Thus, Diane

In the hot, humid south, the word Dianthus is jokingly translated as “prepare to die”. As of this spring, we’ve grown 169 different dianthus taxa (different accessions). Of those, most are dead, a few are hanging on, and then a much smaller subset are absolutely thriving. Below are a few images from the spring garden of some (but not all) which are thriving spectacularly.

The first image is Dianthus anatolicus, planted in 2020. Virtually unknown by most gardeners, this species is native from the Black Sea region into the West Himalayas. Typically, plants from this region don’t thrive in our heat and humidity, so this was a pleasant surprise. This is growing in our typical compost amended garden loam.

Dianthus anatolicus

Dianthus arenarius is a Baltic Sea species that has thrived for us since 2018 in our crevice garden.

Dianthus arenarius

Dianthus Dianthus kuschakewiczii, aka: D.tianshanicus, a Central Asian native, has also fared amazingly well in our compost ammended beds since 2015. The idea that this tolerates our heat and humidity is quite shocking.

Dianthus kuschakewiczii

Dianthus plumarius is a well-known garden species, originating from the Northwest Balkan peninsula. It has been grown as a pass-along perennial throughout the Southeastern US for over a century. This species has been cultivated in the UK since 1100AD, and in the US since 1676. Our clone is one that has been passed along in the Birmingham, Alabama area.

Dianthus plumarius ‘Birmingham’

The horticultural world has been replete with an array of dianthus hybrids through the years. We’ve managed to kill quite a few, but the ones below have been exceptional in our tough conditions. Dianthus ‘Bright Light’ (aka: Dianthus Uribest52), is a Korean hybrid from the breeding firm, Uriseed, which was derived from crossing Dianthus alpinus (from the Alps) with Dianthus callizones from Romania. Our clumps have been in since 2018, and excelled in unirrigated sections of the garden. This is one of the finest garden dianthus we’ve ever grown.

Dianthus ‘Bright Light’

Dianthus ‘Cherry Charm’ is a Dutch hybrid of Dianthus gratiopolitanus , which has been every bit as exceptional as Dianthus ‘Bright Light’. Our clumps, which are now four years old are nothing short of outstanding.  

Dianthus ‘Cherry Charm’

Dianthus ‘White Crown’ is the smallest of the excellent performing selections in our trial. We have had this in the crevice garden since 2017, growing in 3′ of Permatill, so we doubt this would thrive in typical garden soils. This is a Wrightman Gardens introduction of unknown parentage.

Dianthus ‘White Crown’

A Concrete Idea

Unless you’ve been hiding under a piece of concrete, you’ve no doubt heard of our crevice garden experiment, constructed with recycled concrete and plants planted in chipped slate (Permatill). It’s been just over three years since we started the project and just over a year since its completion. In all, the crevice garden spans 300′ linear feet and is built with 200 tons of recycled concrete. The garden has allowed us to grow a range of dryland (6-12″ of rain annually) plants that would otherwise be ungrowable in our climate which averages 45″ of rain annually.

One of many plants we’d killed several times ptc (prior to crevice) are the arilbred iris, known to iris folks as ab’s. These amazing hybrids are crosses between the dazzling middleastern desert species and bearded hybrids. Being ready to try again post crevice (pc), we sent in our order to a California iris breeder, who promptly emailed to tell us that he would not sell them to us because they were ungrowable here. It took some persuading before they agreed to send our order, but on arrival, they became some of the first plants to find a home in the new crevices. Although we’ve added more ab’s each year, the original plantings will be three years old in August. Here are a few flowers from this week.

Iris are just a few of the gems that can be found in our “cracks”, continuing below with dianthus. As we continually take note of our trial successes, more and more of those gems will find their way into our catalog and on-line offerings…as long as we can produce it in a container. Please let us know if any of these strikes your fancy.

If that’s not enough, here are some more shinning stars currently in bloom.

If any of this seems interesting, you probably should be a member of the North American Rock Garden Society…a group of similarly afflicted individuals. If you are specifically addicted to cracks, check out the nearly 2000 strong, really sick folks on Modern Crevice Gardens on Facebook

Dianthus ‘Sangria Splash’

Dianthus Sangria Splash - horiz

A plant with the opposite fragrance of the sauromatum is flowering in one of our rock gardens...Dianthus ‘Sangria Splash’.  We trial lots of dianthus (hardy carnation), and most are bred to be potted plants and don’t survive our brutal summers.  This gem has been growing in our full sun rock garden for years alongside cactus and this is how it looks now…darn impressive!

Dianthus ‘Heart Attack’

Dianthus barbatus Heart Attack4

Dianthus barbatus ‘Heart Attack’ is a perennial sweet William that’s looking great right now.  This gem was shared with us many years ago by our first garden curator, James Stevenson, who is now the Education Coordinator at the Florida Botanic Garden in Pinellas County, Florida.

2010 Plant Delights Nursery June Newsletter

Dear PDN’ers:

Who turned on the heat? While we’ve had really good rains in June, they have been accompanied by abnormally high temperatures which arrived much too early in the season. Because of the hot weather, we have put all plant shipping on hold until temps drop back to the upper 80’s/low 90’s. As much as we are told that we can control the climate, we can’t get our operator manual to work correctly, so we will therefore resume shipping as soon as Momma Nature allows.

We’ve just finished our late spring inventory: the kick-off event for our fall catalog production season which is now underway. Catalog descriptions are nearly finished, as we now make sure we have good photos to go with each new introduction. In evaluating the spring season, sales were not quite what we had hoped for, so once again we have an excess of several items and unfortunately for us (fortunately for you,) we need the space for summer production. Consequently, it’s time for our summer overstock sale. This year, we’re dubbing it our “World Cup, Kick’em Out, 20% Off Sale”. Click here to find out what’s on sale.

We’ve also added several new plants to the web since last month, many of which are available in limited quantities.

In plant news, it was great to hear from plantsman Jim Waddick of Kansas City, who shared with us that his Helicodiceros muscivorus has been hardy outdoors and actually flowered this year. Since there are so few of these grown, there haven’t been many folks testing it for winter hardiness. We’ll get our Zone 7 rating changed to a Zone 5b … thanks, Jim.

Gladiolus ‘Atom’ was one of the few plants that we offered this year that we didn’t grow ourselves, and guess what … we received and sold the wrong plant! Once they flowered, we were greeted with nice pink flowers … not the brilliant red with a white picotee edge we expected. Therefore, if you got one of these before we saw them flower, please contact our customer service department for a refund or credit. Although we’ve discarded the off-type stock, we would like to know the identity of the plant we sold, so if you recognize this cultivar, please let us know.

In the latest news from the nursery industry, CEO Steve Hutton announced the closure of the Conard Pyle Wholesale Nursery in West Grove, PA, which is shutting down its 32 year old wholesale division. What will remain of the scaled back 113-year old company is only their rose and liner division. For those of you who don’t know the name Conard Pyle, these are the folks who market and license Mediland-Star Roses and Knockout Roses.

Another sad development is the liquidation plant auction this week of 5,000,000 container plants at Carolina Nurseries in South Carolina. Not only was Carolina Nurseries the largest nursery in South Carolina (700 acres), but president J. Guy was the founder of the Novalis program, which currently serves as a nationwide conduit and marketing program to get new plants from breeders to independent garden centers.

Carolina Nurseries was hit hard like everyone else during the economic downturn, but the nail in the proverbial coffin was their inability to maintain their financing due to the tightening credit market. Carolina Nursery had been a long-time customer of Wachovia, which as we know, went belly-up in the mortgage crisis meltdown due to risky loans. Although Carolina Nursery president J. Guy had actually been a long-term Wachovia board member, the “new” Wachovia (aka Wells Fargo) found that Carolina’s square peg no longer fit into Wells Fargo’s new round hole. I can relate, since we had the same experience with the original Wachovia when they merged with First Union in 2001. Fortunately, we were small enough to fire Wachovia and find a small town bank who understood and appreciated our business. As a friend reminded me, the Wachovia of the last decade wasn’t really Wachovia, but actually First Union in drag. It is unclear at this time what will happen after the plant auction at Carolina Nurseries this week, but if I were a betting man, I wouldn’t count J. Guy out after only one knockout. We’ve got our fingers crossed for a Freddy-Krueger like reappearance.

