They Came, They Listened, They Learned, They shared

We’ve just wrapped up the 2022 Southeastern Plant Symposium in Raleigh, and were thrilled to have nearly 200 attendees. It was great to be back in person after two years of remote Zooming. The symposium is co-sponsored by the JC Raulston Arboretum and Juniper Level Botanic Garden, with all proceeds split between the two institutions (JCRA operations and the JLBG endowment).

Attendees were entertained and enlightened by fourteen of the top horticultural authorities in the country/world. This years symposium was focused on perennials, 2023 will be focused on woody plants (trees/shrubs), and 2024 will focus on geophytes (bulbs, tubers, etc.) as part of our three year rotation.

We hope you’ll join us for 2023, and mark June 9, 10 on your calendar. Not only are the speakers excellent, but the symposium includes a rare plant auction, which this year, offered over 430 plants, most of which aren’t available anywhere else in the world.

Mark Weathington, Director JC Raulston Arboretum
SPS lecture room
SPS speaker line-up
SPS attendees taking a break..speaker Adam Black on left
A few of the amazing SPS auction plants

Calling all Plant Nerds

Just over a month remains before the 2022 Southeastern Plant Symposium kicks off in Raleigh at the Sheraton Hotel, downtown. This joint venture between JLBG/Plant Delights and the JC Raulston Arboretum brings together the top horticultural speakers from around the world to regale attendees with tales of their favorite new plants. Each symposium rotates a focus on either on woody plants, perennials, or geophytes. The 2022 symposium is perennials focused.

The dates are Friday, June 10 and Saturday June 11. Both the JC Raulston Arboretum and Juniper Level Botanic Garden/Plant Delights will be open for visitors on the Thursday prior and the Sunday morning after the symposium.

A few of the amazing speakers include:

Leftherios Dariotis – If you’re a sports fan, you’ve heard the nickname “Greek Freak” applied to NBA star, Giannis Antetokounmpo. Well, Leftherios (aka: Liberto Dario) is to horticulture, what Giannis is to basketball…a true superstar. Leftherios will travel from his home in Greece to dazzle you with an array of little-known plants that thrive in hot, dry climates.

Eleftherios Dariotis

Dan Hinkley, founder of Heronswood and Windcliff, plant explorer extraordinaire, and recipient of the world’s top horticultural honors, will join us to share his latest botanical adventures and plants that have potential for our hot, humid climate. Dan bring a new perspective from having experienced 117 degrees F. in his Washington garden in 2021.

Dan Hinkley

Patrick McMillan is a NC native, who spent two decades as a professor at Clemson. While there, he hosted the Emmy Award winning PBS show, Expeditions with Patrick McMillan, as well as directing the SC Botanical Garden. After a 1.5 year stint as Director of Heronswood, he has returned to his roots in NC, and joined the staff of JLBG. Patrick is widely recognized for his incredible botanical knowledge. His new book, Wildflowers of South Carolina will hit bookshelves soon.

Patrick McMillan

Peter Zale is the Associate Director of Conservation, Plant Breeding and Collections at Pennsylvannia’s Longwood Gardens. Peter specializes in a number of plant groups that include hardy orchids and phlox. You can’t help but be amazed at Peter’s conservation and breeding work as well as his extensive knowledge of the natural world.

Peter Zale

Plantsman Adam Black is known worldwide for his botanical exploits, primarily focused on the state of Texas. Adam has spent years traversing every corner of Texas, both re-discovering long lost plants and finding new ones. Adam’s horticultural background gives him a unique take on which Texas native plants will have great garden value for gardeners in the southeast. Adam has recently moved to NC to take a job as an Assistant Curator at the Bartlett Arboretum. We guarantee you’ll meet more new plants than you ever thought possible.

Adam Black (l)

Kelly Norris is a true renaissance horticulturist. Growing up in a Midwest iris nursery propelled Kelly into the public horticultural arena. After a stint beefing up the collections at the Des Moines Botanic Garden, Kelly now splits his time between landscape design, writing, and extolling the virtues of new plants on QVC. Kelly is one of the new wave of great thinkers in our industry who understands the need for the fields of botany and horticulture to collaborate.

Kelly Norris

On Saturday, the pace picks up even more, with shorter, but intensively focused talks. The list of Saturday presenters include Mark Weathington, Director of the JC Raulston Arboretum will speak on his favorite new perennials. Ian Caton, founder of Wood Thrush Natives in Virginia will speak on Underused and Little-known Appalachian Natives. Hayes Jackson, Alabama Extension Agent and Director of The Longleaf Botanical Garden in Alabama will speak on Creating a Tropical Garden Feel in a Temperate Climate.

We are pleased to welcome Richard Hawke, Manager of the Perennial Trials at the Chicago Botanic Garden. Richard’s detailed cultivar evaluations are prized by gardeners throughout the country. Shannon Currey, Marketing Manager for Hoffman’s Nursery, will share her passion for sedges, while Adrienne Roethling, Director of the Paul Ciener Botanical Garden will discuss her favorite vines. Yours’ truly, Tony Avent, will share more than you ever thought possible about the genus Baptisia.

Did I mention the symposium includes the now world-famous rare plant auction, which has garnered International attention? The auction and symposium will be available both on-line and remote.

We are pleased to welcome Proven Winners ColorChoice Flowering Shrubs as a presenting sponsor for 2022. Additionally, Ball Seed is offering 10 student scholarships to attend the symposium. You can find out more about these and apply here.

Mark and I truly hope you will join us for this incredible perennials-focused symposium, back in person for the first time in three years. The Symposium is an important fundraiser for both the JC Raulston Arboretum as well as the Juniper Level Botanic Garden Endowment. Here is the link to register for the Symposium. We’ll see you in June!

The House of Plant Science

We recently attended the dedication the new Plant Science Building at NC State. This $160 million dollar facility will house high level plant research where interdisciplinary researchers will work together to solve high level plant concerns. I can only imagine being a student and being able to work in such an amazing facility. The top floor is a high-tech greenhouse.

NC State/JLBG Day of Giving

Wednesday, March 23, 2022 is the NC State University Day of Giving…a time for those who want to support activities at NC State. In our case, that means the endowment we are building to preserve Juniper Level Botanic Gardens. If you care about ensuring the gardens remain intact for future generations, please consider making a contribution to the endowment. You can do so at this link to the University Endowment Fund for JLBG.

For those who are relatively new to the gardens, here is a link to a historical timeline of the JLBG garden development.

You can find out more about the mission and future of the gardens here

Raisin’ Cain

I had a great visit recently with David Cain and Denny Werner. Most of you know Dr. Werner from his work at NC State, first as a peach breeder and later as the creator of a parade of amazing redbud hybrids.

David and Denny were both grad students together back at Michigan State. Dr. Cain went on to become a fruit breeder, and is the papa of the incredibly famous Cotton Candy grape. On the off chance you haven’t tried it, be sure to search for it at your local grocery store. David worked in academia and later the USDA, before embarking on his own venture, where he made several incredible fruit breeding breakthroughs.

I didn’t realize David is a long-time plant nerd and Plant Delights customer, and has recently moved from California to the East Coast for his next plant breeding adventure. We had a blast talking plant breeding and looking at a few of our crazy breeding projects at JLBG.

An Exciting New Expedition

Please join me in welcoming our newest JLBG team member, Dr. Patrick McMillan. I’ve known Patrick for 30 years, going back to his days as a student at UNC-Chapel Hill, and long before he became a legend in the plant world.

We’ve followed his amazing journey, most recently as Director of Heronswood Gardens in Washington. Prior to that, he was Director of the SC Botanical Garden and Professor of Environmental Sustainability at Clemson since 2000. Patrick was the Emmy Award winning host of the renown PBS series, Expeditions with Patrick McMillan. Patrick is a highly-respected botanist/naturalist, who has won far too many awards to mention, but we’ll let Patrick tell you a bit more about himself and why he decided to partner with JLBG.

My first experience with Juniper Level and Tony was sitting at the kitchen table in 1991, the inaugural year of Plant Delights Nursery, talking about Asarum and star-struck by Tony’s knowledge and passion that has continued to grow into one of the world’s premier gardens and nurseries. In those days I dreamed of the opportunity to work alongside such talented horticulturalists and intrepid explorers.

