of rare plants…primarily tropicals.  Around 1990, when we were getting Plant Delights started, Glasshouse Works was one of my favorite places to visit, both to acquire plants, and also to learn about the mail order nursery business.  Their display gardens were small, but packed with an incredible array of rare plants which served as an inspiration for our own gardens at Plant Delights.  Tom was the front man for the nursery while Ken worked behind the scenes, so I know his life will be completely turned upside down.  Our thoughts are with Ken and he continues to manage the nursery and deal with his loss.  You can share a memory, a note of condolence or sign the online register book.

I also just heard from Jacque Wrinkle, that her husband, Guy Wrinkle, passed away April 20.  Almost all collectors of cycads, caudiciforms (plants with swollen bases), or unusual bulbs have heard of or dealt with Guy and his mail order nursery, Guy Wrinkle’s Rare Exotics in Vista, California.  I purchased my Trachycarpus takil from Guy in the mid-1990s and recently found it to be one of the few true Trachycarpus takil on the entire East Coast.  We would later trade variegated agaves even before we finally met in person at the fall 2009 Agave summit in California.  Guy retired from his career a biology professor in fall 2007 to devote more time to his love of plants.Unfortunately, he was diagnosed in 2009 with brain cancer, a condition he battled successfully until a new, more aggressive cancer recently proved too much to overcome.  You can find one of Guy’s many articles online at Rare Exotics.  Our thoughts are with his wife Jacque during this difficult time.

We recently also mourned the death of NC Botanical Garden founding director (1961-1986), Dr. Ritchie Bell, at the ripe age of 91.  I was fortunate to have known Ritchie since the mid-1970s when he was a lone voice for the growing and propagating of native plants.  I was greatly influenced by Ritchie’s philosophy of “Conservation through Propagation” which, unfortunately has now been largely abandoned by the garden he founded.  Ritchie was also known as the author of several fabulous books; “Manual of the Vascular Flora of the Carolinas” (1968, co-authored with Albert Radford and Harry Ahles), “Wildflowers of North Carolina”  (1968, co-authored with William Justice), “Florida Wild Flowers and Roadside Plants” (1980, co-authored with Bryan Taylor), “Fall Color and Woodland Harvests of the Eastern Forests” (1990, co-authored with his wife Anne Lindsey Bell) and “Fall Color Finder” (1991, co-authored with Anne Lindsey Bell).  Ritchie was honored with a number of awards including the Silver Seal Award from the National Council of Garden Clubs and the Distinguished Alumnus Award from the University of North Carolina.  Job well done, my friend!

I inexplicably missed the passing of our fern friend, Barbara Joe Hoshizaki, who passed away last June 24 at the age of 83.  Barbara retired from the fern world a few years ago, due to aging and cognitive issues.Barbara Joe spent 28 years teaching biology at California City College when she wasn’t working in her wonderful home garden.  She was a tireless promoter of ferns and served as President of the American Fern Society, President of the Southern California Horticultural Institute, and was a member of a number of other organizations.  Barbara is best known for her book, “The Fern Grower’s Manual” (1975), and an expanded 2 edition with Robbin Moran (2001).  Barbara was extremely helpful in identifying many of our ferns from our overseas expeditions, and we owe her a huge dept of gratitude.  Barbara is survived by her husband, Takashi; two children, Carol (George Brooks) and Jon (Madeleine Takii), and other family members.  The family requests that donations be made to the Organization for Tropical Studies, Box 90630, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708‑0630, “OTS in Memory of Barbara Hoshizaki.”

My final farewell today is to a group…the International Bulb Society.  The 80-year-old International Bulb Society, which has long been an incredible resource to bulb lovers around the world, has decided to fold at the end of 2013.  The society’s problems began over a decade earlier, when a series of ego-driven personality conflicts caused many of the members to drop out and join the recently-formed Pacific Bulb Society.  Despite the fact that most new members didn’t live anywhere near the Pacific Ocean, the new group offered a more user-friendly format with far less drama while making sharing rare plants at low cost a key principle…the antithesis of IBS.  I am truly sad to see IBS go as it brought together so many wonderful experts from around the world, and if you could afford the plant prices, it was a place to acquire the rarest of the rare bulbs.  Who knows…if you believe in the afterlife, perhaps there will one day be a reincarnation of this wonderful group.

Until next month, we’ll keep posting plant photos from the garden and sharing all sorts of cool things from the world of horticulture on our Facebook Page.

We’ll see you there!



2013 Plant Delights Nursery February Newsletter

February 2013

Dear PDN’ers,

I don’t know about you, but I’ve about enjoyed this winter long enough…and winter megastorm Nemo missed us.  While we’ve only had a low temperature of 18 degrees F in Raleigh, very mild by our norms, it has been consistently cool, which is great for the plants but not so much for those of us with thin blood…I mean chlorophyll.

Out in the garden, our early trilliums are about 2-3 weeks behind normal, which is actually a good thing when it comes to avoiding those pesky late spring frosts.  Despite the cool, some plants just can’t wait.  Our silly clumps of Arisaema ringens are already trying to poke their heads through the soil far too early. When this happens, adding a few inches of mulch to help keep the soil cool will help delay their emergence.  Podophyllum pleianthum, a Chinese mayapple, also always emerges too early.  Fortunately, it seems to be quite tolerant of getting burned back to the ground time after time.

We’ve had a great hellebore show in the garden this winter which, thanks to the cool weather, will continue for a while.  Since most hybrid hellebores seed around the parent clump, you’ll need to consciously decide when you have enough seedlings.  When that point arises, the spent flowers can be circumcised as an effective means of population control.  Six to sixteen weeks (depending on the temperature) is the typical gestation period for hellebores, so mark your calendar so you don’t forget when snipping time arrives.  As we’ve discussed on Facebook, we’ve found that when you plant hellebores about 15′ apart in the garden, they come relatively true to type…double whites produce more double whites, etc.  Anything closer than that produces a combination of the parental colors and forms, which can be both good and bad depending on the traits of each neighbor.  If you are looking for hellebores that don’t seed in the garden, you should explore the Helleborus niger hybrids: Helleborus x ballardiae, Helleborus x ericsmithii, and Helleborus x nigercors (nigersmithii).  These are all sterile moms and will not produce viable seed.  Check out our full selection of Hellebores here.

Speaking of hellebores, this is our final Winter Open House weekend for 2013 with lots of great hellebores remaining.  I just counted, and we still have over 300 doubles in flower along with over 160 incredible single yellows.  These are some of the finest hellebores we’ve ever had for Open House, so drop by if you can.  Anything that doesn’t go out the door this weekend will go on the web next week.  We’ve posted some killer hellebore photos on our Facebook page, so check ’em out.  Please remember you DO NOT have to join or register with Facebook to visit our Facebook page or see the photos…only if you want an email to know when we post more.  We think you’ll find our Facebook page worthwhile if you like plants.

While there are many things to love about the end of winter, the one thing I don’t look forward to is the annual rite of tree-topping…the only fad that’s spreading around the country faster than body art.  Tree topping, aka butchering, especially of crape myrtles, is truly one of the most bizarre rituals to ever affect the gardening community.  I’ve almost concluded that alien mind control must be at work here, causing Homo sapiens males with power tools and no critical thinking skills to bizarrely butcher any tree in their yard they think might possibly look like a crape myrtle.  Other than releasing extra testosterone and making your carbon footprint the size of Sasquatch, there is absolutely no logical reason to top trees.  Tree topping does not keep the tree shorter and it does not make it flower better. It does, however, make your tree decrepitly ugly, weak-branched, and more susceptible to disease while putting on display your low gardening IQ to all your neighbors.  Please, mow your grass an extra time or two, but leave the trees alone.

An interesting new trend is emerging in botanical circles that has already caused a divisive fracture in the taxonomic community.  The trend is one of naming new plants after the highest bidder, as has been done for years with buildings and sporting events.  One taxonomy camp argues that the money is needed to support their work, while the other camp wants genus and species names reserved for locations where the plants were found, people who were associated with finding the plants, or to simply name the plants after things they resemble.

Most recently, a worldwide naming auction was held for a new species of Hesperantha (iris family) that was discovered in 2011 by Odette Curtis in the Lowland Renosterveld management region of South Africa.  The auction for the Overberg Lowlands Conservation Trust was managed by Fauna & Flora International on the Giving Lots on-line auction site.  The winning bid was $47,000 USD, although the winner has not been publicly identified.  Not only will the winner get to name the species, but they will receive a painting and bronze cast of their new namesake…no mention of a herbarium sheet.

In other interesting news from the science community, Indian researchers have discovered an additional way in which carnivorous plants attract their insect prey…they glow.  Yes, in addition to fragrance, color, and nectar, Dionaea (Venus fly-traps), Sarracenia, and Nepenthes (tropical pitcher plants) actually emit a UV spectrum blue glow in and around the entrance to the pitchers that resembles airport landing lights.  The blue glow evidently attracts insects out trolling for a good time in the same way blue Christmas lights attract rednecks.

In a related note, have you heard of plant neurobiology?  My spell checker certainly hasn’t.  Plant neurobiology is the study of how plants communicate, feel, and react.  Those of a certain age may remember the 1973 book, The Secret Life of Plants, which got many folks of our generation thinking about a rarely discussed subject.  Well, now folks interested in the subject will have a place to congregate at the first ever plant neurobiology convention this summer.  If this floats your proverbial boat, check out the agenda here.

Another great event is coming up next week…the 2013 Salvia Summit to be held at the Huntington Botanical Gardens in California.  Although I had the Salvia Summit on my schedule for over a year, I’ll regretfully have to miss the summit due to unforeseen circumstances at the nursery.  I truly hope many of you who love salvias will be able to attend and hear the incredible list of great speakers.

Closer to Plant Delights, we are pleased to welcome England’s famed garden writer, Dr.Noel Kingsbury to Raleigh next week.  This will mark Noel’s first visit to the region, where he will be speaking to the Friends of the JC Raulston Arboretum on Thursday, March 7, at 7:30pm on The Politics of the Garden.  Noel will follow this up with an all day workshop discussing long term plant performance on Saturday, March 9, from 9:00am to 3:00pm, at the Brickhaven building adjacent to the JC Raulston Arboretum.  The workshop will teach gardeners how to look at the garden from a long-term perspective in terms of sustainability as well as aesthetics.

The workshop cost is $80.00 for JCRA members and $95.00 for nonmembers.  Space is limited to the first 25 participants.  To register, contact Chris Glenn at (919) 513‑7005 or

On the heels of Noel’s talk comes Magnolia Mayhem, a mini-symposium also at the JC Raulston Arboretum on Saturday, March 23, from 8:00am until 2:00pm.  Speakers include Kevin Parris, magnolia breeder extraordinaire and director of the Spartanburg Community College Arboretum, and Aaron Schettler, magnolia collector and director of grounds at Raleigh’s Meredith College.  The talks will be followed by a Mark Weatherington tour of the JC Raulston Arboretum magnolia collection, then a tour of the adjacent magnolia collection.  If that’s not enough, a pre-convention tour on Friday, March 22, will include Camellia Forest Nursery, the Charles R. Keith Arboretum, and plantsman Tom Krenitsky’s private garden.  Details are available here.

If you’re in town for the event and have time, we’d be delighted to have you visit us as well…just call (919)772-4794 and set up an appointment (weekends not available).

Last month, I mentioned the demise of the well-respected mail order firm, High Country Gardens, in New Mexico.  Well, in late February, a white knight rode into town and swooped them up, and last week reopened their website for business.  It seems that American Meadows of Vermont has a friendly financier who thought this was a good investment, so as of last week, HCG is back in business under the leadership of its founder, David Salman.  We wish HCG the best in ramping back up production of the plants that made HCG a favorite of gardeners in the high desert.  In 2008, American Meadows itself was sold by founders Ray and Chy Allen to long-time employee Mike Lizotte and his business partner, Ethan Platt (formerly of Green Mountain Coffee Roasters).  We wish Mike and Ethan good luck with their new long-distance venture.

Other horticulture stalwarts continue to struggle with the latest bad news coming from the 100-year-old, 400-acre, Briggs Nursery of Elma, Washington.  Briggs has been struggling for years due to a combination of original family members cashing out, a move to a new location, a very high debt load ($5 million), and a failure to modernize their plant offerings.  Most homeowners have probably never heard of Briggs, but their state-of-the-art tissue culture lab produces the lion’s share of the rhododendrons and blueberries produced in the US.  Did I mention that Briggs propagated and sold huge numbers of the Pink Champagne Blueberry (not to be confused with Pink Lemonade, which is fine) last year, only to then receive a “oops, we sent you the wrong plant” notice from the US government?