In related news, financial issues have put several botanic gardens and private gardens on the market this month including The Berry Botanic Garden in Portland, Oregon, the Harland Hand Garden in El Cerrito, California, and the 3 acre Western Hills Nursery and Garden in Occidental, California. I never made it to The Berry Botanical Garden, but have visited the other two and can’t say enough good things about them. Harland Hand was an amazing plantsman and designer, and the garden sits high atop a hill that overlooks the San Francisco Bay. You can find out more at I have written in the past about Western Hills, which we thought was safe after a couple purchased it in 2007, but that didn’t work out since the garden and nursery went into foreclosure early this year. You can find out more at If you know of anyone who might be interested in either of these properties, contact the Garden Conservancy at

I had mentioned in an earlier newsletter about the excellent bloom on many of the perennials this year due to the abnormally large number of chilling hours this winter. One benefit that I didn’t realize until recently was the increased height of our lilies. I have never been able to get many of our lilies to reach their “advertised” heights … until this year. Lilies that normally only reached 3-4′ are now 6-7′ tall with amazing flower heads.

On the opposite end of the winter spectrum were unexpected losses of some colocasias and bananas. Although our winter temperatures in 2008 (7-9° F) were much colder than 2009 temperatures (16° F), the ground was frozen for 6+ weeks this winter as we stayed below freezing for more than a week at a time. Despite mulching the colocasia clumps with small shredded leaf mulch “volcanos”, we still lost elephant ears that we shouldn”t have, including Colocasia ‘Mojito’, C. ‘Diamond Head’, and C. gigantea ‘Thailand Giant’ (which we view as marginal in our zone). Even hardy bananas such as Musa velutina didn’t re-emerge until mid-June. I’m betting that without the excess winter moisture, we wouldn’t have seen as many winter losses, so I’m considering covering the leaves with a fabric in the future to reduce the winter moisture from reaching the dormant corms.

Plants that have really impressed me this year are some of the new echinaceas, which just get better with age. The one that truly boggles my mind so far is Echinacea ‘Hot Papaya’. The flowers emerge orange and initially appear ho-hum, but then they quickly “fill out” while morphing into a dark scarlet red that is simply unreal. I have them planted alongside my driveway, and everyday I pass them, I can’t help but say “wow” … what an amazing breakthrough. Echinacea ‘Tomato Soup’ has also developed into an amazingly large clump, but the habit is much more open, making it better to blend into a perennial border with complementing colors and contrasting forms. Echinacea ‘Milkshake’ is another cultivar that never ceases to amaze me with its huge cones of double white … again, a clump that keeps getting better each year. If you haven’t tried some of these amazing new echinaceas, what are you waiting for?

The key to establishing echinaceas is to plant them before fall and be sure the planting bed is well-drained in the winter. I also recommend that you remove the flowers until the plant is well established. Tissue cultured clonal echinaceas tend to go to flower much more quickly than they should, often before developing a dense crown. By removing the developing flowers, the energy is sent back into crown development, which results in better survivability and a sturdier plant. I know removing the first flowers is tough, but get the bud vases ready.

Another plant that I gain a new respect for every year is the hardy gladiolus. I will admit to having never grown a gladiolus a decade ago, not caring much for the over-the-top annual funeral-spray glads. Fast forward a decade, and a trip to South Africa to see them in the wild, and I have a whole new respect for the genus. Despite the fact that all Holland-produced glads are now bred against being winter hardy, many of the old hybrids and species selections remain.

Having now grown a number of gladiolus species, I am particularly impressed with selections and hybrids of Gladiolus dalenii. G. dalenii seems to impart the best traits of spike form and hardiness into its offspring. Some selections such as G. ‘Boone’, which we hope to offer in spring, are reportedly hardy to Zone 5. While we list most of our gladiolus offerings as Zone 7b, that’s only because we don’t know how much winter cold they will tolerate. In a baptisia that we dug and sent to a friend in Minnesota, there were a few hiding corms of Gladiolus papilio. We were all surprised when they not only returned, but naturalized there at temperatures near -30° F, without the benefit of snow. Unfortunately, this was not an attractive form of the species, but it does show the incredible hardiness potential of the genus. A few years ago, some of our gladiolus clumps got so large that they finally produced enough stems for me to cut for indoor arrangements. Again, I was impressed at how nice they were as cut flowers, so if you’re looking for a few brownie points, especially if your spouse thinks you spend too much on plants, gladiolus are your answer.

We’ve spent the last few years bulking up some exceptional selections that will start appearing next year, along with raising some of our own gladiolus from seed. We discovered that if you grow gladiolus cultivars near each other, they are quite promiscuous and will cross pollinate. We’re in the process of making final selections, but there are some real gems in the pipeline. I hope you will give the hardy glads a try in your garden and, please, let us know your results if you are in an area that drops below 0° F in the winter.

In the Top 25 contest this month there weren’t many major moves. Canna ‘Phaison’ moves from 10th to 7th place while Begonia ‘Heron’s Pirouette’ moved from 16th to 13th, and Colocasia ‘Mojito’ jumped from 26th to 20th. Salvia chamaedryoides moved into 26th place from just outside the top 30. Echinacea ‘Tomato Soup’ slid up from 8th to 5th place, Echinacea ‘Green Envy’ moved from 20th to 14th, but the biggest movers were Dianthus ‘Heart Attack’, Agastache ‘Cotton Candy’, Adiantum venustum, and Geranium ‘Anne Thomson’ all of which moved from outside the top 30 to 7th, 15th, 21st, and 22nd place respectively.

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Thanks and enjoy


2010 Plant Delights Nursery April Newsletter

Dear PDN’ers:

Greetings from PDN, where we’re in the midst of a wonderful spring season. Although we had a short hot spell early in April, overall, it’s been a very nice spring for the plants. Because of our prolonged cold winter and the lack of a late spring frost, we had one of the best magnolia seasons in memory, and now the perennials are bursting forth with amazing vigor. Without question, we’ve also had the best peony season ever.and it’s not even over yet. We continue our peony trials for varieties that will grow and flower well, even in the low-chill southeast. Our offerings reflect the best of those trials that we have been able to make available so far.

Our hostas in the garden are also looking great this spring.mainly because we focused our efforts on improving the soil and moisture where we grow them in the garden. We discovered early on that hostas do not thrive in sandy soils, even when compost is added. Once we added a small bit of clay to our mix however, their performance improved dramatically. Hostas also perform much better when they are grown in either morning sun, or very open high shade. They really don’t fare very well in deep, dry shade.

Of course, we don’t want all hostas to get large, hence several new miniature offerings this spring. Since the wildly popular Hosta ‘Blue Mouse Ears’ was introduced in 2000, growers have been looking for new variegated sports of this gem. We are pleased to offer three this season, each of which has its own personality and will make a delightful small clump in the garden. These include Hosta ‘Frosted Mouse Ears’, Hosta ‘Mighty Mouse’, and Hosta ‘Pure Heart’. Although our photos of Hosta ‘Frosted Mouse Ears’ and Hosta ‘Mighty Mouse’ look similar, they are not. In spring, Hosta ‘Mighty Mouse’ has a much brighter edge, while Hosta ‘Frosted Mouse Ears’ has a chartreuse border. Small hostas aren’t for everyone, but if you enjoy these cuties and can keep them from getting overrun in the garden, they are really quite superb.

I love the flush of spring iris, first the woodland dwarf Iris cristata, followed by two other shade lovers, Iris japonica and Iris tectorum. Now, we are just getting off to a great start with the fabulous Louisiana iris. The first few have just opened, with more to follow by this weekend. While Louisiana iris are great right out of the southern US swamps, you would be amazed what breeders have been able to do in terms of flower size and flower colors… to the point that Louisiana iris is now a rival of Siberian and Japanese iris. I was talking with Kelly Norris of the American Iris Society when he visited last fall about how badly people underestimate the winter hardiness of the Louisiana Iris. Just because they were born in the Deep South doesn’t mean they don’t fare well further north.

