I just snapped this photo of the amazing Allium kiiense…one of the best performing and best behaving ornamental onions. There aren’t nearly enough fall flowering perennials, and this is one of the best. Hardiness is Zone 5a-9b.
I just snapped this photo of the amazing Allium kiiense…one of the best performing and best behaving ornamental onions. There aren’t nearly enough fall flowering perennials, and this is one of the best. Hardiness is Zone 5a-9b.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Until next month, connect and follow us and the cats on Facebook,Pinterest, and our blog, where you may sign up and follow our regular posts from Plant Delights Nursery and Juniper Level Botanic Garden.
-tony and anita
Most popular perennials in the market today are introduced and heavily promoted by marketing companies. Every now and then, however, a superb perennial enters the marketplace without any fanfare or marketing, despite being superior and longer-lived than the patented, highly touted cultivars. Such is the case with Euphorbia ‘Cherokee‘…a fabulous purple-foliaged selection we’ve grown since 1999. Euphorbia x martinii ‘Cherokee’ may not look as great in a container, but it is absolutely incredible in the garden. We hope you’ll give it a try…if you like purple foliage.
It’s been quite a late winter at Juniper Level/Plant Delights, with the latest-occurring single digit temperature we’ve seen since our records began in the 1970s. Plants like hellebores in bloom when the cold snap hit have recovered, although flowers that were fully open or nearly so were slightly damaged. Hellebores are really tough and, after removing a few damaged flowers, they look great.
Some of the very early trilliums, like the Florida forms of Trillium underwoodii, were also damaged. On a few of these, the entire stem collapsed back to the rhizome. When this happens, these trilliums will not return until next year. All of the other trillium species had the good sense to wait until later to emerge and are unscathed.
One of the benefits of cold winters is a good chilling period for most perennials. Like a bear needs to hibernate, the same is true for most perennials and the longer rest and deeper chill they receive, the better they return for the upcoming season. Consequently, we expect a stunning spring display.
The fat peony buds have already poked through the ground and started to expand. We moved quite a few of our peonies last year into sunnier areas, so we have really high expectations for 2015. We continue to expand our peony offerings based on the results of our trials where we evaluate for good flowering and good stem sturdiness. It’s a shame that many of the best-selling peonies often don’t meet that criteria.
One of the first plants to sell out this spring was the amazing mayapple, Podophyllum ‘Galaxy’. We have another crop in the production pipeline but they aren’t ready yet…hopefully in the next few months. Thanks for your patience since there was obviously pent up demand.
The early spring phlox are just coming into their glory here at Juniper Level. Two new offerings from our friend Jim Ault are just superb. If you have a sunny garden, don’t miss trying Phlox ‘Forever Pink’ and Phlox ‘Pink Profusion’.
The flower buds have also begun on the sarracenias (pitcher plants) in the garden. Not only is pitcher plant foliage unique in appearance and its ability to attract and digest insects, but the flowers are also amazing. Each flower arises before the foliage, atop a 6-18” tall stalk (depending on the species). The flowers, which resemble flying saucers, come in red, yellow, and bicolor.
Pitcher plants are very easy to grow in a container of straight peat moss, and kept sitting in a tray of water. In the garden, sandy soils or a combination of peat and sand work great. Just remember…no chemical fertilizers or lime nearby…they need a pH below 5.0. Pitcher plants also like damp feet but dry ankles, so growing them in a swamp is a no-no. We hope you’ll find something you like from our selection of ten different offerings.
In case you missed it, we recently added a number of new hellebores to the website, many of which are available in large enough quantities that we can offer quantity discounts. Of course, this will be the last of our hellebore crop for 2015, so when they’re gone, they’re gone for the entire year.
I hope all the aroid collectors saw this wonderful cartoon. If not, check out the link below. We’re not sure what that says about us, but it’s probably true. http://www.foxtrot.com/2015/02/08/calling-all-florists
Thanks to everyone who visited during our winter open nursery and garden days…many braving some unseasonably cold weather. Remember that we will open again the first two weekends of May, and we expect much nicer weather for you to shop and enjoy the spring garden.
