We were recently blessed to welcome some of the regions’ top designers to visit JLBG. Starting from left to right is Phil Szostak, modernist architect and designer of the Durham Performing Arts Center. Second is retired modernist architect, Frank Harmon, who designed our home, among many of his extensive projects. Next are Sue Nelson and Warren Byrd, founders of the nationally renown Landscape Architecture firm, Nelson Byrd Woltz. Of course, our own Anita Avent is on the far right. We enjoyed a lovely morning walking around the garden, since only Frank had been here previously.
JLBG/PDN was thrilled to recently host the attendees of the Southeastern
Region meeting of the International Plant Propagators Society (IPPS) in late October. The society is open to anyone actively involved in the art/science of plant propagation. Attendees are usually split between green industry professional, allied trades, academic educators, and horticultural students.
This is the first time since 2010 our region has hosted the event, which moves throughout the Southeastern US each fall. This year, the sold out meeting welcomed 225 attendees, which included 56 International participants. The educational sessions were held at the RDU Airport Doubletree, and the bus tours ranged from Bahama in Durham County south to Johnston County.
Speakers covered a wide range of propagation/production topics, including our own Aaron Selby, who shared our “secrets” for propagating many of our rare and difficult to propagate crops. The student competition talks are always fascinating to see what research is in the academic pipeline.
The meetings always consist of both a live and silent plant auction, where all kinds of horticultural treasures abound. Below is Dr. Mike Dirr (retired UGA professor/author), and Dr. Todd Lasseigne (Director of Bellingrath Gardens), extoling the virtues of a plant in the live auction.
Our live auctioneer was non other than NC’s past Attorney General, Secretary of State, and famed Watergate lawyer, Rufus Edmiston. The 81 year old Edmiston is an ardent gardener, so he was right at home with the group. Below he is with gardening celebrity, Brie Arthur (l), Edmiston, JC Raulston Arboretum director Mark Weathington, and Plants Nouveau co-owner, Linda Guy (r).
We received the shocking news this week that our friend, and retired Director of the Morris Arboretum (Pennsylvania), Paul Meyer, passed away. Paul spent his entire 42 year career at the Morris Arboretum, first as Curator/Director of Horticulture, and then 28 years as Director of the Garden, before retiring in 2018. We all wondered what would happen after he retired, since for the entire 42 years, Paul, and his wife Debbie, lived in a home on the arboretum property. I know I’ll always treasure the time I was able to spend the night with Paul and Debbie, in what was truly a room with a view.
During his tenure at the garden, Paul co-founded NACPCC, the North American China Plant Collection Consortium. As a result, he participated in twelve overseas plant collection trips. In addition to running the gardens and traveling, he taught at the University of Pennsylvania, which owns the arboretum, and wrote for a number of publications.
Paul was a recipient of virtually alll of the top horticulture awards, including the prestigous Scott Medal (2018), the L.H. Bailey Award from the American Horticulture Society (2014), and most recently, the Veitch Medal from the Royal Horticulture Society (2022). Just prior to his cancer diagnosis this spring, he was preparing to lead an International Dendrology Society tour to South Korea.
I’ll miss running into you on the road, my friend, and chatting about all the cool plants you’d encountered. Our thoughts go out to Debbie during this difficult time, but what a life, well lived.
I’m just back from a quick 24-hour trip to NYC for a special tribute to a dear friend, Margaret Roach. Wave Hill Gardens in the Bronx, was hosting a garden fundraising dinner to salute this legendary garden communicator.
Accompanying me was NCSU CALS College Advancement Director of Development, Alycia Thornton, who manages the fundraising for the JLBG Endowment. We were thrilled to have two incredible plant people/conservationists, Eleanor Briggs (founder of The Harris Center for Conservation Education and Wildlife Conservation Society photographer) and John Gwynne (Retired Director of Conservation for the Bronx Zoo and owner of Sakonnet Gardens) as our tour guides for the day.
Arriving in NYC just after 8am, we headed downtown to visit two newly recycled horticultural landmarks, Little Island and the High Line, neither of which I’d visited before.
Little Island is a relatively new NYC park (2021), built on the ruins of the famed Hudson River pier 54, which was destroyed during Hurricane Sandy (2012). Pier 54 was once the docking point for transatlantic ships, including being the drop off point for recscuees from the Titanic. After the pier was commercially abandoned in the 1980s, it became a social hangout for an array of groups and concerts, before being destroyed in the storm.
Media executive and billionaire Barry Diller and his wife, Diane von Furstenberg, were the chief drivers of the renovation project, donating 260 million dollars toward the construction of the riverside park that would become known as Little Island..
The 132 concrete pilings that anchor the park, were designed to look like giant tulips, with some rising as much as 62′ above the Hudson River, and anchored as deep as 200′ into the river bed. The project, designed by renown NY architect Signe Nielsen, has already hosted over 3.5 million visitors since its opening in 2021. Not only does the 2 acre Little Island have amazing multi-level gardens, it also has an ampitheater that looks across the water into adjacent New Jersey.
The use of tall berms and large public areas for walking make this a very enticing space for visitors.
The level of horticultural maintenance was superb in this meadow-like style of landscaping that can easily become a mecca for weeds.
Standing at the top of Little Island gives you a birds eye view of the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, the adjacent One World Trade Center tower.
The plant selection was quite varied, but to find lovely specimens of the rare, Southeast native oak, Quercus oglethorpensis was quite shocking.