Another plant that impresses me more each year is Ligularia japonica. Our hot summers render us a ligularia-deprived climate, unless you still consider farfugiums to be ligularias. While ligularias are very important landscape staple in the northeast, their bold-textured form is sadly absent from the southeast, with the exception of Ligularia japonica. We’re still not sure how far south they can go, but certainly into Zone 8 and possibly further. So far, we have offered material from Japanese genetics, but we have a new crop for next year of Chinese native material, thanks to a 2005 collection from our friend Hans Hansen. Because of their large leaves, ligularias prefer soils that stay a bit on the moist side.

This spring, we’ve been working with the folks at Floating Islands Southeast to install one of their floating islands in our rain garden retention pond. With their help, it has just been planted, so we look forward to having it fill in as the season progresses.we invite you to watch as it develops. If you aren’t familiar with their products, the islands, made of recycled plastic bottles, etc., are designed be planted and then float in ponds as a nutrient bioretention filter.

Speaking of Open House, it’s already time for our Spring Open House. I know many of you missed the Winter Open House in February due to cold weather, but I hope you will be able to visit with us during our Spring Open House, which starts this today and continues next weekend also.

I normally don’t take off on overseas plant exploration trips in April, but this year was an exception as I was fortunate to spend a week in early April botanizing on the Greek island of Crete. Over the last few years, we noticed how well many of the plants from Crete were performing well in our garden, so we decided to see what other plants might have good garden potential. We were quite amazed at the botanical crossover including three North Carolina natives which are also native in Crete.despite our non-Mediterranean, wet-summer climate. If you’d like to travel vicariously with us, without leaving the comfort of home, we have posted our expedition log with images on-line at

In the nursery world, we regret to report that Jane Bath’s Georgia nursery, Land Arts, has closed its doors after 18 years in business, although Jane’s landscape business remains open. You may remember Jane’s most famed plant introduction, the wildly popular, Dianthus ‘Bath’s Pink’.

Bad news in the nursery industry continued this month when George W. Park Seed Company (which includes Wayside Gardens) filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy protection on April 2. Park Seed also operates two affiliate businesses, Park Seed Wholesale and Jackson and Perkins Direct Marketing (Roses), which were also included in the filing. Park has 120 days to present a plan for restructuring for long term success, or the assets will be sold to pay off its debts. In the meantime, it’s business as usual. There is always the option that another firm will purchase the company and try to keep it running.

For those who may not know much about the company’s history, George W. Park Seed Company began business in 1868, and started their wholesale division a few years later in 1870. Wayside Gardens opened in 1920 and operated until 1975, when it was purchased by Park Seed and moved from Mentor, Ohio to Greenwood, SC. Jackson and Perkins, was founded in 1872, and was subsequently purchased in 1966 by Harry and David Co., who owned it until 2007.

Park Seed was still run by members of the Park family until a “hostile takeover” in 2008. Don and Glenda Hachenberger, first obtained a 50% stake of Park Seed and Wayside Gardens in 2005, when they financed Karen Park Jennings takeover of the nursery in a family squabble, from her brother Leonard Park. As the Park stable of businesses began to decline, the Hachenberger’s were able to acquire 100% ownership in 2008. In 2007, they (technically J & P Acquisitions, a company made up of Don and Glenda Hachenberger and their children’s trust fund) also purchased Jackson and Perkins from Harry and David for 21 million dollars, and moved its operations to Greenwood, South Carolina. All four companies were are currently operated under the Park Seed umbrella, and since neither Wayside, Jackson and Perkins, or Park Wholesale have staff, all the work is performed by the employees of Park Seed.

In 2009 alone, sales of the Park Seed umbrella companies declined a whopping 29%, from 61.6 million to 43.7 million. The worst decline was from Park/Wayside (35%), Jackson and Perkins (30%), and Park Wholesale (15%). In addition to the current bankruptcy issues, the Hachenberger’s investment group was also sued for breech of contract by Harry and David in June of last year, and again in February of 2010.

The Park family of companies, while owned by Don and Glenda Hachenberger, who are in the midst of divorce proceedings (never a good thing), are run by Furman graduate, Charles (Chas) Fox. Chas’s bio indicates that he played three years in the NFL, before getting into the horticulture business. Interestingly all of the NFL sources that I’ve checked with, indicated that he only played 4 games in 1986 as a receiver with the St. Louis Cardinals (now the Arizona Cardinals). Fox is also president of Southern Sun Biosystems, a venture capital-funded company that he co-founded to sell high dollar propagation systems. Although Southern Sun Biosystems was a financial bust, Fox was also able to sell his company to the Hachenbergers, who it seems were looking for a quick way to shed some extra cash. Chas also started the now defunct Knox Nursery in South Carolina.

You can read more about the Park Seed story, including comments from readers and even some Park Seed staff in the Greenwood Index Journal.

There is a small charge to access their archives, but in summary, many of the posters seem to think that Park’s problems are more of a management issue than an economic one. This theme is also echoed in the on-line comments posted on the Garden Watchdog forum. Regardless of the cause, the Park family of companies are a very important part of the mail order nursery industry and a large employer in the Greenwood area. We wish them the best of luck in turning their ship around and returning to their glory days.

In the “I’m from the government and I’m here to help” file this month is the government caused shortage of tree bark for both homeowners and the nursery industry. So, why should we care about bark? Only because virtually every nursery in the US uses a potting mix that is primarily pine bark. In its efforts to promote green energy, and since free market economics don’t make the use of biofuels logical, USDA started a biomass fuel subsidy program with your tax dollars, which now threatens the availability of bark for the nursery industry. In February, The Farm Security Administration Biomass Crops Assistance Program (BCAP) set a subsidy rate of $45 per ton for woody biomass, which would mean that the price of pine bark could easily double or triple, which will affect both availability and affordability for nurseries, that are already struggling because of the recession. The American Nursery and Landscape Association is working with USDA in the hopes that someone with common sense will listen. And who is it that doesn’t think we don’t need lobbyists to prevent ridiculous legislation such as this?

We’ve had our own little fiasco this spring, when we discovered that we had used a defective batch of nursery fertilizer last summer and fall. It seemed that the slow release fertilizer that we used from late July through October had a defective coating that caused the fertilizer to dump all the nutrients at once during the middle of the winter. We first noticed the problem in late winter when some crops in the nursery started declining and dying. The problem worsened as we neared spring, and many plants that should have emerged didn’t. Testing of the affected crops revealed extraordinarily high levels of salts. We contacted representatives of the fertilizer manufacturer, who have worked with us and agreed that the fertilizer is indeed the culprit, but that doesn’t bring the plants back to life. To this point, the casualty count is over 5,000 plants. As you can imagine, this has caused us to be sold out of many plants that were in plentiful supply in the fall, many of which you had already ordered and paid for. For those who ordered plants so affected, we sincerely apologize, and appreciate your patience as we repropagate those items which could be re-propagated and refund for those whose propagation isn’t feasible or timely.

Marco Van Noort
One of the plants that we have extolled the virtues of is Geranium ‘Rozanne’ PP 12,175. Well, there has been an ongoing controversy with a look-a-like called Geranium ‘Jolly Bee’, which finally reached a conclusion. Geranium ‘Rozanne’ was patented in the US on February 25, 1999. Less than a year later, in January 18, 2000, a similar seedling from Holland’s Marco Van Noort hit the market, named Geranium ‘Jolly Bee’ PP 12,148. All of us who had grown both varieties, agreed that they were extremely similar, but not exactly the same.we chose to sell G. ‘Rozanne’. Both varieties were issued a US patent, since Van Noort did not include Geranium ‘Jolly Bee’ as the closest similar variety on his patent application, which he was required to do by law. Blooms of Bressingham, which has the marketing rights to Geranium ‘Rozanne’ filed a patent infringement suit against Van Noort. The bitter dispute lasted over seven years, and Van Noort recently gave up after spending over 200,000 Euros. DNA tests showed that the two varieties were indeed similar, but not the same. Heck, I could have told them that for far less money. Van Noort has agreed to stop sales of Geranium ‘Jolly Bee’ after July 1, 2010.

