Sotol Spikes

The lovely Mexican woody lily, Dasylirion berlandieri, is just finishing a bout of flowering. The flowers are magnets for both native bees as well as honeybees. Unlike their cousin, Agave, Dasylirion don’t die after flowering.

Dasylirion berlandieri var. berlandieri

Electric Neon Purple

The latest member of the clumping monardas of the Electric Neon series is ‘Electric Neon Purple’. Here it is in our garden this summer, looking absolutely fabulous. Look for this in our upcoming Fall catalog.

Buzz…Spread the Word

For the last couple of decades, we’ve enjoyed having beehives here on the JLBG property. For most of that time, they were owned by the Bayer Crop Sciences group, but after their merger a few years ago, their nearby bee research center shut down.

After that we were able to work with a former Bayer staffer to maintain the hives, but sadly, that chapter has also ended. We’re looking for a nearby beekeeper who would be interested in having hives here at JLBG. We can tell you that with the incredible plant diversity, the honey has a taste like no other. If you or someone you know might be interested, just send a email to

Bee hives at Juniper Level Botanic Garden.

Acacias don’t grow here

If you get your gardening information on-line, where everything written is a fact, you’ll know for sure that acacias aren’t growable in Zone 7b, Raleigh, NC. If that includes you, don’t look at the photo below of Acacia greggii ‘Mule Mountain’ in flower at JLBG. Acacia greggii is a native from Texas west to California. Our seven year-old specimen is from Patrick McMillan’s collection in Cochise County, Arizona.

To be nomenclaturally correct, most of the US Acacias have now been moved into the genus Senegalia, so even though the American species aren’t from anywhere near Senegal, this is now known as Senegalia greggii.

Of course, it you also read the hogwash on-line about native pollinators needed and preferring plants they evolved with, then you’ll also have to ignore the masses of native bees that cause the entire plant to buzz while they’re feeding. It’s good we don’t let our plants and insects read books or the Internet.

Awaken the Kraken

A few weeks ago, we posted images of the flower spike of our Agave ovatifolia ‘Vanzie’ just beginning to spike. Now, the giant beast is in full flower. The first photo below is the plant with its full expanded stalk in full bud, just prior to opening. After that, each image shows the progression of the flower development.

Agaves are monocarpic, so those species like Agave ovatifolia that do not make offsets will die after flowering. Agave ovatifolia is, however, one of a handful of species that usually forms baby plantlets on the tip of flowers stalk after seed set.

Agave ovatifolia ‘Vanzie’

First flowers just beginning to open

Agave ovatifolia ‘Vanzie’

We set up our Little Giant ladder, which allows us to climb up, collect pollen and to make crosses with other agaves.

The lower flower clusters open first and flowering continues to progress each day moving higher up the stalk.

Agave ovatifolia ‘Vanzie’

Climbing the ladder gives you a bird’s eye view of the amazing buds as they are ready to open…usually 200-300 per panicle.

Agave ovatifolia ‘Vanzie’

Below is a half-open flower panicle. The pollen is ripe before the stigma is ready to receive pollen, so pollen can be easily gathered without worry of self pollination.

Below is a fully open flower panicle. Each panicle weighs 5-10 pounds. No wonder the stalk needs to be so sturdy. Once the temperature warms in the morning, the flowers are abuzz with pollinators…mostly bees.

Agave ovatifolia ‘Vanzie’

Looking down from above the flower panicle makes a pretty crazy photo

Agave ovatifolia ‘Vanzie’

Our intern Zoe is working with our volunteer agave curator, Vince Schneider to gather pollen and make crosses with other previously gathered agave pollen

Agave ovatifolia ‘Vanzie’

I usually don’t climb this high…a fear of heights, but this photo opportunity was just too good to resist

Agave ovatifolia ‘Vanzie’

Some sage advice…check out these great newly available salvias!

Salvia leucantha Eder

We’ve trialed many variegated forms of the lovely fall-flowering Salvia leucantha, and the only one we felt was good enough to share is Salvia leucantha ‘Eder’, which we’re pleased to offer this summer/fall for the first time. Where it isn’t winter hardy, it can easily be kept indoors in a cool room or porch.

Salvia nutans

I first met the Balkan native, Salvia nutans on a visit to Germany a few years ago and was gobstruck.  How had I missed knowing and growing such amazing plant?  We were able to track down seed, and to our surprise, it thrived even through our hot humid summers. For us, Salvia nutans flowers for several months in spring, but will continue longer if the summers are cooler.  Did I mention how hard it is to photograph due to the abundance of feeding bumblebees?

