Looking lovely in the garden now is the Purple Velvet Bean vine, Mucuna cyclocarpa. This lowland native to Southeastern China makes a superb deciduous vine that flowers non-stop from mid-summer until fall. To us, the bizarre fleshy flower clusters look like those characters from the old Fruit of the Loom commercials. Interestingly, we must not have the pollinators it needs in our region, since it never sets any seed unless hand pollinated. One of the other species, Mucuna pruriens, has been widely studied, and found to have countless medicinal properties, but it doesn’t seem that M. cyclocarpa has been studied so far. All plants in the US seem to trace back to the former Yucca Do Nursery, who obtained seed from a visiting Chinese researcher.
Flowering well in the late summer at JLBG is the florally magnificent banana, Musa ornata. Native to Myanmar, Northern India, and surrounding regions, it isn’t typically winter hardy in Zone 7b. This is Hayes Jackson’s selection, Musa ornata ‘Anniston’, which sailed through last winters 11 degrees F.
On my very short commute home, we’ve designed beds along the way that help relieve the stresses of the day. One of my favorite beds in summer is this combination of Allium ‘Millenium’, Sinningia tubiflora (white), Verbena bonariensis, and Pervoskia atriplicifolia. Both the sinningia and the verbena can be a bit aggressive in some areas of the garden, but not here, where they’ve all reached a happy equilibrium. Not only are they visually attractive, but this bed is awash with pollinators, despite none of these plants being southeast US natives.
No garden is complete without at least one rudbeckia. Looking good in the garden now is the lovely Rudbeckia umbrosa. Formerly recognized as a a subspecies of the more commonly grown Rudbeckia fulgida, this is a very different plant that’s taller, and with very hairy foliage. For us, this moist woodland native tops out between 30″ and 36″, with a much more open habit. Although it’s little known in gardens, it’s actually native from the Carolinas west to Missouri. Zone 5a to 8b.
One of the many hardy sinningias that has really impressed us during the last few years is Sinningia ‘Amethyst Tears’. Here is our garden clump, flowering its head off in the middle of August. You’ve probably never heard of this, since it’s an unintroduced Yucca Do selection from plantsman Wade Roitsch.
The variegated hardy hibiscus, H. ‘Summer Carnival’ has looked outstanding all summer. This Hans Hansen creation has both variegated leaves and flower buds. We’ve had these in the garden since 2017, and they continue to excel. Moist to wet soils and full sun are ideal, but they handle short term drought just fine. Hardiness is Zone 4a-9b.
Over a decade ago I decided to try planting the native Frogfruit (Phyla nodiflora) in the maritime grassland exhibit at the South Carolina Botanical Garden. To my amazement, this species that I knew of from the fringes of saltmarsh in the Lowcountry thrived in both wet and dry soils of the upper Piedmont of South Carolina! The plant has proven to have incredible versatility and grows well in sand or clay and can be flooded for weeks and completely dry as well. Unlike many other plants that can accommodate such diverse conditions it isn’t so ugly that only a mother could love it, in fact, it’s charming.
Frogfruit is a low (4” tall) trailing groundcover with 1.25” long leaves that forms a solid mass of foliage but lacks deep root structures and thus does not compete with deeper rooted structural element plants. The flowers are pale pink to lavender and resemble tiny lantanas (a close relative). The flowering season here in the south begins in April and can continue through hard freezes (typically November) but may produce flowers year-round in mild winters.
Our plants, Phyla nodiflora ‘Ramble On,’ are from a Charleston County, South Carolina collection along the margins of a wet ditch (freshwater), but the species has an amazingly wide range being found from New Jersey west to California and throughout the tropical regions of the world. Another species, Phyla lanceolata, is a more upright plant, with a similar range (but extending north to Ontario) it has longer leaves and is generally less showy as a groundcover.
This is the ideal living mulch for tough areas of your landscape. It spreads rapidly but is easy to keep contained by trimming the edges of your patch. We placed it in one of our pond overflow pits and were amazed to see it completely transform a time-sink of constant weeding into a mass of lovely little flowers while allowing the Hymenocallis and Hibiscus to continue to rise through the groundcover without obstruction.
