Our 2+ year old clumps of Echinacea ‘Kismet Raspberry’ are truly stunning in the gardens this summer. The second image shows how we’ve used these as a color echo in the garden with a crape myrtle in the distance. Many of the new echinaceas are light years better than the early colored hybrids, which tended to be week growers and short-lived. Echinacea ‘Kismet Raspberry’ has impressed us so much that it will be available in the new Plant Delights catalog that will come out in a couple of weeks.
Echinacea ‘Big Kahuna’ has turned into a wonderful beast in the garden. Here is our clump of this super vigorous selection this week as it enters its third year in the gardens at JLBG with no sign of slowing down. The fragrance is also amazing, as are the number of bees it attracts.
Here are some seedpods and seed heads from the garden today. Seedpods/fruit don’t have to be colorful to be decorative.
The shape of the seed capsule as well as hairs and filaments that capture light also add ornamental value.
We value the purple coneflower as a great summer-flowering perennial in the native plant garden as well as the mixed perennial border. Coneflowers attract both butterflies and hummingbirds. Purple coneflower species are easy to grow, heat- and drought-tolerant native perennials. Two things that echinacea plants do not like are heavy clay soils and poor winter drainage.
We hope you are as excited as we are about the new coneflower plants that greatly extend the range of colors and forms. Purple coneflowers are no long just purple; they are also pink, red, yellow, peach, copper, orange and there are single or double-flowered hybrids too. We continue to trial the spectrum of new echinacea selections, offering only the best echinacea plants for sale after verifying their garden performance.
It’s hard to believe, but September is here and it’s time for our final Open Nursery and Garden for 2015. We hope you’ll join us to see all the gems that look great this time of year and stock up for the fall planting season with all the cool new plants from the fall catalog.
Plants, Plants, and More Plants
We also hope you’ve had time to enjoy the Fall Plant Delights Nursery catalog. We’re so excited by the new offerings, especially the clumping, heat-tolerant, mildew-resistant bee balms. These are a huge breeding breakthrough for anyone who likes monardas and attracting pollinators into the garden.
Other members of the same (Lamiaceae) family are also putting on quite a show now.Agastaches, first cousins to bee balm, are simply amazing in fall. In particular, Agastache ‘Peachie Keen’ and ‘Rosie Posie’ have been standouts in our trials and are still in full flower here. These are perfect for a sunny, well-drained spot in the garden where you can observe all the cool insects and hummingbirds which will visit.
While we’re talking members of the Lamiaceae family, we must mention the salvias. The Salvia greggii cultivars are putting on their fall show, as are many other fall-flowering species. Our favorite fall-flowering salvia has to be Salvia ‘Phyllis Fancy’. We moved a plant of this amazing giant into one of the new beds near the sales greenhouses, so people who don’t wander the gardens extensively will still get to enjoy it.
Final Open House for 2015…and More Plants
Did we mention we’re in the midst of our final Open Nursery and Garden for 2015? Friday through Sunday, September 11-13 and 18-20 (8-5 Friday and Saturday and 1-5 Sunday) are the final opportunities to visit until February 2016. We hope you’ll bring your want list from the fall catalog or just come and stroll the gardens.
There’s so much to see in the garden this time of year, including an array of ornamental grasses and a number of fall-flowering bulbs.Cyclamen hederifolium is flowering throughout the dry shade woodland garden, Also, an incredible array of shade-loving tricyrtis (toad lilies) are at their peak with their unique orchid-like flowers. For a bright spot in the fall shade garden, there are few plants as capable of adding as much sunshine as Boehmeria ‘Glow Light’…truly radiant.
We’ve had a great lycoris (surprise lily) season and a number of late-blooming crinum lilies are flowering nicely. Peak lycoris season at JLBG is August, but there are several cultivars which flower into September as you’ll see when you visit. Crinum lilies begin as early as May for us, but many re-flower through September, while others don’t start until fall. Their cousin, the mini-hippeastrum-like Rhodophiala bifida is also providing a bright spot of red throughout the garden now. Be sure to see what these genera have to offer for your fall garden.
Several more fascinating new plants from the fall catalog that are now looking great in the garden include Silene subciliata, Heteropterys glabra,Gloxinia ‘Little Red’, and Sedum ‘Dynomite’. Be sure to enjoy these stars out during open house…they’re hard to miss.
The dark blue-flowering leadworts (ceratostigma) are simply fantastic now as are the light blue-flowered caryopteris. Even buddleias (butterfly bushes) are showcasing their fall blue-lavender flowers. We think you can never have enough blues in the garden.
Other colors abound now including echinaceas (if they were cut back after their early flowering), dahlias, rudbeckia, verbena, hedychium, lobelia, ruellia, achimenes, and so much more. Bring your camera, bring your friends, and we’ll provide the great weather. We hope you’ll be able to visit!
Open Nursery and Garden Dates for 2016
February 26 – 28 and March 4 – 6
April 29 – May 1 and May 6 – May 8
July 8 – 9 and July 15 – 17
September 9 – 11 and September 16 – 18
Friday and Saturday 8a-5p
Rain or Shine!
News from PDN/JLBG
With our steady growth over the last couple of decades, we experienced an office space crunch, so to alleviate this, we were fortunate to recently purchase the adjacent 6-acre horse farm. While it’s sad to lose our wonderful neighbors, the Yde’s, we are excited to have more room. To get more office space, the nursery will be booting us out of our current home in the middle of the garden as soon as we build our downsized retirement home on the new property.
We are blessed to have acquired the services of one of America’s finest architects, Frank Harmon, of Raleigh, who, along with his team, have designed our new residence. (Tony was classmates with Frank’s late wife, Judy, at NC State…back in the day). The purchase will also allow us to re-configure the Open Nursery and Garden parking areas, which we believe you will enjoy. Be sure to follow the changes over the next year during each Open Nursery and Garden.
Anita will be leading her first class at the garden this fall, but it’s not about plants. Join Anita as she leads a sensory garden walk designed to awaken the senses and quiet the thinking mind. Anita will show you how experiencing the gardens through the senses will nourish the body, mind, and spirit. If your mind is open to new experiences, don’t miss this incredible opportunity to gain new insights from a truly amazing woman…yes, I’m prejudiced. You can learn more about Anita at http://AnitaAvent.com or read her wonderful Sensuous Gardening Blog at http://www.sensuousgardening.blogspot.com/. Seating for this class is very limited.
Remember to sign up for our other classes offered this fall:
- Josh Taylor’s Photography Class
- Tony’s Garden Walk
- The World of Soils
Read the class descriptions here.
In news from the horticultural world, corporate giant, Ball Horticultural has purchased the 153-year-old Conard-Pyle Company from owner Steve Hutton, whose family has owned the business for the past 65 years. Even though you may not recognize the company name, Conard-Pyle is the manger/distributer of Knock-out roses…perhaps you’ve heard of them. They also introduced the “Blue Hollies”, the industry standard holly in the Northeast US.
Gardens of Germany
Our friend, landscape architect, Roland Oehme, son of the late landscape architect, Wolfgang Oehme is taking a plant trip to Germany and is accepting travel companions. This isn’t an organized tour per se, but a chance to visit gardens, nurseries, and study German garden design. The cost is $2500-$3000 including airfare. If you’re interested, you can email Roland at his company, Green Harmony Design, at email@example.com.
We were saddened this month to learn of the passing of plantsman Nick Nickou, MD, of Branford, CT, who passed away at the age of 94. In addition to being a physician for 40 years, Nick was a keen gardener and plant explorer (China, Russia, Greece, South Africa, Patagonia and more). We are fortunate to have a number of plants that Nick shared, growing in our garden, including his two most popular introductions, Athyrium ‘Branford Rambler’ and Athyrium ‘Branford Beauty’. What an amazing and wonderful life!
The nursery world lost a giant this month, with the passing of retired Monrovia Nursery President/CEO, Bruce Usrey. Bruce worked with Monrovia for over 45 years, starting in plant production and working his way up to CEO and, in his later years, Managing Director. Bruce oversaw much of the tremendous expansion of Monrovia during the 1980s through the 2000s, when Monrovia became a household brand. Bruce is survived by his wife, Susie, another 40-year Monrovia veteran.
Most everyone who grew houseplants from the 1970s through the 1990s has probably heard of Peters Fertilizer, which is a worldwide industry standard for quality and performance. Many of us vividly remember their famous blue fertilizer dye, which stained our hands and made those we subsequently dined with stare with horror.
We are sad to report that Peters founder, Robert (Bob) Peters just passed away at age 97. Peters rewrote the proverbial book on liquid fertilizer during the green industry heyday. Peters started his fertilizer company in 1947, but sold it in 1979 to the Grace Company, which later became Grace-Sierra. Grace-Sierra was subsequently gobbled up by Scotts in 1993. Disenchanted by the workings of a large corporation and their unequal promotion of their Miracle-Grow brand, Peters re-purchased the rights to their fertilizer in 2002, but not their original name. They subsequently started a new company, selling the old Peters fertilizer as Jack’s at www.jrpeters.com.
Connect with Us!
Until next month, connect and follow us and the cats on Facebook, Pinterest, and our blogs at https://blog.jlbg.org and http://www.sensuousgardening.blogspot.com/, where you may sign up to follow our regular posts from the nursery and the botanic garden.
tony and anita
The butterflies are feasting on the echinaceas in the garden. I just caught this Eastern tiger swallowtail sitting still this week. You can bring amazing pollinators into your garden by planting lots of nectar-producing plants.
The echinaceas have been incredible in the garden this spring and summer. Here are a few shots from JLBG last week. First is Echinacea ‘Julia’…a very compact orange-flowered coneflower with sturdy stems.
Echinacea ‘Salsa Red’ is one of the most floriferous coneflowers we grow…truly amazing!
Echinacea ‘Secret Glow’…love this color and flower form!
Greetings and Happy Holidays from all of us to you!
We hope your holiday season is merry and bright, and those of you in climates where winter gardening is possible are enjoying time in the garden. Now that the new catalog writing and proofing are completed, we’re back to spending time planting new plants and relocating old ones around the garden.
New Plant Sales Catalog at the Printer!
Our new and re-designed Plant Delights catalog is at the printer and scheduled to be on the way to your mailbox at the end of December. As always, there are plenty of cool new plants as well as many returning favorites. We’ll be featuring a few of these between now and the end of the year on our blog. We’ve (mostly Anita) been working hard with our catalog designer, Shari Sasser, to make the new print catalog more user friendly and visually appealing.
We’re Leafing in the Garden…
Here at Juniper Level, Todd and the garden staff are wrapping up the leaf raking for the year since all the leaves have finally fallen. The next step is re-mulching the entire garden, which will begin shortly. For this, we use a triple-shredded hardwood mulch, which we purchase locally. We like this type of mulch since it doesn’t wash in heavy rains, while allowing air and water to penetrate.
Our leaves, garden and nursery debris, and leaves from the nearby town of Garner are being piled up here to become compost. After sitting for a month, new organic debris is then mixed with our native soil at the rate of 50% each. We turn the piles five times at intervals of at least two weeks to make the compost, from which we build and rebuild our garden beds.
Look What’s Changing at JLBG
We’re also spending quite a bit of time this fall removing some large footprint plants; after which we add more of our compost mix, then replant with cool new plants. You’ll see lots of these newly replanted areas when you visit for our next open house in February.
2015 Open Nursery and Garden Dates
February 27 – March 1
March 6 – 8
May 1 – 3
May 8 – 10
July 10 – 12
July 17 – 19
September 11 – 13
September 18 – 20
Fridays/Saturdays 8a-5p and Sundays 1-5p
Rain or Shine! Free Parking
Click for more info
Interesting Plant Data, Anyone?
We always enjoy sharing business trivia, so this month, here are a couple of our favorite top 10 lists. The first is our top 10 states by plant purchases during 2014. As you can imagine, our home state of North Carolina leads the list, but some of the others may come as a surprise, including two West Coast states that made the list. We are so grateful for all of you, no matter where you are located, who adopted our plant children this year to enjoy in your gardens.
Top 10 States by Plant Purchases for Plant Delights in 2014
- North Carolina
- New York
- South Carolina
- New Jersey
How many would you have predicted correctly?
Top 10 Best Selling Plant Groups for Plant Delights in 2014
How many items would you have predicted correctly?
Wow! This News is Helpful
And on the theme of fabulous garden news, we received a press release from a new non-profit sharing news of a brand new website, accessiblegardens.org dedicated to our gardening friends who are dealing with extraordinary medical challenges.
This unique, non-commercial website connects people with the tools they need to create an accessible garden: information, photographs, videos, building plans, links to helpful government and private agencies, seed catalogs, and designs for accessible gardens.
Accessible Gardens is an outreach project of Ophoenix, a Public Benefit Corporation in San Francisco.
The Perfect Tree – According to Anita
We’re sure many of you have seen news stories about the Tree of Forty Fruits, but if not, check out this TED video. Syracuse University art professor Sam Van Aken started a project to graft 40 different fruit trees onto a single trunk. While this certainly isn’t a new idea, Sam’s take on fruit tree grafting is to perform the grafting for artistic reasons as well as for fruit production. We think you’ll find this pretty cool. By the way, Sam received his Masters of Fine Arts degree in 2001 from the University of North Carolina.
Munchkin, Spring Hill and Michigan Bulb Closing…
It’s always sad to lose another mail order nursery family, but we will be saying goodbye to more stalwarts. Plantsman Gene Bush ofMunchkin Nursery in Indiana has retired from the mail order business. Although Munchkin was not a large nursery, Gene did a superb job offering rare and hard-to-find treasures, while doing a great job educating gardeners. Thanks for all your hard work, Gene!
On a much larger scale, two of the largest and oldest mail order nurseries in the country are scheduled to close this June…Spring Hill Nursery (1849) and Michigan Bulb Nursery (1943). Both nurseries were rescued (along with many others) from bankruptcy in 2001 byNiles Kinerk of Gardens Alive.
Niles and his team have been able to rebuild the sales volume for all of the purchased companies, but Spring Hill Nursery and Michigan Bulb have not provided the positive cash flow needed to remain viable. Consequently, to avoid bankruptcy and be sure that all vendors are paid, both companies will operate through the spring season before closing in June 2015. This is a sad day for the mail order nursery industry, and there is always a glimmer of hope for a white knight to ride in to save the day, but the prospects don’t look good.
Plant Breeding Honors Go To…
Congratulations to Dr. Mike Dirr, retired professor from the University of Georgia, for being named a fellow by the National Academy of Inventors (NAI). Mike is one of only 170 inventors, and the first plant breeder to receive the honor. Fellow status is granted to those who have created or facilitated outstanding inventions that have made a tangible impact on quality of life, economic development, and the welfare of society. Kudos to Mike!
The Life and Times of Henry Ross
We were saddened to learn of the loss of Gardenview Horticultural Park founder Henry Ross, who passed away at age 87. Most likely, few people outside of Cleveland, Ohio, or the plant nerd community have ever heard of Henry, but he was quite a horticultural force. Since 1949, Henry worked tirelessly at transforming a 16 acre plot of overgrown land in the town of Strongsville, Ohio (now in the middle of Cleveland), into a horticultural paradise. We’ve had the pleasure of visiting Henry many times, starting in 1993, and always learned new plants we didn’t know about before.
Henry was an amazing plantsman, but his lack of people skills kept him from receiving the accolades other contemporaries received, turning Henry into a bitter curmudgeon. As Henry tried to raise an endowment to continue the garden after his death, he consistently shot himself in the proverbial foot, alienating the majority of people who tried to help. Henry was the classic paradox, one of the most kind and gentle people we’d ever met, but his bitterness and resentment were his own worst enemy.
Henry had trouble finding garden help because few people could match Henry’s standards of rising before dawn, living in a proverbial shack, sans paycheck, and working in the garden until falling asleep at night…regular bathing was a time luxury that Henry simply couldn’t afford. Finally, in 1995, that one in a million person showed up in the person of Mark LaRosa, who moved into the property’s guest shack and became Henry’s protégé. LaRosa has worked at Gardenview since 1995, and continues there after Henry’s passing. Just like with Henry, who lived off his military retirement, LaRosa is not paid.
Henry introduced several plants during his lifetime, most notably, Ajuga ‘Arctic Fox’, Hosta ‘Solar Flare’, and Monarda ‘Gardenview Scarlet’. Henry had many more plants that should have been introduced, but his deepening neurosis of not getting enough credit kept him from sharing further.
Gardenview‘s Board of Directors is now attempting to move the non-profit garden into its post-founder phase, finally without Henry’s resistance. Their hope is to build both an endowment and generate funding so the garden can finally have paid staff. If you’d like to visit or donate, you can find out more here and here…of course the garden couldn’t afford a real website. Henry…you’ve lived a full and amazing life and here’s to the prosperous future of Gardenview Horticultural Park.
Let’s Stay Connected!
Happy Holidays and Happy Gardening!
-tony and anita
PDN Fall Nursery News
We hope you’ve received your copy of the Fall 2014 Plant Delights Nursery catalog. Kudos to our graphic designer Shari Sasser at Sasser Studios for the catalog redesign and new look. Among other things, the fall catalog includes three new aucubas, six new crinum lilies, and twenty new fern offerings. These are a fraction of the many exciting new plants you’ll find either in the print version or online.
