Fargesia robusta is one of the many excellent clumping bamboos for the garden. Thriving in light shade to part sun, this evergreen gem tops out around 7′ in height. We know it’s still hard for some people to realize, but clumping bamboos truly cannot run. This garden specimen at JLBG is now 22 years old. We love both the texture and architecture of bamboos. Winter hardiness is Zone 7a-8b.
We love busting horticultural myths, and here’s our latest. Borinda fungosa is another of the wonderful clumping bamboos from China, which, according to bamboo authorities, will not tolerate either our winter temperatures or our summer heat and humidity. Well, darn!
Excuse us for sharing this photo from late January, but here is our 2010 planting of a seed grown plant, and of course, it’s easy to see how poorly it’s growing. That said, we know that it will die to the ground at single digits F, and then re-sprout the following spring. The lesson…don’t believe everything you hear or read.
Borinda macclureana is another superb clumping bamboo that has never received the good PR afforded other more popular species. Collected in Tibet at nearly 11,000′ elevation, it really has no business growing in the hot, humid southeastern climate, but that’s why we trial plants. Although Borinda macclureana can reach 25′ in its native haunts, our 15 year old specimen has only reached 8′ tall x 8′ wide.
Bambusa multiplex ‘Alphonse Karr’ is looking so hot this winter with its amazingly striped canes. This clumping bamboo is usually grown as a die-back perennial here in Zone 7b, since it goes to the ground when temperatures drop below 10 degrees F. Because we’ve had three mild winters, we are once again able to enjoy the amazing striping of the canes. I did get a chuckle last year, when I saw Bambusa multiplex show up on an invasive species list for North Carolina. As I explained in my letter to the group, Bambusa multiplex is first and foremost, a clumping species. Secondly, all truly invasive species (which invade functioning natural ecosystems, displacing natives and causing economic harm once population equilibrium has been reached) must be able to spread by seed, and bamboo clones only flower once in 100 years, and then die. It’s these emotionally driven lists, without any basis in facts or real science, that makes so many of the invasive lists a farce, and sadly untrustworthy.
Like sci-fi zombies re-awakening, ferns in the garden are spring back to life. Nothing says spring quite like the presence of new fern fronds emerging…known as croziers. Below are several different fern images we’ve taken as they emerged this spring. The first is the bamboo fern, coniogramme.
Lepisorus or ribbon ferns, with their long narrow fronds are quite unique.
Matteucia or ostrich fern emerges alongside last years’ spore bearing fronds providing an interesting contrast.
Onoclea, aka sensitive fern does the same, holding both the new fronds alongside the old fertile fronds from the prior season.. Ferns like this are called dimorphic, which means they have two different frond types…fertile and non-fertile. Most ferns pack light and have both on the same frond.
The two images above are our native Osmunda cinnamomea or Cinnamon fern. The hairy croziers are just amazing. Recent taxonomy has actually kicked this out of the genus Osmunda and created a new genus, Osmundastrum. Hmmm.
Here is its cousin, Osmunda regalis or royal fern…another great US native that’s also native in Europe and Asia.
This is the lovely native Polystichum acrostichoides or Christmas fern…also wonderfully hairy as it emerges.
Here are two images of the Asian tassel fern, Polystichum makinoi that we took a week apart as the croziers unfurled.
The lovely Asian, brown-haired Polystichum tagawanum.
Our winter hardy form of the table fern, Pteris vittata
A single picture perfect crozier of the Texas native, Thelypteris lindheimeri
And finally, the dwarf Woodsia subcordata. How can you fail to find joy in this amazing spring rebirth? We hope you’ll visit our fern offerings and choose some of these deer resistant gems for your own garden.
Summer Open Nursery and Garden
Come see our 30 foot flowering agave at our final Summer Open Nursery and Garden Days this weekend. Visitors from around the country have been showing up to see our giant agave in flower, a 16-year-old specimen of Agave salmiana x Agave asperrima, with the first flowers opening right on cue for our summer open days. This is the tallest century plant we’ve ever flowered, with the tip of the spike topping out just a few inches below the 30′ tall mark. We’ve got our giant ladder perched nearby so Jeremy can make his daily pollinations, all while fighting off attacking hummingbirds.
We hope you’ll have time to walk around the garden while you’re here. The newly-opened, full sun Souto garden is looking fabulous, with so much color it’s almost overwhelming. Changes also abound throughout the older sections of the garden. Anita has suggested the removal of several formerly fenced and hedged areas to create more openness…we think you’ll enjoy these changes as much as we do.
Summer Nursery & Garden Days Final Weekend
July 17 – 19
Friday and Saturday 8a-5p
Rain or Shine!
Daylilies You’ll Notice — Royalty in the Summer Garden
If you visit during the summer, you’ll notice some rather impressive daylilies in the sunny areas. We’ve long enjoyed daylilies for their ability to add color to the summer garden and now have them showcased better than ever.
The prevailing daylily breeding trend since the 1970s has been to shrink the height of daylilies to appeal the masses. Obviously, this worked, since Hemerocallis ‘Stella D’Oro’ can be seen lining highway medians across the country. As horticultural contrarians, however, we enjoy taller daylilies, which we feel add much more visual interest to the garden. We don’t object to a few daylilies in the 3′ range, but rarely find the shorter varieties at the top of our favorites list, although some true dwarf rock garden daylilies would be fascinating.
Hemerocallis ‘Autumn Minaret’ is certainly the best known of the taller cultivars, topping out in our garden now at 6.5′ tall…yes, you read that correctly. This 1951 late season introduction was hybridized from one of the taller natural species, Hemerocallis altissima, which is actually a very small-growing plant that just happens to have a 5′ tall flower spike.
Hemerocallis ‘Purity’ is another summer-flowering favorite. The well-branched 5′ tall flower spikes hold hundreds of yellow-orange flowers over a very long time. We can’t imagine a summer garden without this gem. While we typically don’t rave about many daylilies that flower below 3′, there are a few noticeable exceptions. One that we continually tout as one of the best is Hemerocallis ‘Black Eyed Susan’. Without question, this amazing plant is one of the most floriferous and stunning daylilies we grow. Although it only manages 32″ in height, its show power in the garden is truly hard to match.
We’ve got many more of the taller daylilies in our trials, and have even moved a bit of pollen around this summer between some of the taller varieties, so we hope you find these “off the bell curve” daylilies worth including in your own garden.
Black Bamboo Death – The End is Nigh
The bamboo world has been rocked over the last few years as most of the black bamboo has begun its flowering cycle. While flowering is good in most plants, such is not the case with bamboo since, like agaves, it dies after flowering. Like century plants, a bamboo plant also takes about 100 years to flower but unlike agaves, bamboo offsets don’t survive. Since most bamboo is grown from divisions, when a particular clone flowers, it flowers everywhere around the world within a certain time window, influenced slightly by growing conditions.
Black bamboo began flowering worldwide in 2008, with many in the US starting only in the last year. Bamboo flowers are brown and insignificant, so most folks won’t even notice until the plant begins a steady decline. The sad part is that everyone’s black bamboo will die, but the up side is that more plants will be grown from seed and the new generation crop will have another 100-year lifespan. Also, all those folks who were lied to by retailers who told them black bamboo clumped will have their problem resolved. The take home lesson is that if you’re buying the running black bamboo (Phyllostachys nigra), be sure to ask if it’s a new generation plant from seed or the clone which is currently flowering.
Yucca Birth Records Confusion — Who’s Your Daddy?
For many years we’ve had a fascination with yuccas and have long been convinced that the taxonomy of the Southeast native species was a mess. Reading several recent DNA papers along with some older works from the early 1900s, we realized that most of what is labeled Yucca filamentosa is actually Yucca flaccida…a completely different species.
We’re in the process of updating all of our names on the website and apologize in advance for the confusion. All of the variegated cultivars of Yucca filamentosa, except for the cultivar ‘Variegata’, are actually selections of Yucca flaccida.
Yucca filamentosa, however, is a real plant. The real plant is what is known in the trade as the coastal boat-tipped yucca. We are currently propagating some true Yucca filamentosa for inclusion in a future catalog. If you vacation along the East Coast from NC south to Florida, the small yucca you see on the dunes is Yucca filamentosa.
Also growing on the southeast coastal dunes are two other species, Yucca aloifolia and Yucca gloriosa. It has long been theorized that Yucca gloriosa might represent a natural hybrid between Yucca aloifolia and Yucca filamentosa and, sure enough, the new DNA work confirms that theory. Consequently, the name should be written correctly as Yucca x gloriosa. Now it makes sense that when we were studying yuccas last year on the NC dunes, many plants seemed to be intermediates between the three parent species. We guess our eyes were not deceiving us after all. Two papers on the subject were shared by Larry Hatch of Cultivar.org and are found below if you are scientifically nerdy enough to care.