My love of plants and all things slithering, creeping, crawling, and flying came at a very early age. I can’t remember a time when my life wasn’t centered on them. Fast forward 31 years and I found myself sitting at the same table reminiscing about the past, marveling at how far JLBG has grown, and stirring excitement for the future. I am so enthusiastic about joining the staff at JLBG, learning from the lifetimes of incredible knowledge and skill that is assembled among the employees and sharing my own experience, passion, and knowledge to bolster the mission and the horticultural and conservation accomplishments of this magical place.

I’m probably best described as a plant nerd. I have never met a plant I didn’t love. Every plant has a story and each is connected to our lives and the lives of the biodiversity upon which we all depend. Much of my horticultural experience and focus in South Carolina and at Heronswood Garden in Kingston, Washington has been focused on generating and supporting insect, bird and other wildlife diversity in the home landscape.

My philosophy of natural community gardening and the generation of life is a fairly simple one based on filling every space with life – diversity generates diversity. My exploration of the plant world has taken me from pole to pole and over every continent except Australia. I was trained as a sedge taxonomist but my interests include anything with cells. I’ve described new species ranging from ragweeds to sedges and begonia.

I also believe strongly that our greatest gift is sharing knowledge and I have worked as a lifelong educator. You may also have seen me on your local PBS station, where for 15 years I wrote, hosted, and produced the series “Expeditions with Patrick McMillan” – distributed by American Public Television. Conservation, preservation and generation of life is at the core of my life’s mission and I can imagine no better place to be nested within than JLBG. I hope to meet you soon and share some hearty plant nerd conversation.

Open House Visitors

We truly love having garden visitors! We recently wrapped up our winter Open Nursery and Garden days, and will open in again in spring in late April/early May. It’s great to see folks get ideas both about plants they would like to try as well as garden design ideas. Because of exceptionally good weather most days this winter, the crowds were record-setting.

Open house is also like a giant horticultural family reunion. It’s actually surprising when folks don’t run into their gardening friends in the garden. We love seeing old friends, while meeting new ones. Below is George McLellan, a long time friend and avid plantsman from Virginia and member of the mid-Atlantic Rhododendron Society. On the left is Barbara Bullock, who recently retired from the US National Arboretum after 29 years of curating the garden’s azalea collection…here for her first visit.

Geroge McLellan (c), and Barbara Bullock (l)

The prize for the traveling the farthest distance this year goes to hosta nurseryman, Marco Fransen of Holland. I had the pleasure of visiting Marco’s nursery several years ago, so it was lovely to have the chance to chat. It was interesting to learn that Marco’s main customer base for new hosta introductions is both Russia and Ukraine. It would be safe to conclude that the current conflict in that region won’t be good for business, but our thoughts and prayers go out to everyone effected.

Marco Fransen

Remembering Rosenwald

I continue to be shocked how many people I speak with that have never heard about Rosenwald Schools. It’s truly puzzling that it manages to be overlooked in our American History classes. Last year we mentioned the renovations taking place at the Panther Branch Rosenwald School, just three doors north of Juniper Level Botanic Garden (JLBG). We promised to keep you updated, so here goes.

If you missed our original blog, here is a brief history of the partnership that produced the Rosenwald Schools. In the early part of the 20th century, Sears & Roebuck president, Julius Rosenwald (1862-1932) teamed up with renowned African American education leader, Booker T. Washington (1856-1915) of the Tuskegee Institute, to try and remedy the chronically underfunded, segregated education system for African American children.

Washington and Rosenwald worked together to fund construction of state-of-the-art middle schools for African American students around the country. Between 1913 and 1932, 5,350 schools (and associated structures) were constructed thanks to a matching grant program (1/3 Rosenwald funds, 1/3 local government funds, and 1/3 community funds) devised and set up by Rosenwald and Washington.

The Rosenwald schools were based on designs by the country’s first accredited black architect, Robert R. Taylor of the Tuskegee Institute. These plans were later standardized by Samuel Smith of the Rosenwald Foundation. Some Rosenwald schools accommodated as many as seven teachers, while others had only one. The schools, which were all conceived to also be used for community functions, were designed based on daylight considerations and the effect on the light on student eye strain. All schools have an east/west orientation, along with pale colored walls and expansive windows.

The recently renovated Panther Branch Rosenwald School

The 3,000 square foot Juniper Level/Panther Branch Rosenwald School, operated from 1926 until 1956, and is one of only sixty remaining Rosenwald Schools in existence. In their heyday, North Carolina had more Rosenwald Schools than any other state. Now that renovations are complete, the Rosenwald School is available for community events, and at night is used to tutor area students.

Juniper Level Missionary Baptist Church (JLMBC), which owns the Panther Branch Rosenwald School property, was first established in 1870 in a small log building, which continued to expand, culminating in the current main building, which was constructed circa 1920. Other adjacent structures were added later as the church grew.

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Juniper Level Missionary Baptist Church across the street, which owns the school property and headquarters the foundation that manages the restoration.

Visionary Pastor Jeff Robinson of JLMBC has graciously allowed us to become a partner in efforts to improve and strengthen the community of Juniper. In our case, this primarily involves landscape work around the schoolhouse.

Pastor Jeff Robinson in the Panther Branch Rosenwald School

In fall 2021, I was blessed wit the opportunity to attend a luncheon at the school with Mrs. Perry, below. Not only was Mrs. Perry, 92, a graduate of the Panther Branch Rosenwald School, but she went on to become a career school teacher. She shared amazing stories of the 200-300 students that attended the Rosenwald School, each walking from miles around. She talked about the amazing sense of community in the Juniper community, which didn’t suffer from the racial barriers that plagued many southern towns. She explained how the first student to school each morning was tasked with starting a fire in the pot-bellied stove that was the sole source of heat on cold mornings.

Mrs. Perry speaking at the Rosenwald School

JLMBC is also a Food Bank distribution site, so the first project for our staff was to build a community garden behind the Rosenwald School, where church members will grow their own organic produce to distribute. We enriched the soil with the same compost we use at JLBG, and worked with the church volunteers, who installed the deer fence.

Step two was the installation of a Magnolia grandiflora hedge between the cemetery behind the school and the adjacent fire station. Due to the narrow strip of land available, we used the naturally narrow selection Magnolia ‘Southern Charm’ (aka Teddy Bear magnolia).

Step 3 was installing foundation plants around the building, which will take a couple of years to fill in.

Plantings around the Rosenwald School

Step 4 will be the planting of Camellias and Azaleas on the newly built berm on the north side of the school to serve as a screen for the construction of Interstate 540..

New bed for highway screening

Step 5 is to build a nature park/picnic area in a wooded plot adjacent to the vegetable garden. When we began clearing the undergrowth, we found an amazing canopy of trees and a range of moisture regimens that would lend itself to becoming an area for the community to learn and enjoy.

Adjacent to the school, and along Sauls Road, were two large oaks, one red oak, and one live oak. With 54″ diameter trunks, both likely were 100-150 years old, probably dating to the founding of Panther Branch and the construction of JLMBC. Sadly, crews working on the construction of the nearby I-540 decided both should be removed, despite not being anywhere near the highway. Before we knew what was happening and could muscle any resistance, all that remained were two 12′ tall stumps.

Because these trees had great historical significance to both the church and school, we reached out for help in saving a slab from the live oak, which could be preserved and eventually dated. The folks at Bartlett Tree answered our call for help, and volunteered their crew to salvage a slab that we will now cure and prepare for display in the Rosenwald Historical Room. Hooray to Bartlett for their interest in this community project and willingness to help!

As we prepare for our winter open house, The church has agreed to open the Rosenwald School at 9109 Sauls Road for tours during our winter open house hours, which you can find here. Parking is available at the Church on the west side of Sauls Road, as well as the school on the east side of Sauls Road. We hope everyone will take time to stop by this important historical landmark and learn more about the amazing collaboration that created the Rosenwald Schools.

Plant Information…it’s all on the Internet…right?

It’s scary how many people rely on the Internet for all their plant knowledge. Sure, you can find some helpful information on-line, but so much of what is there is simply repeated from one writer to the next, without anyone who has actually grown the plants, checking it for accuracy.

More and more important books and journals are gradually getting scanned and will one day be available on-line, but there remains no substitute for a good library. Here at JLBG, we have just completed a construction project, which doubled the size of our reference library. Although, we have nothing compared with the country’s large, well-funded horticultural/botanical libraries, we feel that we have assembled an important reference collection for a botanical garden our size. We have been very fortunate over the last year to inherit two nice reference books collections, one with a focus on plant introductions and exploration, which now can be shelved.

Our library focus is on reference books like Floras, as well as books that go in depth on particular plant groups and genera. General landscape design books with no significant historical value are not within our focus.