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2009 Plant Delights Nursery May Newsletter

Greetings from Juniper Level, NC where the weather has simply been wonderful for gardening this spring. Overall, most of the country has enjoyed a good gardening spring, except for the terrible drought still persisting in southeast Texas. Florida had been suffering the same fate as Texas until the recent multi-day deluge that quickly brought most of the state out of a rainfall deficit. Even most of the Midwest has been calm this spring, leaving the poor caravans of storm chasers from the Vortex2 expedition exasperated…sorry folks…you can stay there permanently if it’ll keep the tornados away.

Our heart goes out to the staff of the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden in California, which suffered extensive damage to both structures and the garden in the recent wind-driven Jesusita Fire. The gardens, which focus on California natives, are outstanding if ever have the chance to visit. We hope they can get reopened soon. You can read more about their damage in this news release.

May was the first month since last September that we have seen near normal sales levels and we can’t thank you enough. It was great to see so many of you here for our Spring Open House including a tour bus of wonderful gardeners from Utah, along with visitors from Germany, Russia, and China. It was also great to meet Keith Ferguson, retired Deputy Keeper of the Kew Herbarium and his wife Lorna, who even dropped by from the UK. The May Open House brought many first time visitors, whom we hope to see again in the future.

It was great to have Sally Walker drop by for a visit recently and to see her in good shape after hip surgery. Sally is co-owner of Southwest Native Seed, a small company based in Tucson that sells seed of plants native to Arizona. Sally has quite a horticultural background, having worked at nurseries such as Jack Drake’s Alpine Nursery in the UK and later for Marshall Olbrich at California’s famed Western Hills Nursery. Sally and her husband Tim have operated their seed business for 30+ years …. sorry no website or telephone.

Spring Open House visitors were treated to an amazing sight as four of our agaves are nearing flowering. These include Agave salmiana v. ferox ‘Logan Calhoun’, Agave lophantha (three spikes), A. striata (many spikes), and Agave parviflora. We’ve already started making crosses, although reaching the top of the 25′ tall A. salmiana spike has proven problematic…i.e., I don’t relish the idea of falling off a ladder and landing on something with that many spines. At least my pole saw allows me to sever flower clusters so they can serve as a pollen donor for the shorter-spiked species. It looks like we’ll also have a flowering overlap with several manfredas, as well as pollen from a xMangave ‘Macho Mocha’ that just couldn’t wait, thanks to magnolia specialist, Pat McCracken.

Congratulations are in order for NCSU Plant Breeder Dr. Tom Ranney for winning the American Horticulture Society’s Marc Cathey Award for ‘outstanding scientific research that has enriched the field of horticulture’. Tom’s released hybrids include Calycanthus ‘Venus’ along with the creations of two new bigeneric genera xSchimlinia floribunda (Schima x Franklinia) and xGordlinia (Gordonia x Franklinia). Many more exciting plants are in the pipeline.

I’m sure many of you know Bob Lyons, either from his days at Virginia Tech, as former JC Raulston Arboretum Director, or now as Graduate Coordinator for the Longwood Gardens program. On May 9, Bob’s home exploded and burned to the ground in a gas-leak fire. Bob was outdoors at the time, while the gas company was searching for the leak. Bob lost all of his possessions including his computer, camera, books, and collection of 15,000 slides. Fortunately, his digital images were saved on an off-site backup (let this be a lesson to us all). Bob tells me that his Plant Delights order was sitting on his deck at the time and the plants were not as heat-tolerant as promised. The plants can be replaced, but thank goodness, no one was injured. Longwood has provided Bob housing until he can recover. Here is a link to a UDaily article with images of the fire.

I mentioned in an earlier newsletter, that Bob Stewart of Arrowhead Alpines had been diagnosed with late-stage colon cancer. Although Bob’s chemo treatments continue, he tells me his tumors have shrunk and his treatments are proving very effective. We are thrilled at the news and wish Bob, Brigitta, and their family the best of luck in his continuing battle.

In another update from the world of horticulture, Fred Case, author of two excellent books, Trilliums, and Orchids of the Western Great Lakes Region is recovering at home after surgery for a severe aortic aneurism. Fred is suffering from limited mobility, but is improving all the time. Fred does still sneak out of the house and drive his golf cart around the garden when medical personnel aren’t around. You can read more about Fred at the Timber Press website and if you’d like to send get well wishes, address them to Fred at 7275 Thornapple La., Saginaw, MI 48609-4259.

Our condolences go out to gardener and author Bob Nold of Colorado in the death of his wife of 27 years, Cindy Nelson-Nold, who passed away suddenly of an apparent heart attack. Bob has two wonderful books to his credit, High and Dry: Gardening With Cold-Hardy Dryland Plants, and Penstemons. Cindy’s photographs and illustrations grace the pages of Bob’s books.

It’s been one of those springs that makes it hard to sit indoors at a desk, but at least I have the excuse of needing to take photos. I could write about something exciting in the garden every day, but due to time constraints, I’m limiting myself to once a month. We’re just wrapping up the early hymenocallis flowering and I sure wish more of you would try these gems. I think most folks get turned off by hymenocallis after trying the hybrids [mostly with the South American H. narcissiflora (aka: Ismene calathina) hybrids] typically sold by the Dutch, which, frankly don’t make great garden specimens. You will be so much more pleased with either the US or Mexican species. For us, the first to flower is H. liriosme, a clumping Gulf Coast species followed by H. traubii, a spreading species from Florida. Next in line is Hymenocallis pygmaea…a dwarf spreading species from here in North Carolina. Hymenocallis can be grown in typical garden soil, but they go really nuts when planted in a very moist site or a boggy situation. The white spidery flowers typically open around 4pm and are deliciously scented to attract pollinators…and gardeners. The next round of hymenocallis, which come later in the season are equally as wonderful. See the hymenocallis listed in our catalog.

One of my favorites that just finished flowering is the wonderful Aruncus ‘Misty Lace’. I’ve always loved the light airy nature of aruncus, but just couldn’t find many that would survive our hot, humid summers. This Allan Armitage introduction performs fabulously and has become a favorite in the late spring garden. See the aruncus catalog page.

Also flowering now are some of the late season Jack-in-the-pulpits. Four of my favorites are the tall stately, Arisaema tortuosum, A. consanguineum and A. heterophyllum along with the shorter, but very cute white-flowered Arisaema saxatile. A. heterophyllum, A. consanguineum and A. saxatile all offset and form nice clumps, while A. tortuosum remains solitary. Each of these species perform better in a light-filtered shade to several hours of full sun and in soils that don’t stay too wet. See the arisaema catalog page.

Arisaemas are members of a group of plants known as aroids, which include common house plants like philodendron and spathiphyllum. Other hardy family members that are outstanding now are the zantedeschias, known by the common name of calla lilies. Zantedeschia aethiopica is actually a winter grower, which in our climate keeps getting killed to the ground during the winter, but quickly regrows once the frosts end and is still in full flower. Z. aethiopica only comes in white (and a faintly pink-tinted selection). It’s hard to beat two giant-spotted leaved selections, Z. ‘Hercules’ and Z. ‘White Giant’. I’ve tried the commonly sold Z. aethiopica ‘Green Goddess’ and ‘Pink Persuasion’ but neither has performed well in our climate. This is the season where the cool winter growing Z. aethiopica overlaps with the warm season species that flower through the summer. My favorite of the summer bloomers has to be Z. ‘Picasso’, whose white-edged purple flowers have just started to open. Visit the calla lilies in our catalog.

Another superb plant in the garden now are the early- to mid-season daylilies. One of my personal favorites that we just added to the catalog is Hemerocallis ‘FreeWheelin’. In daylily circles, these types are known as spider flowers for their very long petals. I’m always amazed at the number of folks that don’t realize daylilies make great plants for wet soils. We have long been growing them as pond marginals alongside Louisiana and Japanese iris where they prosper in boggy conditions. If you have such conditions, give daylilies a try there. See more daylilies in our catalog.

