The latest member of the clumping monardas of the Electric Neon series is ‘Electric Neon Purple’. Here it is in our garden this summer, looking absolutely fabulous. Look for this in our upcoming Fall catalog.
Flowering this week is our 2019 seed collection from Texas of the Evening Primrose looking Milkweed, Asclepias oenotheroides. This odd clumping milkweed, which tops out at 18″ tall, only grows natively from Louisiana west to Arizona, and south into Mexico in very dry sites. Hardiness is most likely Zone 7b-10b.
by Patrick McMillan
The past couple of weeks the small, freakish flowers of one of the strangest of plants have begun to open in our gardens – pipevines. It’s difficult to believe that nature could summon up anything as strange as the flowers of pipevines. If you remember the “regular” aka actinomorphic and the “irregular” zygomorphic flowers from high school biology then you would have to consider the strange, inflated flowers of pipevines highly irregular.
These plants are related to wild gingers/heartleafs (Asarum) and are members of the basal angiosperms, which are plants with lineages that predate monocots and true dicots. Many of the early angiosperms have flowers that are pollinated by flies or beetles that they lure to the flowers with the pleasant smell of rotting meat or dung. Pipevine is no exception. They trick flies into entering the strangely shaped flowers which often have a funnel-like flare with a narrow opening and trap the fly in a chamber with the pollen and nectar to accomplish pollination.
The general shape of the pipevine flower also approximates the anatomy of a uterus and birth canal. As was all the craze in the early years of medicine, the resemblance to the uterus must mean it is good for treating issues with difficult pregnancies and childbirth. This archaic mode of determining herbal remedies is referred to as the doctrine of signatures – basically if a plant part looked like a part of the human anatomy it would be used to treat ailments associated with that organ. This avenue of medical care led us to the highly unsuccessful use of liverleaf (Hepatica) to treat ailments thought to be caused by the liver, like cowardice and freckles. Medical science has since progressed, maybe?
The pipevines include herbaceous upright perennials, short rambling vines, and enormous lianas (woody vines). The toxic chemical aristolochic acid is contained in all parts of the plant and though it is known to cause kidney failure (which probably didn’t decrease the problems with difficult childbirth) this chemical has also been shown to have antitumor properties. Don’t go munching on the leaves! Pipevine Swallowtails depend exclusively on pipevines for their larval food source and all the species we grow are host to large numbers of caterpillars in the summer.
The Pipevine Swallowtail accumulates aristolochic acid which deters predators like birds from wanting to consume them (they don’t want kidney failure either). This may explain why Spicebush Swallowtails and Red-spotted Purples look so similar to the Pipevine Swallowtail, they’re taking advantage of blending into the poisonous crowd.
These beautiful butterflies always seem to find your pipevines, no matter how secluded you think they are. Don’t worry, we can’t have enough swallowtails and the vines regrow without issue. These are great plants to include in your garden to support our butterflies. The caterpillars have another interesting behavior, when disturbed they have bright orange “horns” that are technically referred to as osmeteria that it pushes out of the front of its body and emit a very foul odor!
Three native pipevines are found in the Carolinas. Common Pipevine (Isotrema macrophyllum) can become a huge liana, reaching the canopies of old-growth trees and spreads through runners and can be difficult to keep contained. It grows best in cool climates and tends to suffer or not grow in warmer parts of the Southeastern US.
Woolly Pipevine (Isotrema tomentosa) grows very well in hot, humid climates and is known from only a few native populations in the Carolina coastal plain. Like its mountain cousin it is very difficult to restrain and may quickly outgrow the space you envision for it.
The only other pipevine is very dissimilar to the others, Virginia Snakeroot (Endodeca serpentaria), which is an upright herbaceous perennial that rarely gets a foot tall. If you’re wondering why these former Aristolochia are now in the genera of Isotrema and Endodeca, well, it appears to all be about genetics. They are closely related but currently in different genera.
One of the easiest to grow and showiest, best-behaved species in our garden hails from Brazil, Argentina and Bolivia, Fringed Pipevine or Fringed Dutchman’s-pipe (Aristolochia fimbriata). The plants form scrambling vines that act more like a groundcover than a vine and have beautifully silver-veined small leaves. The flowers are intricately patterned with lines and fringed with long “tentacles” to create one of the most bizarre flowers you’ll ever include in the landscape. Though you wouldn’t pick a plant from Brazil to be rock-hardy here in Raleigh, this one has been fully hardy (zones 7a-9a). For those of you looking to add some swallowtails but unwilling to devote the space to a monstrous mass of vines this one is for you. Fringed Pipevine is also incredibly drought-tolerant and perfect for part-sun to dappled dry shade.