Briggs has been sold several times in recent years, most notably to the abysmal failure, International Garden Products.  A year ago, J. Guy of the defunct Carolina Nurseries was brought in to try and modernize the nursery in hopes of saving what was left of Briggs.  Unfortunately, the lack of capital and the unwillingness of Briggs’ bank to take any further risks resulted in the bank asking for the nursery to be placed in court receivership, which occurred in late January.  The courts will now determine the best way to proceed with Briggs, whether that be new financing, selling the nursery, or closing the business.  As you can imagine, several suitors from a variety of industries are already in the hunt.  Unfortunately, as one prospective purchaser described to me, the spate of past sales has left the assets of Briggs in quite disarray.  Fingers crossed we don’t lose this valuable resource.

Another name I never expected to hear in the same sentence with foreclosure is Kerry Herndon of Kerry’s Nursery in Florida…formerly Kerry’s Bromeliads.  Kerry’s, founded in 1970, has expanded enormously both via growth and acquisition, and is now one of the largest growers in the country (ranked #21) with 2.8 million square feet of production.  Kerry is a rock star of the horticulture world, with people following his every word as it relates to business management both in his “no limits” talks and trade magazine columns.

Kerry’s specializes in orchids and bromeliads (over 7 million plants in production) which are sold primarily through the big box stores like Home Depot, Publix, Kroger, Safeway, and Trader Joe’s.  Florida Federal Land Bank Association recently filed a foreclosure lawsuit over the nursery’s $12 million debt, although Kerry remains optimistic a settlement can be reached that allows them to remain open.  The supply of orchids and bromeliads available to home gardeners would take a huge hit if Kerry’s closes, so fingers crossed for a good resolution in the courts.

In still more disappointing news, the 185,000 subscriber strong, Garden Design Magazine has reached the end of the road. The stunning, high quality idea magazine for designers got the axe after the previous publisher, World Publications, sold out to Bonnier Corporation who found the magazine too small for their market.

Finally, the horticulture book world lost a giant recently with the passing of 86-year-old author, Jack Kramer.  Jack will go down as the most prolific gardening writer of our time, authoring a staggering 161 gardening books…mostly about houseplants. A few of Jack’s many titles include; Bromeliads for Home and Garden (2011), The Art of Flowers (2002), Women of Flowers (1996), Sunset’s How to Grow African Violets (1977), and Underwater Gardens (1974).   Jack was also a former syndicated columnist for the Los Angeles Times before retiring to Naples, Florida in 1987.  Here is a nice article about Jack.

Until next month, I’ll see you on Facebook where we learn and share together.



2013 Plant Delights Nursery January Newsletter

We’ve finally turned the page on 2012 which, as you all know, was a huge year of change.  Due to the search engine optimization work on our website that we’ve described previously, we saw a huge increase in business and ended 2012 with our second best year in our 25 year history.  Speaking of 25-years, we are forever indebted to our loyal customers for making that possible in an industry whose life expectancy is usually only 10-15 years.

Over the years, I’ve been lucky enough to meet many wonderful folks as I travel around the country on the speaking circuit.  As the curtain fell on 2012, I gave my 725th talk since record keeping started in 1984.  Of those presentations, 389 have been in our home state of North Carolina, followed by Virginia 43, Georgia 24, South Carolina 23, Ohio 18, Pennsylvania 16, Massachusetts 15, Florida 14, and Maryland and New York with 14 each.

We hope by now you have received your 2013 Plant Delights Nursery catalog in the mail. If you’re wondering who all those folks are on the cover, you can find the identification key on our Facebook Page .

For 2013, we list over 110 exceptional new plants, which is the most in our 25 year history.  While we are still working on a major website redesign, we have continued to upgrade our existing website by adding plants into over 100 categories and subcategories such as Evergreen Perennials, Giant Plants, Salt-tolerant plants, and many more.  With our current listing of 1,740 different plants on the website, that translates into 174,000 individually coded plants.  Yes, my eyes still hurt, but we hope this will make the website much more useful for you.

Many of us in the mail order nursery business feel a tight family bond with others in our industry, and we were shocked and devastated to learn of the closing of the wonderful High Country Gardens just a few weeks ago.  High Country Gardens was the brainchild of New Mexico native son, David Salman, and his wife Ava.  High Country Gardens actually started with a retail operation, Sante Fe Greenhouses, in 1984 and then expanded into mail order in 1993. Just prior to the recession in 2006, David had expanded, opening a retail outlet in Albuquerque, followed by yet another in 2008. At the same time, David built a 10-acre state-of-the-art growing facility just outside of Albuquerque in Bernadillo.  In 2010, the two Albuquerque stores were consolidated into a single larger facility.

The beauty of High Country Gardens was that David and Ava were able to create a drought-tolerant plant business market for high desert gardens that previously didn’t exist on a large scale. While David managed the plants and the business, his wife Ava oversaw the catalog production, website, and marketing efforts. While some of the plants we purchased through the years from David were better suited to New Mexico, we always found several choice gems that fared equally as well here in the humid Southeast US.

It’s sad to loose a compatriot, but even more so when it’s one who does things at such an extraordinary high level.  David is a 2008 recipient of the American Horticulture Society’s Great American Gardeners Award, and the HCG catalog won one gold award and four silver awards from Catalog Age magazine. David’s prolific writing has been featured in magazines such as Fine Gardening, Horticulture, The American Gardener and, of course, on his own website blog.

I first met David in person several years ago in New York, when we were both advising on the Martha Stewart Gardening product line, but I was already following the evolution of his business.  Looking back, I should have picked up on the obvious red flags that all was not well when the 2012 HCG catalog went online in January with a 50% off sale on everything.  Although many of HCG’s plants were sold in 2” pots, I never could quite figure out how David could sell his plants as cheaply as he did and stay in business.  In the end, this was a part of HCG’s undoing…combined with the recession, an epic drought in his region, an ill-timed expansion, and the usual suspect, a high debt load.

David tells me he hopes to start a smaller business that will allow him to be a full-time plant breeder and possibly a wholesale liner producer.  Fingers crossed that goal comes to fruition and we all have access again to the great plants that High Country Gardens was known for.  A great big PDN salute for a job well done as we await the next chapter.

I recently received a letter from Wendel Whisenhunt asking if we know anyone who might be interested in working for the Parks Department in Oklahoma City.  It seems the city’s Parks and Recreation Department is looking for a Horticulture and Gardens Manager.  This position will serve as the horticultural spokesperson for the city and will oversee specialty parks and grounds in Oklahoma City. This sounds like a great job for a plant person who is looking to make a difference…assuming you can deal well with wind. For more information, you can apply online at

Additionally, the Winghaven Foundation in Charlotte NC which runs the Winghaven Garden and the Elizabeth Lawrence Garden is looking for a new Executive Director.  The Director oversees the operation, staff, and fundraising efforts for both gardens.  Qualifications include ten years experience in historic preservation, fund raising, and garden and staff management. If you know of someone interested in such a position with these wonderful gardens, contact Doug Anderson, Search Consultant at of 704.347.0090.

A huge congratulations to Peckerwood Gardens and Yucca Do Nursery founder, John Fairey, 82, on being selected as the winner of the 2013 Scott Medal. The Scott Medal is one of the most prestigious Awards in the horticultural field, awarded each year by the Swarthmore College selection committee.  John also taught Landscape Architecture at Texas A&M for 48 years while building his award-winning garden, now adopted by the Garden Conservancy for preservation.  I was fortunate to have visited Peckerwood many times since then early 1990s and travelled with John on a plant collection trip to Mexico in 1994, during which he had a heart attack high in the mountains.  Fortunately, we were able to get him to a hospital in Monterrey, where he recovered and obviously has continued full speed since that time.

Congratulations also to young plantsman extraordinaire, Kelly Norris, who was recently hired as the new Horticulture Manager of the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden. A new non-profit foundation is taking over an old city facility including a 1979 built geodesic dome.  The plan calls for fourteen acres of new gardens starting this year.  We wish Kelly the best of luck in his new adventure.

Get well wishes go out to award-winning garden photographer Saxon Holt, who according to his email had a “an unfortunate encounter with gravity” when he fell off a ladder, resulting in multiple fractures and bruises to ribs, shoulder and head. The most debilitating was a skull fracture that has left him with a paralyzed facial nerve.  Saxon has been told he will recover, but slowly.  Here is a link to some of the books and magazines on which Saxon has worked…I’ll bet you’ll recognize several.

Just after the last newsletter went out, we learned of the passing of palm guru, Richard (Dick) Douglas, of Walnut Creek in northern California. (We currently offer Dick’s hardy Chamaedorea hybrid). Although I never had the opportunity to visit Dick’s garden, hardy palm enthusiasts claim it to be the finest collection of mature hardy palms in the country.  Dick’s breeding efforts have given many of us opportunities to grow palms in cooler parts of the country.  Here are some photos of Dick’s garden.

In more bad news from the nursery world, Commerce Corporation, a massive Maryland-based distributor of supplies and products to garden centers, seems poised to close after being unable to find a buyer.  Evidently the company notified its 280 employees that the company was closing while simultaneously telling the news media that it was not closing. A number of popular garden center brands had already been sensing the financial collapse and pulling their products, hastening the impending collapse.  If you can’t find your favorite brands at your favorite garden center this spring, this might be the reason.

Commerce Corporation was started by four Lessans brothers in 1923, and is now run by his grandson, Richard Lessans.  Starting in 1982, the company had expanded by purchasing other similar companies in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Washington DC, and New England.  Commerce continued to expand, opening a 4-acre distribution center in Cleveland, Ohio, a new distribution center in Ontario, California, and expanding its footprint in Michigan.

The story of Commerce’s demise has taken on soap opera-like qualities with the surprise firing of its President, Malcomb Cork, followed by a suit accusing him of not repaying a nearly half million dollar shareholder loan from the company.  Cork is countersuing for breach of his employment contract.  Meanwhile, 280 people will be looking for new jobs, although competition has already begun to cherry pick some of Commerce’s top staff.  It looks like the lawyers are going to be the only ones coming out of this in good shape.

It’s that time of year when the self-appointed arbiters of all things color, Pantone, selects the color of the year and for 2013, the winner is Emerald Green (PANTONE® 17-5641).  Pantone describes Emerald as bringing “a sense of clarity, renewal and rejuvenation, which is so important in today’s complex world. This powerful and universally appealing tone translates easily to both fashion and home interiors. Most often associated with brilliant, precious gemstones, the perception of Emerald is sophisticated and luxurious. Over the years, this luminous color has been the color of beauty and new life in many cultures and religions. It’s also the color of growth, renewal and prosperity – no other color conveys regeneration more than green.”  For those who plan their gardens around such declarations it’s time to get on the hunt for Emerald Green plants.

Until next month, we’ll see you on Facebook where we learn and share together.


2012 Plant Delights Nursery November Newsletter

Greetings from Plant Delights where we hope the march toward colder weather finds everyone’s garden ready for winter.  We’d like to start by sharing a few recent changes  at Plant Delights, including our long-time Shipping and Customer Service Manager, Dianne Austin who decided to leave NC and return to her Texas roots to be near her family. We’d like to publicly thank Dianne for her eight years of dedicated service to Plant Delights customers.  Dianne’s position was filled by her eight-year assistant at PDN, Virginia Meehan, who many of you have already had the pleasure of meeting, both by phone and at open house.  Because of the continuity, we anticipate a seamless transition.

We’d also like to welcome our new grower, Julie Leonard, who joined us full-time when Candice Eckard departed to join her family business.  Julie was previously a grower at Raleigh’s Campbell Road Nursery, after graduating from Kansas State’s horticulture program.  We’d also like to welcome our newest full-time addition to the Plant Delights family, Karen Kwitnieski, who is joining us as our first IT and Marketing Administrator. Karen has been a faithful volunteer in our Garden Division for the last six years, so we’re sure her new hat will be feel quite different. Last, but not least, we also welcomed a new youthful member of our Plant Delights feline family this fall, with the addition of Jasper.  Jasper is the friendliest kitten we’ve ever had, so if you haven’t met him on our Facebook page, we hope you’ll do so in person during our next open house in February.

We’ve also spent the last several months working behind the scenes on some major IT changes, including a completely redesigned website. The new website incorporates many of your suggestions including a plant encyclopedia of all past PDN offerings. While our website will officially change over to the 2013 catalog on December 31, it doesn’t appear that the redesigned site will be ready and fully tested by then, but it will be on the way shortly after that time.  We  hope you’ll continue to send your website suggestions, including letting us know what e-commerce sites you like the best, what features you like the best, and which sites you find the easiest to use. Our goal is to make your PDN web experience the best possible that our back-end system will allow.