For those who haven’t heard of the High Line, it is the elevated commercial railroad tracks that run through downtown New York City. Originally built in 1934, with the aim of reducing pedestrian fatalities caused by the street level trains. For the next 50 years, these raised tracks, perched 30′ above the road below, were the main option for hauling commercial supplies, food, etc. throughout this part of the city. With the expansion of the commercial trucking industry, the tracks were abandoned in the mid 1980s.
In 1999, Mayor Rudy Giuliani ordered the tracks demolished, but public backlash resulted in the formation of The Friends of the High Line, which advocated for re-purposing the tracks. In 2003, an idea contest was held, with the winning proposal being to convert the old tracks into a public park, including plants, art, and a space for relaxation.
In 2006, the project formally began. Work involved converting the rail bed into planting bed, complete with drainage, lighting, seating, etc In 2009, the first section of park opened, and fourteen years later, the final section, the Moynihan Connector, opened this year. The entire 1.45 mile park is funded, operated, and managed by the Friends of the High Line, in conjunction with the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation..
The gardens are planted with over 500 plant taxa from trees to annuals. Parts of the old railroad were left in the garden as a salute to its past. Some sections are now heavily wooded, while other sections are more prairie-like.
Interpretive signage is used to teach visitors about the plants they see along the route.
Today, the High Line has generated so much excitement, that new apartment buildings are being built both beside and straddling the High Line. In its first year, the High Line saw 1.3 million visitors, and by 2015, that number had climbed to 7.6 million, with 31% of those being NYC residents. Today, the High Line ranks 9th among the most visited destinations in New York City. I’m sure the view out of these apartments is amazing, but I guess you’d need to be a real exhibitionist to want millions of strangers peering into your house from the gardens.
Art is a big part of the High Line as you can see from the replica of a coral bark maple below. We were there during the UN Climate Conference, so pop-up booths were everywhere along the central part of our walk.
An outdoor food court makes it convenient if you need food or drink while you’re there.
The gardens are completely funded by the Friends of the High Line, so donations are essential to keep this project going. I expect that anyone who lives along the route is more than happy to contribute to keeping this section of the concrete jungle green.
After leaving the High Line, we headed to our final stop of the day, Wave Hill Gardens in the Bronx. I had visited three times prior, but it had been well over a decade since my last stop.
Opened in 1965, Wave Hill Gardens are a 28 acre oasis in the Bronx’s affluent Riverdale community, situated above the scenic Hudson River. The land and two homes on the property was donated in 1960 by the Perkins family to the City of New York to become a public garden.
The annual fundraising event held by the garden, picks an honoree each year, and this year, they chose garden writer, Margaret Roach. If you don’t know of Margaret, she is currently the Garden Writer for the New York Times. Margaret’s career ranged from being a sports columnist to Senior/Executive Vice-President of Martha Stewart Living from 1995-2008. In between her career start and end was a ten year stint at Newsday and New York Newsday, where she served as Fashion Editor and later Garden Editor.,
In 2008, Margaret retreated from public life to reconnect with her garden and heal from life in the big city on her NY property, far away from the bustle of the big city, where she began her own podcast, A Way to Garden. On A Way to Garden, Margaret interviews experts on gardening and an array of related topics. Margaret has also written several gardening books during her time away from the city. We all celebrated tonight, since this was the first time in four years that Margaret had graced any public events.
Below is Marco Polo Stufano, the founding Director of Horticulure for Wave Hill, and the man responsible for it’s brilliant transformation from dilapidated estate to the world class garden it is today. Marco retired from Wave Hill in 2001 after 34 years at the helm. Marco, who still loves nearby, just celebrated his 85th birthday…congratulations!
It was great to see an array of horticultural friends, many of which I hadn’t seen in years Below is garden writer, Ken Druse, with his husband, Louis Bauer. Louis followed Marco Stufano as Director of Horticulture at Wave Hill for seven years. As you can see by the cane, Ken is sadly struggling with mobility issues.
Marc Hachadourian is a renown plantsman, and Manager of Living Collections the New York Botanic Gardens Living Collections Greenhouses. Mark is the author of the recently published book, Orchid Modern.
It was great to have time to visit with Ed Bowen and Taylor Johnston of Rhode Island’s Issima Nursery. We have been big fans of their nursery since its inception, so it was so lovely to be able to chat in person.
It was also great to reconnect with Peony’s Envy owner, Kathleen Gagan, who I hadn’t seen in years. Kathleen is a dynamo that runs one of the country’s best retail peony nurseries from her farm in New Jersey.
There was a crowd of gardening celebrities from Pennsylvania that made the trip, including magnolia guru, Andrew Bunting, Vice-President of Horticulture for the Pennsylvannia Horticulture Society.
Ethan Kauffman moved north after his 8 year stint at Riverbanks Botanic Garden and 9 years at Moore Farms, both in SC, to become the Director at Stoneleigh Garden in Pennsylvannia. There, his transformative work with native plants has become the talk of the region.
It was great to catch up with long-time friends, garden designers Charles Price (l), and Glenn Withey (r), who flew in from Seattle for the event. Glen and Charles are world renown landscape designers. For several years, it was hard to pick up a national gardening magazine without a feature on their work.
The evening ended under the open skies with a brief auction and a lovely tribute to Margaret and her contributions to the horticultural world. It was lovely that the horticultural stars came out to honor one of their own.
