Awaken the Kraken

A few weeks ago, we posted images of the flower spike of our Agave ovatifolia ‘Vanzie’ just beginning to spike. Now, the giant beast is in full flower. The first photo below is the plant with its full expanded stalk in full bud, just prior to opening. After that, each image shows the progression of the flower development.

Agaves are monocarpic, so those species like Agave ovatifolia that do not make offsets will die after flowering. Agave ovatifolia is, however, one of a handful of species that usually forms baby plantlets on the tip of flowers stalk after seed set.

Agave ovatifolia ‘Vanzie’

First flowers just beginning to open

Agave ovatifolia ‘Vanzie’

We set up our Little Giant ladder, which allows us to climb up, collect pollen and to make crosses with other agaves.

The lower flower clusters open first and flowering continues to progress each day moving higher up the stalk.

Agave ovatifolia ‘Vanzie’

Climbing the ladder gives you a bird’s eye view of the amazing buds as they are ready to open…usually 200-300 per panicle.

Agave ovatifolia ‘Vanzie’

Below is a half-open flower panicle. The pollen is ripe before the stigma is ready to receive pollen, so pollen can be easily gathered without worry of self pollination.

Below is a fully open flower panicle. Each panicle weighs 5-10 pounds. No wonder the stalk needs to be so sturdy. Once the temperature warms in the morning, the flowers are abuzz with pollinators…mostly bees.

Agave ovatifolia ‘Vanzie’

Looking down from above the flower panicle makes a pretty crazy photo

Agave ovatifolia ‘Vanzie’

Our intern Zoe is working with our volunteer agave curator, Vince Schneider to gather pollen and make crosses with other previously gathered agave pollen

Agave ovatifolia ‘Vanzie’

I usually don’t climb this high…a fear of heights, but this photo opportunity was just too good to resist

Agave ovatifolia ‘Vanzie’

Habitat Creation

In case you missed this section of the garden during spring open house, this is where we created a small vignette that comprises both bog and desert conditions in the same space. The low central area was created for pitcher plants and other bog lovers, while the higher areas to each side, are home to dryland loving plants like agaves and bearded iris. We hope to show how dramatically diverse habits can be created in a very small space. The wet space is created by installing a seep, which is nothing more than a continually dripping water line.

Feel the Berm

Just over a year ago, we built a new berm garden, adjacent to our Open House welcome tent. Here is that garden today. The soil is composed of 50% Permatill (slate gravel), 25% compost, and 25% native soil). This is in an unirrigated section of the garden. Like all garden spaces at JLBG, no commercial fertilizers are ever allowed. The exceptional drainage and high nutrient content from the compost and Permatill result in an amazing growth rate.

Hi Ida Maia

Looking great in the crevice garden this month is the Pacific Northwest native, Dichelostemma ida-maia This odd little bulb is a member of the Asparagus family…so that makes it as cousin to agaves, hostas, and asparagus. In the wild, it is only found in coastal meadows and into forest edges and partial woodland openings in Northern California and Southern Oregon. As a rule, California natives typically aren’t climatically welcomed in the rainy Southeast US, but Dichelostemma ida-maia is an exception.

The Look of Love

If you’re able to visit during this years spring open house, it will be hard to miss the look of love in the air. We have a record 20 century plants in spike in the garden…a number far surpassing any flowering record we’ve set previously.

Agaves are a genus of mostly monocarpic plants…they live their entire lives to flower once, then after experiencing a giant-sized orgasm, they fall over dead. In the wild, many species take up to 100 years to flower, which is why the name century plant stuck as a common name. In our more rainy climate, our century plants typically flower in 12-15 years. Several of our current crop are actually less than a decade old, but their enormous size has already been achieved, so they’re ready to reproduce.

Some species of agaves offset, and in this case, only then central rosette dies, and the offsets continue as is the case with bromeliads. Those agave species which never offset are one-and-dones, but hopefully will leave behind a plethora of seed for the next generation. From the start of the spikes to full flower is usually about 8 weeks. Below are a few of our babies in spike.