It’s always interesting for us to see what sells and what doesn’t. Top sellers from the fall catalog so far include, Adiantum venustum, Agapanthus ‘White Heaven’, Agave ‘Huasteca Giant’, Agave ‘Shadow Dancer’, Alstroemeria ‘Koice’, Aster ‘Fanny’, Begonia ‘Pewterware’, Bouvardia ‘Scarlet Hummer’, Canna ‘Pacific Beauty’, Dryopteris erythrosora v. prolifica, Echinacea ‘Fatal Attraction’, Epimedium ‘Domino’, Eucalyptus neglecta, Heuchera ‘Citronelle’, Hibiscus ‘Kopper King’, Hibiscus ‘Midnight Marvel’, Hosta ‘Orange Marmalade’, Juniperus conferta ‘All Gold’, Lespedeza ‘White Fountain’, Ligularia ‘Chinese Dragon’, Lilium formosanum Giant form, Oxalis ‘Francis’, Patrinia scabiosifolia, Phlox ‘Peppermint Twist’, Ruellia ‘Black Beauty’, Salvia greggii ‘Teresa’, and Salvia ‘Golden Girl’.
On the other end of the scale, plants which will be severely disciplined for not selling to this point include Aspidistra crispa ‘Golden Freckles’, Aucuba ‘Sagama’, Begonia henryi,Buddleia ‘Blue Chip Jr.’, Buddleia ‘Pink Micro Chip’, Choisya ‘Limo’, Crinum x digweedii ‘Mermaid’, Harpochloa falx, Lycoris x jacksoniana ‘Caldwell’s Rose’, Ophiopogon ‘Tuff Tuft Lavender’, Taxus bacatta ‘Aurescens Nana’, and Trismeria trifoliata. We know how well these plants perform, and how hard they auditioned just to earn a spot in the catalog. We really hope you’ll save these gems from the whips and chains of our growing staff and give ’em a try!
October Photography Class with Josh Taylor
Saturday, Oct. 11, 2014, 8am–4pm
Garden Photography – Photo Capture and Processing with Josh Taylor
Learn how to get the best possible images from your camera and how to process your images in Lightroom with Photoshop/Photoshop Elements.
The morning focus of this all-day workshop will be on learning and getting reacquainted with your camera ISO settings, histogram, exposure compensation, shooting modes, bracketing, white balance, etc. You’ll spend 3 hours in the garden with your camera and the instructor.
The afternoon session will be devoted to post-processing with Lightroom using participants’ images for demonstrations. Register hereor call to register at 919-772-4794. See some examples of Josh’s work on his website: www.joshuataylorphotography.com.
Sweden & Germany 2014 Expedition Log
We’ve finally finished the online version of Tony’s expedition log from his trip to Germany and Sweden this spring…lots of cool plants, great gardens, and amazing people. If you’d like to travel along, enjoy the trek here.
Last Open Nursery and Garden Days for 2014 are Sept. 19-21
This weekend, we’re putting the wraps on our final open nursery and garden days for 2014, so we hope you can make the trip to Plant Delights Nursery and Juniper Level Botanic Garden to share the splendor of the fall gardens. Not only is there lots to see here in September, but our muscadine grape trials are ripe, so you can sample each variety while you’re here…or park your spouse under the grapevines to keep them from pestering you while you peruse the gardens and shop.
2015 Open Nursery and Garden Dates
February 27 – March 1
March 6 – 8
May 1 – 3
May 8 – 10
July 10 – 12
July 17 – 19
September 11 – 13
September 18 – 20
Fridays/Saturdays 8a-5p and Sundays 1-5p
Rain or Shine! Free Parking
Click for more info
Fall is a fabulous time to plant!
In most parts of the country, it’s a fabulous time to plant…everything except agaves, echinaceas, bananas, and elephant ears (from Zone 7b north). North of us, just don’t plant anything marginally hardy in your zone as your first frost approaches and, in climates where the ground freezes in winter, allow enough time to get the roots anchored to keep the plants from heaving out of the ground.
Four months ago, we posted photos of our new four seasons garden that we’d just installed near our retail greenhouses. This section of the garden is now 16 weeks old, so we’d love for you to see what it looks like now and see how much it’s grown…a great demonstration why good organic soil preparation is so important and how much plants will grow when they’re properly cared for.
Nursery Industry News
PDN kudos to Plant Delights customer Allen Lacy, the founder and chief weed puller at the new Linwood Arboretum. Allen received some great publicity recently in an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer that we’d like to share.
We were also glad to see a recent article about our friend, the late Logan Calhoun, that just appeared in the Dallas News. Logan was a Plant Delights customer who shared many special plants that we still offer today…fifteen years after his untimely death.
In other news from the nursery world, Q&Z Nursery of Rochelle, Illinois, a major wholesale hosta tissue culture lab, is closing its doors. Although very disappointing, I can’t say I’m surprised. Q&Z, which has operated for 22 years since splitting from its former retail division T&Z, chose its market niche to be a hosta liner supplier to small mom and pop backyard nurseries.
They did this by offering a huge selection of new hostas (over 400 of their own introductions), without much, if any, in-ground evaluation, introducing seemingly every mutation that they found in the lab. If they tissue cultured a variegated hosta and it mutated back green, they would name and introduce the plant, knowing these small nurseries were usually more interested in having new hosta names in their catalog than having the best new hostas. This business model cost them the business of larger, more discriminating retailers, especially because they rarely had good photography of mature clumps of their new introductions…the single most important factor in properly introducing a new plant. Still, a few of their hostas turned out to be good plants that had staying power, including Hosta ‘Diamond Tiara’, ‘Pineapple Upside-down Cake’, Hosta ‘Radiant Edger’, Hosta ‘Sugar and Cream’, Hosta ‘Sugar and Spice’, Hosta ‘Summer Breeze’, ‘Summer Lovin’, and Hosta ‘Victory’.
Once the economy tanked, it took many of the smaller nurseries with it, making it even more difficult for such a business model to be sustainable. The founder/owner, Mark Zilis, is one of the most knowledgeable folks in the hosta world, as witnessed by his landmark hosta book, The Hostapaedia, which you can currently still purchase on the Q&Z website.
We’d like to publicly thank Mark and his staff for their contributions to the world of hostas, and wish them the best in their future endeavors.
Garden Director Needed
In local news, one of our neighboring botanic gardens is in need of a new director. Dr. Peter White, director of the NC Botanical Garden, is stepping down to return to teaching and writing, so the garden is in need of a new director. Interested? If so, you can find out more here.
Wedding Anniversary Flowers
Do you struggle with what to get that special gardener in your family? Consider giving a wedding anniversary flower. Not only are there designated precious stones to celebrate wedding anniversaries, but there are designated plants. The list below suggests what you might present plantwise.
- 1st Carnation
- 2nd Lily of the Valley
- 3rd Sunflower
- 4th Hydrangea
- 5th Daisy
- 6th Calla
- 7th Freesia
- 8th Lilac
- 9th Bird of paradise
- 10th Daffodil
- 11th Tulip
- 12th Peony
- 13th Chrysanthemum
- 14th Dahlia
- 15th Rose
- 20th Aster
- 25th Iris
- 28th Orchid
- 30th Lily
- 40th Gladiolus
- 50th Yellow rose, violet
- Source: Wikipedia
We try to share important life events from the horticultural world, but here’s one we missed. Ken Durio, 84, founder and president of the infamous Louisiana Nursery passed away last fall on October 28. I say infamous because Louisiana Nursery, was always the topic of customer stories whenever plant people gathered to discuss their new acquisitions. From the 1960s through the 1990s, if you wanted a rare plant…especially a woody plant, there were few sources other than Louisiana Nursery of Opelousas, Louisiana.
While Louisiana Nursery listed virtually every plant you could imagine, to the tune of 5,000 listings in their prime, the quality of the plants you received, combined with the extravagant prices and their less than stellar customer service, made it a major frustration for most consumers. I’ll never forget ordering their $5 catalog in the late 1980s only to get a return note asking which of their 12 catalogs I wanted…at $5 each…the iris catalog, the hemerocallis catalog, the magnolia catalog, etc.
Ken Durio was an avid and knowledgeable plantsman who started Louisiana Nursery soon after graduating from LSU in 1950. Although it seems hard to imagine today, back in the 1950s and 1960s, Louisiana was one of the epicenters of plant exploration and introduction in the US.
By the 1980s, Ken Durio had developed a reputation as one of the most ornery and curmudgeonly nurserymen in the country, which is why, when I was asked to speak in Baton Rouge in 1996, I told them I would only come if they’d take me to meet the infamous Ken Durio. After trying to talk me out of it, they reluctantly relented and off we went. Despite many tales of people being run off the nursery for no apparent reason, I found Ken both welcoming, hospitable, and glad to chat plants. By this time, however, the nursery had become quite run down as sales had dramatically declined. Louisiana Nursery (no relation to the garden center, Louisiana Nursery.com) became a victim of the Internet, as gardeners were now able to find better quality plants cheaper and without so much hassle.
No matter what you thought of their business, their plant collections and breeding efforts in groups like iris, daylilies, magnolias, and figs were truly remarkable. One of Ken’s surviving sons, Dalton, recently returned home to take care of his dad in the last stages of life and is currently trying to resurrect the nursery. Fingers crossed for a successful re-launch. You can watch his progress at www.durionursery.biz.
Until next month, join us on the Plant Delights blog , where you can sign up and follow our regular posts from the nursery and garden.
-tony and anita
We hope you are enjoying your garden this summer and taking time to relax a bit, especially when the temperatures are soaring.
It was so nice to see and chat with many of you at the Summer Open Garden and Nursery Days last weekend.
The garden has been brimming with colors this summer, especially the new Souto Memorial Garden which is currently under development. We installed irrigation throughout the garden beds and paths in the Souto Garden earlier this year, and the plantings are displaying nicely. We’re excited to finally showcase this area of Juniper Level soon!
As we mentioned in our last newsletter, we’ve had eight more agaves (century plants) flowering this year, so our research horticulturist, Jeremy Schmidt, has been busy on one of several ladders making crosses between the species. From his crosses last year, we now have hybrids of Agave striata x Agave lophantha. We’re still a year away from these being large enough for the garden, but the potential is wonderful. We also have nice pots of seedlings from our giant hybrid of Agave salmiana v. ferox x Agave scabra that visitors marveled over during Summer Open Nursery and Garden days.
In the arisaema world, we now have confirmed hybrids from our crosses of Arisaema fargesii x A. triphyllum and Arisaema triphyllum x A. taiwanense. Our first hybrid arisaema, a cross of Arisaema fargesii x A. heterophyllum, that we named Arisaema ‘Crossing Over’ will finally be available for spring 2015. It’s a rather amazing plant!
Although these are a bit farther in the future, many other horticultural gems will be available in our upcoming fall Plant Delights Nursery catalog, which we’ve been compiling since May. First, we decided which new plants made the garden performance cut, and then we propagated in enough quantities to share. The new catalog will be mailed, and available on-line, around mid-August…more anticipation than in a bottle of Heinz® ketchup.
Is Life a Drag? Volunteer at JLBG!
For over 20 years, we have been blessed to have incredible volunteers assist us in the gardens and research sections of Juniper Level Botanic Garden. We’d love for you to join us to volunteer and learn at one of the top plant collections in the country. Volunteer opportunities involve a range of activities from planting to labeling to garden maintenance. If you have some spare time or are nearing those treasured retirement years and you want to immerse yourself in horticulture, we hope you’ll consider becoming a garden or research volunteer. For more information, contact Heather Brameyer at 919.772.4794 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Southeast Palm Society Summer Meeting
We are pleased to announce we will be hosting the summer meeting of the Southeast Palm Society on Saturday, August 9, 2014. Guests are welcome to attend as well as SPS members. There are no reservations needed for the event…all we ask is that you let us know by August 1, if you’ll be here for lunch so we can have enough food. Please email us at email@example.com no later than August 1, 2014.
Schedule: Southeast Palm Society at Plant Delights
Nursery/Juniper Level Botanic Garden
|9:15-10:00am||History of PDN & JLBG (slide show in PDN Education Center)|
|10:00-11:00am||Explore Juniper Level Botanic Garden on your own|
|11:00-Noon||General meeting (Patio Garden)|
|Noon-12:45pm||Lunch at PDN, provided by PDN (Patio Garden, must sign up by August 1, 2014)|
|12:45-1:45pm||Guided Tour of JLBG Palm Collections|
|2:00-3:00pm||Guided Tour of JLBG Succulent Collections|
PDN and JLBG will be open to attendees from 9:00am – 4:00pm on August 9, 2014.
New! Photography Class with Professional Garden Photographer Josh Taylor
Saturday, Oct. 11, 2014, 8am–4pm
Garden Photography – Photo Capture and Processing with Josh Taylor
Our instructor, Josh Taylor, is a professional garden photographer, workshop leader, and Canon camera instructor. Josh limits the class to 15 attendees so he can offer individual instruction, so please register early to ensure a spot! Learn how to get the best possible images from your camera and how to process your images in Lightroom with Photoshop/Photoshop Elements.
The fall landscape of the Juniper Level Botanic Garden at Plant Delights Nursery will be the setting for practicing camera skills. The morning focus of this all-day workshop will be on learning and getting reacquainted with your camera ISO settings, histogram, exposure compensation, shooting modes, bracketing, white balance, etc. You’ll spend 3 hours in the garden with your camera and the instructor.
The afternoon session will be devoted to post-processing with Lightroom using participants’ images for demonstrations. If you’re new to Lightroom or moving from Aperture or iPhoto to Lightroom, this workshop will be most helpful in getting you up to speed. You will learn how to import and process your photos in Lightroom. This workshop is designed for increasing your photographic skills and the joy of using your camera. Register here or call to register at 919-772-4794. See some examples of Josh’s work on his website: www.joshuataylorphotography.com.
New! Hosta Society National Convention – June 18, 2015 at Plant Delights Nursery
Please mark your calendar for June 18, 2015 to attend the 2015 Hosta Society National Convention. More details as we receive them.
2014 Fall Open Nursery and Garden Days
This will be our last Open Nursery and Garden event until late February 2015. Plan to join us to see our gorgeous fall offerings in the greenhouses and the botanic garden.
September 12-14 Friday/Saturday 8a-5p and Sunday 1-5p
September 19-21 Friday/Saturday 8a-5p and Sunday 1-5p
Rain or Shine! Free Parking
Click for more info
It’s All About the Plants
Growing and propagating plants is a lot like taking care of newborns. We have to feed them around the clock, keep the temperature and humidity comfortable for them, and diagnose and treat them when they are sick. And yes, we have to check them in the middle of the night when the monitor sounds off next to our bed indicating something is wrong in the environment or the equipment – even when it’s 9 degrees outside. Plantsmen and their families seldom sleep through the night, just ask them!
Wilbur, our irrigation system, has been an integral part of caring for our plants over the last two decades. He had become a part of the PDN family, so it was hard to retire him this year when finding replacement parts for him, a program written in DOS in the 1980s, proved impossible.
After much research and review, Mike Spafford, PDN’s Nursery Manager, selected the replacement for Wilbur to be a new and sophisticated Tucor irrigation system. The fine folks at John Deere helped Mike and his staff through the process to procure and install the new system. Since May this year, our brand new irrigation system keeps the 30 greenhouses programmed to water plants according to current temperatures, humidity, and some other variables the new technology provides. The staff named the new irrigation system Beyoncé, since it’s so cool, sleek, and a real performer! Now the staff can rest a little bit easier since parts are readily available for Beyoncé when she needs a new gig.
Bar Code Scanning
We finally made another leap (with some trembling) into the 21st century with bar code scanning in the nursery for inventory and during checkout at Open Nursery Days. We’ve been practicing using the scanners and working out the software bugs since last fall and we did a test drive last weekend at the Summer Open Nursery and Garden Days. The response was very positive from our onsite customers since the lines at order write-up and checkout were significantly reduced. Thanks for your patience as we continue to enhance your shopping experience when you purchase unique and cool plants from us!
We welcome Charlotte Saine as our new JLBG Research Assistant for Field Production. Working with JLBG Research Horticulturist Jeremy Schmidt and current JLBG Research Assistant Jared Chauncey, Charlotte will be doing lots of digging in the dirt in our acres of field trial and research beds, helping keep the data on each plant accurate and updated. Charlotte earned an Associates Degree in Horticulture from Sandhills Community College and was also our Summer Intern from Sandhills CC last year. We are delighted to see the younger generation of plant geeks be as passionate about plants as we are!
In Science News
Interesting research at the University of Missouri demonstrated plants have the ability to “hear.” It seems that their “hearing” affects a plant’s ability to ward off pests. Researchers played noises of caterpillars munching on foliage to one group of plants while keeping a control group in silence. Later when the real caterpillars were set loose on the plants, the group that had been exposed to the caterpillar sound earlier produced more natural caterpillar repellents. Plants exposed to different vibrational sounds, opposed to silence, acted like the control group and didn’t produce the repellents.