Although our plant shipping season is winding down with this our last week until mid-February, we will still have gift certificates available for those hard-to-buy-for gardeners in your family.  As a goodwill gesture, we are also suspending the $4 gift certificate handling charge for the remainder of the year. You can order gift certificates on-line.

We’ve just finished writing the spring print catalog, which is now in layout, and are now working on writing descriptions for many additional plants for the on-line version. We are so thankful to be able to list some very cool and very rare plants that we simply can’t propagate in large enough numbers to justify placement in the printed copy.  So, you’re probably wondering what delights the new catalog will contain, so we thought we’d give you a sneak peek of a few that will appear in the spring 2013 catalog.  First, is a Plant Delights introduction, Asarum maximum ‘Shell Shocked’, that we think is just amazing.  Next is the absolutely incredible Carex oshimensis ‘Everillo’…a golden leaf woodland sedge.  Check out Amorphophallus paeoniifolius ‘Thailand Giant’…an unreal giant voodoo lily selection from our friend Alan Galloway.  While we’re taking giants, how about our amazing South African introduction, Zantedeschia ‘Swartberg Giant’…truly incredible.  We finally have enough to share of the amazing gold leaf lily-of-the-valley, Convallaria ‘Fernwood’s Golden Slippers’. How about Brian Williams’ amazing black leaf Colocasia gigantea hybrid, Colocasia ‘Noble Gigante’.  These are just tiny sample of the fun that awaits in the new catalog.  So, is that drool I see or are you just foaming at the mouth?

Throughout the season, we get great feedback on the plants we offer.  This year, we learned that two of our offerings actually were incorrectly named.  The Brugmansia that we offered as Brugmansia ‘Antique Lace’ turned out to be Brugmansia ‘Betty Marshall’.  Although we spend lots of time verifying that the name we purchase the plant under is correct, this one slipped by us.  Both clones are similar, but thanks to brugmansia experts, we now have this one named correctly.

Additionally, the plant we originally purchased years earlier as Amorpha nana turned out to be a similar species, Amorpha canescens.  We have both of these errors corrected on the web.  Both are still great plants and the differences are minor, but if this causes anyone a problem that has received these plants, please let us know and we’ll issue you a credit or refund.

It’s been quite a month for crazy weather since our last newsletter with the impacts of Hurricane Sandy affecting many of our friends and customers in the Northeast US.   As reports came in, we have attempted to keep you up to date on our Facebook page.  Our friends at RareFind Nursery got hit twice…once by Sandy, then again by the nor’easter that followed shortly after.  Although Sandy didn’t cause major damage for RareFind other than a power outage, the nor’easter dumped 10″ of snow along with a second power outage. The snow resulted in significant tree damage, so cleanup there continues.

At Plant Delights, we’ve already had a nice fall cool down and winter low of 25 degrees F, so far.  We’re actually hoping for a cold winter, as we haven’t been able to gain any winter hardiness insight over the last three years because of such mild winters, consequently the number of plants we list as Zone 8 has grown much too large.  We also curse the cold temperatures when we have to pay the greenhouse heating bills that unfortunately go hand in hand with the cold weather.

In news from the world of plant people, we welcome horticultural personality and garden designer Chris Woods back to the east coast.  Chris was the founding director and beautiful mind behind the incredible public gardens at Chanticleer in Pennsylvania.  In 2003, after 20 years at Chanticleer, Chris moved to the West Coast to explore new adventures.  Unfortunately, Chris never found a position where he fit as well as he did in Pennsylvania.  After stints at the Santa Barbara Botanical Garden, The Ojai Valley Land Conservancy, VanDusen Botanical Garden, the Mendocino Coast Botanical Garden, Chris was recently named the new Director of the Pennsylvania Hort Society’s Meadowbrook Farm, just north of Philadelphia, PA.

Chris’s hiring, coincided with the forcing out of longtime director, John Story, who was subsequently hired as General Manger of Peace Tree Farms, a well-known wholesaler horticulture producer in the region.

Last month saw the loss of another horticultural pioneer, but one that most folks didn’t know about. Ying Doon Moy, 83, passed away near his home near Houston, TX.  Dr. Moy, as he was known, was born in Hong Kong, and taught school there before moving to Chicago in 1979.  A year later, Dr. Moy was hired by the San Antonio Botanic Garden in Texas as their Director of Research, where he spent them majority of his US career.  A few of his introductions that we have offered are Hibiscus ‘Moy Grande’, Hedychium ‘Dr. Moy’, and Hedychium ‘Moy Giant’.  After a brief retirement, Dr. Moy, then age 80, was hired by the Mercer Arboretum near Houston to start a new breeding program there, focusing on hardy citrus. Dr. Moy is survived by his wife Lisa, two sons, and four grandchildren.  Job well done!

Finally, if you’re a serious plant geek, really bored, have no social life, or just can’t bring yourself to cut the television on, check out this amazing new book on the woody plants of China.

Till next month….see you on Facebook


2012 Plant Delights Nursery October Newsletter

Dear PDN’ers

Early fall greetings from Plant Delights, where the spring 2013 catalog writing heads into the home stretch. As always, there are lots of exciting new plants for 2013, which is really what makes the whole effort worthwhile for us.

We’ve had many requests to make more of the hardy cypripedium ladyslipper orchids available for fall since some gardeners prefer to plant them now. For this fall, we’ve been able to acquire a large number of many different hard-to-find hybrids and species in very limited quantities, so we have just added them to the website. Inventory for most of these ranges from 3 to 8 plants each, so they won’t last long. Check out our cypripediums!

If you haven’t purchased cypripediums before, a little explanation is in order. First, our offerings are 8 years old from seed, hence, what seems like insanely high prices are really not so high compared with most faster to propagate plants. With orchids, a cultivar name is established for a similar batch of seedlings from a particular cross, so each plant is genetically unique. Second, please keep in mind hardy ladyslipper orchids should be planted differently from most other plants…the roots should be spread out laterally in a well-prepared, compost rich bed and covered with a layer of compost followed by a good mulch. Cypripedium roots should not be allowed to dry out and prefer an average to slightly moist, but well-drained soil for best performance.

After being told by all the experts that the hardy ladyslippers wouldn’t grow in our climate, we have now had many years of excellent successes and consequently feel more comfortable that these can be grown by more gardeners. We still stress, however, that these are not plants for beginners nor gardeners who are not willing to spend time preparing the soil for success. If you feel inclined to give these a try, a more detailed article on our website may be of help.

It’s been an amazing fall so far in the garden, with the fall salvias hitting their peak this month. For us, the giant Salvia madrensis is just coming into full flower while the Salvia greggii and Salvia microphylla selections are just glorious in full bloom. Other fall blooming plants are running late this fall. We are just now seeing flowers on Rabdosia longituba, which often starts in mid-September, and have yet to see flower buds on the fall blooming giant tree dahlias. Flower buds on the giant Verbesina microptera are developing nicely and hopefully we’ll get to enjoy them this year since last year the frost hit just as they were opening.

If you missed our mention on Facebook, Timber Press has just published their latest book, “The Roots of My Obsession – Thirty Great Gardeners Reveal Why they Garden.” In this unusual small book, thirty of us were asked to write a short essay on why we are gardeners. Authors include Dan Hinkley (founder of Heronswood), Ken Druse (NY garden writer), Margaret Roach (former VP of Martha Stewart Living), Doug Tallamy (professor/UDEL), Roger Swain (long-time “Victory Garden” host), Fergus Garrett (Head Gardener at Great Dixter), and many more. As I mentioned to Timber Press when they first floated the idea…I can’t imagine who would want to read such a book, but it’s out and I guess we’ll find out together why we all garden.

We also mentioned last month on Facebook, the delightful article about our plants by NY gardener and former Martha Stewart Editor, Margaret Roach. Check out Margaret’s Blog Article!

It’s been a rough month in the horticulture world with three significant losses. First, Ned Jacquith, 73, of Oregon’s Bamboo Garden Nursery passed away on September 26. Ned was a charter member of the American Bamboo Society and folks in the bamboo industry considered Ned the world’s bamboo ambassador, spreading the word about bamboo and working tirelessly to introduce new bamboos to cultivation. Many of the clumping bamboos we now offer were introduced to this country thanks to Ned’s efforts. After a career with the railroad, Ned and his wife, Nancy started the nursery in 1988. In July, Ned was diagnosed with acute leukemia but continued to be active in his bamboo work until the end. Ned’s staff will continue to operate the nursery. A memorial service will be held on Ned’s birthday, July 14, 2013, at Bamboo Garden Nursery near Portland Oregon. Our thoughts go out to Ned’s family and friends, and as one who has been is a beneficiary of Ned’s work…job well done!

The second loss was the untimely death of Nebraska plantsman, Harlan Hamernik, 76, who was killed in an explosion at his home on Monday, October 15. In 1958, Harlan and his wife, Shirley, founded Bluebird Nursery in Clarkson, Nebraska. Bluebird Nursery quickly became known worldwide as a source for new and exciting winter hardy perennials from Harlan’s plant explorations both in the US and around the world to places like China, Tibet, and Inner Mongolia. In his 70’s, Harlan turned Bluebird Nursery over to his sons and started a new nursery, H.H. Wild Plums, with the goal of promoting interesting woody plants for the Great Plains. Harlan was a tireless public servant and served on the board of the Perennial Plant Association as well as 40 years as a volunteer firefighter, and even mayor of his hometown of Clarkson, Nebraska. Our friend, Allen Bush, captured the essence of Harlan in this wonderful recent article. Harlan is survived by his wife, Shirley and sons Tom, Chuck, and Mike. A huge Plant Delights salute goes out to the legendary Harlan Hamernik, as our thoughts and prayers go out to his family.

Just after we heard about Harlan, word came in that we lost the world’s authority on bromeliads when plantsman, Harry Luther passed away after a brain seizure on October 17. Harry Luther, 60, was regarded as the world’s top bromeliad authority, having described over 100 new bromeliad species during his 32 year tenure at the Marie Selby Botanic Garden in Florida. Harry was a prolific writer, having authored over 200 articles/publications on bromeliads. Harry did all this without ever graduating from college…a presumptive prerequisite in our current society. In 2010, Harry left Marie Selby to join the new Singapore Botanic Gardens…an effort that has financially lured quite a few of the country’s top horticulturists. Our thoughts go out to Harry’s family and friends.

In some better health news, I just heard from Rob Jacobs that his dad, Eco-Gardens founder Don Jacobs, is slowly recovering from two strokes he suffered last year. Don is now living with Rob near Don’s Georgia home, where he will be celebrating his 93rd birthday on October 25. Don can walk again with a cane and is now fixing his own lunch. Rob says that Don’s speech is returning and given enough time, his memory should also return. If you’d like to send birthday or other greetings to Don, you can write to him care of Rob Jacobs, 512 Chieftain Court, Woodstock, GA 30188.

In the “You can’t make this up” news this month, Duke University fern researchers have recently completed DNA analysis of plants in the fern genus, Cheilanthes, which showed that up to nineteen species from Texas south to Central American actually constitute a separate genera. Consequently, the Duke researchers have created a new fern genus, Gaga. As you no doubt guessed, the new genus was named after sexually expressive pop singer, Lady Gaga. As Duke’s Dr. Kathleen Pryor pointed out, they named the genus Gaga for a number of reasons including the apogamy of the genus (it has meaningful sex with itself), its gametophyte (the baby fern before it has sex) resembles one of Gaga’s Armani costumes, and believe it or not…in the scanned DNA base pairs of the new fern the word GAGA was spelled out. Lest you think naming plants after celebrities is new, the singer Beyonce has a horsefly named after her and President Obama has a California lichen named after him. I’m not sure I’d be jumping up and down about either of those, but as I said earlier, you just can’t make this stuff up.

In another bit of “You don’t say” news, a recent patent has been filed to use plant extracts to counteract the toxic effects from chemicals released by smoking cigarettes. The research uses extracts from plants including tomato (Solanum lycopersicum), Chinese lizard tail (Houttuynia cordata), dandelion (Taraxacum officinale), Korean mountain ash (Sorbus commixta), Japanese alder (Alnus japonica), and balloon flower (Platycodon grandiflora). Who knew? I can see folks who roll their own already changing their formulas. Read More

In news from the commercial horticultural world, the 70-year-old Randolph’s Greenhouses in Jackson, Tennessee closed its doors at the end of September. Plant lecturer, Rita Randolph blamed the closing on a combination of the economy and costs to repair and maintain their aging facilities. Rita plans to do more writing and lecturing while also opening a small mail order nursery as a retirement venture…doesn’t sound like retirement to me!