I’ve been surprised to see the black swallowtails regularly enjoying the nectar of the summer-flowering daphnes…in this case, Daphne x napolitana ‘Bramdream’. Our plants are thriving, growing in our full sun rock garden.
As gardeners around the country are encouraged to plant more asclepias to encourage monarch butterflies, many folks are finding out that not all species of asclepias make good garden plants. As a genus, asclepias consists of running and clump forming species. There are number of horribly weedy garden plants like Asclepias speciosa, Asclepias syriaca, and Asclepias fasicularis. These plants are fine in a prairie garden, but are disastrous in more controlled home gardens.
One of our favorite clumping species is the easy-to-grow, Arizona-native Asclepias angustifolia ‘Sonoita’. This superb species was shared by plantsman Patrick McMillan. It has proven to be an amazing garden specimen, thriving for years, despite our heat and humidity. Did I mention it flowers from spring through summer?
This is the time of year when the tiger swallowtails feast on our many patches of the amazing native Stokes aster. Our favorite clone is the upright growing Stokesia laevis ‘Peachie’s Pick’. Moist soils are best, but stokesia tolerates some dry conditions on a short term basis as long as it has 2-6 hours of sun.
One of the little-known native asclepias, milkweed, is flowering in the garden this week. Asclepias variegata, redwing milkweed, is a widespread native, ranging from Canada and Virginia south to Florida, and west to Texas. So, why is this virtually unavailable commercially? Our plants typically range from 1.5′ to 2′ tall, although 3′ is possible. For us, it performs best in part sun to light shade.
The specific epithet “variegata” which refers to two colors on the flower was certainly a poor choice, since most asclepias have multi-color flowers. Of course, Linnaeus didn’t have the benefit of the internet back in 1753.
What a lovely color echo we caught this week at JLBG when the tiger swallowtails were visiting Mertensia virginiana (Virginia Bluebells). Remember that botanical diversity results in more pollinators in the garden.
We’ve been experimenting to see how many species of asclepias will survive in our climate, and one that has been quite fascinating is Asclepias subulata. This odd species from the southwest deserts of the US has evergreen glaucous stems, and not much in the way of leaves. It will be quite interesting to see what the butterfly larvae actually consume. It did flower for us this fall for the first time. This will be our first winter, so fingers crossed it can take our cold and wet temperatures. We sited this on a slope in one of our crevice gardens, so it wouldn’t drown in our summer rains.
I was fascinated to find these monarch butterfly chrysalis’s hanging out on an agave in the crevice garden recently. Our entomologist, Bill Reynolds, tells me that when the caterpillars are finished feeding, they will often migrate from a nearby asclepias to all kinds of odd plants to hangout until it’s time to come out of their closet. It’s hard to imagine a full-size monarch butterfly inside these little structures, but perhaps they are like Dr. Who’s Tardis.
We’ve written before about plants that get much larger than we are told in the catalog descriptions. Well, our latest example is Buddleia ‘Sleeping Beauty’, a hybrid of Buddleia lindleyana and Buddleia davidii. In two short years in the garden, it became a monster, reaching a 7′ tall x 12′ wide with no sign of slowing down. It was quite lovely and floriferous, but has now become a welcome member of our compost pile…sigh
The Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly caterpillars are munching away on any aristolochia (pipevine) in sight. This week, their favorite in the garden is the stunning Aristolochia fimbriata. Nature has created a wonderful balance where the catepillars each just enough to survive and grow, but not enough to damage the plant, which will quickly re-flush.
Baptisias, commonly known as false indigo, are North American native members of the pea family and quite drought tolerant once established. They provide amazing architectural form in a sunny garden or perennial border, and are deer-resistant and a butterfly magnet (See the top 25 flowers that attract butterflies here.).
Not only do baptisia come in blue, which many people are familiar with in the most common species, B. australis, but they are also available in a wide array of colors such as white, yellow, purple, and pink, and new breeding efforts are producing bicolor flowers such as those of Lunar Eclipse.