May 1 – 3
May 8 – 10
Rain or Shine!
Whether you’re a ferner or a native, you may be interested in the upcoming fern meeting….aka the Next Generation Pteridological Conference, scheduled to start at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington DC on June 1. If you’ve got a fern “jones,” consider joining us for the Smithsonian’s fern conference. Not only will you enjoy fern presentations, but you’ll be able to talk spores, stipes, and croziers while enjoying cocktails in the nation’s capital. For more information visit http://botany.si.edu/sbs/.
A hot-button topic is invasive exotics and, like with any scientific topic, the best thing we can have is dissenting opinions. Those with an open mind will enjoy these recent eye-opening publications:
We have a number of educational events scheduled at Plant Delights this spring from classes to conventions and we’d love for you to join us. You’ll find our list of classes here, starting with our Close-Up Garden Photography workshop on Saturday May 2.
In June, we welcome the American Hosta Society, as hosta lovers from around the world descend on the Raleigh area to share and learn about their favorite genus of plants.Plant Delights Nursery/Juniper Level Botanic Garden will welcome the group to dinner, tours, and shopping on June 18. We really hope you’ll be able to join us. Register to attend the events at americanhostasociety.org.
Until next month, connect and follow us and the cats on Facebook, Pinterest, and our blog, where you may sign up and follow our regular posts from the nursery and the botanic garden.
-tony and anita
One of our best fall flowering perennials each year is the amazing South Africa Oxalis bowiei. Although it’s completely summer dormant, it more than makes up for lost time with its incredible flowering in the fall season and again in spring. Here is it in one of our rock garden sections today…after our first light frost.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year’s greetings from Plant Delights. We hope you’re having a great holiday season and are already anticipating the upcoming spring season. Much of the country has experienced an early blast of winter, unseen in some areas for decades. Much of the Pacific Northwest got blasted by both cold temperatures and snow, putting a quick end to the “zone denial” that has pervaded that area for decades. The winter storms didn’t stop there as they continued their march across the country, blasting the Midwest and then the Northeast.
Like Elvis, the 2009 Plant Delights catalog has left the building and is on the way to your mailbox. If you can’t wait, the updated website is also ready for your perusal. As always, the on-line catalog has nearly 1000 more items than can be found on the pages of the printed catalog…we hope you can find something to suit your needs. We’ve made a few changes this year due to customer suggestions, most notably a reduction in our minimum shipping charge as well as a reduction in the amount required for a minimum backorder from $35 to $20. For these changes to be economically viable and to remain permanent, they must result in more customers placing smaller orders…fingers crossed.
The writing and production of the catalog involves three all consuming months, so the great joy of completing the catalog is being able to get back into the garden and start reworking beds. Granted it is winter now, but that’s okay in our part of North Carolina. I actually prefer to rework beds in the winter because I can easily see the structure of the garden without the “clutter” of the plants that detract my eye in the growing season. I always advocated the idea that if your garden looks good in the winter, it will look good any other time of year. Unfortunately, most folks only garden for a particular season…most often spring, and the garden looks uninteresting during the remainder of the year.
For those unfamiliar with the gardens here at Juniper Level, all of our planting is done in beds. Each bed was initially prepared using compost so that the entire soil root zone is similar. This is preferable to the commonly used technique of planting in individual holes, which doesn’t take into account that the roots will ever grow outside of the prepared hole. In our renovations we focus on beds that are 10 years old, where we perform a nearly complete renovation by first removing all digable size plants. As a general rule, anything of a 2″ caliper or below is fair game to be dug. This means that deciduous, herbaceous plants must be well marked before they go dormant or they become very time consuming and difficult to locate in winter.