Agave ovatifolia ‘Vanzie’
Agave x ovatispina ‘Blue Arrows’
Agave lophantha JLBG-01
Agave x loferox JLBG-014
Agave x pseudoferox JLBG-176

Snowgaves

We’ve “enjoyed” frozen precipitation for three consecutive weekends this winter, with one producing a decent 3.5″ snow. There’s something magnetic about snow on century plants, that makes you grab your camera and snap away.

The white of the snow looks out of place on an agave, although it does wonders for accenting the architectural structure of the plant. We have worked for 35 years to identify and create agaves which are completely tolerant of such weather events. Below are a couple of our hybrids, created here at JLBG.

Agave x amourifolia
Agave x loferox

Agave frog

Since we’ve been growing agaves, one of the most fascinating things we’ve noticed is the incredible attraction of tree frogs and Carolina anoles to their leaf texture. There is hardly a day that goes by that we don’t spot one or the other, nestled on an agave leaf. Here is our most recent image of our native green tree frog, Hyla cinerea, basking in the sun on an Agave parryi hybrid. Ain’t nature grand!

Too Straight and Narrow

It’s always interesting when we introduce a plant we think is an incredible addition to the garden, but virtually no one purchases it. Thank goodness, it doesn’t happen too often, but I’m reminded of one such case every day when I get home and admire our row of Agave x striateosa ‘Straight and Narrow’. This 2015 introduction was the first ever hybrid introduction of Agave bracteosa and Agave striata…both non-spiny century plants.

We couldn’t stand to throw out all the plants that didn’t sell, so we planted a row under a wide overhang along our home, where they never see any water, and are in shade for more than half the day. Here is one of those plants five years later, providing a texture and form that you simply can’t find with any other plants that tolerates those conditions.

We have a second seedling from the same cross, which we’ve never been able to share, but which flowered in 2015. Despite our best attempts, we were not able to get any seed set. Now, we await the first flowering of this clone in the hopes it is more fertile, so we can create some more unusual hybrids. Unlike most century plants, Agave striata is not monocarpic (doesn’t die after flowering), so we expect this hybrid to also live on in perpetuity after flowering. Winter hardiness is Zone 7b-10, at least.

Agave x striateosa ‘Straight and Narrow’

Stingray in the Garden

One of our favorite winter hardy (Zone 7b) century plants is the non-spiny Agave bracteosa ‘Stingray’. Here is one of our garden specimens this week, which has been thriving in the ground since 2016. Unlike most agaves, which prefer full sun, Agave bracteosa is better in part sun (full sun for only a few hours during the day). Agave bracteosa ‘Stingray’ is also a fairly slow grower that only produces a few offsets. A mature rosette will top out around 15-18″ tall x 2′ wide. We love the unique texture, which differs from all other agaves.

Mangave zombies

One of many great attributes of mangaves, compared to one of their parents, agaves, is that they don’t die after flowering. Agaves are mostly monocarpic, which mean that they behave like bromeliads, where each rosette grows to maturity, then dies after flowering. Those species of agave which offset, live on after flowering, by means of un-flowered offsets. Those agave species which don’t offset are a one and done after they flower and reproduce by reseeding.

By incorporating manfreda genes to create xMangaves, the monocarpic trait disappears. After a mangave flowers, it dies to the ground, but like a good zombie, it soon pops back from the dead. Here is a current photo from the garden of two clumps of xMangave ‘Blue Mammoth’. The first, larger clump has not flowered, but should do so next year. The second clump with all the offsets, flowered in 2020, and re-grew to this point in 2021. Next year, the rosettes will continue to re-grow in size.

The Flowery Gates of JLBG

We’ve been working on upgrading many of the temporary gates throughout the garden, our first few, which went in this year are all designed by NC sculptor Jim Gallucci, from photos we took in the JLBG Gardens. We all need more art in our gardens…Enjoy!

Sarracenia leucophylla gate
Dryopteris fern gate
Hosta gate
Iris ensata gate
Agave parryi gate

Queen for an Agave

I was fascinated to find these monarch butterfly chrysalis’s hanging out on an agave in the crevice garden recently. Our entomologist, Bill Reynolds, tells me that when the caterpillars are finished feeding, they will often migrate from a nearby asclepias to all kinds of odd plants to hangout until it’s time to come out of their closet. It’s hard to imagine a full-size monarch butterfly inside these little structures, but perhaps they are like Dr. Who’s Tardis.