The file cabinets in the photos include 40 years of plant articles, pulled from various journals and important plant magazines from around the world. We think most people today would be shocked at the extraordinarily high level of horticulture practiced and written about during the last few hundred years.

Additionally, email discussions by the worlds top plant experts from the early days of on-line communications are also preserved. Many of these experts are now deceased, but their plant knowledge and voices have been saved. All this information is filed by subject.

Also in our files are important plant catalogs, which are such an important historical record of what was being grown and sold in the past. I remember having lunch with the late English plantsman, Graham Stuart Thomas at his home, and the thing that he was most proud of was his extensive collection of significant plant catalogs.

So, if you run up on stacks of old catalogs, historical plant magazines, or plant reference books, don’t hesitate to check with us before sending them to the recycle bin.

It ain’t worth a thing if it ain’t got that bling!

Apologies for commandeering the famed Duke Ellington line, but it seems appropriate for the new Colocasia ‘Waikiki’.

Colocasia esculenta ‘Waikiki’

When we first met Hawaii’s John Cho in 2003, we knew some special elephant ears would be the result of our collaboration, but it was hard to imagine something like the seriously tricked-out Colocasia ‘Waikiki’. Almost every year, John, who has now retired, but is still actively breeding elephant ears, travels to JLBG to evaluate his new hybrids at our in-ground trials and make future introduction decisions. There are some seriously amazing new selections starting down the introduction pipeline.

Colocasia trials
Colocasia ‘Waikiki’
Colocasia ‘Wakiki’

Colocasia ‘Waikiki’ will be released from Plant Delights Nursery on January 1, so if you like this, mark you calendars and stay tuned to the website.

Blues Brother Bookends

Most garden visitors have never met our two indoor cats, but we couldn’t resist sharing this recent photo of Jake and Elwood posing as bookends. The Spinx statues ain’t got nothin on these guys. Both arrived a few years ago as adoptees after being found abandoned and thrown in a nearby river.

Furry JLBG visitor greeters

If you’ve been to visit JLBG, you’ve probably met some members of our welcoming committee. If not, it’s been a while since we introduced you to our furry-tailed staff. You can meet them during our Summer Open Nursery & Garden Days, July 16-18 & 23-25, 2021.

Jasper is our elder statesman, and has mastered the art of plopping down in the garden for a nap without disturbing tags or plants. Jasper needs a lot of rest, since he follows tours for hours through the garden, thinking he’s a dog.

Jasper

Henry adopted us from the home of a former neighbor. Of the three that you are most likely to encounter during a visit, Henry is the most aloof/standoffish of the three. Henry also seems to always be “on edge”, perhaps because Jasper is always looking to pounce on him. We’ve threatened to put him on kitty Prozac if he doesn’t learn how to lighten up and smile.

Henry

Kit Kat is a recent addition to our furry family and our only female feline. She loves a belly rub and will often be found by open house visitors on her back awaiting a willing set of hands. Kit Kat is the pudgiest of our three, having failed twice at Weight Watchers. We hope you’ll gently engage our greeters when you visit.

Kit Kat

Our most recent addition is Buddy, who was a stray that had been adopted by our neighbor, the late plantsman, Alan Galloway. Along with many of Alan’s plants, we also adopted Buddy. Buddy does a great job keeping Alan’s spirit alive in our garden, although he is the shiest of our felines.

Buddy

And then, there’s Foxy Lady, below. Foxy Lady just gave birth to four kits which live in a drain pipe here on site. Buddy leaves leftovers for her when he’s finished his evening meal. If you’re lucky enough to catch a glance, it will no doubt be a fleeting one.

Foxy Lady

Rare Plant Auction/Symposium

We’re just back from a four-day plant roundup of donations (from some of the regions top plantsmen/women) to the Southeastern Plant Symposium rare plant auction this weekend. So far, we have over 350 plants, many of which aren’t available anywhere else in the world. The Symposium, which is a fundraising event for the JC Raulston Arboretum and the JLBG Endowment @ NC State, is virtual this year, and begins Saturday morning, June 12. The on-line auction has already begun, and runs through Saturday afternoon. If you’d like to check out the auction treasures, you can do so here. Plants which are 1 gallon size and smaller may be shipped, but large sizes are only available to be picked up. You do not need to sign up for the Symposium to participate in the auction, but we’d encourage you to join us for some truly amazing speakers. You can register for the talks here.

The Highwaymen have arrived

We don’t mean to give you an earworm from Johnny Cash and friends, but we’re talking The Real Highwaymen of North Carolina. OMG…a must for a new reality show featuring Bubba, Butterbean, and the rest of the crew! I’ll bet these guy can give the Ice Road Truckers or the Deadliest Catch guys a run for their money.

For those who haven’t heard, the NC Department of Transportation has seized almost an acre of our farm for three lanes of the new Interstate 540 (Raleigh outer loop). I wish I could say it was a surprise, but we have been in the preserved highway corridor for decades, although we really thought those in charge would realize that the 35 year old route was severely outdated. If politics hadn’t played an oversized role, the highway, in our humble opinion, should have been relocate much farther south.

Since a new route wasn’t chosen, land clearing began this week on the far east section of JLBG. Thank goodness we spent countless hours during the last year relocating plant material and building a seriously large noise/pollution mitigation berm, which is now planted with a variety of rare evergreens.

This week was our first experience with a feller-buncher machine. To say this behemoth exudes machismo, would be like calling COVID a bad cold. The crunching and buzzing of the giant saw and pincers would have only been more apropos if The Village People’s Macho Man had been blaring through the equipment speakers. We watched in astonishment as 3-4 mature trees at a time were plucked from the ground with these ease we pull small weeds from compost rich soil.

One of the next steps in the project will be changes in our entrance road, Sauls Road, which will be raised 12 feet in height to accommodate the highway traffic on the new Interstate underneath. Quite an adventure awaits. On the bright side, there will be some significant adjoining land parcels that should become available and have the potential for JLBG to greatly expand its land holdings. Fingers crossed as we learn about and navigate that process. Good thoughts are welcomed!

John Deere feller-buncher in operation
Our upper field research and trial area….before
…and after
goodbye trees…hello future road corridor

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.

Transitions


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
Retirements/Congratulations
There were several significant horticultural community retirements also in 2020.
In California, Jim Folsom retired at the end of 2020 as director of The Huntington Botanical Gardens, after a 36-year career at the garden. If you’ve visited The Huntington, then you are well aware of Jim’s amazing accomplishments. If you haven’t visited, put it on your garden bucket list. The Huntington Gardens have one of the most extensive plant collections in the US. It’s rare that I can go to a botanic garden and see many plants that I don’t know, but at The Huntington, I have spent three consecutive days in the garden and constantly find arrays of unknown plants. Jim is an Alabama native, who tells me that he and his wife look forward to more traveling in retirement.  Last year, Jim was honored by the American Hort Society with their highest honor, the L.H. Bailey Award. Congratulations!
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.
Welcome
January starts a new chapter in plant breeding at NC State as we welcome plant breeder, Dr. Hsuan Chen to the JC Raulston/NC State staff.  In addition to new plant breeding projects, Dr. Chen will take over much of the work of retired plant breeder and redbud specialist Dr. Dennis Werner. We look forward to more introductions from a plant pipeline full of great new plants.
Southeastern Plant Symposium
We had planned to welcome visitors to Raleigh for the 2nd annual Southeastern Plant Symposium last June before COVID intervened.  We pivoted and moved on-line to the Zoom platform along with everyone else and we were thrilled at the participation and comments. For 2021, we are still planning to hold our event in person in mid-June, with the realistic expectation that we may need to switch to on-line, depending on the COVID situation, but we will make that decision when time nears.  The symposium dates for 2021 are June 11 and 12. Below is the current speaker line up.

Speakers confirmed for 2021 include:
Dan Hinkley, Heronswood founder
Hans Hansen, plant breeder, Walters Gardens
Kelly Norris, Des Moines Botanic Garden
Hayes Jackson, Horticulture Director
Ian Caton, Wood Thrush Nursery
Dr. Aaron Floden, Missouri Botanic Gardens
Dr. Peter Zale, Longwood Gardens
Dr. Patrick McMillan, SC Botanic Gardens
Janet Draper, Smithsonian Institution
Richard Hawke, Chicago Botanic Garden
Mark Weathington, JC Raulston Arboretum
Tony Avent, Juniper Level Botanic Garden
 
Until next time…happy gardening
 
-tony

Loss of a Phalloid Legend

We are saddened to announce the passing (May 12) 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.

