Euphorbia Hanky Panky

A couple of years ago, we were thrilled to acquire seed of Euphorbia ‘Rubicund’ from the Hardy Plant Society seed exchange. That little-known clone is a selection from a cross of Euphorbia myrsinites x E. rigida made by Rhode Island’s Issima Nursery. While the clone doesn’t come true from seed, we love our offspring and look forward to seeing what our seed crop from the plant below will have in store.

For this hybrid, we’ve settled on the nothospecific name E. x myrsida, going forward. Over 15 years ago, we acquired a similar cross from California salvia guru, Betsy Clebsch, but we unfortunately let our plant get shaded out. Both plants we’ve grown of this cross produced much larger seed heads with a form similar to both parents. It has been stunning in our our rock garden for the last month. Hardiness is probably Zone 6a-8b.

Euphorbia x myrsida

Hacking Characias

If you’ve driven through the any of the Mediterranean countries in spring, you are undoubtedly familiar with the common Mediterranean spurge, Euphorbia characias (ker-ack-iss). For years, I admired this in virtually every English garden book, but always failed in my attempts to keep it alive in our garden.

Years later, it finally hit me what I was doing wrong. Euphorbia characias is a short-lived perennial – think 3-4 years max. I was purchasing clonal selections and expecting them to last, while not providing an environment where they would be prone to reseeding, which ensures that you actually keep the plant around. Despite needing to reseed to survive, it’s not a plant that’s prone to getting out of hand.

Euphorbia characias like dry, well-drained soils, especially those that are gravelly. We have also discovered that rich, amended beds also allow for reseeding as long as aren’t heavily irrigated. Now, we allow the seed heads to remain until the seed have dropped, at which time they are cut back to the blue foliage. We have found that leaving the seed heads on the plant too long actually shortens the plants already short lifespan.

Euphorbia characias

Not only is Euphorbia characias an incredible ornamental, but it also has the longest duration of use in Western medicine. Recent research has found the plant to have a wide array of medicinal compounds. These compounds have activity as antioxidants, as pesticides (both anti-viral and anti-microbial), as wound healers, to treat hypoglycemia, as an anti-aging agent (preventing free radical chain reactions), and as a disease (HIV) enzyme inhibitor. I’d say, that’s a pretty impressive resume. Hardiness is Zone 7a-10b.

If at first you don’t suceed, plant and plant again

One of my most lustful plants has been the super cute Euphorbia clavarioides var. truncata. I first ran into this fascinating poinsettia cousin at the Denver Botanic Gardens in the 1990s, and have subsequently killed it 5 times, prior to the construction of our crevice garden. Now, our specimen below is 2.5 years old and thriving. The key is perfect drainage and no water in the winter.

Below is a giant clump, which we saw in the wilds of South Africa in 2005. These massive clumps are considered to be well over a century in age, so our little patch has a lot of growing to do.

Image of Euphorbia clavarioides var. truncata HCG form growing in our crevice garden.
Euphorbia clavarioides var. truncata HCG form
Image of Euphorbia clavarioides var. truncata in the wilds of South Africa.
Euphorbia clavarioides var. truncata in the wilds of South Africa.

Redneck Baby’s Breath

Tired of trying to grow the conventional baby’s breath, that’s a prize perennial in the colder zones? We were, and had been looking for a substitute for years, when in 2000, one of our former staffers introduced us to the widespread native, Euphorbia corollata. Although it doesn’t look like much in deep shade where it’s often found in the wild, it explodes when given a bit of sun. Here are a couple of photos as it’s flowering season starts in mid-July.

Euphorbia corollata looks seriously gangly in a pot, so we’re confident you’ll never see this on the shelves of the box stores. Average moisture to very dry suites it fine. Although not a clumper, it’s spread it’s far from a thug, and is easy to remove it it happens to move too far. For a plant that’s native to every state East of the Mississippi (except Florida), and almost every single county, it’s shocking that every gardener isn’t growing this gem. Hardiness is Zone 3a-9b.

Euphorbia corollata in flower
Euphorbia corollata
Euphorbia corollata in the garden
Euphorbia corollata

A Characias Cracker

For years, we struggled to grow the Mediterranean/Balkan native spurge, Euphorbia characias…until we discovered its secrets. First, it isn’t a long lived plant to begin with…in most cases 3-5 years is it, so you’ll need to plant it where it’s likely to reseed. That would be well-drained slopes that are either mulched or covered with gravel.

Secondly, after it flowers in spring with its stunning show of yellow flowers, remove most of the flower stalks as soon as flowering has finished, except those needed to produce new seedlings (the flowers are also great to use in floral arrangements). If not, the seed stalks use up energy causing the plant to decline much faster. We’ve now allowed this to seed throughout the slopes in front of our house, and here is the result…a smattering of 3′ tall x 3′ wide clumps, photo taken mid-winter.

Although this section of the garden, planted in compost-amended sandy loam is irrigated, we typically don’t recommend irrigation for this spurge without excellent drainage. You’ll also read on-line that Euphorbia characias doesn’t like hot, humid summers…another example of fake gardening news that just keeps getting repeated without any concern for the facts.

We’ve also found Euphorbia characias to grow well in part sun under large trees, which keeps the soil dry. The plants will never be as dense as they are in full sun, but they survive and flowers. There is really not anything else that gives you this evergreen blue color and form in the winter garden.

Four favorites flowering today in the garden

Epimedium Pink Champagne clump in flower


Epimedium ‘Pink Champagne’ is dazzling today in the garden, both for the great foliage and floral show.

Euphorbia x martinii Ascot Rainbow in full flower


Euphorbia x martinii ‘Ascot Rainbow’…WOW.  Variegated foliage and very cool flowers.  The key to growing this well is good drainage and immediately after flower, cut it back to near the ground.

Clematis ochroleuca Penny's Bend in flower


Clematis ochroleuca is an amazing dwarf bush clematis native to North Carolina and Virginia, yet winter hardy in Minnesota.  This is one of our favorite late winter plants.

Paeonia ostii clump in garden in flower


The first peony of the season is the Chinese tree peony, Paeonia ostii.  Untouched by late frosts, this gem is just wrapping up its floral show.  This is one peony that’s as thrilled with summer heat and humidity as it is with polar vortexes.  Yes, we are currently sold out…sorry.

Euphorbias..much more than poinsettas.