It’s always a bittersweet moment when you lose longtime staff, so we’d like to publicly say goodbye to Meghan Fidler, our Nursery Manager for the last 5+ years, and her partner, Jeremy Schmidt, who headed up our Grounds and Research department for 15+ years. Jeremy has been responsible for all of our garden rock work over the last decade including our incredible crevice garden, while Meghan has overseen a period of dramatic growth in our production nursery.
Both are heading off for a new adventure at Bellingrath Gardens & Home in Mobile, Alabama, where they will work for another former PDNer, Todd Lasseigne. We wish them the best in their new phase of life. We are currently looking to fill our Nursery Manager position, so if you or someone you know has an interest, you can find out more here.
JCRA’s Amorphophallus titanum ‘Wolfgang’ put on quite a show from June 20-23, and now it’s time for our ‘Homo Erectus’ to shine. We anticipate the blessed event at JLBG/Plant Delights beginning on Friday June 30, but please understand that trying to predict nature is anything but an exact science.
Below is an image from June 23, when our plant had reached 51.5″ in height. While most of the Amorphophallus titanums that flower, produce a creamy white spadix (the tall phallic thingy in the center), ours is the much rarer purple spadix form–no doubt due to greatly increase blood flow.
This link takes you both to our live stream, some history, titanium trivia, and any updated hours that you can come say hello to ‘Homo Erectus’ in person. Current visitation schedule: Monday – Thursday, 8:00am – 5:00pm, Friday, June 30, 8:00am – 7:00pm, Saturday and Sunday, July 1 and 2, 10:00am – 7:00pm.
Enjoy, and we hope to see you soon!
In July 2018, we flowered our first Titan Corpse Flower, Amorphophallus titanum. Our plant was # 594 to flower in its entire history of cultivation. Since that time, another 141 have flowered worldwide, bringing the total number to 735. If you’d like to see who else has flowered these amazing giants, here is our complete list, along with some great corpse flower trivia.
So, what makes these plants so amazing? The obvious answer is size and fragrance. Amorphophallus titanum is actually an endangered plant in the wilds of Sumatra. The tuber must grow quite large to have enough energy to flower, which is why flowerings are so rare. Also, it’s a bit oversized for most homes and apartments. While they aren’t hard to grow for keen gardeners, they are a bit exacting in growing requirements, so these should only be attempted by very keen gardeners..
If you aren’t familiar with the memorable fragrance of the Titan Arum, check out my favorite video on the subject.
In 2018, we pollinated ‘Peter Grande’, but as often happens, it died due to complications in childbirth. While many folks have tried to use other pollen to cross-breed using Amorphophallus titanum as the pod parent, most attempts were met with failure. A few people were able to set seed with pollen from another A. titanum, but most attempted crosses self-destruct. Reportedly, there is a hybrid of A. titanum x konjac from a 2017 cross, but we are still waiting to see it flower. That’s the same cross we attempted in 2018, with no luck.
The pollen from A. titanum does, however, work well when used on other species. The most famous of which is Amorphophallus ‘John Tan’, a cross of A. variabilis x titanum, which happened to have just flowered for us last week.
This years plant, Amorphophallus titanum ‘Homo Erectus’ is one we inherited with the passing of our dear friend, and amorphophallus guru, Alan Galloway. Alan’s plant is one that we originally grew here from seed.
This year, folks in the Triangle region of NC have a real treat in store as we have our first area Clash of the Titans – two Titan arums flowering; one at the JC Raulston Arboretum at NC State, and the other here at JLBG. Based on our calculations, the Raulston plant, named ‘Wolfgang’ should open between June 21 and 22. Our JLBG plant has an expected opening date between June 30 and July 4.
Below is JCRA’s plant on June 12, 2023.
As of June 12, our Titan Corpse Flower is about 10 days behind the JCRA plant.
So far, JLBG owns the regional record for height at 77″, only a shy 1″ over the 2016 flowering of ‘Lupin’ at NC State. Let’s see if the title for the tallest inflorescence is broken in this epic Clash of the Titans.
As we get a bit closer to flowering time, we’ll announce when we will be open for the public to visit and get a whiff.
The Southeast Plant Symposium rare plant auction has begun. More plants will be added every other day until the symposium starts Friday. The auction ends mid-afternoon this Saturday. Many of these plants are simply unavailable anywhere else in the world. All auction proceeds are split between the JLBG Garden Endowment Fund at NC State and the JC Raulston Arboretum.
You do not have to be present or registered for the symposium to bid. Attendees who win can pick up their plants at the end of the symposium, while those not in attendance can have their plants shipped. Only plants in 3 quart pots and smaller may be shipped. Others will need to be picked up in person. Enjoy the bidding and hope you get some really great plants!
It was great to get a chance to reconnect with Florida plantsman Nestor White at our recent Open Nursery and Garden, since it had been well over a decade since his last visit. Nestor has what is almost certainly the largest Crinum collection in the world with over 1,000 different accessions. If you purchase crinums on Ebay, you’ve most likely dealt with Nestor. Although we have nearly 400 crinum accessions, we’ll never have a collection as extensive as the one that he’s assembled. Well done!
We’ve just concluded our Spring Open Nursery and Garden weekends, and as always welcomed thousands of new visitors. One of my favorite parts of Open House is also reconnecting with old friends and acquaintances, some of whom I haven’t seen in ages.
I was delighted to catch up with one of my high school & college classmates, Kim Hawks, who showed up with her friend, Paul. Kim is a stalwart in our industry, having founded the highly popular Niche Gardens in Chapel Hill, which sadly closed a few years ago. As you can see, they both entered our Garden Hat contest, which is currently being judged by the public on our Facebook page. Voting ends May 15, so please cast your votes soon!