Twenty years ago when we began the gardens, we simply added compost to the mounds of soil and rototilled it in. What seemed like lots of compost 20 years ago turned out not to be nearly enough as the beds became established. Nowadays, we are fortunate enough to have equipment that allows us to mix our own garden/nursery generated compost together with native soil from our property, producing our own garden soil mix. To get enough native soil, we use a commonly established landscape architect technique of balancing cut and fill. In other words, if we want to make a raised bed, we have to construct an equal size sunken bed somewhere else in the garden. By blending our own mix of 40% soil and 60% compost, we create a mix that we can then add directly to our established beds. From fresh garden debris to finished compost mix usually takes us from 8-12 weeks. One of many things we learned decades ago is that old wives tales of not being able to fill around established trees is just that…an old wives tale. The key is to use a well-drained, microbially active soil mix. If you visit during one of our open house days, we’ll be glad to show you trees that have been filled around for more than a decade. These renovations allow us to enrich the soil as well as change the terrain and form of the beds. We have developed a real fondness for raised, sculpted beds which allow us to not only grow more plants (think Pythagorean theorem), but make the plants more visible. Have you ever noticed that some plants in your garden don’t seem to get noticed? Sometimes it’s simply a matter of how they are arranged in relation to each other, sort of like products on a grocery store shelf. Arranging plants in a garden is a bit like painting a picture. You must be conscious of how you use colors, textures, and forms…either by repetition or contrast. No doubt you’ve had some plants that got larger than expected, while others got crowded out by more aggressive neighbors. The renovation process allows these mistakes to be corrected while allowing underperforming plants to be moved around, hopefully to a place that they will grow better.
By spending virtually every winter weekend in the garden, I get to see up close which plants still look great in the winter. Now, those of you in the northern hinterlands, don’t expect me to talk about plants this time of year that will thrive in Zones 4 and 5…first, there are many evergreen perennials for your zones, and any hardy plants would be under snow anyway, so just skip this section unless you have a winter home in the south.
Here at PDN, we had our early blast of winter when we dropped to 17 degrees F on November 21. While it’s impossible to see damage on many plants for quite a while, agaves show damage soon after it happens. Weather too cold for a specific agave results in the leaves turning soft and mushy, while the fragrance of decaying plant flesh fills the air. Agave leaf spotting from cold moisture, on the other hand, may take several weeks to show up. Of the new agaves we were trialing, Agave inadequidens bit the dust along with Agave dasylirioides. Agave ‘Weirdo’, an A. bracteosa hybrid that we had high hopes for, doesn’t look like it will make it either. Plants that we expected to be damaged but were untouched, include Agave atrovirens var. mirabilis, A. durangensis, A. potrerana, A. applanata, A. shrevei, A. schidigera ‘Shiro ito no Ohi’, and the hybrids A. ‘Blue Glow’, and xMangave ‘Bloodspot’.
I talked last month about the wonderful Ruscaceae family members, danae and ruscus, which still look great with their bright red or orange Christmas berries as we reach the first of the year. Along with the arums that I also mentioned last month, these two are a great start for winter interest perennials. Other plants that are also wonderful in the winter garden include the aspidistras or cast iron plants. Aspidistras aren’t held in high regard by folks in the deep south, because they are so common there. But, as we like to say, these aren’t your grandma’s cast iron plants, as the range of available species and cultivars are increasing exponentially. Most aspidistra species are fine down to 0 degrees F, which makes them great garden plants from Zone 7b south, and great house plants for those of you in the northern zones. Even in our garden, aspidistras blend into the background during the growing season, only showing their true structural garden value in the dead of winter. Not only are aspidistras great in the garden, but their foliage is fabulous when included in Christmas wreaths or indoor holiday arrangements.