Baptisias have long been one of our favorite groups of sun perennials here at PDN. Through our trials of new varieties introduced to the market, as well as our own breeding program, we continue to select for improved structure and habit as well as flower color. In 2017, we have introduced 2 new varieties in our Tower Series, Yellow Towers and Ivory Towers. These join our previous introduction, Blue Towers, all having a vigorous upright habit to 4.5-5′, terminating in 18-20″ spikes of flowers, true show-stoppers in the garden.
Due to high demand, we quickly sold out of finished stock of Ivory Towers, but don’t fret, we have another crop coming along and they should be ready just in time for our Spring Open Nursery & Garden Days April 28-30 and May 5-7. And be sure to join us on Sunday May 7 at 2pm for our Gardening Unplugged garden chat series, where Tony will be talking about baptisias. You can also read Tony’s more in depth article about baptisias, here.
There are few times of year more exciting for us than lycoris (surprise lily) season, and we are right in the midst of that now. We’re also enjoying peak butterfly season at the same time, which is really great since butterflies love to drink surprise lily nectar. It’s hard to put the camera down with so many great photo opportunities, so we thought we’d share one of our favorites from this week…an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail on Lycoris x rosea. See the top 25 flowers that attract butterflies here.
October is a transitional month in the garden, as the plants of summer begin to fade and the stars of the autumn garden begin to shine. Register online and join us for this two-hour class…an interactive outdoor walk through our extensive botanical gardens, discussing the plants in the garden, and how and why they grow. Come prepared to write as we send you on plant overload.
Here is a peek in the garden today. There’s always something new to see!
It’s hard to believe, but September is here and it’s time for our final Open Nursery and Garden for 2015. We hope you’ll join us to see all the gems that look great this time of year and stock up for the fall planting season with all the cool new plants from the fall catalog.
Plants, Plants, and More Plants
We also hope you’ve had time to enjoy the Fall Plant Delights Nursery catalog. We’re so excited by the new offerings, especially the clumping, heat-tolerant, mildew-resistant bee balms. These are a huge breeding breakthrough for anyone who likes monardas and attracting pollinators into the garden.
Other members of the same (Lamiaceae) family are also putting on quite a show now.Agastaches, first cousins to bee balm, are simply amazing in fall. In particular, Agastache ‘Peachie Keen’ and ‘Rosie Posie’ have been standouts in our trials and are still in full flower here. These are perfect for a sunny, well-drained spot in the garden where you can observe all the cool insects and hummingbirds which will visit.
While we’re talking members of the Lamiaceae family, we must mention the salvias. The Salvia greggii cultivars are putting on their fall show, as are many other fall-flowering species. Our favorite fall-flowering salvia has to be Salvia ‘Phyllis Fancy’. We moved a plant of this amazing giant into one of the new beds near the sales greenhouses, so people who don’t wander the gardens extensively will still get to enjoy it.
Final Open House for 2015…and More Plants
Did we mention we’re in the midst of our final Open Nursery and Garden for 2015? Friday through Sunday, September 11-13 and 18-20 (8-5 Friday and Saturday and 1-5 Sunday) are the final opportunities to visit until February 2016. We hope you’ll bring your want list from the fall catalog or just come and stroll the gardens.
There’s so much to see in the garden this time of year, including an array of ornamental grasses and a number of fall-flowering bulbs.Cyclamen hederifolium is flowering throughout the dry shade woodland garden, Also, an incredible array of shade-loving tricyrtis (toad lilies) are at their peak with their unique orchid-like flowers. For a bright spot in the fall shade garden, there are few plants as capable of adding as much sunshine as Boehmeria ‘Glow Light’…truly radiant.
We’ve had a great lycoris (surprise lily) season and a number of late-blooming crinum lilies are flowering nicely. Peak lycoris season at JLBG is August, but there are several cultivars which flower into September as you’ll see when you visit. Crinum lilies begin as early as May for us, but many re-flower through September, while others don’t start until fall. Their cousin, the mini-hippeastrum-like Rhodophiala bifida is also providing a bright spot of red throughout the garden now. Be sure to see what these genera have to offer for your fall garden.
Several more fascinating new plants from the fall catalog that are now looking great in the garden include Silene subciliata, Heteropterys glabra,Gloxinia ‘Little Red’, and Sedum ‘Dynomite’. Be sure to enjoy these stars out during open house…they’re hard to miss.