- Homoploid hybrid origin of Yucca gloriosa: intersectional hybrid speciation in Yucca
- Ecology And Evolution Of Southeastern United States Yucca Species
On our many Southeast US botanizing trips we discovered other natural hybrids along with another new southeastern native yucca species that seems to have never been named. We will be working to get it described and published in the near future…an exciting time for those of us who love yuccas.
Perennial Plant Registrations
Our friend Larry Hatch is looking to fill a gap in the registration of new perennial varieties. There is supposed to be a system in place for anyone who wants to officially register, for posterity purposes, any new perennial that they name and introduce. While some genera of plants like iris, daylilies, and hostas have a dedicated registrar and a functioning system, most genera of plants either don’t have a registrar or the system is too cumbersome. The New Ornamentals Society is working to streamline the process with a new no-cost registration system. We encourage you to give it a try here.
Fern Hardiness Oops
In our trials from this winter, it has become obvious that one of the ferns we offer isn’t nearly as hardy as our liner supplier had indicated. We lost all plantings of Dryopteris labordei ‘Golden Mist’ at 9 degrees F this winter, which is a far cry from its purported Zone 5 hardiness. The problem stems from a taxonomic confusion. Dryopteris labordei is considered a synonym of Dryopteris indusiata, the latter of which is a Zone 5 plant. Obviously, the two plants are not the same. While it’s still a great fern, we are shifting its winter hardiness to Zone 8a-9b. If you purchased this based on our previous hardiness listing, just drop us a note and we’ll add a credit to your account or issue a refund. Please accept our apologies for this incorrect information.
Last month saw the passing of one of the giants of the waterlily world, Patrick Nutt, 85, longtime curator of Aquatic Plants at Longwood Gardens. Pat was revered throughout the water lily world for his encyclopedic knowledge and as a water lily breeder, promoter, and educator. Pat will be best remembered as the breeder of the internationally-renowned giant water lily Longwood Victoria, which most summer visitors to Longwood have no doubt gazed on in amazement. Pat began his career at Longwood Gardens in 1957 and remained there for the next 38 years, until his retirement in 1995. Even after his retirement, he continued to be a regular at Longwood Gardens while also traveling around the world, collecting and researching water lilies. Our condolences go out to Pat’s family and friends…life well lived!
Connect with Us!
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-tony and anita
Fargesia sp. ‘Scabrida’ has quickly become one of my favorite clumping bamboos. The leaves of this gem are the largest of any of the fargesias that we grow, and it came through our brutal winter without a blemish. Our garden plants which celebrate six years in the ground this week are 7′ tall x 7′ wide and look great as you see here.
It’s hard to imagine winter is finally nearing an end when outside today we see the ground covered in snow with freezing rain forecasted to develop tonight and tomorrow. But to help us remember spring is just around the corner, at least in NC, the greenhouses are bursting with colorful hellebores and other lovely treasures to soothe away any winter blahs and blues. It’s less than two weeks until our 2014 Winter Open Nursery and Garden and we’re eager to show you our plant goodies!
Our selection of hellebores is so outstanding it’s hard to really show it justice in words. We have over 500 gallon-size hellebores in flower and over 1000 one quart hellebores in bloom. The quality of hellebore colors we have available are better each year and 2014 is no exception.
Speaking of weather, winter 2013/2014 has been quite an event in many parts of the country, with temperatures finally returning to more “normal” winter levels. We’ve amusingly watched the last fifteen years as zone creep, aka: zone denial, has taken hold of much of America. It’s been fascinating to observe how quickly peoples’ memories of hard winters fade when they are only a couple of years removed. Some gardeners have recently admitted being lulled into a false sense of security by the constant media drumroll that our climate has dramatically warmed forever.
Gardeners in Zone 4 or 5 have a few Zone 7 winters where the winter low temperatures don’t drop below 0 degrees F, and all of a sudden they decide that Zone 7 plants will actually survive in Zone 4 and 5. It’s not uncommon these days to find less than reputable online nurseries listing plants like the hardy banana, Musa basjoo, as hardy to Zone 4 and 5, which is pure insanity. Windmill palms, which we consider marginally hardy for us here in Zone 7b, have now been planted throughout the mid-Atlantic states and even into parts of the Midwest. Because of the recent mild winters, some windmill palms have actually achieved good size before this winter’s reality check. My friend Al Hirsch recently reminded folks on one of the hardy palm groups that he had actually freeze-tested windmill palms in the lab, and 5 degrees F was their low temperature tolerance…except for some of the hardier forms. Just because we’ve had a string of mild winters doesn’t mean the winter temperature tolerance of plants change.
The first winter hardiness maps from the Arnold Arboretum comprised 40 years of temperature data because weather scientists had noted that temperature patterns typically varied in 15-20 year swings. Using the 20 year model, below are statistics for our nursery in Raleigh, North Carolina, not including the still-trending winter of 2013/2014. The last time we got as cold as we have during this current winter 2013/2014 was all the way back during the winter of 1999-2000. I have posted our actual minimum low temperature charts for Juniper Level Botanic Garden…weather geeky stuff, to be sure.
|Winter 1993-2012 8 nights per winter below 20F (Zone 8 temperatures)|
|Winter 1973-1992 12.5 nights per winter below 20F (Zone 8 temperatures)|
|*Record winter 1976-1977 38 nights below 20F|
|Winter 1993-2012 8 nights total below 10 degrees F (Zone 7 temperatures)|
|Winter 1973-1992 25 nights total below 10 degrees F (Zone 7 temperatures)|
|*Record winter 1980/1981 8 nights below 10 degrees F|
So, what does all this mean? It means that despite all the predictions of a perpetual warming trend there is a good chance that we will see more “normal” winters, so plant accordingly and pay attention to proper hardiness zones. With cold winters returning, it’s been great to finally get useful hardiness data. Obviously, since having a Zone 7b temperature only once in the last fourteen years (2008/9) it’s been hard to truly evaluate winter hardiness of new plants.
Because we trial so many plants, we expect our loss rate of new plants to be fairly high. From this year’s trials, we were surprised to see dramatic foliage burn on the hardy bromeliad, Puya dyckioides. The plants look fine at the base…just fried. Another bromeliad, Dyckia choristaminea ‘Frazzle Dazzle’, however, looks fabulous…what a great plant. Several of the aspidistras (cast iron plants) are showing foliage burn this year, including many of the white-tipped cultivars. As is the case with so many white variegated plants, the white variegated parts of the leaf simply aren’t as cold tolerant at the green tissue. We attribute this to a reduction in sugar content (plant antifreeze) in those parts of the leaf.
Sarcococca saligna also took a bit hit and has foliage that is completely fried brown, although it should reflush fine when cut the ground. All of the other sarcococca species look fine. The evergreen Schefflera delavayi looks good with only slight leaf burn on one plant. Edgeworthias look fine and are starting to flower, although customers in Virginia report bud drop after a low of 2 degrees F. Our Exbucklandia populnea also got a good bit of leaf burn, but the stems are all fine. Our Arbequina olive looks great, but some of the other clones we had on trial are already showing foliar damage.
Since we mentioned hardy palms earlier, our Trachycarpus fortunei (Windmill palms) looks fine, other than a few scorched older leaves. The Trachycarpus fortunei ‘Wagnerianus’ also look great. Surprisingly, our plant of Trachycarpus takil got some unexpected leaf scorch. Needle palm, Sabal minor, Sabal x brazoriensis, Sabal sp. ‘Tamaulipas’, Sabal minor var. louisiana, all look fine, although some of our less hardy forms of Sabal palmetto took a hit. Butia catarinensis looks quite dead, as does our Butia odorata. Surprisingly, one of our Butia eriospatha growing nearby shows minimal damage along with one specimen of Butia capitata. The real palm shocker was two Serenoa repens from Colleton County, SC showing little or no damage. We say, surprising, because we have never been able to over-winter a Serenoa repens.
The xButyagrus nabonnandii look pretty fried and the spears have started to pull. Spears are the undeveloped newer emerging leaves, which give us the first indication of cold damage on palms trees. Spear pull isn’t always deadly, but it’s certainly not a good sign. xJubautia splendens ‘Dick Douglas’, a hybrid of Butia x Jubaea looks better than the xButyagrus, but the spears have also pulled from several of these…most disappointing. Most of our Cycas looks okay, although all have lovely tan-brown foliage. After last frost we’ll cut back the old fronds and they should promptly reflush with new leaves.