Just over a month remains before the 2023 Southeastern Plant Symposium kicks off in Raleigh, NC. This joint symposium between the JC Raulston Arboretum and Juniper Level Botanic Garden will be held on June 16, 17 at Raleigh’s North Raleigh Hilton Hotel.
We’ve got thirteen of the world’s top speakers, as our 2023 symposium focuses on the coolest woody plants on the planet. You’ll find the schedule and speakers here, where you can also register. The rare plant auction now has a worldwide following, since quite a few of the plants simply aren’t commercially available anywhere, or in some cases are very new to the trade. We hope you’ll join us for a chance to hear and meet other passionate plant people and learn about trees and shrubs.
Symposium attendees will also be able to visit both Juniper Level Botanic Garden and the JC Raulston Arboretum before and after the symposium. The lovely folks at Ball Horticulture are also funding 10 college students to attend the symposium. You can apply on line here. We hope to see you there!
Since we opened the Souto sun garden section of JLBG to the public, circa 2014, we’ve been dealing, rather poorly, with an unsightly water runoff capture pit on the east side of the garden. The 30′ x 30′ pit was first filled with weeds, and later converted to a bed for marginal aquatics like cannas and crinums. Over the last few years, cattails had taken over, rendering it somewhat more attractive, but far less diverse.
Three years ago, we made the decision to transform it into a styillized bog garden/rock garden combination. To do so, would require the elimination of the cat tails, which took the better part of two years. Last year, with the cat tails finally eliminated, Patrick, Jeremy, and I strategized what we wanted the bog to look like and how we would make it happen. Armed with everyones’ input, Jeremy took over the construction design and implementation.
Our first step was to remove several truckloads of squishy muck that covered the bottom, since this would not provide the stability we needed to set large rocks.
With the pit finally firm and level, it was time to closely examine water flow from both surface and subsurface water.
Next, the pit was re-filled with our native sandy loam, with a central “gravel burrito”, which would allow subsurface water a way to exit without erupting upward into the planting area.
The next step was the installation of underlayment and the pond liner. Despite the site being already waterlogged due to a high water table in the area, we felt that the use of a liner would give us more precise control over the water level.
To keep the liner from floating while we worked, we began refilling the bog with our new soil mix of 50% native sandy loam and 50% peat moss. Around the edges, where the rock garden would be installed, we used a base of concrete blocks to support the weight of the rocks. These were located on the outside of the liner, so the blocks would not leach chemicals into the acidic, nutrient deficient bog.
In the center of the bog, we used double-wall drain pipe, stood on end to support the centerpiece of huge boulders.
The large rock feature was then installed on top of the support pipes, along with an ancient stump which Jeremy unearthed on the property.
Rocks with planting pockets were then installed along the edge on top of the cinder block wall. .
The final step was the installation of entrance steps into the bog and pathway stones, which will allow visitor a closeup view of the plants. Initial plants are in the ground, but more will be added as they are ready. The crevices planting mix (same as the bog) has a pH of around 4.0, compared to all our other crevice gardens on the property, which have a pH around 8.0. This should allow us to grow an entirely new array of plants.
From start to finish, the entire project took Jeremy, Nathan, and some occasional help from other staff, 3 1/2 weeks…job well done!
We hope you’ll drop by during our spring open house and check out the new Rock Bog in person.
A couple of years ago, we blogged about the new Raleigh Interstate 540 highway loop that seized a bit of our land. Much progress has been made on the highway since that time, and supposedly less than a year remains before it will be open for traffic. Here are a couple of recent images showing the progress, from what used to be garden property. The first images is looking east toward the Hwy 50 exit. The second image is looking west toward Sauls Road, where there will not be an exit. At least this should save some folks time in the future when driving to our Open Nursery & Garden Days.
The horticultural world just lost another stalwart with the passing of plantswoman, Sally Walker, 87, of Southwestern Native Seed. After departing her native England, by way of New Zealand, and later California, Sally and her husband Tim, settled in Arizona in the 1960s. After working for several renown nurseries in both the UK and US, she started her own seed company, based out of Tucson in 1975, which would become Southwestern Native Seed.
Over the next 32 years, Sally was one of the only sources of many southwestern native plants, introducing several great new plants to commerce including Agastache rupestris, Penstemon cardinalis, and Aquilegia desertorum. Her relentless travel schedule took her throughout the Southwestern US and into the mountains of Northern Mexico first to find and study the plants and then return a second time for seed.
I would always drop what I was doing when Sally’s catalog, filled with her own plant sketches, arrived.
We were fortunate to have Sally visit JLBG several times, and below is an image from her 2009 trip.
It was great to spend several days last week walking through the nursery and gardens with our dear friends, Carl Schoenfeld and Wade Roitsch of the former Yucca Do Nursery. Wade is still gardening and plant exploring in Texas, while Carl has opened Yucca Doo Vivero at his home in Salta, Argentina. You can follow his new adventure on Facebook.
Their contributions to the world of horticulture are extraordinary, and it’s great that those efforts are continuing, despite the closure of their North American operation.
Imagine what it’s like arriving at work in the early morning hours for a winter open house day to find that straight line winds during the night have destroyed the entire nursery checkout structure. Indeed, that’s what our staff faced on the final weekend of our recently concluded open house.
