Havin’ a Blast in the Fall

The shrubby North American native salvias including Salvia greggii and Salvia microphylla are spectacular plants in the fall garden. The same goes form the hybrids between the two species, known as Salvia x jamensis. Here is our clump of Salvia x jamensis ‘Blast’ looking absolutely stunning in late October. Flowering is heaviest in spring, slowing in summer, but again equaling it’s spring show in fall. Hardiness is Zone 7a-9b, and possibly a good bit colder.

Salvia x jamensis 'Blast' in full bloom.
Salvia x jamensis ‘Blast’

Winter Gems for the Garden!

Hellebores are the gems of the winter woodland garden. Hellebores, also known as lenten rose, come in a wide range colors and flower forms, they are deer resistant and drought tolerant once established.

picture of Helleborus Confetti Cake

Helleborus x hybridus ‘Confetti Cake’

This year we are pleased to offer many new hellebore hybrids from the breeding work of Hans Hansen at Walters Gardens.

picture of Helleborus Blushing Bridesmaid

Helleborus x hybridus ‘Blushing Bridesmaid’

We are continuing to add new hellebores to our website monthly, including selections from our own breeding. Be sure to visit during our annual Winter Open Nursery and Garden, Feb. 24-26 and March 3-5, to enjoy the many hellebores blooming in the gardens as well as selecting a few gems for your own.

picture of Helleborus Pippa's Purple

Helleborus ‘Pippa’s Purple’ in the sales house with close-up of flower.

pictures of Hellebores being released soon

Hellebores that will be released for sale shortly – Rose Quartz, Golden Lotus, and French Kiss

Winter Wonders – Asarum

Asarum, also know as wild ginger, are a deer-resistant woodland perennial. They perform well in moist but well-drained soils. Many are evergreen and will slowly form a dense groundcover. Below is a selection of our North American native Asarum arifolium selected by Plant Delights in 2006 and introduced in 2015.

picture of Asarum-Silver Spreader GH

Asarum ‘Silver Spreader’ in the sales house

picture of Asarum-arifolium-Silver-Spreader flowers

Asarum ‘Silver Spreader’ flowers

Asarum flowers are almost alien-like and are born at ground level in late winter. We have many new selections of asarum available this year, so check us out online when you are ready to add wild gingers to your woodland garden.


Fern zombies awaken in the garden

Close up image of Coniogramme gracillis unfurling
Coniogramme gracillis unfurling

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.

Close up image of Lepisorus tosaensis unfurling
Lepisorus tosaensis unfurling

Lepisorus or ribbon ferns, with their long narrow fronds are quite unique.

Matteuccia The King with new and old fronds
Matteuccia The King with new and old fronds

Matteucia or ostrich fern emerges alongside last years’ spore bearing fronds providing an interesting contrast.

Onoclea sensibilis Supersize with summer and winter fronds.
Onoclea sensibilis Supersize with summer and winter fronds.
Osmunda cinnamomea emerging
Osmunda cinnamomea emerging
Osmunda cinnamomea unfurling
Osmunda cinnamomea unfurling

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. 

Osmunda regalis unfurling
Osmunda regalis unfurling

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.

Polystichum acrostichoides unfurling
Polystichum acrostichoides unfurling

Here is its cousin, Osmunda regalis or royal fern…another great US native that’s also native in Europe and Asia.

Polystichum makinoi unfurling
Polystichum makinoi unfurling
Polystichum makinoi unfurling
Polystichum makinoi unfurling

This is the lovely native Polystichum acrostichoides or Christmas fern…also wonderfully hairy as it emerges.

Polystichum tagawanum unfurling
Polystichum tagawanum unfurling

Here are two images of the Asian tassel fern, Polystichum makinoi that we took a week apart as the croziers unfurled.

Pteris vittata unfurling
Pteris vittata unfurling

The lovely Asian, brown-haired  Polystichum tagawanum.

Thelypteris lindheimeri crozier
Thelypteris lindheimeri crozier

Our winter hardy form of the table fern, Pteris vittata

Woodsia subcordata emerging
Woodsia subcordata emerging

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.

Athyrium ‘Ghost’ fern

Athyrium Ghost6

I just took this photo of the Ghost fern on our patio…can’t imagine a garden without this lovely deer-resistant perennial.  Light shade or even a few hours of sun if the soil is kept moist.