Another superb winter interest plants are the adult ivies. Thanks to the tireless work of Richard Davis, we are able to offer a number of superb cultivars. Every time I mention adult ivy, people shake their heads or launch into a diatribe about how they hate ivy. Once I get them calmed down, I get to explain about why these plants are so valuable to the landscape. When regular ivy grows up a wall or tree, the leaves become larger each year that the plant climbs. After a decade or so, the plant undergoes a horticultural puberty and switches from being a juvenile to an adult. This includes gaining the ability to have sex and reproduce, while losing the ability to run around. In other words, ivy becomes a shrub growing atop a vine. By taking cuttings from the shrub-like top of the ivy…assuming you can reach it, the resulting plant will act as a shrub instead of a vine. Some of our oldest adult ivies are over a decade old, resulting in 4′ tall x 4′ wide evergreen shrubs. There is a rare occasion that some adult cultivars will throw a juvenile running shoot, but we have found this to be quite rare and nothing a quick snip won’t cure. Just like the juvenile ivies, they come in an array of leaf patterns. Despite their prolific flowering in fall and attractive seed heads in winter, we have seen very little reseeding…less than a dozen plants in 15 years. In some parts of the country, such as the Pacific Northwest, ivies invade natural areas and should never be planted there.
Although not often thought of as winter interest plants, there are few that stand out more in the winter garden than the hardy palms. Palms are completely misunderstood, as evidenced several years ago with a less-enlightened supervisor for the Raleigh Parks and Recreation Department who issued an edict that no more palms could be planted in the city parks. It seems the supervisor didn’t find them regionally appropriate, not realizing that two species used (Sabal minor and Sabal palmetto) were both NC natives with S. minor historically occurring within an hour of Raleigh, and Rhapidophyllum hystrix (needle palms) being native to South Carolina. Palms are commonly grown in more tropical climates and are underappreciated for their winter interest, since in the tropics, few plants grown around them ever go dormant. In our temperate climate, they really stand out in the winter since so much else hibernates in the winter months. The best genera of palms for temperate climates include rhapidophyllum (needle palm), sabal (palmetto palm), chamaerops (fan palm), and trachycarpus (windmill palm).
Other great winter evergreens include the wonderful disporopsis. These evergreen Solomon’s Seals really stand out now, making wonderful 1′ tall x 2′ wide patches in the winter garden. They will get burned a bit if the temperatures drop below 0 degrees F, but until then, they look great.
Another winter favorite is the wealth of coral bells (heuchera). Since they look great all season, some folks forget that they are evergreen and can be used to great effect to brighten the winter garden. I love all the purple leaf forms that grow here, but am particularly entranced with the gold foliage cultivars, especially H. ‘Citronelle’.
While there are a number of evergreen ferns, not all remain attractively evergreen in the winter. Those that do include Dryopteris erythrosora (autumn fern), Dryopteris formosana (Formosan wood fern), Polystichum acrostichoides (Christmas fern), Polystichum tsus-simense (Korean Rock Fern), Pyrrosia (felt fern), and Arachniodes standishii (upside down Fern)
Last, but not least is Helleborus niger, the Christmas rose. There are many different forms, some flowering in early winter, while many of ours are in full flower now. Their large pure white flowers are simply wonderful additions to the winter garden. H. niger prefers a rich, organic soil, but one that doesn’t stay too moist in the summer months.
I hope those of you who qualify as plant nerds are subscribers to The Plantsman magazine. This UK Royal Horticultural Society publication is head and shoulders above all other publications of which I am familiar when it comes to detailed plant information. That being said, it’s not a publication for the average backyard gardener. Editor Mike Grant does a superb job soliciting articles from experts around the world. I’m one of those people who rip articles from magazines and file them according to subject. I was particularly amazed that there were so many great articles in the September issue that I removed virtually the entire magazine and filed it. One great example was a wonderfully detailed article on Musa basjoo, explaining why it is really not native to Japan, but is instead from Sichuan, China. You can find out more and purchase your subscription on their website.