Sex for the Centuries

Since we are limited in the number of hardy century plant species, our only option for more agave diversity in the garden is to create it by crossing existing hardy species together. Here are a few of our recent successes.

Agave x amourifolia is a Plant Delights/JLBG creation from a cross we made in 2016 that combined the genes of three century plants, Agave ovatifolia, Agave lophantha, and Agave x pseudoferox ‘Logan Calhoun’. Our size estimates were that the offspring would mature at 3′ tall x 5′ wide. Here is one of our garden specimens photographed this week, which has already reached 2′ tall x 3′ wide.

Agave x amourifolia

Below is Agave x ovox, a 2017 cross of the two giants, Agave ovatifolia and Agave x pseudoferox ‘Bellville’. We expect this to get huge…perhaps 5′ tall x 10′ wide.

Agave x ovox ‘Large Ox’

Below is Agave x protifolia is a 2016 Mike Papay cross of Agave x protamericana x Agave ovatifolia. We also expect this to get quite massive.

Agave x protifolia

Below is Agave x ovatispina ‘Blue Arrows’, a 2016 Mike Papay cross of Agave ovatifolia x Agave flexispina. We would have expected this to be a mature size, but it’s achieved this in only 5 years, so we think we’re seeing some serious hybrid vigor.

Agave x ovatispina ‘Blue Arrows’

Below is Agave x ocareginae, our 2016 cross of Agave ovatifolia x Agave victoriae-reginae. Most likely, this elegant small grower will never offset.

Agave x ocareginae

Below is Agave x schuphantha, a 2015 Mike Papay cross involving three century plant species, Agave schidigera, Agave lophantha, and Agave lechuguilla. It’s formed a beautiful, symmentrical rosette, which should be getting close to mature size.

Agave x schuphantha ‘Wheel of Fortune’

Sibling rivalry

As a plant breeder, one of the cool things we get to do is observe the diversity that arises from a single cross. In some cases, the diversity shows up in the first generation (F1), while in other cases, the first set of offspring need to have sex with each other for the diversity in the offspring to reveal itself (Mendelian genetics). Fortunately, with agaves, we can see quite a bit of diversity in the F1 populations.

Below is a cross we call Agave x amourifolia, which is our cross of Agave ovatifolia, pseudoferox (salmiana var. ferox of Hort.), and lophantha. Here are three of our selected seedlings from that cross.

Plant #1 below is showing the large size of Agave x pseudoferox and the color of Agave ovatifolia (blue), with little visible influence of the narrow leaf, yellow-centered Agave lophantha.

Agave x amourifolia

Plant #2 below show more color influence from Agave x pseudoferox, but with the compact form influence of Agave ovatifolia.

Agave x amourifolia

Plant #3 below shows equal parts Agave x pseudoferox and ovatifolia, but also, what appears some leaf narrowing we would expect from Agave lophantha.

Agave x amourifolia

Below is Agave x flexiferox, created from a cross of the small Agave flexispina x the giant pseudoferox (salmiana var. ferox (Hort.). Plant #1 shows the small size of Agave flexispina, with the greenish coloration of Agave x pseudoferox.

Agave x flexiferox

Below, Agave x flexiferox ‘Megalodon’ shows the larger size and overall coloration from Agave x pseudoferox, with some added blue tones from Agave flexispina.

Agave x flexiferox ‘Megalodon’

Below is Agave x victoferox, a cross of Agave victoriae-reginae x pseudoferox. Plant #1 below shows the form and size of Agave victoriae-reginae with the color of Agave x psedoferox.

Agave x victorferox

Hybrid #2 below shows the teeth from Agave x psedoferox (victoriae-reginae has no teeth), and a size intermediate between the two parents.

Agave x victorferox 2

Hybrid #3 below shows a larger size and more teeth due to more genes from Agave x pseudoferox. The teeth are much smaller because of the Agave victoriae-reginae genes. The splendid compact form also comes from the Agave x victoriae-reginae parent. This cross almost resembles the Northern Mexican Agave montana.

Agave x victorferox 3

We hope this gives you a small peek into the world of plant breeding and the subsequent evaluation and selection process.