Researchers are unsure how the plants “hear,” but assume it involves pressures on mechanoreceptor proteins, which calls for more research…i.e. another grant. You can read more here.
“Moving on to new adventures” is the phrase uttered with the retirement of two preeminent horticulturists. Holly Shimizu retired as director of the US Botanic Garden in May, after holding the position since 2000. Holly had previously served as the Herb Garden Curator at the US National Arboretum and later as the Director of the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in Virginia. Holly is a true national treasure, and I’m sure many of you have read Holly’s writings or enjoyed her wonderful presentations. Holly tells me that she has many interests in retirement but isn’t sure yet where her new chapter in life will take her. Re-working her home garden and starting one at her vacation home top the list.
Also, slated for retirement this fall is Dr. Larry Mellichamp, professor of Botany at UNC-Charlotte and Director of the UNC-Charlotte Botanical Gardens. Like Holly, Larry has had a huge impact on the world of horticulture through his writing and many presentations…as well as his hybrid pitcher plant introductions. If you’ve never visited the gardens at UNC-Charlotte, check ’em out before Larry departs the scene in October.
We’ve learned of the deaths of several prominent members of the horticultural community since our last newsletter, including Rosemary Bloom, wife of UK plantsman Adrian Bloom (Blooms of Bressingham) on May 26. We mentioned Rosemary’s illness in our last communication.
Around the same time, we’ll miss cycad (sago palm) giant Loran Whitelock, who died on May 14 at age 84. Loran first worked for the City of Los Angles before becoming a garden designer and cycad nurseryman. Cycad Gardens, which Loran started in 1972 at his home in Eagle Rock, California, held one of the most extensive cycad collections in the world. Loran, preceded in death by his wife Eva in 2007, had already laid the groundwork for his entire collection to be donated to the Huntington Botanical Gardens after his death.
During his lifetime, Loran regularly traveled to remote locations around the world to study cycads, and was very active in conservation work of this highly exploited group of plants. Not only did Loran travel, but he also wrote extensively about cycads. His most famous publication is the encyclopedic book The Cycads published by Timber Press in 2002. Loran’s contributions to the world of cycads were so extensive he was honored by having two cycads named after him: Encephalartos whitelockii and Ceratozamia whitelockiana.
Although we only met Loran once for dinner during our 2009 Agave summit in San Diego, he was a charming man, encyclopedic in his knowledge and gentle and giving in spirit. Job well done!
On the east coast another giant recently died, Kurt Bluemel, on June 4. Kurt was fondly known as the King of Ornamental Grasses for his pioneering work with the group. In 1964, the Czech Republic immigrant started his nursery in Fallston, Maryland, with German immigrant the late Wolfgang Oehme. The focus of Kurt’s nursery was ornamental grasses at a time when grasses were virtually unknown commercially in the US.
Kurt was always very generous with his time and knowledge when Tony was a young plantsman making regular pilgrimages to visit Kurt’s nursery and gardens in the late 1980s. At the time, there were very few nurseries with the selection of perennials and ornamental grasses that were available from Bluemel’s. Although Bluemel’s Nursery had both wholesale and retail divisions, it was the landscaping division that generated the lion’s share of their income, thanks to Kurt’s artistic eye and exacting understanding of design. Kurt would later open a Florida Nursery, Floraland, to supply plants for the Deep South, particularly to Disneyworld. Some of Kurt’s own introductions are still industry staples, Schizachyrium ‘The Blues’, Panicum ‘Heavy Metal’, and Eupatorium ‘Gateway’.
Kurt’s loss was a shock to all that knew him as he was indeed larger than life and had just returned from a botanizing trip to, of all places, Death Valley, just prior to being diagnosed with a very aggressive liver cancer. These trips were regular adventures with his famed traveling friends, plantsmen Ratzeputz Gang. Through the years, Bluemel’s Nursery served as a training ground for many of the world’s current crop of top horticulturists, so his influence will live on well into the future.
On a more local note, Raleigh plantsman Norman Beal died on July 12 after a four year battle with auto-immune disease. Three years ago, Norman sold his amazing Raleigh garden, which had been featured on countless regional and national garden tours.
Norman started his garden in the early 1990s, after retiring from the Virginia Cooperative Extension service and moving to Raleigh to garden like a crazed person for his remaining years. Garden he did, not only filling his garden with a plethora of aesthetically arranged rare treasures, but then taking over the adjacent gardens of four neighbors and gardening their land like his own. Norman was indeed a one of a kind…as generous as opinionated, always wearing his long tan pants and blue oxford shirt, which we all assumed he slept in as well. When you see a plant with the prefix Greystone, it is likely one of Norman’s many introductions. We’ll miss you my friend…life well lived and garden well grown!
~tony and anita
One more fab favorite from the garden today...Echinacea ‘Julia’. This wonderful coneflower is very compact and shows and grows well in the garden.
The coneflowers are looking so good in the garden now, I wish you could all see them. Here’s Echinacea ‘Fatal Attraction’…great black-purple stems, a compact habit, and just an all around great plant.
One final favorite…the very floriferous, but more compact Echinacea ‘Salsa Red‘ in the gardens today!
Here’s another coneflower that’s been a star in our trials…the creamy yellow-flowering Echinacea ‘Aloha’. All of these I’ve shared have shown excellent vigor, good perennialization, and have sturdy stems.
After last years’ performance, Echinacea ‘Secret Glow’ moved into our top tier of favorite coneflowers. Again, this year, it’s a star in the garden as you can see here!
The hybrid coneflowers are making such an amazing show in the garden now, we just had to share. Here is Echinacea ‘Hot Papaya’...part of a stunning 3′ tall, five year old clump. They key to growing echinaceas is to plant them in well-drained soil, and do so before September. It’s also very important to cut the flowers off before they bloom and until they get well established.
Greetings and Happy Spring!
The Perfect Storm
As we mentioned in an earlier email, we experienced the perfect storm of events which impacted our order processing and shipping operations this spring. The combination of delayed ordering due to the long winter, a nearly universal demand for plants to be shipped in May, and the poorly-designed e-commerce system we purchased in December have created an operational and shipping nightmare. The entire company is working in crisis mode and we are burning the midnight oil to fulfill orders and work through the issues.
We know these delays are unacceptable to you and they are unacceptable to us as business owners. We appreciate your patience and your notes of support as we work to ship the orders that were delayed.
Despite seeming like spring has only just begun, we’re actually only a few weeks from the official start of summer. Rains have been steady so far this year, although our recent May rain of 5.17 inches was a bit more than we would have preferred for a single weather event. Fingers crossed for a great gardening summer in most parts of the country, although our thoughts are with those in the already drought stricken areas like California, Texas, and Oklahoma.
Spring open garden and nursery days were well attended and it was wonderful meeting so many folks, including visitors from as far away as California. It’s always great to put faces with the names that we’ve previously met only on social media. Because our growing season was two weeks later than normal, visitors were able to see different plants than they normally see in spring, including peak bloom on many of the early peonies. At least it was dry during open garden and nursery, which is always a relief.
Weathering the Winter in JLBG
In the last couple of weeks, the agaves here at Juniper Level B.G. have awoken from their winter slumber with seven species so far sending up flower spikes. It looks like we’ll be breaking out the tall ladders for some high-wire sexual liaisons before long. We didn’t get great seed set on last year’s century plant breeding, but the highlights of the successful crosses were hybrids of Agave victoriae-reginae and Agave americana ssp. protamericana which we expect will turn out to be quite interesting. Although only six months old, we can already tell they’re truly unique.
We continue to watch as plants in the garden recover from the severe winter. Most of the cycads (sago palms) we cut back have resprouted, with a few still to begin. So far, the only sure loss from that group was a several year old Dioon merolae. Most of our palms came through the winter okay, except for those in an out-lying low part of the garden, where damage to windmill palms was quite severe.
Many of the butia, or jelly palms, we thought survived have now declined to a brown pile of branches. We’re not giving up quite yet, as one Butia x Jubaea that we thought was a goner when the spear pulled (a term for the newly emerging leaves rotting so that they easily pull out of the top) has just begun to reflush.
Bananas have been slow to return for many customers, including the very hardy Musa basjoo. It seems that gardeners in colder zones who mulched their bananas have plants which are growing now. Perhaps this past winter will put a damper on the mail order nurseries who continue to list plants like Musa basjoo as hardy to Zone 4 and 5, (-20 to -30 degrees F), which is pure insanity.
We are grateful Tony had the opportunity to speak recently at the relatively new Paul J. Ciener Botanic Garden in Kernersville, NC. This small botanic garden is truly delightful, and the staff, including former JLBG curator Adrienne Roethling, have done a great job in the first phase of their development. We hope you’ll drop by if you’re heading through NC on Interstate 40.
Tony also spoke in Memphis last month, and then he headed into the Ozarks for some botanizing in northwest Arkansas. He had an amazing several days that resulted in finds like a stoloniferous form of Viola pedata, several trilliums he’d never seen before, and a new clematis species that’s still waiting to be named. We’ve posted some photos from the trip on our blog.
We both love to share our plant passion with you on the PDN blog and our social media sites. We originally posted only on Facebook, then Google+, Twitter, Pinterest and LinkedIn, so we created a PDN Blog as our main social media platform. Tony uses the blog to share his perspectives with you about the plant and gardening world as he sees it. The PDN blog, in turn, propagates his posts to Facebook, Google+, and Twitter and allows him to get back out in the garden and greenhouses where he finds meaningful content to share with you!
Anita manages the Juniper Level Botanic Garden website and the JLBG page at Facebook, along with the PDN and JLBG pages at Pinterest and LinkedIn. Thus far, the only issue we seem to have with social media is when the blog sends our posts to other social media sites, FB and Google+ remove the links to the plants, as well as some of the post. We have no ability to control or change this, and FB’s customer service is as responsive as asking a flat tire to change itself. Hopefully, one day we’ll discover a way to work around this challenge.
Suspending Web Ordering for Inventory June 17-18
Please note we will be closed to take plant inventory in the greenhouses on the above dates. This will require us to empty all shopping carts and suspend website ordering from 12:01am EDT on June 17 through 6:00pm EDT on June 18 in order to obtain accurate inventory numbers. We apologize for any inconvenience during inventory in June and October each year.
Taxonomy and Nomenclature
Longtime readers know Tony’s fascination with plant taxonomy and nomenclature. He always assumed plant naming and renaming had to do with science and taxonomy, but it seems that politics and nationalism are also at play. A recent example is the genus acacia, a member of the Mimosa family. It was determined in 2005 from DNA analysis that acacias from Africa and acacias from Australia were genetically different enough that they were not actually the same genus. Since the original type specimen, named by Linnaeus in 1773, was from Africa, the acacias in Australia were changed to racosperma.
What should have been cut and dried got hijacked when Australia protested, arguing that since they had so many more acacias than Africa (960 vs. 160), it would be too disruptive to change the Australian plants so Australia should get to keep the genus acacia, and a new type specimen (a replacement for the original African standard) should be declared as being from Australia. Follow me here…this would require the original African acacias to be renamed.
As it turned out, even the African acacias weren’t really all the same genus either, so they would then need to be divided anyway. This probably wouldn’t have garnered much in the way of horticultural headlines were it not for the fact that acacias are iconic cultural trees for both cultures. The result was a six-year heavyweight taxonomic and political rumble, the likes of which had never been seen before in the botanical world.
In 2005, the International Botanical Congress voted to officially give the name acacia to Australia. Africa vehemently protested, and accused the committee of stealing African Intellectual Property rights. In 2011, the International Botanical Congress, in a split decision, re-affirmed leaving Australia with the rights to acacia, and handing a still-steaming African delegation two new genera, vachellia (69 species) and senegalia (73 species), which taxonomist are still sorting out to this day. And you though taxonomy was boring!
In a recent discovery, scientists found bumblebees use electrical signals to determine which flowers have more nectar, allowing them to forage for pollen more efficiently. Bees build up positive electrical charges as they fly, which helps the pollen stick to them as they land on the flowers. Scientist found that this electrical charge is transferred to the flowers when they land to feed. Subsequent bees pick up on this electrical charge, telling the bee which flowers have already been foraged so they don’t waste their energy where little pollen will likely remain. This use of electrical signals had previously been documented in sharks, but not in insects. This fascinating research was first published in the February 21, 2013 issue of Nature magazine.
Industry mergers are back in the news this month as the 1,000,000 square foot Kentucky wholesaler Color Point (74th largest in the US) has signed a letter of intent to purchase the 3,500,000 million square foot Mid-American Growers of Illinois, which ranks number 13. Interestingly, both nurseries are owned by siblings…the two youngest sons of the famed Van Wingerden greenhouse family, who made their fortunes supplying plants to the mass market box stores.
In sad news from the gardening world, UK plantsman Adrian Bloom of Blooms of Bressingham shared the news that his wife of 48 years, Rosemary, has been diagnosed with advanced terminal cancer, falling ill after returning from a Swiss skiing trip in March. Adrian underwent prostate cancer treatment back in 2011. Please join us in sending thoughts and prayers to the Bloom family.
2014 Summer Open Nursery and Garden Days
Mark your calendar for July Summer Open Nursery and Garden Days. We’ll have the cooling mister running full blast to keep you cool while you shop for colorful and fragrant perennials for your summer garden. And of course, the greenhouses will be full of many cool plants, including echinaceas, salvias, phlox, cannas, dahlias, crinum lilies, and lots of unique ferns. JLBG is especially lush and green during the summer so come and walk the shady paths of the Woodland Garden, or cool off at the Grotto Waterfall Garden and Mystic Falls Garden. It’s always great to see you and meet you in person and to reunite with our long-time customers and friends.
Days: July 11-13 and July 18-20 Rain or Shine!
Times: Fridays and Saturdays 8a-5p, Sundays 1-5p
Southeast Palm Society at PDN/JLNG on August 9th
Just a reminder that we will be hosting the summer meeting of the Southeast Palm Society at Plant Delights Nursery/Juniper Level Botanic Garden on Saturday August 9, 2014. You are welcome to attend but you will need to register in advance by July 1, 2014. You will find the details here.
Soothing Stress in the Garden
As crazy as things have been in the nursery, the botanic garden here at Juniper Level provides a paradoxically exciting calmness. As a stress reliever, as well as a passion, we spend as much evening and weekend time as possible in the gardens viewing the amazing plants and plant combinations through the lens of our cameras. We each see the garden differently, so Anita shares her photos on the JLBG Facebook page and her Google+ profile, and Tony shares his photos on the PDN blog.
In addition to the sensory beauty and serenity of gardens large or small, researchers worldwide have documented the positive and calming benefits to the human nervous system of spending time in the garden. So relax, refresh, and restore your natural state of balance and calm by spending time in your favorite garden spot.
Until next time, happy gardening!
-tony and anita
We’ve just completed our summer inventory and as often seems to happen, some of the coolest plants didn’t sell in the numbers that we’d hoped so we’re left with extra inventory…the nature of offering so many non-mainstream plants. Consequently, and because we need space to propagate and pot new plants for spring, we’re offering those 200+ plants at 20% off. The sale plants must be ordered by midnight July 4, 2013 and scheduled to ship or be picked up no later than July 10, 2013. Quantities are limited on some items, so sale prices are only valid while current stock lasts. Because our cost of doing business is less on the website, this sale is only available for orders placed on the website.
Thanks to everyone who took the time to visit during our recent Spring Open House. In contrast to our Winter Open House, the weather was excellent and the threat of rain never materialized. We were delighted to meet visitors who came from as far away as Canada to the north and Oregon to the west. We’ll do it again in July, so we hope your vacation plans include Plant Delights, where we promise a garden and nursery both filled with amazing plants!
Despite having a very busy spring, many great plants remain, including many full pots of hostas.
If you purchased any of our hardy cypripedium ladyslipper orchids this year, you no doubt noticed the amazing, often multi-crowned plants that we were able to supply. There are still a few varieties that have not sold out.
While lots of other cool plants remain, work has already begun on the fall catalog, as descriptions are now being written on an array of very cool, exciting new plants that we’ve selected and propagated for fall.
In other good news on the plant front, our first crop of Amorphophallus paeoniifolius ‘Thailand Giant’ sold out in record time this spring, but a second crop is now ready and online. Just remember that when these are gone, they’re all gone.
In the “oops” plant category, our production assistant and resident plant nerd, Zac Hill, recently brought to my attention that the plant we originally acquired and now sell as Verbesina microptera is actually Verbesina olsenii. It turns out the true Verbesina microptera is a much smaller plant with white flowers than the massive yellow-flowered giant we grow. Time to change your tags…sorry.
Since our late spring propagation class has filled and has a waiting list, we have added a second section on Saturday August 17, from 10am – 4pm. This class will be led by PDN staff member, Aaron Selby, who is in charge of producing all of the plants sold at Plant Delights. You can sign up online here.
We empathize with those suffering from weather disasters around the country this spring. For many, the annoyance of late spring freezes and even late snows have been the worst in many years…unfortunately these weather events have been enough that we may lose more garden centers that have been hanging on by a financial thread. All this pales, however, to those who suffered the terrible tornadoes this month, especially in Moore, Oklahoma. Our thoughts and prayers go out to all of those affected!