Salvia Newe Yaar

Salvia ‘Newe Ya’ar’ is an odd name for an odd plant.  This amazing sage was developed in Israel by breeders looking for the perfect culinary sage.  In developing this, they also created a great garden plant for regions that have trouble growing the typical culinary sage, Saliva officinalis, due to our wet, humid summers. Members of the American Herb Society, who first imported this, raved about it amongst themselves, so we’re thrilled to finally be able to share.  We don’t know how far north this has been trialed past our 7 degrees F here, so please let us know how its performed if you’ve tried it in colder regions.

Plant Delights November 2015 Newsletter

Greetings PDNers!

From all of us at Plant Delights Nursery and Juniper Level Botanic Garden, we give thanks to you for joining our plant-loving family.

Shipping Season Ends Soon

We’re wrapping up our 2015 shipping season on November 30, so if you’ve put off making your fall order, better hurry. We’ll begin shipping again in mid-February, but will try to accommodate any horticultural emergencies between now and then as the weather and our staffing will allow.

Order PDN Gift Certificates for the Holidays

We’ll continue to make Plant Delights gift certificates available, since these are the perfect gift for the gardeners on your list.

A handwritten Plant Delights Nursery Gift Certificate

  • Makes the perfect Hostess gift for your next soiree
  • Makes the perfect gift for Teachers (Way better than a coffee mug!)
  • Has no fees and never expires
  • Can be accompanied by our color catalog and a note with your personalized sentiment
  • Can be emailed as well for fast delivery

PDN Gift Certificate

Check off your shopping list with a PDN Gift Certificate!

PDN’s 2016 Spring Catalog Coming Soon

We’ve been busy writing and assembling the 2016 Plant Delights Nursery catalog, which is now in the design phase. Only a few more weeks before it heads off to the printer on the journey that will land it in mailboxes early in 2016. As always, the catalog will feature over 500 treasures including nearly 100 first time offerings.

Fall in Juniper Level Botanic Garden

Dahlia imperialis

Dahlia imperialis

We’ve enjoyed wonderful fall gardening weather, which featured mild temperatures and a crazy amount of moisture. Thank goodness we missed the deluge that occurred three hours south in South Carolina, where they endured 26″ of rain in a single storm. As you can imagine, plant growth in the gardens this fall has been nothing short of miraculous. Most pitcher plants form new pitchers in spring and fall and, as long as I’ve been growing them, they are truly exceptional with all the moisture this year.

Other plants enjoying an exceptional fall include our fall-flowering Gladiolus ‘Halloweenie’, the giant tree dahlias, Dahlia imperialis, and the stunning Salvia regla. The winter-flowering Iris unguicularis is now beginning to bloom. We and the honeybees have enjoyed great flowering on the fatsias in the garden. We love those alien-like flower spikes in November. Even the dazzling Schefflera delavayi has flowered beautifully sans frost, and seems to be setting another excellent crop of seed.

Projects Around the Gardens

Iris unguicularis

Iris unguicularis

We have a number of fall/winter projects underway including renovations and hedge removal along our nursery and garden entry and exit drive. We’re recycling sections of concrete from the new property to use in constructing a new rock garden section. Weather permitting, we’ll have something new for you to see in spring.

We’ve also finally broken ground on our new retirement bungalow and begun ground-shaping and berm building on the new property, incorporating compost from our nursery. Each fall we receive 400-500 tons of leaves from the local municipality, which are composted here and added to the gardens. As much as it pains us to see people discarding such wonderful resources, we are thrilled to be the recipients.

New Online Customer Reviews Added

We’ve recently added customer reviews to the Plant Delights website, so we hope you’d be willing to take time and share comments on your favorite plants and education center classes. You can do that on the individual product pages here.

Also, these websites have general business reviews, so we’d really love it if you would also review Plant Delights Nursery!

PDN/JLBG Classes

Anita in the Garden

Anita in the Garden

We’ve already posted our greatly expanded education center schedule for 2016 on the PDN and JLBG websites. Because Anita’s first class in 2015 was so well received, we’re kicking off the new year with another Mindfulness in the Garden Retreat on January 30.

Anita will lead you through simple sensory exercises to soothe the body and open the heart. If you’re ready to reduce stress and suffering, you’ll enjoy this intimate opportunity to experience the peaceful and healing effects of sensing the garden from your heart.

Seating for this class is limited and pre-registration is required at 919-772-4794. The class fee is $40. Click here for more information on any of our 2016 classes or call 919-772-4794.

You may learn more about Anita at or read her wonderful Sensuous Garden Blog.

Open Nursery and Garden Dates for 2016

We’ve posted our 2016 Open Nursery and Garden dates on the website…we hope you’ll save these dates for a visit to Plant Delights Nursery and Juniper Level Botanic Garden.

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
Sunday 1-5p

Rain or Shine!
Free Parking!