We have quite a collection of winter-hardy cactus in the garden and had planted out quite a few more in 2013. As expected, we had a number of those which didn’t survive the winter, but overall, we were quite pleased. Bamboos also took a bit hit this year and we expect all members of the genus Bambusa to be killed back to the ground. Time will tell, but perhaps there will always be a surprise. Rohdea chinensis var. chinensis provided quite an unexpected surprise. The Taiwan form shows no ill effects from the winter, while the mainland China form shows substantial leaf burn.
We’re always interested in pushing the envelope when it comes to agaves. Overall, there are few surprises from the winter so far. We’re thrilled our first sacrificial planting of Agave albopilosa looks great so far. Agave gentryi ‘Jaws’ got hit pretty hard but the central stalk seems fine so they should recover quickly once the weather warms. Ditto for Agave ‘Green Goblet’. Agave filifera, Agave parviflora, Agave difformis, Agave ‘Mateo’, and Agave ocahui…all burned pretty bad but should be fine. One real surprise was Agave neomexicana ‘Sunspot’, which looks to have made the journey to the big compost pile in the sky. Since the parent species it quite hardy, we’re guessing it simply got too wet and cold at the same time, since we know it has overwintered in much colder regions.
As expected, Agave ovatifolia looks absolutely superb…always one of the best over-wintering agaves in our climate. Agave horrida perotensis was hit pretty hard, which was expected based on past winters.
What we didn’t expect was Agave striata ‘Live Wires’ which was severely burned although we think it will return okay. Agave flexipes again proved to be an excellent agave for our climate with only burn on the lower most leaves. Surprisingly, Agave multifilifera looks only slightly burned so far. Honestly, we were hoping for a little more carnage in the agave world since we’ve got over 100 new agaves potted and waiting for a trial spot in the garden.
Last fall we offered a new selection of aucuba, Aucuba japonica ‘Male Man’, grown from cuttings from another friend who picked this up overseas. When it flowered, we were shocked to learn that unbeknownst to us, our male aucuba had undergone previously undisclosed sex reassignment surgery and was now a female. Please accept our oops, and change your tags to Aucuba japonica var. borealis ‘Bored Female’.
In other non-plant matters, Plant Delights has several cool job openings.
First, we have one opening for a full time Customer Service representative (CSR). If enjoy working and chatting on the phone with customers, and you like plants and chocolate, and you reside in the Raleigh, NC area, learn more. Additionally, we are also now hiring energetic and friendly seasonal staff to work 25-40 hours per week in our Shipping department starting in March and extending into the fall. Occasional weekend (daytime) work will be required. Please send resumes and cover letters to our Business and HR Manager, Heather Brameyer to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Our friends at Peckerwood Gardens in Hempstead, Texas are looking for a Garden Manager. This is an incredible opportunity to work with one of the southernmost gardens being managed by the Garden Conservancy and the chance to work with garden founder, John Fairey. You can find out more at http://peckerwoodgarden.org/events/work-peckerwood-garden-manager
So, you want to start a nursery? Here’s your chance…not to start from scratch, but to buy an existing mail order nursery. Bob Roycroft of Roycroft Daylily Nursery in Georgetown, SC is retiring and has his nursery up for sale. Bob has 33+ acres near Myrtle Beach that is available, along with his nursery and website. You can reach Bob for more details at http://www.roycroftdaylilies.com
If you’re in the world of garden design, you’ll want to know that Pantone has declared the color Radiant Orchid (18-3224) as the color of the year for 2014. We’re sure you’ll want to change all of your landscape color themes to keep in step with this important development.
If you’re looking for a unique gift for that half-cocked gardener in your life, how about Flowershells? So, what’s a flowershell, you ask? Flowershells are made for the hunters-gardeners in your life who want to be more sustainable with their pastimes. Flowershells are 12 gauge shotgun shells filled with a mix of gunpowder and flower seed, so every time you blast away, you’re planting flowers. Instead of taking a life when you shoot, you’ll be giving life…what a unique concept. If you find the idea intriguing, check out http://www.flowershell.com Unfortunately, Flowershells don’t really exist, but this delightful parody comes from the fertile minds of Studio Total…a creative Swedish advertising agency.
Until next month…happy gardening!
-tony and anita
Early fall greetings from Plant Delights, where the spring 2013 catalog writing heads into the home stretch. As always, there are lots of exciting new plants for 2013, which is really what makes the whole effort worthwhile for us.
We’ve had many requests to make more of the hardy cypripedium ladyslipper orchids available for fall since some gardeners prefer to plant them now. For this fall, we’ve been able to acquire a large number of many different hard-to-find hybrids and species in very limited quantities, so we have just added them to the website. Inventory for most of these ranges from 3 to 8 plants each, so they won’t last long. Check out our cypripediums!
If you haven’t purchased cypripediums before, a little explanation is in order. First, our offerings are 8 years old from seed, hence, what seems like insanely high prices are really not so high compared with most faster to propagate plants. With orchids, a cultivar name is established for a similar batch of seedlings from a particular cross, so each plant is genetically unique. Second, please keep in mind hardy ladyslipper orchids should be planted differently from most other plants…the roots should be spread out laterally in a well-prepared, compost rich bed and covered with a layer of compost followed by a good mulch. Cypripedium roots should not be allowed to dry out and prefer an average to slightly moist, but well-drained soil for best performance.
After being told by all the experts that the hardy ladyslippers wouldn’t grow in our climate, we have now had many years of excellent successes and consequently feel more comfortable that these can be grown by more gardeners. We still stress, however, that these are not plants for beginners nor gardeners who are not willing to spend time preparing the soil for success. If you feel inclined to give these a try, a more detailed article on our website may be of help.
It’s been an amazing fall so far in the garden, with the fall salvias hitting their peak this month. For us, the giant Salvia madrensis is just coming into full flower while the Salvia greggii and Salvia microphylla selections are just glorious in full bloom. Other fall blooming plants are running late this fall. We are just now seeing flowers on Rabdosia longituba, which often starts in mid-September, and have yet to see flower buds on the fall blooming giant tree dahlias. Flower buds on the giant Verbesina microptera are developing nicely and hopefully we’ll get to enjoy them this year since last year the frost hit just as they were opening.
If you missed our mention on Facebook, Timber Press has just published their latest book, “The Roots of My Obsession – Thirty Great Gardeners Reveal Why they Garden.” In this unusual small book, thirty of us were asked to write a short essay on why we are gardeners. Authors include Dan Hinkley (founder of Heronswood), Ken Druse (NY garden writer), Margaret Roach (former VP of Martha Stewart Living), Doug Tallamy (professor/UDEL), Roger Swain (long-time “Victory Garden” host), Fergus Garrett (Head Gardener at Great Dixter), and many more. As I mentioned to Timber Press when they first floated the idea…I can’t imagine who would want to read such a book, but it’s out and I guess we’ll find out together why we all garden.
We also mentioned last month on Facebook, the delightful article about our plants by NY gardener and former Martha Stewart Editor, Margaret Roach. Check out Margaret’s Blog Article!
It’s been a rough month in the horticulture world with three significant losses. First, Ned Jacquith, 73, of Oregon’s Bamboo Garden Nursery passed away on September 26. Ned was a charter member of the American Bamboo Society and folks in the bamboo industry considered Ned the world’s bamboo ambassador, spreading the word about bamboo and working tirelessly to introduce new bamboos to cultivation. Many of the clumping bamboos we now offer were introduced to this country thanks to Ned’s efforts. After a career with the railroad, Ned and his wife, Nancy started the nursery in 1988. In July, Ned was diagnosed with acute leukemia but continued to be active in his bamboo work until the end. Ned’s staff will continue to operate the nursery. A memorial service will be held on Ned’s birthday, July 14, 2013, at Bamboo Garden Nursery near Portland Oregon. Our thoughts go out to Ned’s family and friends, and as one who has been is a beneficiary of Ned’s work…job well done!
The second loss was the untimely death of Nebraska plantsman, Harlan Hamernik, 76, who was killed in an explosion at his home on Monday, October 15. In 1958, Harlan and his wife, Shirley, founded Bluebird Nursery in Clarkson, Nebraska. Bluebird Nursery quickly became known worldwide as a source for new and exciting winter hardy perennials from Harlan’s plant explorations both in the US and around the world to places like China, Tibet, and Inner Mongolia. In his 70’s, Harlan turned Bluebird Nursery over to his sons and started a new nursery, H.H. Wild Plums, with the goal of promoting interesting woody plants for the Great Plains. Harlan was a tireless public servant and served on the board of the Perennial Plant Association as well as 40 years as a volunteer firefighter, and even mayor of his hometown of Clarkson, Nebraska. Our friend, Allen Bush, captured the essence of Harlan in this wonderful recent article. Harlan is survived by his wife, Shirley and sons Tom, Chuck, and Mike. A huge Plant Delights salute goes out to the legendary Harlan Hamernik, as our thoughts and prayers go out to his family.