Euphorbia corollata Carolina Snow3

One of my favorite euphorbias is the widespread US native, the deciduous Euphorbia corollata, which flowers for month in the garden.  Here is our garden clump today…resembling a baby’s breath, but much more tolerant of humid summers.

Euphorbia Ancot Rainbow foliage5And for something completely different, here is the evergreen Euphorbia x martinii ‘Ascot Rainbow’ in the garden today.  It flowers in early spring with unique variegated flowers.


The best purple-leafed euphorbia

Euphorbia x martinii Cherokee5Most popular perennials in the market today are introduced and heavily promoted by marketing companies.  Every now and then, however, a superb perennial enters the marketplace without any fanfare or marketing, despite being superior and longer-lived than the patented, highly touted cultivars.  Such is the case with Euphorbia ‘Cherokee‘…a fabulous purple-foliaged selection we’ve grown since 1999.  Euphorbia x martinii ‘Cherokee’ may not look as great in a container, but it is absolutely incredible in the garden.  We hope you’ll give it a try…if you like purple foliage.



Plant Delights Nursery February 2015 Newsletter

Greetings PDNers!

Buy Valentine’s Day Gift Certificates

Valentine’s Day is rapidly approaching and it’s time to forget those cut flowers that only last a few days and give the gift of long-living perennials which will remind your love of your thoughtfulness each year. The easy, stress-free way to share your love is with a Plant Delights gift certificate for your plant-loving Valentine so they can select their own favorites.

Show your love with a PDN Gift Certificate

Show your love with a PDN Gift Certificate

Visit and Shop Winter Open Nursery & Garden Days

New Walkway to Souto Garden

New Walkway to Souto Garden

Our upcoming Winter Open Nursery and Garden Days are only a few weeks away. We are happy to officially open the new 2-acre, full-sun Souto Garden to visitors. To facilitate entrance into the new garden section, we’ve opened up a walkway through the Nellie Stevens holly hedge from the Sunken Rain Garden. We hope you’ll enjoy this new addition with thousands of amazing new sun perennial plants and plantings.

Buy Hellebores and More

Helleborus 'Rose Quartz'

Helleborus ‘Rose Quartz’

Visit us during Winter Open Nursery and Garden Days and you’ll experience a hellebore extravaganza! We’ll have an amazing selection of flowering hellebores to choose from….most in full flower. Hellebores aren’t the only plants to see, as there are many other winter-flowering gems in the greenhouses. Of course, if you’re ready to get a jump start on your planting, all plants in the Plant Delights Nursery catalog and website will also be available, although some are still asleep for the winter. Others which are grown in greenhouses at 55 degrees will be available, but must be kept indoors until all danger of frost has passed.

Greenhouse Filled with Hellebores

Greenhouse Filled with Hellebores

See our New PDN and JLBG Signage

New Garden SignAnita and her team spearheaded the creation and installation of an array of new directional and informational signs around the nursery and garden offices, starting with our new entrance and exit signs. Our goal is to make navigation of our campus easier during Open Nursery and Garden Days as well as for visitors, tours, and groups.

Let’s Scan Those Purchases!

We’ve enhanced our shopping procedures for you with our new bar code scanning system. We trialed the system during our later 2014 open nursery days so we’re ready to make your checkout experience faster and more efficient for your shopping pleasure.

Happy Open Nursery Days Shoppers

Happy Open Nursery Days Shoppers

Sign Up for Close-Up Photography Workshop and Garden Walks

We have a number of educational events scheduled at Plant Delights this spring from classes to conventions and we’d love for you to join us. You’ll find our list of classes here, starting with our Close-Up Garden Photography workshop on Saturday May 2.

American Hosta Society National Convention in Raleigh June 17-20

Hosta 'Showbiz'

Hosta ‘Showbiz’

In June, we welcome the American Hosta Society, as hosta lovers from around the world descend on the Raleigh area to share and learn about their favorite genus of plants. Plant Delights Nursery/Juniper Level Botanic Garden will welcome the group to dinner, tours, and shopping on June 18. We really hope you’ll be able to join us. Register to attend the events at

Drones in the Garden and Nursery

Take a look at these two brand new drone videos of our botanic garden and our nursery! Our daughter, Katie, is a software architect at SAS by day and an aspiring filmmaker at night. We asked her to help us edit these two raw videos captured with the aerial drone provided by Heli-Cam Aerial Photo and Video. If you haven’t had the chance to visit the garden or the nursery, or haven’t been here in a few years, we believe these videos will give you a glimpse of how we are growing and beautifying the landscape in southern Wake County. Share these videos with your family and friends and help us raise awareness of how cool it is to visit PDN and JLBG!
PDN Video
JLBG Video

A Drone in the Garden

A Drone in the Garden

Knock Out the Nonsense…

We recently received a note from a garden writer, detailing the strong arm tactics now being used by the marketer of Knockout Roses ®, in an effort to keep their Knockout ® trademark valid. Garden writers around the county were send cease and desist letters, telling them to stop using Knockout ® as part of the cultivar name. The company, Conard Pyle of Pennsylvania, is technically correct to try and protect their trademark, but they’ve shot themselves in the proverbial foot by misnaming the individual roses.

USPATUS Trademark law does not allow a trademark to be used as the public-known name of any product. Trademarks can only be used to designate origin of the product…for example, for a series of roses. If the public, however, recognizes the trade name as the product name or part of the product name, then the trademark, despite being legally acquired, becomes invalid.

Conard Pyle would have been on solid legal footing if they had actually given the Knockout ® roses good cultivar names that the public would remember, but they intentionally didn’t do that. The official names of the Knockout roses are non-words like Rosa ‘Radrazz’, ‘Radcon’, ‘Radcor’, etc. Most of the public have no idea these are the real plant names. The public, instead, knows the rose names as Rosa ‘Pink Knockout’, Rosa ‘Rainbow Knockout’, Rosa ‘Double Knockout’, etc. That’s because this is exactly what Conard Pyle intended…even in their own marketing brochures.

The Knockout ® roses were given these non-sensical cultivar names so, when the 20-year patents expired and everyone could legally propagate the roses, they wouldn’t be able to sell them under the Knockout ® names that the public knew as the plant names. In other words, it seems that their intent was to fool the public into knowing the plants by the trademark name only…despite the non-sensical real cultivar names being included on the tag in “mice type.” By the way, the first of the Knockout ® patents to expire will be Rosa ‘Radrazz’, which will lapse in 4 years (January 2019), hence the sense of urgency.