Click for more info

Happy Open Nursery Days Shoppers

Happy Open Nursery Days Shoppers

See You in Germany

Tony looks forward to meeting many of our International Facebook friends in Frankfurt, Germany for the International Hardy Plant Union Conference in February 2016, where he’ll be speaking. We hope you’ll be able to attend this special gathering of plant nerds.

Passing On

It is with sadness that we share the passing of Camellia Forest Nursery founder, Kai Mei Parks, 79, who suddenly passed away from pancreatic cancer in mid-October. Tony treasures his early visits to the 35-year old Camellia Forest when it was once a one woman operation, and his delightful chats with Kai Mai. She was a strong-willed workaholic, without whom we wouldn’t have her nursery treasure today. Camellia Forest has been managed by her son David for the last decade plus, but you could still find Kai Mei pulling orders almost until the end. Please join us in celebrating the life of this amazing lady!

The International Horticultural Community also suffered a huge loss with the untimely death of UK plantsman, Mark Flanagan at age 56, due to sudden heart problems. Mark was the Chairman of the Royal Horticulture Society’s Woody Plant Committee and Keeper of the Gardens at Windsor Great Park (including The Savill Garden). Mark was a world-renowned plant explorer, collecting in Japan, China, South Korea, and the Russian Far East. Mark was also co-author with Tony Kirkham of two widely acclaimed books, Plants from the Edge of the World (Timber Press, 2005), and Wilson’s China (Kew Publishing, 2009). Mark was awarded two of England’s highest honors, as a Member of the Royal Victorian Order (MVO) and with the Royal Horticultural Society’s highest accolade in horticulture, the Victoria Medal of Honor (VMH). We celebrate Mark’s valuable contributions to horticulture, and offer our condolences to his family.

Industry News

A September 2015 study with responses from over 1,400 garden writers shed an interesting light on garden writing as a career. The study showed, of both full- and part-time writers, the majority earn below the National Poverty Level of just over $11,000 per year. Garden writer earnings have declined over 24% since 2009 due to a number of factors, including a decline in bookstores, the domination of Amazon, on-line piracy, the consolidation of publishers, and the increased availability of free on-line content. Of those surveyed, 33% have self-published at least one book. Most have also resorted to additional sources of income to support themselves.

In nursery industry news this month, Mike Shoup, 63, founder of the famous Antique Rose Emporium, is selling his display gardens and garden center facilities. The rose breeding and mail order divisions, however, will be retained.

The eleven-acre garden center and gardens, which include restored historical buildings, gift shops, and a chapel, are located near Brenham, Texas in the town of Independence. Serious inquiries may be directed to Jenny at 979-836-5664.

Garden for Sale

Our longtime customers Sherrill and Joyce Morris are downsizing and are hoping to sell their house and garden to another plant lover. If you’re looking to move to the area just south of Plant Delights, take a look.

Connect with Us!

Until next month, connect and follow us and the cats on FacebookPinterest, and our blogs: Tony’s at https://blog.jlbg.organd Anita’s at We encourage you to sign up to follow our regular posts.

Happy Gardening and Happy Thanksgiving!

tony and anita

Dasylirions in flower

Dasylirion berlandieri Puerto Purification spike2


We love Southwestern plants, and were thrilled this year to have so many dasylirions bloom.  Unlike their agave relatives, dasylirions don’t die after flowers.  Also, unlike agaves, each plant is either male or female.  We haven’t had good luck getting both to flower the same year until now.


Dasylirion berlandieri v. berlanderi Y8 05-300 in flower female spike


Here is a female dasylirion flower spike…no pollen.




Dasylirion berlandieri v. berlandieri male spike


Here is the corresponding female dasylirion flower spike, loaded with pollen. Dasylirion flower spikes produce quite a noise while in flower due to the incredible number of honeybees feeding.


30′ tall Flowering Agave – a pollinators dream

Agave Grey Gator in full flower at top with ladderIt’s been absolutely amazing to watch the swarm of honeybees, ants, and hummingbirds feeding on our giant 30′ tall flowering agave.  Here’s an updated photo of the blessed event from yesterday.  This weekend’s final summer open house is the last chance to see it in person.


Aster ‘Ashivi’

Aster ageratoides Ashiva flowers closeup

We’re quite fond of the late asters, as are the abundance of bees in the garden.  This is Aster ‘Ashivi’…a selection of the Japanese Aster ageratoides that we just photographed. This is really a stunning selection and much less aggressive that the purple-flowered forms we’ve grown.

An explosion of perennial salvias

Salvia Amistad6


The garden is ablaze with perennial salvias now, including several with blue or near blue flowers.  Above is Salvia ‘Amistad’…a flowering machine that continues at the same pace all summer.  Unlike Salvia guaranitca, Salvia ‘Amistad’ does not spread via rhizomes, although it does form a wide clump.