Just after we heard about Harlan, word came in that we lost the world’s authority on bromeliads when plantsman, Harry Luther passed away after a brain seizure on October 17. Harry Luther, 60, was regarded as the world’s top bromeliad authority, having described over 100 new bromeliad species during his 32 year tenure at the Marie Selby Botanic Garden in Florida. Harry was a prolific writer, having authored over 200 articles/publications on bromeliads. Harry did all this without ever graduating from college…a presumptive prerequisite in our current society. In 2010, Harry left Marie Selby to join the new Singapore Botanic Gardens…an effort that has financially lured quite a few of the country’s top horticulturists. Our thoughts go out to Harry’s family and friends.
In some better health news, I just heard from Rob Jacobs that his dad, Eco-Gardens founder Don Jacobs, is slowly recovering from two strokes he suffered last year. Don is now living with Rob near Don’s Georgia home, where he will be celebrating his 93rd birthday on October 25. Don can walk again with a cane and is now fixing his own lunch. Rob says that Don’s speech is returning and given enough time, his memory should also return. If you’d like to send birthday or other greetings to Don, you can write to him care of Rob Jacobs, 512 Chieftain Court, Woodstock, GA 30188.
In the “You can’t make this up” news this month, Duke University fern researchers have recently completed DNA analysis of plants in the fern genus, Cheilanthes, which showed that up to nineteen species from Texas south to Central American actually constitute a separate genera. Consequently, the Duke researchers have created a new fern genus, Gaga. As you no doubt guessed, the new genus was named after sexually expressive pop singer, Lady Gaga. As Duke’s Dr. Kathleen Pryor pointed out, they named the genus Gaga for a number of reasons including the apogamy of the genus (it has meaningful sex with itself), its gametophyte (the baby fern before it has sex) resembles one of Gaga’s Armani costumes, and believe it or not…in the scanned DNA base pairs of the new fern the word GAGA was spelled out. Lest you think naming plants after celebrities is new, the singer Beyonce has a horsefly named after her and President Obama has a California lichen named after him. I’m not sure I’d be jumping up and down about either of those, but as I said earlier, you just can’t make this stuff up.
In another bit of “You don’t say” news, a recent patent has been filed to use plant extracts to counteract the toxic effects from chemicals released by smoking cigarettes. The research uses extracts from plants including tomato (Solanum lycopersicum), Chinese lizard tail (Houttuynia cordata), dandelion (Taraxacum officinale), Korean mountain ash (Sorbus commixta), Japanese alder (Alnus japonica), and balloon flower (Platycodon grandiflora). Who knew? I can see folks who roll their own already changing their formulas. Read More
In news from the commercial horticultural world, the 70-year-old Randolph’s Greenhouses in Jackson, Tennessee closed its doors at the end of September. Plant lecturer, Rita Randolph blamed the closing on a combination of the economy and costs to repair and maintain their aging facilities. Rita plans to do more writing and lecturing while also opening a small mail order nursery as a retirement venture…doesn’t sound like retirement to me!
If you’ve been watching the news recently, you’ve seen the space shuttle Endeavour making its way through south Los Angeles on its 12 mile final trek to its final resting place at the California Science Center. Unfortunately, getting the Endeavour to the Science Center was a bit more than some residents bargained for when they learned that more than 400 trees had to be removed so that the shuttle could fit on the highway. In exchange for allowing the trees to be cut, the California Science Center agreed to spend $500,000 to replant twice as many trees as had to be cut down. So, where were all the tree huggers chaining themselves to the poor trees? Where was the media coverage and national outrage? I must have also missed all the furor from the manmade global warming crowd over this…geez. Regardless…if you haven’t seen it, the time lapse video of the shuttle’s trek through town is fascinating.
Time to get back to catalog writing, so enjoy the newsletter and in the mean time, we’ll see you on Facebook with more updates and plant photos.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all of our extended PDN family. As we wrap up the year and get the new catalog ready to go in the mail and online (Dec 31), we want to remind everyone that this is the last week to buy Plant Delights gift certificates as Christmas presents for your gardening friends and family. You can order our gift certificates online and we’ll get them right in the mail or give us a call at 919.772.4794.
We’d like to congratulate the 2011 Winner of the Top 25 contest, Amy Hill of Archdale, North Carolina. Amy is our first NC winner in several years and takes home a $250 Plant Delights gift certificate for the best score in predicting the top 25 best sellers for 2011. If you’d like enter the contest for 2012, all you have to do is go the contest page on our website, fill in your form and badda bing, badda boom…you’re done. To get started, see which plants topped the sales list last year.
December was a sad month for the horticulture world with the passing of our friend, Bob Stewart of Michigan’s Arrowhead Alpines mail order nursery, who lost a long battle with colon cancer. Bob and his wife Brigitta started their nursery in 1991 and quickly became the “go to” source for rare and unusual alpine plants and much more. I find most mail order nursery owners to be fascinating conversationalists, and none more so than Bob (primarily to the overwhelming prevalence of ADD in the group). Conversations with Bob might start with primulas and before you knew it, Bob had shifted to the inner most details of nuclear fusion. While Bob and I shared a passion for plants, we diverged on our feelings about Master Gardeners. While we both agreed that the name “Master Gardeners” was probably not the best choice, Bob held Master Gardeners in great disdain. Bob’s tolerance of those promoting themselves as knowledgeable while not understanding much more than the basics of horticulture, was not particularly high. This gruff persona that emanated strongly through his catalog writing, however, was a stark contrast to the passionate and personable Bob you would met in person. Bob is survived by his wife Brigitta, who will continue to run the nursery, and his son Ender, whose passion for computers equals Bob’s passion for plants. Our friend, Allen Bush, wrote a wonderful article about Bob only a few months before his death. Allen captured Bob so well, I encourage you to read his article. We’ll all miss you but never forget you, my friend.
Another dear friend who lost a very sudden battle with cancer this month was Wolfgang Oehme, 82, of Oehme and Van Sweeden Landscape Architects. Wolfgang came to the US as a young man and wound up leaving a huge mark on the American landscape. In addition to designing gardens around the world, Wolfgang was a true trendsetter in the world of landscape architecture. His concept of the New American Garden took the world by storm in the 1970s, with the use of large drifts of plants in a naturalistic style. Wolfgang, or “Wolfi” as he was known to his friends, was renowned for a few signature plants whose use he championed in virtually all of his designs. This short list included Miscanthus sinensis, Fargesia clumping bamboo, Pennisetum alopecuroides, Perovskia atriplicifolia, Rudbeckia ‘Goldsturm’, Panicum virgatum, and Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’.
Even with his amazing body of work, it was his quirky behavior that made people love Wolfi. I’ve never know anyone else to tout their work as much as Wolfi, but he did so with such a child-like excitement that it didn’t come off as bragging. I had the pleasure (make that unique experience) of staying in Wolfi’s home a few times over the years…yielding experiences I’ll never forget. Many people might think that Wolfi’s fetish for nude swimming in his back yard pool, hidden from the neighbors only by a few large clumps of miscanthus, would be unusual but for Wolfi, that fell into the range of normal behavior. After late dinners, Wolfi would drive me around Baltimore County looking at his designs, often stopping his car in the middle of four lanes of traffic to get out to inspect or even weed a particularly nice planting of perennials. Shining a flashlight in Baltimore County clients yards after midnight to see 20-year-old clumps of fargesias didn’t seem strange at all to Wolfi, while all I could do was think of where to buy a bulletproof vest. Then there were the nights at the Towson County courthouse…
As we strolled around the courthouse, well after midnight, Wolfi would suddenly decide that a planting of coreopsis needed to be moved to a new location, so we would pull the plants from their amended beds barehanded and move them to another bed where Wolfi thought they fit better. Wolfi was oblivious to the police cars speeding back and forth along the streets just feet away from our exploits. I, on the other hand, was keenly aware of everyone around us and how we seemed to be invisible…like being with the Keyser Soze of horticulture. It soon became obvious that this was part of Wolfi’s nightly routine.
As the story goes, the landscape design contract for the courthouse was outsourced to an azalea-loving landscape architect in Texas, which caused Wolfi great consternation. Instead of complaining, Wolfi called the architect and had them rework their plan based on his choice of plants. Wolfi then adopted the completed garden, sans any authority, and made it his own playground. Eventually the county government realized his interest and put him in charge of their landscape advisory committee.