The dark blue-flowering leadworts (ceratostigma) are simply fantastic now as are the light blue-flowered caryopteris. Even buddleias (butterfly bushes) are showcasing their fall blue-lavender flowers. We think you can never have enough blues in the garden.
Other colors abound now including echinaceas (if they were cut back after their early flowering), dahlias, rudbeckia, verbena, hedychium, lobelia, ruellia, achimenes, and so much more. Bring your camera, bring your friends, and we’ll provide the great weather. We hope you’ll be able to visit!
Open Nursery and Garden Dates for 2016
February 26 – 28 and March 4 – 6
April 29 – May 1 and May 6 – May 8
July 8 – 9 and July 15 – 17
September 9 – 11 and September 16 – 18
Friday and Saturday 8a-5p
Rain or Shine!
News from PDN/JLBG
With our steady growth over the last couple of decades, we experienced an office space crunch, so to alleviate this, we were fortunate to recently purchase the adjacent 6-acre horse farm. While it’s sad to lose our wonderful neighbors, the Yde’s, we are excited to have more room. To get more office space, the nursery will be booting us out of our current home in the middle of the garden as soon as we build our downsized retirement home on the new property.
We are blessed to have acquired the services of one of America’s finest architects, Frank Harmon, of Raleigh, who, along with his team, have designed our new residence. (Tony was classmates with Frank’s late wife, Judy, at NC State…back in the day). The purchase will also allow us to re-configure the Open Nursery and Garden parking areas, which we believe you will enjoy. Be sure to follow the changes over the next year during each Open Nursery and Garden.
Anita will be leading her first class at the garden this fall, but it’s not about plants. Join Anita as she leads a sensory garden walk designed to awaken the senses and quiet the thinking mind. Anita will show you how experiencing the gardens through the senses will nourish the body, mind, and spirit. If your mind is open to new experiences, don’t miss this incredible opportunity to gain new insights from a truly amazing woman…yes, I’m prejudiced. You can learn more about Anita at http://AnitaAvent.com or read her wonderful Sensuous Gardening Blog at http://www.sensuousgardening.blogspot.com/. Seating for this class is very limited.
Remember to sign up for our other classes offered this fall:
- Josh Taylor’s Photography Class
- Tony’s Garden Walk
- The World of Soils
Read the class descriptions here.
In news from the horticultural world, corporate giant, Ball Horticultural has purchased the 153-year-old Conard-Pyle Company from owner Steve Hutton, whose family has owned the business for the past 65 years. Even though you may not recognize the company name, Conard-Pyle is the manger/distributer of Knock-out roses…perhaps you’ve heard of them. They also introduced the “Blue Hollies”, the industry standard holly in the Northeast US.
Gardens of Germany
Our friend, landscape architect, Roland Oehme, son of the late landscape architect, Wolfgang Oehme is taking a plant trip to Germany and is accepting travel companions. This isn’t an organized tour per se, but a chance to visit gardens, nurseries, and study German garden design. The cost is $2500-$3000 including airfare. If you’re interested, you can email Roland at his company, Green Harmony Design, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We were saddened this month to learn of the passing of plantsman Nick Nickou, MD, of Branford, CT, who passed away at the age of 94. In addition to being a physician for 40 years, Nick was a keen gardener and plant explorer (China, Russia, Greece, South Africa, Patagonia and more). We are fortunate to have a number of plants that Nick shared, growing in our garden, including his two most popular introductions, Athyrium ‘Branford Rambler’ and Athyrium ‘Branford Beauty’. What an amazing and wonderful life!
The nursery world lost a giant this month, with the passing of retired Monrovia Nursery President/CEO, Bruce Usrey. Bruce worked with Monrovia for over 45 years, starting in plant production and working his way up to CEO and, in his later years, Managing Director. Bruce oversaw much of the tremendous expansion of Monrovia during the 1980s through the 2000s, when Monrovia became a household brand. Bruce is survived by his wife, Susie, another 40-year Monrovia veteran.
Most everyone who grew houseplants from the 1970s through the 1990s has probably heard of Peters Fertilizer, which is a worldwide industry standard for quality and performance. Many of us vividly remember their famous blue fertilizer dye, which stained our hands and made those we subsequently dined with stare with horror.