Saliva guaranitica Argentina Skies with bumblebee

and here is Salvia guaranitica ‘Argentina Skies‘…a much lighter blue that does make a large patch due to its spreading nature.  Both plants are a feast for the bees.

Plant Delights Nursery May 2014 Newsletter

Dear PDN’ers!

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.

Cattail Bridge at Mystic Creek

Cattail Bridge at Mystic Creek

Weathering the Winter in JLBG

Juniper Level Botanic GardenIn 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.

Cycas panzhihuaensis

Cycas panzhihuaensis

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.

Tony’s Travels


Hans and Tony courtesy of C. C. Burrell

Hans and Tony
courtesy of C. C. Burrell

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.

Connecting Socially

Zircon says "Don't mess with my social media links!"

Zircon says
“Don’t mess with my
social media links!”

We both love to share our plant passion with you on the PDN blog and our social media sites. We originally posted only on Facebookthen 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!

A dramatic re-enactment by Jasper and Henry

A dramatic re-enactment by Jasper and Henry

Sticky Bees

Phlox paniculata 'Purple Eyes' with bees

Phlox paniculata ‘Purple Eyes’ with bees

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 Updates

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

Woodland Garden Paths near the Water Oak Garden

Woodland Garden Paths near the Water Oak Garden

Southeast Palm Society at PDN/JLNG on August 9th


 Sabal uresana

Sabal uresana

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

Henry in the Grotto Garden at dusk

Henry in the Grotto Garden at dusk

Featured Plants

Crinum 'Lorraine Clark'

Crinum ‘Lorraine Clark’

Curcuma longa 'Snowdrift'

Curcuma longa ‘Snowdrift’

Canna 'Lemon Punch'

Canna ‘Lemon Punch’

Echinacea 'Secret Glow' PPAF

Echinacea ‘Secret Glow’ PPAF

Kniphofia 'Redhot Popsicle' PPAF

Kniphofia ‘Redhot Popsicle’ PPAF

Salvia 'Amistad' PP# 23,578

Salvia ‘Amistad’ PP# 23,578

Saururus cernuus 'Hertford Streaker'

Saururus cernuus ‘Hertford Streaker’

2013 Plant Delights Nursery April Newsletter

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Stone wall in the spring woodland garden







Dear PDN’ers

It’s been quite a spring so far…very cool for much longer than usual…at least until early April.  Plant emergence was far behind recent springs when, out of nowhere, temperatures rose in the 80s for ten days and the garden sprung to life.  The subsequent late April temperature cool down, however, kept plant development about 1-2 weeks behind recent springs.  Because of the sudden warm-up we experienced in early April, many smaller perennials will wilt despite the soil still being moist.  As a gardener, this drives me a bit mad, but you have to realize the plants will adjust their stomatal openings (breathing holes) and be fine once they acclimate to the new temperature regimen, which usually only takes a couple of days.

One of the garden tasks that need attention in spring is assessing the amount of shade in your woodland garden.  Spring is a great time to take stock of your woodland perennials, who will tell you if they are unhappy with the amount of light they are receiving.  They won’t tell you via email or through their union reps, so you have to tune in and observe.  If your plants seem to be going backwards in vigor or size…they used to flower but they no longer do so, you need to stop and figure out why.  In almost all cases, spring ephemerals suffer a gradual decline in the woodland garden. Hostas that get smaller, trilliums that no longer flower and other woodland perennials that simply aren’t as vigorous as they once were are a sign of trouble.  There are a number of potential culprits, from voles to a lack of summer moisture, but the cause that I see more than any other is an increase in the amount of shade.

Most shade plants need some light.  In the case of spring ephemerals (plants that go through their entire life cycle in late winter/early spring), they need light during the short window of time before the trees develop their leaves.  If you try growing spring ephemerals under evergreens, the results are usually not good.  If all you have are evergreen trees and shrubs as an overstory, you can still help the situation by thinning out or removing selected limbs until you see rays of light reaching the plants below.  Even plantings under deciduous trees can decline if the overstory isn’t selectively thinned on at least an annual basis.  Now is a great time to monitor the perennials in your shade garden and determine which limbs need to be either removed or thinned, so get the hand pruners and pole saw ready.  If you do this early enough in the year, plants can recover in only one season.

Interesting Stuff

Athyrium (Lady Fern, Japanese Painted Fern) and Azalea 'Redwing'

Athyrium (Lady Fern, Japanese Painted Fern) and Azalea ‘Redwing’

As most of you know, we are rapidly approaching our Spring Open House, May 3-5 and May 10-12.  This a very special open house for us as it marks our 25th year in existence.  Plant Delights and the gardens here at Juniper Level have come a long way since 1988, and we hope you will join us to celebrate this very special occasion.  All of this would never have been possible without your tremendous support and for that, we can’t thank you enough.  The dates for this and future open nursery and garden dates can be found at here.