Rosa 'Radrazz'

Rosa ‘Radrazz’

It appears Conard Pyle’s legal team is now trying to close the proverbial barn door after the horses have left the stable. Legal letters have been so frightening to garden writers that some bloggers have gone back and changed 8-year-old posts. Perhaps this will finally be enough for garden writers to grow a spine and stop using these illegal trade names in print and on-line…a practice that would stop the nurseries from using them in short order.

One newspaper writer that we spoke with has even gone so far as to stop writing about any trademarked plant…hurrah! We need to continue to publicly shame those in our industry who persist with this confusing and improper plant naming as a way to get around the intent of US Patent and Trademark law. It’s a shame no plant people have the time or deep pockets to challenge these perpetrators in the courts. If you’d like to read more about this subject, including settled case law, you will find our other article here.

Read circa 1904 Plant Catalogs

Fellow plantsman Larry Hatch, founder, sent me this interesting link from a 1904 Suzuki and Iida plant catalog. Many of the plants we consider new to the trade were actually grown and sold quite a while ago. Larry tells us that now has 12,600 different old nursery catalogs online so, if you’re snowed in or have no social life outside of gardening, like us, check these out.

Ask Tony a Question!

We love to receive queries from customers…like this great series of questions:

“Over the past 10 years we have seen the price of florist orchids plummet so that now an in bloom, good size orchid can be $10 at Trader Joes or your local grocer. I assume this is due to the fact that growers have figured out tissue culture propagation and how to grow orchids fast to flowering size. The price of many garden/terrestrial orchids has not similarly plummeted whether from PDN or other nurseries. Why not? Are they just such a different beast physiologically? Is it just because the market is so much smaller for garden orchids vs florist orchids? Or is it on the horizon but not here yet? Not suggesting you should be making less of a percent profit on each plant but just curious and would rather be able to buy (and potentially kill) a couple $30 vs one $65 Cypripedium. Thanks for any insight and absolutely no rush on an answer.”

Katie and Tony

Katie and Tony

Indeed, a company in Holland has tried to fast-track Cypripedium orchids like they have done with tropical Phalaenopsis orchids. We’ve grown quite a few of these, which arrive in the US at about 50% of the price of 8-year-old, outdoor grown ladyslipper orchids. The problem is the high mortality rate of these fast-tracked plants, which is due to something in the process of the plants being grown in accelerated growth greenhouses. So yes, but until we figure out why the plants are dying at nearly a 50% rate, you won’t see the prices coming down immediately, but there is hope.

Nursery Industry Updates

When woody plant guru, Dr. Mike Dirr officially retired from the University of Georgia, he started a plant breeding company with two local Georgia nurserymen, Jeff Beasley of Transplant Nursery and Mark Griffith of Griffith Propagation. The company, Plant Introductions Inc., founded in 2007, and its First Editions line of plant introductions was just sold to Bailey Nurseries of Minnesota.

Dr. Dirr has worked closely with Bailey’s for years, especially since he spotted the reblooming Hydrangea ‘Bailmer’…the plant you know as ‘Endless Summer’, in their fields. Bailey’s already has production facilities in Oregon so, with the addition of PI’s southeast US facilities, they’ve got much of the US covered. Despite the sale, Dirr, Beasley, and Griffith are scheduled to remain a part of PI’s team. Jeff and Lisa Beasley have also transitioned to the next generation with the sale of their own Transplant Nursery to their daughter Camilla and husband Gatlin. We wish everyone the best in the transition.

Look…NC Crops Washed Away

Are you aware of the current dangers to the North Carolina marshmallow crop? If not, please see this video right away and expect to pay more for NC marshmallows at the store. Farming is full of weather-related perils, as this video so aptly points out.

The Blues Brothers

Jake and Elwood

Jake and Elwood

And at the Avent home, many of you already know we adopted two less-than-healthy twin male kittens from the Best Friends Pet Adoption late in 2014. Now, Jake and Elwood are healthy, hearty, and robust, weighing in at 10 lbs and 8 lbs, respectively. These little love machines are about 9 months old and keeping us well loved and entertained. Anita continues working with Jake in the kitchen so he can take over cooking duties for Tony and Elwood loves to play in the laundry room and nap in the sun on the cat trees. If only we could teach them to vacuum and pull weeds.

Let’s Stay Connected!

Anita and Tony

Anita and Tony

Until next month, connect with us and the cats on Facebook, Pinterest, and our blog, where you may sign up and follow our regular posts from the nursery and the botanic garden.

Happy Valentine’s Day and Happy Gardening!

-tony and anita


Featured Plants

Cyclamen coum Silver Leaf

Cyclamen coum Silver Leaf

Euphorbia rigida

Euphorbia rigida

Helleborus 'Painted Doubles'

Helleborus ‘Painted Doubles’

Helleborus 'Cinnamon Snow'

Helleborus ‘Cinnamon Snow’

Iris unguicularis 'Purple Snow'

Iris unguicularis ‘Purple Snow’

Ranunculus ficaria 'Brazen Hussy'

Ranunculus ficaria ‘Brazen Hussy’

Plant Delights Nursery November 2014 Newsletter

Happy Thanks-Gardening PDNers!

As we approach the holidays we are so thankful to share our plant passion with each of you. Thank you for ordering from PDN, reading our blog, and sharing our passion on social media. We are so blessed on many levels.

New Catalog Update

As you probably know, October and November are both catalog writing months at Plant Delights. This year, it’s been great to take advantage of our improved wireless access at Juniper Level Botanic Garden to write from a golf cart as we traverse the garden with tape measures and cameras in hand.

We’re still amazed how often our measurements and observations in the garden are at such odds with information published by plant marketers on-line. So much of the discrepancy is because most plant breeders and plant marketers only trial plants for container production. You’d be shocked how many new plants are sold to an unsuspecting public that have never been trialed in a garden.

We are in the process of assembling our 2015 spring catalog for you and it will contain over 100 new perennials including quite a few of our own introductions of asarum, arisaema, baptisia, epimedium, and more. We’re continuing to tweak the format of our print catalog layout to include larger plant images…we hope you enjoy the changes. Let us know what you’d like to see in the catalogs going forward, as well as your comments on format.

Cypripediums and Rohdea japonica

Cypripedium at JLBG

Cypripedium at JLBG

Speaking of plants, the fall harvest of cypripedium ladyslipper orchids is complete and everything is now potted, so if you’d prefer to get your cypripediums in the ground now while they’re dormant, the new crop is on-line.