I’ve fallen and I can’t get up

This summer, two of our spiking clumps of Agave ovatifolia became dislodged from the ground during a violent thunderstorm. We wondered if they would still set viable seed despite being without roots, since the energy built up from 15 years of growth was still in the foliage. We made several crosses without having to set up a ladder and it appears that we’ve got good seed set. Nature is amazingly in its desire to survive.

Striptease in the Succulents

Agave x striphantha ‘Striptease’ is a JLBG creation from a 2013 cross of Agave striata and Agave lophantha. Both parents are 30 year survivors here in the garden, so we wanted to see what a combination of genes looked like. Also, Agave striata is the only hardy agave species, whose main crown doesn’t die after flowering. So far, this gem is 3′ wide, and like the Agave striata parent, it offsets from the crown and doesn’t sucker like Agave lophantha. It’s looking like a flower spike may be imminent, so perhaps we’ll have our flowering question answered soon.

A Phallic Spring

The bees are buzzing with excitement over the impending flowering of five clones of Agave ovatifolia here at JLBG. We’ve never had a year with quite this many whale’s tongue agaves spiking at once, so it should be quite a show. Here’s our Agave ovatifolia ‘Frosty Blue’, which was the first to spike, but the other four aren’t far behind. Full opening probably won’t occur until our summer open house, but in the meantime, they are still something to marvel over.

A Crazy Horse

Because we’ve had another mild winter with regard to absolute low temperatures, the foliage on most of our hardy century plants is still looking good. In colder winters, foliar damage is often caused by our wet, cold winters. While we have been consistently cool and extremely wet (it has rained 50% of the days since January 1), the agaves look great…the well-drained soil is the key. We just took this image of Agave ‘Crazy Horse’, which is looking particularly architectural in the winter garden.

Goldfinger Century Plant…coming soon!

One of our most unique agave seedlings is a selection of Agave lophantha in which the tips of the leaves turn bright gold during the cold winter months. Here is our parent clump that’s been in the ground since 2011. Hopefully just a few more years and we’ll have enough to share…assuming there is any interest.

Agave lophantha ‘Goldfinger’

Agave Mountain Man – the big moment

We posted this a few weeks ago as our Agave ‘Mountain Man’ (A. gentryi x montana) prepared to open. We’ll, the big moment is here…below are a few shot from today.

The seed were wild-collected in Mexico in the late 1990s by our friends at Yucca Do, and our seedling was planted in May 2000, so it took 17 years to flower.  Fingers crossed for good seed set, and fortunately we have many more agaves in flower (and a tall ladder) to help the process. 

A View from the top – Agave flowering soon

Look what showed up in the garden.  Our specimen of Agave ‘Mountain Man’…a hybrid of Agave montana and Agave gentryi decidied to flower for our spring open nursery and garden.  This unusual hybrid starts its flower spike in the fall, which stops for the coldest part of winter, then starts growing again in spring.  The spike showed no damage despite a winter low of 13 degrees F.  Be sure to check this out when you visit…located just behind the welcome tent. 

A Walk Through the Garden!

October is a transitional month in the garden, as the plants of summer begin to fade and the stars of the autumn garden begin to shine. Join us Saturday October 8 from 10am – noon for a two-hour class…an interactive outdoor walk through our extensive botanical gardens, discussing the plants in the garden, and how and why they grow.

picture of the garden berms with agave

Garden berm with Agave, Yucca and cactus

These pictures were taken at Juniper Level Botanic Garden today.

picture from the garden - Dahlia, Gladiolus, Silene

The gardens in their fall glory

picture of Charles Grimaldi Angel Trumpet

Brugmansia ‘Charles Grimaldi’ with hundreds of blooms in the garden today

picture from the garden today - Yucca, Colocasia, Muhlenbergia

Yucca and Muhlenbergia blooming in the garden today

Agaves and Mangaves

Agave victoriae-reginae PDN018 winter before flowering

We are very excited to see that we have at least 9 agaves so far that will be flowering in 2016.  Above is a recent photo of Agave victoriae-reginae where you can see the bud forming in the center where the leaves have become reduced in size.  While we lose the agaves after flowering, we are able to make crosses and create more new and unqiue agaves.  We also share pollen with plant breeder Hans Hansen, who crosses them with manfredas to create some amazing mangaves as pictured below, which we are pleased to introduce for 2016

x Mangave Kaleidoscope - Jaguar with cream edge WG285-9 at Walters(64484)