The flowers are favored by skipper butterflies, particularly the smaller species and there is an all-day-long collection of hundreds on our patch every day. In addition, small flies, native bees, sweat bees and tiny wasps are fond of their constantly produced flowers. The leaf and stem color ranges from green to deep purple depending on the environmental conditions—generally, the more exposed to sun, intermittent drought or salty soils, the more purple in the plant. If the goal of your garden is to increase the production of life by filling all your spaces with plants that are loved by insects while at the same time reducing the need for mulch and weeding, this plant is definitely worth a try. Look for this in the near future. – Patrick McMillan.
We’ve tried a number of Caryopteris x clandonensis cultivars over the years, and most fail to survive more than one of our hot, humid summers. One recent exception that surpassed all of our expectations is the amazing Caryopteris ‘Gold Crest’. Below is a mid-July image from the garden.
From the incredibly fragrant foliage to the color, to the pollinator friendly flowers, this is one amazing plant for a well-drained sunny spot in the garden. Our clumps have matured at 3′ tall x 5′ wide, so allow enough room. Hardiness is Zone 6a-9b.
With what seems to be an endless array of Hydrangea paniculata cultivars entering the market, July has turned the garden into a snow white scene. The Asian Hydrangea paniculata was first published as a new species in 1829, but was not grown in the Americas until Arnold Arboretum director, Charles Sargent brought back seed from an 1892 expedition to Japan. That original plant, now, 131 years old, measures 16′ tall x 25′ wide. I’m not saying you need to plan for your Hydrangea paniculata to reach 131 years old, but the average of a house in the US is 46 years, so logic says we should at least plant for a 50 year mature size.
Below is our clump of Hydrangea ‘Rensun’, which is marketed under a completely different name, Strawberry Sundae. The introducers of this lovely clone tout this as maturing at 5′ tall x 4′ wide, but our 6 year old specimen is already 7′ tall x 11′ wide. Based on that growth rate and the mature size of the species, I’d expect it to reach 14′ wide x 22′ wide in 50 years. It’s truly fascinating why it’s so difficult to for plant breeders to get more accurate measurements before these plants are introduced to market. One can only imagine the maintenance problems caused when you locate plants based on the size given on the plant tag, only to have the plant get 2-4 times as large as your space allows.
A few years ago, we propagated and offered what we think is a really cool native perennial, closely related to baptisia, Orbexilum psoralioides. That experiment was a flame out, as sales were some of the worst we’ve ever experienced. We dumped most of the crop, but planted several in the garden, where we continue to grow them today. The photo below is our patch in flower today. They grow similar to a baptisia, but smaller in all parts, and flower about six weeks after most baptisias have finished. These genetics are from a population about 30 minutes from JLBG.
Orbexilum, formerly Psoralea psoralioides, ranges from Illinois south to the Gulf Coast and west to Texas. It’s quite easy to grow, so perhaps the name just frightened people away. It’s really disappointing for us when we track down a great new plant, get it photographed and propagated, and then no one is willing to give it a try. Perhaps the box stores just make it much too easy to all buy the same, cookie-cutter plants so that all our gardens look the same. Unfortunately, the pollinator need much more diversity than you’ll usually find at these venues. Hardiness is Zone 6a-9b, at least.
I’ve been fascinated with cigar flowers since I was in my teens, only to find out years later that some were actually winter hardy here is Zone 7b. In flower now is one of my favorites, Cuphea cyanea ‘Ashevilla’. This gem looks so dainty, that it’s hard to imagine it making it through a winter, but here it is again this early summer, having survived for a decade in our gardens. Thanks to Asheville, NC gardeners Peter and Jasmine Gentling for sharing and alerting us to its winter hardiness there.
Looking lovely in the dryland garden now is the amazingly vigorous Agastache ‘Queen Nectarine’. This amazing giant measures 3.5′ tall x 3.5′ wide, and is adorned at any given time, May through October, with hundreds of flowers, perfectly designed for hummingbirds. Many of the non purple-flowered agastaches struggle in our hot, humid, rainy summers, but not this one. Hardiness zone 5a to 8b.