Alan was a native North Carolinian, who grew up on a farm in Brunswick County, NC, where he developed his love for plants and the natural world. After graduating from UNC-Wilmington with a Computer Science degree, and working for his alma mater for two years, he made the move two hours west to Raleigh. There, Alan worked at NC State University in IT administration and management for 30 years, until retiring in Fall 2018 as Director of IT Services.

Starting in 1999, Alan would save up his vacation time from his day job at NC State, and spend 3-4 weeks each fall, trekking through remote regions of the world where he felt there were still undiscovered aroid species to find, document, and get into cultivation. From 1999 to 2018, he managed 21 botanical expeditions around the world, that included the countries/regions of Cambodia, Crete, Hong Kong, Laos, Mallorca, Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Alan routinely risked life and limb on his travels, whether it was getting attacked by a pit viper in Thailand, barely missing a land mine in Cambodia, or tumbling down a mountain and almost losing a leg in Laos.

I had the pleasure of botanizing in Crete, Thailand and Vietnam with Alan, which was an amazing experience, although not for the faint of heart. Alan was a tireless force of nature, but was not one to suffer what he viewed as stupidity or laziness. Although he was very respectful of people from all walks of life, he also regularly burned bridges to those whom he found incapable of meeting his meticulously high standards.

Alan was botanically self-taught, but his obsessive compulsion led him to become one of the worlds’ leading experts on tuberous aroids, specializing in the genera Amorphophallus and Typhonium. To date Alan is credited with the discovery of 30 new plant species (see list below). He was working on describing several more plants from his travels at the time of his death.

Not only did Alan’s botanical expeditions result in new species, but also new horticultural cultivars of known species. Two of the most popular of these were Leucocasia (Colocasia) ‘Thailand Giant’ (with Petra Schmidt), and L. ‘Laosy Giant’.

As a scientist, Alan was both meticulous and obsessive. It wasn’t enough for him to observe a new plant in the field, but he felt he could learn far more growing it in cultivation. He would often work through the night in his home research greenhouse studying plants and making crosses, so he could observe seed set and determine other close relatives.

Alan was overly generous with his knowledge, believing that sharing was necessary for the benefit of both current and future generations of plant scientists. Without his expert understanding of crossbreeding tuberous aroids, we would never have been able to have such incredible success in our own aroid breeding program. Seedlings from his crosses were then grown out and observed, often resulting in a number of special clonal selections.

After his tuberous aroids went dormant each year, all tubers were lifted from their containers, inventoried, and carefully cleaned for photography and further study. Visiting his greenhouse during tuber season was quite extraordinary.

In his amazing Raleigh home garden and greenhouse, Alan maintained the world’s largest species collection of Amorphophallus and Typhonium, including 2 plants named in his honor; Amorphophallus gallowayi and Typhonium gallowayi. Alan’s discoveries are now grown in the finest botanical gardens and aroid research collections around the world.

After returning from what proved to be his last expedition in Fall 2018, he suffered from a loss of energy, which he attributed to picking up a parasite on the trip. It took almost eight months for area doctors to finally diagnose his malaise as terminal late stage bone cancer, during which time Alan had already made plans and purchased tickets for his next expedition. I should add that he made his travel plans after being run over by a texting pickup truck driver, and drug under the truck for 100 feet through the parking lot of the nearby Lowes Home Improvement, which ruined his kidney function.

Alan was certain, albeit too late, that his cancer came from a lifetime addiction to cigarettes, which he was never able to overcome. Over the last 18 months, it’s been difficult for those of us who knew Alan to watch him lose the vitality and unparalleled work ethic that had been his trademark. Despite his loss of physical ability, his trademark independent/stubborn nature would still not allow him to even accept help driving himself to chemo infusions and blood transfusions, which he did until he passed away. Alan was also never one to complain or bemoan his circumstances, only continuing to accomplish as much as possible in the time he had remaining.

After the initial shock of his diagnosis, Alan systematically began distributing massive amounts of his ex-situ conservation aroid collection to gardens and gardeners around the world, since he also believed that sharing is the most effective means of plant conservation.

One of his hybrids that Alan had shared and asked us to keep a special eye on was his cross of Amorphophallus kachinensis x konjac. We talked with him last week and shared that the first flower was almost open, and he was so excited to see his baby for the first time, but by the time it opened early this week, it was too late. So, here is the photo of his new cross, seen for the first time that would have made him so proud.

Alan Galloway new plant species discoveries:

Amorphophallus allenii (2019 – Thailand)

Amorphophallus acruspadix (2012 – Laos)

Amorphophallus barbatus (2015 – Laos)

Amorphophallus bolikhamxayensis (2012 – Laos)

Amorphophallus brevipetiolatus (2012 – Laos)

Amorphophallus claudelii (2016 – Laos)

Amorphophallus crinitus (2019 – Vietnam)

Amorphophallus crispifolius (2012 – Laos)

Amorphophallus croatii (2011 – Laos)

Amorphophallus ferruginosus (2012 – Laos)

Amorphophallus gallowayi (2006 – Laos)

Amorphophallus khammouanensis (2015 – Laos)

Amorphophallus malkmus-husseinii (2019 – Laos)

Amorphophallus myosuroides (2007 – Laos)

Amorphophallus ongsakulii (2006 – Laos)

Amorphophallus prolificus (2006 – Thailand)

Amorphophallus reflexus (2006 – Thailand)

Amorphophallus schmidtiae (2006 – Laos)

Amorphophallus serrulatus (2006 – Thailand)

Amorphophallus umbrinus (2019 – Vietnam)

Amorphophallus villosus (2019 – Vietnam)

Typhonium attapeuensis

Typhonium conchiforme (2005 – Thailand)

Typhonium gallowayi (2001 – Thailand)

Typhonium khonkaenensis (2015 – Thailand)

Typhonium rhizomatosum (2012 – Thailand)

Typhonium sinhabaedyai (2005 – Thailand)

Typhonium supraneeae (2012 – Thailand)

Typhonium tubispathum (2005 – Thailand)

Typhonium viridispathum (2012 – Thailand)

Aspidistra gracilis (2012 – Hong Kong)

Not only has Alan been a good friend for over 30 years, but he has been extremely generous in sharing with us at PDN/JLBG. Over 1500 plant specimens in our collection came directly from Alan. It still seems surreal that we have lost such a vibrant soul that has been so important to expanding our body of knowledge about the botanical/horticultural world. Farewell, my friend…you will be sorely missed.

We will be coordinating with his niece April and her husband Mark to plan a celebration of Alan’s life, which will be held here at PDN/JLBG at a future date, which we will announce when it is set.

Brexit Redux – Part IV

Our next focus was to re-purchase plants that we had picked up on our 2018 trip, but due to a bureaucratic shipping snafu, the majority of the 2018 shipment was killed during a six-week delay in transit. These pick-up stops included a couple of personal favorite nurseries, Cotswold Garden Flowers and Pan-Global Plants, as we worked our way south. One new stop was in Devon, at a wholesale woody plant propagator, Roundabarrow Farms, whose owner Paul Adcock had visited PDN/JLBG the year prior.

Although Paul had no electricity at his remote nursery location, he was kind enough to allow us to use his open potting shed for our bare-rooting chores. For those who have never shipped plants internationally, the process is at best arduous. First, you must check the extensive USDA list to see which plants are allowed entry into the US. Next, plants must be bare-rooted and scrubbed free of all soil and potential pests. For a shipment of 100+ plants, this operation takes about 8 hours. This was the first time I’d had the pleasure of doing the tasks outdoors in the snow, rain, and gale force winds. Thank goodness darkness coincided with the onset of frostbite.

Plant wrapping was finished that evening and the following morning at our room nearby, which wasn’t dramatically better than Paul’s potting shed, since the bathroom was not attached to the room and the strung out property manager kept turning off the heat to the room.

Our final stop in Southern England was at Tom Hudson’s Tregrehan Gardens in Cornwall. This was my first trip to Cornwall, but after hearing that Tregrehan was the finest woody plant collection in the entire UK from several of the UK’s best plantsmen, it was not to be missed. I will admit that all the talk I’d heard about the mild climate of Tregrehan, I wasn’t expecting the frigid weather we encountered including intermittent sleet and snow.

Tom Hudson, Owner

We had the pleasure of walking the amazing collectors garden with Tom and his dogs. Despite the difficult weather, we had an amazing visit as we walked among many of the towering specimens, many of which were 150 years old.