In the “I’m from the Government and I’m here to help” section this month, comes NC House Bill 476, designed to protect underground cables. Instead, the bill makes many home gardening chores a criminal offense. The bill will ban all homeowners from digging at a depth greater than 10”, all trenching for water lines, etc, and all farm plowing greater than 12”…without first calling 811 underground utility locators and then waiting two business days which, including weekends, adds up to 4 days. The new proposed law even makes these acts illegal on your own property! Now, you may not be aware that Chapter 785 of the North Carolina Damage Prevention Act currently exempts homeowners from these requirements, except when digging in the utility easement right-of-ways. Not only is this proposed new law a further intrusion into personal property rights (don’t worry…the fine can’t exceed $2500 each time you dig), it eliminates the spontaneity that is a backbone of gardening. Let’s say you just watched a HGTV show on goldfish ponds and want to add a wildlife habitat to your back yard…sorry, a 2 day wait. How about planting that large tree you just purchased at your neighborhood garden center…a 2 day wait. That farm field or vegetable garden that finally dried out enough for some deep cultivation on Saturday…sorry, a 2 business day wait. How about your mailbox smashed by drunken teenagers on Saturday night…sorry a 2 business day wait. You all could really help us send a message that this is a bad idea, by emailing your legislator…or if you’re from out of town, just pick a name from the list that sounds interesting and sound off. To borrow the old Bartles and James line, we thank you for your support!
The garden world was shaken to its core this month with the announcement that England’s Chelsea Flower Show had agreed to temporarily rescind its long-time ban on garden gnomes for its 100 anniversary. This is the equivalent of US Open golfers being allowed to compete in Speedos and flip flops…it just doesn’t happen. Until now, gnomophobia ran rampant at Chelsea, where the only thing at Chelsea that was allowed to get in the way of the plants were the upturned noses of the UK’s gardening elite. Garden gnomes, as you may be aware, are the antithesis of everything Chelsea, since they are associated with the less tasteful gardens of the great unwashed lower class. Reportedly, many exhibitors enjoyed the relaxation of the gnome ban for a year, while others stayed as far away from the gnomes as possible. Even singer Elton John donated his famous pink rhinestone-studded sunglasses to adorn one of the gnomes auctioned for a garden education charity.
Speaking of gnomes, you may not be aware that some experts on the subject think gnomes aren’t as meek and mild as they are often portrayed in the press. Author Chuck Sambuchino has actually written a book, How to Survive a Garden Gnome Attack…I’m not making this up. If you start feeling a soft spot for gnomes and are thinking of including them in your garden, read this book first. Then, of course, there is the wonderfully educational Gnome Management in the Garden video that’s also a must see from researchers at Utah State.
Over the last hundred years, many insect plant pests have entered the country and have become major problems for gardeners and nurserymen. I’m glad to report success on one front…the Asian longhorned beetle. New Jersey is the second state to report complete eradication after an eleven-year battle…the other being Illinois in 2008. This is great news, since the Asian longhorned beetle has been reported to have eliminated 70% of the tree canopy in an infected area. So far, Asian longhorned beetle has been responsible for the death of over 80,000 trees in the US. The key is early detection and the US Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is asking for your help in watching out for and reporting sightings of this pest. You can find out more at www.HungryPests.com.
Nursery News and Happenin’s
One of the business casualties of the recession was one of the older professional nursery associations, SNA…the Southern Nursery Association. Like so many nursery businesses, SNA was slow to adjust to changing times and didn’t reduce its expenses to match its declining income. SNA was a wonderful organization, but the aspect that many of us missed the most was their event, the Southern Plant Conference. The late JC Raulston was one of the key players in getting this started as an event where plant nerds in the nursery business could get together and talk about all their new plant favorites. Finally, this year, SNA is trying the Freddie Kruger thing and resurrecting itself with a new edition of the Southern Plant Conference as the centerpiece of its new multi-day event. The new SNA Southern Plant Conference, sandwiched between the trade show and other educational sessions, will be held on August 5 at the Georgia International Conference Center across from Hartsfield Airport in Atlanta. The incredible speaker list includes: Allen Armitage, Paul Capiello, Steve Castorani, Rick Crowder, Mike Dirr, John Elsley, Joseph Hillenmeyer, John Hoffman, Richard Olsen, Tom Ranney, James Owen Reich, Ted Stephens, Brian Upchurch, Takay Uki Kobayashi of Japan, and yours truly. I sure hope to see you there. You can find out more here.
If you’re looking to manage a garden and can deal with the climate of Texas, then Peckerwood Gardens may be looking for you. The Garden Conservancy along with garden creator, John Fairey, are looking to hire a Garden Manager for their extensive property in Hempstead, Texas (outside of Houston). Since John has recently turned 80, it’s time to transfer more of the operations of the garden over to this position. You can find more about the position on their website and if interested, email a cover letter expressing interest and a resume to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Congratulations are in order to our friend, landscape artist Pearl Fryar, who on May 2, received the prestigious Verner Award from the South Carolina Arts Commission. If you’ve never been to Pearl’s topiary extravaganza in Bishopville, SC, don’t miss it while Pearl’s still around. Of all the people I’ve met in my life, I can think of no one that better embodies all that’s wonderful about our great country.
In news from the nursery world, Bob Hoffman, owner of NJ’s Fairweather Gardens mail order nursery is suspending all operations for the next year. As you may recall, Bob lost his partner Bob Popham suddenly three years ago and has been running the nursery alone since then, so a respite is sorely needed. Bob’s current plans are to rest, regroup, and re-open in a year. Enjoy the time off!
In sad news, one of the best known names in plant nerd circles passed away on May 14. Plantsman Don Jacobs, 93, had been in declining health for the last two years, battling cancer, heart failure, and a series of strokes. I always enjoyed stopping at Don’s backyard nursery in the suburbs of Atlanta and was fortunate to make a final stop in 2010, just prior to Don becoming ill. To say Don was a quirky nurseryman would be the understatement of the century, but Don’s impact on the number of rare and unusual plants available to gardeners was huge. Don ran a small mail order nursery that never published a catalog…just a single page typed list that you could only get if you requested it each year. When you ordered, Don would then propagate or divide your plant which you would receive…usually within a year or two. Don’s nursery wasn’t for gardeners without patience, but was instead for serious plantsmen who realized that rare plants were worth the wait. I always enjoyed following Don around the garden, shadowed by his pet parrot who oversaw our every step from the tree limbs above.
Few people ever took the time to chat with Don about his life, which included a PhD in Ecology from the University of Minnesota in 1944. Don taught ecology for nine years at the University of Georgia, before becoming frustrated with the university system and starting a wholesale tropical fish and pet store.The store became the largest of its kind in the Southeast US and during the 24 years he ran it he also developed and patented seven water treatment systems for aquariums, which are still used today. In 1979, Don sold his business and started a mail-order plant hobby business that he named Eco Gardens. You’ll find Don’s plants grown worldwide, most named with the cultivar prefix “Eco”, such as Viola pedata ‘Eco Artist Palette’. There was rarely a time when I visited and didn’t find other nurserymen and plant collectors from overseas that had flown to the US just to visit Don and purchase plants. Don also authored 2 books, “Know Your Aquarium Plants” (1971), and “Trilliums in Woodland and Garden; American Treasures” with his son, Rob (1997). Don is survived by his three children and their families. Those who want to honor his memory, please make donations in his name to The American Cancer Society, The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society or the American Heart Association.
Also, from the botanical world, those of us who love ferns suffered a huge loss on May 14 with the death of South Africa’s Koos Roux. Koos, 59, was the fern taxonomist at the Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden’s Compton Herbarium. Koos, an avid bicyclist and South African national cycling champion was out riding with his son, Kobus 19, when he was hit and killed in a hit and run accident. Our thoughts go out to his surviving family.
Until next month…happy gardening.
I have to begin the newsletter with a congratulations to American Idol winner, Scotty McCreery from just a few minutes up the road in Garner…well done! We wish him and all the other top contestants well as they embark on their musical careers…hope some of ‘em have an interest in gardening as well.
No doubt you’ve also heard about the tornado outbreaks this year, including the one that hit all around PDN in early April. While PDN escaped without any damage, such was not the case for other area nurserymen. Three area wholesalers took huge hits, Watson’s Nursery in Sanford, Lee and Sons in Four Oaks, and Cyn-Mar in Pine Level. All are rebuilding under very difficult financial circumstances. If you are able to help these nurseries recover, donations of money and other items can be handled through the NC Nursery and Landscape Association at http://www.ncnla.com/
After years of declining attendance at the NC Nursery and Landscape Association’s Summer Show in Charlotte, the decision was made to move the show around the state starting this year. The first version of the revamped show will take place in Raleigh from August 17-19, and we are very pleased to be included as one of the tour stops. Nursery tours are a new part of the nursery show, and there will be three different tours to choose from; a retailer tour, a nursery production tour, and a landscape tour. Although we could fit in all of the categories, we will be a part of the nursery production tour on August 19. Folks are already very excited about the new show format, which we hope will bring more visitors from around the country. If you work in the plant industry, be sure to put this on your summer 2011 schedule. You can find out more HERE
On the national nursery scene, now that the giant Hines Nurseries has emerged from bankruptcy, they have begun to sell off their assets…as I predicted last month. Hines has signed a letter of intent to sell the facilities and lease the land for both it’s 420 acre Texas operation in Fulshear (near Houston) and its 40 acre Arizona operation in Chino Valley to the formerly bankrupt, but now restructured Color Spot Nurseries…sort of incestuous, don’t you think?
I always like to check out other retailers, especially the box stores to see what they are offering. This spring, I visited one box store and found that 50% of their perennial offerings aren’t adapted to our climate. As is usually the case during my current visit last weekend, I found both good and bad. First, delphiniums should not be sold in our part of North Carolina in late May…even as annuals. Ditto for fuchsias…unless they are the heat tolerant types, which these weren’t. In the ornamental grass display, there were some nice selections, but annual varieties were mixed in with the perennial grasses. Only when you read the mice type on the tags do you notice that certain plants cannot drop below 30 degrees. One of my favorites was the nice display of Colocasia ‘Black Magic’, which was a completely different plant, Colocasia ‘Burgundy Stem’ with a leaf that will never turn black. With all the problems, they did have a great selection of vegetables. As always, I can’t stress enough to shop with folks you trust or become a vigilant consumer.
One of my pet peeves is the overuse of growth regulators to make plants in a retail setting look like something they aren’t. While growth regulators certainly have their place as a labor saving tool in ornamental plant production, they are often used to misrepresent how a plant will perform. A key for growers to be able to sell plants to garden centers and box stores, is their ability to keep the plants at a certain height in order to fit them on the shipping racks and make them look nice in the store displays. While most growth regulators will wear off later in the season, it is very important for you to check the tags of the plants you are thinking of purchasing and look at the mature height to see if the plant in question will truly fit your needs. With that said, I’ll share a recent conversation shared by nurseryman Lloyd Traven below.
Conversation at Lilytopia yesterday, among 10,000 STEMS of incredible Oriental lilies, many with 12 flowers each a FOOT across, and 4+ feet tall: “What growth regulator can I use to get these less than 18″ tall, including pot?” Response from bulb breeder—“WHY would you want to do that? The flowers will shrink to 5″, they won’t last, and the customer will think they are short varieties.” Blank stare from box store grower– “I need to fit these on a shipping rack, 3 layers minimum, all the same height and size and bloom stage.” “Maybe you should look for another product to force into a mold. We worked hard to make these magnificent, and you will make them ordinary.”
While I’m sharing funny things, I enjoyed a purported conversation between a yellow pitcher plant (Sarracenia flava) and a white top pitcher plant (Sarracenia leucophylla), overheard recently on a carnivorous plant forum…”Leuc, I am your Flava.”.
If you’re ever put in charge of securing speakers for a gardening event, a new website may help make your job much easier. http://www.GreatGardenSpeakers.com. is a new site assembled by a group of garden speakers to be a complete resource to help folks find, contact, and hire garden speakers. There is even a place on the site where you can rate and comment on your favorite speakers, just like when you buy products from the web. Since the site is fairly new, there isn’t a tremendous number of comments, but you could greatly help others by adding your comments to both your favorite and least favorite speakers.
PDN is unfortunately losing one of our next door neighbors, who are needing to sell their home due to family issues, so if you’d like to live next door to PDN, check out their listing below…we are obviously looking for nice people who like plants! Click to View
One of the biggest gardening curses these days is the overpopulation of deer. While I’ve always advocated a hedge that deer won’t eat (i.e. Nellie Stevens holly) or a black plastic deer fence, some folks just desire a more dramatic solution, and others seem to just need something to complain about. So, for those of you who don’t have enough drama in your lives, check out Team Backyard Bow Pro. Team Backyard Bow Pro is a national organization of ethical, licensed bow hunters that work with landowners (especially farmers) to solve deer damage problems, while feeding the hungry. Trust me…there’s nothing better than hosta-fed venison.
One of the great joys of Facebook is that we can now share favorite garden plants when they are at their peak at PDN. This year, for example, we have five agave (century plants) that will be flowering soon. We’ll post more on Facebook as they open, and times that folks in the area can come by and see them in person. Be sure and check out all the cool things happening in the garden in real time on our Facebook Page!
It’s been a fun spring in the garden, with so much going on, it’s hard to describe it all. I’m writing more of the e-newsletter on our back patio to be closer to the plants, and of course, for inspiration. One of the down sides in spring, however, is the deafening cacophony of out-of-tune frog species that begin their evening serenade just as dusk settles. Tonight, I was enjoying the first chorus of dueling frogs near my chair, when in the middle of a solo, one voice went suddenly soprano, then silent. I looked up to find our cat Zirconia with a “not me” look on his face, all the while a giant white belly and two narrow legs dangled from his much too small mouth. So, are frogs considered seafood?
We’ve had another amazing year of amorphophallus flowering in the garden, and because of having so many species in flower at once (apologies to the neighbors…please don’t call the Department of Environmental Resources Air Quality Unit) we’ve been busy with our pollinating brushes. Who knows what hardy amorphophallus hybrids might be in your future. Of course, remember that most species don’t flower and produce a leaf stalk in the same year. The amount of energy required to produce the flower stalk is about all the tuber can stand in one season. Visit our Amorphophallus page!
Crinum season is just getting into full swing as more and more selections open daily. This year, we’re keeping a flowering time log, which we will post at seasons end. Crinum ‘Mrs. James Hendry’ opened this week with its tall spikes of amazingly fragrant flowers, and the giant Crinum ‘Super Ellen’ just sent up its first flower scape this week. Nearly all of the wonderful striped-flower Crinum x herbertii flowers are open now, so it’s a virtual kaleidoscope of color in the garden. Remember that many of the crinums are much more winter hardy than you think, with many performing just fine into Zone 5, so be sure check out our extensive offerings of these hard-to-find passalong gems. Visit our Crinum page!
The wonderful hybrid echinaceas are back up and the flowering show is just beginning. The first to open for us is Echinacea ‘Hot Papaya’, followed by Echinacea ‘Maui Sunshine’ and Echinacea ‘Gum Drop’ with Echinacea ‘Tomato Soup’ not far behind. As we’ve mentioned before, the key to being successful with the new echinaceas in the ground is well-drained soils, especially in the winter months. In containers, they are much more iffy, as the potting soils tend to hold too much water. Visit our Echinacea page!
While everyone is enamored with “flowers”, I hope you won’t forget the wonderful textural plants of the garden, such as one of my favorites…the genus carex. Carex, or sedges as they are often referred to, are ornamental grasses primarily for shade. Most sedges are evergreen, and their ability to blend with other woodland plants is legendary. Carex come in an array of textures, from the wide-leaf Carex siderosticta to the narrow-leaf Carex morrowii v. temnolepis. Although many folks don’t notice the flowers, they are quite fascinating. Many species of carex are spring bloomers, and here, they are actually in full flower now with fascinating stalks of tiny tan flowers. Whether your conditions are moist or dry, sun or shade, you can find a carex that fits your spot. Maybe one day, we’ll actually have enough interested folks to start a carex chat group. Visit our Carex page!
There are so many other cool plants that I could go on for pages, but instead, I’ll cover these on Facebook, so be sure to become a fan! We’ve also added a few new plants to the catalog , most in limited supply, so check ‘em out at Added May 26, 2011
Remember that you can now follow the Top 25 Best Sellers live at http://www.plantdelights.com/top25.asp
Greetings from PDN! Thanks to everyone who visited our Summer Open House, especially those from the distant locales of New York, Michigan, Florida, Brazil, and even Algeria. It was very cool to chat with one of our brave soldiers, who was home on break from Afghanistan’s Bagram Air Force Base. He was particularly interested to learn that we grow a couple of Afghan native plants, including the bizarre Ficus afghanistanica.
There are probably quite a few other plants that we could grow from Afghanistan, although the prospects of botanizing there look grim for the foreseeable future. Interestingly, Bagram Air Force Base sits just below 5,000′ elevation, and is the same latitude as Greenville, South Carolina, so the prospects of a climate match is quite good.