Not only was our canvas cover ripped to shreds, but most of the support poles were mangled beyond imagination. Electrical wires and Internet cables were twisted into a tangled mass, with some dangling 20′ in the air.
Our Saturday morning debacle saw both the nursery and garden staff jump into action, including some of which were awakened from their weekend slumber to help demolish, quickly rebuild, and then re-wire the entire structure, so that by 10:30am, we were able to resume checkout in something other than our temporary set up.
Thanks to our amazing staff, and thanks to the patience of the record-breaking crowds who visited during the final Saturday and Sunday.
We just discovered that one of our good plant friends, plantsman and former mail order nurseryman, Dick Weaver, 77, passed away early in the days of the pandemic in June 2020.
Dick and I had been corresponding regularly, but in a final note in late 2019, he indicated that Parkinson’s had now made it difficult for him to type emails. Although we chatted on the phone after that, I completely lost track of him during the COVID craziness. It was only when I tried to catch up last week that I discovered he’d passed not long after our last chat.
Dick and his life partner, Rene Duval, started We-Du nursery in Marion, NC in 1983, after Dick left his job as Assistant Curator/Taxonomist/Plant Explorer at Boston’s Arnold Arboretum (1970-1983). Armed with a PhD in Botany from Duke University, Dick gave up a good salary and stable job for the uncertain, crazy world as a mail order nursery owner.
As a young nursery owner, We-Du Nursery near Marion, NC was always one of my favorite stops to see and acquire new plants and chat with other plant nerds. Their nursery specialty was both North American native and their Asian counterparts–similar interests to ours.
After 13 years in the mail order business, Dick and Rene sold We-Du to move to Puerto Rico to run a coffee plantation. Dick thought mail order was difficult until he tried to run a farm in the mountains of Puerto Rico. In 2001, I remember a desperate sounding email from Dick, saying they needed to move back to the US asap…preferably to Florida. We made a few calls, and connected Dick to friends in the Gainesville area, which eventually led to Dick getting a position with the Florida Department of Agriculture in 2002. He worked there until his retirement in 2010.
It was great to have Dick and Rene back on the mainland and to once again be able to visit in person, this time at the fascinating home and garden they created in North Florida.
In 2016, after Rene passed away, Dick moved to Pennsylvania to be near his remaining family, starting yet another garden. Sadly, we never got to visit his final home. We’ll miss the plant chats and plant exchanges, but thanks for adding so much to the world of horticulture!
On behalf of our management team, Jasper, Henry, Kit Kat, Buddy, Jake, Elwood, and all of our Homo Sapiens staff, we’d like to wish you a wonderful Holiday Season and a Purrfectly Delightful 2023!
Season’s Greetings from all of us at Plant Delights and Juniper Level Botanic Garden. With the National Day of Giving on November 29, we thought we’d wade into the fray and make our case for a donation to our future operational endowment for JLBG.
As you are probably aware, we are in the process of transitioning to our next phase of existence. Age and health issues catch up to all of us, and while our health is still fine today, we needed to put a plan in place to ensure the future of the gardens at JLBG.
Several years ago, we (Anita and I) gifted the entire property, which includes both Plant Delights Nursery and Juniper Level Botanic Garden to NC State University for safe keeping, to which they have gladly agreed. The only thing remaining is to fund the yearly operational expenses of the gardens, since the University has no funds to do so. The University has established an operational endowment, for which we are currently raising funds.
To maintain the garden at its current level of operation will require a $17 million dollar endowment. To date, we have raised $600,000. As you see, we have a long way to go, and with us continuing to age, the urgency to fill the endowment increases every day. We hope you’ll be willing to contribute to our year end appeal if you think the gardens are worth preserving. Please also help us to share the word with your gardening friends…especially those who have won the lottery and need a good tax deduction.
If you haven’t visited JLBG in a while, we have included some 2022 garden shots.
Here is the link to find out more about the endowment, our future plans, and to make a year end donation. If you’d like to chat with us further with questions or thoughts, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
-tony and anita
We are pleased to announce that Dr. Patrick McMillan’s new book, A Guide to the Wildflowers of South Carolina, has been published. While Patrick taught at Clemson, he was approached to update The Guide to Wildflowers of South Carolina (Porcher), first published in 2002.
After studying over 200,000 herbarium sheets (dead, smashed plants), and making countless trips into the field to photograph and study the plants in habitat, the updated book, A Guide to the Wildflowers of South Carolina has been born. This amazing 613-page book is a dramatic update from 2002 version, complete with more images, completely revised distribution maps, and an additional 200+ plant species.
I have known Patrick for over 30 years, and we are so blessed to have him as our JLBG Director of Horticulture and Gardens. We are the beneficiary of his encyclopedic plant knowledge every day, but now everyone can benefit from that same knowledge through this amazing new book.
His new book, which has an official publication date of next month, is available through your favorite on-line bookseller. Whether you live/travel, or botanize in NC, SC, or any of the Southeastern states, you will find this book invaluable.
If you’ve visited PDN/JLBG this year, you’ve no doubt noticed the construction of the new Raleigh outer loop, I-540, which required the seizure of nearly an acre of our property. The construction also requires our road to be raised 15′ to clear the new Interstate being built below grade. This will add a whole new level of adventure in the winter when the road is covered in snow or ice. This week, the new Sauls Road overpass will be completed. While there will not be an exit on Sauls Road, there will be one within a mile both east and west of the gardens/nursery. Construction of the new Raleigh southern loop is scheduled to be completed in late 2023.