Boulevard Cypress (Chamaecyparis psifera ‘Squarrosa’ @ 150 years of age. Look ma…it isn’t so dwarf after all.
Fatsia polycarpa ‘Needham’s’ was in full flower
It was great to see the giant leaf selection of Fatsia japonica ‘Hsitou Giant’ as well. Tom had shared one of these for our 2019 Southeastern Plant Symposium auction. Perhaps another will show up for the 2020 auction.
Huodendron is a plant I’ve killed four times, but three of those times, it died before even making it into the ground. What an amazing specimen of this evergreen styrax relative.
Illicium simmonsii was in full flower, as was this still unidentified species.
Tregrehan has a wonderful collection of hardy scheffleras, most of which are sadly ungrowable for us because of our hot summers.
Not bad for a specimen of the US West Coast native Douglas Fir.
Rhododendron were everywhere including some early flowering species
It was hard not to be impressed by 150 year old specimens of Rhododendron arboreum.

The ideal time to visit Tregrahan is during their Rare Plant Fair and Sale, held every year in late May/early June (the plant fair is currently under review, due to the fast moving nature of the Coronavirus). Vendors and the foremost plant collectors come from all over the world to this amazing event.

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.

Late Fall Alliums

Although it’s a bit late, we wanted to share a new image we took of Allium kiiense in the gardens last fall. For us, this is one of the best small alliums for the garden, but because it flowers so late in the year (2nd week of November for us), few people ever see it. Every year, we produce more than we can sell because we keep assuming that word of this treasure will finally get out in public. Since it has a slightly pendant habit, Allium kiiense is best located where you can see it close up, and ideally from slightly below.

Plantcestry.org

For 2020, we’ve added over 90+ new plants in the catalog, with more than 50 being Plant Delights Nursery exclusives, thanks to the incredible work of our staff who scour the world, in addition to our own selecting and breeding, to bring you these amazing new plants. View the digital version here!

As we allude to on the cover, keeping up with the plant name change carousel is a feat itself. Continual advances in DNA are revealing relationships we never dreamed possible. When a name change is supported by good research and conclusions, we include both names for several years, since the purpose of nomenclature is about facilitating communications. We apologize for what often seems like confusing name changing, but really, we have more nomenclatural clarity now than ever.

Gardening Unplugged

It’s hard to believe that it is already time for our 2019 Fall Open Nursery & Garden Days! My how time flies.

During each day of our Open Nursery & Garden Days, we offer a free garden chat as part of our educational outreach, Gardening Unplugged”. These are 15 minute discussions walking through the gardens, focusing on seasonally prominent topics, plants and garden design ideas. Join Tony and our expert horticultural staff as we explore all that nature has to offer. Meet at the Welcome Tent near the parking lot to join us!

This Fall topics include:

Dividing perennials – Crinum being dug to divide
Hardy Tropicals
Scent-sational Ginger Lilies
Fall Blooming Bulbs – Crinum buphanoides

Smellivision

When will they develop scratch and sniff smart phones?

“I’ll never forget my first encounter as a preteen with Hedychium coronarium, when my dad took me to the garden of a local gardener, Rachel Dunham. There, in the midst of her lawn was a huge clump of hardy ginger plant in full flower. I was amazed how a plant that looked so tropical and had such fragrant flowers could be so winter hardy and easy to grow. Since Mrs. Dunham was overly generous, I went home with a huge sack of plants for my own garden. As with every OCD gardener, this would mark only the beginning of my hedychium collecting phase, which continues today. Thirty five years later, I would finally see ginger lilies in the wild on a botanical expedition to North Vietnam.” Tony Avent

Join Tony, Saturday September 21 at 10:00am, during our 2019 Fall Open Nursery & Garden Days as he talks about the scent-sational ginger lilies at Juniper Level Botanic Garden.

Hedychium ‘Vanilla Ice’

Late Summer Surprises

One of the rewards of making it through the dog days of summer, as well as renewed hope for fall’s arrival, are the numerous late summer and fall blooming bulbs that offer pop-up-blooms in the garden.

These late summer/fall blooming bulbs include lycoris, rhodophiala,
habranthus and zephyranthes. Here are a few of the beauties blooming in the garden yesterday.

Join us Saturday, September 14, 2019 for our Fall Open Nursery & Garden Days. Meet our taxonomist, Zac Hill, at the welcome tent at 10am for a tour through the gardens exploring fall blooming bulbs.

Retirement Garden Party

Each year we offer nearly 1,500 unique, rare and native perennials for sale, out of the 26,000 taxa in the garden.

xAmarcrinum ‘Dorothy Hannibal’

As we are constantly trialing new plants coming to the market and evaluating underutilized or unknown perennials from around the world, we must retire hundreds of plants each year to make room in our greenhouses for new treasures. Here are a few of our favorite plants being retired at the end of this year, so don’t miss out!

The Real Cats of JLBG

Today is National Black Cat Appreciation Day, so we would like to recognize past and present nursery cats of JLBG. If you’ve visited the gardens during open house and gardens, you have, no doubt, met some or all of our family of cats over the years.

Henry and Jasper are the current reigning Nursery Cats of JLBG! Meet them at our 2019 Fall Open Nursery & Garden Days.

Welcome to Our Garden Oasis

What sweltering weather we have been having in Raleigh, NC the last couple of weeks. But the gardening must go on! We welcome you to the last weekend of our Summer Open Nursery & Garden Days. Saturday 8 am – 5 pm and Sunday 1 pm – 5 pm.

Don’t forget about our Gardening Unplugged garden chats: 10 am – Ex-situ Conservation, 2 pm – Hardy Palms, just meet at the welcome tent!!

And keep your body fueled, Rare Earth Farms Food Truck will be here today at 11 am.

Catch the Flame

Cercis ‘Flame Thrower’ – from the breeding work of Dennis Werner

You don’t want to miss the first annual Southeastern Plant Symposium, Friday, June 7 and Saturday, June 8.

Hosted by the JC Raulston Arboretum and Juniper Level Botanic Garden, this symposium caters to plant nerds from across the region and beyond. We are bringing in some of the best of the best to talk about cutting edge horticulture. We have plant explorers, plant breeders, nurserymen, and other experts for a two-day, plantaholic binge. This will also be a great opportunity to get your hands on some really rare, new, and very choice plants.

Spring Open Nursery & Garden is Just Around the Corner

It’s hard to believe that spring open nursery and garden days is almost here. Spring is always a busy time of year and our nursery and garden staff have been working tirelessly making sure the gardens are in prime condition and our sales houses are brimming with beautiful plants.

Take advantage of shopping our sales houses for many unique and rare perennials, many exclusively available at Plant Delights Nursery. We are offering nearly 20 varieties of Baptisia this year, more than you will find at most garden centers. Many are from our own breeding program at Juniper Level Botanic Garden and include two 2019 introductions you will find no where else.

Join Tony, Friday, May 3 at 10am for a stroll through the gardens as he discusses baptisias, part of our Gardening Unplugged garden chat series.

Baptisia
Bletilla – Hardy Orchids

The hardy orchids also look amazing this year, with seven different bletilla and over 30 varieties of ladyslippers and calanthe available, you are sure to find one for that special spot in your garden.

As part of our Gardening Unplugged chat series, our nursery manager, Meghan Fidler, will be discussing hardy orchids in the garden and how you can be successful growing them in your garden.

Cypripedium – Ladyslipper Orchids
Sarracenia – Pitcher Plants

The pitcher plants are blooming and our hosta house is bursting with color that will brighten any shady nook. Be sure to mark your calendars and join Tony Saturday, May 4 as he explores the fascinating world of our native pitcher plants, and come back the following weekend as Tony showcases hostas in the garden and our hosta breeding program at JLBG.

Hostas

Urbanite Crevice Garden

If you haven’t been out lately, the last section of our crevice garden along the exit drive is nearly finished and being planted as we speak.

Previous sections are starting to fill in nicely and really shining this spring. Be sure to visit during our upcoming 2019 Spring Open Nursery & Garden Days, May 3-5 & 10-12, and get inspiration for your own crevice or rock garden.

Lies, Damn Lies, and Plant Labels

We just snapped this photo of Lemon Thread Cypress (Chamaecyparis pisifera ‘Lemon Thread’) in the gardens here at Juniper Level, and wanted to share since it illustrates our constant rants about trusting nurseries, plant tags, and websites to give accurate mature sizes. For a woody plant, our typical advice is to triple any size you are given. So, we wanted to see how that advice would work with the plant below.