We also have a one-time offer this fall. Our seed crops of Rohdea japonica have been quite prolific the last few years, so we have more than we currently need. While our surplus lasts, they are available in quantities of 100 or more for $4 each, what a bargain! Email us at if you’re interested.

Shipping Season Ends

We’re wrapping up our 2014 plant shipping season in the first week of December, so this is your last chance to get your fall order shipped before our shipping season resumes in mid-February, weather permitting. That being said, we are always willing to work with you should a horticultural emergency arise between now and then, weather permitting.

JLBG – Autumn Nudity

The fall gardening season is fully upon us now that we’ve had our first hard freeze. Thank goodness, we haven’t had weather like Denver, where it dropped to -14F on November 13…yikes! There are plenty of things in the fall garden we could do without…hibernating perennials and leaf raking come to mind. While the process of leaf raking is tedious, we sure love the resulting compost, so let ‘em fall.

As horticultural voyeurs, we also enjoy watching the garden embrace its fall nudity. Just like disrobing for a shower, the clothes, jewelry, and makeup comes off the garden in fall. Instead of seeing the flashy garden bling of spring and summer, the fall season puts an emphasis on structure and good bones.

Hydrangea and Fall Color at JLBG

Hydrangea and Fall Color at JLBG

JLBG – Evergreens

Evergreens, which mostly fade into the background during spring and summer, suddenly become more visible. Sans foliar clothes, butchered trees and shrubs scream to the world…look at me…I’ve been abused. Late fall is always a great time to take stock of your landscape. How does it look after all the leaves have fallen? The proverbial fall horticultural mirror will indeed show all the garden faults that could stand to be corrected. Would additional evergreen shrubs or perennials help the garden look better through the winter months? We happen to be quite enamored with evergreen plants and have created a website category to make it easier to find these plants: Evergreen Perennials.

JLBG – Compost

Surely, by now, everyone has a compost pile. If you’re short of space, it’s easy enough to rake fallen leaves into a path or lawn, mow them with a mulching mower, and then sprinkle them back into the beds, where they will feed the microbes and, eventually, the plant roots below. Remember the microbes in the soil are responsible for feeding your plants as well as fighting off diseases. These microbes must feed on carbon, which comes from organic compost, so if you compost properly, you should never need to buy salt-based chemical fertilizers.

JLBG – Soil Moisture and Temperature

Also, be sure to also keep a check on garden soil moisture. High fall winds in some parts of the country tend to dry out both foliage and soils at a time when many gardeners don’t think about soil moisture due to the cooler temperatures. Most plants really need good soil moisture going into the fall. Be sure to keep a check to make sure your soil and plants don’t become too dry.

If you grow tender perennials and are in a region where they need to come indoors, hopefully you’ve already taken care of those chores. If not, you can read our article about overwintering tropicals for some helpful information. If your ground doesn’t freeze early, this is still a great time to plant perennials. We haven’t slowed down getting new plants in the ground, and in a typical winter, we only have a few weeks when we can’t plant.

JLBG – New Garden Beds, Displays, and Designs

We’ve updated many of our perennial beds and have created several beautiful new display areas throughout the garden showcasing our unique and rare perennials. Right now we’re in the midst of a major new planting renovation around our sales greenhouses that we can’t wait for you to see in spring. We’ve removed over 30 18-foot-wide Nellie Stevens hollies to make room for some of Jeremy’s rockwork and a host of cool new plants. Plan to come see us at the 2015 Winter Open Nursery and Garden Days in late February and early March to see Jeremy’s gorgeous rockery designs.

2015 Open Nursery and Garden Dates
Winter 2015
February 27 – March 1
March 6 – 8

Spring 2015
May 1 – 3
May 8 – 10

Summer 2015
July 10 – 12
July 17 – 19

Fall 2015
September 11 – 13
September 18 – 20

Fridays/Saturdays 8a-5p and Sundays 1-5p
Rain or Shine!     Free Parking
Click for more info


Purchase PDN Gift Certificates for the Holidays

We’d like to make your holiday shopping experience easier this year by suggesting you visit our website to purchase our Plant Delights Nursery Gift Certificates for all the gardeners and plant lovers on your shopping list.

Our gift certificates are a great way to give or send expressions of your love and good wishes without going through the hassle of driving, parking, and dealing with the holiday crowds! Gift certificates are available from $40.00, and we will gladly mail one directly to the recipient with a nice personal note and our latest plant catalog.

Our gift certificates may be used any time (they do not expire) and will take the guesswork out of gift-giving for that hard-to-buy-for gardener in your life. And we’ll even cover the cost of postage to mail your gift certificate and catalog to each recipient this year!

So cozy up to your tablet or laptop and let us assist you with sending plant and gardening cheer to all your gardening and plant-loving family and friends!

Plant Delights Gift Certificates, a great way to say "I love you!"

Plant Delights Gift Certificates, a great way to say “I love you!”

Congratulations JCRA, Duke Gardens, and UNCC Gardens!

In case you missed it, an academic website called just published a new list of the Best University Associated Arboretums and Botanic Gardens in the world. Congratulations to the three NC university gardens that made the list…well deserved!

  • UNC-Charlotte #26
  • JC Raulston Arboretum #8
  • Duke Gardens #4

Garden Industry News

In other news, we recently received a note from Jacque Wrinkle, widow of the late plantsman Guy Wrinkle, that she has put their dream home and one acre garden in Vista, California, up for sale. The property also includes a 3,000 square foot greenhouse and a wide array of cool plants. So, if you’re in that area, or want to move to this horticulturally rich area…especially if you’re a plant collector, here are a couple of links where you can find out more:

On a sad note this month, longtime friend Joe Gray passed away on October 16 of pancreatic cancer at the far too young age of 58. Many of you in the horticulture industry knew Joe from trade shows, but many more were affected by Joe’s work without knowing it.

Joe spent nearly 30 years working for Hines Nurseries, starting as a salesman and quickly rising to COO. Joe was one of the leaders of Hines Nurseries when they were the largest nursery in the US. As an avid plantsman, Joe’s passion for plants was reflected in many of the plants Hines made available, mostly through independent garden centers around the country.

Joe was one of the truly top notch people in our industry and he’ll be sorely missed. Joe is survived by his wife Carol and three sons, Nicholas, Miles, and Christopher. In lieu of flowers, the Gray family requests donations to American Pancreatic Action Network, 1500 Rosecrans Ave #200, Manhattan Beach, Ca 90266.