Just back from the Perennial Plant Association meeting in Lancaster, PA, held in person for the first time in three years. It was like a family reunion after such a long period of no contact, except via Zoom. Over 450 people from around the world showed up for the first year back.
The Perennial Plant Association is a professional organization for people involved in production, sales, trials, research, landscaping, or growing perennials. The annual meetings consist of a week of talks, tours, and a trade show. There are plenty of tour options, so attendees can select whether they are more interested in landscape design, retail, or production.
Aris Greenleaf is a large liner producer, who also has a trial garden. Sadly, non of the trial plants here had been planted more than a few months.
Cavano’s Nursery in nearby Maryland, was one of several top notch perennial growers we visited.
North Creek Nursery, a leading producer of native plant liners in PA, hosted the group for an amazing dinner
Owner Ed Snodgrass welcomed the group to his Emory Knoll Farms, an “off the grid” nursery that only produces plants for green roofs. 100% of their power is produced by solar panels on site.
For those unfamiliar with green roofs, shingles are replaced with plants, which help insulate the structure, while also reducing runoff.
What interested many on this tour, was their use of an outdoor version of a Stanley Steamer, for weed control. The manufacturer, Weedtechnics is out of Australia, but has a few US distributors.
Steam is applied too kill weeds as you would clean a carpet. The steam only penetrates the ground to 5 mm, but that’s enough to kill both the weed and weed seed, without bothering nearby plants. This is certainly a technology many of us on the tour will be investigating.
We visited the amazing Mt. Cuba Center in Delaware, a place I’ve had the pleasure of visiting several times over the last 30 years. The gardens have undergrown a dramatic facelift that made a great garden even better. It was great to catch the native Zigadenus glaberrimus in full flower by the lower pond.
The amazing Chanticleer Gardens and Longwood Gardens both hosted the group for two incredible dinners and a chance to stroll the grounds. At Chanticleer, we caught the water lotus (Nelumbo) in full flower, looking eerily like something from the Little Shop of Horrors.
Of course, we are all there to see the latest and greatest in new plants, and these gatherings never fail to show us something new we need to try. Below are the latest from the world of echinacea breeding.
Lysimachia lanceolata ‘Burgundy Mist’ and Sorghastrum nutans ‘Golden Sunset’ are two new US natives that are just hitting the market.
Of course, in addition to the plants, these meetings are also about the people and the networking that these meetings afford. It was great to see two former JLBG’ers in attendance, Adrienne and Jon Roethling. Adrienne is now the Director of the Paul Ciener Garden in NC, and Jon heads up the grounds at Reynolda House and Gardens.
And it was great to catch up with Simple, the Roving Garden Artist…one of the most “out of the box” designers I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting.
It was a lovely surprise to run into an old friend, plantsman Barry Yinger, who was in town, taking a break from his Sanseveria conservation work in Tanzania to visit his sister, and happened to be staying next door to the convention.
It’s always great to catch up with old friends, Nanci Allen (long time PPA director), and Allan Armitage (retired UGA professor). You never know who you’ll run into at these meetings. If you work in the field, check out the PPA, and perhaps we’ll see you at a future symposium.
Plant breeders are an odd sort…people who are never satisfied with their results, and as such are always looking to improve even the most fabulous creation. We’ve been dabbling with crinum lilies for several years, and the first photo below is one of our newest creations, Crinum ‘Razzleberry’, which is rather amazing. Despite this success, we return to the breeding fields to see what else awaits from additional gene mixing.
Crinum flowers typically open in early evening…5-7pm for us. The first step in breeding is to remove the petals, to have good access to the male pollen (the powdery tips atop the six pink thingys), and the female pistil, the single longer thingy with a dark pink knob at the top and a bigger knob at the bottom. Most crinum pollen is yellow, but depending on the parentage, some hybrids have white pollen.
The male thingy is known as a stamen, comprised two parts, the filament (the pink thing), and the anther (the part with the pollen). The female parts are known as the pistil, comprised of the ovary (bottom), the style (the pink thingy), and the stigma (the sticky knob at the tip.
In breeding, the anther is removed and the pollen is dusted on the stigma of a different plant to make the cross. Crinums produce an insane amount of nectar, so crinum breeders are constantly dodging sphinx moth pollinators, as well as dealing with the ant superhighway below as they haul off the nectar.
If your cross is successful, you will have seed forming in about a month. The seed are quite large, and must be planted immediately, since they have zero shelf life.
Once the seeds germinate it normally takes 4-5 years for your new seedlings to bloom. During the first several years you can evaluate vigor and growth habit, but the final evaluation can’t be made until it blooms.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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..
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.
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.
Apologies for commandeering the famed Duke Ellington line, but it seems appropriate for the new Colocasia ‘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 ‘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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
|We have finally closed the book on a tumultuous 2020, as we turn the calendar page to 2021.|
Over the past twelve months, it suddenly became not only legal, but required to wear masks in public. So, we quickly learned how to work and shop in a mask, we adapted to contactless pickups, eating restaurant food in our vehicles, zooming, and spending inordinate amounts of time with our same-roof families, and an array of other new normals. Both home and public gardens have risen in importance in people’s lives as most folks have had little choice but to shelter in safe places, and what could be safer than outdoors in the garden. Although COVID vaccinations are underway, we’re still a way from achieving herd immunity, so we expect another season of significant garden immersion.