The gardens here at Juniper Level look amazing thanks to garden curator, Todd Wiegardt, and his amazing staff and volunteers.  I’m writing this from the garden patio where the evening aromas are in stronger than a Willie Nelson tour bus…from phlox to michellias (banana shrubs), to chionanthus and amorphophallus…there’s an aroma for everyone.  Although the garden is perfumed all day, many of the best fragrances occur in late afternoon, so schedule your visit accordingly.  If you’re attending open house for the first time, plan to be a bit overwhelmed.  With over 20,000 different plants in the garden, it’s impossible to even begin to see everything in one trip.  Heck, even I find new plants every day that I’ve forgotten.  Our horticulture staff is stationed throughout the garden and nursery to answer any of your gardening questions, so don’t hesitate to ask anything that comes to mind as you stroll through the acres of gardens.

Cypripedium 'Paul'

Cypripedium ‘Paul’

We also still have some room in our close-up photography class which takes place during the first Saturday of our open house.  We are fortunate to have Josh Taylor, of Maryland, who also teaches photography at the Smithsonian, here to lead the class.  You can sign up online here.

Strangely, we also have room remaining in our June propagation class for the first time in over 20 years.  Again, don’t hesitate if you’d like one of the last spots.

Spring has been too busy for much traveling, but a recent 4-talk speaking trip through Tennessee, Virginia, and North Carolina did provide a bit of time for some spring botanizing.  The highlight of the trip was the chance to see the recently discovered and soon-to-be named Trillium tennesseense….see the image we posted on the Trillium facebook page.  Lots of other gems along the way, too numerous to mention here.

In the “in case you missed it file” this month, scientists have discovered that some plant nectar comes laced with caffeine, which enhances the Pavlovian response of garden pollinators.  A bevy of bees in your garden may be, in fact, more like a line of latte-lovers standing in line at Starbucks than we ever realized. This adds to the stack of mounting evidence of how plants manipulate animals for mutual benefit.  Although this relationship has been know for years using nectar sugars, this is a first for plants resorting to psychoactive drugs to lure suitors.  These results come from honeybee expert, Geraldine Wright, of England’s Newcastle University, as an offshoot of her research to study human abused drugs.

Under the arching oak in the woodland garden

Under the arching oak in the woodland garden

Nursery News and Happenin’s

A recent shocker in the horticulture world was the fatal heart attack of Glasshouse Works co-founder, Tom Winn, age 67, on March 8.  Tom is survived by his long-time partner, Ken Frieling.  In 1985, Tom and Ken created one of the world’s finest sources of rare plants…primarily tropicals.  Around 1990, when we were getting Plant Delights started, Glasshouse Works was one of my favorite places to visit, both to acquire plants, and also to learn about the mail order nursery business.  Their display gardens were small, but packed with an incredible array of rare plants which served as an inspiration for our own gardens at Plant Delights.  Tom was the front man for the nursery while Ken worked behind the scenes, so I know his life will be completely turned upside down.  Our thoughts are with Ken and he continues to manage the nursery and deal with his loss.  You can share a memory, a note of condolence or sign the online register book.

I also just heard from Jacque Wrinkle, that her husband, Guy Wrinkle, passed away April 20.  Almost all collectors of cycads, caudiciforms (plants with swollen bases), or unusual bulbs have heard of or dealt with Guy and his mail order nursery, Guy Wrinkle’s Rare Exotics in Vista, California.  I purchased my Trachycarpus takil from Guy in the mid-1990s and recently found it to be one of the few true Trachycarpus takil on the entire East Coast.  We would later trade variegated agaves even before we finally met in person at the fall 2009 Agave summit in California.  Guy retired from his career a biology professor in fall 2007 to devote more time to his love of plants.Unfortunately, he was diagnosed in 2009 with brain cancer, a condition he battled successfully until a new, more aggressive cancer recently proved too much to overcome.  You can find one of Guy’s many articles online at Rare Exotics.  Our thoughts are with his wife Jacque during this difficult time.

We recently also mourned the death of NC Botanical Garden founding director (1961-1986), Dr. Ritchie Bell, at the ripe age of 91.  I was fortunate to have known Ritchie since the mid-1970s when he was a lone voice for the growing and propagating of native plants.  I was greatly influenced by Ritchie’s philosophy of “Conservation through Propagation” which, unfortunately has now been largely abandoned by the garden he founded.  Ritchie was also known as the author of several fabulous books; “Manual of the Vascular Flora of the Carolinas” (1968, co-authored with Albert Radford and Harry Ahles), “Wildflowers of North Carolina”  (1968, co-authored with William Justice), “Florida Wild Flowers and Roadside Plants” (1980, co-authored with Bryan Taylor), “Fall Color and Woodland Harvests of the Eastern Forests” (1990, co-authored with his wife Anne Lindsey Bell) and “Fall Color Finder” (1991, co-authored with Anne Lindsey Bell).  Ritchie was honored with a number of awards including the Silver Seal Award from the National Council of Garden Clubs and the Distinguished Alumnus Award from the University of North Carolina.  Job well done, my friend!