For those who entered our Top 25 contest to compete for the $250 worth of plants, here are the results though late May 2009. The list changes each month, so if your picks don’t show up near the top yet, don’t despair. The Top 25 has been shuffled a bit since last month as Colocasia ‘Thailand Giant’ retook the top spot in a throw down tussle with Echinacea ‘Tomato Soup’, while Colocasia ‘Mojito’ edged ahead of Syneilesis into 3rd place. Big movers for the month include Dianthus ‘Heart Attack’ which leapt from 15th to 8th place, Salvia chamaedryoides moved from 18th to 14th, and Euphorbia ‘Nothowlee’ from 26th to 16th. Rohdea japonica and Tiarella ‘Pink Skyrocket’ both appeared out of nowhere to jump to 17th place and 20th respectively. We hope your choices are faring well as we countdown to the contest winner in December.

As always, thanks for taking time to read our rants and most of all, thank you so much for your support and orders this year!

Please direct all replies and questions to

Thanks and enjoy


2009 Plant Delights Nursery April Newsletter

Greetings from Juniper Level and we hope you’re having a great spring. Other than a couple of cold spells, we’ve had a near perfect spring with cool temperatures and timely rains. Only recently have we seen a few days in the 90’s, which normally dot our spring season. We’ve been spared the crazy weather seen in other parts of the country including Colorado’s frequent late spring snows, North Dakota’s floods, and tornados throughout the Southeast. At least the gardeners in northern Georgia and upstate South Carolina are finally getting some rain after being parched for several years. Even Atlanta’s Lake Lanier is within 7′ of finally refilling. Parts of the Texas Hill Country set a record last year with only 2″ of rain, but fortunately, the weather patterns have changed in recent weeks and the rains have finally returned.

We’ve just added some more plants to the on-line catalog including the very rare variegated shredded umbrella plant, Syneilesis ‘Kikko’. As always, most of these gems are only available in limited quantities, so don’t delay. They are integrated into the main on-line catalog or you can find the new additions listed separately.

It was great to have our friends Carl Schoenfeld and Wade Roitsch from Yucca Do visit a few weeks ago along with encyclopedic Texas nurseryman Pat McNeal. We have long worked together to trial plants in each other’s climates, so it was interesting for them to see the damage that occurs to woody lilies when temperatures drop into the single digits F. Yucca Do has recently completed their move to Giddings, Texas, about 1.5 hours west of their former location outside of Houston. The old property was sold to the Peckerwood Garden Foundation, which will allow Peckerwood to expand their gardens as well as have more parking. You can read more about the Yucca Do move at

It’s been a busy spring…. just not as busy as we would have liked. It was great to have visits from an array of groups including most recently the Carolina Gardener Symposium as well as attendees from Southeast Palm Society meeting in Raleigh.

Last fall, I had the pleasure of meeting and lecturing with Lucinda Hutson of Austin, Texas. Lucinda is a delightful person; a combination artist, designer, and chef. Lucinda has published several cookbooks as well as an array of articles in addition to her career as an interior/exterior designer. You can get an idea of Lucinda’s exuberant style and possibly book her as a lecturer through her website at

If you’re out and around North Raleigh on Tuesday May 5, I’ll be presenting a free gardening seminar at 7pm at the North Raleigh Library at 7009 Harps Mill Road. If we have a good crowd, I’ll consider doing more of these in the future. No registration is necessary, but the library phone number is 919-870-4000. Bring your gardening questions and problems; I hope to see you there.

Obviously, the big upcoming events for us are our two Spring Open Nursery and Garden weekends on Friday – Sunday, May 1-3 and May 8-10. We will be open from 8am-5pm on Friday and Saturday and 1-5pm on Sunday. There is so much to see that we truly wish everyone could visit and enjoy the gardens for themselves. Just walking through the gardens now is a sensory delight. Not only are the colors and textures a thing to behold, but the exuberant fragrances are just amazing. From banana shrubs to phlox to dianthus, it’s amazing what fragrances plants can add to your garden. At Open House, not only can you see how plants should grow in the garden, you will no doubt leave with a cartload of ideas, inspiration, and hopefully a few cool plants. This year, one of our largest agaves ( Agave salmiana v. ferox ‘Logan Calhoun’) has sent up a huge flower spike, which should be close to fully open, so come and enjoy a phallic moment with us in the garden. Directions can be found on our website.

One of the many challenges of running a nursery is predicting what will sell and in what quantities. Sometimes we hit the target, and sometimes we miss as bad as a North Korean missile launch. There are many factors that determine how well a plant sells, but the most important is the photograph…hence the reason many mail order catalogs pay professional photographers to take studio shots that often use dozens of plants which are then ‘cut and pasted’ to make one photo. A particular favorite is the commonly used mail order photo of Arum italicum showing the arum seed heads with leaves inserted from a calla lily. I don’t know about you, but I’ve got a problem trusting folks who use doctored photos, but then they probably laugh at our meager sales. Another key factor in determining sales is photo placement…did you realize the location of an image on a page can double or triple sales of that item? That being said, here are our top 10 list of great plants for 2009 that didn’t sell as well as they should have …. consequently, we have some really nice ones remaining.

1. Agapanthus ‘Back in Black’ …must be the photo, as it’s a really cool plant.
2. Agave guiengola ‘Creme Brulee’ …we possibly saturated the market last year, but this is a really amazing potted specimen.
3. Colocasia ‘Blackwater’ – this narrow leaf C. ‘Fontanesii’ has evidently been overshadowed by the great new John Cho hybrids.
4. Colocasia esculenta ‘Hilo Bay’ – this overshadower has the most distinctive leaf, but is the worst seller…really hard to capture this well in an image…bummer.
5. Cypripedium parviflorum v. pubescens – the high cost of 7 years production time has unfortunately put this plant out of reach this season for many economically impaired gardeners. It should have sold much better…very disappointing. Disappointing, heck…this means I’ll have more for my own garden.
6. Epimediums, especially ‘Pink Elf’, E. x youngianum ‘Tamabotan’, E. x versicolor ‘Cherry Tart’ and E. grandiflorum ‘Pierre’s Purple’. So, do we just have too many eps? These are all great selections and ‘Cherry Tart’ is just delightful, but for some reason, folks just won’t buy it. E. ‘Pink Elf’…one of only three patented epimedium in the world…very floriferous…must be the darn photograph.
7. Fargesia denudata – do people really trust that there are clumping bamboos when disreputable nurseries are selling Phyllostachys nigra (black bamboo) and claiming it to be clumping…which is it not. Perhaps folks want all bamboos to be 30’ tall…and they are really hard to photograph well. I wish you knew how hard it’s been to get these into the trade.
8. Hostas…geez, is it the deer or too much to choose from? A new hosta will sell really well, then when collectors get their fill, sales drop off for the next 2-5 years until regular gardeners realize how great they are. Disappointments for 2009 include

H. ‘Appetizer’…a really nice dwarf;
H. ‘Applause’…which looks like a clump of hands clapping;
H. ‘Cathedral Windows’…an incredible sport of H. ‘Stained Glass’;
H. ‘Deliverance’…ok, the movie connotation probably did this one in;
H. ‘Electrocution’…so where are you gardeners with the sick sense of humor?
H. ‘Landslide’…it’s a photo thing along with leaves that aren’t round and cupped;
H. ‘Mango Tango’…it’s as nice as H. ‘Stitch in Time’, but the name just doesn’t have the same ring;
H. ‘Parasol’…we thought the name on this H. ‘Blue Umbrellas’ sport was perfect, but you must not have agreed; and
H. ‘White Wall Tire’;…sold great last year, but is a dud in 2009…must be the Detroit crash that has affected this one.

9. Malvaviscus ‘Pam Puryear’ …something about a pink turk’s cap just didn’t find a niche in the market.
10. xHeucherella ‘Alabama Sunrise’ …okay great name, great photo, great plant …. guess I’ll need to call the psychic hotline to figure this one out.

And this business looks easy to who?