We are sad to report that Peters founder, Robert (Bob) Peters just passed away at age 97. Peters rewrote the proverbial book on liquid fertilizer during the green industry heyday. Peters started his fertilizer company in 1947, but sold it in 1979 to the Grace Company, which later became Grace-Sierra. Grace-Sierra was subsequently gobbled up by Scotts in 1993. Disenchanted by the workings of a large corporation and their unequal promotion of their Miracle-Grow brand, Peters re-purchased the rights to their fertilizer in 2002, but not their original name. They subsequently started a new company, selling the old Peters fertilizer as Jack’s at www.jrpeters.com.
Connect with Us!
Until next month, connect and follow us and the cats on Facebook, Pinterest, and our blogs at https://blog.jlbg.org and http://www.sensuousgardening.blogspot.com/, where you may sign up to follow our regular posts from the nursery and the botanic garden.
tony and anita
We love plants that attract butterflies to the garden, and here at Juniper Level Botanic Garden, it’s been a banner year for butterflies. Allium ‘Millenium’ is always a favorite of yellow swallowtails…here are images from this week. See the top 25 flowers that attract butterflies here.
Joe Pye weed…aka Eupatorium is always a butterfly favorite. Here is a photo this week with yellow swallowtails taking a sip of Eupatorium dubium.
The pipevine swallowtails were enjoying the same eupatorium together with the yellow swallowtails. You can find a link to all of our butterfly favorites here. We hope you’ll plant to bring nature into your garden.
Looking especially great in the garden today is Buddleia ‘Blue Heaven’. This amazing butterfly bush was hybridized to have a perfectly rounded, compact shape throughout the growing season without any clipping. Here’s our amazing plant in the garden this week.
We know it’s hard for some folks to wrap their mind around being excited when insects eat your plants, but that’s how nature works. In the best scenario, the insect eating the plant is as beautiful or more so than the plant their eating. I just snapped this photo of the larvae of the Pipevine Swallowtail devouring all of our aristolochia (pipevines) in the garden. This actually doesn’t harm the plants, and before long, your garden will be filled with these beautiful butterflies below. No spraying, please. See the top 25 flowers that attract butterflies here.
To celebrate a bright sunshiny day in NC, here’s a new photo of our named introduction, a gold-foliage form of the southeast US native anise, Illicium parviflorum ‘Florida Sunshine’. This is the original plant, which is now nearly 8′ tall x 8′ wide.
I just snapped this photo yesterday in the garden of the native (Illinois south to Florida) Centrosema virginianum (butterfly pea) vine. We don’t currently offer this, but if we did, would you buy it? See the top 25 flowers that attract butterflies here.
So far, it’s been a great spring in Raleigh as we just missed a late spring frost when the temperature dropped to 33 degrees F on March 27, after 3+ weeks of above freezing temperatures. We’ve got a couple weeks that could still have a killing frost, so we’re keeping our fingers…and other body parts crossed until then. I recently returned from speaking to a great group in northwest Arkansas, who weren’t as lucky. Despite being 70 degrees F when I first arrived, I left just before a snowstorm dropped a foot of snow on the region and adjacent to Oklahoma. The area is still recovering from a massive ice storm 2 years earlier that left the region looking like low-end tree pruning firms had a citywide special on tree topping.
We’ve just added a batch of new plants to the web, most are available in a limited supply including some fabulous new hellebores from both Ernie and Marietta O’Byrne ( the Winter Jewels Series), and from Glenn Withey and Charles Price ( the Mardi Gras Series). These amazing plants are not to be missed if you like cool hellebores. We’ve got a small number of the always popular Disporum flavens that we can spare and, as promised, we have a few of the miniature Narcissus ‘Julia Jane’ for those who have a predilection for cute, dwarf narcissus. Four arisaemas have also just been added: A. concinnum, A. kishidae ‘Jack Frost’, A. kiushianum, and our US native, A. triphyllum. Finally, we have a few plants to spare of the amazing golden-leaf bleeding heart, Dicentra ‘Goldheart’, which we haven’t offered in several years.