Four years ago, we embarked on an experiment to see how well Fuchsia ‘Sanihanf’ would grow in an unprotected hanging basket, left outdoors to the elements all year. The parent species, Fuchsia magellanica is fine in the ground to Zone 6, but has no tolerance of our summer heat.
Fuchsia ‘Sanihanf’ was developed from Fuchsia magellanica and other heat tolerant species, and released in 1997, by the Suntory breeding company of Japan. It has both great heat tolerance, as well as tolerance to our winters when grown in the ground.
Typically, a plant grown in a container above ground loses around 20 degrees F. in hardiness, when the roots aren’t protected, so we weren’t sure how cold our basket plants would survive. The photo below is our basket last week, having now been through low temperatures of: 23F (2019/20), 20F (2020/21), 16F (2021/22), and 11F(2022/23). Although they look like dead sticks until mid-May, they have once again burst forth with great vigor. They are watered through the summer, but receive no supplemental water other than rainfall from fall until spring. We continue to learn amazing things, since we don’t fear killing a few plants along the way in the name of science.
Clematis ‘Sapphire Indigo’ is looking quite stunning in the garden. This fascinating clematis isn’t a vine or a clump. It could be best referred to as a short sprawler. We’ve used it throughout the gardens as a groundcover filler between both shrubs and other perennials. It doesn’t actually spread, because in the winter, it dies back to a tight rootstock. We find this absolutely exceptional, flowering for us from spring through early fall. Hardiness is Zone 4a-8b.
Great new plants for the garden do sometimes just happen. They can occur as a spontaneous sport from an existing planting, as a seed selection that has much better garden traits, but many of our most useful and ecologically important plants in the garden have their start in exploration. I was thinking about this today as I observed the tightly-clumping overwintering rosettes of one of our newest introductions to the JLBG—Oenothera riparia, Riverbank Sundrop.
Sundrops hold a special place in my heart. My grandmother loved them and had large swathes of the old pass along yellow standard Oenothera fruticosa/tetragona in her extensive garden. Every June they would burst into flower for a brief week or so, bringing a brilliant light and foil to her many glorious iris. As I mature, I have come to value plants with connections to our being but also the value of similar plants that can provide the same nostalgia while giving us much more in the landscape.
A plant known as Riverbank sundrops may be a perfect example of a great garden plant that is native to the Southeast and provides more of what gardeners love, while also providing the native insects and other wildlife an abundant resource.
Oenothera riparia was described by Thomas Nuttall in 1818 from plants collected along the Cape Fear River near Wilmington, NC. Nuttall provided a very full description of the plant (for the time) though he presumed it to be a biennial—it is in fact a long-lived perennial. J.K. Small recognized the species in a segregate genus as Knieffia riparia in his 1903 Flora of the Southeastern US. In 1937, Munz reduced the species to varietal status as Oenothera tetragona ssp. glauca var. riparia, and after this it was essentially lost to the minds of taxonomists and plant enthusiasts being considered merely part of the immense variability of Oenothera fruticosa by Radford, Ahles and Bell (1968).
In the mid 1990’s while working in the tidal freshwater swamps and marshes of South Carolina, Richard Porcher and I encountered this species growing at the bases of Bald Cypress trees, on stumps, and on floating logs just above the high-water tidal line on the Waccamaw, Pee Dee, and Edisto Rivers. My frustration with its identification led me to the name Oenothera riparia and its recognition as a completely and consistently distinct taxon—which is very unusual in a genus known for its morphological variability and messy taxonomy.
This plant is smooth (lacking hairs) throughout with thick textured dark-green leaves and a very bushy habit—it does not produce long stolons or rhizomes, so it forms a dense clump. The stems generally range from a foot to nearly 3 feet in height and the thick stems become semi-woody, providing a stiffly upright growth form. Rather than a single burst of flowers this species produces masses of flowers over the entire summer (June-late August) with sporadic flowering later in the season.