Speaking of hostas, our staff suggested we let you know which containers of hostas are obscenely huge and need a good home, so here’s the list of those that would make instant clumps or are so dividable you can immediately get into the nursery business. Applause
Capitol Hill
Christmas Pageant
First Frost
His Honor
Journey’s End
Key Lime Pie
Miss Tokyo
Peedee Elfin Bells
Pineapple Upside Down Cake
Pot of Gold
Sun Power
Swamp Thing
Twilight Time
White Necklace
Yesterday’s Memories

For those who entered our Top 25 contest to compete for the $250 worth of plants, click here for the results though April 26, 2009. Topping the list for the first time is the new Echinacea ‘Tomato Soup’, which just edged out Colocasia ‘Thailand Giant’for the top spot. The only other colocasia in the list so far is Colocasia ‘Mojito’in the 4th spot. In third place is the first appearance for Syneilesis aconitifoliain the top 25. The only other echinacea in the list this month is E. ‘Green Envy’. Thanks to the shade gardeners, it’s good to see two ferns, an asarum, an epimedium, and even an aspidistra make the list. The list changes each month, so if your picks don’t show up near the top yet, don’t despair.

In other news, we reported last month the Northwest Flower and Garden Show and the San Francisco Flower and Garden Show were both being phased out unless a new owner stepped forward. The latest news is Duane Kelly has two different parties interested in purchasing and continuing the shows. No final decisions have been made, but at least there is hope. In the Southeast, the Southeastern Flower Show in Atlanta is taking a temporary hiatus for 2010, while it re-evaluates the financial commitments required to put on its annual flower show. There is still no word on when or if the New England Flower Show in Boston will ever resume, since the financial mess there is still to be resolved and their bills from the 2008 show remain to be paid.

We were saddened to learn of the passing of plantsman Alex Summers of Bridgeville, Delaware on Sunday, April 11. Summers, 96, was a founding member of the American Hosta Society in 1968 and served as president for the first decade of the society’s existence. Alex was also a keen gardener as anyone who has visited his garden knows firsthand. Alex was preceded in death by his wife Gene, but is survived by his son Alan. Instead of sending flowers, the family asks donations be made to the American Hosta Society.

We lost another giant of the plant world on April 12, with the passing of Dr. Thad Howard of Texas at age 79. Thad is best known for his extensive work with bulbs for hot climates, though his numerous plant expeditions into Mexico, and for his 2001 book, Bulbs for Warm Climates (University of Texas Press). I was fortunate to visit Thad at his home in May 2003 and take him on a ride though Texas to visit other bulb greats such as Crinum guru, Dave Lehmiller, the wonderful Yucca Do Nursery, and to meet another Texas crinum guru, Marcelle Sheppard for the first time. It was truly a trip that I.ll remember for the rest of my life. Thad also was a mentor to a number of young men, who later went on to become bulb experts in their own right including Steve Lowe of Tejas Bulbs, and garden writer/lecturer Scott Ogden.

As always, thanks for taking time to read our rants and most of all, thank you so much for your support and orders this year!

Please direct all replies and questions to

Thanks and enjoy


2006 Plant Delights Nursery December Newsletter

The 2007 Plant Delights Nursery catalog is in the mail! If you just can’t wait, the Plant Delights Nursery website has already been updated to the new catalog, so click away at With 160 new offerings as well as quite a few returning favorites, we hope you will find an array of plants that you can’t live without.

We’d like to thank each and everyone of you for helping to make 2006 our best year in business. As we launch into our 17th year of mail order, we are well aware that we have already exceeded the typical 15-year life expectancy of a mail order nursery. That being said, we continue full-speed ahead, while watching out for the inevitable road bumps along the way. We’d like to thank those of you who have taken time to write kind notes and especially to those who have taken time to post comments on the Garden Watchdog website. We are honored to be ranked as one of the top 30, out of 5498 garden-related mail order companies in the US.

I always look forward to meeting many of you in person as I crisscross the country on the speaking circuit. To see when I’m going to be in your area, check the upcoming “on the road” schedule at

I’d also like to publicly thank our wonderful staff, without whose dedication and hard work, the success that Plant Delights has enjoyed would not have been possible.

We’ve closed out our 2006 shipping season and will start up again in mid-February. However, if you have a horticultural emergency arise before then, we might be able to help, so don’t hesitate to give us a call. In the meantime, the rest of our staff are keeping the plants healthy and getting the gardens in shape for our next open house.

I hope you have already made plans to attend our 2007 Winter Open House, February 23 & 24 and March 2 & 3, 2007. We’ve got some very special hellebores for you to pick from along with quite a few other winter goodies. Once again, we are coordinating open house days with our friends at Pine Knot Farms of Virginia (about 1hr 15 minutes north of PDN), who hold their winter open house at the same time.

If you live in a large part of the US (except Colorado), you have enjoyed a warmer than normal fall. After a December cold spell, where we dropped to 15 degrees, we have rebounded nicely and have certainly enjoyed the opportunity to continue planting as we re-work older sections of the garden. Continuing the work we started two years ago, older beds are dug and raised using a sandy-clay-compost mix that we blend from on-site materials. We’re now able to add more height and contouring than was possible when many of the beds were initially planted, and the array of new plants is truly exciting.

There is quite a bit of flowering in the garden now, starting with the wonderful winter-blooming Iris unguicularis and the always welcome Helleborus niger. While they aren’t flowering now, arums always provide winter interest in the garden. We continue to expand our arum offerings each year, although many are still available in limited quantities. Although you don’t think of trillium as a winter-interest plant, T. underwoodii emerges every year in December and amazingly endures the cold that follows…. at least in our zone.

Although they don’t flower in the biblical sense, conifers are also a favorite part of the winter garden. Although we don’t offer them through the printed catalog, we are always propagating a few of our favorites for on-line and open-house shoppers. We are continually trying new plants in the garden and are thrilled to have planted our first Wollemia nobilis (Wollemia Pine). This amazing conifer, related to Araucaria was only discovered about ten years ago near Sydney, Australia. Initial reports indicate that it may survive at least 10 degrees F, so we’ve got our fingers crossed. If you’d like to see the plant in person, be sure to ask when you visit during open house.

Since our planting season began in earnest last March, we have added 2000 new plants to the garden. This will be our first winter to test out quite a few of those, including many new plants from Northern Vietnam, Northern Thailand, and many of the South African ferns. So far, it’s been a pleasant surprise to see how many of our new agaves have fared. Agave difformis and many others still look great, while 15 degrees F turned Agave chiapensis into a pile of green slime. Oh well, that’s why we try ’em.

We are pleased to announce the winner of our Top 25 Contest for 2006. Congratulations to Jeanne McClay of Virginia who wins the $250 PDN gift certificate. We’d also like to recognize the rest of the top 5, who were only separated by a scant 356 points… congratulations and thanks for participating.

1. Jeanne McClay of VA 2. Matthew Garrett of NC 3. Bobbie Wright of NC 4. Jacob Toth of Canada 5. Nick Yuro of TX

To enter the Top 25 Contest for 2007 and the chance to win a $250 gift certificate, simply go to, read the instructions and fill in the on-line form or if you would prefer, print it out and fax or send it along. Unlike many contests, there are no strings attached, no costs, and your name doesn’t get passed along to other mailers. The final Top 25 list for 2006 is below:

Final Top 25 Best Sellers for 2006 as of December 29, 2006

1. 5869 Colocasia gigantea Thailand Giant 2. 3695 Zantedeschia aethiopica ‘White Giant’ 3. 6644 Echinacea ‘Evan Saul’ 4. 5660 Nierembergia gracilis ‘Starry Eyes’ 5. 6177 Coreopsis ‘Heaven’s Gate’ 6. 127 Yucca rostrata 7. 5106 Tiarella ‘Pink Skyrocket’ 8. 6698 Heucherella ‘Stoplight’ 9. 4368 Dianthus barbatus ‘Heart Attack’ 10. 1285 Dicliptera suberecta 11. 6128 Canna ‘Phaison’ 12. 4905 Aloe polyphylla 13. 1796 Eucomis ‘Sparkling Burgundy’ 14. 3096 Liriope muscari ‘Peedee Ingot’ 15. 4995 Heuchera ‘Frosted Violet’ 16. 6645 Echinacea ‘Sunset’ 17. 1148 Verbena Snowflurry’ 18. 5247 Agave parryi var. truncata 19. 5566 Gaillardia ‘Fanfare’ 20. 5778 Arisaema triphyllum ‘Black Jack’ 21. 688 Salvia chamaedryoides 22. 3654 Alocasia ‘Portodora’ 23. 4820 Begonia grandis ‘Heron’s Pirouette’ 24. 3880 Trachycarpus fortunei ‘Taylor Form 25. 2317 Muhlenbergia capillaris 26. 5414 Baptisia minor ‘Blue Pearls’ 27. 5341 Sedum telephium ssp. ruprechtii ‘Hab Gray’ 28. 2526 Acanthus ‘Summer Beauty’ 29. 1506 Selaginella braunii 30. 6541 Tricyrtis ‘Lemon Twist’

In other area gardening news, the JC Raulston Arboretum is looking to fill its Assistant Director position. This is a wonderfully exciting position for the right person (PhD or Masters level).