Mangave ‘Kaleidoscope’ makes a superb container plant where it isn’t hardy in the ground.  It should be fine outdoors from Zone 7b south.

xMangave Moonglow (M. Bloodspot x M. Choc Chip x )(Walters)(64486)

Mangave ‘Moonglow‘ with its large dark purple spots is the smallest of the three. The foliage of all is incredible pliable unlike most agaves.

xMangave Pineapple Express at Walters4(64487)A third introduction for 2016 is Mangave ‘Pineapple Express’…the fastest growing of these three.  These will fill out a container in no time and are great for summer patio containers.

 

 

 

Bluebell Giants – Our new agave hybrids

Agave x protoamericana 45-79 in spike

Agave x protoamericana

 

Agave Belleville3

 

Agave salmiana var. ferox ‘Bellville’

One of the fun projects our JLBG research division has been working on for several years is breeding for winter hardy century plants. One of our latest crosses is between the two plants pictured above, Agave x protoamericana (blue) and Agave salmiana var. ferox ‘Bellville’ (green).  These are the two largest agaves that are winter hardy for us, and we were able to cross them in 2014.  We are offering seed grown offspring while they last under the name Agave ‘Bluebell Giants’.  In most cases, our other hybrid agaves are larger and more vigorous than the parents, which in this cases could be HUGE!   These seed-grown plants have now filled our 1 qt pots and we’ll be planting our first plants in the garden in spring.  If you like giant agave and love to experiment along with us, don’t miss this once in a lifetime opportunity.

30′ tall Flowering Agave – a pollinators dream

Agave Grey Gator in full flower at top with ladderIt’s been absolutely amazing to watch the swarm of honeybees, ants, and hummingbirds feeding on our giant 30′ tall flowering agave.  Here’s an updated photo of the blessed event from yesterday.  This weekend’s final summer open house is the last chance to see it in person.

 

Giant Agave flowering

Agave Grey Gator flowering with ladder and staff4

Here’s our research staff getting the giant ladder in place for breeding as the giant Agave salmiana x asperrima begins to open. Agave Grey Gator flowers with Jeremy on ladderAnd here’s Jeremy, who heads up our Research Division, gathering pollen and making crosses.  Breeding agaves is a little different from breeding daylilies, iris, and hostas. We hope you’ll join us during our summer open nursery and garden to see this monster in person.

 

Giant agave flower spike ready to open

Agave salmiana x asperrima flower spike ready to openThe flower spike on our giant Agave salmiana x asperrima is timed perfectly for our Summer Open Nursery and Garden.  We measured the spike on this 15 year old monster this morning at a whopping 29′ tall.  The actually opening of the flowers should start around Friday and will continue for several weeks.  We hope you’ll drop by for a visit during open house and take the opportunity to marvel at this wonder of nature.

 

Agave ‘Grey Gator’ flower spike peaking @ JLBG

Agave Grey Gator in spike

Here’s a current photo of our spiking Agave ‘Grey Gator’.  The spike began four weeks ago today, and was measured yesterday at 22′ in height.  The bracts that surround the flower spikes are just beginning to unfurl, so we’re probably a couple of weeks from seeing flowers open.

This is the largest of the winter hardy agaves we’ve grown, and we still have some of our crop of seed grown plants from its sister seedling that flowered a couple of years ago…sold as Agave salmiana var. ferox x Agave asperrima. Each seedling will be slightly different in mature size…some a bit smaller and some even larger.  Don’t miss your opportunity to try these for yourself.  Hardiness Zone 7b-9b.

Giant agave flowering spike starting

2015 9249 patio with Agave Grey Gator in spike from garage4

From high above our Southwest patio garden, you can get a good perspective of our latest agave to flower.  This cross of Agave salmiana and Agave asperrima (scabra) is our largest agave to ever flower (7′ tall x 12′ wide).  We’re expecting the spike to reach at least 25′ before it begins to open in late June or early July.