We’re still experiencing some shipping delays due to seemingly incessant heat, so we thank you for your patience. Since we are dealing with live plants and we want them to arrive at your garden that way, we are simply unable to ship when the temperatures exceed much more than 90 degrees F. If our yearly averages hold, we are overdue for some cooler days soon.
We’ve spent much of the last month working on our fall catalog, deciding which plants to offer and which plants didn’t make the cut. We are very excited with our new offerings which you will see when our catalog goes in the mail in another week. Among our many exciting new introductions are five new rain lilies from Indonesia breeder Fadjar Marta. Fadjar continues to expand what we thought was impossible in the genus zephyranthes with these first new releases since 2007. You can see images of our entire rain lily collection including those slated for Fall 2010 and Spring 2011 introduction by clicking here.
In other plant news, let’s talk about Echinacea ‘Pink Poodle’, which we first listed in 2009. Well, as we say in the nursery business…woof, woof, woof. Yes, the name “Poodle” should have clued us in, but indeed, it turned out to be a real dog. While we first trial almost all of the new plants that we offer, there are a small number that we will occasionally list from trusted breeders, or from where we regularly monitor certain breeding programs. On a very rare occasion we find that a stray dog has made it into the nursery and such was the case with Echinacea ‘Pink Poodle’. After two years in our garden, only one flower out of several hundred turned out to be the nice double that was pictured by the breeder. The rest resembled the insanely ugly Echinacea ‘Doppelganger’, which must be in its parentage. Anyway, we have discarded our remaining stock and are offering credits to anyone who purchased this from us…just contact our office at email@example.com. We apologize for letting this one get past us.
Here at PDN, we’ve celebrated a milestone recently, as our database indicates that we have now passed the 20,000 mark for killing plants. 20,194 dead accessions (different plants) is actually our current total, so don’t even think about complaining that you have a brown thumb. Our dead/alive plant rate now stands around 50%, but since our goal is trialing, experimenting, and learning the possible parameters under which each plant will grow, these numbers are actually a good thing. Granted, if you look at the numbers from our cost for purchasing all of those plants, perhaps one might not consider this a success, but this is what allows us to offer better and often different cultural information than what you might normally read. I’m constantly reminded of the late Dr. J.C. Raulston’s quote, “If you’re not killing plants, you’re not growing as a gardener.” No truer words were ever spoken. I wonder if the Guinness Book of World Records has a category that we fit into?
So, why do plants die? Obviously, there are many causes, and sometimes isolating the specific reason isn’t as easy as we would like. When confronted with a dead plant, especially one planted within the last couple of years, the first step is to inspect the root system. Just like humans, plant autopsies must be done as soon as possible after death to get meaningful results. If you tug on the dead stem, you will find one of three things…no root system remaining, a root system that has never emerged from the original root ball/container shape, or roots which have spread nicely into the surrounding soil.
If you encounter no roots, then the roots were probably either eaten by a vole (thumb sized tunnel will be found nearby) or the roots rotted, which often indicates a poorly drained soil or soil borne disease. If the roots are still in the form of the original container, your plant dried up and died due to poor planting practices. Plants in containers are grown primarily in pine bark, and during the growing season in a nursery they are typically watered at least twice every day…anything less and the plant dies. By not breaking up the root ball and removing most of the potting soil, the roots assume they are still in the pot. It is virtually impossible to apply enough water to keep the root ball moist once it has been planted. If you are able to water enough to keep the root ball moist, the surrounding ground will most likely then be too wet.
When the roots on dead plants have grown out into the surrounding soil, it is more difficult to diagnose the cause, due to the large number of potential problems. These include adaptability in your climate, improper growing conditions, toxins in the surrounding soil, diseases, and propagation issues (i.e. on cutting propagated perennials, not having a growth bud below the soil surface).
At Plant Delights we try to determine the hardiness zone limits, so we kill quite a few plants simply because they aren’t winter or heat hardy in our climate. That being said, you can’t automatically assume that a plant isn’t hardy in a particular climate just because it dies once or even twice. Often, we kill the same plant several times until we get it in exactly the right location. Sometimes it’s just a matter of moving the plant a few feet away for it to be successful. Dr. Raulston once mentioned in a lecture that it was impossible to grow Romneya coulteri (California Poppy) in our climate. We took up the challenge and killed 15 plants over a 20 year period before we succeeded in getting it established. We could have easily given up after the first couple of times and assumed like everyone else that it simply didn’t like our climate.
Many plants were very late to emerge this summer, including many of our curcumas, bananas, and elephant ears. Our Colocasia ‘Illustris’ didn’t emerge until late July and some of our bananas didn’t resprout until mid-July. Obviously, the length of time the ground was frozen this winter had a great effect on many of our “hardy tropicals”. I was recently comparing colocasia survival notes with our neighbor and noted aroid expert Alan Galloway, bemoaning the fact that several of our colocasia, most notably Colocasia ‘Mojito’ and Colocasia ‘Diamond Head’, had died in what was a relatively mild winter…except for the long duration of frozen ground. Alan, who lives less than a mile away, had good survival on all of the plants we lost. He explained that the had noticed for years that elephant ear tubers work their way up through the soil, and after three years the tubers rise to the soil surface where they are most likely to be killed. He plants all his elephant ears 6-8″ deep, and in the fall re-checks the tubers after the first frost, replanting any shallow tubers. This is the obvious explanation why we would sometimes lose well-established colocasias during a seemingly mild winter. We are therefore changing our planting recommendations for elephant ears.
As a nursery, dying plants also create a problem when dealing with narcissistic gardeners, who by their nature, must blame their lack of success on someone else. We dealt with a particularly unintelligent gardener last year who, between constantly repeating his gardening credentials, insisted that it was our fault that several of his plants which came from us died…all after growing fine for an entire season. This lack of common sense kept the gardener from looking for what might have actually gone wrong. Several years ago we had another gardener who purchased plants at an Open House day and proceeded to leave them in her closed car while she stopped to shop on the way home…on a day when the temperature topped 100 degrees F. Sadly, this customer was also unwilling to take any responsibility for her lack of common sense and demanded that it was our fault. Thank goodness it wasn’t children that she left in the car.
While plants may not always die immediately, they often grow for a few years and then decline in health. Evaluating your garden conditions is the best place to start when your plants fail to thrive. Factors in their decline include changes in root competition, the amount of overhead light, soil nutrient balance, soil moisture, and the balance of fungi/bacteria in the soil. Many gardeners miss subtle changes such as these, which happen slowly over time. I recommend testing your soil every 2-3 years to keep an eye on soil nutrition. Remember that some short-lived plants prefer a soil that has a higher bacterial/fungal content. When soil is disturbed/tilled, the balance of bacteria as compared to fungi increases, since fungi resent soil disturbance. Conversely, the longer a soil stays undisturbed, the higher the fungi content becomes as compared to the bacterial population which favors longer lived plants. Other plants simply like to be divided every few years…great examples are farfugiums, daylilies, and Japanese iris. Because of these factors, we’ve been spending quite a bit of time this summer moving plants that were no longer performing as they should.
When moving plants in the summer, the key to success is good irrigation after the plants are transplanted. Obviously, soil moisture is important, but equally so is keeping some moisture on the foliage until the plants are re-established. For this purpose, I like to use sprinkler hoses. Compared to a drip hose, which leaks water under low pressure, sprinkler hoses spray tiny, short, fine streams of water at a slightly higher pressure, creating a modified misting effect. Sprinkler hoses can be used right side up or upside down, depending on the desired effect. Unfortunately, most of the sprinkler hoses available are cheap, very poor quality hoses such as what you will often find at the big box stores, where the price point is far more important than quality. My experience echoed the online reviews I found, describing cheap hoses which rarely lasted more than 1-2 waterings before becoming worthless when the holes blew out, resulting in no watering at the far end of the hose and a flood at the front end. My search led me to Flexon™ brand sprinkler hoses, which have performed wonderfully.
After transplanting a bed of plants, which we did in 100 degree F temperatures, we hooked a battery-powered timer to the faucet along with a string of sprinkler hoses. Most waterings are only 1-2 minutes long, but are repeated several times per day to keep the foliage moist while the plants re-root. Longer waterings to keep the soil from drying might be needed only once or twice per week.
We recently got a note from Wall Street Journal garden writer Anne Marie Chaker, who is working on a story about zone-denial gardening. She’s looking for hard-core gardeners who love to push the limits on what is possible in their zones. If you fit the bill and would like to be part of the story, please contact Anne Marie at firstname.lastname@example.org
In yet another massive collapse in the horticultural industry, Skinner Nursery has now joined the all-to-long list of nurseries taken down by the recent faltering economy. Skinner Nurseries began its life in 1973 as a wholesale nursery in Jacksonville, Florida started by real estate developer Byrant B. Skinner Sr. In the late 1990s the company began expanding as a plant distribution center, quickly becoming one of the largest in the country, with 22 locations (2007) in seven southeast states. The original wholesale division, now encompassing 1300 acres in Florida, was renamed Flagler Wholesale Nursery and was run by brothers Russell and Bryant Skinner.
In 2005, Skinner Nurseries ranked No. 4 on The Jacksonville Business Journal’s Fastest-Growing Private Companies list. Company revenues increased from $12.4 million in 2000 to $110 million by 2007. Prestigious landscape projects included the J.C. Penney headquarters in Texas, the Merrill Lynch Southeast headquarters in Florida, the Jacksonville, Florida Municipal Stadium; the PGA World Golf Village and Hall of Fame in Florida, and the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta. The company had done so well financially that they even got into stock car racing sponsorship (FASCAR) in 2007. Despite the slowing economy, Skinner was determined (obviously too much so) to expand and open new distribution centers until 2008, when the “nursery-friendly” folks at Wachovia slashed their line of credit. While a few of the Skinner Nursery sites were sold to other nurseries, most were just shuttered. As is usual in these cases, there is a ripple down effect to suppliers who never got paid. Since Skinner Nurseries never filed for bankruptcy protection, it is unclear if enough funds remain to pay all of the vendors…we certainly hope so. As of press time, it appears that the stock at Flagler Wholesale Nursery could also be headed for auction. Surely the bankers learned something after the Carolina Nurseries auction debacle…you can’t auction plants into an already saturated market at anything but giveaway prices.
In other sad gardening news, Diana Nicholls, 65, longtime owner of Nicholls Gardens in Gainesville, Virginia, (not to be confused with Nichols Garden Nursery), passed away suddenly on June 1, due to anaphylactic shock caused by an insect sting. Nicholls Gardens was a mail-order nursery specializing in iris, peony, and hosta. Our condolences go out to Diana’s extended family.
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 www.harlandhandgarden.com. 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 www.westernhillsnursery.com. If you know of anyone who might be interested in either of these properties, contact the Garden Conservancy at email@example.com.
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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So far, it’s been a great spring in Raleigh as we just missed a late spring frost when the temperature dropped to 33 degrees F on March 27, after 3+ weeks of above freezing temperatures. We’ve got a couple weeks that could still have a killing frost, so we’re keeping our fingers…and other body parts crossed until then. I recently returned from speaking to a great group in northwest Arkansas, who weren’t as lucky. Despite being 70 degrees F when I first arrived, I left just before a snowstorm dropped a foot of snow on the region and adjacent to Oklahoma. The area is still recovering from a massive ice storm 2 years earlier that left the region looking like low-end tree pruning firms had a citywide special on tree topping.
We’ve just added a batch of new plants to the web, most are available in a limited supply including some fabulous new hellebores from both Ernie and Marietta O’Byrne ( the Winter Jewels Series), and from Glenn Withey and Charles Price ( the Mardi Gras Series). These amazing plants are not to be missed if you like cool hellebores. We’ve got a small number of the always popular Disporum flavens that we can spare and, as promised, we have a few of the miniature Narcissus ‘Julia Jane’ for those who have a predilection for cute, dwarf narcissus. Four arisaemas have also just been added: A. concinnum, A. kishidae ‘Jack Frost’, A. kiushianum, and our US native, A. triphyllum. Finally, we have a few plants to spare of the amazing golden-leaf bleeding heart, Dicentra ‘Goldheart’, which we haven’t offered in several years.
Click for Web or Open House Only Plants It’s interesting each season to watch what sells and what doesn’t. There are always a few surprises in both directions and topping this year’s list of “why don’t you like me?” is Chrysosplenium macrophyllum. It’s taken us Epimedium grandiflorum ‘Purple Prince’ (Fairy Wings) 10 years to build up enough stock and so far, only 2 of you have indulged. Okay, it’s pretty esoteric and granted, we don’t have any idea how far north it will survive, but how are we going to find out unless you give this plant a try? So, what happened to Epimedium grandiflorum ‘Purple Prince’, which has sold well in the past, but is feeling no love this spring? Perhaps we need to learn Photoshop™, to enhance the image color like one of the Dutch catalogs I was looking through this weekend. I wonder how many folks realize that they are being enticed by totally unrealistic enhancements. I actually thought that using unrealistic enhancements to attract mates for money was illegal …hmmm.
There’s nothing like plant name changes to get gardeners riled up, but these come about due to a variety of different reasons. Just because one taxonomist decides a plant deserves a new name, we don’t jump up and immediately make the change. We give these changes little attention until we have time to study the research to see if it makes sense with our personal experiences. In many cases, these name changes are reversed years later, causing those who want to be the first to jump on a passing bandwagon, to jump off again, and leaving everyone else thoroughly confused. A good example is that of the aroid Sauromatum venosum. In 2000, a couple of my aroid buddies (Aroidiana Volume 23, pg. 48) decided their research showed that sauromatum was actually a typhonium, and subsequently did away with the genus sauromatum. To us, something about that just didn’t smell right…a little aroid pun. Fast forward a decade later and guess what? Sauromatum is being reinstated as a genus and Sauromatum venosum is being moved out of typhonium and back into sauromatum. Note to all of you folks who jumped on the earlier bandwagon…it’s time to disembark. We have the same thoughts about the lumping of cimicifuga into actaea…someone was sniffing too much herbarium dust.
This brings me to the latest taxonomic snafu…trachycarpus palms. For years, we have grown three primary species: Trachycarpus fortunei, Trachycarpus takil, and Trachycarpus wagnerianus. There have been extensive articles written about Trachycarpus takil and the trek to find the real plant to gather seed (Princeps 37(1) 1993, pp 19-25). Guess what we learned in 2009? They gathered seed off the wrong plants. It turns out that virtually everything in cultivation and in writings about Trachycarpus takil is actually a form of Trachycarpus fortunei from the Indian town of Nanital, so this plant is now referred to as Trachycarpus fortunei ‘Nanital’. Although this represents a name change, it is quite different from the example above because this is simply a correction of an earlier error.
While we’re discussing trachycarpus, another problem plant is Trachycarpus wagnerianus. This species was described from a single plant that was being cultivated in Japan and has never been seen or documented in the wild. This is a classic example of poor taxonomy, but was accepted for decades in the past when the opportunity for field studies was more difficult. It is our own and other palm growers contention that this is nothing more than a compact form of Trachycarpus fortunei and therefore, we are changing its name to Trachycarpus fortunei ‘Wagnerianus’. This is not something new, having been proposed since 1977 (Principes Vol 21, 1977, pp. 155-160). I hope these examples illustrate the methods behind the name changing madness, and that all name changes aren’t created equal.
In news from the botanic garden world, Dr. Peter Wyse Jackson, 55, has been selected as the next director of the Missouri Botanic Garden, succeeding Dr. Peter Raven, who had previously announced his retirement. At least the staff won’t have to learn a new name since Peter will be following Peter…there’s probably a great joke in there, but I digress. Jackson is currently Director of the Dublin Botanic Garden in his native Ireland but will assume the directorship of MOBOT (as it is known in botanical circles) on September 1, 2010 and will work alongside Peter Raven until July 2011.
We also recently learned that our good friend, Viki Ferennia, author of Wildflowers in Your Garden (1993), and former assistant horticulturist at Wayside Gardens has taken over as the lead horticulturist at Ohio’s Holden Arboretum. It’s great to have Viki back in public horticulture…congratulations!
The Scott Arboretum has announced Bill McNamara of California’s Quarryhill Botanic Garden as the winner of the prestigious 2010 Scott Medal. I’ve had the pleasure of visiting Quarryhill several times and it was great to have Bill finally visit PDN in 2006. Bill has managed the gardens since their inception by the late Jane Jansen who, in 1987, turned part of her vineyard into a repository for wild-collected Asian native plants. Quarryhill is located in the Napa Valley region of California, and if Asian plants are your interest, be sure to drop by when you are in the area.
I was saddened to learn that my longtime friend and sedum breeder, Edward (Crazy Ed) Skrocki passed away on March 23 at the age of 79, only weeks after he was diagnosed with a very aggressive form of cancer. Ed is survived by his sister, Doris Skok of Pennsylvania as well as four nieces and nephews.