The gardens at the JC Raulston Arboretum are in the midst of a major renovation under the direction of Director Dr. Dennis Werner, who took over the reins a year ago, so drop by if you are in the area and watch the changes progress.

Please direct all replies and questions to

Thanks and enjoy -tony

2006 Plant Delights Nursery May Newsletter

Well, our Spring Open House is over and we’d like to thank those who attended. We didn’t have as many visitors as normal, but this was in part thanks to many folks who did their spring shopping at our winter open house in February. The most memorable moment of our Spring Open House was the dramatic hailstorm that struck while folks were shopping during our final Sunday. This is our fifth hailstorm this spring after having only one in the previous 18 years that we’ve had the nursery. Someone here must have been really bad.

As an incentive to visit during open house, we always add some new plants to the nursery sales area which are not otherwise available. Since attendance was down a bit, we have a few of these left that we are now adding to the web. Click here to view this list of web-only plants.

For those who are waiting, we have a new crop of the Arisaema triphyllum ‘Black Jack’ that are now ready. If you missed the first crop this spring, don’t wait, since supplies are still limited.

For those who missed our spring open house, here are some of the highlight plants that were putting on a show for the visitors. The Salvia gregii and Salvia microphylla cultivars and hybrids were stunning this spring. Most of these put on their best show in spring and fall. One of my favorites is the unique S. ‘Christine Yeo’, which is certainly the best of purple flowered selections. These salvias like it hot and well-drained, so find something else for those soggy-soil sites. If cold hardiness is a problem, try S. ‘Pink Preference’, which I feel is the same plant as S. ‘Wild Thing’, which is being touted as a standout in Denver’s Zone 5/6 climate.

Closely related to salvias is the US native, Stachys coccinea ‘Hot Spot Coral’. For the same conditions as the salvias, the spring floral show or coral-red is hard to beat.

Every year seems to be a great one for Dianthus. I’d like to mention two of my favorites, D. barbatus ‘Heart Attack’, a perennial Sweet William with three months of killer flowers and D. ‘First Love’ that starts blooming for us in mid-February and continues until frost.

I mentioned a bit about solomon.s seal in my last update, but I want to specifically mention three superb, but virtually unknown species. Polygonatum filipes is a small plant with very long pedicels, creating a most unusual floral show. Polygonatum macropodum (macro-big and podum – feet) is probably the most architecturally wonderful plant in the genus. From the arrangement of the stems to the abundance of flowers, this species is a winner. Lastly, I can’t write without mentioning the wonderful P. cyrtonema. This 4′ tall species is one of those plants that you can’t walk by without stopping to admire. Forming a massive clump, a specimen of this is a great addition to the woodland garden.

One of the more talked about plants at Spring Open House was Amorphophallus dunnii. Although you don’t hear much about this easy-to-grow species, it is one of the Amorphophallus for the garden. Unlike A. konjac, A. dunnii doesn’t spread by stolons and it’s flowers smell like fresh carrots instead of the more memorable smell of rotten meat. A. dunnii flowers every year to coincide with spring open house, prompting visitors to assume them to be phallic garden sculptures.

Another of my favorite amorphophallus, A. kiusianus is just opening in the garden today. I wish we could coax it into flower two weeks earlier for open house, but we just can’t seem to make that happen. Amorphophallus are really easy-to-grow and provide so much fun in the garden when they are tucked in among ferns and hostas.

As I mentioned, not all plants agree to flower during our open house days and unfortunately, most of you can’t be here to enjoy the ever-changing floral show. Visitors to the garden this week were particularly impressed with the stunning patch Callirhoe involucrata var. lineariloba, which produces a mass of white flowers. Try as we might, photos just can’t do this plant justice.

Another favorite that has burst out in the last few days are the Acanthus. We’re too hot for most Acanthus, but a few have proven to be real stars. A. ‘Summer Beauty’ is an A. mollis hybrid that has been amazing in our climate with stunning 6′ tall flower spikes. Equally as good of a grower is A. balcanicus var. hungaricus, which has a shorter, but no less showy 3′ tall flower spikes

The Hymenocallis or spider flowers are starting to open with the wonderful early-flowering H. traubii leading the way. Our patch, which weaves itself in among other plants, in a non-disturbing way has several dozen bright white flower that seemingly float in mid-air.

I’ll end my plant diatribe with a mention of Campanula ‘Sarastro’. Campanulas have been frustrating in our climate, either they die within a week or spread so fast that they reach my neighbors house in the same time. Campanula ‘Sarastro’ is one of the few cultivars that changed that paradigm. We have had Campanula ‘Sarastro’ in the gardens for 3 years and it never fails to please with its huge tubular purple flowers and superb garden habit. Now if I could only get it to flower two weeks earlier so that open house visitors could see it in person…. oh well.

We’re already starting work on the fall catalog and there will be plenty of choice gems to choose from. Even after all these years in business and all the great plants that we have had the pleasure of introducing, it still gets us excited when we are writing descriptions for these new exciting plants.

If you missed our Spring Open House, the next opportunity is as a part of the American Hemerocallis Society, Region 15 meeting. The busses roll into PDN on Saturday June 17…. a great time to see the gardens and pick up a few of your favorite plants. For more information, click here for the AHS Region 15 meeting website.

For those who entered our Top 25 contest, the May 20 list is now posted. The new is that Aroids still rule the top 2 spots in the list. There have been quite a few other significant moves since April and leading the way is Echinacea ‘Evan Saul’ which moves from 13th to 4th. Dianthus ‘Heart Attack’ moved from off the list into the 5th position in sales, but this always happens when people see this in the garden during open house. Nierembergia ‘Starry Eyes’ jumped from 12th to 6th, while x Heucherella ‘Stoplight’ surged from 23rd to 7th. Only seven more months before we announce the winner of the $250 gift certificate… I hope your picks are staying near the top of the list.

Please direct all replies and questions to

Thanks and enjoy -tony

2006 Plant Delights Nursery April Newsletter

Howdy folks, and I hope everyone is having a great spring as is the case at Juniper Level. So far, the late spring frosts haven’t been too bad. We’re keeping our fingers crossed that we are finished with winter, but we’ll be watching the forecasts closely over the next few weeks. There is nothing more agonizing for a nursery than trying to figure out when to uncover the greenhouses in spring. If you wait too long, plants stretch and become weak. If you uncover too early, well…. you know what happens if it gets cold again. Also, if you have more rain than your quota, please send some our way. We’re already six inches behind for the year since the folks in the PNW have been hoarding all the winter moisture.

We’ve been snapping photos as fast as we can and still can’t keep up. It’s been a great spring for most plants in the garden, especially the arisaemas. The early-flowering A. amurense group has been stunning this year. This is also the best show we have ever had from Arisaema kishidae ‘Jack Frost’…. a patch is certainly quite stunning. Arisaema taiwanense is also coming into full flower, along with the beautiful Arisaema sikokianum. If you haven’t tried the Asian jack-in-the-pulpits, you’ll find them quite easy, especially when they are planted in well-draining soil. We have found that even the often-difficult Himalayan species have grown very well when we plant them under large trees or shrubs where they will be very dry during the summer months when they are dormant.

