My visit to Crete in 2010 was eye-opening when I observed that most native daphnes of the region grew in full sun among rock, in the driest conditions imaginable. That prompted us to re-try many of the daphnes that we’d killed years earlier…obviously, with too much kindness. Now, all of our daphnes are planted in baking sun in our crevice garden, or similar rock garden conditions. Here are a few photos at JLBG from early April.
The first is the Mediterranean native, Daphne collina, which most authorities now subsume under Daphne sericea. All daphne pictured below should be hardy from Zone 6a – 8b.
Daphne ‘Rosy Wave’ is a Daphne collina hybrid with Daphne burkwoodii
Daphne x napolitana ‘Bramdream’ is a hybrid of Daphne collina and Daphne cneorum.
Edgeworthia chrysantha ‘Snow Cream’ is a 2000 Juniper Level Botanic Garden/Plant Delights introduction that has proven to be one of our most popular introductions. We made the original selection from a group of seed-grown plants, imported from China by Canada’s Piroche Plants in the late 1990s. We were drawn to this seedling because of the particularly large flowers, and large leaves that reminded us of a plumeria. Let me be clear that all Edgeworthia chrysantha seedlings are nice, but there is certainly a significant difference between flower and leaf sizes of seed-grown plants.
Below are photos from our winter open nursery and garden days this year, where our garden specimens never cease to amaze visitors with both its sweetly scented flowers and amazing floral show. Sadly, no matter how many we propagate, it never seems to be enough to meet the demand. A more open site results in a much better floral show. Hardiness is Zone 7a – 10b.
This is our first flowering of Dracunculus canariensis, the rare cousin of the more commonly-grown aroid Dracunculus vulgaris. Dracunculus canariensis hails from Madeira (reportedly extinct) and the nearby Canary Islands, all off the coast of Morocco.
We inherited our specimen from the late plantsman, Alan Galloway, who planned to cross it with Dracunculus vulgaris. The task now falls to us. Both species have a similiar chromosome count of 2N=28, so this should be a easy cross by saving pollen. To us, the flower smells like watermelon rhine, which is a nice change from the more offensive smell of its sibling.
The superb (and spineless) Ilex ‘Cherry Bomb’ is looking amazing in the garden this week. Our specimen is now 22 years old, and measures 35′ tall x 15′ wide. It originated at the US National Arboretum as part of Dr. William Kosar’s breeding program, and is a 1959/1960 seedling from Ilex ‘Nellie R. Stevens’, most likely a hybrid with the spineless Ilex integra.
It was sent around to different growers for evaluation trials under a code #, and was later determined to not have enough value for northern US growers, so a destruction notice was sent by the National Arboretum.
Like some characters in the slasher flicks, it wasn’t completely destroyed, as propagations from the holly managed, quite improperly, to make its way to the deep south, where growers found it quite extraordinary, and in the 1980s, it was given the name Ilex ‘Cherry Bomb’ by Dr. Dave Creech of Steven F. Austin University. This wonderful plant is now a staple in the Southern nursery industry.
Pittosporum tobira ‘Kansai Sunburst’ is looking lovely in the mid-winter garden. This Japanese selection emerges with brightly cream-edged leaves which age to green. This selection came to the US, via the former Asiatica Nursery, which brought so many wonderful Japanese selections to American gardeners.
This native of China, Japan, and Korea should mature around 10′ in height. Pittosporum tobira is prized for its spring-produced, intensely-fragrant small white flowers that smell like orange blossoms. We’ve had our plants in the ground since 2007, so they’ve passed the survival test of two winters with low temperatures in the single digits F. Winter hardiness is Zone 7b and warmer.
We truly love loquats…both to grow and consume. I first met Eriobotrya japonica in 1976 on a walk around the NC State campus with the late Dr. JC Raulston. I was amazed to see a mature 30’+ specimen growing against one of the campus buildings. I was determined to grow one of our own, so in the mid 1990s, we planted our first specimen here at JLBG.
Loquats, a Chinese native member of the rose family, makes a lovely small tree with large, evergreen foliage that resembles a corrugated Magnolia grandiflora. Another exceptional feature is the fragrant white flowers that start to open around Christmas. These are followed by delicious orange fruit in early spring, when winter temperatures don’t drop below the mid-teens F. Loquat foliage is also brewed as a tea, in addition to its numerous medicinal benefits. We have always found loquats to be much more winter hardy than most of the literature indicates. Our oldest specimen planted in 1997, has never experienced any winter damage. Hardiness is Zone 7b and warmer.
Quite a few really smart horticulturists told us we didn’t have a chance of succeeding with Daphne ‘Perfume Princess’ in our climate. We’ll, we’re almost 2 years in the ground with this New Zealand hybrid of Daphne bholua x Daphne odora. It’s already full of flowers, where it’s thriving in our crevice garden. In the sense of full disclosure, we’ve never been able to keep the Daphne bholua parent alive. Hardiness is Zone 7b and warmer to at least Zone 8b.