If you’ve been watching the news recently, you’ve seen the space shuttle Endeavour making its way through south Los Angeles on its 12 mile final trek to its final resting place at the California Science Center. Unfortunately, getting the Endeavour to the Science Center was a bit more than some residents bargained for when they learned that more than 400 trees had to be removed so that the shuttle could fit on the highway. In exchange for allowing the trees to be cut, the California Science Center agreed to spend $500,000 to replant twice as many trees as had to be cut down. So, where were all the tree huggers chaining themselves to the poor trees? Where was the media coverage and national outrage? I must have also missed all the furor from the manmade global warming crowd over this…geez. Regardless…if you haven’t seen it, the time lapse video of the shuttle’s trek through town is fascinating.

Time to get back to catalog writing, so enjoy the newsletter and in the mean time, we’ll see you on Facebook with more updates and plant photos.


2012 Plant Delights Nursery September Newsletter

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=””>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!

2012 Plant Delights Nursery August Newsletter

We hope you’ve had a chance to peruse the fall catalog online. The printed copies are in the mail and some may have already arrived. This fall, we’ve included the largest number of new plants ever in a fall catalog, so we trust you’ll find something that suits your fancy…and your garden!

We’ve had a blast this summer on Facebook and we hope more of you will join us there. Just recently we shared photos of the behind-the-scenes process of printing our catalog that generated lots of interest. We’ll continue to share photos of cool plants from the garden and other things that get us excited. If you’re not on Facebook or are afraid to venture into social media, I felt the same way until I discovered the amazing capacity for teaching and information sharing that is available there. If you need some help getting started, don’t hesitate to shoot an email to and we’ll guide you through the process.

Go to

Sign Up using the sign up form.

Facebook will automatically take you through steps to set up your profile. You are given an option to skip these.

At the top of the Facebook screen there is a search box that says “Search for people, places and things.” Click in this box and type “Plant Delights Nursery”

One of the first results you should see is: THUMB NAIL

To the right of our listing, you will see a gray box with a thumbs up and “Like”. Please click this button to follow the Plant Delights Nursery Facebook page.

Recently, Bobby Ward of the North American Rock Garden Society (NARGS) asked me to let you know that their award winning journal is now online. If you’ve got rocks in your garden…or would like to, check out NARGS. NARGS has always been one of my favorite organizations with a great journal and seed exchange…not to mention all the wonderful members and educational meetings.

One of the exciting new line of plants we had on trial since winter is the Jewel of the Desert series of ice plants from Japan. These amazing plants include varieties like Delosperma ‘Perfect Orange’, ‘Rise and Shine’, ‘Eye Candy’, and ‘White Pearl’. In our garden, they have flowered consistently since March, forming nice compact mounds. After a lovely June weather-wise, July went a bit crazy with 10 consecutive days near or above 100 degrees F, rendering all of these delospermas into little piles of blackened plant snot. Other delospermas we offer were growing alongside and were fine. Consequently, these plants should not be used south of Zone 7a, and if you purchased them and had the same results, drop us a note for a credit/refund.

In some fascinating gardening research, new studies from Sage College of New York confirm a 2007 study from Bristol University and University College London that dirt is indeed a great anti-depressant. Many of us have known this for years, but we just didn’t know why…guess that’s why I don’t make the big bucks. As it turns out, a soil-borne bacteria, Mycobacterium vaccae, acts as an anti-depressant by causing brain cells to produce high levels of the happy hormone, serotonin. Serotonin occurs naturally in the body from the gut to the brain, and plays a particularly important role in mood. Low serotonin levels have been linked to anxiety, depression, aggression, OCD, bipolar disorder, fibromyalgia, and irritable bowel syndrome…who knew? Mycobacterium vaccae has already been used medically in cancer patients to increase their quality of life. The next time you hear that line about not being in the mood, grab your significant other, sans gloves, and head for the garden to get dirty.

A less than pleasant garden-related issue that many of us in the Southeast, and possibly around the country deal with is ants (and occasionally aunts) in our homes. Ants were a bane of my late wife’s life, so now dealing with these critters has passed to me. Instead of playing the ant bait game that Michelle played for over a decade, I did the manly thing and called an exterminator. As I showed him around the outside of our house, explaining that I wanted him to keep the ants out of the house, he laughingly replied, “So, are you going to get rid of the flower beds and mulch? If not, I can’t get rid of the ants.” Other than fire ants, ants in the garden are actually a good thing and an important part of a healthy ecosystem.

Instead of spraying outdoors, he recommended that I buy a boatload of silicone caulk and seal the entrance holes into my home. What a novel idea, I thought. We spent the next hour walking around the house as he showed me the interstate highway-like ant runs that I’d never noticed before. We followed each until we found where they entered the house through seemingly tiny innocuous cracks in the brick. Silicon in hand, I carefully followed the ants, plugging each hole with what looks and feels like tubes of expired Vaseline.

This began my now three-month game of hide and seek with the ants. After nearly a month of no ants, they returned out of the blue, first heading for Zirconia’s cat food. I finally won that round after sealing one crack and daring them to find a way out, which for two weeks, they did, each time returning with reinforcements. Pissed off, the remaining ants outside the house then invaded the kitchen, which became a battle for the ages. Since I had already sealed the easy cracks, they got really sneaky, once coming in between the wood flooring and the air vent, and later through a tiny crack where the dishwasher drain goes through the floor and into the crawlspace. We’re currently in a stalemate, and I’m sure they haven’t given up…but then, I have two tubes of Silicon left.

Although on a slightly different scale, another pest that we’re all familiar with are deer. When talking with gardening groups, I often get random moans when I mention deer control. As is usually the case, these are folks who let emotion override good sense…if indeed, they were ever so endowed. I recently ran across this open letter, I’ll share in the hope it will make Bambi-lovers rethink their hesitance when it comes to controlling the deer population.

I own a home in a residential community in NW Wake County that is considering adopting the NCBA-BCRS program. I was encouraged to share a couple of thoughts with you. I used to be opposed to hunting of any kind. It was my family who changed my mind. Here’s a list of things I learned from them:

-By 1908, the entire population of all species of deer in the lower 48 was estimated at less than half a million, because of overhunting and indiscriminate killing of deer by farmers.
-Conservation efforts by hunters – the creation of sanctuaries and preserves, moratoriums on hunting, proactive efforts to build deer populations were so effective that today, the deer population of North Carolina alone is estimated at 1.3 million.
-While we’ve done a spectacular job at rebuilding deer populations, we haven’t done the same for the mountain lion and wolf, so we’ve effectively eliminated the deer’s natural predators. -Without wolves and mountain lions, deer population is limited only by their food supply. Their population can double every 2-3 years, and long before deer start running out of food, they start destroying the health of the ecosystem they live in.
-Deer overpopulation has been proven to destroy animal and plant diversity, and diversity is the lynchpin of any ecosystem’s resiliency. Deer eat the seedlings of the trees, denuding the forest understory. That leaves only those plants and trees that are “deer resistant.” Small animals and birds that feed off less resistant plants, or feed off of insects that live on those plants, disappear, as do many species of native trees.
-An overpopulation of deer is in direct conflict with the current move toward local agriculture, co-op farms and neighborhood gardens, because hungry deer will destroy all of the above. Too many deer also mean higher rates of Lyme disease (it’s not called a deer tick for nothing).
-When people move into the deer’s habitat, we must take on responsibility for controlling the deer population, because our presence is a large part of what causes that population to explode. Case in point – the deer census in many rural-metropolitan boundary areas is more than double that of more rural areas. Subdivisions in rural areas that were formerly farmland create a patchwork of forests and open land protected against wildfire and hunting.
-Today, I don’t hunt, but I now support it. The hunters I know, contrary to the stereotype portrayed in the media, are naturalists and environmentalists who are deeply respectful of the animals they hunt, and innately respectful of the circle of life. They either eat what they kill or give it away to friends or to food banks.
-Much of the leading research in deer nutrition, behavior, and disease prevention is funded by hunters, and most of the $700 million collected each year for hunting licenses goes to protect deer habitats.
-Also, too many people who watched Bambi as a child, or with their own children, abhor the idea of hunting female deer. Yet in many areas there are 7 or 8 does for every buck, one buck can inseminate all of them, and they’ll each average 1.7 fawns a year…

-Many universities have done studies in using contraceptives to limit the deer population, but none have proven anywhere near as effective as controlled hunting.
Given that: 1. There are no natural predators that once served as a check on deer population.
2. Subdivisions act as artificial sanctuaries that further imbalance the natural order.
3. Too many deer means loss of habitat diversity and quality, more Lyme disease, and crop damage.

A hands-off approach is not an environmentally sound policy, nor is it a responsible one. I can fully understand someone not wanting a hunter on their property. But I think it’s important for individual homeowners and the neighborhood as a whole to ask, what are we going to do to be responsible stewards of the environment? How are we going to restore and maintain a balance between the deer and rest of the ecosystem?
-Eric Miller

Cornell University maintains an informative website on deer population and control.

Enjoy, and until next month, we’ll keep up on Facebook.


2012 Plant Delights Nursery July Newsletter

June was quite a month, starting with a botanical expedition to the Balkans, including the countries of Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, and Montenegro. During my 2010 expedition to Crete, my traveling companion, Tom Mitchell and I talked quite a bit about the Balkan flora. Tom had botanized the region a dozen times and he thought many of the plants there would be a good climate match for North Carolina. After not leaving the country for two years because of Michelle’s illness, I was thankful for the opportunity to join up with Tom again and get back in the field. The trip was a wonderful success and it was great to see so many familiar plants growing in the wild…epimedium, hellebores, pulmonaria, asarum, iris, etc. As in the past, I kept a daily expedition diary, which has now been posted with photos on our website.

While I was gone, the weather here in NC was much cooler than normal. Once I returned, however, we entered a three week period of unseasonably hot, record-setting temperatures including Raleigh’s first ever period of three consecutive days above 103 degrees F. It looks like we’ve only got a few more days to go in this pattern before we return to the below normal temperatures and above normal rainfall that we enjoyed earlier.

Our thoughts and prayers are with those who are suffering from the devastation of the horrific Colorado wildfires to the flooding from tropical storm Debbie, which dumped up to 31 inches of rain on some of our customers’ gardens. Following Debbie were the bizarre straight line winds (derechos) which slammed the region including Virginia, West Virginia, DC, Maryland, and northwest to Ohio just prior to July 4, and uprooted thousands of trees. The storm left thousands of folks without power for over a week. I expect there will be plenty of folks with new sun gardens after those storms.

This weekend marks the start of our Summer Open House. Despite the heat, the gardens are looking great with plenty of plants in full bloom from hemerocallis to hibiscus to helianthus…it’s truly an “H” time of year. If you can’t handle the heat, you may want to come early in the day or even wait until the second weekend which, if you believe long-range forecasts, looks to be a good bit cooler. One of the great treats for this year’s Summer Open House is a chance to see all of the agaves in bloom. Although we had nine agaves flower this year, one has finished but the rest should still be in bloom…at least for the first weekend. The dates are July 6-8 and 13-15…8-5 on Fridays and Saturdays and 1-5pm on Sundays. We sure hope you’ll be able to join us.

I’m not sure if it was the phase of the moon or some other cosmic line-up that prompted all the musical chairs in the horticultural world over the last month, but it’s been one heck of a busy time. June ended with the announcement that the Port Gamble S’Klallam Indian Tribe had purchased Heronswood Nursery and Gardens from the mercurial George Ball. The S’Klallam Tribe lives on the Kitsap Peninsula, where Heronswood was started and the Heronswood property was actually part of their ancestral lands. At this time, no one is really sure what this means for the future of the gardens, but we’ll all look forward to finding out soon. After moving the mail order nursery to Pennsylvania in 2006 in an attempt to show those in the Pacific Northwest horticultural community that he could make Heronswood profitable in a more horticulturally sophisticated region, he subsequently ran it completely into the ground, putting Heronswood mercifully out of its misery.

In more news from the mail order nursery world, our friends at RareFind Nursery tell us that they are also under new ownership. After the 2009 death of founder Hank Schannen, we were all uncertain if Hank’s baby could survive, but I am glad to report that Oliver LaFarge Hamill of Lawrenceville, NJ is the new owner of Rarefind. The staff tells us that Oliver, the owner of the organic Cherry Grove Farm is also a plant lover and long-time Rarefind customer. We wish them the best of luck!