I inexplicably missed the passing of our fern friend, Barbara Joe Hoshizaki, who passed away last June 24 at the age of 83.  Barbara retired from the fern world a few years ago, due to aging and cognitive issues.Barbara Joe spent 28 years teaching biology at California City College when she wasn’t working in her wonderful home garden.  She was a tireless promoter of ferns and served as President of the American Fern Society, President of the Southern California Horticultural Institute, and was a member of a number of other organizations.  Barbara is best known for her book, “The Fern Grower’s Manual” (1975), and an expanded 2 edition with Robbin Moran (2001).  Barbara was extremely helpful in identifying many of our ferns from our overseas expeditions, and we owe her a huge dept of gratitude.  Barbara is survived by her husband, Takashi; two children, Carol (George Brooks) and Jon (Madeleine Takii), and other family members.  The family requests that donations be made to the Organization for Tropical Studies, Box 90630, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708‑0630, “OTS in Memory of Barbara Hoshizaki.”

My final farewell today is to a group…the International Bulb Society.  The 80-year-old International Bulb Society, which has long been an incredible resource to bulb lovers around the world, has decided to fold at the end of 2013.  The society’s problems began over a decade earlier, when a series of ego-driven personality conflicts caused many of the members to drop out and join the recently-formed Pacific Bulb Society.  Despite the fact that most new members didn’t live anywhere near the Pacific Ocean, the new group offered a more user-friendly format with far less drama while making sharing rare plants at low cost a key principle…the antithesis of IBS.  I am truly sad to see IBS go as it brought together so many wonderful experts from around the world, and if you could afford the plant prices, it was a place to acquire the rarest of the rare bulbs.  Who knows…if you believe in the afterlife, perhaps there will one day be a reincarnation of this wonderful group.

Until next month, we’ll keep posting plant photos from the garden and sharing all sorts of cool things from the world of horticulture on our Facebook Page.

We’ll see you there!



2011 Plant Delights Nursery February Newsletter

Unlike many gardeners in the upper states of the country who are still having winter, we’ve turned the corner and have been enjoying several days of spring-like temperatures. Hopefully, we won’t have too many of these days until the danger of frost has passed. For folks looking to escape the cold, we’d like to invite you to our Winter Open House, starting this week, Friday and Saturday, February 25, 26, from 8-5pm. Our Open House also continues next weekend, March 4, 5 at the same times. We’ll be opening up the shipping greenhouses for shopping, as well as the display gardens for exploration and photography. As always, we’ll be here to answer your gardening questions…we look forward to seeing you! Visiting Information

Garden photography has geared back up as the winter-flowering plants begin to put on their wonderful show. As I was laying on my stomach photographing Helleborus niger over the weekend, I was amazed to see all the honeybees visiting the flowers. This got me thinking about the ways many of the winter-flowering plants attract pollinators in a season where insects aren’t at their greatest abundance. It seems that a majority do this through fragrance. Starting with winter-flowering shrubs and small trees, fragrant plants include Hamamelis (witch hazel), Prunus mume (flowering apricot), Edgeworthia (paper bush), Michellia maudiae and Michellia floribunda (winter-flowering magnolia), Magnolia denudata (Yunnan magnolia), Mahonia x media (Oregon Grape), Daphne odora (winter daphne), and Mahonia gracilis (Mexican grape). Fragrant winter perennials and small bulbs include Nothoscordum sellowianum (yellow false ipheion), Narcissus (winter daffodil), Symplocarpus (skunk cabbage), and Iris unguicularis (winter-blooming iris). Despite my nose not being able to detect a fragrance from the hellebores, there is obviously something that the insects can detect. Although we don’t offer shrubs and trees, we hope you will consider adding more fragrant plants to your winter garden.

Over the last few years, there have been a number of Helleborus niger hybrids to enter the market. These include crosses of Helleborus niger and Helleborus argutifolius (Helleborus x nigercors), Helleborus niger x Helleborus argutifolius x Helleborus lividus (Helleborus x ericsmithii), and Helleborus niger x lividus (Helleborus x ballardiae). We have now tried 18 different clones, and while all are nice, the one that has really impressed me recently is Helleborus x ballardiae ‘HGC Pink Frost’. It’s been difficult for breeders working with Helleborus niger to get great amounts of color saturation in the flowers, but this is the exception. The flowers emerge a lovely shade of pink and darken as they age. I think you’ll really love this one if you haven’t tried it yet.