Until next month, we’ll see you here on the Plant Delights blog where you may sign up and follow our regular posts from the nursery and the botanic garden.

Happy Thanksgiving!

-tony and anita

Garden Color for Fall and Winter

Rohdea japonica

Rohdea japonica

Rohdea japonica is a highly-prized, tropical-looking, oriental native that mimics the appearance of an evergreen hosta. The 1′ long x 2″ wide, thick, dark green leaves form an upright vase-shaped clump to 2′ wide in 10 years. Late in the season, the insignificant flowers produce attractive short stalks of red berries that persist through the winter at the base of the plant. When used en masse, rohdeas are a dynamite evergreen winter interest addition to the deep shade garden. We have masses of Rohdea japonica growing at the base of giant black walnut trees…can you say tough?

Illicium parviflorum 'Florida Sunshine'

Illicium parviflorum ‘Florida Sunshine’

We brought three golden seedlings of the rare Florida endemic Illicium parviflorum back from a 2000 visit to Florida plantsman Charles Webb. After several years of evaluation, we selected one plant for introduction as Illicium ‘Florida Sunshine’. Our 7-year-old specimen has become a small shrub to 5′ tall x 3′ wide of anise-fragranced, chartreuse gold foliage during the spring and summer. As the weather cools in fall, the leaf color brightens to screaming yellow, then becomes a near parchment color by midwinter. During the same time, the upper stems take on a brilliant red cast, contrasting vividly with the leaves. In sun, the winter foliage will scorch, so we recommend this be grown in light shade…a stunning beacon in the winter garden.

Iris unguicularis 'Dazzling Eyes'

Iris unguicularis ‘Dazzling Eyes’

Iris ‘Dazzling Eyes’ is a 2004 Rick Tasco hybrid that has shown incredible vigor in our trials. Iris ‘Dazzling Eyes’ has a nice white and purple striped eyezone inside the blue-lavender petals. As with all Iris unguicularis cultivars, Iris ‘Dazzling Eyes’ likes a bright sunny location and good drainage…best beside a large rock. For us, flowering usually begins in November and continues through March, pausing only for extremely cold weather.

Featured Plants

Euphorbia x martinii 'Ascot Rainbow' PP 21,401

Euphorbia x martinii ‘Ascot Rainbow’ PP 21,401

Helleborus niger 'HGC Josef Lemper' PP 15,615

Helleborus niger ‘HGC Josef Lemper’ PP 15,615

Heucherella 'Solar Eclipse' PP 23,647

Heucherella ‘Solar Eclipse’ PP 23,647








Oxalis fabaefolia

Oxalis fabaefolia

Verbena canadensis 'Snowflurry'

Verbena canadensis ‘Snowflurry’

Yucca filamentosa 'Color Guard'

Yucca filamentosa ‘Color Guard’

Euphorbia corollata

Euphorbia corolata9

I just snapped this photo of Euphorbia corollata in our garden.  This amazing North American native is virtually unknown in gardens, despite being easy to grow and having amazing flower power through the summer.  In the wild, it grows in deep shade, where it barely flowers.  Instead, plant it in full sun with cacti and it becomes a flowering machine.

Euphorbia ‘Cherokee’

Euphorbia x martinii Cherokee in flower

Euphorbia ‘Cherokee’ is one of those great perennials that’s sadly little-known in commerce…despite being one of the longest-lived euphorbias we grow.  Here it is flowering in the gardens here at Juniper Level today.  We have found this thrives in both full sun and part shade…about all it needs is decent drainage.

2009 Plant Delights Nursery May Newsletter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Please direct all replies and questions to

Thanks and enjoy


2008 Plant Delights Nursery October Newsletter

Greetings from PDN and we hope all is well in your garden. It’s been a challenging time since we last wrote, from Hurricane Ike to the stock market dropping like a hot potato. Our thoughts go out to the people and gardens affected by Hurricane Ike. At the Stephen F. Austin Mast Arboretum in Nacogdoches, TX, the Pineywoods section of the garden no longer has many pines or woods of any kind. The photos I’ve seen show the Arboretum stunningly devastated. Likewise, Mercer Arboretum & Botanic Gardens in Houston suffered severe damage from both wind and flooding. Moody Gardens on Galveston Island also suffered heavy damage, but has reopened. Our thoughts and prayers are with those who were adversely affected by the storm.

Outside of Hurricane Ike, this has been about as good of a late summer and fall as it gets. The temperature in most of the Southeast has been far below normal and we have had good rains leaving us 7.5″ above normal for our yearly rainfall. There are still some very dry parts of the country including areas around western NC, eastern TN, upstate SC, and south to Atlanta.

We’ve just finished our fall inventory as we crunch numbers and figure out which new and returning plants have earned the right to grace the pages of our 2009 catalog. While we’re pretty good at predicting sales numbers, we occasionally overpropagate or the catalog photo just wasn’t as good as we had hoped, so this is your chance to benefit from our errors as we clear out our overstocked plants with a 20% off sale. You can find the list of items which are on sale on our Sale Page. The sale is only valid on orders placed between now and November 2 for delivery by November 15. Enjoy.

We’d like to congratulate Raleigh Landscape Architect and PDN customer, Rodney Swink for being awarded the American Society of Landscape Architects LaGasse Medal for his leadership in management and conservancy of natural resources and public lands. Rodney is the Director of the NC Department of Commerce’s Office of Urban Development … congratulations!

In other news from the gardening world, Dr. H. Marc Cathey passed away on October 8 following a long struggle with Parkinson’s disease at age 79. Marc served two terms as president of the American Horticultural Society from 1974 to 1978 and again from 1993-1997. Marc began his studies at NC State University, with a BS in 1950, and later finished his Ph.D at Cornell. In 1956, he began his career at the USDA Agricultural Research Service in Beltsville, MD. After some pioneer work with day length and its use in forcing horticultural crops, he was promoted to Director of the US National Arboretum in 1981 where he remained until he retired from government service. During his career, Marc was the ultimate showman when it came to horticultural promotion. From the New American Garden concept to the Capitol Columns, to the 1990 USDA Hardiness Zone Map, Marc was unquestionably a marketing genius. With his flamboyant personality, Las Vegas style, and oversized ego, you either loved or hated Marc, but without question he tirelessly promoted gardening until the end. If I see you at the bar one night, we’ll share more Marc stories.