Wolfgang will be long remembered through his books, Bold Romantic Gardens (1990), and the German language Zwischen Gartengrasern (2008). Wolfgang worked for a variety of clients in downtown Washington DC and even designed Oprah Winfrey’s garden in Chicago. Wolfi’s work has been featured in an array of books, most recently, Ornamental Grasses: Wolfgang Oehme and the New American Garden by Stefan Leppert (2009). I could go on with more Wolfi stories, but I’ll suffice to say that Wolfgang Oehme was a true genius who ate, slept, and breathed plants, and whose influence on our landscapes will live on for generations to come…so long, my friend.
The horticulture world lost yet another larger-than-life figure recently with the passing of Dr. John A. A. Thomson on November 28, just 5 days after his 100th birthday. Many of you will recognize the name from the hokey SUPERthrive® advertisements. Dr. Thomson, a PhD biochemist, invented SUPERthrive® in 1939 and subsequently marketed it though his company, the Vitamin Institute. I never met Dr. Thomson in person, but can only imagine he must have been an interesting fellow.
Thomson’s ads always seemed a bit over the top, not to mention overly egotistical. The in-your-face claims, combined with his 1940s ad style just seemed out of touch with the modern day. One of my favorite claims was that Super Thrive was used during WWII to transplant mature trees to camouflage the troops. Although I’ve received a number of samples, I never got around to giving them a try…how about you? Join us on our Facebook page and share your SUPERthrive® stories. It will be interesting to see if the marketing changes with Dr. Thomson’s passing. Dr. Thomson was recognized for his contributions to horticulture by receiving The Lifetime Achievement Award from the Lawn & Garden Marketing & Distribution Association in 2006, and The Sustainable Environmental Education’s Environmental Awareness Award in 2009.
On a more regional note, one of the top plantsmen in the Memphis, Tennessee region, Plato Touliatos, passed away of cardiac arrest after a two year battle with prostate cancer. Plato Touliatos was much more than the owner of Trees by Touliatos/Nature Center and Arboretum for 50 years…he was a plantsman, businessman, and philosopher whose life was spent teaching people about the natural world. In 2009, Plato and his wife Sarah were inducted into the Tennessee Nursery and Landscape Association Hall of Fame…well deserved! Every time I found myself in Memphis, Plato was always at the top of my list of people to visit…you will be sorely missed, my friend.
Finally, the strangest of the plantsmen to pass away this month has to be North Korea’s Kim Jong Il…yes, you heard me right. The story goes back several years, when the late Dutch plant breeder Kees Sahin, who was friend of Kim’s dad, was visiting North Korea with Japanese plant breeder Motoderu Kamo. Kamo gave the elder Kim one his begonia hybrids, which was subsequently named Begonia ‘Kimjongilia’ for Kim Jong Il’s 46th birthday. Kim was so taken with the begonia, that he declared begonias the National Flower of North Korea. After supplying Kim with more begonia genetics, Kim Jong Il began what would become the largest begonia breeding project in the world. According to Kees, Kim would fly over his begonia fields in his helicopter and make his final selections from the air. At the time of Kim Jung Il’s death, there were sprawling greenhouse complexes all across North Korea, all for the purpose of housing Kim’s massive begonia collection. For international begonia shows, Kim would fly his prize begonia hybrids to the show with one person holding each begonia in the back of a cargo plane, to keep from damaging the plants. Also, according to Kees, Kim’s head begonia breeder became so renowned internationally, that Kim had him killed for upstaging the Dear Leader. As Dave Barry liked to say…I am not making this up!
I don’t know how many of you watch golf tournaments, but if you were watching the Chevron World Challenge a few weeks ago and enjoying the futility as golfers tried to cope with the high winds as they played in Southern California, those same winds were causing horrific devastation to the nearby horticulture community. On November 30, these severe tornado-like winds swept through Pasadena, California and left a devastated Huntington Botanic Garden in their wake. Although the garden buildings fared okay, the gardens lost an estimated 150 significant trees and other plants. According to reports, the Jungle garden is even more of a jungle and the subtropical hill, the North Vista, and the Camellia garden were heavily damaged. The Desert Garden fared reasonably well, with only significant damage toward the north end where limbs and plant debris abound. You can imagine what it’s like to clean up leaf and limb debris in a densely planted cactus garden…on second thought…I bet you can’t. Curator Gary Lyons has asked for volunteers to help with the clean up. You can email him or the volunteer coordinator Mikki Heydorff.
In a final bit of news that you’ll need to know before starting to plan your spring garden, the color of the year for 2012 is Tangerine Tango. Yes, The Pantone Color Institute, the purveyors of all things color, have named Tangerine Tango as the color of the year for 2012. Folks from garden designers to fashion designers to paint manufacturers use Pantone’s color predictions in their designs. According to the folks at Pantone, “There’s a lot of homework that goes into it. But it’s also, what is it that people are needing? There are a lot of concerns out there and serious issues we are facing. Color, from a psychological standpoint, can be uplifting. We arrived at this particular orange because it’s hopeful and optimistic and also has sophistication.” I don’t know about you, but it sounds like the Pantone folks take themselves way too seriously!
Once again, we can’t thank you enough for your patronage during 2011! We’ve enjoyed our new foray on Facebook where we can share our plant passion with you as well as seeing and hearing about your successes. We hope to meet more of you on Facebook during the upcoming year as we continue to share photos of our favorite plants and gardening tips We’ll chat again in 2012! Thanks!
Greetings from Juniper Level and we hope you’re having a great spring. Other than a couple of cold spells, we’ve had a near perfect spring with cool temperatures and timely rains. Only recently have we seen a few days in the 90’s, which normally dot our spring season. We’ve been spared the crazy weather seen in other parts of the country including Colorado’s frequent late spring snows, North Dakota’s floods, and tornados throughout the Southeast. At least the gardeners in northern Georgia and upstate South Carolina are finally getting some rain after being parched for several years. Even Atlanta’s Lake Lanier is within 7′ of finally refilling. Parts of the Texas Hill Country set a record last year with only 2″ of rain, but fortunately, the weather patterns have changed in recent weeks and the rains have finally returned.
We’ve just added some more plants to the on-line catalog including the very rare variegated shredded umbrella plant, Syneilesis ‘Kikko’. As always, most of these gems are only available in limited quantities, so don’t delay. They are integrated into the main on-line catalog or you can find the new additions listed separately.
It was great to have our friends Carl Schoenfeld and Wade Roitsch from Yucca Do visit a few weeks ago along with encyclopedic Texas nurseryman Pat McNeal. We have long worked together to trial plants in each other’s climates, so it was interesting for them to see the damage that occurs to woody lilies when temperatures drop into the single digits F. Yucca Do has recently completed their move to Giddings, Texas, about 1.5 hours west of their former location outside of Houston. The old property was sold to the Peckerwood Garden Foundation, which will allow Peckerwood to expand their gardens as well as have more parking. You can read more about the Yucca Do move at www.yuccado.com/themove.htm.
It’s been a busy spring…. just not as busy as we would have liked. It was great to have visits from an array of groups including most recently the Carolina Gardener Symposium as well as attendees from Southeast Palm Society meeting in Raleigh.
Last fall, I had the pleasure of meeting and lecturing with Lucinda Hutson of Austin, Texas. Lucinda is a delightful person; a combination artist, designer, and chef. Lucinda has published several cookbooks as well as an array of articles in addition to her career as an interior/exterior designer. You can get an idea of Lucinda’s exuberant style and possibly book her as a lecturer through her website at www.lucindahutson.com.
If you’re out and around North Raleigh on Tuesday May 5, I’ll be presenting a free gardening seminar at 7pm at the North Raleigh Library at 7009 Harps Mill Road. If we have a good crowd, I’ll consider doing more of these in the future. No registration is necessary, but the library phone number is 919-870-4000. Bring your gardening questions and problems; I hope to see you there.
Obviously, the big upcoming events for us are our two Spring Open Nursery and Garden weekends on Friday – Sunday, May 1-3 and May 8-10. We will be open from 8am-5pm on Friday and Saturday and 1-5pm on Sunday. There is so much to see that we truly wish everyone could visit and enjoy the gardens for themselves. Just walking through the gardens now is a sensory delight. Not only are the colors and textures a thing to behold, but the exuberant fragrances are just amazing. From banana shrubs to phlox to dianthus, it’s amazing what fragrances plants can add to your garden. At Open House, not only can you see how plants should grow in the garden, you will no doubt leave with a cartload of ideas, inspiration, and hopefully a few cool plants. This year, one of our largest agaves ( Agave salmiana v. ferox ‘Logan Calhoun’) has sent up a huge flower spike, which should be close to fully open, so come and enjoy a phallic moment with us in the garden. Directions can be found on our website.