Imagine, here we could have a sundrop that won’t spread like wildfire, doesn’t flop, and flowers for month after month! Sounds like everything you would want in a plant. There is only one problem, it hasn’t been cultivated. This is where the adventure continues and as we embark on this adventure, I would like to take you along for the ride. There is so much that goes into identifying a potentially great garden plant, evaluating it, and bringing it to the trade.
Our initial collections were made this August (2022) when Zac Hill, my wife Waynna, and I were traveling through the SC coastal plain. We made the stop at the Edisto River in Colleton County where I had seen the plant many years before and just like I remembered, there they were, full of seed and with some flowers still present. The only problem is that they were growing far out in the water along the bases of trees! The Edisto is a blackwater river with a large tidal amplitude at this location and it was full on high tide. If you’re a field botanist you forget entirely about the things that concern other more rational folks, like the multitude of large Alligators, and make for the plants. I found some low branches on a neighboring willow tree that kept my feet in only a couple feet of water, and balancing on the branch, in the water, made my way all the way to the edge of the river where a fabulous floating log provided an abundance of seeds and two small plants from a large cluster of individuals. The only casualty was my prescription glasses which promptly fell from my head into the depths of a rapidly moving Edisto River (my wife will not easily let me forget the cost of this single collection). The first step in the process of bringing a new plant into production is done.
Our two small divisions were placed directly into the sun garden at JLBG and the seed was sown. For this plant to be successful in a garden it must be able to not just survive but thrive in a common garden condition far away from its very narrow niche at the very upper edge of the water along the Edisto. You might think this would be unlikely, but other incredible garden plants are entirely found in wetland communities and thrive under very different conditions in the garden. A good example of this is found in another of our introductions, Eryngium ravenelii ‘Charleston Blues’, which comes from high pH wetlands not too far away from the Edisto River.
Will it be hardy here? Will it survive under normal garden conditions? Will it maintain its distinctive and garden-worthy features? Well at least part of this can be answered already. Our tiny divisions are now large overwintering basal rosettes. The plants have not thought about running away from their tight cluster, and they grew very well during their first autumn in soil that was not kept overly moist.
The real test lies ahead. What will the plants nature be under cultivation? Will it be as good as I think it could be? Will it be better? One can only hope, put in the labor, and follow along to find out the end of this story for Oenothera riparia. It could provide all of us with a stately and handsome bit of nostalgia with far greater design and utilitarian use for humans and our native biota. What’s more, there are other seemingly great garden-worthy Oenothera out there—not in far-flung locations but right here in the Carolinas. Have you ever heard of Oenothera tetragona var. fraseri? If not, look for us to tell you more about that in the years to come, there’s a fantastic form with huge flowers in the Blue Ridge escarpment of South Carolina!
Patrick D. McMIllan, PhD
You go straight through to the round of botanical superstars if you recognize this little-known southeast native (SC to Florida), Piriqueta caroliniana. This Patrick McMillan collection from coastal SC has thrived all summer in our full sun rock garden, flowering constantly, with new flowers opening every other day. This oddity is a member of the Turneraceae family, which comprises nine other equally obscure genera. We’ve yet to determine if this will actually make a good garden plant, but evaluation continues. Hardiness north of Zone 8a is unknown.
Flowering this week at JLBG is the amazing Miscanthus transmorrisonensis. Many gardeners, who blindly believe everything they read/hear think the genus miscanthus is the horticultural version of the devil itself. Like everything in life, it’s all about those pesky details, which so many people simply don’t want to be bothered with.
Most miscanthus in the horticultural trade are selections of the species Miscanthus sinensis. Some selections of that species reseed badly and should be avoided in gardens. Others are sterile or nearly so, and unquestionably still deserve a place in American landscapes.
If we make good/bad evaluations at the species level, what would happen if visitors to the earth had their first encounter with a Homo sapiens that was a less than ideal representative of the species at large. They could easily assume that the entire species was a problem and should be eliminated. It’s fascinating that such species based prejudices are acceptable with ornamental plants, but not with people.