Lemon Thread cypress was discovered in the mid 1980s as a sport at Oregon’s Mitsch Nurseries, so it’s a relative newcomer as plants go. Our 20 year old specimen is planted in compost-amended sandy loam without any chemical fertilizers ever. We should also add that we don’t believe in shearing plants, which we find a waste of energy as well as a middle finger to natures’s beauty. Our specimen now measures 25′ tall x 15′ wide.

We then searched the web for Lemon Thread Cypress and recorded the sizes from the top 30 sites that came up in Google…see notes below the photo.  Sizes we found range from 2-5′ tall x 2-3′ wide with only one site giving a height greater than 10′.

Is it any wonder that people install plants in the wrong place!  So, why does this happen? Many reasons:

  • Vendors lie to sell more plants…sad, but true.
  • Vendors almost never update inaccurate information once it’s in their system.
  • Few vendors/garden writers bother to visit a public garden and actually measure the plant. It’s much easier to copy someone else’s mistake.
  • Most plants which are measured, are measured either in containers, or from heavily pruned garden specimens.
  • Plants grow differently in different climates.  Very true!
  • It takes too much time to be accurate, but don’t we really owe that to our customers?

2-5′ 2-3′
3′ 4′
3-5′ 2-4′
4′ 3′
5′ 4′
5′ 5′
5′ 4′
5-12′ 7-8′
5-6′ 6-8′
6-8′ 3-4′
12′  

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. https://www.pacific-organics.com/

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

New baby tucked away in plain view

Even though we’re in the garden virtually everyday, there’s so much to see that we often miss things that are right in front of us.  Case in point…a few weeks ago, our taxonomist, Zac Hill was walking though the woodland garden and noticed that our evergreen Solomon’s Seal had been sexually frisky with another disporopsis species in a nearby clump. In the photo on the right is the daddy, Disporopsis pernyi, and on the left, the momma, Disporopsis undulata.  In the center is the baby…a hybrid between the two.

The hybrid clump was actually fairly large, so we’d missed the blessed event by several years. According to disporopsis guru, Dr. Aaron Floden of the Missouri Botanical Garden, this seems to be the first time that anyone has documented a hybrid between these two species, so we named our new baby Disporopsis ‘Opsis Attract’ and look forward to being able to share in a few years.

 

Raining in Winter Open Nursery & Garden

Day 2 of our Winter Open Nursery & Garden Days…

JLBG Intern Frank Xu in the garden.

Rain or Shine!

Our expert  staff are in the gardens and sales area to answer all your gardening questions.

Be sure to join us today at 10am for our free Gardening Unplugged Garden Chat series where our Grounds and Research supervisor, Jeremy Schmidt, will be discussing Berm Gardening, and at 2pm Amanda Wilkins, JLBG Garden Curator, explores what’s in a plant name and fascinating botanical trivia.

Hellebores blooming in the sales house. The sales houses are dry and bursting with color!

In keeping with the damp, cool, New England-like weather….Cousins Maine Lobster food truck will be here today from 11am-2pm. 

If you need to warm up a bit, you can stroll through the tropical house and dream of the warm spring and summer days ahead and begin designing your next planting project!

Canna ‘Orange Punch’

 

 

Explore, Shop, Refuel

2019 Winter Open Nursery & Garden Days

Visit Plant Delights Nursery at Juniper Level Botanic Garden during our winter open house starting Friday, February 22 through Sunday, February 24, and March 1-3. Click here for directions.

During each of our Winter Open Nursery & Garden weekends we welcome you to explore the winter wonders of Juniper Level Botanic Garden and attend our free garden chat series, Gardening Unplugged, where you interact with our expert staff discussing seasonally pertinent topics such as winter garden maintenance, hellebores, and asarum (wild gingers) in the garden.

You will also have the opportunity to shop the sales houses at Plant Delights Nursery and take home and abundance of rare and unique perennials, as well as exclusive PDN introductions available nowhere else.

After all this exploring, shopping, and enlightened horticultural engagement, take time to refuel with local food trucks that will be available during both weekends. Current schedule is as follows:

 

 

 

 

 

Director of Plant Breeding needed @ NC State

You are all probably aware of our upcoming merger with NC State University, but what you may not know about yet is the Plant Breeding Consortium. NC State has long had a number of world class plant breeding programs including 25 that are currently active, from sweet potatoes to blueberries, to ornamental plants. All of those programs will soon be consolidated under a new PhD faculty position…the Director of Plant Breeding. The University is seeking a world class visionary leader for this new position. The details can be found in the posting announcement 

We’ve got a fabulous Chancellor, (Randy Woodson), a fabulous Dean of the College of Ag and Life Sciences (Rich Linton), and a soon to be constructed $160 million dollar Plant Sciences Center. All we need now is a fabulous Director of Plant Breeding. Is that you or someone you know?

Chancellor Randy Woodson (above left) with US Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue

College of Ag Life Sciences Dean, Rich Linton (left) with US Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue

Please share this announcement with anyone you know who may be interested in this amazing opportunity!!

 

The Salvia Doctor has left the Greenhouse

It is with a heavy heart that we share news of the passing of our friend Richard Dufresne (pronounced Doofrane), 75, who passed away this month at his home in Candor, North Carolina.  Rich was truly a one of a kind…a 1972 graduate of Carnegie Melon with a PhD in chemistry. After graduation, Rich did the post-doc shuffle, first at Johns Hopkins, then Brandeis University, and finally UMass, before signing on with Lorillard Tobacco Company in North Carolina as a flavor chemist. There, he researched organic chemical compounds to flavor tobacco. What else could you do with three post docs and a PhD thesis, titled, Thermal cyclizations of 3-(2-arylhydrazino)-3-pyrroline derivatives: a study of the Fischer indole synthesis?

Rich was a regular at our nursery and garden, where we both benefited from the mutual exchange of plants and information. When Rich last visited us about eight weeks ago, it was obvious to us that we were seeing him for the last time. His health had deteriorated due to a cascade of medical issues and female viagra a lifetime of less than healthy eating. His XXL clothes were now tightly strapped to a frail frame that was only a shadow of the Rich we’d seen earlier in the year.

I first met Rich in the mid 1980s at a North American Rock Garden Society meeting, where he was extolling the virtues of the salvias he’d brought for show and tell. Rich would always drive the meeting organizers nuts since he had no “off switch” or ability to read social cues. Rich was ridiculously brilliant, had an unquenchable passion for salvias and their relatives, but also had a uniquely wired brain that left him only marginally functional in society. 

What Rich did so well was to connect people with plants and other plant people. He used every form of communication possible to share knowledge far and wide, including his website, WorldofSalvias.com. Rich has done more for the world of ornamental salvias worldwide than probably anyone in the last century. His early introductions like Salvia ‘Marashino’, Salvia ‘Dark Dancer’, Agastache ‘Tutti Fruitti’, and others were the first hybrid clones in both genera that started a horticultural revolution.

Rich’s chemistry job allowed him to buy a house, start a garden, and a small backyard nursery in nearby Greensboro, NC. Sadly, it in the mid-1990s, Rich was dismissed from his chemistry job, due to his remarkable inability to complete even the most basic tasks or focus on anything for a meaningful period of time. Shortly after loosing his job, Rich also lost his house, garden, and greenhouse since, despite not working, he couldn’t manage to find time to file for unemployment benefits, until he was hauled to the Unemployment office by friends. Because of his mental health issues dealing with focus, Richard would never be able to find another job, despite the best efforts of friends who tried to help.

To try and make ends meet, Rich would propagate an array of salvias and drive cross country to sell them at plant fairs, despite loosing money simply traveling to each event.  In many ways,

Despite his brilliance, Rich was like a naive child who needed protecting from both himself and others. Were it not for the kindness of a plethora of friends who kept Richard supported financially, there’s little doubt he would have been homeless, instead of living in the marginally habitable houses he inhabited during the later years of his life. 

Despite being perpetually followed by black clouds, (no rubber left on his tires when he tried to run errands, getting mistaken for a drug dealer and put in jail briefly last fall because of his license plate “Salvia”, and only recently taking a financial hit after falling prey to one of the prevalent Social Security phone scams, Rich was the eternal optimist. Even during his last visit, he was so excited about his ambitious plans for the upcoming year during his recent visit.  True to the end, he managed to bring a new salvia to share, which is now flowering in his memory.

Rich was not only incredibly kind, but passionate about sharing, and his legacy will live on through all the plants and information he shared. We will continue to keep his WorldofSalvia.com site alive as an informational archive and tribute to this great plantsman.  