If you’re looking to sneak out of the house and get a plant fix, consider coming to the North American Rock Garden Society’s Eastern Winter Study Weekend, January 30-February 2 in Reston, VA…just outside of the nation’s Capital. These meetings are always great, but this year’s speaker lineup is quite impressive…despite the fact that your’s truly is included. Please check out the link below and I hope to see you there.
In the world of gardening, I’m sad to report that the father of NC garden designer Edith Eddleman has passed away after an extended illness. Edith took leave of her Durham home and garden six years ago to return to Charlotte, NC to take care of her elderly parents. Her mom passed away a few years ago, and her father last month. The bright spot is that Edith has begun the process of packing up and moving back to her well-known Durham garden. I know lots of us look forward to seeing Edith back in the gardening world and on the speaker circuit.
A couple of years ago, I mentioned that Dr. Kim Tripp had resigned her post as Director of the NY Botanic Garden to switch careers and start medical school in Maine. Lots of folks had asked about Kim, so I was delighted to hear from her last week for the first time since she left NYBG as she wraps up her school work and prepares to start her first internship. We wish Kim the best of luck as she continues down her new life’s path.
I also mentioned last year that Mark and Louisa of Messenbrinks Nursery had closed down their business, both the wholesale side and their retail store at the NC Farmers Market. I thought that those of you who knew Mark and Louisa would like an update on their whereabouts. They have moved from their farm in the country to a house in the town of Nashville, NC. Louisa is an elementary school art teacher, with a sideline of selling herbs at the Rocky Mount Farmers Market, while Mark has started a new business, The Macho Taco, a Mexican food vending business…see link below. I’m glad to hear that we haven’t completely lost them from the gardening world.
Other news comes from the world of NPR, where gardening doyenne, Ketzel Levine has been a victim of the wave of layoffs at NPR. I’m sure many of you remember Ketzel from her days in Maryland, before she headed to her current digs on the West Coast. I’m sure Ketzel will find enough projects to keep her busy and we wish her the best of luck. You can read more about her plans on her blog.
After 137 years, the New England Flower Show is no more. Plagued by directorship problems (3 fired directors in the last 6 years) and board oversight incompetence, the Massachusetts Hort Society awoke to suddenly realize they were once again deeply in debt and nearly bankrupt. The once-proud society has fired 18 of its 30 employees, including the Flower Show director. As one of many speakers who still have not been paid or reimbursed by the society for talks at the 2008 show, we are not amused. At least not until I received the letter from the society asking everyone who is owed money to consider the debt as a contribution to the society…now that’s funnier than anything I’ve seen on the Comedy Channel. This is the first time in 30 years I’ve been stiffed for an honorarium…shame on Mass Hort! This is the most recent debacle in a series of comical financial mismanagement problems, including the famed 2002 debacle when the society was forced to sell $5.25 million dollars of selections from their rare book collection just to pay bills. Perhaps they should get in line with everyone else for a government bailout.
We are also sad to report the passing (November 16) of lily guru, Edward Austin McRae at age 76. Ed was born in Scotland, but in 1961 went to work for Oregon Bulb Farm in Oregon, where he hybridized lilies for a quarter century. In 1988, he moved to Van der Salm Bulb Farms in Washington where he continued his hybridizing work until he retired in 1995. After retirement, he founded the Oregon based Species Lily Preservation Group, wrote numerous articles and his wonderful book, Lilies: A Guide for Growers and Collectors. McRae’s former wife Judith still breeds lilies for her company, the Lily Nook.
Finally, congratulations to Brian James of Elizabeth City, NC for having the best score in correctly guessing the Top 25 Best sellers for 2008. He wins a $250 gift certificate. For the year, six agaves made the top list along with three colocasias. Salvias, with two entries were the only other genera to be represented by more than one in the Top 30. We hope you’ll try to predict our Top 25 for 2009. You have until Feb 15 to submit your entry for the $250 gift certificate which will be awarded at the end of 2009.
Please direct all replies and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks and enjoy
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.
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Thanks and enjoy