Then there are species, which have proven themselves to be complete without seed in our climate, such as Miscanthus transmorrisonensis. All plants in cultivation all appear to be derived from a 1979 Ferris Miller (Chollipo Arboretum)/ Paul Meyer (Morris Arboretum) collection at 9,500′ elevation on Taiwan’s Mt. Daxue. We have grown this for 30 years in rather good conditions, and have yet to see a single seedling. The beauty of this species is that it flowers continuously from summer into fall. I guess it’s too much to ask for environmental fundamentalists to actually pay attention to facts.
Re-appropriating a line from the late Buck Owens, it’s crinum time again. Crinum lilies begin their flowering season in our climate around April 1 (frost permitting). Some bloom for a short number of weeks, while other rebloom for months. Depending on the genetics, some crinum hybrids start flowering in spring, some in summer, and others in fall, and a few flower during the entire growing season.
Crinum ‘High on Peppermint’ is one of our newer named hybrids, which starts flowering for us around June 1, and hasn’t stopped yet.
Crinum ‘Superliscious’ is another of our new hybrids that starts flowering July 1, and has yet to stop. Now that our evaluation process is complete, we’ll start the propagation process.
Crinum ‘Southern Star’ is an incredible hybrid from the late Roger Berry, entrusted to us to propagate and make available. That’s a tall order since it’s one of the slowest offsetting crinum lilies we’ve ever grown. Crinum ‘Southern Star’ is a hybrid with the virtually ungrowable, yellow-flowered Crinum luteolum, which hails from Southern Australia. For us, Crinum ‘Southern Star’ doesn’t start it’s floral display until August 1.
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.
Even the garden insects aren’t enjoying our extended heat wave. We caught this grasshopper hiding inside the flower of the threatened Texas endemic, Hibiscus dasycalyx last week, in search of some shade. So far, we’re experiencing the 3rd hottest summer on record in the Raleigh area.
Here’s a recent garden combo that we’ve been enjoying with purple eucomis (pineapple lily), Agapanthus ‘Navy Blue, backed with Foeniculum vulgare ‘Purpureum’ (bronze fennel).
It fascinates us that such a widespread native like Eustoma exaltatum isn’t more widely grown in gardens. Often known by the common names prairie gentian or lisianthus, eustoma is prized by flower arrangers, but not gardeners. Eustoma is native from coast to coast…Florida to California, and north to the Canadian border in Montana.
In the wild, Eustoma exaltatum is a short-lived perennial that can also behave as a biennial or even an annual in some sites. The key is to plant it where it can happily reseed as we have done in our gravelly crevice garden, which is odd, since in the wild, they are found in moist meadows and streamsides.
Below are our plants in peak flower now, during the brutal heat of summer. So far, we’ve struggled to keep this happy in a container, in the hopes we could make this available, but we continue to try.
Commercially, eustoma has been hybridized ad nauseam to create better cut flowers, but these hybrids seem to have lost all of their perennial nature compared to the wild genetics. Our plant pictured below is the large (2′-3′ tall) subspecies russellianum from wild collected seed from Bastrop County, Texas.
This spring, Plant Delights introduced Zac Hill’s 2013 discovery of a new ruellia which he found in central Alabama. What we theorized might be a natural hybrid turned out to be a brand new species, as we were informed by botanists working on getting the plant published. We hope all native plant enthusiasts purchased this to both enjoy in their garden and for ex-situ (off site) conservation value. These are in full flower during the summer. Hardiness is unknown at this point, but we know it’s fine from Zone 7b – 8b, and most likely much further north.
Here are a few photos of JLBG in early July…hope you can join us for our upcoming Summer Open Nursery & Garden Days, July 15-17 and 22-24, 2022, and see what’s possible in a summer garden. The nursery will also be open for attendees to shop while on-site.
Be sure to take part in our free Gardening Unplugged talks, which are held each day during the Summer Open House at 10am and 2pm, just meet at the welcome tent.