One of the many challenges of running a nursery is predicting what will sell and in what quantities. Sometimes we hit the target, and sometimes we miss as bad as a North Korean missile launch. There are many factors that determine how well a plant sells, but the most important is the photograph…hence the reason many mail order catalogs pay professional photographers to take studio shots that often use dozens of plants which are then ‘cut and pasted’ to make one photo. A particular favorite is the commonly used mail order photo of Arum italicum showing the arum seed heads with leaves inserted from a calla lily. I don’t know about you, but I’ve got a problem trusting folks who use doctored photos, but then they probably laugh at our meager sales. Another key factor in determining sales is photo placement…did you realize the location of an image on a page can double or triple sales of that item? That being said, here are our top 10 list of great plants for 2009 that didn’t sell as well as they should have …. consequently, we have some really nice ones remaining.
1. Agapanthus ‘Back in Black’ …must be the photo, as it’s a really cool plant.
2. Agave guiengola ‘Creme Brulee’ …we possibly saturated the market last year, but this is a really amazing potted specimen.
3. Colocasia ‘Blackwater’ – this narrow leaf C. ‘Fontanesii’ has evidently been overshadowed by the great new John Cho hybrids.
4. Colocasia esculenta ‘Hilo Bay’ – this overshadower has the most distinctive leaf, but is the worst seller…really hard to capture this well in an image…bummer.
5. Cypripedium parviflorum v. pubescens – the high cost of 7 years production time has unfortunately put this plant out of reach this season for many economically impaired gardeners. It should have sold much better…very disappointing. Disappointing, heck…this means I’ll have more for my own garden.
6. Epimediums, especially ‘Pink Elf’, E. x youngianum ‘Tamabotan’, E. x versicolor ‘Cherry Tart’ and E. grandiflorum ‘Pierre’s Purple’. So, do we just have too many eps? These are all great selections and ‘Cherry Tart’ is just delightful, but for some reason, folks just won’t buy it. E. ‘Pink Elf’…one of only three patented epimedium in the world…very floriferous…must be the darn photograph.
7. Fargesia denudata – do people really trust that there are clumping bamboos when disreputable nurseries are selling Phyllostachys nigra (black bamboo) and claiming it to be clumping…which is it not. Perhaps folks want all bamboos to be 30’ tall…and they are really hard to photograph well. I wish you knew how hard it’s been to get these into the trade.
8. Hostas…geez, is it the deer or too much to choose from? A new hosta will sell really well, then when collectors get their fill, sales drop off for the next 2-5 years until regular gardeners realize how great they are. Disappointments for 2009 include
H. ‘Appetizer’…a really nice dwarf;
H. ‘Applause’…which looks like a clump of hands clapping;
H. ‘Cathedral Windows’…an incredible sport of H. ‘Stained Glass’;
H. ‘Deliverance’…ok, the movie connotation probably did this one in;
H. ‘Electrocution’…so where are you gardeners with the sick sense of humor?
H. ‘Landslide’…it’s a photo thing along with leaves that aren’t round and cupped;
H. ‘Mango Tango’…it’s as nice as H. ‘Stitch in Time’, but the name just doesn’t have the same ring;
H. ‘Parasol’…we thought the name on this H. ‘Blue Umbrellas’ sport was perfect, but you must not have agreed; and
H. ‘White Wall Tire’;…sold great last year, but is a dud in 2009…must be the Detroit crash that has affected this one.
9. Malvaviscus ‘Pam Puryear’ …something about a pink turk’s cap just didn’t find a niche in the market.
10. xHeucherella ‘Alabama Sunrise’ …okay great name, great photo, great plant …. guess I’ll need to call the psychic hotline to figure this one out.
And this business looks easy to who?
Speaking of hostas, our staff suggested we let you know which containers of hostas are obscenely huge and need a good home, so here’s the list of those that would make instant clumps or are so dividable you can immediately get into the nursery business. Applause
Key Lime Pie
Peedee Elfin Bells
Pineapple Upside Down Cake
Pot of Gold
For those who entered our Top 25 contest to compete for the $250 worth of plants, click here for the results though April 26, 2009. Topping the list for the first time is the new Echinacea ‘Tomato Soup’, which just edged out Colocasia ‘Thailand Giant’for the top spot. The only other colocasia in the list so far is Colocasia ‘Mojito’in the 4th spot. In third place is the first appearance for Syneilesis aconitifoliain the top 25. The only other echinacea in the list this month is E. ‘Green Envy’. Thanks to the shade gardeners, it’s good to see two ferns, an asarum, an epimedium, and even an aspidistra make the list. The list changes each month, so if your picks don’t show up near the top yet, don’t despair.
In other news, we reported last month the Northwest Flower and Garden Show and the San Francisco Flower and Garden Show were both being phased out unless a new owner stepped forward. The latest news is Duane Kelly has two different parties interested in purchasing and continuing the shows. No final decisions have been made, but at least there is hope. In the Southeast, the Southeastern Flower Show in Atlanta is taking a temporary hiatus for 2010, while it re-evaluates the financial commitments required to put on its annual flower show. There is still no word on when or if the New England Flower Show in Boston will ever resume, since the financial mess there is still to be resolved and their bills from the 2008 show remain to be paid.
We were saddened to learn of the passing of plantsman Alex Summers of Bridgeville, Delaware on Sunday, April 11. Summers, 96, was a founding member of the American Hosta Society in 1968 and served as president for the first decade of the society’s existence. Alex was also a keen gardener as anyone who has visited his garden knows firsthand. Alex was preceded in death by his wife Gene, but is survived by his son Alan. Instead of sending flowers, the family asks donations be made to the American Hosta Society.
We lost another giant of the plant world on April 12, with the passing of Dr. Thad Howard of Texas at age 79. Thad is best known for his extensive work with bulbs for hot climates, though his numerous plant expeditions into Mexico, and for his 2001 book, Bulbs for Warm Climates (University of Texas Press). I was fortunate to visit Thad at his home in May 2003 and take him on a ride though Texas to visit other bulb greats such as Crinum guru, Dave Lehmiller, the wonderful Yucca Do Nursery, and to meet another Texas crinum guru, Marcelle Sheppard for the first time. It was truly a trip that I.ll remember for the rest of my life. Thad also was a mentor to a number of young men, who later went on to become bulb experts in their own right including Steve Lowe of Tejas Bulbs, and garden writer/lecturer Scott Ogden.
As always, thanks for taking time to read our rants and most of all, thank you so much for your support and orders this year!
Please direct all replies and questions to email@example.com.
Thanks and enjoy
Happy first day of spring! I know many parts of the country are still covered in snow, but at least the calendar now makes it official. It’s been a roller coaster late winter as we opened for our Winter Open House to 70 degrees F, followed the next day by 36 hours of rain, then 2″ of snow, then consecutive lows of 16 and 15 degrees F…then back to 70 degrees F. How would you like to be a plant? Unlike humans, who can go inside on bad weather days, our plants are stuck to fend for themselves…pretty impressive, if you think about it. On the good side, this has been the first winter in six years we’ve gotten meaningful hardiness data on many of our trial plants…especially agaves.
Damage on agaves may take more than a month to show up after the plant has been affected by cold, so don’t get too excited when your plant looks great the morning after. Conversely, don’t fret over the older leaves turning black, as this is normal. The older leaves on an agave lose winter hardiness, while the new younger growth remains fine. Although I haven’t been able to confirm our theory, it appears the sugars (plant antifreeze) produced in the leaves tend to migrate from the older to the newer growth, leaving the older leaves more susceptible to winter damage.
We are also trialing a number of clumping bamboos including many in the genus borinda. All of the borindas have lost their foliage at 9 degrees F, including B. boliana which showed absolutely no damage at 12 degrees F, and despite West Coast reports of 0 degrees F tolerance without leaf burn. All plants in the genus bambusa also lost their leaves, but this was expected based on past experience. It will take a few months to determine if any of these will resprout from the canes or if they will need to be cut to the ground.
We’ve had several folks ask how our Wollemia nobilis fared in the cold this year, and the answer is fine. One plant showed a bit of foliar damage, but the other ten or so we’ve planted are untouched. The big problem with Wollemias is excess summer moisture, so be sure your soil drainage is impeccable. We’ve seen extensive foliar damage this winter on plants that haven’t shown any in recent years, one being the hardy cycads. Both C. taitungensis and C. panzhihuaensis had complete leaf frying this winter, but both are fine at the base and will resprout in late spring. I like to leave the damaged leaves until the new leaves begin to emerge, but that’s strictly a personal preference.