Tokyo Wood Fern

Dryopteris tokoyoensis6

Most of the ferns are looking really great in the gardens now as the spring ephemerals are going dormant.  A fern that just impresses me more each year is deciduous Dryopteris tokyoensis.  Here it is in our garden today, where it has formed a 3′ tall x 3′ wide clump…think deer-resistant!

2012 Plant Delights Nursery August Newsletter

We hope you’ve had a chance to peruse the fall catalog online. The printed copies are in the mail and some may have already arrived. This fall, we’ve included the largest number of new plants ever in a fall catalog, so we trust you’ll find something that suits your fancy…and your garden!

We’ve had a blast this summer on Facebook and we hope more of you will join us there. Just recently we shared photos of the behind-the-scenes process of printing our catalog that generated lots of interest. We’ll continue to share photos of cool plants from the garden and other things that get us excited. If you’re not on Facebook or are afraid to venture into social media, I felt the same way until I discovered the amazing capacity for teaching and information sharing that is available there. If you need some help getting started, don’t hesitate to shoot an email to office@plantdelights.com and we’ll guide you through the process.

Go to www.facebook.com

Sign Up using the sign up form.

Facebook will automatically take you through steps to set up your profile. You are given an option to skip these.

At the top of the Facebook screen there is a search box that says “Search for people, places and things.” Click in this box and type “Plant Delights Nursery”

One of the first results you should see is: THUMB NAIL

To the right of our listing, you will see a gray box with a thumbs up and “Like”. Please click this button to follow the Plant Delights Nursery Facebook page.

Recently, Bobby Ward of the North American Rock Garden Society (NARGS) asked me to let you know that their award winning journal is now online. If you’ve got rocks in your garden…or would like to, check out NARGS. NARGS has always been one of my favorite organizations with a great journal and seed exchange…not to mention all the wonderful members and educational meetings.

One of the exciting new line of plants we had on trial since winter is the Jewel of the Desert series of ice plants from Japan. These amazing plants include varieties like Delosperma ‘Perfect Orange’, ‘Rise and Shine’, ‘Eye Candy’, and ‘White Pearl’. In our garden, they have flowered consistently since March, forming nice compact mounds. After a lovely June weather-wise, July went a bit crazy with 10 consecutive days near or above 100 degrees F, rendering all of these delospermas into little piles of blackened plant snot. Other delospermas we offer were growing alongside and were fine. Consequently, these plants should not be used south of Zone 7a, and if you purchased them and had the same results, drop us a note for a credit/refund.

In some fascinating gardening research, new studies from Sage College of New York confirm a 2007 study from Bristol University and University College London that dirt is indeed a great anti-depressant. Many of us have known this for years, but we just didn’t know why…guess that’s why I don’t make the big bucks. As it turns out, a soil-borne bacteria, Mycobacterium vaccae, acts as an anti-depressant by causing brain cells to produce high levels of the happy hormone, serotonin. Serotonin occurs naturally in the body from the gut to the brain, and plays a particularly important role in mood. Low serotonin levels have been linked to anxiety, depression, aggression, OCD, bipolar disorder, fibromyalgia, and irritable bowel syndrome…who knew? Mycobacterium vaccae has already been used medically in cancer patients to increase their quality of life. The next time you hear that line about not being in the mood, grab your significant other, sans gloves, and head for the garden to get dirty.

A less than pleasant garden-related issue that many of us in the Southeast, and possibly around the country deal with is ants (and occasionally aunts) in our homes. Ants were a bane of my late wife’s life, so now dealing with these critters has passed to me. Instead of playing the ant bait game that Michelle played for over a decade, I did the manly thing and called an exterminator. As I showed him around the outside of our house, explaining that I wanted him to keep the ants out of the house, he laughingly replied, “So, are you going to get rid of the flower beds and mulch? If not, I can’t get rid of the ants.” Other than fire ants, ants in the garden are actually a good thing and an important part of a healthy ecosystem.

Instead of spraying outdoors, he recommended that I buy a boatload of silicone caulk and seal the entrance holes into my home. What a novel idea, I thought. We spent the next hour walking around the house as he showed me the interstate highway-like ant runs that I’d never noticed before. We followed each until we found where they entered the house through seemingly tiny innocuous cracks in the brick. Silicon in hand, I carefully followed the ants, plugging each hole with what looks and feels like tubes of expired Vaseline.