With plants popping quickly in our region, it’s time to wrap up some of the winter maintenance chores in the garden. If your clumps of ophiopogon or liriope are burned from the winter, these can be cut back now before the new growth begins. The same is true for epimediums, which are much easier to cut back before the new flower stalks begin to emerge, and for us, this is only days away. Ornamental grasses that look beat up from the winter are also ready to re-sprout, so don’t delay cutting these back or you’ll be cutting the new leaves as well as the old ones. Evergreen plants like aspidistra, ruscus, and danae hold onto their foliage for several years, and as you can imagine, the old foliage can begin to look ragged after two seasons. I like to go through these clumps now and remove the oldest foliage to keep the clumps looking their best.

If you want to do some really interesting seed propagation, look around the base of your Aspidistra elatior clumps where you will find the nearly ripe seed pods which look like 1-1.5″ green jawbreakers. These should soon be ready for harvest, and I’ll almost guarantee that you’ll be the only one in the Master Gardener class growing aspidistra from seed.

Years ago, we built our first hypertufa trough that we now keep on our patio near the house. No matter what we planted in it, the plants had a short life expectancy thanks to our cats, especially Pearl, who finds laying in a trough of rocky soil preferable to the soft cat beds that we purchased for her…a trip to the kitty shrink is in her future. After years of trying, we finally found one plant that would survive in the trough without being killed, and that is Teucrium marum…a plant we nicknamed “kitty crack” for its hallucinogenic properties. While Pearl still lays in the trough, often stoned for hours, she is very protective of her kitty crack. This made it all the more surprising when I arrived home the other day to find a stray cat laying in the trough…in an obvious transcendental state of “what, me worry”. Although we don’t know the name of our wide-eyed interloper with a Cheshire-like grin, we’ve nicknamed it Smiley Cyrus.

In some very interesting new research by Kansas State Professor Raymond Cloyd, published in HortScience 45: 1830-1833 (2010), it was discovered that Bounce® original brand fabric softener dryer sheets were quite effective in repelling fungus gnats. As it turns out, the Bounce® sheets that make your clothes smell so good, contain linalool, benzyl acetate, beta-citronellol, and hedione…very effective chemicals against fungus gnats. If you’ve grown plants from seed, you have no doubt run into fungus gnats, which are tiny black flies that live on the surface of moist potting soils. Fungus gnat larvae eat developing seedlings, some even before they emerge from the soil. I recommend sowing your seed, then covering the pot with a Bounce® sheet and securing it with a rubber band. The sheets will allow light and water to pass through while keeping the fungus gnats out. Once the seedlings are large enough, the covers can be removed. Good air movement and keeping the soil surface dry are also very important in controlling fungus gnats.

I recently got a note from Dr. Paul Capiello, director of the Yew Dell Arboretum in Crestwood, Kentucky (just outside Louisville). Paul is looking for a Garden Manager, which is the primary full time staff member dedicated to management of Yew Dell’s gardens, plant collections, plant records, garden staff, and volunteers. For those who don’t know Yew Dell, it was the home of the late plantsman Theodore Klein. Paul would like a candidate with either a 2 or 4 year degree, 3 years of garden supervisory experience, a good handle on plant databases and a passion for plants. This is a great chance to learn and be a part of a great plant collection. Click here for more information.

Last month, I wrote about the controversy at the US National Arboretum, where senior garden staff had decided to discard the azaleas on the Mt. Hamilton hillside at the arboretum. Well, as is often the case, there was more than met the eye and I thank everyone who wrote to share more detailed information about the situation. As it turned out, the arboretum gardens staff had also decided to de-accession (a botanical word for eliminate) several other plant collections including the boxwood collection, the species daylily collection, and the daffodil collection. Bizarrely, these decisions were made without consulting with pertinent stakeholders (a government term for interested parties who don’t work for the government) and even their own USDA researchers, some of whom use the collections in their work.

On the azalea hillside, our friend Don Hyatt of the Azalea Society tells me the azaleas slated for removal are actually not culls from the Glen Dale breeding program, which is a somewhat different situation which I addressed in my last newsletter. Don says the hillside includes both released plants whose tags were lost and more hybrids planted out for evaluation. If so, then the arboretum should work with the Azalea (Rhododendron) Society to evaluate the collections, re-label where possible, and then decide which plants should stay and which should go. I still have the same question…do we really need more than 454 Glen Dale azaleas…of which 312 were selected and named from the original 1000 selections planted on the Arboretum’s hillside plantings? How many of these turned out to be good enough to be widely grown…certainly not 454?. As a plant breeder, I cannot imagine naming more than a handful of truly worthwhile and distinctive plants from 1000 initial selections…certainly not 454 cultivars. I would hope that any further named releases from the hillside would be far more judicious.