Agave Grey Gater spike starting

Here is a ground level photo from 2 weeks ago, when the flower bud first emerged.

Agave Grey Gator in spikeHere, the flower spike is 10 days old and nearing 12′ tall.  The flowering of large agaves evokes both excitement and sadness….excitement that it will flower and hopefully set seed, but sadness that the parent plant will die soon after flowering.  Although it would take 100 years to reach flowering size in the wild, our plant is only 16 years old, growing faster because of our higher rainfall.  While they last, we are pleased to offer seed-grown plants from its sister that flowered a couple of years earlier.

 

 

Two favorite agaves – Agave bracteosa and Agave ovatifolia

Agave bracteosa Lyn Lowrey2 Agave ovatifolia Sierra Lampazos4

The Agaves are looking great in the garden today as we start our Fall Open Nursery and Garden.  Here are two of my favorites as they look today…the spineless Agave bracteosa (top) that looks like a stiff green squid, and the magnificent Agave ovatifolia. (botttom) Both of these were brought into the US from Mexico by the late plant explorer, Lynn Lowrey of Texas.  You’ll see them both on display when you visit during the next two weekends. Be sure to say hello while you’re here.

Agave ovatifolia mutant

Agave ovatifolia Killer partial mutant

Here’s a teaser for the morning.  We’ve assembled a rather fun collection of variegated agaves (century plants), and here is a one-of-a-kind mutation we found on Agave ovatifolia, where the chimeral pattern is stable on one side of the plant and unstable on the other side.  The next chance to see this in person is when we host the Southeast Palm Society Meeting on August 9.  Visitors and guests are welcome to attend.

Agave albopilosa

Agave albopilosa PDN001

I took this photo of our oldest plant of Agave albopilosa yesterday.  We sold out of our first crop quickly this spring, but our next batch is almost ready.  It’s one of the coolest century plants we grow…very slow growing, and on the small side even when mature, but what a conversation piece!

Agave ocahui in flower

Agave ocahui v. ochaui flowers closeup

The fourth of our eight century plants with flower spikes is now open.  This is a 10-year old specimen of Agave ocahui…one of the agaves with unbranched flower spikes.  We’re enjoying the amazing flowers, while also trying to make crosses with other species to create interesting new hybrids…wish us luck!  Since Agave ocahui doesn’t offset, the plant will die after flowering, so we’ll need to plant a replacement.

Agaves in spike at Juniper Level

Agave lophantha PDN029 in bud

While I was gone, one more agave produced a flower spike, bringing our total to 8 flowering century plants, equaling our 2013 total.  Here is Agave lophantha that had the decency to wait until I got home to open.  It looks like we’ve probably got another week or two before it starts to open and the agave breeding begins.

2008 Plant Delights Nursery March Newsletter

Spring is well on its way here at Plant Delights as many of the spring ephemerals are in full flower. We’re hoping some of the early plants will slow down a bit to avoid a devastating April freeze like we endured in 2007. All in all, it’s been a good winter, although we could have done without the early March freeze (24 degrees F) that took out the flowers on the early magnolias, including M. denudata, M. ‘Galaxy’, and Michellia maudiae.

We’ve completed another great winter open house, but still have some superb selected flowering hellebores we’re adding to the web. These are available in limited quantities, so don’t delay. We also added a total of 56 new or returning plants you may wish to peruse.

The first waves of epimediums are just opening including E. stellatum, E. acuminatum, E. epsteinii, E. sempervirens, E. davidii, E. franchetii, and the early flowering E. grandiflorum ‘Yubae’. The rest of the species and hybrids will be following over the next month. Every year we become more enamored with this fun group of fairy wings, but beware, epimedium collecting is addictive. We’ve also been raising quite a few of our own seedlings and have some really special plants that we’ve been watching for several years. We should be making some final selections this year and look forward to getting them propagated for sale.

Another of our favorite early spring woodland plants is Sanguinaria canadensis (bloodroot). This delightful native wildflower (named for the red sap that emerges from the crushed roots) is one of the first rites of spring and a sign that spring is finally here. The single flowered forms open first, followed several weeks later by the splendid double flowered Sanguinaria canadensis ‘Multiplex’. If you grow sanguinaria, be sure to divide your clumps every 3-4 years. If not, sanguinaria suffers from a strange malady that causes the entire clump to dry rot if not divided.