Click for Web or Open House Only Plants It’s interesting each season to watch what sells and what doesn’t. There are always a few surprises in both directions and topping this year’s list of “why don’t you like me?” is Chrysosplenium macrophyllum. It’s taken us Epimedium grandiflorum ‘Purple Prince’ (Fairy Wings) 10 years to build up enough stock and so far, only 2 of you have indulged. Okay, it’s pretty esoteric and granted, we don’t have any idea how far north it will survive, but how are we going to find out unless you give this plant a try? So, what happened to Epimedium grandiflorum ‘Purple Prince’, which has sold well in the past, but is feeling no love this spring? Perhaps we need to learn Photoshop™, to enhance the image color like one of the Dutch catalogs I was looking through this weekend. I wonder how many folks realize that they are being enticed by totally unrealistic enhancements. I actually thought that using unrealistic enhancements to attract mates for money was illegal …hmmm.
There’s nothing like plant name changes to get gardeners riled up, but these come about due to a variety of different reasons. Just because one taxonomist decides a plant deserves a new name, we don’t jump up and immediately make the change. We give these changes little attention until we have time to study the research to see if it makes sense with our personal experiences. In many cases, these name changes are reversed years later, causing those who want to be the first to jump on a passing bandwagon, to jump off again, and leaving everyone else thoroughly confused. A good example is that of the aroid Sauromatum venosum. In 2000, a couple of my aroid buddies (Aroidiana Volume 23, pg. 48) decided their research showed that sauromatum was actually a typhonium, and subsequently did away with the genus sauromatum. To us, something about that just didn’t smell right…a little aroid pun. Fast forward a decade later and guess what? Sauromatum is being reinstated as a genus and Sauromatum venosum is being moved out of typhonium and back into sauromatum. Note to all of you folks who jumped on the earlier bandwagon…it’s time to disembark. We have the same thoughts about the lumping of cimicifuga into actaea…someone was sniffing too much herbarium dust.
This brings me to the latest taxonomic snafu…trachycarpus palms. For years, we have grown three primary species: Trachycarpus fortunei, Trachycarpus takil, and Trachycarpus wagnerianus. There have been extensive articles written about Trachycarpus takil and the trek to find the real plant to gather seed (Princeps 37(1) 1993, pp 19-25). Guess what we learned in 2009? They gathered seed off the wrong plants. It turns out that virtually everything in cultivation and in writings about Trachycarpus takil is actually a form of Trachycarpus fortunei from the Indian town of Nanital, so this plant is now referred to as Trachycarpus fortunei ‘Nanital’. Although this represents a name change, it is quite different from the example above because this is simply a correction of an earlier error.
While we’re discussing trachycarpus, another problem plant is Trachycarpus wagnerianus. This species was described from a single plant that was being cultivated in Japan and has never been seen or documented in the wild. This is a classic example of poor taxonomy, but was accepted for decades in the past when the opportunity for field studies was more difficult. It is our own and other palm growers contention that this is nothing more than a compact form of Trachycarpus fortunei and therefore, we are changing its name to Trachycarpus fortunei ‘Wagnerianus’. This is not something new, having been proposed since 1977 (Principes Vol 21, 1977, pp. 155-160). I hope these examples illustrate the methods behind the name changing madness, and that all name changes aren’t created equal.
In news from the botanic garden world, Dr. Peter Wyse Jackson, 55, has been selected as the next director of the Missouri Botanic Garden, succeeding Dr. Peter Raven, who had previously announced his retirement. At least the staff won’t have to learn a new name since Peter will be following Peter…there’s probably a great joke in there, but I digress. Jackson is currently Director of the Dublin Botanic Garden in his native Ireland but will assume the directorship of MOBOT (as it is known in botanical circles) on September 1, 2010 and will work alongside Peter Raven until July 2011.
We also recently learned that our good friend, Viki Ferennia, author of Wildflowers in Your Garden (1993), and former assistant horticulturist at Wayside Gardens has taken over as the lead horticulturist at Ohio’s Holden Arboretum. It’s great to have Viki back in public horticulture…congratulations!
The Scott Arboretum has announced Bill McNamara of California’s Quarryhill Botanic Garden as the winner of the prestigious 2010 Scott Medal. I’ve had the pleasure of visiting Quarryhill several times and it was great to have Bill finally visit PDN in 2006. Bill has managed the gardens since their inception by the late Jane Jansen who, in 1987, turned part of her vineyard into a repository for wild-collected Asian native plants. Quarryhill is located in the Napa Valley region of California, and if Asian plants are your interest, be sure to drop by when you are in the area.