If you live in the Research Triangle region of NC, and have an area you’d like to clear of unwanted vegetation, there is help available in the form of the goat patrol. Having used goats here at PDN when we first purchased the property, I can attest both to their effectiveness and their entertainment value. Anyway, if you’d like something with a little more personality than a weedtrimmer, go for it.

Last month I mentioned our Taiwan expedition log was coming, but it took a bit longer than expected to get the 400 images posted.

Visitors to our garden in October are constantly amazed at the fall show of color … other than garden mums. As gardeners, we miss such an opportunity when we don’t take advantage of the great plants that enjoy strutting their stuff this time of year.

This has been an especially great year for dahlias. Typically, dahlias flower in spring and slow down during the heat of summer. Since dahlias prefer cool nights, we get our best flowering of the season when fall rolls around. We are particularly enamored with the dark foliaged types, of which many new cultivars have been recently released, most from European breeding programs. We’re constantly asked about winter hardiness, and in our region of NC, dahlias are reliable when left in the ground over the winter. Based on our experience, it should be fine to leave dahlias in the ground in regions which only hit 0 degrees F for short periods. Since dahlias are tubers, there is no problem planting them in the fall. D. ‘Party’ and D. ‘Flame’ are personal favorites, but then I like my plants a little on the tacky side.

Without question, one of the other great plant groups for fall is salvia. Salvia greggii is actually a woody subshrub that we treat as a perennial. Like dahlias, they start flowering in spring, but their real show comes in fall as the nights cool. Other salvia species with the same traits include the US native Salvia farinacea and the South American Salvia guaranitica. I do not recommend planting them in fall if you are in the same zone of their maximum hardiness. In other words, don’t plant a Zone 7 salvia in the fall while living in Zone 7 … fine in Zone 8, etc. Another group of salvias are those that only flower in fall, triggered by shortening day length. These include the giant yellow-flowering Salvia madrensis, the tall blue-spiked S. ‘Blue Chiquita’, the tall Salvia leucantha and Salvia puberula, and the bright red-orange Salvia regla.

Not only are there good salvias for fall, but there are good salvia relatives that are easy to miss because they were kicked out of the genus salvia for alternative sexual habits. These include rabdosia, perovskia, rostrinucula, leonotis, and lepechinia. Rabdosia longituba is the one of the five that must have shade … no sun or it’ll burn like a blue-eyed blonde. For us, rabdosia comes into flower from late September to mid-October with hundred of tiny blue flowers. It reseeds politely, so plant accordingly. Rostrinucula is unquestionably one of my favorite fall-flowering plants and one I would not garden without. From the ground, it resprouts in spring to reach 4′ tall, and starting in late August, it flowers into November, covered with long, pendent terminal catkins of lavender that open at the top and progress downward while the catkin extends. It’s one of those cool plants that just makes you smile. Lepechinia hastata is the crown jewel of the genus and looks like a 5′ tall salvia. The menthol-fragranced leaves serve as a nice foil to the tall spikes of mauvy lavender flowers that last from late August until frost. Lepechinia is particularly drought and heat tolerant as well as being a favorite of hummingbirds. Leonotis is known in some gardening circles, but virtually unknown in others. Here in our part of NC, we are at the northern end of hardiness range for this gem. Leonotis is just coming into full flower with tall spikes of bright orange flower balls. There isn’t much unknown about perovskia, but after being the ‘flavor of the month’ for years as a staple of ‘The New American Garden,’ its availability has waned in recent years as growers moved on to other new introductions. Despite not getting the headlines it used to, it is still one of the stalwarts for hot, dry gardens. As is the case with most of these genera, drought tolerance isn’t an issue once the plants are established.

The cyclamen, in particular C. hederifolium, have just outdone themselves this year. As always, they start flowering for us in July and continue non-stop into fall. Early on, we had little success with them until we learned they need to be planted where they will be dry in the summer months, simulating their Mediterranean upbringing. We look for areas we can’t keep wet in the summer, despite irrigation, and plant them there. Areas near water-hogging trees and shrubs are perfect … as long as they aren’t completely dark. We find light shade to several hours of sun is perfect. These are great to plant now, since they continue to grow through the winter.

We all recognize the toad lilies as being great fall bloomers for the woodland garden, and I hope you have explored some of the newer and lesser known members of the genus. Most folks start with the axillary-flowering Tricyrtis hirta, which is still one of the best in the genus. Another of the purple-flowering species is the stoloniferous Tricyrtis formosana, which is less hardy, but flowers terminally for a much longer time in late summer. There are also a number of hybrids between T. formosana and T. hirta including T. ‘Imperial Banner’, and T. ‘Sinonome’. In addition to the great variegated foliage, our clumps of T. ‘Imperial Banner’ are simply stunning in flower this fall.

Many folks grow red hot pokers, but most of the common species and cultivars are either spring or summer growers. Kniphofia rooperi is one of the few exceptions, as it starts flowering in late August to early September and is still in flower. I particularly like the flower heads, which are shorter, but much wider than the spring flowering species. If you haven’t grown this great plant, and like pokers, I think you will find it outstanding.

You don’t normally think of coreopsis for flowering in the fall, but southeast US natives, C. helianthoides and C. integrifolia are simply stunning this time of year. Both species are spreading plants, native to wet soils, yet both are amazing garden specimens in the driest garden spots. We’re currently sold out of C. integrifolia, but put this on your list for spring.

We all know ornamental grasses are stalwarts of the fall garden, but few can hold a candle to Muhlenbergia capillaris ‘White Cloud’. Unfortunately this gem comes into flower about four weeks after our fall open house, so visitors don’t get to see it in person. The 4′ tall x 4′ wide clumps of this great native are topped now with airy plumes of white flowers. The other favorite fall bloomer is the giant sugar cane, Saccharum arundinaceum. This grass is not for the faint of heart with its 12′ plumes of lavender, opening in mid-October.

In the Top 25 this month, there were no new moves into the top 30, although Aloe polyphylla, Agave ‘Creme Brulee’, Anisacanthus wrightii, and Clematis ‘Stolwijk Gold’ lurk close behind. Euphorbia ‘Nothowlee’ continues its climb upward, moving into the 3rd position, where it will need a huge leap to overtake either of the top 2 by year’s end. The lovely and talented Salvia chamaedryoides moves into 7th place, while Tiarella ‘Pink Skyrocket’ also cracks the Top 10. It is amazing to be this close to the end of the season and still find 3 agaves in the Top 10 and 6 in the top 30. Gaillardia ‘Fanfare’ has made a late season move, jumping from 20th to 15th, but no other significant moves took place. We hope your choices have put you in place to win our $250 Plant Delights gift certificate.