I also mentioned recently about the bankruptcy of K. Van Bourgondien Nursery and its other affiliates. Well, as he has often done in the past, Niles Kinerk, the founder of Gardens Alive has purchased all of the Van Bourgondien enterprises as of May 31. Kinerk has become the “Pacman” of mail order and now owns twelve nurseries including Gardens Alive (1988), Spring Hill Nursery (2001), Michigan Bulb (2001), Brecks (2001), Henry Fields (2001), Gurney’s (2001), Thompson and Morgan US (2009), Iseli Wholesale Nursery (2011), Weeks Roses Wholesale (2011), K. Van Bourgondien Wholesale (2012), Dutch Bulbs (2012), Simple Pleasures Wholesale (2012), along with several non-plant companies; Audubon Workshop (1997), Bit and Pieces (2008), The Paragon (2008), TouchStone (2009), Room Service Home (2009), Images of Canada (2009), The Added Touch (2009), and Spilsbury (2009).

In yet another corporate sale, Jiffy Products, the owners of the 150-year-old Ferry Morse Seed Company recently sold the distressed company to Plantation Products of Massachusetts. Ferry Morse is a distributer of low end seed to box stores and other large discount commercial retailers. Without warning, Plantation fired the entire staff of 200 people at the Fulton Kentucky factory when they returned from lunch on May 18. Shortly after the layoffs, Plantation hired back half of the Kentucky staff to work on a transition program until the Kentucky factory closes for good at year’s end. Plantation also closed Ferry Morse operations in Fremont, Indiana, and will close its White City, Oregon center by years end. According to staff at the Kentucky factory, during its seven-year ownership, starting in 2005, Jiffy Products had run Ferry-Morse into the ground due to incompetent management. Web tales of regularly getting the wrong type and poor quality seed seems to have been the rule rather than the exception…a truly sad situation.

In still yet another deal of horticultural significance, Syngenta, one of the world’s largest agricultural research companies, sold off its interest in Fafard, a 90-year-old manufacturer of commercial potting soils. We always get concerned when a product we use gets sold, as happened years earlier when our former seed-starting mix, Metro Mix was sold and the quality went to hell. At that time, we switched to the dramatically better Fafard Mix, so now we hope we don’t have to start looking again. At least in this case the purchaser is Sun Grow Horticulture, one of the largest producers of peat moss and peat moss related products. Fingers crossed!

From Philadelphia, another of the national stars of the garden center world has filed for bankruptcy. The highly regarded 69-year-old Waterloo Gardens, which I last visited in 1996, is now holding on by a thread. Bankruptcy judges have already ordered Waterloo to close its original location in Devon, PA. Like many other nurseries and garden centers, Waterloo’s aggressive expansion was ill-planned and ill-timed. Two new Waterloo locations in Warminster, PA and Wilmington DE closed in 2008 and 2011 respectively. The only remaining location is the Exton, PA location.

In the “I’m from the Government and I’m here to help you” news this month, commercial greenhouse maker, XS Smith is closing up shop after 66 years in business. Anyone in the floriculture business knows XS Smith and their reputation for high quality greenhouses. Our very first greenhouse at Plant Delights was an XS Smith greenhouse. The company blamed its closure on The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which made borrowing money much more difficult. Smith said that the new law now requires a complete reevaluation of the property when applying for a loan, slowing and complicating the process. To make matters worse, XS Smith’s largest customer, Carolina Nurseries, went bankrupt last year.

Also from the “I’m from the Government”…oops file….if you’ve ordered a Pink Champagne blueberry plant, which has been prominently pictured on other mail order catalog covers, you’ll want to read this. Briggs Nursery in Oregon, which propagated the blueberry, just got word from the USDA experiment station in New Jersey that they sent Briggs the wrong plant to produce. So, the chances are pretty good that your fruit will not be pink. If you bought this plant and it doesn’t have pink fruit, you should contact your vendor for a refund.

I’d like to update another story that I wrote about last year, which was the tree damage caused by Dupont’s new environmentally friendly herbicide, Imprelis. As it turned out, the herbicide was friendly to the environment…just not to the plants growing in the environment. Dupont is now processing over 30,000 plant damage claims. Dupont has set aside $225 million, but says their payout looks as though it could reach the $575 million mark. Dupont says they already have offers out to half of the claimants and hope to complete the process by this fall. The amount cited above does not, however, include money for a Federal class action lawsuit. Part of the difficulty is the unknown factor of how long the Imprelis will continue to impact areas where it was applied. Ouch!

Finally, it’s with a very sad heart that I announce the loss of one of our 14-year-old cats, Ruby to cancer on July 3. Although Ruby was one of the shyest of our cats, many of you had the chance to meet her during Open House. Ruby is survived by her sister, Pearl and half-brothers, Zirconia and Henry. View the Gallery of Ruby’s Life


2012 Plant Delights Nursery May Newsletter

Spring in our part of North Carolina has been truly amazing this year. It helped that spring started in January and has continued into late May. Finally, I know what it feels like to live in the Pacific Northwest. We’ve actually had relatively good rains so far, so growth in the garden is unlike anything we’ve seen in recent years. Hopefully the impending rains from the remnants of tropical storm Beryl will soak the lower southeast coast, where drought conditions have been quite bad.

I’m sitting on the deck today, looking at our amazing clump of the wonderful gold-leaf Hydrangea ‘Lemon Daddy’ which is just about to burst into full flower. I’m always looking for gold-leaf plants to help brighten the dark spots in the garden. I’ve been posting pictures of the different stages of its growth on our Facebook page, which we hope you have enjoyed.

It’s been century plant central here this spring, with nine agave flower spikes ready to burst into flower (Agave protoamericana – 3, Agave striata, Agave striata v. falcata, Agave palmeri, Agave victoriae-reginae, Agave ‘Ansom’ (nickelsii x scabra), and Agave ‘Stormy Seize’ (scabra x ferox). As promised, I’ll let you know via Facebook when peak agave bloom arrives and we’ll arrange a time when visitors can drop by and see them in full bloom. We’ve already starting making crosses since one of our customers was kind enough to share pollen from his flowering Agave ovatifolia, which we’ve already applied to our Agave striata as well as to Manfreda undulata…that should result in something truly weird.

Hardy gladiolus flowering season has also just begun and it’s hard to keep the flowers cut fast enough in our stock blocks. The first glads to start this year were the lovely Gladiolus ‘Purple Prince’, followed by Gladiolus ‘Robeson Red’, and now Gladiolus dalenii ‘Boone’. We’ve been playing around with some gladiolus breeding the last few years and our first crop of seedlings will be flowering next week…always exciting to see what results you get. We’ll post photos of some of our best seedlings on Facebook, so let us know what you think.

Speaking of plants and gardens, we’re looking to fill an assistant garden curator position, so if you know anyone with a good work ethic, an eye for detail, an academic plant background and a passion for plants, tell ‘em to email our business manager, Heather Brameyer at We’re also searching for a seasonal nursery worker to help with watering, so let us hear from you.

Kudos are in order for our friend, Dr. Allan Armitage, who was recently awarded the prestigious Liberty Hyde Bailey Award from the American Horticulture Society. The Bailey Award is the society’s top award, given annually to an individual who has made significant lifetime achievements in at least three of these horticultural fields; teaching, research, communications, plant exploration, administration, art, business, and leadership. Congratulations my friend…well deserved!

Speaking of awards on a much lesser scale, I got a note from the President of the Massachusetts Horticultural Society last week, letting me know that I was selected to receive their Jackson Dawson Medal for plant exploration and breeding. In order to actually receive the award, however, I would have to fly to Boston and attend their awards banquet at my expense or the award would be re-gifted to someone else. This is the same Massachusetts Horticultural Society that in 2008 stiffed me for my speaking honorarium and most of my out of pocket expenses because of their financial mismanagement. This recent offer sure seems to me like a group looking to fill their dinner with horticultural celebrities in order to attract donors as opposed to truly recognizing individuals for their accomplishments. I obviously declined their kind offer. Having known many wonderful folks who formerly worked at Mass Hort, I find it sad that they still haven’t experienced a significant period of reflective enlightenment.

Speaking of reflective enlightenment…six years after closing the beloved Heronswood Nursery in Kingston, Washington, George Ball has decided auction off the property which housed the original nursery, and the home and garden of founders Dan Hinkley and Robert Jones. Ball paid $5.5 million for the original property plus an adjacent land parcel, which brings the land total to 15 acres. The asking price has been as high as $11 million, but no one bit, so now the land, three houses, an office, and the entire gardens will go on the auction block with silent bids starting at $749,000. Bids are due by 2 p.m. June 15 to Sheldon Good & Co., a auction division of New York’s Racebrook investment firm. The Heronswood name and business are also for sale separately. Racebrook will hold on-site inspections for prospective buyers by appointment on May 18, May 26, June 1 and June 9. For more information, visit or call 800-962-0931.

I was very sad to receive an email last week from the producers of The Martha Stewart Show, telling me the show has been cancelled by the Hallmark Channel. I’d like to openly thank Martha and all the great production staff who were so great to work with during my several appearances. I wish everyone the best of luck in their new ventures including Martha’s new cooking show on PBS.

Other news that caught most of us in the botanical garden world off guard was the sudden departure of Mt. Cuba Center director Rick Lewandowski after a 13-year tenure at the helm. The Mt. Cuba Center in Delaware is in the process of a public transformation in the model of other nearby Dupont family estates such as Longwood Gardens. Under Rick’s tenure, the gardens had continued to develop and his botanical treks through the Piedmont region brought an extensive number of wonderful new collections to the garden. Mt. Cuba is currently searching for a new director and Rick is searching for his next great horticultural adventure. Best of luck to both.

Speaking of artsy things, one of our customers, David Fishman, is an avid photographer, and is now trying to commercialize some of his artistic plant images. I think you’ll find his work quite fascinating.

In the “I’m from the government and I’m here to sniff you” file this month comes more interesting news. Yes, you read it right…with the increasing costs of hiring government workers and subsequently paying them retirement, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture is now using dogs to find Emerald Ash Borers and trees infected with these damaging insects. While the first crop of bug-busting canines are still in training, they are expected to be on the job full-time by July. Their assigned tasks will include sniffing mulch piles, landfills, and commercial vehicles.

In case you missed it, the US Department of Agriculture is already using dogs to find the equally destructive Asian longhorn beetles. The USDA, however, is also looking for volunteer beetle spotters, so here’s a great chance to keep your kids busy and out of your hair. You can find more here…just don’t let the live beetle freak you out. You can find out more about the partner organization, Working Dogs for Conservation at

In another bit of very interesting scientific research, it was recently discovered that rubber mulches are not really as good as the marketers of these products would have had us believe. Duh! To help rid the world of scrap tires, ground tire rubber mulch has recently been touted for uses from playgrounds to athletic fields to putting greens. Now that rubber mulches have been used for several years, it has become clear that many of the initial claims of its superiority are being debunked. In terms of effectiveness as weed control, rubber mulch rated near the bottom of the list of mulches, but in terms of flammability, rubber mulch tops the list…not really a good thing. As for permanency, rubber mulch also fails. According to the research, rubber eating bacteria, which will actually consume rubber mulch, are initially kept at bay by toxins used in tire production (2-mercaptobenzothiazol for rubber vulcanization and polyaromatic hydrocarbons for tire softening). White and brown-rot fungus effectively neutralize the toxins, which then allows the bacteria to decompose the rubber. Ok, so this sounds good…right? Wrong! This decomposition means that all of the toxins in the tires, including very high levels of heavy metals like zinc are leached into the soil. I have warned people for years about high zinc levels which often occur when water runoff from roads drains into your landscape. Many plants, especially aquatic plants, are especially susceptible to zinc. The bottom line is simple…stick with organic, non-toxic mulches.

Finally, from the “you can’t make this stuff up” file comes the May 11 incident of a medical marijuana grower who was shopping at a Clarkston, Washington Walmart. The grower was purchasing mulch for his crop and reached to move a twig on the mulch pile, only to discover too late that the twig was actually a thoroughly pissed-off rattlesnake…oops! The snake was subsequently beaten to death for being under the influence and the marijuana grower was treated with six bags of snake anti-venom for shopping in such an alert and coherent state. Want to bet there was some serious self-medicating after the victim returned home? WalMart has apologized, but did note that the snake was “Made in America”.

Enjoy, and until the next newsletter, we’ll keep in touch on Facebook!