Ed was a fascinating man (and I don’t use the term lightly) and the type of character that I also find truly interesting. I first visited Ed 20 years ago on his 30 acre farm in Southington, Ohio (just outside of Cleveland). We pulled up to find a 90lb man in a bee suit – black spandex shorts, a yellow and black striped shirt, and bobbing antennas attached to his head…out pollinating sempervivums (hens and chickens). At the time, Ed claimed to have over 3000 named varieties of sempervivums. Eddie was an eclectic collector of plants with his specialties including hosta, ajuga, sedums, orostachys, and sempervivums. Some of his sempervivum introductions that are still on the market include S. ‘Bedivere’, S. ‘Circus’, S. ‘Climax’, S. ‘Flamingo’, S. ‘Gizmo’, S. ‘Grape Tone’, S. ‘Happy’, S. ‘Icycle’, S. ‘Jewel Case’, S. ‘Kip’, S. ‘Lively Bug’, S. ‘Mars’, S. ‘Montage’, S. ‘Ohioan’, S. ‘Pink Cloud’, S. ‘Royal Ruby’, S. ‘Rubikon Improved’, S. ‘Skrocki’s Bronze’, S. ‘Spanish Dancer’, S. ‘Starshine’, S. ‘Streaker’, S. ‘Utopia’, and S. ‘Witchery’ …to mention a few.
My first trip to have lunch with Ed was in his nursery delivery vehicle.an old Cadillac hearse which drew stares wherever we parked. During the same first trip, Ed took us to see his neighbor, Mike Tyson…yes, the boxer, and although he wasn’t home, we did get to see his massive estate. Ed was also a collector of old cars, in particular hearses and Packards. Ed could often be found selling Packard parts at car shows in the 1980s.
Ed was able to acquire many species of sedums from collectors in China and Germany before anyone else, because he was able to trade on the huge black market for nude matchbook covers (I’m not making this up) in those countries. One of my favorite sedums, Sedum tetractinum, which is now sold around the country, is only in the country because of Ed’s trading prowess. His matchbook cover collection was legendary, and only expanded years ago when his garbage man told him of a widow in Cleveland who discarded boxes of matchbook covers which Ed immediately purchased for a few hundred dollars. Ed estimated there were over 1 million books, all between 1930 and 1960. Ed had a penchant for turning trash into treasure. I remember when he cleared around his pond one year in the late 1980s and subsequently painted bundles of brush, covered them with glitter and voila…glitter twigs, of which he sold thousands.
Did I mention that Ed dug three wells to have water to irrigate his nursery, but to his dismay, he hit natural gas all three times, and finally resorted to buying his water? Ed had a large property that he rented out for groups…he liked to tell folks that he rented the property to gay groups in the summer and straight groups in the winter. Some folks weren’t quite sure how to take Ed, and he frightened off many young men as he jokingly threatened to let the air out of their tires so they couldn’t leave.
Ed allowed us to introduce two of his hosta seedlings to the market, Hosta ‘Patrician’ in 1993 and Hosta ‘Cadillac’ in 1998. Several years ago, I finally persuaded a reluctant Ed to appear on Erica Glasener’s television series, “Gardener’s Diary”. Ed claimed to be miserable doing the show until the finished tapes arrived, which he proudly sent around the world to all of his plant friends. If you ever get to see the show, watch for the repeat of Ed’s fascinating segment. For those of us who corresponded with Ed and received his exhaustive handwritten notes on his trademark pea-soup-green paper, he will be sorely missed…the plant world has lost another of its true characters.
In the “I’m from the government and I’m here to help” files, The National Invasive Species Information Center has reported a new bill regarding invasive plant species has been entered in the Maryland General Assembly. The introduction and reading of this new bill will, according to their website, “…designates 45 plant species as invasive plants and authorizes the Maryland Department of Agriculture to designate additional species of plants as “invasive”, requires retail outlets and landscapers to provide certain disclosures regarding invasive plants and makes a violation of the law a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of $500. See Maryland Noxious Weed I.D. (PDF | 500 KB) for the 6 plant species currently regulated in Maryland.” The text in the link also includes a list of the 45 plants which will be designated as “invasive”.
Obviously, the folks who put together this list are nothing more than a bunch of ethnic cleansing eco-nazis, since many of the plants are indeed weeds. Only a few rise to the level of truly invasive plants…those which invade a natural functioning ecosystems, displace natives once population equilibrium has been reached. We used to say that these plants naturalized well which was a selling point. There is a concerted effort by a small but vocal group of folks to use ethnic profiling to limit the use of plants that don’t fit their narrow view of what is acceptably indigenous at their mystically established point in time. Of course, if they really wanted to be taken seriously, that list should first include humans, European honeybees, and earthworms …which are all terribly invasive and unmistakably alien.
As part of our educational mission, we continue to add newly written plant articles to the website. You can find our most recent additions by clicking on the links below. Feel free to link to any of these from your own website and share with friends who may also be interested.
Cypripedium Orchids – Does the Lady Slipper Fit Your Garden? www.cypripediumladyslipperorchid.com (Note: That URL has been retired, The replacement is https://www.plantdelights.com/blogs/articles/cypripedium-orchids)
Buddleia – The Butterfly Bush www.buddleiabutterflybush.com (Note: That URL has been retired, The replacement is https://www.plantdelights.com/blogs/articles/buddleia-davidii-the-butterfly-bush)
Ringing the Coral Bells – The Heuchera and xHeucherella Story www.heucheracoralbells.com (Note: That URL has been retired, The replacement is https://www.plantdelights.com/blogs/articles/ringing-the-coral-bells)
Tiarella – A Crown in the Garden www.tiarellafoamflower.com (Note: That URL has been retired, The replacement is https://www.plantdelights.com/blogs/articles/tiarella-foam-flower)
Hardy Terrestrial Orchids for Southeast Gardens www.hardyorchidplants.com (Note: That URL has been retired, The replacement is https://www.plantdelights.com/blogs/articles/hardy-orchids-in-the-garden)
Echinacea Explosion – The Coneflower Chronicles www.echinaceaconeflower.com (Note: That URL has been retired, The replacement is https://www.plantdelights.com/blogs/articles/echinacea-chronicles-of-the-coneflower-plant)
Winter Hardy Palms for Temperate Gardens www.hardypalm.net (Note: That URL has been retired, The replacement is https://www.plantdelights.com/blogs/articles/cold-hardy-palms-for-temperate-gardens)
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Whew…we made it though another year thanks to those of you who stuck with us during the last couple of years, when everyone’s budget was stretched to the point of breaking. I’m sure we’re all tired of the declines of the last few years and hope 2010 is the year that we all begin the climb back up the financial hill. In that vein, the 2010 Plant Delights Nursery catalogs have just been mailed and the website at http://www.plantdelights.com has been updated. We hope you enjoy the new and returning plants that we’ve selected for this year’s catalog.
Congratulations to Blake Shreeve of Arizona, the winner of our 2009 Top 25 Contest. Blake will receive a $250 PDN gift certificate for his efforts. Blake had the lowest score in predicting the Top 25 best selling plants of 2009. If you would like to enter the contest for 2010, go to www.plantdelights.com/New/contest.html and enter. There’s no cost to enter, and it doesn’t put you on any email lists to receive body enhancement supplements…only the chance to win the $250 gift certificate. 2010 entries must be completed by February 15, 2010. The final list for 2009 is at the end of the newsletter.
We’d also like to congratulate PDN plant records coordinator, Dennis Carey, who has published his first book. Dennis’s book, The Effect of Cytokinins on Ornamental Crops is a modified version of his Masters thesis. If you’re a plant science geek, live alone, have no social life, and are looking for some bedtime reading, you can order your copy at Amazon.
In the nomenclature corrections department is Opuntia ellisiana ‘Burbank Spineless’. If you’ve ordered this from us in the past, you’ll need to change the tag…if you care about that sort of thing. Thanks to Scott Ogden and David Ferguson for pointing out a major error…the plant we offered as ‘Burbank Spineless’ is the wrong plant. Burbank’s plant is a form of the less hardy O. ficus-indica. Our plant is a spineless selection of the US/Mexican native O. cacanapa named ‘Ellisiana’. Same plant…different name.
Although winter was late getting started in NC, it’s in full force now as well throughout most of the country. We’ve been telling anyone who would listen for years, that we were nearing the end of our 15-year warm cycle and entering a 15-year cold cycle, but many folks dismiss the idea, while continuing to drink the global warming Koolaid. The 15-20 year up and down cycles have actually been fairly consistent over the last 5000 years, despite “human control”. I know some gardeners in Portland, Oregon who are wishing for global warming after experiencing a December low of 8 degrees F, after having only had a few frosts over the last decade. We should be getting some really good hardiness data out of that plant-rich gardening mecca.
Those who remember the late JC Raulston, and had the opportunity to visit his amazing modernistic home in downtown Raleigh, may be interested to know that the house is for sale. For those who never visited his home, JC took an old abandoned brick warehouse and had it converted into a spacious “California” style interior. JC’s will left his house to a local AIDS organization, who in turn sold it to a Canadian couple, who have recently been transferred back to Canada. So, if you’d like to own a very special home and have a spare $889,000, check out this link.
In some of the saddest and strangest news of the month, we regret to report the death of nurseryman Tom Van Wingerden, who was killed in a Gator utility vehicle accident inside his greenhouse. I know, you’re probably asking yourself how you can have a wreck inside a greenhouse, but then you’ve never seen Tom’s greenhouse, Metrolina, near Charlotte. Tom’s greenhouse has a staff of 600 full-time employees, generates $125 million in annual sales to mass-marketers, and covers a mind-boggling 150 acres…that’s right…one greenhouse. Whether or not you’ve heard of Tom before, he or a member of his family has probably influenced your gardening life. Think of Metrolina as the Southwest Airlines of the bedding plant world, with the goal of driving prices down through efficiency. Tom’s dad, Aart Van Wingerden, a 1946 Dutch immigrant, started a greenhouse operation near Asheville, NC and he and his wife, Cora, proceeded to raise 16 children, most of whom now run huge greenhouse operations around the country. Tom’s mechanized inventions not only kept his costs low, but also made it possible for other greenhouse growers to produce more with less input, therefore keeping the cost of bedding plants and seasonal flowers at an amazingly low level. If you’re ever in an East Coast mass market garden center, look for the name “Metrolina” on the plant carts or on the large delivery trucks. Tom will be sorely missed. You can read more at GrowerTalks Magazine website.
Unfortunately the PDN family also ended 2009 on a sad note with the loss of one of our nursery cats, Diamond, who passed away yesterday after a battle with bone marrow cancer. Diamond was 13 years old. She is survived by sisters Ruby, Pearl, and brother Zirconia.
As I mentioned last month, Echinacea ‘Tomato Soup’ hung on to knock Colocasia ‘Thailand Giant’ out of the top spot for the first time in four years. Two other elephant ears made the list, Colocasia ‘Mojito’ in 3rd place and Alocasia ‘Portadora’ in 20th. It was also good to see two ferns make the list from a great group of plants that often struggle for garden recognition alongside their more flowery cousins.
I.ll stop here and let you get back to enjoying the new catalog online…you should be seeing your printed copy in the mail very shortly. 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!
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If you’ve been delaying placing your final order for 2009, our shipping season is drawing to a close. The week of Nov 30-Dec 4 represents your last chance to have an order shipped until we start up again in mid-February. That being said, we will do what we can to accommodate horticultural emergencies that crop up in the interim time. With the holidays rapidly approaching, we can help your shopping chores with a Plant Delights Nursery gift certificate for those plant lovers in your family. You can order by phone, mail, or on-line 24 hours a day at www.plantdelights.com
We are thrilled to have been featured in the current issue of Total Landscape Care magazine. If you’re into that sort of thing, you can read the on-line version at www.totallandscapecare.net and click on “View the Current Digital Version”.
It’s been a relatively calm weather year in the Southeast, despite hurricane models and global warming alarmists predicting the opposite. We were actually blessed to have the remnants of Hurricane Ida pass through the area last week and leave us with nearly 5 inches of rain … our recently installed drainage system in the new garden section got a great test. While we were starting to get a bit dry before the rain, folks to the south and just west of us had the opposite problem this year.
Our friends in the Atlanta area had endured four years of drought, but on Thursday October 15, Georgia’s Lake Lanier, which provides water to Atlanta, finally rose above the full mark for the first time since September 2005. The recent record droughts had dropped the lake level down to its historical lows of 18.9′ below full on December 28, 2007. Many residents of Atlanta had given up hope that the lake would ever refill completely, but finally, gardeners and nurseries in the area can breathe a sigh of relief as the lake is now 2′ above normal.
Denver also got their share of moisture this fall, only in the frozen form. On October 29, a massive front dropped 18″-24″ (more in surrounding areas) of snow on the Denver Colorado and adjacent areas. That would put a serious dent in your fall gardening. This is the most snow ever recorded for October in Denver … I’m sure manmade global warming must have caused it.
As I’ve mentioned in the past, this is the season we spend nearly every waking minute working on the new catalog. We just passed the three-week period we refer to as “hell weeks,” where life as we know it ceases to exist; due in large part to a series of rapid-fire catalog deadlines. The text is now completed, the photographs are all selected, and the catalog is in the midst of design layout. If all goes well from here, catalogs will go in the mail on January 1.
Because of the catalog, I haven’t had much time recently to spend in the garden, which is a shame because we’ve had a wonderful fall and only a tiny corner of the garden has been frosted. This means we are enjoying the flowers on both the giant tree dahlia, as well as the giant Hibiscus mutabilis. We love both plants because of their wonderful structure and height in the garden, despite not getting flowers every year due to early frosts.
Another perennial that isn’t recognized enough for fall flowers are the wonderful farfugiums (leopard plant). Although they are normally grown for their unusual foliage, there are few plants better for a fall floral show. Many folks may only get a few flowers, and this is due to growing them in too much shade. To get the best floral display, site your plants where they get a couple of hours of sun during the day and grow them in soil that stays reasonably moist. If you do, you’ll be rewarded with a stunning fall array of 3′ tall spikes of attractive yellow daisies that rival any garden mum.
Farfugium – Leopard Plant
If you hadn’t noticed, we’re pretty particular about nomenclature, and to that end, we’d like to pass along a few discoveries this fall that will change a couple of currently used cultivar names. First, Farfugium ‘Jitsuko’s Star’ turned out to be an old Japanese cultivar, F. ‘Yaezaki’ and similarly, Ophiopogon ‘Little Tabby’, was discovered to be a Japanese cultivar, O. ‘Haku ryu Ko’. We apologize for the incorrect listings, but planting plants isn’t the only thing that requires lots of digging.
When I first got hooked (not literally) on agaves, I was frustrated at the amount of good information about the genus, so in 2004, we invited 10 others with similar interest to rendevous in California for what we dubbed, “Agave Summit I.” Since that time, the interest in agaves has risen dramatically and last month, a group of 30 of us met again for “Agave Summit II,” this time outside San Diego. The purpose of our meetings is to present differing views on agave nomenclature, discuss the newest discoveries, share techniques of agave culture, and trade plants. It is through this amazing underground network that many new agaves make it into the pipeline toward commercial production. It is our hope to continue with these meetings every 4 years as the interest in agaves continues to grow.
If you happen to be reading this near the Raleigh area, we are lucky to welcome, Dr. Nick Turland of the Missouri Botanical Garden to the JC Raulston Arboretum to speak on Thursday, November 19 at 7:30pm. Nick is the co-director of the massive 50-volume Flora of China Project and will be speaking about his efforts in putting together such an epic work. I’m sure anyone interested in the Flora of China Project will find this program fascinating. To find out more, visit the JC Raulston Arboretum website.
If you’re in the Minnesota area and looking to purchase a ready made woodland garden … in Minnesota, you are in luck. Hosta breeder and plantsman, Hans Hansen, who moved to Michigan earlier this year has put his Minnesota house and 5-acre garden on the market. I had the pleasure of visiting many times, what I think is one of the finest private plant collections in the country, and I truly hope a plant person can call this garden home. Hans’ collection of nearly 2,000+ hosta varieties including lots of seedlings, 200+ different peonies, 100+ daylilies, a huge Martagon lily collection, a wonderful collection of clematis and other rock garden plants, and a spring carpet of trout lilies is just the beginning. It’s not even possible to list the extensive collection of plants you’ll find when spring arrives. Visit our gallery where I have posted a few photos I took this summer. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity that is not to be missed. To find out more, go to www.erahome.com and search for 15605 Snake Trail, Waseca, MN 56093.
The horticulture world was saddened recently as we learned of the passing of Rarefind Nursery owner and founder, Henry ‘Hank’ Schannen, 71, on Wednesday, September 16. Hank is survived by his wife, Virginia, and three daughters, Karen Schannen, Lisa Schannen and husband Howard Kohler, Dawn Schannen and husband Darren Kindred. Hank had been feeling poorly for a few weeks and actually died in the hospital parking lot where he was being taken for more tests. Hank, with the help of a great staff, created an amazing nursery, with a primary focus on Rhododendron and companion plants. Hank has been active in the Rhododendron Society for 40+ years and had introduced a number of his own hybrids, such as R. ‘Solidarity’, R. ‘Hank’s Mellow Yellow’, R. ‘Golden Globe’, and R. ‘Purple Elf’. The staff has committed to carrying on Hank’s vision by continuing the nursery. We send them our condolences in Hank’s passing and good luck with the future of the nursery.