Whether you like social media or not, we’ve seen a dramatic jump in Facebook participation in a time that pretty much every type of plants has its own worldwide group of enthusiasts. I can’t think of a better way to “find your plant people” than to join like-minded plant friends on-line. Here are just a few of the many plant groups that we follow:
Agave (over 14,000 members)
Aspidistra (over 600 members)
Variegated Plants (over 16,000 members)
Asarum (over 700 members)
Solomon’s Seal (over 1,200 members)
Variegated Agaves (over 5,000 members)
Southeast Palms and Subtropicals (over 400 members)
Lycoris and Nerines (over 1,100 members)
Crinum (over 1,200 members)
Thank goodness that our gardens seem oblivious to the craziness in the world. So far, winter 2020/2021 at PDN/JLBG has been consistently cool, but without any cold temperature extremes. While plants are getting their required winter chilling hours (under 40 degrees F), we’ve only seen lows of 21F as of mid-January. Hellebore flowers in the garden are beginning to push as we quickly approach our first Winter Open Nursery & Garden Days. Those potted hellebores which will be for sale on site for our open days are also looking amazing, so we should have a bumper crop of flowering plants for you to choose from this winter.
We’d like to again thank everyone for their patience in 2020, as we navigated the transition to a socially distanced workplace, which coincided with an unpredicted rise in plant demand. Longer than normal wait and response times from our customer service department were simply unavoidable. Although we’d like to think we are better prepared for 2021, we won’t know how well we polished our crystal ball until the shipping season begins.
|While we are always losing loved ones, 2020 seemed particularly difficult. The horticultural/botanical world experienced a number of loses of significant contributors to the field. Below are a few.|
|In January, Southeast US, legendary nurserywoman Margie Jenkins passed away at age 98. It’s hard to have been involved in the nursery business in the southeast US without knowing “Ms. Margie”. Margie was an incredible plantsperson and nursery owner, who traveled the country acquiring new plants and sharing those plants she’d found and propagated. Margie was showered with professional awards from throughout the Southeastern US region for her amazing work. True to the Margie we all knew, she served customers up until the week of her death…life well lived!|
|Contributions can be made to the Margie Y. Jenkins Azalea Garden at the LSU AgCenter’s Hammond Research Station. Please make checks payable to the LSU AgCenter and write “Margie Jenkins” in the memo field. Memorial donations can be mailed to 21549 Old Covington Hwy., Hammond, LA 70403. The Margie Y. Jenkins Azalea Garden was established in 2006 to honor, share and teach about the contributions Ms. Margie made to the nursery and landscape industry by displaying her favorite plants – including azaleas and natives. Other donations can be made to the Louisiana Nursery and Landscape Foundation for Scholarship and Research “Margie Y Jenkins Scholarship Fund” mailed to LNLFSR, PO Box 1447, Mandeville, LA 7047.|
|From the west coast, we were shocked by the February death of 61 year old California bulb breeder William Welch, better known as Bill the Bulb Baron. Bill was a prolific breeder and worldwide authority on narcissus, especially the tazetta group, and amarcrinum…to mention but a few. Bill was incredibly generous with genetics and ideas to improve both genera. Just prior to his death last year, Bill was awarded the American Daffodil Society Gold Medal for his pioneering work with hybridizing narcissus.|
|March saw the passing of plantsman John Fairey of Texas at age 89. John was the founder of the former Yucca Do Nursery and the associated Peckerwood Gardens, which was renamed to the John Fairey Garden just days before his death. Where John grew up in South Carolina, woodpeckers were called Peckerwoods, but in recent years, members of the white supremacist movement began calling themselves “peckerwoods”, which didn’t exactly help garden fundraising, so a name change was dictated. As a career, John taught landscape architecture at Texas A&M, while building the gardens, starting the nursery, and becoming one of the most significant plant explorers of Northern Mexico. I had the pleasure of plant exploring in Mexico with John, and was actually just standing just a few feet away when he had a heart attack on a 1994 expedition.|
|John was recipient of many of the country’s top horticulture awards and the 39-acre garden he created probably holds the most significant ex-situ conservation collections of Northern Mexican flora in the world, thanks to over 100 expeditions south of the border. Our best wishes are with the gardens as they navigate the funding obstacles to keep the garden intact and open to the public.|
|In the Pacific Northwest, plant legend Jerry John Flintoff also passed away in March, after a period of declining health. I first had the opportunity to visit Jerry’s garden in 1995 with my friend, Dan Hinkley. Jerry was a consummate plantsman and a voracious consumer of horticultural information. His numerous introductions are legendary in plant collector circles, the best known being Pulmonaria ‘Roy Davidson’, Primula sieboldii ‘Lois Benedict, and the semi-double Sanguinaria canadensis ‘Jerry Flintoff’.|
|Across the pond, March also saw the passing of UK conifer guru Derek Spicer, 77, owner of the wholesale Killworth Nursery. Derek traveled the world studying conifers, which culminated in his epic 2012 book with Aris Auders, The RHS Encyclopedia of Conifers. This incredible encyclopedia lists all 615 conifer species, 8,000 cultivars, and 5,000 photos. If you like conifers, be sure to put this treasure on your gift list. Just last year, Derek was posthumously awarded the prestigious RHS Veitch Memorial Medal for his lifetime contributions.|
|We were saddened by the passing in May of one of our closest friends, plantsman Alan Galloway, age 60. In addition to serving as an adjunct researcher for Juniper Level Botanic Garden, Alan was a close friend and neighbor, living less than two minutes from the garden/nursery.|
|In July, we lost another plant legend in the southeast region with the passing of camellia guru and breeder, Dr. Cliff Parks at age 84 after a short period of declining health. Cliff was a repository of knowledge about the genus camellia. He was co-author of the highly prized book, Collected Species of the Genus Camellia. Cliff traveled throughout China studying the genus and returned with species that had never been cultivated in the west. These genetics were used in his breeding, the best of which were eventually introduced through Camellia Forest Nursery, run by his son, David.|
There were several significant horticultural community retirements also in 2020.