2012 Plant Delights Nursery April Newsletter

I picked a lovely night to write to you from our home patio, where I’m sitting adjacent to the falling water sound of the Mt. Michelle waterfall, punctuated by the intermittent peeps from nearby mating frogs, each in search of a suitable companion. It’s not yet the cacophony that we’ll have in a few more weeks, where up to eight different species of poorly harmonized frogs will be trying to communicate simultaneously like a restaurant full of cell phone users. In the dark of this evening, it’s fascinating to watch the mosquitos continually trying to attack my cursor as it moves around the laptop screen. So, what is the best way to clean blood off laptop screens…inquiring minds want to know?

We’ve just added another three dozen new plants to the website, many available only in very limited quantities. Shop Now!

It’s been quite a start to the year in most parts of the country, with spring arriving far too soon. Many folks had their gardening chores recently interrupted by another round of winter including some major snows in parts of West Virginia, Pennsylvania and surrounding states. We thought we were going to get by without a late frost, but on April 10 temperatures at the nursery dropped to 32 F and later on April 25 we hit a frosty 36 F, with many hostas in full leaf and even elephant ears beginning to grow. Our garden curator, Todd Wiegardt, the garden staff, and our wonderful volunteers spent a day and a half covering the most susceptible plants. So far, most of the plants we covered seem to have fared fine. We don’t bother covering plants like bananas, cannas, and elephant ears for such light frosts since they are engineered to bounce right back despite being rendered a temporary pile of black mush.

For those who follow us on Facebook, we detailed our experiments with the new product, Freeze-Pruf. It was our hope that it would serve as a replacement for the long, drawn-out process of covering plants, but no such luck. We’ve also posted our first video about the process of protecting sensitive plants in the garden from a late spring frost. You can find the video on our website here.

We continue to post an insane number of plant photos from the garden on our Facebook page. This has become an wonderful way for us to share exciting garden plants several times each week. You’re sure to be seeing lots of agave photos, as we have six blessed events that will soon take place on our Southwest-themed patio. Yes, our Agave palmeri ‘Cutty Shark’, Agave protoamericana ‘Blue Steel’, Agave victoriae-reginae, Agave striata, a second Agave protoameriana, and Agave ‘Stormy Seize’ began spiking recently…three on April 10, one on April 17, and two on April 24. Strangely, all started spiking on Tuesdays…hmmm. Based on our past experience, the taller agaves usually take 45-50 days to reach their full size and flower. We’ve got a couple more agaves that are looking sort of pregnant, so there could even be more. Spring is shaping up as quite a year for agave breeding.

We’ve recently added a really neat advanced search feature on the website. You can click boxes like “ferns” and “zone 6″ and get a list of ferns for zone 6, or find all the red-flowering hummingbird-attractive flowers for zone 5. We hope you’ll check it out and let us know what you think. Advanced Search

Especially busy is our shipping/customer service department as we enter what we affectionally call “snowball season”. Snowball season in the mail order business is when, no matter how fast you run, the giant snowball of incoming and pending orders rolling down the hill behind you is getting bigger, faster, and closer each day. The dilemma is that no matter how much staff we hire, customers still outnumber us by 1000:1. To help with the snowball season, we’ve hired lots of new shipping staff and welcome recent NCSU Landscape Architect graduate, Allison Morgan, to our Customer Service staff.

The nature of mail order is that most folks want their plants between late April and late May, which is sort of like squeezing a theater full of people out through one set of double doors during a fire drill. While we try to get orders out the door the week they arrive, this becomes a logistical impossibility for the next four weeks. This rush combines with our other annual nightmare where plants that have been ordered early but not shipped don’t emerge from dormancy in spring. While our growing staff does a great job, some plants simply don’t cooperate with our plans, which creates problem orders on our end and disappointment on your end. In some cases, we will have more of a particular plant ready in a later crop, but in other cases, the production time for a new crop may be several years. We thank for your patience and understanding during the next few weeks and thank you so much for keeping those orders coming. Trust us, there is nothing more anguishing for us that to not be able to supply an ordered plant.

At the same time, we’re excitedly gearing up for our Spring Open Nursery and Garden event, May 4-6 and May 11-13. Hours are 8am-5pm on Friday and Saturday and 1-5pm on Sundays. The gardens are looking particularly amazing, so we hope you can visit. On Open House days visitors are allowed to purchase plants on site, walk through the gardens, and have their gardening questions answered by our staff. The gardens have several areas to picnic, so we’d love to have you bring your lunch to enjoy in the gardens. If you are visiting from outside the local area and would like to car pool with others from your region, please use our Facebook page to connect. If you don’t have a GPS/navigation device, you can get printed directions, at

We are holding our Plant and Garden Photography class during the second Saturday of our Open House on May 12 from 8am-4pm and have only a few spots remaining. If you’re interested in joining us, you can find out more online

Plant Delights was very blessed to have been featured in the March/April issue of “American Gardener” Magazine. If you aren’t a subscriber, we will have extra copies at Open House. You can also find a condensed version online

For a while, I’ve been following the recession-era demise of one of America’s top destination garden centers, Matterhorn Nursery of Spring Valley, New York, whose business is up for auction this weekend. It’s a very sad fall for Matt Horn and his wife Ronnie, who have operated the 36 acre garden center and display garden for over 31 years. Matterhorn filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in fall 2010 after the recession cut their sales by over 50% and a deal to raise money by selling off 15 acres of the property to a nearby municipality fell through. At the time, Matterhorn said they were in the midst of their “sustainable” renovations including installing solar panels, biomass boilers, green roofs, and other “feel-good”, but poor ROI’s (return on investments). After over a year in Chapter 11, it was unfeasible for the company to remain viable with such a high debt load so the property will be auctioned. If you have a desire to instantly own one of the country’s top garden centers, you can find the auction information here.

For the last couple of decades Matt was the poster boy, out-of-the-box thinker for everything a garden center could and should be. In short, Matterhorn was everything to everyone…if you could dream it, Matt had probably already done it. Matterhorn was set up like a European village with mini-shops throughout the property selling everything from outdoor furnishings to food and drinks.

I always enjoyed hearing Matt speak at trade meetings, but always marveled how they managed cash flow and debt load. Unfortunately, Matterhorn now joins an all-too-long line of nursery businesses to have finance issues collide head on with the economic slowdown. Matt and Ronnie will continue to run their landscape design and maintenance business, and knowing them, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them back in the retail business in the future…best of luck, my friends.

Calls are coming in from around the Southeast US about the latest horticultural scourge…kudzu bugs. These beetles are voracious, going through kudzu faster than Newt Gingrich does cash. Not only do kudzu bugs eat kudzu, but they also eat crops like soybeans and related ornamental legumes. When kudzu is dormant, these ugly light brown beetles, which are attracted to bright colors and heights can actually loiter on cars and homes, waiting until kudzu begins growing again. Research has shown that these tough critters can even hold onto a car going 80 miles per that’s a video I want to see. The kudzu bug infestation began in the Atlanta, Georgia area and has now spread from Alabama to the edges of southern Virginia. There really isn’t much to do to keep them out of your home other than to carefully caulk the cracks in your house. As far as damaging the ornamental legumes in your garden, we’re just going to have to see what they attack, but prime candidates are close relatives like lupinus (lupines), baptisia, indigofera, erythrina (coral been), amorpha (lead plant), and cytisus (scotch broom). Here’s a video of the critters. Finally, if you or your spouse are having trouble sleeping, especially after a hard day in the garden, your prayers have been answered. Move over Ambien, the long-awaited three volume set, Algae of the Ukraine is now available. This riveting 1639 page hardcover set, sure to make the NY Times best seller list, includes nomenclature, taxonomy, ecology, and geography of all the greats: Cyanoprocaroya, Euglenophyta, Chlorophyta and many more. You’ll be the life of the party when you whip out volume one and begin extolling the virtues of the Ukranian Dinophyta. If you hurry, the English language edition can be yours for the bargain price of only $235 as long as supplies last. Be sure to let me know if that doesn’t put you to sleep.

Enjoy, and until the next newsletter, we’ll see you on Facebook!


2012 Plant Delights Nursery March Newsletter

I want to begin with a huge thank you for all the wonderful notes of support we’ve received over the last week. You’ll never begin to know how much those mean, so a big long distance hug to everyone who shared their thoughts. To those who wrote and are going through the same thing, or have recently lost a loved one, our thoughts and prayers go out to you. The solace of a garden takes on a new meaning during times like these.

With such a wonderful winter from a weather perspective, it’s been hard not having the time to be out in the garden, making each precious moment more special as the garden awakens. As one who is naturally far too prone to distraction, I wasn’t sure this newsletter was going to get finished, but fortunately, a lack of sleep has a few advantages, so here we go.

It’s been really great to see so many wonderful folks as I’ve traveled around the country speaking this winter, and thanks to the mild temperatures, I’ve had a surprisingly large number of flights that actually took off and landed on time. The one shocker was a meager 2″ snow last week in Midland, Michigan that knocked out the power lines feeding the auditorium filled with 350 eager gardeners. The staff of our host, Dow Gardens was terrific and Allan Armitage and I had a great time ad-libbing with the audience until the power was restored several hours later.

Just a reminder that we open to the public for our Winter Open Gardens and Nursery this Friday, February 24 and Saturday February 25 from 8-5pm and also the following weekend, Friday, March 2 and Saturday, March 3 from 8-5pm. This is the same weekend that our friends to the north at Pine Knot Nursery and our friends to the northwest at Camellia Forest Nursery also hold their open houses. We hope you’ll be able to make it a full weekend of finding new cool plants…so far, the weather forecast is looking pretty good. (add links)

We’ve just added several new plants to the sales area for Open House and have also listed some here for those of you who can’t make the trip. Many are in very limited supply, so if you see something that strikes your fancy, best not to delay. Check out our recently added plants here!

The hellebores in the garden look better than ever, so bring your camera along with your friends. As always they’ll be plenty of other plants in flower as well, including the edgeworthias whose fragrance is already wafting through the garden. The amazing array of Helleborus niger hybrids with their outfacing flowers are just amazing, especially Helleborus ‘Walberton’s Rosemary’. This is also our first crop of Helleborus x hybridus ‘Painted Doubles’ from Ernie and Marietta O’Byrne…these are in limited supply and are sure to go fast.

After seeing these in our garden during last winter’s Open House, many folks started asking about the wonderful Cyclamen coum, so we have it back in stock after a long absence.

This is also the first year we’ve offered the amazing native Isopyrum biternatum (False Meadow Rue). This gem begins flowering in January for us and continues into early spring.

Another native we’re offering for the first time is the soon-to-be-endangered native, Arabis georgiana (Georgia rock cress), which is amazingly easy to grow if you have well-drained soils.

Although it’s a woody perennial, we’re listing our second aucuba, Aucuba ‘Hosoba Hoshifu’. This amazing woodland evergreen is quite the collector plant in Japan and most of the clones have been unavailable in the US since our friend Barry Yinger closed his nursery, Asiatica. We already have 57 different clones growing in the garden and we’re waiting for many to get large enough to take cuttings.

We’re also continuing to expand our asarum selection, which have also been very difficult to find after the untimely demise of Asiatica. We continue to post photos as they flower on our Facebook page.

When we were putting together the website last month, we noticed that one of our plant records had been altered…probably by a slip of the finger. Somehow, our last catalog had listed Aster ‘Purple Dome’ as being a shade plant. This is incorrect, and if you purchased it expecting it to be a shade plant, we owe you a refund. If this includes you, please let us know by emailing us at Very sorry for the error.

A reader from Delaware wrote to ask about fall fertilization of palm trees and whether this was a good thing or not. Visitors to Open House know that we feel very strongly about the use of chemical fertilizers in the garden, which in our opinion is an absolute no-no. Just as chemical fertilizers make plants get larger, so do candy bars make people get larger…just not healthier. Save your chemical fertilizers for your container grown plants. We strongly recommend that only organic fertilizers be applied to the soil, which will benefit the microbes (the tiny living things that you can’t see), which in turn benefit the plants. Any publication which recommends the use of chemical fertilizers in the soil demonstrates a lack of understanding about soil microbes and how natural systems function. Stop and think, who fertilizes all the natural areas around your home? We’re not saying that soil nutritional balance isn’t important…quite the opposite. Just forget all that information you’ve read about what plant likes what fertilizer and the advice that you should only fertilize xxx time of year…it’s all a moot point with organics. Your plants, your microbes, and the waterways nearby will thank you. If you’d like to read more, I strongly recommend the book, “Teaming with Microbes” by Jeff Lowenfels.