This is the time of year when the tiger swallowtails feast on our many patches of the amazing native Stokes aster. Our favorite clone is the upright growing Stokesia laevis ‘Peachie’s Pick’. Moist soils are best, but stokesia tolerates some dry conditions on a short term basis as long as it has 2-6 hours of sun.
We are enjoying the rare Penstemon baccharifolius this summer in our high/dry crevice garden. This species is native to limestone ledges up to 6,500′ elevation from the Edwards plateau in Texas south into Northern Mexico. This species hates our summer rains, and we had given up on growing this until we built our alkaline crevice garden a few years ago. Now it thrives, growing in 3′ deep Permatill gravel.
I’ve adored the perennial Lychnis coronaria (Rose Campion), since I first saw it in my grandmothers city courtyard 60 years ago, but the darn thing just produces far too many seed, which results in far too many seedlings. Imagine my joy at finding a sterile counterpart on my 2020 trip to the UK at the amazing nursery of plantsman Bob Brown.
Lychnis ‘Hill Grounds’ is actually a hybrid of Lychnis flos-jovis and Lychnis coronaria, discovered at the Hill Grounds garden of the UK’s Janet Cropley. In appearance, it’s a dead ringer for Lychnis coronaria with its lovely fuzzy silver rosettes and spikes of tacky fluroescent pink flowers, but without those pesky seed. We look forward to getting this propagated so we can share far and wide. Below are our 2 year old plants. Winter hardiness should be Zone 3-8.
Salvia regla ‘Jame’ (pronounced Haam-hey) is looking so wonderful this time of year. This amazing North American native (US/Mexico) was originally shared back in 2000, by the late Salvia guru, Rich Dufresne. It has adorned our gardens every year since with these amazing fall shows. Hardiness is Zone 7b and warmer.
Looking lovely in the garden is week is Gossypium thurberi ‘Mt. Lemmon’…our introduction of one of the progenitors of modern day cotton. On a 2005 botanical expedition, we discovered this North American native perennial hibiscus relative, known as Desert Cotton, growing in the mountains of Arizona. In the garden, it’s a superb flowering machine for late summer and early fall. Winter hardiness is probably Zone 8a and warmer.
Hemerocallis ‘Autumn Daffodil’ was introduced in 1949, but remains one of the most incredible daylilies we grow here at JLBG. The 3′ tall, branched, sturdy, upright stems are topped with an abundance of amazing highly fragrant yellow flowers starting in July.
Our patch of Aloe cooperi has been beautiful in flower this summer, but every time I see it, my mind automatically associates it with rocker, Alice Cooper. I guess he made quite an impression on me as a child. Aloe cooperi is the hardiest of the aloes, first cousin to the better known Aloe vera. Aloe cooperi has been fine here in Zone 7b for decades, but we doubt it would be winter hardy much further north.
Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Hush Puppy’ is a very vigorous fountain grass from the breeding program of Wayne Hanna at the University of Georgia, the result of their fountain grass sterilization program. Other introductions from this program include ‘Cayenne’, ‘Etouffee’, and ‘Jambalaya’.
In the garden Pennisetum ‘Hush Puppy’ forms a 3′ tall x 4′ wide clump that produces a succession of new plumes from early/mid-July (NC), and continuing to fall…an extended flowering season due to a lack of seed production.
Hurricane Hermine brought some much needed rain over the weekend. Not only were there some happy gardeners, but the rain lilies are loving it too. Here is a picture of Zephyranthes ‘Heart Throb’ in the garden with its bright 2″ reddish-pink flowers and contrasting white eye. At a mere 6″ this Heart Throb is a real show-stopper.
Rain lilies got their common name from their charming habit of producing new blooms after it rains. Rain lilies come in a variety of colors to coordinate with your garden’s palette. Plant rain lilies near the garden path where you can enjoy their beauty from mid summer up until fall. Be sure to come check out our wide selection of rain lilies this coming weekend, Sept. 9-11, during our fall open house, and you can take home your very own Heart Throb!