This began my now three-month game of hide and seek with the ants. After nearly a month of no ants, they returned out of the blue, first heading for Zirconia’s cat food. I finally won that round after sealing one crack and daring them to find a way out, which for two weeks, they did, each time returning with reinforcements. Pissed off, the remaining ants outside the house then invaded the kitchen, which became a battle for the ages. Since I had already sealed the easy cracks, they got really sneaky, once coming in between the wood flooring and the air vent, and later through a tiny crack where the dishwasher drain goes through the floor and into the crawlspace. We’re currently in a stalemate, and I’m sure they haven’t given up…but then, I have two tubes of Silicon left.

Although on a slightly different scale, another pest that we’re all familiar with are deer. When talking with gardening groups, I often get random moans when I mention deer control. As is usually the case, these are folks who let emotion override good sense…if indeed, they were ever so endowed. I recently ran across this open letter, I’ll share in the hope it will make Bambi-lovers rethink their hesitance when it comes to controlling the deer population.

I own a home in a residential community in NW Wake County that is considering adopting the NCBA-BCRS program. I was encouraged to share a couple of thoughts with you. I used to be opposed to hunting of any kind. It was my family who changed my mind. Here’s a list of things I learned from them:

-By 1908, the entire population of all species of deer in the lower 48 was estimated at less than half a million, because of overhunting and indiscriminate killing of deer by farmers.
-Conservation efforts by hunters – the creation of sanctuaries and preserves, moratoriums on hunting, proactive efforts to build deer populations were so effective that today, the deer population of North Carolina alone is estimated at 1.3 million.
-While we’ve done a spectacular job at rebuilding deer populations, we haven’t done the same for the mountain lion and wolf, so we’ve effectively eliminated the deer’s natural predators. -Without wolves and mountain lions, deer population is limited only by their food supply. Their population can double every 2-3 years, and long before deer start running out of food, they start destroying the health of the ecosystem they live in.
-Deer overpopulation has been proven to destroy animal and plant diversity, and diversity is the lynchpin of any ecosystem’s resiliency. Deer eat the seedlings of the trees, denuding the forest understory. That leaves only those plants and trees that are “deer resistant.” Small animals and birds that feed off less resistant plants, or feed off of insects that live on those plants, disappear, as do many species of native trees.
-An overpopulation of deer is in direct conflict with the current move toward local agriculture, co-op farms and neighborhood gardens, because hungry deer will destroy all of the above. Too many deer also mean higher rates of Lyme disease (it’s not called a deer tick for nothing).
-When people move into the deer’s habitat, we must take on responsibility for controlling the deer population, because our presence is a large part of what causes that population to explode. Case in point – the deer census in many rural-metropolitan boundary areas is more than double that of more rural areas. Subdivisions in rural areas that were formerly farmland create a patchwork of forests and open land protected against wildfire and hunting.
-Today, I don’t hunt, but I now support it. The hunters I know, contrary to the stereotype portrayed in the media, are naturalists and environmentalists who are deeply respectful of the animals they hunt, and innately respectful of the circle of life. They either eat what they kill or give it away to friends or to food banks.
-Much of the leading research in deer nutrition, behavior, and disease prevention is funded by hunters, and most of the $700 million collected each year for hunting licenses goes to protect deer habitats.
-Also, too many people who watched Bambi as a child, or with their own children, abhor the idea of hunting female deer. Yet in many areas there are 7 or 8 does for every buck, one buck can inseminate all of them, and they’ll each average 1.7 fawns a year…

-Many universities have done studies in using contraceptives to limit the deer population, but none have proven anywhere near as effective as controlled hunting.
Given that: 1. There are no natural predators that once served as a check on deer population.
2. Subdivisions act as artificial sanctuaries that further imbalance the natural order.
3. Too many deer means loss of habitat diversity and quality, more Lyme disease, and crop damage.

A hands-off approach is not an environmentally sound policy, nor is it a responsible one. I can fully understand someone not wanting a hunter on their property. But I think it’s important for individual homeowners and the neighborhood as a whole to ask, what are we going to do to be responsible stewards of the environment? How are we going to restore and maintain a balance between the deer and rest of the ecosystem?
-Eric Miller

Cornell University maintains an informative website on deer population and control.

Enjoy, and until next month, we’ll keep up on Facebook.


2009 Plant Delights Nursery March Newsletter

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 office@plantdelights.com.

Thanks and enjoy