In full flower now at JLBG is Mahonia x lindsayae ‘Cantab’, a hybrid of Mahonia japonica and the virtually unknown Mahonia siamensis. The intensely sweet fragrance is truly intoxicating…the strongest in the genus Mahonia. Sadly, you’ll rarely find this available for sale, since it’s somewhat gangly form doesn’t curry favor with most nursery growers. Winter hardiness is Zone 7b and warmer.
The fragrance of the fall-flowering osmanthus continues. First, we saw good rebloom on Osmanthus fragrans ‘Tianxiang Taige’. This amazing cultivar has the largest flowers of any of the selections of this species.
The overpoweringly sweet fragrance of Osmanthus heterophyllus ‘Kaori Hime’ has been hard to miss over the last couple of weeks. Despite having tiny leaves, this is not a dwarf. Our 8-year old garden plant is 6′ tall x 7′ wide.
Perfuming the garden this week are the amazing Osmanthus fragrans. This Chinese native evergreen shrub is unquestionably the most fragrant flowering plant in the garden. When the clusters of small flowers open early October, they emit a sweet fragrance that can easily waft for 200 feet. While we have nine clones in the gardens at JLBG, our oldest/largest two are Osmanthus fragrans ‘Conger Yellow’ (yellow flower) and ‘Aurantiacus’ (orange flower)…both pictured below.
Our sister institution, the JC Raulston Arboretum probably has the largest collection in the country of these amazing plants. For those old enough to remember, Osmanthus fragrans was a personal favorite of the late Dr. JC Raulston. If you are looking to purchase plants and can’t find them locally, our friend Ted Stephens, who runs a SC mail order nursery certainly has the largest offering in the country of these amazing plants.
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.
For two decades, we’ve grown the amazing Chinese jack-in-the-pulpit, Arisaema saxatile with its delightful lemon-fragranced flowers. The most frustrating part was its slow offsetting nature, which meant we rarely had any to share.
Eighteen months ago, we dug our main clump and moved most of it from a well-shaded site to a location that would get a couple of hours of afternoon sun. To our surprise, it loved the new site, where this summer, it produced two large seed heads which will be harvested shortly. This is the first sign of seed in 20 years, so hopefully in a few years, we have some good numbers to share.
Sinningia ‘Pink Pockets’ was a Plant Delights/JLBG introduction in 2011…a hardy gesneriad that had thrived in our in ground trials. Here it is this week, planted in 2005 and still performing superbly in part sun. We love plants that stand the test of time in the garden.
We’ve got a different take on going tubing. For us, tubing is something we do, starting in mid-June each summer, when we sit and enjoy our patch of Sinningia tubiflora. This amazing South American (Argentina, Uruguay, and Paraguay) gesneriad (African violet cousin) forms masses of underground potato-like tubers, which produce these amazing stalks of sweetly fragrant flowers for months each summer. These are reportedly pollinated by sphinx months. Sinningia tubiflora is insanely drought resistant and so easy to grow if given enough sun. Since it forms a large mass, don’t plant it near smaller, less-aggressive neighbors.
Blooming now in the crevice garden is one of our favorite edimentals. If you haven’t heard this word before, it’s the new combo term for edible ornamentals. Crambe maritima, known as sea kale, is a plant we first grew for its fragrant flowers, only to find it incredibly tasty, both fresh and cooked. We are constantly grabbing a leaf for a garden snack. Best of all, Crambe maritima is a perennial that doesn’t need to replanted yearly. We can’t imagine why every lover of kale doesn’t grow this. Dry full baking sun is all that’s required.
Flowering this week is our selection of Magnolia floribunda ‘Bridal Bouquet’. When we visited Yunnan, China in 1996, we were able to return with three seed of Magnolia floribunda, a species which seemed completely absent from American horticulture. The resulting seedlings were planted into the garden, where two promptly died during the first winter. Thankfully, one survived and is still thriving today 25 years later.
Magnolia floribunda ‘Bridal Bouquet’ forms an upright, somewhat open evergreen that sometimes starts flowering as early as mid-January. This year, thanks to our consistent cold, it waited until early March to start its floral show. The flowers have a distinctive and fascinating fragrance that we find unique among our magnolia collection. We have shared cuttings with several woody plant nurseries and donated plants to a few rare plant auctions in the hopes of getting this more widely cultivated.
The genus Sinningia is a South American gesneriad (African violet and gloxinia relative). Hummingbirds and butterflies just love the tubular flowers of Sinningia, and several species including Sinningia tubiflora, are quite fragrant.
Sinningia flowers come in a wide array of colors from white, to yellow, pink, red and all shades in between. Sinningia species are drought-tolerant and heat loving…perfect for hummers and the southern garden. We hope you will join us in our excitement over the wonderful perennial sinningia.