Last month’s release of the Plant Hardiness Zone Map caused quite a stir. I’ve even received a few notes from other mail order nurseries who were irate that they would now have to change all of their hardiness zone designations. As I subsequently explained, they would only need to change their zones if they had used the old map incorrectly. There are two ways to determine the hardiness zone for a particular plant…either by the temperature that the plant has survived sans snow cover (correct way) or the location at which the plant survives (incorrect way). These two methods are why you see so much variation in the listed hardiness zones of various plants. If you rate plants by where they survive, you might assume that Musa basjoo is hardy in Zone 5, as you often see it listed. When you check the temperature data, however, you will find that a Musa basjoo in Connecticut which has survived several years, did so because the temperature didn’t drop below 0 degrees F, which is a Zone 7a temperature. To have a Musa basjoo survive -20 degrees F is a whole different matter. As to the comment about why the USDA changed the zones, they didn’t. The new map is simply a reflection of actual temperature data…not someone’s desire to “change zones”. If you still haven’t had enough, the climate scientists who actually analyzed the data and created the map have published a technical paper on the project.

While we’re talking weather, we wrote quite a bit last year about the terrible drought in Texas and Oklahoma, which continues in many parts of those states. New data from the Texas Forest Service shows that up to 500,000,000 (yes, that’s half a billion) trees with a 5″ caliper have already died due to the drought. This equates to 10% of the trees in the entire state of Texas. Parts of Texas are starting to look like the Atacama desert in Chile, which if you don’t know, hasn’t had any measurable precipitation in recorded history. Now, that’s dry! Perhaps Texas needs to set up a fog capture system. If you haven’t heard of these, the idea is pretty cool. Mesh nets are hung in areas that are prone to fog, capturing moist air and turning it into captured water. Of course, you will need to be in an area that gets fog or at least some very serious clouds.

The world of mail order nurseries suffered another hit this month with the bankruptcy of K. Van Bourgondien, which first filed for Chapter 11 protection on January 26 along with its garden center division, Simple Pleasures Flowerbulbs and its Canadian division, J. Onderwater. The combined companies listed assets of $500,000 and debts of 12 million dollars. Hmmm…could be a problem. The company’s 2004 line of credit with Wachovia/Wells Fargo expired in 2011 and we know how banks love to loan money to nurseries right now. An investor stepped in with a loan of 1.1 million dollars to pay off the bank, but the company then defaulted on this loan also. It remains unclear at this time if the company can find a way to remain viable…fingers crossed.

In case you missed it, lawn and garden giant, Scotts Miracle-Gro Co. has agreed to plead guilty (if approved by the judge) and pay a fine of $4.5 million to settle a couple of 2008 cases. The first case was for selling 75 million units of wild birdseed that were coated with insecticides Storcide II and Actellic 5E, which killed the birds that ate the seed. According to court records, Scotts continued to sell the seed after they were warned by their own internal chemist and ornithologist. The second incident was for selling pesticides with falsified EPA Registration numbers…OOPS! Part of the fine will go to groups that protect birds. Scotts has also recently sold off its professional division, which has been renamed Everris.

We hope your winter winds down on a good note and your garden gets off to a great 2012 start. In the meantime, we’ll see you on Facebook with more plant pictures and notes from the garden.


2012 Plant Delights Nursery February Newsletter

It is with great sadness that I report my wife and Plant Delights Nursery co-owner, Michelle Avent, 55, passed away after a brave four year battle with a very aggressive form of metastatic breast cancer. Michelle was a Raleigh native who attended Needham Broughton High School, followed by a brief and chilly stint at Appalachian State University before enrolling in NC State University. Michelle and I attended junior high together, but only met and began dating in high school, marrying four years later on December 30, 1977…just in time to follow NCSU to the 1977 Peach Bowl in Atlanta for our honeymoon.

Michelle and I were fortunate to work together for eleven years at our part time job at the Mission Valley Cinema near NC State University. To support our family further, Michelle dropped out of NC State to work full time, first at the NCSU Genetics Lab, and later at the NCSU Student Supply Store. Her career next led her to the Instrument Society of America, where she remained until 1993, when she became the first full-time employee of our fledgling mail order nursery, Plant Delights.

Michelle continued her college work by taking evening classes, finally completing her Bachelors degree in communications from NCSU in 1996. The late Dr. J.C. Raulston was so inspired by Michelle’s persistence that he joined her in her final college class, the Study of Film History, and subsequently presented her with a specially made original painting to celebrate her achievement…just prior to his untimely death only a few weeks later.

As newlyweds, we supplemented our regular jobs by cleaning out garages and attics and selling these wares at the local flea market, along with plants we raised in our small home greenhouse. Our venture evolved as we expanded our growing operation into a neighbor’s small back lot and moved our plant sales to our home driveway. Michelle wasn’t a plant person and was initially incredulous at the idea that people would buy plants through the mail. Despite her reservations, she charged ahead with setting up our business systems…between plant potting and watering. It was Michelle’s knowledge of computers, office organizational system skills, and publishing that was responsible for Plant Delights Nursery getting off to such a great start.

Michelle’s big smile and engaging personality led her to instantly become friends with most everyone she met, whether on our travels, supervising employees, or working the cashier desk at our nursery Open House.

As a wife, Michelle was my soulmate, my sounding board, my best friend, and the balance in a life where obsession could easily get out of hand. I and the Plant Delights staff will continue Michelle’s dream, building on the great foundation she left for us. On Michelle’s behalf, I’d like to thank each and everyone of you for your continued support of our venture and I hope those of you who knew Michelle will treasure her memory through conversations you’ve had with her as well as through the PDN plants in your garden.

Michelle is survived by her husband, Tony, four brothers; W. Chris Morgan of Raleigh and his wife Kay, J.P. (Jay) Morgan of Garner, twin brother Mike E. Morgan of Missouri and Roger N. Morgan of Elizabeth City, NC; nieces Amanda English and husband Matthew of Wallace, NC, Laura Morgan of Garner, Carly and Kelly Morgan of Scottsdale, AZ, Hilary Morgan of Elizabeth City, NC; nephews Daniel Morgan and wife Tina and daughter Mary Beth of Willow Springs, Gregory and wife Angela of Wichita Falls, TX, and Kyle Morgan of Scottsdale, AZ; cousin Karen Clevenger of Holly Springs; and four cats, Ruby, Pearl, Zirconia, and Henry, all of the home. Michelle was preceeded in death by her father, J.P. Morgan, mother Mary Jo Holder Morgan, and two cats, Mystic and Diamond.

Our heartfelt thanks to Dr. Mark Graham and the wonderful staff of Waverly Hematology/Oncology for their great work treating Michelle. In lieu of flowers, donations can be sent to The V-Foundation for Cancer Research, The Susan B. Komen Foundation, Hospice of Wake County or the JC Raulston Arboretum. I hope you will all join me in the effort to wipe out breast cancer in our lifetime. Later this year, we will announce a cancer shirt design to help fund the fight…more in a later newsletter.

Visitation with the family will be on Tuesday, February 14, from 6-8pm at Bryan Lee Funeral Home, 1200 Benson Road, Garner, NC 27529 (phone 919.772.8225). We hope you will post your comments and thoughts on our Facebook page.


2012 Plant Delights Nursery January Newsletter

Greetings and a belated Happy New Year from Plant Delights. We’ve just added several new plants to the website. Many are very special plants available only in limited quantities, so if you see something that looks interesting to you, don’t wait too long.

So far, it’s been a very mild winter here at Plant Delights and also across much of the country. Although we dipped to 17 degrees F once, that night and one other constitute our only nights below 20 degrees F all winter. A mild winter like this has several interesting effects on garden plants. Plants from warm climates which don’t have a high chill requirement (the number of hours under 40 degrees F required to break dormancy) will often sprout too early, needing only a small window of good weather to start growing. Sprouting early isn’t a problem as long as we don’t have a crazy temperature drop the remainder of the winter. Because of the mild temperatures, we’ve had our best flowering season ever for plants like the winter flowering Iris unguicularis.

One of the other effects is that the lack of winter cold may adversely affect the flowering of plants like peonies that require a high number of chilling hours for good flower development. Fortunately many of these plants requiring high chilling hours won’t sprout early as we see when they get their required cooling needs met early in the winter and are ready to go with only a couple of days of spring warmth. I’m expecting one of our best magnolia seasons in years if nothing crazy happens from now until spring.

Speaking of weather, the big news for gardeners this month is the release of the new official USDA Plant Hardiness Map. Ever since a botched map effort by the late Dr. Marc Cathey in 2003 (known as the American Horticulture Society version), the USDA has been working on a much improved hardiness map update. On August 18, 2004, USDA formed a technical review committee of 23 people including yours truly. The group consisted of nurserymen, crop researchers, foresters, climatologists, and others. The committee had a number of meetings at the USDA headquarters in Maryland and many subsequent meetings by phone.

The details of the map making process was quite fascinating. The first few meetings were spent hashing out what we wanted in the map. Several of us had pushed for a 30-year map, which would more closely echo short term natural temperature fluctuations, and the USDA agreed. Another of my requests to create an a, b, c, and d breakdown for each numbered zone was delayed until the future.

We also wanted a map that would allow more temperature interpolations between weather stations, which would take into account things like lake and mountain effects which were missing in the previous map. The process then progressed to the USDA to gather the data and create the map with their in-house staff. A complication arose when their in-house algorithm specialist was commandeered by the Department of Defense and sent to Afghanistan to run algorithms to locate Osama bin Laden. During this time, the specialist would join us via conference call from a safe place in Afghanistan…I’m not making this up.

After two years, the map was supposedly ready as the committee members gathered in Maryland for the unveiling. We were never privy to exactly what went wrong, but the map we saw showed all of the US getting colder, which was certainly not the case. My best guess is that someone reversed all the data. After this debacle, the map trail went cold for nearly a year, during which time the USDA decided in 2007 not to complete the map in-house, but instead to outsource the project to the PRISM (Parameter-elevation Regressions on Independent Slopes Model) Climate Group at Oregon State.

After PRISM completed their initial map, we were shown a draft map via phone conference. The rest of the year was spent going back and forth about areas which the review team felt were not zoned correctly. During this time, more data sites were added to those regions of concern, either from Canadian, Mexican, or military data. Finally in April 2008, the technical review team finished their work and the map was back in the lap of the USDA for publication.  The subsequent 3 years and 9 months were spent by USDA trying to figure out what colors to make the zones and then finding a website that could host the map without crashing like their previously launched food pyramid…I’m not making this up. Whoever said that the Federal Government moves slowly was spot on…hence the reason the most recent climatic data in the map is 6 years old.

So, let’s talk about the map. On the map website, there is a static version and an interactive version. I like the interactive map the best. Plant Delights is located at zip code 27603, so enter our zip code and this will bring up the map where we are located. You will notice that most of the area is olive (Zone 7b), with a few blocks of light orange (Zone 8a) nearby. Everywhere you click on this map, you can see the longitude and latitude, along with the hardiness zone and the average minimum winter temperature for the 30 year period of 1976-2005. By clicking around the map where we are located, you will see that all areas inside the orange blocks have an average minium winter temperature above 10 degrees F, making them Zone 8a. If you click anywhere that has an olive color, you are now in Zone 7b and the average minimum winter temperature will be below 10 degrees F. With these maps, you can pick out the warm spot in a neighborhood before purchasing your new house.

I hope you’ll enjoy the new map, and would like to thank everyone with the Department of Agriculture and all the other committee members for their hard work on this project. If you’d like to read more about the history of the hardiness maps, check out our online article.

While we’re talking about the USDA, I want to once again mention one of their divisions, the US National Arboretum, which became embroiled in a bit of controversy last year when a few members of the Arboretum staff decided to eliminate several of their significant plant collections. While public outcry salvaged those collections, the Arboretum is now seeking input from the public about the direction that it should take in the future. Although it’s not very well written as a questionnaire, I hope you’ll take time to complete the following survey.

In other plant news, the Perennial Plant Association has announced that Polygonatum odoratum ‘Variegatum’ has been selected as the 2013 Perennial Plant of the Year…congratulations! Here you can find the list of current and past winners of this prestigious award.