We were also saddened to hear of the passing of Texas horticultural legend, Madeline Hill, at the ripe young age of 95. Madeline was the author of, Southern Herb Growing, and past president of the Herb Society of America. Madeline was a tireless promoter of herbs, traveling the country as one of their top ambassadors and to that end, she received a wealth of honor including having the US National Arboretum Knot Garden dedicated in her honor in the 1980s. I’ll remember Madeline for two of her great rosemary introductions, R. ‘Hill’s Hardy’ and R. ‘Arp’. Although we never met in person, I always valued our fascinating and informative phone conversations.
To follow up on my diatribe from last month about native plants being better adapted than non-natives, I’m posting research from Ed Gilman, Professor of environmental horticulture at the University of Florida. One of Ed’s research conclusions is, “One of the results that we noted was that there are no differences between native and non-native species for amount of water required for establishment,” Gilman said. “This often surprises people, but it emphasizes that the Florida-friendly principle — right plant, right place — is worth following.” To read the entire research write-up, go to hort.ifas.ufl.edu/irrigation.
We’re nearing the end of the 2009 Top 25 contest to compete for the $250 worth of plants, here are the results though mid-November. It looks like Echinacea ‘Tomato Soup’ has knocked Colocasia Thailand Giant out of the number 1 position for the first time in 5 years … without a great comeback in the last couple of weeks. The only other big movers are two plants from the fall catalog, Hydrangea .Spirit. at 14th place, and Agave bracteosa ‘Monterrey Frost’ at 18th. It’s truly amazing to have two plants from the fall catalog crack this year.s Top 25, although they will not count as we tally contest votes.
As always, thanks for taking time to read our rants and most of all, thank you so much for your support and orders this year!
Please direct all replies and questions to email@example.com.
Thanks and enjoy
September was a busy month at Plant Delights, not only with our Fall Open House, but also with a visit from 655 of America’s top garden writers as the group descended upon the Raleigh-Durham area for their annual convention. It was great to meet so many folks at the nursery whose names I’d only heard, including the infamous owner of Burpee seed, George Ball. Dan Hinkley later told me that George was probably looking for more land to purchase. Not to worry… we don’t have any for sale. The weather cooperated, everyone was in good spirits, and a great time was had by all… except perhaps those involved in the post-convention bus trip mishap. To read a wonderfully unique perspective about the bus travails check out The Grumpy Gardener. Our sincere thanks to our local site chairman Pam Beck, the local organizing committee, and for those attendees who took time to visit PDN in person and make the convention such a success.
Do you have your 2010 calender started yet? Mark down Sunday, October 10 – Wednesday, October 13 when the International Plant Propagators Society Southern Region pulls into Raleigh for its annual convention. This is our first opportunity to welcome the group to our area and we hope you will make plans to join us for a super meeting. IPPS is an international professional society dedicated to propagating plants and sharing propagation information. Students, as well as anyone actively involved in plant propagation, are welcome to attend the meeting. Not only will the nursery and garden tours be top notch, but the list of speakers is a virtual “who’s who” in the nursery and academic field. Headquarters for the meeting will be the downtown Sheraton Raleigh, so save the dates, and we’ll update information about the meeting as it evolves.
Because of some major changes in the show, I’d also like to mention our upcoming NC State Fair Flower Show, which runs from October 15-25. For those who may not know, I spent my first 16 years after college working for our NC Fairgrounds, with our flower show being one of my main focuses. I’ve now been gone for 15 years and to say the show had gone downhill would be an understatement. I’m very excited, however, about this year’s NC State Fair Flower Show, now under the direction of retired NC Master Gardener Coordinator Erv Evans. Erv took over the management of the show this spring and has already made an amazing transformation on the way to returning the show to its former splendor and beyond. If you haven’t been in a few years, I hope you’ll make time to check out the changes. You can find out more about attending at The NC State Fair website.
As I mentioned last month, we’re all faced with budget cuts this year, except for many of the fruit/vegetable and the annual color producers, many of which have had record years. I’ve previously detailed some of the industry casualties and this month we add Monnier’s Country Gardens in Oregon to the list. Ron & Debbie Monnier ran an amazing nursery which specialized in fuchsias, featuring an incredible listing. It’s always a great loss when such a specialist nursery closes its doors.
Not only has the economic downturn hit nurseries, but also some botanic gardens are feeling the pinch. Due to the economic lunacy in California, the entire staff of the University of California Santa Cruz Botanic Garden has been laid off. Donations are currently being sought to keep the garden functioning. It’s a shame that folks in positions of authority don’t realize the difference between collections of living plants and other programs that can be temporarily shelved and then restarted. If you are in a position to help, visit the arboretum’s website to see how to donate to the “Save the Staff Fund”.
In other bouts of lunacy, this week I received a most disturbing national survey from the folks at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Texas. I’ve always been a big fan of the center, so I was truly appalled at the moronic survey they sent. The center has obviously been hijacked by a bunch of brainwashed, koolaid-drinking eco-Nazis that wouldn’t know science if it bit them in the backside. It’s people who perpetuate these out and out lies that cause the general public to dismiss real science-based environmental issues. Let me give you a few examples. The opening letter reads “Gardeners and growers, often seeking show-off plants, import misplaced species without any awareness of their environmental impact. As a result, we’ve imported plants, like kudzu and loosestrife, overrun natural areas, while others have just taken more water and energy than they deserve.”
Hmmm…more water and energy than they deserve? What exactly does that mean and who was anointed to decide that? Kudzu… imported without any awareness of it’s environmental impact? I don’t think so. Few plants have been as widely researched as kudzu, which was studied by our Federal Government (the folks behind the bailout), who then encouraged its widespread planting all because of its known environmental impact…it grew where little else would and held the ground from washing away. European loosestrife actually behaves well as a garden plant until it comes in contact with our native loosestrife and it is their offspring that have become the poster child for the botanical ethnic cleansing crowd.
If that’s not enough, here are more examples of the actual survey questions.
2-“Were you aware of the economic benefits of using wildflowers as opposed to other readily available plants, as listed below? They use less fertilizer, use less pesticide, and require less maintenance.”
Those statements are so moronic, it’s hard to know where to start. Native plants, as a group, DO NOT use less fertilizer, they DO NOT use less pesticide, and they DO NOT require less maintenance. These statements are patently false. For all plants, it’s about using the right plant for the right place. With proper soil preparation, no plant ever should need chemical fertilizers! If any of these statements were true, then native plants would be running wild and there would be no issue with invasive plants.
4-“Were you aware of the environmental benefits of using native plants as listed below? The absorb CO2 (carbon dioxide) and produce Oxygen. They attract beneficial wildlife such as bees and songbirds. They conserve water resources and prevent water pollution. They create natural habitat landscapes around buildings that provide energy savings.”
Again, where to begin with such mindless drivel? Note to whoever wrote this…even 3rd graders know that almost all plants regardless of their nativity absorb CO2 and produce Oxygen. Many foreign born plants are much preferred by bees and songbirds than many of our natives (read the study on the “invasive” Chinese tallow tree), and plants regardless of where they are from can produce energy savings when used correctly. As for preventing water pollution, research has shown that few plants can rival a good lawn in this regard.
I’m sure the person who wrote this letter and survey is well-intentioned (probably a big assumption), but surely someone with some measure of common sense should have proofread this garbage before it was sent out as a national survey. We are passionate about native plants…not because they are somehow better, but because they some are truly great plants. I have spent the last eight years serving on our North Carolina Plant Conservation Scientific Committee, and it is junk like this that undermines our science-based efforts to protect endangered native species. Folks, please stick to the science! Now, dismount from the soapbox and let’s get back to more plant stuff.
In our crop monitoring last month, we were shocked to find an infestation of foliar nematodes on our crop of Buddleia ‘Blue Chip’. Foliar nematodes are problematic not only because they damage the foliage and therefore the plants vigor, but they also spread by splashing water to surrounding plants.
Buddleia ‘Blue Chip’ is one of the few plants that we do not propagate ourselves due to the contract with the patent owner and the contracted grower. When our plants arrived in late spring, we didn’t detect a problem, but as it turned out, the contract grower had sprayed the plants with chemicals which masked the foliar nematode symptoms, making them impossible to detect initially. After growing the buddleias in our warm climate without regular spraying, the nematode populations regrew to levels which caused the symptoms (brown interveinal chlorosis) to be expressed.
We have visited two large wholesalers who grow Buddleia ‘Blue Chip’ and the plants they received are infested also. We know that the contract grower started with clean plants, so the infestation more than likely occurred in their propagation facility due to poor pest monitoring. We know that all plants which we received after May are infested, but we are unsure about the plants we received last fall and shipped out early this spring. We have clean stock plants in our garden and have stuck cuttings from these. As soon as this new crop is ready, (probably spring 2010) we will replace all plants shipped this year. Just to be on the safe side, we recommend destroying all Buddleia ‘Blue Chip’ plants received from us this year. The other option is to have your plants checked by your state Department of Agriculture. Please let us know if you would like a refund, credit, or replacement when the new plants are ready. We apologize for this unacceptable occurrence and appreciate your help as we get this situation resolved. Since all plants sold in the US are coming from the same grower, you should also question your retailer if you purchased Buddleia ‘Blue Chip’ from someone else.
One other smaller screw-up to report was with Hedychium densiflorum ‘Stephen’. The label on our garden specimen had been moved and the wrong plant was subsequently propagated. Again, we are re-propagating the correct clone and these will be available in spring 2010, so please contact us to get a replacement, credit, or refund.
Hedychium Brugmansia If you’re one of those who think that the only cool flowers in bloom now are pansies and garden mums, boy are you missing out on some great garden plants! The cool nights of fall have reinvigorated many summer flowering plants, while a number of others are just starting their season of bloom. The ginger lilies (Hedychium) have put on their best show of the summer now that the blooms don’t fade as quickly in the 90 degree plus heat. Their deliciously scented flowers are truly super during a garden stroll. Other similar plants for delicious nocturnal fragrance are the angel trumpets (brugmansia), which like the gingers love the fall weather, when they flower like crazy.
fuchsia malvaviscus Dahlia Dahlias are another perennial whose best season in our climate is fall. Yes, they look good from spring through summer, but they are simply superb in fall as their floriferousness multiplies. Ditto for the native malvaviscus, whose summer-long display of mini-hibiscus flowers are still produced in extraordinary abundance. I still feel I haven’t raved enough about the heat-loving, winter hardy fuchsia hybrids from Japan. The poorly named Sani-series are truly one of the most amazing horticultural break-through that I’ve ever seen… still in full bloom after an entire summer of flowering.
Geraniums Salvia Abutilon Hardy geraniums, such as G. ‘Rozanne’ are also still in full flower along with most of the salvias, especially the S. gregii types, S. guaranitica, S. regla, S. leucantha types, and any of their hybrids. Lest I forget, the amazing abutilons are another plant genera that flowers through the summer, but just explodes in bloom when fall arrives.
Rostrinucula dependens Clinopodium georgianum Cuphea micropetala Tricyrtis When thinking of plants that are only fall bloomers, the toad lily, Tricyrtis hirta, is the first one that comes to mind. Certainly toad lilies aren’t the only fall bloomers, so consider the likes of aconitums, Cuphea micropetala, the native Clinopodium georgianum, and my personal favorite, rostrinucula…a plant that should be in every fall garden, but probably won’t sell until we change to name to something more recognizable like a ‘salvia’ or perhaps hire it a better PR firm.
Solidago Helianthus Coreopsis helianthoides Aster Other not-to-be-missed plants that only strut their stuff in fall includes most of the native goldenrods (Solidago), the native swamp sunflower (Helianthus angustifolius), the fall flowering native Coreopsis helianthoides, and a wide array of native asters (frankly we don’t care that the evil empire of taxonomy no longer considers them true asters). Come to think of it, they can kiss my Symphyotrichum.
Muhlenbergia Saccharum arundinaceum Two of the most beautiful of all of the ornamental grasses are also just coming into full flower. If you want to ‘Super Size’ your garden, Saccharum arundinaceum is a grass for you, with 12′ tall pink plumes appearing now. If you need something a bit smaller, Muhlenbergia capillaris ‘White Cloud’ is hands down the most elegant grass we grow. The only downside is that it doesn’t flower for us until now, when most garden visitors have departed for the season. If you already enjoy the typical pink-flowered version, the white-flowered form is even better…simply indescribable.
Cyclamen Gloxinia nematanthodes xAmarcrinum We’re still enjoying good blooms on many of our favorite geophytes as we move into October. The amazing hardy cyclamens, especially C. hederifolium is still in full flower, despite having been flowering for months. Gloxinia ‘Evita’, which grows from a small rhizome, also continues to flower with its blazing, fluorescent orange-red blooms. On a larger scale, xAmarcrinum ‘Fred Howard’ simply loves fall weather, as it produces stalk after stalk of fragrant pink flowers.
For those who entered our Top 25 contest to compete for the $250 worth of plants, here are the results though early October. Echinacea ‘Tomato Soup’ has widened the lead over Colocasia ‘Thailand Giant’, looking to be the first plant in nearly 5 years to steal the top spot away from the elephant ear. One of the big movers was the fall-flowering Muhlenbergia capillaris, which jumped from 19th to 16th place. The two real shockers for the October list were two plants that only appeared in the fall catalog, Agave bracteosa ‘Monterrey Frost’ at 17th and Hydrangea ‘Spirit’ at 20th. It’s very rare for a plant that only appears in fall to be able to crack the top 30. When we calculate the winner of the Top 25 contest, these plants will be excluded since they did not appear in the spring catalog.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks and enjoy
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 email@example.com.
Thanks and enjoy
Greetings from Juniper Level and we hope you’re having a great spring. Other than a couple of cold spells, we’ve had a near perfect spring with cool temperatures and timely rains. Only recently have we seen a few days in the 90’s, which normally dot our spring season. We’ve been spared the crazy weather seen in other parts of the country including Colorado’s frequent late spring snows, North Dakota’s floods, and tornados throughout the Southeast. At least the gardeners in northern Georgia and upstate South Carolina are finally getting some rain after being parched for several years. Even Atlanta’s Lake Lanier is within 7′ of finally refilling. Parts of the Texas Hill Country set a record last year with only 2″ of rain, but fortunately, the weather patterns have changed in recent weeks and the rains have finally returned.
We’ve just added some more plants to the on-line catalog including the very rare variegated shredded umbrella plant, Syneilesis ‘Kikko’. As always, most of these gems are only available in limited quantities, so don’t delay. They are integrated into the main on-line catalog or you can find the new additions listed separately.
It was great to have our friends Carl Schoenfeld and Wade Roitsch from Yucca Do visit a few weeks ago along with encyclopedic Texas nurseryman Pat McNeal. We have long worked together to trial plants in each other’s climates, so it was interesting for them to see the damage that occurs to woody lilies when temperatures drop into the single digits F. Yucca Do has recently completed their move to Giddings, Texas, about 1.5 hours west of their former location outside of Houston. The old property was sold to the Peckerwood Garden Foundation, which will allow Peckerwood to expand their gardens as well as have more parking. You can read more about the Yucca Do move at www.yuccado.com/themove.htm.
It’s been a busy spring…. just not as busy as we would have liked. It was great to have visits from an array of groups including most recently the Carolina Gardener Symposium as well as attendees from Southeast Palm Society meeting in Raleigh.
Last fall, I had the pleasure of meeting and lecturing with Lucinda Hutson of Austin, Texas. Lucinda is a delightful person; a combination artist, designer, and chef. Lucinda has published several cookbooks as well as an array of articles in addition to her career as an interior/exterior designer. You can get an idea of Lucinda’s exuberant style and possibly book her as a lecturer through her website at www.lucindahutson.com.
If you’re out and around North Raleigh on Tuesday May 5, I’ll be presenting a free gardening seminar at 7pm at the North Raleigh Library at 7009 Harps Mill Road. If we have a good crowd, I’ll consider doing more of these in the future. No registration is necessary, but the library phone number is 919-870-4000. Bring your gardening questions and problems; I hope to see you there.
Obviously, the big upcoming events for us are our two Spring Open Nursery and Garden weekends on Friday – Sunday, May 1-3 and May 8-10. We will be open from 8am-5pm on Friday and Saturday and 1-5pm on Sunday. There is so much to see that we truly wish everyone could visit and enjoy the gardens for themselves. Just walking through the gardens now is a sensory delight. Not only are the colors and textures a thing to behold, but the exuberant fragrances are just amazing. From banana shrubs to phlox to dianthus, it’s amazing what fragrances plants can add to your garden. At Open House, not only can you see how plants should grow in the garden, you will no doubt leave with a cartload of ideas, inspiration, and hopefully a few cool plants. This year, one of our largest agaves ( Agave salmiana v. ferox ‘Logan Calhoun’) has sent up a huge flower spike, which should be close to fully open, so come and enjoy a phallic moment with us in the garden. Directions can be found on our website.