Several of the early flowering iris are also gracing the garden now including the winter growing Iris unguicularis and the early spring-flowering Iris japonica ‘Eco Easter’. This has been a superb year for Iris unguicularis, which has been flowering on and off for several months. Iris ‘Eco Easter’ is a superb form of Iris japonica and is one of the only forms of this species to flower in our climate, which is typically too cold for the developing flower buds. This is a widely spreading species, so be sure to allow enough room for it to spread.

Also in flower now is the wonderful Cyclamen coum with its pink flowers held just above the silver and green patterned leaves. Accompanying the cyclamen are the perennial primulas including a number of Primula vulgaris cultivars. We are very thrilled to have discovered quite a few primulas which survive as perennials in our hot, humid, anti-primula climate.

The Boraginaceae family provides several great early spring bloomers including pulmonarias (lungwort) and Trachystemon orientalis. Most of our pulmonarias have just begun to flower, most opening blue and changing to pink. Two of our top performers are Pulmonaria ‘Trevi Fountain’ and P. ‘Samourai’. The closely related trachystemon forms a large basal rosette of large fuzzy dark green leaves that emerge just as the 8″ tall flower spikes of small blue dodecatheon-like flowers fade. Trachystemon is an incredibly tough woodland groundcover that is amazingly drought tolerant.

Last month, I mentioned the yellow-flowering Nothoscordum sellowianum as one of my favorite winter flowering bulbous plants, and while it is still in full flower, it has now been joined by another favorite, Fritillaria thunbergii. I got my first start of this unusual summer dormant gem from plantsman John Elsley and planted it into our woodland, where it has thrived for us for more than a decade. The narrow leaves with hooked ends adorn the upright stalks that are now topped with bizarre flowers that seem oblivious to subfreezing temperatures.

A few other plants that dare to flower at the end of the winter season include Euphorbias with E. characias in their parentage. This includes not only the species itself, but the wonderful hybrid E. ‘Nothowlee’. Although it’s not usually thought of for winter flowers, rosemary is simply stunning in the winter garden. We have a giant clump of Rosmarinus ‘Arp’, growing just outside our front door so we not only enjoy the dark blue winter flowers but also the evergreen foliage that makes a wonderful addition to Michelle’s rosemary chicken.

We’ve finally had enough rain that all of the local reservoirs are full or nearly so … including the poorly managed Falls Lake Reservoir (now 2.7′ below full) that feeds Raleigh and surrounding cities. City leaders have such a lack of respect for the Green Industry that they banned all hose watering, while allowing car washes to remain in operation as long as they use no more than 55 gallons per car, or no more than 3 gallons per minute for self-serve washes. It’s pretty clear by their logic, clean cars are far more important than live plants.

For those who have visited Plant Delights, there is a good chance you have dined at the nearby landmark, Stephenson’s Nursery and Barbeque. It is with sadness that I report the death of its founder, Paul Stephenson, 79, of nearby McGee’s Crossroads. Mr. Paul, as he was known, played semi-pro baseball before starting the Barbeque in 1958, followed by the nursery in 1979. The nursery and barbeque will continue operating under the direction of Paul’s children.

I mentioned in an earlier E-newsletter that the Pike Nursery chain, based in Atlanta had declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy, but was to continue in operation. The latest in the unfortunate saga is that the assets of Pike have now been auctioned off.

We’re glad to report a segment shot last summer on our gardens here at Juniper Level, will air on Martha Stewart’s television show on Wednesday March 19. I’ll also be on the show live the same day. If you’re really bored that day, you can find out the time and channel in your area by going to Martha’s website, look for the local channel schedule and enter your zip code.

If you’ve submitted your ballot for our Top 25 contest, click here for the current standings. For us, the shock is the huge interest in agaves, with 6 of our top 11 best sellers belonging to that genus. The 2nd most popular genus in the Top 25 is colocasia with 3 entries. Don’t get discouraged if your selections don’t appear on the list yet, as it changes dramatically as the season progresses.

As always, we thank you for your continued support and patronage.

Please direct all replies and questions to office@plantdelights.com.

Thanks and enjoy

-tony