We hope you enjoy your garden this fall season as much as we do ours. For a little solace from the constant barrage of 24/7 media, remember, there’s no place like a garden. From the bottom of our hearts, we thank you for your continued support and hope to see you soon!

Please direct all replies and questions to

Thanks and enjoy


2007 Plant Delights Nursery May Newsletter

We made it through winter in great shape, but then early spring jumped up and bit us in the you know where. Gardeners in many parts of the country were hit with devastating cold in early April after spring temperatures had already fooled many plants into beginning to grow. Web ordering provides us with a fascinating glimpse into gardeners’ real-time state of mind. Everyone was going crazy ordering during the warm first week of April, only to be shell-shocked days later when the cold weather returned. We can see folks just starting to recover enough to think positively about gardening again… perhaps we need an on-line gardening therapist to help with the recovery… where is Dr. Philadelphus when you need him?

In Juniper Level, we had been in the 80’s for two weeks, before encountering five consecutive nights below freezing with the worst night reaching 22 degrees F. A couple of days later, we got to enjoy a smashing hailstorm, followed by an entire day of 50+ mph winds. I know this is a typical spring day to many midwest residents, but in our neck of the woods, it’s a big deal.

Although we covered quite a few perennials in the garden and kept the damage to a minimum on those plants, the trees and shrubs were not as lucky. Magnolias, celtis, crape myrtles, and idesia were fried to a crisp. I read a laughable article in our local paper just a day before the freeze explaining how native plants would not be hurt and how they should be planted instead of plants from foreign lands. Guess what… native oaks, walnuts, fringe trees, redbuds, maples, and many more look like my darkened efforts to cook toast. I guess I should have let my native plants read the article.

Now it’s a matter of wait and see if the plants will recover. Many of these plants have dormant buds along the stem, which under normal circumstances would not develop. The plants must first get over the cold shock, then we will learn if the physiology of the plant will allow the dormant buds to develop without some additional stimulus such as an additional number of chilling hours. In many cases, the death of a terminal bud may be enough to change the hormonal balance that often keeps the dormant buds from growing. In any case, it will take 2-8 weeks of warm weather before we will know for sure what to expect from our plants. There will be some cases where the plants only sprout from the base and others where they may be completely dead. Not only is each plant different, but the physical state of each plant is another part of the equation. Plants on the north side of a building may have remained dormant and avoided damage, while the same clone in a warmer location may have been killed. Many nurserymen who had recently dug balled and burlapped crape myrtles actually saved their plants. The process of digging and root removal caused the plant not to begin growing as early. These dug plants are mostly fine.

It seems that nursery growers in the wholesale production regions of Tennessee got hit the hardest, with several growers suffering losses in the 100,000’s of plants as temperatures dropped into the mid-teens after many plants were in full leaf. Our thoughts go out to them during what will be a financially difficult time recovering and staying in business.

I’ve been on the road quite a bit in April, and it’s always a treat to see other gardens in peak season. This is the second year in a row that I’ve made it to Michigan in spring and as always, I try to stop by and visit our friends Bob and Brigitta Stewart of Arrowhead Alpines. Don’t be fooled by the name, as alpines are only a small part of their extensive plant offerings. If you are passionate about cool plants, their nursery, which is about 1 hour northwest of Detroit, is a horticultural mecca. I always make the mistake of not taking enough empty luggage to haul plants home.

The other gem that I discovered this year was Armstrong Atlantic State University Arboretum ( in Savannah, GA. Never heard of it? It’s not an arboretum in the conventional sense, as it is actually a 280+ acre campus-wide botanic garden, along the same lines as the fabulous Scott Arboretum on the Swarthmore PA campus. UGA graduate and Mike Dirr protégé, Philip Schretter, has turned the campus into one of the most amazing public gardens that I’ve ever visited, and I will admit to feeling a bit jaded. I don’t know if it was the International Garden with sections devoted to each continent or the Banksia garden that was the most impressive, but I can’t begin to tell you what a gem this is. For those that have been to Savannah, it’s only a five minute drive from the famed Bamboo Experiment Station just south of town.

We’ve just added quite a few new plants to our on-line catalog, many of which are in short supply. When we discover a new plant that we think may have good garden potential, we will often order several for trial. Many of the overseas wholesalers require a minimum order of 25 plants per variety, so after planting our trial plants, we often have 20 or so of each left. Several of the new plants on our list fall into this category… plants that we think will be future stars, but ones we aren’t ready to put in the printed catalog without some on-site trials. If you enjoy having the newest plants first, this is a great opportunity, but only if you act fast. If these plants trial well for us, it may be 1-3 years before they hit the main catalog. You can find the new offerings at and click on April 2007 additions. They also appear in alphabetical order if you are going through the entire on-line catalog.

We’re gearing up for our Spring Open House, which begins a week from today and runs Friday-Sunday, May 4-6 and 11-13. The hours are 8-5 on Fridays and Saturdays and 1-5 on Sundays. Despite the freeze damage, the gardens really look quite superb, and the nursery is brimming with special treasures. We hope you will take time to drop by for a visit. If you are bringing a bus tour, just give us a call and we can assist with your arrangements.

As I mentioned earlier in the month, this is our heaviest shipping season. Combined with open house, our shipping staff and facilities get maxed out for a few weeks. We cannot add any additional orders to be shipped out the week of April 30-May 4 but can still handle a few more for the week of May 7-11. If you are having a horticultural emergency, please don’t wait to let us know.

On a final but sad note, Bill Janssen of Collectors Nursery in Oregon passed away after an extended illness. Our condolences go out to Bill’s wife, Diana Reeck, during this difficult time.

The late April version of the top 25 list of the year hasn’t seen too many changes. We expect the big shuffling to occur after open house next weekend. It’s still quite amazing to have a hosta hanging in at #4 and two euphorbias still in the top 10. I hope your Top 25 Contest selections are making their way to the top!

As always, we thank you for your continued support and patronage.

Please direct all replies and questions to

Thanks and enjoy


2008 Plant Delights Nursery March Newsletter

Spring is well on its way here at Plant Delights as many of the spring ephemerals are in full flower. We’re hoping some of the early plants will slow down a bit to avoid a devastating April freeze like we endured in 2007. All in all, it’s been a good winter, although we could have done without the early March freeze (24 degrees F) that took out the flowers on the early magnolias, including M. denudata, M. ‘Galaxy’, and Michellia maudiae.