|In California, Jim Folsom retired at the end of 2020 as director of The Huntington Botanical Gardens, after a 36-year career at the garden. If you’ve visited The Huntington, then you are well aware of Jim’s amazing accomplishments. If you haven’t visited, put it on your garden bucket list. The Huntington Gardens have one of the most extensive plant collections in the US. It’s rare that I can go to a botanic garden and see many plants that I don’t know, but at The Huntington, I have spent three consecutive days in the garden and constantly find arrays of unknown plants. Jim is an Alabama native, who tells me that he and his wife look forward to more traveling in retirement. Last year, Jim was honored by the American Hort Society with their highest honor, the L.H. Bailey Award. Congratulations!|
|Also from the botanical world, taxonomist Dr. Alan Meerow hung up his microscope after a distinguished 20 year career at the USDA-Agricultural Research Service’s National Germplasm repository in Miami. Alan’s work included work with tropical and subtropical ornamentals with a specialty in Amaryllids. His work has helped elucidate the relationships between members of the Amaryllidaceae family with some recently published and still controversial relationship discoveries. Alan was a key contributor to the now defunct International Bulb Society, and the recipient of a number of top awards including the American Society of Plant Taxonomists’ Peter Raven Award for Scientific Outreach and the David Fairchild Medal for Plant Exploration by the National Tropical Botanical Garden.|
|Longtime NC State plant breeder, Dr. Tom Ranney was just selected as a Fellow in the prestigious National Academy of Inventors. Congratulations for another well-deserved honor.|
January starts a new chapter in plant breeding at NC State as we welcome plant breeder, Dr. Hsuan Chen to the JC Raulston/NC State staff. In addition to new plant breeding projects, Dr. Chen will take over much of the work of retired plant breeder and redbud specialist Dr. Dennis Werner. We look forward to more introductions from a plant pipeline full of great new plants.
|Southeastern Plant Symposium|
We had planned to welcome visitors to Raleigh for the 2nd annual Southeastern Plant Symposium last June before COVID intervened. We pivoted and moved on-line to the Zoom platform along with everyone else and we were thrilled at the participation and comments. For 2021, we are still planning to hold our event in person in mid-June, with the realistic expectation that we may need to switch to on-line, depending on the COVID situation, but we will make that decision when time nears. The symposium dates for 2021 are June 11 and 12. Below is the current speaker line up.
Speakers confirmed for 2021 include:
Dan Hinkley, Heronswood founder
Hans Hansen, plant breeder, Walters Gardens
Kelly Norris, Des Moines Botanic Garden
Hayes Jackson, Horticulture Director
Ian Caton, Wood Thrush Nursery
Dr. Aaron Floden, Missouri Botanic Gardens
Dr. Peter Zale, Longwood Gardens
Dr. Patrick McMillan, SC Botanic Gardens
Janet Draper, Smithsonian Institution
Richard Hawke, Chicago Botanic Garden
Mark Weathington, JC Raulston Arboretum
Tony Avent, Juniper Level Botanic Garden
Until next time…happy gardening
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Time to return to Shaftesbury for the final talk of the day, a lecture by our friend Dr. John Grimshaw.
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.
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.
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:
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
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.
Each year we offer nearly 1,500 unique, rare and native perennials for sale, out of the 26,000 taxa in the garden.
As we are constantly trialing new plants coming to the market and evaluating underutilized or unknown perennials from around the world, we must retire hundreds of plants each year to make room in our greenhouses for new treasures. Here are a few of our favorite plants being retired at the end of this year, so don’t miss out!
Today is National Black Cat Appreciation Day, so we would like to recognize past and present nursery cats of JLBG. If you’ve visited the gardens during open house and gardens, you have, no doubt, met some or all of our family of cats over the years.
Henry and Jasper are the current reigning Nursery Cats of JLBG! Meet them at our 2019 Fall Open Nursery & Garden Days.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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!
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.
Day 2 of our Winter Open Nursery & Garden Days…
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.
In keeping with the damp, cool, New England-like weather….Cousins Maine Lobster food truck will be here today from 11am-2pm.
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:
- Friday, February 22: 11am-2pm – The Shrimp Truck
- Friday, February 22: 2pm-4pm – Bourbon Street Beignets
- Saturday, February 23: 11am-2pm – Cousins Maine Lobster
- Sunday, February 24: 2pm-4pm – Bourbon Street Beignets
- Friday, March 1: 11am-2pm – Umami On Wheels
- Friday, March 1: 2pm-4pm – Bourbon Street Beignets
- Saturday, March 2: 11am-2pm – The Shrimp Truck
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!!
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.
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!
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!
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 is always a sell out, so get your tickets early.
Interesting 3D garden
A new use for driftwood
Dyslexis hopscotch paving patterns
Larger than life cattails
Run for the metal roses
No one’s going to steel this bull
Plants that never die
A new take on stained glass
Not sure how they did this, but it’s pretty amazing.
If it looks like a nymph and moves like a nymph….