We’re actually having a very late spring as some plants are more than a month later than normal…which is a good thing. That being said, we’re in that time of year when other plants insist on waking up too early, followed by more cold weather. We’ve already had several days in the 70s this winter and sure enough, here come the early emerging Arisaema ringens out of the ground. That would have been fine if our temperatures hadn’t decided to drop back into the low teens. Podophyllum versipelle also peeked it’s head above ground, but we expect it to get blasted at least 2-3 times each spring. To deal with early emerging plants, we use spunbound polyester row covers we cut to fit over each plant. The plants are covered with the row covers, then topped with a large container. Row covers vary in their thickness and consequently their amount of temperature protection. Typically a 1.5 ounce fabric provides 6-8 degrees of protection while 3 ounce material provides 10+ degrees of protection. Even the best row cover isn’t much good below the mid-20s F. If you have the option to throw some shredded leaves over the row covers, that will provide added protection. The covers should be removed as soon as the weather permits. We store the cut row cover pieces during the summer so that they can be reused…many for over a decade.
We added a few special plants to the web right before open house including some of our special Arum italicum seedlings. We have been growing these from seed to select special forms, then subsequently propagating our selections by division. In doing this, we wind up with far too many excellent seedlings that aren’t unique enough from each other to introduce them all. This year we decided to offer these as a seed strain we call PDN Clouded Forms. They are different from the typical Italian arums in that instead of having marbled vein patterns, they have a silver center often flecked with green. At Open House this winter, I had a couple of folks comment about their arums spreading by runners to other areas of their garden. This is an oft perpetuated garden myth, since arums, like me and my bad knees, have no ability to run. When arums are allowed to set seed, birds can pick up the seed and deposit them anywhere throughout your garden. This is the only way arums can spread. If you get to the point where you have enough arums, simply cut off the flowers or developing seed between the time they flower in early May and the time the seed ripens in July. We hope you enjoy some of these special selections.
Related to arums is probably the strangest plant we grow, a plant known by the monikers, Pigs Butt Arum or Dead Horse Arum…Helicodiceros muscivorus. This unusual Mediterranean native emerges in late winter and flowers in early spring before going dormant for the summer. The three-dimensional foliage is strange enough, but the flowers that resemble (and smell like) a pig’s rear end, are truly bizarre, making a great gag gift for your gardening friends or a perfect way to get a non-interested child to pay attention to plants. We’ve only got a small number available this season, so get them while they last.
One of the plants I seem to continually talk about in spring is ipheion and the related nothoscordums. If you haven’t grown these, they are small bulbs that make a stunning late winter/early spring show, then go dormant in the summer. This year, we are offering for the first time, the white flowered Ipheion uniflorum ‘Greystone’ from NC’s Norman Beal. I. ‘Greystone’ has smaller flowers than the white flowered I. ‘Alberto Castillo’, but makes a much more compact clump and for us has had heavier flowering. Nothoscordum sellowianum (used to be an ipheion) makes a short 1″ tall fast offsetting clump topped, starting in February, with small bright yellow goblet-shaped flowers. Unlike most nothoscordums, this one is sterile, so you’ll need to divide it if you.d like to share. We have this growing in our full-sun rock garden and I can’t say enough good things about this gem.
As we head into spring, we routinely check our garden soils for nutrient levels and soil pH. Before we mulch, we prefer to add any soil amendments if needed. If our soil needs phosphorus, we use rock phosphate and if the soil need potassium, we use Greensand…a natural source of potassium. If you need to raise the pH of the soil, either calcitic lime or dolomitic lime will do the trick. If our soil test shows a high magnesium reading, we opt for calcitic lime. If you garden in an area with a high pH that you need to lower, then Flowers of Sulfur will do the trick. Once these are applied, then you’re ready to mulch. Timing of mulch application can be a real time saver for weed prevention. There are basically three groups of weeds; winter annuals, summer annuals, and perennials. Mulching isn’t of much use in preventing perennial weeds, but it can work wonders for many annual weeds…especially if they require light for germination, which many do. Some winter annual weeds start germinating in fall, while others germinate best in late winter. Two most popular annual weeds in our climate are chickweed and henbit. A good mulch applied before they sprout works wonders on their control.
We’ve been asked by a number of customers to compile a list of plants resistant to deer, since these have become the number one pest of gardeners nationwide. We’ve hesitated to put together a list because we don’t believe any plant is completely deer resistant and deer tastes, like human tastes, vary greatly. That being said, we spent quite a bit of time compiling our list from available research as well as observation from ourselves and our customers. Please keep in mind deer resistant plants may still get a nibble until the deer realizes it isn’t one of their favorites…even some humans eat things that many of us consider inedible…i.e. liver or tripe. Our list of deer resistant plants as well as a list of plants to attract hummingbirds have been posted in the article section of our website. We welcome your input on additions or deletions.
In the ‘in case you missed it’ category, you’ve got to check out the Floral Bras, compliments of the Quilters of SC that give a whole new meaning to sex in the garden. Actually, the bras will be on tour throughout South Carolina until fall, at which time they will be auctioned to benefit breast cancer patients. If you have a female gardener in your life who is hard to buy for, check these out.
Floral Bras to benefit breast cancer patients
In the ‘where are they now’ category, many plant collectors will no doubt remember Stephen Burns, formerly of the Vine and Branch Nursery in NC. Stephen was J.C. Raulston’s go-to grafter for the odd and hard to graft woodies in the 1980s. Stephen and his wife Rhonda closed the nursery in the late 1980s and moved to SC, where he worked for years at Gilbert’s Wholesale Nursery. From there, Stephen was called to the ministry, where he still works today.
The botanical garden world was surprised to hear of the impending retirement of Missouri Botanical Garden director Dr. Peter Raven, who announced he will be stepping down from his post at the end of July 2011. Peter has been the director at Mobot (as it is called in botanical circles) since 1971 (40 years in 2011). The news was such a surprise because most of us think of Peter as an ageless iconic figure that we all assumed would outlast the garden. Anyone with even a passing interest in plants has benefitted knowingly or unknowingly from Peter’s legacy of work. Peter’s devoted years to researching and publishing Floras of all the world’s plants including the current Flora of China project, which would probably never have happened without Peter’s vision and drive. Peter is married to the former Dr. Pat Duncan, an NCSU Horticulture Department graduate and former classmate of mine. You can read more about Peter and his list of accomplishments, awards, and philosophy at the links below.
Peter Raven at Wikipedia
Interview with Peter Raven
Thanks to David Theodoropoulos for alerting us to a great on-line seed germination reference. This publication from The International Board for Plant Genetic Resources is used by worldwide seed banks to assist them in germinating a wide range of unusual plants. This is not a homeowner guide, but one for scientists that requires a bit of seed germination knowledge to use properly and the information is amazing.
If you’re in the greenhouse or nursery business, you are probably too familiar with the Modine family of heaters, which are the top brand of heaters in our industry. When we got started in the business, we checked out other heating options, which at the time were limited to Reznor and from our research didn’t offer a dramatically better option. It wasn’t that Modine was a bad heater, but in greenhouse applications, the heaters didn’t have a very long life span, both due to the nursery moisture and fertilizer salt residue. I actually wrote to Modine several years ago expressing my concern and asking if they would work with us to develop a cover that would help protect the heaters in the summer when we removed our overwintering greenhouse covers. Unfortunately, they didn’t even choose to reply. After decades of going through a warehouse of Modine parts, Bob Stewart of Arrowhead Alpines told me about the L.B. White brand of Guardian heaters. The White heaters are actually designed for hog production and not greenhouse use, but the beauty is their use in hog production is far more degrading than in a greenhouse. Not only is the cost about half of a comparable Modine heater, but the operation is much simpler, the heat output is variable, and the heater is far more resistant to degradation in outdoor conditions. The White heaters are also ventless, meaning you will not need the standard heat losing vent stack that you typically see extruding from the greenhouse sidewall. If you live in an area where the temperatures drop below the 20s and the heater will run continuously, you will need a small intake and outflow vent since the heater can actual suck all of the oxygen out of the greenhouse and extinguish the pilot light. If you’ve been looking f or a different heater for your greenhouse, check out these heaters.
After 21 years, the Northwest Flower and Garden Show in Seattle and the San Francisco Flower and Garden Show, the second and third largest flower shows in the country respectively, come to an end this year. Salmon Bay Events, which puts on both shows, is for sale by founders, Duane and Alice Kelly, who are retiring from the flower show business so Duane can start a new career as a playwright. Attendance at both shows has declined in recent years due to the economy. The Northwest Show has just ended and the final San Francisco Show will be starting soon. If you’d like to attend the last show, check out the Garden Show website for more details. For between $1,000,000 and $2,000,000, the shows can be yours, so if you know anyone looking to buy a flower show, give Duane a call.
My speaking schedule for the remainder of the season has been updated. I look forward to meeting you when I visit your region for a program.
As many of us in the mail order industry struggle for survival, we’d once again like to say a heartfelt thanks for those who have ordered this year… Thank you!