Hymen flowers (aka Hymenocallis) are still going, as the Northern Mexican species now perfume the garden. The genus begins flowering in spring, and if you grow a wide range of species, you can have flowers until late summer/early fall. Here’s a photo we recently took of Hymenocallis pimana in the garden. While many hymenocallis prefer very moist soils, we grow this in a dry bed with agaves and cactus. Starting in early evening, the flowers emit a honeysuckle-like fragrant to lure evening moths for reproductive activities. While we also like the more commonly sold Dutch hybrids, which are actually intergeneric crosses with the South American Ismene, we think the North American native species are far superior as garden plants, so we’ve always wondered why these don’t sell nearly as well as they should.
Early June is an amazing time for crinum lilies in the gardens here at Juniper Level and here’s one of our favorites, photographed yesterday. Crinum ‘Improved Peachblow‘ is simply amazing…great flower form, sturdy stems, pink buds that open white, and a fragrance that’ll make a honeysuckle jealous. Crinum lilies are very easy to grow, but flower best in a moist, sunny location.
One of the great winter-flowering evergreen perennials is in full flower now. Sarcococca hookeriana var. humilis, aka sweet box is a fascinating boxwood relative that forms a dense groundcover in shade. What make sweet box special are the intensely fragrant flowers toward the end of winter. All sarcococca are similar in form and flowering, varying mainly in height and fruit color.
The native midwestern trout lily, Erythronium mesochorum showed it’s lovely face for the first time this week. We sowed lots of seed last year, so hopefully we’ll have enough to share in a couple more years.
Even after the early flowers of the Christmas rose, Helleborus niger, finish, the lovely green petals and developing seed pods are quite attractive.
The Iris unguicularis have been amazing this winter. This is our collection from Crete, where they grew in large grass-like masses. Although this clone isn’t as floriferous as some we grow, the intensity of the color is quite special, and like all of the forms from Crete, the foliage is quite short. We may have enough of this for a 2017 introduction.
For the first time in several years, we are able to share our superb collection of the native, evergreen Pachysandra procumbens ‘Angola’, that we collected near Angola prison. This is the earliest, most vigorous, and most fragrant flowering form of this superb native that we’ve ever encountered.
We’ve been enjoying the late-flowering hostas over the last few weeks, with many just beginning. One of our favorites is Hosta ‘Sugar and Spice’…a stunning sport of Hosta ‘Invincible’ with fragrant flowers and variegated foliage. We put this as one of the best performing hostas we’ve ever grown..great foliage, great flowers, and great vigor in the garden.
This has been an amazing summer for crinum lilies at Juniper Level. These mostly African species and their hybrids are wonderfully fragrant, hard-to-kill bulbs for the sunny garden. Above is Crinum x baconii ‘Maureen Spinks’…one of the showiest summer-flowering hybrids.
Another of the milk and wine striped crinum lilies is Crinum x digweedii ‘Stars and Stripes’…here’s a recent photo from the garden. It just oozes with fragrance!If rosy pink is your thing, Crinum ‘Rose Parade’ is looking quite nice in the garden. Crinum winter hardiness ranges from Zone 6 to Zone 8, depending on the species used in the cross. You’ll find the hardiness zones for each in our on-line catalog, where we offer 40 varieties…probably one of the largest selections you’ll find. Enjoy, and have a great weekend in the garden!
It’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.
Here’s our research staff getting the giant ladder in place for breeding as the giant Agave salmiana x asperrima begins to open. And here’s Jeremy, who heads up our Research Division, gathering pollen and making crosses. Breeding agaves is a little different from breeding daylilies, iris, and hostas. We hope you’ll join us during our summer open nursery and garden to see this monster in person.
Here are photos of our lovely specimen of Magnolia (Parakmeria) lotungensis that flowered extremely well this year. This evergreen magnolia is one of our favorites and has never shown a sign of winter damage here. Fingers crossed for good seed set.
I was recently looking for some flowers to put in a vase for our patio and got thinking…what would you use if your dinner guests were the type of people you wanted to eat and leave…quickly. The answer was right before me…Pig Butt Arum, Helicodiceros muscivorus. So, here’s my creation…also perfect if your child has a “favorite” teacher who they want to be sure remembers them over summer vacation.
Here’s a shot of our patch of Dianthus ‘Feurehexe‘ in the garden…such an amazing display of insanely fragrant flowers…smells like spicy chocolate to me. Good drainage and bright sun are the key to success, so their perfect for a rock garden.
The peonies were insanely beautiful this weekend for open house. Here’s one of the stars, Paeonia ‘Cora Stubbs’…great sturdy stems and huge, fragrant flowers. We only offer peonies that we’ve trialed here at Juniper Level Botanic Garden for heat tolerance, great flowering, and good stem sturdiness.