It’s quite exciting when a plant you find in the wild turns out to be a new species, especially in your own state. You can imagine our excitement when we heard last month of the publication of a new wild ginger, Asarum sorriei…unfortunately published using the antiquated genus name, Hexastylis. In 1999, I was botanizing in Moore County, NC and stopped at a site that consisted of a low area with sarracenia (pitcher plants) and zigadenus (death camash). The low area quickly transitioned into a drier area with amsonia…all within a few hundred feet. It was a fascinating site, but the one plant that seemed most out of place was an asarum that grew in sphagnum moss among the pitcher plants in full sun. The flowers and foliage were quite similar to Asarum minor, but the habitat was quite un-minor like. It seemed obvious that this find was either a new species or at least an ecotypical variant of Asarum minor. Shortly thereafter, I passed along the info to Alan Weakley, author of the “Flora of the Carolinas and Virginia.” According to the publication, others also noticed the plant around 2004, and then finally last month the ginger was christened as a new species, Asarum sorriei. We look forward to getting this into cultivation as soon as possible. You can read much more about this in the scientific publication “Phytoneuron.”

We are very pleased to announce that the Hardy Plant Society, based in Pennsylvania, is planning a road trip to see gardens in the Raleigh area this spring, including Plant Delights. This will be a group of very serious plant nerds, so if you’d like to join the fun, read on. The 4-day tour departs from Downingtown, PA with a stop at the Lewis B. Ginter Botanical Garden in Richmond VA for lunch and a garden tour. Then on to Raleigh where you will visit a number of private gardens in addition to the JC Raulston Arboretum. Included is a tour of Plant Delights Nursery plus the chance to shop for special finds for your own garden. Cost: $685 (double occupancy, $240 additional for single supplement) includes motor coach transportation, driver tip, all breakfasts and lunches, admission to the Lewis B. Ginter Botanical Garden, Wine & Cheese social, and room. You will be staying at the downtown Raleigh Sheraton, a great location for walking to nearby restaurants for evening meals. The trip registration form will be posted on the HPS website, Spaces are limited and on a first-come basis. For any questions or a form, contact Janice Thomas: or 610-458-9794.

Finally, in the “in case you missed it” file this month, researchers from UCLA have identified how a component of the hardy raisin tree (Hovenia dulcis), called dihydromyricentin works as an anti-hangover treatment by counteracting acute alcohol intoxication. Research showed that the dihydromyricetin blocked the action of alcohol on the brain neurons, which also reduced the desire to drink…human clinical trials are next. This could do wonders for the sale of the formerly obscure Hovenia tree.

Remember that the deadline to enter our Top 25 contest is nearly here. If you’d like the chance to win a $250 gift certificate to Plant Delights, be sure to submit your entry here.

We’ve had an order snafu and one of our orders only has a new customer’s name associated with it, John F. Wichter III. If this is you, please contact us with your shipping address so we can send you your order. Thanks!

Between e-newsletters, keep up with the goings on, cool plants and plant stories we share on our Facebook page.  See you there!


2011 Plant Delights Nursery December Newsletter

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all of our extended PDN family. As we wrap up the year and get the new catalog ready to go in the mail and online (Dec 31), we want to remind everyone that this is the last week to buy Plant Delights gift certificates as Christmas presents for your gardening friends and family. You can order our gift certificates online and we’ll get them right in the mail or give us a call at 919.772.4794.

We’d like to congratulate the 2011 Winner of the Top 25 contest, Amy Hill of Archdale, North Carolina. Amy is our first NC winner in several years and takes home a $250 Plant Delights gift certificate for the best score in predicting the top 25 best sellers for 2011. If you’d like enter the contest for 2012, all you have to do is go the contest page on our website, fill in your form and badda bing, badda boom…you’re done.  To get started, see which plants topped the sales list last year.

December was a sad month for the horticulture world with the passing of our friend, Bob Stewart of Michigan’s Arrowhead Alpines mail order nursery, who lost a long battle with colon cancer. Bob and his wife Brigitta started their nursery in 1991 and quickly became the “go to” source for rare and unusual alpine plants and much more. I find most mail order nursery owners to be fascinating conversationalists, and none more so than Bob (primarily to the overwhelming prevalence of ADD in the group). Conversations with Bob might start with primulas and before you knew it, Bob had shifted to the inner most details of nuclear fusion. While Bob and I shared a passion for plants, we diverged on our feelings about Master Gardeners. While we both agreed that the name “Master Gardeners” was probably not the best choice, Bob held Master Gardeners in great disdain. Bob’s tolerance of those promoting themselves as knowledgeable while not understanding much more than the basics of horticulture, was not particularly high. This gruff persona that emanated strongly through his catalog writing, however, was a stark contrast to the passionate and personable Bob you would met in person. Bob is survived by his wife Brigitta, who will continue to run the nursery, and his son Ender, whose passion for computers equals Bob’s passion for plants. Our friend, Allen Bush, wrote a wonderful article about Bob only a few months before his death. Allen captured Bob so well, I encourage you to read his article. We’ll all miss you but never forget you, my friend.

Another dear friend who lost a very sudden battle with cancer this month was Wolfgang Oehme, 82, of Oehme and Van Sweeden Landscape Architects. Wolfgang came to the US as a young man and wound up leaving a huge mark on the American landscape. In addition to designing gardens around the world, Wolfgang was a true trendsetter in the world of landscape architecture. His concept of the New American Garden took the world by storm in the 1970s, with the use of large drifts of plants in a naturalistic style. Wolfgang, or “Wolfi” as he was known to his friends, was renowned for a few signature plants whose use he championed in virtually all of his designs. This short list included Miscanthus sinensis, Fargesia clumping bamboo, Pennisetum alopecuroides, Perovskia atriplicifolia, Rudbeckia ‘Goldsturm’, Panicum virgatum, and Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’.

Even with his amazing body of work, it was his quirky behavior that made people love Wolfi. I’ve never know anyone else to tout their work as much as Wolfi, but he did so with such a child-like excitement that it didn’t come off as bragging. I had the pleasure (make that unique experience) of staying in Wolfi’s home a few times over the years…yielding experiences I’ll never forget. Many people might think that Wolfi’s fetish for nude swimming in his back yard pool, hidden from the neighbors only by a few large clumps of miscanthus, would be unusual but for Wolfi, that fell into the range of normal behavior. After late dinners, Wolfi would drive me around Baltimore County looking at his designs, often stopping his car in the middle of four lanes of traffic to get out to inspect or even weed a particularly nice planting of perennials. Shining a flashlight in Baltimore County clients yards after midnight to see 20-year-old clumps of fargesias didn’t seem strange at all to Wolfi, while all I could do was think of where to buy a bulletproof vest. Then there were the nights at the Towson County courthouse…

As we strolled around the courthouse, well after midnight, Wolfi would suddenly decide that a planting of coreopsis needed to be moved to a new location, so we would pull the plants from their amended beds barehanded and move them to another bed where Wolfi thought they fit better. Wolfi was oblivious to the police cars speeding back and forth along the streets just feet away from our exploits. I, on the other hand, was keenly aware of everyone around us and how we seemed to be invisible…like being with the Keyser Soze of horticulture. It soon became obvious that this was part of Wolfi’s nightly routine.

As the story goes, the landscape design contract for the courthouse was outsourced to an azalea-loving landscape architect in Texas, which caused Wolfi great consternation. Instead of complaining, Wolfi called the architect and had them rework their plan based on his choice of plants. Wolfi then adopted the completed garden, sans any authority, and made it his own playground. Eventually the county government realized his interest and put him in charge of their landscape advisory committee.

Wolfgang will be long remembered through his books, Bold Romantic Gardens (1990), and the German language Zwischen Gartengrasern (2008). Wolfgang worked for a variety of clients in downtown Washington DC and even designed Oprah Winfrey’s garden in Chicago. Wolfi’s work has been featured in an array of books, most recently, Ornamental Grasses: Wolfgang Oehme and the New American Garden by Stefan Leppert (2009). I could go on with more Wolfi stories, but I’ll suffice to say that Wolfgang Oehme was a true genius who ate, slept, and breathed plants, and whose influence on our landscapes will live on for generations to come…so long, my friend.

The horticulture world lost yet another larger-than-life figure recently with the passing of Dr. John A. A. Thomson on November 28, just 5 days after his 100th birthday. Many of you will recognize the name from the hokey SUPERthrive® advertisements. Dr. Thomson, a PhD biochemist, invented SUPERthrive® in 1939 and subsequently marketed it though his company, the Vitamin Institute. I never met Dr. Thomson in person, but can only imagine he must have been an interesting fellow.

Thomson’s ads always seemed a bit over the top, not to mention overly egotistical. The in-your-face claims, combined with his 1940s ad style just seemed out of touch with the modern day. One of my favorite claims was that Super Thrive was used during WWII to transplant mature trees to camouflage the troops. Although I’ve received a number of samples, I never got around to giving them a try…how about you? Join us on our Facebook page and share your SUPERthrive® stories. It will be interesting to see if the marketing changes with Dr. Thomson’s passing. Dr. Thomson was recognized for his contributions to horticulture by receiving The Lifetime Achievement Award from the Lawn & Garden Marketing & Distribution Association in 2006, and The Sustainable Environmental Education’s Environmental Awareness Award in 2009.

On a more regional note, one of the top plantsmen in the Memphis, Tennessee region, Plato Touliatos, passed away of cardiac arrest after a two year battle with prostate cancer. Plato Touliatos was much more than the owner of Trees by Touliatos/Nature Center and Arboretum for 50 years…he was a plantsman, businessman, and philosopher whose life was spent teaching people about the natural world. In 2009, Plato and his wife Sarah were inducted into the Tennessee Nursery and Landscape Association Hall of Fame…well deserved! Every time I found myself in Memphis, Plato was always at the top of my list of people to visit…you will be sorely missed, my friend.

Finally, the strangest of the plantsmen to pass away this month has to be North Korea’s Kim Jong Il…yes, you heard me right. The story goes back several years, when the late Dutch plant breeder Kees Sahin, who was friend of Kim’s dad, was visiting North Korea with Japanese plant breeder Motoderu Kamo. Kamo gave the elder Kim one his begonia hybrids, which was subsequently named Begonia ‘Kimjongilia’ for Kim Jong Il’s 46th birthday. Kim was so taken with the begonia, that he declared begonias the National Flower of North Korea. After supplying Kim with more begonia genetics, Kim Jong Il began what would become the largest begonia breeding project in the world. According to Kees, Kim would fly over his begonia fields in his helicopter and make his final selections from the air. At the time of Kim Jung Il’s death, there were sprawling greenhouse complexes all across North Korea, all for the purpose of housing Kim’s massive begonia collection. For international begonia shows, Kim would fly his prize begonia hybrids to the show with one person holding each begonia in the back of a cargo plane, to keep from damaging the plants. Also, according to Kees, Kim’s head begonia breeder became so renowned internationally, that Kim had him killed for upstaging the Dear Leader. As Dave Barry liked to say…I am not making this up!

I don’t know how many of you watch golf tournaments, but if you were watching the Chevron World Challenge a few weeks ago and enjoying the futility as golfers tried to cope with the high winds as they played in Southern California, those same winds were causing horrific devastation to the nearby horticulture community. On November 30, these severe tornado-like winds swept through Pasadena, California and left a devastated Huntington Botanic Garden in their wake. Although the garden buildings fared okay, the gardens lost an estimated 150 significant trees and other plants. According to reports, the Jungle garden is even more of a jungle and the subtropical hill, the North Vista, and the Camellia garden were heavily damaged. The Desert Garden fared reasonably well, with only significant damage toward the north end where limbs and plant debris abound. You can imagine what it’s like to clean up leaf and limb debris in a densely planted cactus garden…on second thought…I bet you can’t.  Curator Gary Lyons has asked for volunteers to help with the clean up. You can email him or the volunteer coordinator Mikki Heydorff.

In a final bit of news that you’ll need to know before starting to plan your spring garden, the color of the year for 2012 is Tangerine Tango. Yes, The Pantone Color Institute, the purveyors of all things color, have named Tangerine Tango as the color of the year for 2012. Folks from garden designers to fashion designers to paint manufacturers use Pantone’s color predictions in their designs. According to the folks at Pantone, “There’s a lot of homework that goes into it. But it’s also, what is it that people are needing? There are a lot of concerns out there and serious issues we are facing. Color, from a psychological standpoint, can be uplifting. We arrived at this particular orange because it’s hopeful and optimistic and also has sophistication.” I don’t know about you, but it sounds like the Pantone folks take themselves way too seriously!

Once again, we can’t thank you enough for your patronage during 2011! We’ve enjoyed our new foray on Facebook where we can share our plant passion with you as well as seeing and hearing about your successes. We hope to meet more of you on Facebook during the upcoming year as we continue to share photos of our favorite plants and gardening tips We’ll chat again in 2012! Thanks!