The terrestrial Calanthe orchids are also just coming into flower, and what a sight. If you live in a zone where these will thrive, it’s hard to imagine a better and easier-to-grow spring woodland flower. If you have a woodland garden and don’t grow Phlox divaricata, why not? There is no single plant that makes a better floral show than the US native, Phlox divaricata.

Although not as showy as phlox, a group of plants that I wouldn’t be without are the Solomon’s Seal. This broad group of architectural gems for the woodland include several genera of shade-loving Lily relatives such as disporum, disporopsis, polygonatum, and smilacina (now Maianthemum).

I mentioned helleborus in our last update, but need to make a special mention of H. ‘Walhelivor’. This stunning hybrid from David Tristam of England is one that you really should try. The problem is that it doesn’t photograph well, which explains why we had only sold three plants of this before winter open house. When people saw it in person, over 100 flew off the benches in just a matter of hours. Please forgive my photographic skills, and give this unique hellebore a try.

Many of the early hostas are up, while most of the later emergers are still sleeping. Emergence comes from the genetics of the Hosta species used to breed a hybrid. Species from warm climates tend to emerge earlier. This information can be useful to those of you who live south of Zone 7 where there is often not enough winter chill for hostas to thrive. We have compiled a list of some of our favorite low-chill hostas that are much better adapted to warmer climates.

Low Chill Hosta List Green Foliage

clausa Crystal Chimes (yingeri) Old Faithful (plantaginea) Potomac Pride (yingeri) Raspberry Sorbet Stingray Teaspoon (venusta) tibae Tortifrons (longipes) tsushimensis venusta White Necklace yingeri

Gold Foliage

Sweet Tater Pie (yingeri, nakaiana)

Blue Foliage

Baby Bunting (venusta)

Variegated Foliage

American Sweetheart Bob Olsen Carolina Sunshine (tibae) Cherish (venusta) Chickadee (plantaginea) Diana Remembered (plantaginea) Dixie Chick (plantaginea) Ebb Tide (montana) Fan Dance (sieboldii) Fragrant Bouquet (plantaginea) Grand Tiara (nakaiana) Guacamole (plantaginea) Harpoon Korean Snow (yingeri) Masquerade (gracillima) Ming Treasure (plantaginea) Mistress Mabel (plantaginea) Red Hot Flash (sieboldii) So Sweet (plantaginea) Stained Glass (plantaginea) Teeny Weeny Bikini

Did I mention ferns? I used the search feature on our website the other day and found that we have over 119 different ferns listed. If you haven’t explored the world of ferns, please follow our lead and enjoy the wonder of these delightful garden plants.

There aren’t as many early spring flowers in the sunny part of the garden, but a couple that I wouldn’t be without are the dianthus and the early sun-loving phlox. I’m particularly fond of Phlox nivalis ‘Camla’, which makes a solid carpet of mauvy flowers year after year… simply outstanding. My favorite dianthus are D. barbatus ‘Heart Attack’, D. ‘Feuerhexe’, and the stunningly brilliant D. ‘Neon Star’. Even in our hot humid summers, these wonderful cultivars don’t even blink.

We are in full shipping mode now with plants flying out the door and headed your way. If you don’t believe me, watch our shippers work via the PDN Shipping Cam If it looks like they aren’t moving, hit the refresh button.

If you live nearby or are looking for an excuse to visit, I’ll be giving two Plant Expedition talks next week…. one on our 2005 trip to North Vietnam/Thailand (April 18 – Gardeners of Wake Co., Raleigh) as well as our 2006 trip to South Africa (April 20 – JC Raulston Arboretum, Raleigh). You can find more details on my program schedule.

Our spring open house begins in three weeks (May 5-8 and 12-14), so start making your plans to attend. The garden renovations from this winter are settling in and will be in full splendor for spring open house. We have directions and a list of nearby hotels to help you plan.

We were thrilled to be featured in the April edition of The NY Times in an article by famed garden writer Ken Druse. If you missed it, you can find the article at The NY Times website. You will need to register, but it is free.

There is also an easier to access audio/video version with more photos (try the moden version if broadband won’t load for you).

I know you’ve got better things to do that sit here reading my diatribe, so I’ll stop now and let you get back to important things such as gardening. Again, thanks for being a PDN customer!

Please direct all replies and questions to

Thanks and enjoy -tony

2005 Plant Delights Nursery November Newsletter

The 2005 shipping season is drawing to a close at the end of November, so if you’ve procrastinated until now, time is running out. If you need to purchase Christmas or holiday gifts for that special gardener, remember that a Plant Delights Gift Certificate may be just what the plant doctor ordered.

In a couple of weeks, we’ll be announcing the winner of our 2005 Guess the Top 25 Best Sellers Contest for the $250 PDN gift certificate. If you didn’t enter the contest this year, be thinking about next years’ contest that begins January 1.

We’ve been busy writing the 2006 catalog that is now only a few weeks away for hitting the presses. To fill the pages, we’ve propagated an amazing array of great plants that includes 125 new offerings…enough to drive even the most hardcore gardeners completely over the edge. To make room for these new offerings, we will, unfortunately, be rotating an equal number of our old favorites out, so if you’ve been thinking about ordering that obscure gem, it’s often best not to wait. Remember that fall is a superb time to plant, provided your ground is not already frozen, and the plants you are planting are more than marginally hardy in your zone. For marginally hardy plants in your zone, it is very important that you wait until spring to plant.

We have enjoyed a beautiful fall season and have so far only had 2 light frosts. It’s amazing how many plants are still in flower, and I’d like to take a few moments to highlight a few. We all know that fall is the peak season for many ornamental grasses such as Muhlenbergia capillaris, many of the miscanthus, Pennisetum ‘Tall Tails’, and the giant Saccharum arundinaceum, but there is so much more to offer color now.

If you don’t grow salvias, then you have missed out on some of the best fall bloomers. The Salvia greggii and microphylla cultivars are simply superb for fall bloom. If you like yellow and haven’t tried Salvia madrensis ‘Red Neck Girl’, you have missed a real winner with its 18″ long flower spikes. Another fall bloomer that has put on a real show this fall has been Salvia ‘Blue Chiquita’ along with the ever-popular Salvia guaranitica ‘Black and Blue’.

The tree Dahlias have been great this fall, since we have had a late fall. The single, purple D. imperialis must have several hundred flower buds atop the 14′ tall stalks. The double purple form seems to be the earliest in flower in our trials. We have now assigned a name to this previously unnamed cultivar…Dahlia imperialis ‘Double or Nothing’.

If tall is your thing, Verbesina microptera is not to be missed. This giant Mexican frostweed makes a huge, 14′ tall clump, topped now by giant panicles of yellow flowers with the unique fragrance of burning sugar. If you need something smaller, Verbesina persicifolia ‘Autumn Sunburst’ is also flowering as we speak.

If you live in Zone 7b south, I hope you are growing Hibiscus mutabilis. We offer a superb selection of these fall-flowering Chinese hibiscus that have been long-prized in Gulf Coast gardens…back when there were some Gulf Coast gardens.

Other plants of fall include some of our splendid offerings of all blooming garden mums. Do not confuse these with the marginally hardy plants that you purchase from your local garden centers. The surprisingly hardy Coreopsis integrifolia, fall-blooming South African Kniphofia rooperi, and US native Eupatorium greggii are all fabulous additions to the fall garden for late flowering.

Other great fall flowering perennials with an obscenely long season of bloom include Geranium ‘Rozanne’, which has been in flower since May and Dianthus ‘First Love’ which started in May. If you would like something taller, the evening-fragrant Cestrum parqui is still in full flower after starting in May.

I couldn’t conclude without mentioning cyclamens, especially the easy-to-grow C. hederifolium that is in full flower now. As long as you plant it where it can stay reasonably dry in the summer, you can’t loose with this gem.