Summer Open Nursery and Garden
Come see our 30 foot flowering agave at our final Summer Open Nursery and Garden Days this weekend. Visitors from around the country have been showing up to see our giant agave in flower, a 16-year-old specimen of Agave salmiana x Agave asperrima, with the first flowers opening right on cue for our summer open days. This is the tallest century plant we’ve ever flowered, with the tip of the spike topping out just a few inches below the 30′ tall mark. We’ve got our giant ladder perched nearby so Jeremy can make his daily pollinations, all while fighting off attacking hummingbirds.
We hope you’ll have time to walk around the garden while you’re here. The newly-opened, full sun Souto garden is looking fabulous, with so much color it’s almost overwhelming. Changes also abound throughout the older sections of the garden. Anita has suggested the removal of several formerly fenced and hedged areas to create more openness…we think you’ll enjoy these changes as much as we do.
Summer Nursery & Garden Days Final Weekend
July 17 – 19
Friday and Saturday 8a-5p
Rain or Shine!
Daylilies You’ll Notice — Royalty in the Summer Garden
If you visit during the summer, you’ll notice some rather impressive daylilies in the sunny areas. We’ve long enjoyed daylilies for their ability to add color to the summer garden and now have them showcased better than ever.
The prevailing daylily breeding trend since the 1970s has been to shrink the height of daylilies to appeal the masses. Obviously, this worked, since Hemerocallis ‘Stella D’Oro’ can be seen lining highway medians across the country. As horticultural contrarians, however, we enjoy taller daylilies, which we feel add much more visual interest to the garden. We don’t object to a few daylilies in the 3′ range, but rarely find the shorter varieties at the top of our favorites list, although some true dwarf rock garden daylilies would be fascinating.
Hemerocallis ‘Autumn Minaret’ is certainly the best known of the taller cultivars, topping out in our garden now at 6.5′ tall…yes, you read that correctly. This 1951 late season introduction was hybridized from one of the taller natural species, Hemerocallis altissima, which is actually a very small-growing plant that just happens to have a 5′ tall flower spike.
Hemerocallis ‘Purity’ is another summer-flowering favorite. The well-branched 5′ tall flower spikes hold hundreds of yellow-orange flowers over a very long time. We can’t imagine a summer garden without this gem. While we typically don’t rave about many daylilies that flower below 3′, there are a few noticeable exceptions. One that we continually tout as one of the best is Hemerocallis ‘Black Eyed Susan’. Without question, this amazing plant is one of the most floriferous and stunning daylilies we grow. Although it only manages 32″ in height, its show power in the garden is truly hard to match.
We’ve got many more of the taller daylilies in our trials, and have even moved a bit of pollen around this summer between some of the taller varieties, so we hope you find these “off the bell curve” daylilies worth including in your own garden.
Black Bamboo Death – The End is Nigh
The bamboo world has been rocked over the last few years as most of the black bamboo has begun its flowering cycle. While flowering is good in most plants, such is not the case with bamboo since, like agaves, it dies after flowering. Like century plants, a bamboo plant also takes about 100 years to flower but unlike agaves, bamboo offsets don’t survive. Since most bamboo is grown from divisions, when a particular clone flowers, it flowers everywhere around the world within a certain time window, influenced slightly by growing conditions.
Black bamboo began flowering worldwide in 2008, with many in the US starting only in the last year. Bamboo flowers are brown and insignificant, so most folks won’t even notice until the plant begins a steady decline. The sad part is that everyone’s black bamboo will die, but the up side is that more plants will be grown from seed and the new generation crop will have another 100-year lifespan. Also, all those folks who were lied to by retailers who told them black bamboo clumped will have their problem resolved. The take home lesson is that if you’re buying the running black bamboo (Phyllostachys nigra), be sure to ask if it’s a new generation plant from seed or the clone which is currently flowering.
Yucca Birth Records Confusion — Who’s Your Daddy?
For many years we’ve had a fascination with yuccas and have long been convinced that the taxonomy of the Southeast native species was a mess. Reading several recent DNA papers along with some older works from the early 1900s, we realized that most of what is labeled Yucca filamentosa is actually Yucca flaccida…a completely different species.