We’ve completed another great winter open house, but still have some superb selected flowering hellebores we’re adding to the web. These are available in limited quantities, so don’t delay. We also added a total of 56 new or returning plants you may wish to peruse.

The first waves of epimediums are just opening including E. stellatum, E. acuminatum, E. epsteinii, E. sempervirens, E. davidii, E. franchetii, and the early flowering E. grandiflorum ‘Yubae’. The rest of the species and hybrids will be following over the next month. Every year we become more enamored with this fun group of fairy wings, but beware, epimedium collecting is addictive. We’ve also been raising quite a few of our own seedlings and have some really special plants that we’ve been watching for several years. We should be making some final selections this year and look forward to getting them propagated for sale.

Another of our favorite early spring woodland plants is Sanguinaria canadensis (bloodroot). This delightful native wildflower (named for the red sap that emerges from the crushed roots) is one of the first rites of spring and a sign that spring is finally here. The single flowered forms open first, followed several weeks later by the splendid double flowered Sanguinaria canadensis ‘Multiplex’. If you grow sanguinaria, be sure to divide your clumps every 3-4 years. If not, sanguinaria suffers from a strange malady that causes the entire clump to dry rot if not divided.

Several of the early flowering iris are also gracing the garden now including the winter growing Iris unguicularis and the early spring-flowering Iris japonica ‘Eco Easter’. This has been a superb year for Iris unguicularis, which has been flowering on and off for several months. Iris ‘Eco Easter’ is a superb form of Iris japonica and is one of the only forms of this species to flower in our climate, which is typically too cold for the developing flower buds. This is a widely spreading species, so be sure to allow enough room for it to spread.

Also in flower now is the wonderful Cyclamen coum with its pink flowers held just above the silver and green patterned leaves. Accompanying the cyclamen are the perennial primulas including a number of Primula vulgaris cultivars. We are very thrilled to have discovered quite a few primulas which survive as perennials in our hot, humid, anti-primula climate.

The Boraginaceae family provides several great early spring bloomers including pulmonarias (lungwort) and Trachystemon orientalis. Most of our pulmonarias have just begun to flower, most opening blue and changing to pink. Two of our top performers are Pulmonaria ‘Trevi Fountain’ and P. ‘Samourai’. The closely related trachystemon forms a large basal rosette of large fuzzy dark green leaves that emerge just as the 8″ tall flower spikes of small blue dodecatheon-like flowers fade. Trachystemon is an incredibly tough woodland groundcover that is amazingly drought tolerant.

Last month, I mentioned the yellow-flowering Nothoscordum sellowianum as one of my favorite winter flowering bulbous plants, and while it is still in full flower, it has now been joined by another favorite, Fritillaria thunbergii. I got my first start of this unusual summer dormant gem from plantsman John Elsley and planted it into our woodland, where it has thrived for us for more than a decade. The narrow leaves with hooked ends adorn the upright stalks that are now topped with bizarre flowers that seem oblivious to subfreezing temperatures.

A few other plants that dare to flower at the end of the winter season include Euphorbias with E. characias in their parentage. This includes not only the species itself, but the wonderful hybrid E. ‘Nothowlee’. Although it’s not usually thought of for winter flowers, rosemary is simply stunning in the winter garden. We have a giant clump of Rosmarinus ‘Arp’, growing just outside our front door so we not only enjoy the dark blue winter flowers but also the evergreen foliage that makes a wonderful addition to Michelle’s rosemary chicken.

We’ve finally had enough rain that all of the local reservoirs are full or nearly so … including the poorly managed Falls Lake Reservoir (now 2.7′ below full) that feeds Raleigh and surrounding cities. City leaders have such a lack of respect for the Green Industry that they banned all hose watering, while allowing car washes to remain in operation as long as they use no more than 55 gallons per car, or no more than 3 gallons per minute for self-serve washes. It’s pretty clear by their logic, clean cars are far more important than live plants.

For those who have visited Plant Delights, there is a good chance you have dined at the nearby landmark, Stephenson’s Nursery and Barbeque. It is with sadness that I report the death of its founder, Paul Stephenson, 79, of nearby McGee’s Crossroads. Mr. Paul, as he was known, played semi-pro baseball before starting the Barbeque in 1958, followed by the nursery in 1979. The nursery and barbeque will continue operating under the direction of Paul’s children.

I mentioned in an earlier E-newsletter that the Pike Nursery chain, based in Atlanta had declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy, but was to continue in operation. The latest in the unfortunate saga is that the assets of Pike have now been auctioned off.

We’re glad to report a segment shot last summer on our gardens here at Juniper Level, will air on Martha Stewart’s television show on Wednesday March 19. I’ll also be on the show live the same day. If you’re really bored that day, you can find out the time and channel in your area by going to Martha’s website, look for the local channel schedule and enter your zip code.

If you’ve submitted your ballot for our Top 25 contest, click here for the current standings. For us, the shock is the huge interest in agaves, with 6 of our top 11 best sellers belonging to that genus. The 2nd most popular genus in the Top 25 is colocasia with 3 entries. Don’t get discouraged if your selections don’t appear on the list yet, as it changes dramatically as the season progresses.

As always, we thank you for your continued support and patronage.

Please direct all replies and questions to

Thanks and enjoy


2001 Plant Delights Nursery February Newsletter

As I look out the window through the cold, ice filled screen, I quickly turn to pages 24 and 25 of our printed catalog. There I find Cannas. Lots of vibrant, alive and colorful flowers that scream at me by saying “SPRING IS COMING – REALLY!”

Spring was here, if only briefly, and we enjoyed the heck out of it. Kind of like when you’re at a restaurant and they bring out a tray full of tasty food – to the guy in the next booth. We think that this ice-encrusted day is an anomaly, and spring will wrap its warm arms around us again tomorrow.

We’ve already started shipping to southern locations on February 12, and the pace is certainly picking up. We’ve had many people place orders so far, and ordering early definitely improves your chances of getting everything you want.

Right now, there are several plants that look especially good, including Tiarella ‘Jeepers Creepers’, Sisyrinchium sp. ‘Puerto Yellow’, Pulmonaria ‘Dark Vader’, Euphorbia robbiae and Trillium underwoodii.

One last thought. We couldn’t do without our favorite people in the world – you! Thanks for taking a few moments to take a look around our site. We hope you find something you like, and remember, ice is for hockey and cold drinks.

David Lee Customer Service and Shipping Manager