Part of the problem with some of the collections targeted for removal is that they draw little interest from large numbers of the visiting gardening public. In the case of each of these collections (other than the azaleas), they are isolated and not incorporated well into with other collections. How many of you who visit the arboretum ever spend time in the boxwood collection? This is actually the National Arboretum’s only NAPCC (similar to the UK National Plant Collections) national collection. I will admit to spending over half a day in the boxwood garden one winter many years ago, and I found it amazing. I’ve been on a crusade for years to get folks to realize there are few evergreen plants better in the woodland garden than boxwoods. Yes, boxwoods are not full sun plants, and are much happier growing among hostas and ferns…and no, they never need pruning. In my opinion, the arboretum would do much better to re-arrange the collections and add other plants to draw visitors into these neglected parts of the garden.

So, why the rush to discard important plant collections? Supposedly, this is a budget decision in response to losing two gardener positions. Interestingly, this happens at the same time as the arboretum announced plans for a new 22-acre Chinese Garden. If you think this is a new problem, think again. When the Arboretum’s world-renown holly breeder, Gene Eisenbeiss passed away in 1997, the Holly Society of America pleaded with the Arboretum to save his unparalleled collection of 400 ilex species. Those pleas fell on deaf ears and the collections were bulldozed. As it turned out, there were those within USDA that felt the world didn’t need another holly. This combined with Gene’s dyslexic plot maps and overgrown collections were enough to justify a major deaccessioning. Like the boxwoods, I spent a good bit of time in the holly collections when Gene was alive. While I’m all for bulldozing culls after a breeding program ends, cooperating with the stakeholders would have undoubtedly saved some valuable germplasm that is now lost. Fortunately, a couple of Gene’s hollies managed to escape before the destruction, including a plant now known as Ilex ‘Cherry Bomb’, which is possibly one of the finest evergreen hollies on the market today. We also grow a compact, hardy form of Ilex chinensis, which still needs to be named, that was salvaged from Gene’s collection.

As the red-headed stepchild of the US Department of Agriculture, the US National Arboretum has long had funding problems. The Congress approves the budget of the USDA, which then doles out portions of that budget to its divisions, which include the arboretum. I remember visiting a couple of years ago to find all the turf at the arboretum nearly knee-high. Some bright bureaucrat had decided that to save money, they would outsource the grass-mowing and only do it on a set schedule, regardless of when the grass actually needed mowing. Public outcry finally brought that disaster to a halt. The recent public response to the proposed plant removal was another great exercise of how our system of government (by the people) is supposed to work. Also, in response to the azalea fiasco, the Friends of the National Arboretum (FONA) announced a $1,000,000 gift to the arboretum to start an endowment to help preserve the collections slated for removal.

To address the recent public relations fiasco, the USDA has also appointed a new director, Dr.
Colien Hefferan. Dr. Hefferan is known in USDA circles as a “fixer”…one who can re-orient the arboretum, study alternative funding sources, and reconnect with both its own researchers and its stakeholders. Prior to her appointment, Dr. Hefferan was director of the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (formerly the Cooperative State Education Extension Research Service), and before that, an adjunct assistant professor of behavioral economics at Penn State. To that end, Dr. Hefferan has established a feedback site on the Arboretum’s collection policy that you can find here.
We encourage everyone to offer their comments about the direction of the arboretum.

I also encourage everyone who hasn’t spent time at your National Arboretum to do so when you find yourself in our nations capital.

Finally, if you or your friends have been jumping on the all-native plant bandwagon after reading emotion-wrenching books like Bringing Nature Home, you’ll enjoy this scientific article that cast things in a much different light.

If you entered our Top 25 contest for 2011 (the deadline for entries has passed), you can track the results live here.

There are a number of surprises so far, including the leader of the pack, Iris ‘Red Velvet Elvis’, as well as Paris polyphylla, both new listings for 2011. It’s still early, so we’ll see if “Elvis” can stay at the top with Colocasia ‘Thailand Giant’ nipping at its heels. Other 2011 first time offerings that cracked the Top 25 so far include Helleborus ‘Berry Swirl’ and ‘HGC Pink Frost’ at #8 and #9 respectively, Colocasia ‘Kona Coffee’ at #10, Salvia ‘Madeline’ at #14, Gladiolus ‘Purple Prince’ at #15, Zephyranthes ‘Scarlet Pimpernel’ at #18, Uvularia ‘Jingle Bells’ at #20, and Arisaema serratum var. mayebarae at #25. That’s a lot of newcomers at the top!

Thanks for taking time to read our newsletter and we hope you enjoy the new catalog and website.


2009 Plant Delights Nursery October Newsletter

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!

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