We’re in the process of updating all of our names on the website and apologize in advance for the confusion. All of the variegated cultivars of Yucca filamentosa, except for the cultivar ‘Variegata’, are actually selections of Yucca flaccida.
Yucca filamentosa, however, is a real plant. The real plant is what is known in the trade as the coastal boat-tipped yucca. We are currently propagating some true Yucca filamentosa for inclusion in a future catalog. If you vacation along the East Coast from NC south to Florida, the small yucca you see on the dunes is Yucca filamentosa.
Also growing on the southeast coastal dunes are two other species, Yucca aloifolia and Yucca gloriosa. It has long been theorized that Yucca gloriosa might represent a natural hybrid between Yucca aloifolia and Yucca filamentosa and, sure enough, the new DNA work confirms that theory. Consequently, the name should be written correctly as Yucca x gloriosa. Now it makes sense that when we were studying yuccas last year on the NC dunes, many plants seemed to be intermediates between the three parent species. We guess our eyes were not deceiving us after all. Two papers on the subject were shared by Larry Hatch of Cultivar.org and are found below if you are scientifically nerdy enough to care.
- Homoploid hybrid origin of Yucca gloriosa: intersectional hybrid speciation in Yucca
- Ecology And Evolution Of Southeastern United States Yucca Species
On our many Southeast US botanizing trips we discovered other natural hybrids along with another new southeastern native yucca species that seems to have never been named. We will be working to get it described and published in the near future…an exciting time for those of us who love yuccas.
Perennial Plant Registrations
Our friend Larry Hatch is looking to fill a gap in the registration of new perennial varieties. There is supposed to be a system in place for anyone who wants to officially register, for posterity purposes, any new perennial that they name and introduce. While some genera of plants like iris, daylilies, and hostas have a dedicated registrar and a functioning system, most genera of plants either don’t have a registrar or the system is too cumbersome. The New Ornamentals Society is working to streamline the process with a new no-cost registration system. We encourage you to give it a try here.
Fern Hardiness Oops
In our trials from this winter, it has become obvious that one of the ferns we offer isn’t nearly as hardy as our liner supplier had indicated. We lost all plantings of Dryopteris labordei ‘Golden Mist’ at 9 degrees F this winter, which is a far cry from its purported Zone 5 hardiness. The problem stems from a taxonomic confusion. Dryopteris labordei is considered a synonym of Dryopteris indusiata, the latter of which is a Zone 5 plant. Obviously, the two plants are not the same. While it’s still a great fern, we are shifting its winter hardiness to Zone 8a-9b. If you purchased this based on our previous hardiness listing, just drop us a note and we’ll add a credit to your account or issue a refund. Please accept our apologies for this incorrect information.
Last month saw the passing of one of the giants of the waterlily world, Patrick Nutt, 85, longtime curator of Aquatic Plants at Longwood Gardens. Pat was revered throughout the water lily world for his encyclopedic knowledge and as a water lily breeder, promoter, and educator. Pat will be best remembered as the breeder of the internationally-renowned giant water lily Longwood Victoria, which most summer visitors to Longwood have no doubt gazed on in amazement. Pat began his career at Longwood Gardens in 1957 and remained there for the next 38 years, until his retirement in 1995. Even after his retirement, he continued to be a regular at Longwood Gardens while also traveling around the world, collecting and researching water lilies. Our condolences go out to Pat’s family and friends…life well lived!
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-tony and anita
The late summer flowering crinums are just superb right now…just captured this image of Crinum ‘Stars and Stripes‘ in bloom today. Crinums are tough as nails, but really flower so much better with slightly moist soils, and lots of compost.
The rain lilies are quite incredible in the garden now as summer rains have them blooming almost constantly. Here are two images taken this week…top is Zephyranthes ‘Batik’, and the bottom is Zephyranthes ‘Rose Perfection’. Rain lilies can tolerate bone dry conditions for months, then the flowers explode 3 days after a rain shower. Flowering cannot, however, be coaxed by sprinkler irrigation…one of the great mysteries of nature.