Please direct all replies and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks and enjoy
We made it through winter in great shape, but then early spring jumped up and bit us in the you know where. Gardeners in many parts of the country were hit with devastating cold in early April after spring temperatures had already fooled many plants into beginning to grow. Web ordering provides us with a fascinating glimpse into gardeners’ real-time state of mind. Everyone was going crazy ordering during the warm first week of April, only to be shell-shocked days later when the cold weather returned. We can see folks just starting to recover enough to think positively about gardening again… perhaps we need an on-line gardening therapist to help with the recovery… where is Dr. Philadelphus when you need him?
In Juniper Level, we had been in the 80’s for two weeks, before encountering five consecutive nights below freezing with the worst night reaching 22 degrees F. A couple of days later, we got to enjoy a smashing hailstorm, followed by an entire day of 50+ mph winds. I know this is a typical spring day to many midwest residents, but in our neck of the woods, it’s a big deal.
Although we covered quite a few perennials in the garden and kept the damage to a minimum on those plants, the trees and shrubs were not as lucky. Magnolias, celtis, crape myrtles, and idesia were fried to a crisp. I read a laughable article in our local paper just a day before the freeze explaining how native plants would not be hurt and how they should be planted instead of plants from foreign lands. Guess what… native oaks, walnuts, fringe trees, redbuds, maples, and many more look like my darkened efforts to cook toast. I guess I should have let my native plants read the article.
Now it’s a matter of wait and see if the plants will recover. Many of these plants have dormant buds along the stem, which under normal circumstances would not develop. The plants must first get over the cold shock, then we will learn if the physiology of the plant will allow the dormant buds to develop without some additional stimulus such as an additional number of chilling hours. In many cases, the death of a terminal bud may be enough to change the hormonal balance that often keeps the dormant buds from growing. In any case, it will take 2-8 weeks of warm weather before we will know for sure what to expect from our plants. There will be some cases where the plants only sprout from the base and others where they may be completely dead. Not only is each plant different, but the physical state of each plant is another part of the equation. Plants on the north side of a building may have remained dormant and avoided damage, while the same clone in a warmer location may have been killed. Many nurserymen who had recently dug balled and burlapped crape myrtles actually saved their plants. The process of digging and root removal caused the plant not to begin growing as early. These dug plants are mostly fine.
It seems that nursery growers in the wholesale production regions of Tennessee got hit the hardest, with several growers suffering losses in the 100,000’s of plants as temperatures dropped into the mid-teens after many plants were in full leaf. Our thoughts go out to them during what will be a financially difficult time recovering and staying in business.
I’ve been on the road quite a bit in April, and it’s always a treat to see other gardens in peak season. This is the second year in a row that I’ve made it to Michigan in spring and as always, I try to stop by and visit our friends Bob and Brigitta Stewart of Arrowhead Alpines. www.arrowhead-alpines.com. Don’t be fooled by the name, as alpines are only a small part of their extensive plant offerings. If you are passionate about cool plants, their nursery, which is about 1 hour northwest of Detroit, is a horticultural mecca. I always make the mistake of not taking enough empty luggage to haul plants home.
The other gem that I discovered this year was Armstrong Atlantic State University Arboretum ( www.arboretum.armstrong.edu) in Savannah, GA. Never heard of it? It’s not an arboretum in the conventional sense, as it is actually a 280+ acre campus-wide botanic garden, along the same lines as the fabulous Scott Arboretum on the Swarthmore PA campus. UGA graduate and Mike Dirr protégé, Philip Schretter, has turned the campus into one of the most amazing public gardens that I’ve ever visited, and I will admit to feeling a bit jaded. I don’t know if it was the International Garden with sections devoted to each continent or the Banksia garden that was the most impressive, but I can’t begin to tell you what a gem this is. For those that have been to Savannah, it’s only a five minute drive from the famed Bamboo Experiment Station just south of town.
We’ve just added quite a few new plants to our on-line catalog, many of which are in short supply. When we discover a new plant that we think may have good garden potential, we will often order several for trial. Many of the overseas wholesalers require a minimum order of 25 plants per variety, so after planting our trial plants, we often have 20 or so of each left. Several of the new plants on our list fall into this category… plants that we think will be future stars, but ones we aren’t ready to put in the printed catalog without some on-site trials. If you enjoy having the newest plants first, this is a great opportunity, but only if you act fast. If these plants trial well for us, it may be 1-3 years before they hit the main catalog. You can find the new offerings at www.plantdelights.com/Catalog/Current/web_only.html and click on April 2007 additions. They also appear in alphabetical order if you are going through the entire on-line catalog.
We’re gearing up for our Spring Open House, which begins a week from today and runs Friday-Sunday, May 4-6 and 11-13. The hours are 8-5 on Fridays and Saturdays and 1-5 on Sundays. Despite the freeze damage, the gardens really look quite superb, and the nursery is brimming with special treasures. We hope you will take time to drop by for a visit. If you are bringing a bus tour, just give us a call and we can assist with your arrangements.
As I mentioned earlier in the month, this is our heaviest shipping season. Combined with open house, our shipping staff and facilities get maxed out for a few weeks. We cannot add any additional orders to be shipped out the week of April 30-May 4 but can still handle a few more for the week of May 7-11. If you are having a horticultural emergency, please don’t wait to let us know.
On a final but sad note, Bill Janssen of Collectors Nursery in Oregon passed away after an extended illness. Our condolences go out to Bill’s wife, Diana Reeck, during this difficult time.
The late April version of the top 25 list of the year hasn’t seen too many changes. We expect the big shuffling to occur after open house next weekend. It’s still quite amazing to have a hosta hanging in at #4 and two euphorbias still in the top 10. I hope your Top 25 Contest selections are making their way to the top!
As always, we thank you for your continued support and patronage.
Please direct all replies and questions to email@example.com.
Thanks and enjoy
What an incredible gardening year this has been. This year’s record June rainfall (thanks TS Alberto) is quite a contrast to 2005, when we already had both a drought and water restrictions. Our summer garden is as lush as I ever remember and I hope you will be able to visit for our upcoming summer open house that starts this Friday. We will be open Friday-Sunday for two consecutive weekends, July 7-9 and 14-16. The hours are 8-5 on Fridays, 8-8pm on Saturdays, and 1-5 on Sundays. If you don’t get our open house flyers, click here for directions and information about attending the open house
The number of plants in flower are simply amazing. The hemerocallis and hymenocallis are both stunning now. Buddleias should be almost at peak bloom for open house as will many of the summer phlox. If you haven’t tried some of the hardy gesneriads, be sure and see the wonderful sinningias in full flower. Lest I forget the eucomis, which are really in perfect form now, along with companions such as thalictrum, and several of the great lilies. We’ll even have a dasylirion in full flower for open house this year, so don’t miss the blessed event. (Read more about Buddleia here)
We’re in full swing writing the fall catalog which goes in the mail in 4 weeks. Once we finish taking a few more photographs and proofreading the text, the formatting process begins. I can already tell you that there are some truly exciting new plants…. in fact, more new plants that we’ve ever offered in our fall catalog. Several of them are already available, but only if you attend our summer open house, so get a jump on your friends.
In order to clear out some room for these new items, we’re offering an on-line only sale on some items that are currently overstocked from the spring catalog. This sale only lasts until Thursday July 6 at midnight, so don’t delay. The more overstocked items we can move, the more room we will have for new plants at the summer open house. click here for list of sale plants
I don’t want to dwell on weather, but need to make a mention of one special weather event…. the Carolina Hurricanes. In case you missed it, our Raleigh-based ice hockey team won the Stanley Cup at the end of June. I realize that many of you may not be ice hockey fans, and I will admit to just figuring out the difference between a red line and blue line, but this is the first professional sports championship for a NC team and we think they deserve a huge congratulations. And they said hockey and sweet tea wouldn’t mix.
We’ve previously talked at length about the closure of Heronswood Nursery in Kingston, Washington, but we’ve also recently lost another of my favorite mail-order nurseries, Roslyn Nursery on Long Island, New York. I understand that the owner, Philip Waldman is having some health issues, but hope these can all be resolved so that he can continue gardening. Thanks to the Philip and Harriet Waldman and the entire Roslyn staff for their contributions to the plant world.
Our friends at Boo-Shoot Gardens north of Seattle, WA, are looking for a Customer Service Manager. Boo-Shoot is a wholesale producer of bamboo. For more information, visit their web site. This is a really great wholesale nursery with great folks, so if you are looking for a job in the Horticulture field and live in, or want to move to the beautiful Skagit Valley, check them out. You can Send resume to Boo-Shoot Gardens LLC, 5722 Campbell Lake Road, Anacortes, WA 98221