I was saddened to learn that my longtime friend and sedum breeder, Edward (Crazy Ed) Skrocki passed away on March 23 at the age of 79, only weeks after he was diagnosed with a very aggressive form of cancer. Ed is survived by his sister, Doris Skok of Pennsylvania as well as four nieces and nephews.
Ed was a fascinating man (and I don’t use the term lightly) and the type of character that I also find truly interesting. I first visited Ed 20 years ago on his 30 acre farm in Southington, Ohio (just outside of Cleveland). We pulled up to find a 90lb man in a bee suit – black spandex shorts, a yellow and black striped shirt, and bobbing antennas attached to his head…out pollinating sempervivums (hens and chickens). At the time, Ed claimed to have over 3000 named varieties of sempervivums. Eddie was an eclectic collector of plants with his specialties including hosta, ajuga, sedums, orostachys, and sempervivums. Some of his sempervivum introductions that are still on the market include S. ‘Bedivere’, S. ‘Circus’, S. ‘Climax’, S. ‘Flamingo’, S. ‘Gizmo’, S. ‘Grape Tone’, S. ‘Happy’, S. ‘Icycle’, S. ‘Jewel Case’, S. ‘Kip’, S. ‘Lively Bug’, S. ‘Mars’, S. ‘Montage’, S. ‘Ohioan’, S. ‘Pink Cloud’, S. ‘Royal Ruby’, S. ‘Rubikon Improved’, S. ‘Skrocki’s Bronze’, S. ‘Spanish Dancer’, S. ‘Starshine’, S. ‘Streaker’, S. ‘Utopia’, and S. ‘Witchery’ …to mention a few.
My first trip to have lunch with Ed was in his nursery delivery vehicle.an old Cadillac hearse which drew stares wherever we parked. During the same first trip, Ed took us to see his neighbor, Mike Tyson…yes, the boxer, and although he wasn’t home, we did get to see his massive estate. Ed was also a collector of old cars, in particular hearses and Packards. Ed could often be found selling Packard parts at car shows in the 1980s.
Ed was able to acquire many species of sedums from collectors in China and Germany before anyone else, because he was able to trade on the huge black market for nude matchbook covers (I’m not making this up) in those countries. One of my favorite sedums, Sedum tetractinum, which is now sold around the country, is only in the country because of Ed’s trading prowess. His matchbook cover collection was legendary, and only expanded years ago when his garbage man told him of a widow in Cleveland who discarded boxes of matchbook covers which Ed immediately purchased for a few hundred dollars. Ed estimated there were over 1 million books, all between 1930 and 1960. Ed had a penchant for turning trash into treasure. I remember when he cleared around his pond one year in the late 1980s and subsequently painted bundles of brush, covered them with glitter and voila…glitter twigs, of which he sold thousands.
Did I mention that Ed dug three wells to have water to irrigate his nursery, but to his dismay, he hit natural gas all three times, and finally resorted to buying his water? Ed had a large property that he rented out for groups…he liked to tell folks that he rented the property to gay groups in the summer and straight groups in the winter. Some folks weren’t quite sure how to take Ed, and he frightened off many young men as he jokingly threatened to let the air out of their tires so they couldn’t leave.
Ed allowed us to introduce two of his hosta seedlings to the market, Hosta ‘Patrician’ in 1993 and Hosta ‘Cadillac’ in 1998. Several years ago, I finally persuaded a reluctant Ed to appear on Erica Glasener’s television series, “Gardener’s Diary”. Ed claimed to be miserable doing the show until the finished tapes arrived, which he proudly sent around the world to all of his plant friends. If you ever get to see the show, watch for the repeat of Ed’s fascinating segment. For those of us who corresponded with Ed and received his exhaustive handwritten notes on his trademark pea-soup-green paper, he will be sorely missed…the plant world has lost another of its true characters.
In the “I’m from the government and I’m here to help” files, The National Invasive Species Information Center has reported a new bill regarding invasive plant species has been entered in the Maryland General Assembly. The introduction and reading of this new bill will, according to their website, “…designates 45 plant species as invasive plants and authorizes the Maryland Department of Agriculture to designate additional species of plants as “invasive”, requires retail outlets and landscapers to provide certain disclosures regarding invasive plants and makes a violation of the law a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of $500. See Maryland Noxious Weed I.D. (PDF | 500 KB) for the 6 plant species currently regulated in Maryland.” The text in the link also includes a list of the 45 plants which will be designated as “invasive”.