Thankfully, a year ago, Rich was finally honored by the North American Rock Garden Society with the Marcel LePiniac Award at its national meeting.  It was our honor to know Rich for 30+ years, so thank you my friend for all you did…life well lived!

Here is a link to a wonderful article about Richard, written by Tovah Martin over a quarter century ago.

 

 

Goodbye Florence

Thank goodness Florence is finally heading away from our area. Thankfully, we dodged the worst of the storm, since the prediction models were dreadfully off target as late as 24-48 hours prior to landfall, when they showed the eye of the hurricane headed directly toward PDN/JLBG. Thankfully for us, Florence headed three hours south, passing instead over its namesake, Florence, SC. Top winds here were only 27 mph, with only 5″ of rain. Our thoughts go out to our friends in the actual storm track, who are coping with both wind and water damage. We’re on track to dry out by Friday, as we resume our final Open Nursery and Garden weekend for 2018…now scheduled for Sept. 21,22 (8-5) and Sept 23 (1-5)…see you soon and thanks for all the notes of concern!

Oh Florence!

It’s the calm before the storm here at PDN/JLBG…or to quote the late philosopher Yogi Bera, “Deja vous all over again.” In September 1996, a wild woman named Fran visited our Fall Open Nursery and Garden Friday, and now it’s another F’er…Florence. Florence currently sits in the Atlantic Ocean, with a strong desire to stop by the NC coast on her way to Raleigh.

Normally, the hurricane prediction models have coalesced by now, but instead, they are still diverging, with a wider range of potential impacts than a few days prior. NC has never had a hurricane come ashore with winds greater than 135 mph (Hazel in 1954), so Florence could be Fred Sanford’s “big one”, unless she gets dizzy from all the spinning and weakens on the way to land. 

Here in Raleigh, we’re still in the dead center of the average projected path, so everyone is busy getting prepared…as much as possible. All greenhouse covers are either being removed or battened down with excessive strapping, while potential problem limbs are being removed from trees throughout the garden.

Despite worst case predictions for 10-30″ of rain in our area, JLBG/PDN are located high enough that flooding isn’t really an issue for us.  Despite this, we’ve spent the last few weeks reworking several drainage issues in the garden, so from that perspective we should be in good shape…as best that’s possible for 30″ of rain.

Other than potted plants getting too wet, our biggest concern is a potential loss of power, and the subsequent inability to irrigate container plants once the rains subside. To prepare, we’ve stocked up on watering cans, since all of our ponds will have plenty of water. 

Our final open nursery and garden days for 2018 are scheduled for this weekend, so it may be a little damp and windy for anyone but the craziest of plant people. Just in case, we’ve already scheduled an additional weekend, weekend, Friday Sept. 21 (8-5), Saturday Sept. 22 (8-5), and Sunday Sept. 23 (1-5).

Our customer service staff will be setup to work remotely, so as long as they have power at home, they’ll continue to respond to emails and process orders. We’ve made sure our website was moved to a cloud that isn’t stormy, so there should be no issues for our remote customers…we hope you’re all enjoying the cool new plants in our fall catalog. 

Stay dry, staff safe, and we’ll keep you updated on our conditions as we can!

Nerd Night in Raleigh

I had a blast last week speaking on horticultural diversity at Raleigh’s Nerd Night…held at the Big Boss Brewery. I’ll admit to being skeptical when committing to speak in an un-air conditioned beer warehouse in late June…an obviously non-horticultural venue. The group of about 125 people…mostly Gen X – millenials was incredibly entheusiatic with great questions that continued well into the night. I hope you’ll check out the Nerd Night events, now held in over 100 cities. Special thanks to NCSU hort grad Alice Hinman of Raleighs’ bee enhancement program, Apiopolis, for the inviation to speak, Eric Self, the Nerd Night organizer, and my college classmate and fellow boomer, Debbie Hamrick for the photos.

Chelsea Gardens

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

 

Interesting 3D garden

Meatball Garden

hmmm

 

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….

UK Travels

Just back from a speaking gig in the UK and wanted to share some images from the trip. While there, we were able to visit the Chelsea Garden Show for the first time, and here are some of the amazing displays of horticultural perfection.

Alliums

Chrysanthemums

Fuchsias

Lupines

Rebutias

Sarracenias

Lillies

Gladiolus

Narcissus  

Agapanthus

Hellebores – all forced from Ashwood Nurseries

And looks who’s manning the Ashwood booth…Pine Knot’s Dick Tyler!

Plant Geek Visitors

Another great weekend in the garden, highlighted by a visit from several of our extended plant family…Carl Schoenfeld and Wade Roitsch of the former Yucca Do, Hans Hansen of Walters Gardens (back), and yours truly on the right. It’s been about seven years since we were able able to get together.  Carl is raising cattle (and plants) at his ranch in Argentina, and Wade is doing the same in Texas. Thanks to John Walters for snapping the photo. 

See you in Richmond

I’m heading up to Richmond Virginia in a couple of weeks for a Wednesday March 28 presentation on Shade Gardening for the Garden Club of Virginia’s Daffodil Day.  The entire event will take place at the Garden of Virginia’s Kent-Valentine House on East Franklin Street. There are a few available spaces remaining, so please share this with your friends in the area and join us as we talk plants.  To get more details and to register, click here

Food and Gardens

For our open nursery and garden days, we’ve lined up several of our favorite food trucks, so we don’t have folks falling out in the garden from hunger pains. Being an ice cream junkie, I think the all natural local ice cream from Fresh is probably the best I’ve had anywhere in the world. We hope you’ll come see the gardens/nursery and support these great local vendors. 

WINTER 2018 OPEN HOUSE FOOD TRUCK SCHEDULE
DAY DATE HOURS FOOD TRUCK HOURS ICE CREAM/SHAVE ICE
FRI 23-Feb 11AM-SLOW ROUTE BISTRO 11AM-SLOW  
SAT 24-Feb 11AM-SLOW FUZZY’S – Empanadas 12PM-SLOW FRESH – Ice Cream
SUN 25-Feb   NA 1PM-SLOW  
FRI 2-Mar 11AM-SLOW CHIRBA CHIRBA – Asian Dumplings 11AM-SLOW  
SAT 3-Mar 11AM-SLOW RARE EARTH FARMS – LOCAL 11AM-SLOW  
SUN 4-Mar   NA 1PM-SLOW FRESH – Ice Cream

 

The Horticulturist behind Amazon’s Garden Workspace

Image result for ron gagliardo amazon

We couldn’t be happier for Raleigh native, and former Plant Delights staffer, Ron Gagliardo, who manages the new Amazon HQ Rainforest. We’ve known Ron since he was a young teen, tissue-culturing carnivorous plants in his parents home near the State Fairgrounds.  It’s so great to see him getting so much recognition in his role as Amazon’s “green” celebrity.  Congratulations Ron!  Below are a couple of articles about his amazing work.

https://www.seattletimes.com/business/amazon/happy-plants-in-the-spotlight-as-luminaries-open-amazons-spheres/

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/amazons-spheres-seattle-office-space/

 

 

Baby it’s cold outside

During our recent cold snap, I haven’t been able to get the Rod Stewart/Dolly Parton rendition of “Baby it’s Cold Oustide” out of my head.  At least Elwood had the good sense to find the warmest spot in the house…in the dryer on top of a load of warm clothes, while others of us had to venture outside to take care of things in the nursery and garden.

So, how cold was it?  Here’s what happened to Mystic Falls, when the temperatures don’t rise above freezing for 200 straight hours (8+ days).  Raleigh shattered the old record of 157 hours (1982) in a row without topping the freezing mark. We also caught the beginning of the recent bomb cyclone, although we only managed .5″ of snow at the nursery and gardens. Our thoughts go out to those further north, who suffered much worse in the storm…including some that had….yes, two feet of snow.

It’s been an eventful 8 days with a steady diet of greenhouse alarms going on in the middle of the night than we can count. Water in one propane line froze, knocking out five greenhouse heaters, while another propane tank mysteriously ran out of fuel after only a couple of being filled. Fortunately, our back up system of portable heaters that can be wheeled around as needed have kept damage at a minimum. 

Normally, our ground rarely freezes in the winter, but that’s not the case this year.  Interestingly, while the ground froze, the expanded slate media in our crevice garden remained plantable, which is a good sign that it’s keeping the plant roots dry. Our cold weather streak ends today, and later this week, we’re promised our temperatures will skyrocket into the 60s. We should have some good winter hardiness data once things thaw.