One of the many challenges of running a nursery is predicting what will sell and in what quantities. Sometimes we hit the target, and sometimes we miss as bad as a North Korean missile launch. There are many factors that determine how well a plant sells, but the most important is the photograph…hence the reason many mail order catalogs pay professional photographers to take studio shots that often use dozens of plants which are then ‘cut and pasted’ to make one photo. A particular favorite is the commonly used mail order photo of Arum italicum showing the arum seed heads with leaves inserted from a calla lily. I don’t know about you, but I’ve got a problem trusting folks who use doctored photos, but then they probably laugh at our meager sales. Another key factor in determining sales is photo placement…did you realize the location of an image on a page can double or triple sales of that item? That being said, here are our top 10 list of great plants for 2009 that didn’t sell as well as they should have …. consequently, we have some really nice ones remaining.
1. Agapanthus ‘Back in Black’ …must be the photo, as it’s a really cool plant.
2. Agave guiengola ‘Creme Brulee’ …we possibly saturated the market last year, but this is a really amazing potted specimen.
3. Colocasia ‘Blackwater’ – this narrow leaf C. ‘Fontanesii’ has evidently been overshadowed by the great new John Cho hybrids.
4. Colocasia esculenta ‘Hilo Bay’ – this overshadower has the most distinctive leaf, but is the worst seller…really hard to capture this well in an image…bummer.
5. Cypripedium parviflorum v. pubescens – the high cost of 7 years production time has unfortunately put this plant out of reach this season for many economically impaired gardeners. It should have sold much better…very disappointing. Disappointing, heck…this means I’ll have more for my own garden.
6. Epimediums, especially ‘Pink Elf’, E. x youngianum ‘Tamabotan’, E. x versicolor ‘Cherry Tart’ and E. grandiflorum ‘Pierre’s Purple’. So, do we just have too many eps? These are all great selections and ‘Cherry Tart’ is just delightful, but for some reason, folks just won’t buy it. E. ‘Pink Elf’…one of only three patented epimedium in the world…very floriferous…must be the darn photograph.
7. Fargesia denudata – do people really trust that there are clumping bamboos when disreputable nurseries are selling Phyllostachys nigra (black bamboo) and claiming it to be clumping…which is it not. Perhaps folks want all bamboos to be 30’ tall…and they are really hard to photograph well. I wish you knew how hard it’s been to get these into the trade.
8. Hostas…geez, is it the deer or too much to choose from? A new hosta will sell really well, then when collectors get their fill, sales drop off for the next 2-5 years until regular gardeners realize how great they are. Disappointments for 2009 include
H. ‘Appetizer’…a really nice dwarf;
H. ‘Applause’…which looks like a clump of hands clapping;
H. ‘Cathedral Windows’…an incredible sport of H. ‘Stained Glass’;
H. ‘Deliverance’…ok, the movie connotation probably did this one in;
H. ‘Electrocution’…so where are you gardeners with the sick sense of humor?
H. ‘Landslide’…it’s a photo thing along with leaves that aren’t round and cupped;
H. ‘Mango Tango’…it’s as nice as H. ‘Stitch in Time’, but the name just doesn’t have the same ring;
H. ‘Parasol’…we thought the name on this H. ‘Blue Umbrellas’ sport was perfect, but you must not have agreed; and
H. ‘White Wall Tire’;…sold great last year, but is a dud in 2009…must be the Detroit crash that has affected this one.
9. Malvaviscus ‘Pam Puryear’ …something about a pink turk’s cap just didn’t find a niche in the market.
10. xHeucherella ‘Alabama Sunrise’ …okay great name, great photo, great plant …. guess I’ll need to call the psychic hotline to figure this one out.
And this business looks easy to who?
Speaking of hostas, our staff suggested we let you know which containers of hostas are obscenely huge and need a good home, so here’s the list of those that would make instant clumps or are so dividable you can immediately get into the nursery business. Applause
Key Lime Pie
Peedee Elfin Bells
Pineapple Upside Down Cake
Pot of Gold
For those who entered our Top 25 contest to compete for the $250 worth of plants, click here for the results though April 26, 2009. Topping the list for the first time is the new Echinacea ‘Tomato Soup’, which just edged out Colocasia ‘Thailand Giant’for the top spot. The only other colocasia in the list so far is Colocasia ‘Mojito’in the 4th spot. In third place is the first appearance for Syneilesis aconitifoliain the top 25. The only other echinacea in the list this month is E. ‘Green Envy’. Thanks to the shade gardeners, it’s good to see two ferns, an asarum, an epimedium, and even an aspidistra make the list. The list changes each month, so if your picks don’t show up near the top yet, don’t despair.
In other news, we reported last month the Northwest Flower and Garden Show and the San Francisco Flower and Garden Show were both being phased out unless a new owner stepped forward. The latest news is Duane Kelly has two different parties interested in purchasing and continuing the shows. No final decisions have been made, but at least there is hope. In the Southeast, the Southeastern Flower Show in Atlanta is taking a temporary hiatus for 2010, while it re-evaluates the financial commitments required to put on its annual flower show. There is still no word on when or if the New England Flower Show in Boston will ever resume, since the financial mess there is still to be resolved and their bills from the 2008 show remain to be paid.
We were saddened to learn of the passing of plantsman Alex Summers of Bridgeville, Delaware on Sunday, April 11. Summers, 96, was a founding member of the American Hosta Society in 1968 and served as president for the first decade of the society’s existence. Alex was also a keen gardener as anyone who has visited his garden knows firsthand. Alex was preceded in death by his wife Gene, but is survived by his son Alan. Instead of sending flowers, the family asks donations be made to the American Hosta Society.
We lost another giant of the plant world on April 12, with the passing of Dr. Thad Howard of Texas at age 79. Thad is best known for his extensive work with bulbs for hot climates, though his numerous plant expeditions into Mexico, and for his 2001 book, Bulbs for Warm Climates (University of Texas Press). I was fortunate to visit Thad at his home in May 2003 and take him on a ride though Texas to visit other bulb greats such as Crinum guru, Dave Lehmiller, the wonderful Yucca Do Nursery, and to meet another Texas crinum guru, Marcelle Sheppard for the first time. It was truly a trip that I.ll remember for the rest of my life. Thad also was a mentor to a number of young men, who later went on to become bulb experts in their own right including Steve Lowe of Tejas Bulbs, and garden writer/lecturer Scott Ogden.
Please direct all replies and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks and enjoy
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 www.plantdelights.com. 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 www.plantdelights.com.
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 www.plantdelights.com, 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 email@example.com
Thanks and enjoy -tony
It’s starting out to be a great fall at PDN. It’s actually hard to believe that it’s already fall…especially since we still haven’t seen those major hurricanes that we’ve been promised! Not only has the weather been superb, but fall has brought out garden visitors en mass. We just finished the best attended fall open house in our history, followed by a wonderful visit from participants at the 30th Anniversary J.C. Raulston Arboretum Symposium. It was great to have so many folks visiting for the first time and seeing others returning for the first time in a decade. We would like to personally thank everyone who took time out of their busy schedules to attend either of these events.
We’d also like to welcome a great new crop of PDN volunteers. Our volunteer program, which started in 2003, has swelled to 12 people, including some that have been here since our program began. Volunteers spend their time helping in either the botanic garden or research divisions. In exchange for their invaluable hard work, they not only go home with excess plants and knowledge, but know that they have contributed to making the gardens even better for the next group of visitors. It is our hope that in the next few years we’ll begin laying the groundwork for a foundation and friends group to assist in the eventual transition of Juniper Level Botanic Gardens to a public garden (hopefully a long time from now). We’ll keep you posted.
From the nursery end, we have a couple of plant snafues to report regarding plants shipped early in the year as Hemerocallis multiflora. Due to a vendor error, the plants that we shipped are Hemerocallis fulva instead of the plant pictured in our catalog, which also turned out not to be H. multiflora. We got the original plant from China and thought we had it identified correctly…guess not. The plant we pictured is now most likely an exceptional form of H. citrina. Also, we had a few of the Echinacea ‘Sunset’ to flower with distorted petals. If you have Hemerocallis multiflora and your plant flowered orange, or an Echinacea ‘Sunset’ with distorted petals, simply contact our Customer Service Department at firstname.lastname@example.org for a credit or refund. Please accept our apologies for this error.
We’ve made quite a few production changes that have helped us produce even better plants for the upcoming season. Due to our hot summers, we have very high losses on some plants that do not fare well in containers. This year, we switched many of our production houses to a new silver reflective shade cloth… the one that many open house visitors asked about. This has made a huge difference in over-summering plants such as hellebores. Where we lost virtually our entire crop in 2005, this year was the exact opposite due to the new reflective shade. I think you are going to be amazed when you attend our winter open house in February.
In the jobs department, we have an opening and are looking to fill our Propagation/Production Supervisor position with a very special person. This is the person who propagates and overseas the potting of every plant that we sell, so it goes without saying that this is a very important position. If you have an interest in learning more or to forward an application, please email Heather Brameyer in our HR Department at email@example.com.
Last month, I talked about some of the plants in flower this fall, but I didn’t have time to write about all the ones I wanted to mention, so here’s a little follow-up.
Fall is certainly the season for salvia… especially the S. greggii and S. microphylla types. These desert salvias simply love the cooler nights and begin to flower equally or better than they do in spring. The range of colors is from reds through to whites. If blue is your color, then Salvia guaranitica is your plant. S. guaranitica ‘Argentina Skies’ (light blue) and Salvia guaranitica ‘Black and Blue’ (dark cobalt blue) are both still in full flower. Need lavender?…no problem, the range of Salvia leucantha cultivars are ready and flowering. If yellow is your color, Salvia madrensis ‘Red Neck Girl’ is just what the doctor ordered. The huge spikes of butter yellow will be opening shortly. If this is too tall, Salvia nipponica and Salvia koyamae are woodland groundcover salvias…very cool.
One of my favorite groups of the fall garden is the hardy gesneriads (African Violet cousins). For purples, try the colorful achimenes with their pansy-like flowers. If orange is your color, the continuous-flowering Sinningia sellovii is just waiting for the hummingbirds… birds not included in the shipment. If you like your plants a little on the bright and gaudy side, the brilliantly stunning Gloxinia ‘Evita’ is one of those plants that you just have to see to believe – just ask anyone who has attended our fall open house. For a little more demure shade of red, Gloxinia ‘Chic’ is just perfect. One last favorite gesneriad is the breathtakingly beautiful Titanotrichum oldhammii with its long tubular yellow flowers highlighted by an orange-red throat.
While many of the hardy hibiscus are still producing a few scattered flowers, several other mallows are still in full swing. The US native, Malvaviscus drummondii with its unusual reddish-orange turban-like flowers is a hummingbirds’ delight. Another great native mallow for fall is Pavonia lasiopetala. The small but bright pink flowers are a welcome addition to the fall garden.
I mentioned a bit about hummingbirds, but this is a great time to think about plants that will entertain and feed hummers as they pass through your garden. If you garden in the South and you don’t grow cestrums, why not? Few plants provide the duration of color and look splendid as we head further into fall. Think big yellow and orange mounds of color! Another hummer favorite is manettia or firecracker vine. This amazing non-intrusive vine doesn’t really get going until late summer and fall, when it becomes a feast for hummers and gardeners who like bright orange flowers. More hummer food… how about Cuphea micropetala? Think flowers that look like miniature cigars. Your hummers won’t mind this smoking section. Finally… I promise, another hummer favorite is Bouvardia ternifolia. The brilliant tubular flowers on this Mexican native just scream for the hummers. If you plant all the aforementioned plants together, you’ll need body armor to get near the bed to tend the flowers.
What else is blooming now? Plenty! Lantanas are at their peak, as is one of the late Elizabeth Lawrence’s favorites, Kalimeris pinnatifida … both, virtual flowering machines.
If you’ve got shade, we’ve even got fall flowers for you. The easy-to-grow hardy Cyclamen hederifolium is in full flower throughout the woodland, as is the stunning pink Begonia grandis ‘Herons Pirouette’. How could we talk about fall shade gardens without mentioning the wonderful Tricyrtis ? …many of which are currently in full flower, with flower colors from purple to yellow. I’ll end with one of the least known, but most spectacular fall woodland plants that we grow, the underappreciated Rabdosia longituba …won’t you please adopt one today?
There’s so much more that I don’t have time to mention, from solidago to aster, and from polygonum to costus. While some of you in the northern zones have already closed down your planting for the year, much of the rest of the country is still in full fall planting mode. We’ll let you continue to browse and hope you’re enjoying your fall garden as much as we are.
While I’d love to join you in the garden, it’s that time of year when the staff locks me away to begin writing the 2007 Plant Delights Nursery catalog. You’d be amazed how well solitary confinement works to stimulate the creative juices and make the imagination run wild… quite similar to too many shots of an adult beverage. Surely, you didn’t think a sane person writes this catalog? As always, there are many cool new plants in the pipeline… just waiting for the 2007 catalog to hit the presses.
For those who entered our Top 25 Contest, be sure to check out how your favorite plants are selling. There was some minor shuffling in the Top 25, but the only new entry was Selaginella braunii that nearly cracked The top 25, by rising to #27. Only a few more months remain before we announce the winner of our Top 25 contest… we hope your picks are measuring up. If not, you’d better get your gardening friends busy!
Please direct all replies and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks and enjoy,
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 email@example.com.
Thanks and enjoy -tony
t’s been quite a summer for most of us. I was fortunate to spend most of August in North Vietnam and Northern Thailand in search of new plants. It was an amazing trip that I look forward to sharing the details. It will take a few more months to complete the photo log for the website, but I’ll let you know when it’s posted. Our final few days in Thailand were spent watching Hurricane Katrina as it steamed toward Louisiana and Mississippi.
Our thoughts and prayers are with those residents and former residents of the Gulf Coast, many of whose lives were changed forever by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Many of the nurseries in the region were hit hard, but fortunately many are up and running again… except those inundated with salt water. We’ve already heard from one customer in the region who sent photos of the plant damage in his garden. It was great to hear that he is already planning his re-planting for next season. We even had a Landscape Architect from New Orleans stop by during our fall open house, wondering when he would be able to return to his own garden.
I returned from overseas to find that the excessive heat of the summer had been joined by an extended period of no rain. 2005 has not been one of the best summers to be out in the garden and nurseries in affected regions around the country have felt the effects. I hate to say it, but there is little doubt that we will lose more good nurseries and garden centers after a year like this.
We actually hoped that Hurricane Ophelia would head our way with rain, but it was a dud inland. It did wreak havoc on some coastal customers gardens, albeit nothing like what it could have done. We finally did manage a nice 2″ rain about a week later, which really re-invigorated a tired looking garden. Our fall open house was very poorly attended, no doubt due to the weather, but certainly the high gas prices also played a major part. Even several botanic gardens around the country are seeing cutbacks and layoffs due to decreased visitation.
I would like to thank all those who attended and supported Horticulture Magazine’s GardenFair in September. Considering the excessively hot weather, the event went extremely well. If you missed it this year, be sure to watch for the details of the 2006 version.
Now that cooler weather and some fall moisture have arrived, we have resumed planting again. If you’re ready to do the same, I wanted to let you know of a number of new plants that have been added to the website. Many are available in very limited quantities, while a couple are actually previews of our 2006 offerings. We are very excited to offer the hard-to-find Echinacea ‘Razzmatazz’ and if they don’t sell out this fall, we put them in the spring catalog.
We also have another crop of Colocasia gigantea ‘Thailand Giant’ and Hosta ‘Hanky Panky’ ready for sale. While I wouldn’t plant the colocasias outdoors now in cold climates, they would make good houseplants for the winter and we’re not making any promises on spring availability, so get ’em while they last.
In other news, Plant Delights would like to congratulate Dr. Dennis Werner of the NCSU Horticulture Department, who has been selected as the new director of the JC Raulston Arboretum at NCSU. Dr. Werner is completing his class load this fall and will assume the directorship duties on December 1, 2005.
We encourage you to continue supporting your favorite gardens and nurseries during this difficult period for our industry and let’s hope for a great 2006.
August seems like it just started but indeed it’s already ended. The highlight of the month was an amazing trip to the UK to collect plants and visit plant friends. I was finally able to visit several places on my “must visit” list including Crug Farms, Ashwood Nursery, Cotswold Flower Gardens and Hillier Arboretum. The visit to each was superb and I am already trying to figure out a time to return. I was able to bring back loads of very cool new plants (16 hours of washing before inspections). The in-transit wait is always nerve-wracking, but thank goodness the plants arrived safely back at the nursery after several days in the mail.
Back at the nursery, attention has been focused on keeping plants from rotting in their containers, which is always one of the most difficult chores during rainy years. While losses have been greater than we would have liked, we are still far short of the potential disaster from such a rainy year. We do appreciate your understanding when a plant is out of stock despite our best efforts.
We hope you are enjoying your fall catalog supplement by now. We also hope you see some special plants that you just can’t live without…especially the long awaited release of our dwarf yellow Echinacea ‘Paranoia’. Remember that our final open house for the year is coming up soon…September 12-14 and 19-21. The gardens look great and we hope you can find the time for a visit. See you soon.