Obviously, the folks who put together this list are nothing more than a bunch of ethnic cleansing eco-nazis, since many of the plants are indeed weeds. Only a few rise to the level of truly invasive plants…those which invade a natural functioning ecosystems, displace natives once population equilibrium has been reached. We used to say that these plants naturalized well which was a selling point. There is a concerted effort by a small but vocal group of folks to use ethnic profiling to limit the use of plants that don’t fit their narrow view of what is acceptably indigenous at their mystically established point in time. Of course, if they really wanted to be taken seriously, that list should first include humans, European honeybees, and earthworms …which are all terribly invasive and unmistakably alien.
As part of our educational mission, we continue to add newly written plant articles to the website. You can find our most recent additions by clicking on the links below. Feel free to link to any of these from your own website and share with friends who may also be interested.
Cypripedium Orchids – Does the Lady Slipper Fit Your Garden? www.cypripediumladyslipperorchid.com (Note: That URL has been retired, The replacement is https://www.plantdelights.com/blogs/articles/cypripedium-orchids)
Buddleia – The Butterfly Bush www.buddleiabutterflybush.com (Note: That URL has been retired, The replacement is https://www.plantdelights.com/blogs/articles/buddleia-davidii-the-butterfly-bush)
Ringing the Coral Bells – The Heuchera and xHeucherella Story www.heucheracoralbells.com (Note: That URL has been retired, The replacement is https://www.plantdelights.com/blogs/articles/ringing-the-coral-bells)
Tiarella – A Crown in the Garden www.tiarellafoamflower.com (Note: That URL has been retired, The replacement is https://www.plantdelights.com/blogs/articles/tiarella-foam-flower)
Hardy Terrestrial Orchids for Southeast Gardens www.hardyorchidplants.com (Note: That URL has been retired, The replacement is https://www.plantdelights.com/blogs/articles/hardy-orchids-in-the-garden)
Echinacea Explosion – The Coneflower Chronicles www.echinaceaconeflower.com (Note: That URL has been retired, The replacement is https://www.plantdelights.com/blogs/articles/echinacea-chronicles-of-the-coneflower-plant)
Winter Hardy Palms for Temperate Gardens www.hardypalm.net (Note: That URL has been retired, The replacement is https://www.plantdelights.com/blogs/articles/cold-hardy-palms-for-temperate-gardens)
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Greetings from Plant Delights. We hope all is well in your hometown. It’s that time of year and the fall catalog will be on the way on Friday, August 11. If you want to get a head start on your friends, you can find the new catalog on-line at www.plantdelights.com.
We hope you are making your plans to visit PDN this fall, either for the PDN fall open house or for the JCRA 30th Anniversary Symposium.
Even though we may cringe at the idea of summer gardens, there are quite a few plants that relish the idea. The gingers and the colocasias are loving the summer heat, and I can’t think of a plant that more represents summer than the wonderful hardy hibiscus, which are in full flower as we speak. August is a fun month, since this is when many of the wonderful lycoris (surprise lilies) flower. I usually don’t like surprises, but I always break my rule when it’s lycoris time. Another bulb that just loves summer weather is the crinum lilies with their amazing stalks of pink, red, striped, or white flowers.
There are so many summer butterfly-attracting plants flowering now, from the long-flowering verbenas to the stunning eupatoriums (joe-pye-weed), to the well known buddleia (butterfly bushes). Since butterfly attracting plants are designed to flower when butterflies are in season, most of the summer flowering plants are probably good nectar sources. We hope you’ll take time to journey through the pages of the new on-line catalog and see what fun plants you can’t live without. (Read more about Buddleia here) (See the top 25 flowers that attract butterflies here)
On a sad note, we have lost one of our wonderful NC plantsman, Rob Gardener, to cancer. Rob retired from the NC Botanical Garden in Chapel Hill a few years earlier, after devoting his life to gardening and in particular to the genus Sarracenia. Other than many of the sarracenia hybrids we carry, Rob will also be remembered for two of his other introductions, Baptisia ‘Carolina Moonlight’ and Baptisia ‘Purple Smoke’. We’ll certainly miss a good friend and fine plantsman.
For those who entered our Top 25 Contest, be sure to check how your favorite plants are selling. -tony