 

New for 2018

Where has the year gone? We don’t know about you, but our last three months has been spent writing and assembling the 2018 Plant Delights Nursery catalog. After weeks of proofing, it’s finally been printed and will go in the mail first of the year. The on-line version should go live this weekend.  As always, there are so many cool new plants that we hope will excite you. The print catalog contains about 535 plants, and another 570 are only listed on-line, so we’ll begin the year with just over 1100 plants, with more to follow in the next few months. 

We’ve included a couple of our favorite non-opuntia cactus this year, which we grew from seed.

Notocactus apricus has been absolutely splendid for us in the garden for almost two decades and has never shown any damage, despite winter lows in the single digits F. Our offerings are 2 year old seed raised plants from our garden clump.

Trichocereus ‘Iridescent Watermelon’ is only four years old in the garden, but it’s a 4 year old prodigy. Created by our volunteer agave specialist, Mike Papay, we are pleased to share our first seed crop of two year old plants. While each offspring won’t be identical, each should be spectacular. 

JC Raulston Arboretum – New Gardens Manager

Congratulations to NC plantsman and friend Doug Ruhren, who was just named the new Gardens Manager for the JC Raulston Arboretum.  Doug has volunteered in the perennial border at the arboretum for nearly 30 years, among full-time stints at Chatwood Camellia Gardens, Montrose, Daniel Stowe Botanic Garden, and the American Camellia Society headquarters.  As an independent garden designer, Doug’s work is only display at other gardens and nurseries around the country.  We look forward to seeing Doug’s transformative gardening/design skills throughout the arboretum’s amazing collections.   

Get Well Soon Wishes

Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling, people standing, outdoor and nature

Please join us in sending get well wishes to plantsman Noel Weston, a friend of 35 years, who owns Lakeview Daylily Farm just around the corner from PDN/JLBG.  Noel was found unresponsive at his nursery last weekend after suffering a major stroke, and is currently in ICU (visitors are not yet permitted).  Noel was the City of Raleigh Horticulturist for 30 years before retiring to his daylily farm, where he spends seemingly every waking hour.  Above is Noel with his daughter, Erin Weston.  You can send you wishes to the family through Erin’s Facebook page

We’re looking for a few good…make that, excellent, staff additions

We’re currently accepting application for two key positions, Nursery/Greenhouse Grower and Nursery Manager.  We’re looking for just the right person who shares our passion for plants, people, and high quality.  You can find out more on our website, so if you’d like to join our team, let us hear from you. 

Container Gardening – Thrillers, Spillers, and Fillers!

Container gardening is continuing to grow in popularity as more people move into urban areas, where there are space limitations, and fewer people owning their own home. There is also the factor of time limitations with people’s busy lives. Container gardening allows you to incorporate the pleasure and beauty of growing plants into your daily life. Containers are great on patios, balconies, window boxes, and rooftops, and the combinations are endless, fitting into any environment, and allowing for expression of your personal taste and style.

image of Mixed Container with Coordinating Color Palette

Mixed Container with Coordinating Color Palette

When planning your container, you want to keep in mind how the container is going to look throughout the season. You should take lighting into consideration and pair plants with similar light requirements, as well as similar water requirements. As far as aesthetics, you should consider color combinations and how they fit your personal taste and the surrounding design, whether using a coordinated color palette, or contrasting colors for a bold dramatic effect. 

Thrillers, Fillers, and Spillers design concept

One popular design concept in creating attractive container combinations, is thrillers (focal point of the planting), fillers (to create a fuller, lush appearance), and spillers (to drape over the edge of the planter) to create depth and dimension in your design.

During both Saturdays of our Spring Open Nursery and Garden Days, April 29 and May 6, we will have a container potting station. 

  • Bring in your own planter/container.
  • Select plants from our sales houses to create your desired combination, or
  • Our knowledgeable staff can help select plants for your specific conditions.
  • For a charge $15.00 we will provide potting mix and aid in planting your container, along with slow release fertilizer.
  • You can then take your newly planted container home and enjoy all season long.

 

Competition Gardening – Let the Judging Begin!

Everyone appreciates the beauty of nature, and as gardener’s we are especially proud and excited as the gems in our garden begin to display their glory and grandeur. During the first weekend of our Spring Open Nursery and Garden Days, April 28-30, Plant Delights Nursery is excited to host “Rainbows in the Garden”, an accredited iris show, presented by the Eastern NC Chapter of The American Iris Society.

picture of Iris virginica 'Contraband Girl'

Iris virginica ‘Contraband Girl’

This accredited show is being held and judged under the rules and regulations of The American Iris Society. The show is free to the public and entry submissions are open to all. Entries must be a named variety of tall, intermediate or dwarf bearded iris, Siberian, Louisiana, or other beardless iris. All rules and regulations can be found here

picture of Iris germanica 'Beach Baby' blooming in the garden

Iris germanica ‘Beach Baby’ – dwarf bearded iris blooming in the garden

Entries will be received from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. on Friday, April 28, 2017 at Plant Delights Nursery, 9241 Sauls Rd., Raleigh, NC 27603. Judging begins at 10:30 a.m. and the show opens to the public at noon. The exhibit will remain until 4:00 p.m. Saturday, April 29. We encourage all our customers to enter their prized iris. 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place ribbons will be awarded in each category.

Baptisias: Great American Natives!

Baptisias, commonly known as false indigo, are North American native members of the pea family and quite drought tolerant once established. They provide amazing architectural form in a sunny garden or perennial border, and are deer-resistant and a butterfly magnet (See the top 25 flowers that attract butterflies here.).

image of Baptisia 'Blueberry Sundae'

Not only do baptisia come in blue, which many people are familiar with in the most common species, B. australis, but they are also available in a wide array of colors such as white, yellow, purple, and pink, and new breeding efforts are producing bicolor flowers such as those of Lunar Eclipse.

Baptisias have long been one of our favorite groups of sun perennials here at PDN. Through our trials of new varieties introduced  to the market, as well as our own breeding program, we continue to select for improved structure and habit as well as flower color. In 2017, we have introduced 2 new varieties in our Tower Series, Yellow Towers and Ivory Towers. These join our previous introduction, Blue Towers, all having a vigorous upright habit to 4.5-5′, terminating in 18-20″ spikes of flowers, true show-stoppers in the garden.

image of Baptisia 'Yellow Towers'

Baptisia ‘Yellow Towers’

Due to high demand, we quickly sold out of finished stock of Ivory Towers, but don’t fret, we have another crop coming along and they should be ready just in time for our Spring Open Nursery & Garden Days April 28-30 and May 5-7. And be sure to join us on Sunday May 7 at 2pm for our Gardening Unplugged garden chat series, where Tony will be talking about baptisias. You can also read Tony’s more in depth article about baptisias, here.

Winter Open Nursery & Garden Days!!

With temperatures in the upper 70’s it doesn’t feel much like winter here in Raleigh, NC, but nonetheless it is time for our Winter Open Nursery & Garden Days! Starting tomorrow February 24-26 and next weekend March 3-5, take advantage of the opportunity shop our sales houses as well as explore the gardens here at Juniper Level Botanic Garden. We will be open Fridays and Saturdays from 8am-5pm and Sundays from 1pm-5pm.  

Hellebores blooming in the sales house

Hellebores blooming in the sales house

New this year, we’re excited to announce our garden chat series “Gardening Unplugged” during each Open Nursery and Garden Days in 2017. These will be 15 minute presentations, many by Tony, himself, focused on seasonally prominent plants and garden design ideas. Meet at the Welcome Tent near the parking lot to join us!

Also, on both Saturdays, Feb. 25 and March 4, Zeke’s Meats food truck will be here from 11am-2pm, so you can refuel after a day of frenzied shopping!

Our sales houses are stocked – let the shopping begin.

Our sales houses are stocked – let the shopping begin.

During your visit, allow time to meander through the gardens to see what’s in bloom, get design ideas and add to your wish list. Our gardens contain many rare and valuable specimens so please stay on the pathways and leave pets at home. We look forward to seeing you here!

Hellebores are looking amazing in the garden.

Hellebores are looking amazing in the garden.

20% Off Overstock Sale – Fall 2016

We have just completed our fall inventory and found some of the coolest plants didn’t sell in the numbers that we’d hoped, so we’re left with extra inventory. Take advantage of this opportunity to get 20% off on over 125 unique plants, many of which you won’t find anywhere else. Quantities are limited so shop now while supplies last.

Here is just a small sampling of some of the horticultural gems you will find:

picture of Agave ivory curls