Greetings from Plant Delights! We hope everyone has made it through another summer garden season in good shape. We’re wrapping up the open houses for 2012 with our final three days, Friday through Sunday this weekend. If you’re in the area, we sure hope you’ll join us. It’s been great to meet so many of our nearly 7,000 Facebook fans and friends in person at open house…thanks so much for taking time to follow our plant postings.
As we inch closer to the autumnal equinox, temperatures have begun to fall, which marks a resurgence of many plants that hibernated during the dog days of summer. Dahlias are like many plants that live for fall, and many of us cut our dahlias to the ground in late August so the fall flush will be look fresh and new. Perennial salvias such as the woody-stemmed Salvia greggiis put on their best floral show of the year in autumn when they flower nonstop for several months. Other salvia species like Salvia leucantha, and my personal favorite, the Salvia leucantha hybrid Salvia ‘Phyllis Fancy’, only flower in fall. Salvia ‘Phyllis Fancy’ is a Barry Bonds-sized steroidal monster, producing a 7′ tall x 8′ wide specimen in only 12 months.
What an amazing year this has been for butterflies in the garden…certainly, the best that I remember in over a decade. While butterflies were in abundance, Japanese beetles were nowhere to be found this year…not that we have much trouble with them anyway since we try to keep stressed plants out of our garden. Remember that most garden insects have cyclical population spikes, so don’t get too excited when a pest leaves or a new pest arrives.
One insect that made an appearance in our area starting a couple of years ago was the Genista caterpillar (Uresiphita reversalis). Baptisias have long been considered insect resistant since their leaves contain chemicals that repel most insects. Unfortunately, Genista caterpillars are immune to these leaf toxins. To make matters worse, the caterpillars have chemicals in their bodies that make them immune to most caterpillar predators…ain’t that just grand. While the Genista caterpillar is native to southern and central US, they have not been seen this far east until the last few years.
The unattractive nocturnal moths lay their eggs in spring, which subsequently hatch and the Genista caterpillar larvae begin feeding on the tender new baptisia plant growth. The larvae work fast and can completely strip the foliage of a mature baptisia in a few days…fortunately, this shouldn’t cause permanent damage to the plant. The larvae have 5 stages before they pupate for overwintering. Since the moths are quite prolific, they can actually lay several generations of eggs each year, so you’ll need to monitor your baptisias all summer. When the caterpillars are young they can be easily killed with organic BT (Bacillus thuringensis) products. Spinosad, a biological insecticide composed of Saccharopolyspora spinosa bacteria from crushed sugar cane, has also shown good effectiveness.
While I never expected to commit to writing another regular column other than our monthly e-newsletter, I recently had my arm twisted thanks to one of those once in a lifetime opportunities…the recent launch of Walter Magazine. The name may sound strange for those of you outside North Carolina, but our city of Raleigh, was named after Sir Walter Raleigh, a 16th century English flamboyant dressing explorer/spy. While writing a plant feature column for my hometown magazine was a great oppurtunity, this is also my first time to pair with former New York Times freelance botanical illustrator, the amazing Ippy Patterson.
I can’t believe I’m actually promoting a shrub pruning demonstration, but this isn’t just any shrub pruning. One of my favorite people, topiary artist Pearl Fryar, is coming to Raleigh for an artistic demonstration at NCSU’s new Gregg Art Gallery at 1903 Hillsborough Street. The date is Sunday October 28, from noon until 4pm. This free event is a gathering of artists and musicians…refreshments will be provided. If you’ve seen the movie, “A Man Named Pearl”.
and want to meet this amazing man in person, don’t miss the event.
In the latest news from the nursery world, the 65-year-old Klupengers of Oregon is closing their doors. Klupengers is a 320 acre wholesaler specializing in japanese maples, rhododendrons and azaleas. Klupengers Nursery had sold out once before, but wound up buying the nursery back in 2010 hoping to outlast the downturn, which didn’t work out so well. Everything including land is currently being liquidated, unless someone wants to buy the entire operation.
It was also time for more consolidation in the green industry this month as the world famous, 3rd generation Ecke Ranch was purchased by Agribio International. For those of you not in the horticulture industry, the majority of the poinsettias you buy at Christmas were introduced by the 1000-employee Ecke Ranch of California. Ecke also has a large geranium breeding program. It appears for now the company will remain intact other than a change in ownership.
Agribio Holding B.V. is a Dutch investment firm, specializing in purchasing plant breeding businesses. It recently acquired Barberet and Blanc, a carnation breeder in Spain; Bartels Stek, an aster, solidago, and phlox breeder in Holland; Fides, a bedding and potted plant breeder in Holland; Oro Farms, a production facility in Guatemala; Japan Agribio, a breeder of bedding and potted plants in Japan; and Lex+, a rose breeder in Holland. The acquisition of Ecke makes Agribio one of the largest producers of cutting-produced ornamentals in the world.
It’s with sadness that I report Ohio hosta breeder and nurseryman Bob Kuk, of Kuk’s Forest Nursery passed away on August 14 after a short illness. During his lifetime, Bob developed and introduced over 50 hostas including Hosta ‘Bizarre’, ‘Emerald Necklace’, ‘Golden Empress’, ‘Queen Josephine’, and ‘Unforgettable’. In 2011, Bob was awarded the Distinguished Hybridizer Award by the American Hosta Society for his body of work. Our thoughts go out to both Bob’s hosta family and friends. < href=”http://www.americanhostasociety.org/2011FisherSpeech.html”>Learn more about Bob.
I recently got an email from Dr. Charlie Keith, whose Chapel Hill, NC Arboretum I’ve written about several times. Charlie is turning 80 soon, and has come to the realization that he hasn’t been able to raise adequate funds to preserve the arboretum as he had hoped. Consequently, he’s looking to sell the arboretum property which houses one of the largest woody plant collections in the country. Charlie will be hosting an open house on October 21, from 1-5pm, with plantsmen Mark Weathington of the JC Raulston Arboretum and author Tom Krenitsky as tour guides. The arboretum is located at 2131 Marion’s Ford, Chapel Hill (for more information). If you know of anyone interested in purchasing the 80 acre property, please get in touch with Charlie, as his collection is simply too important to lose.
From the medical world, recent research from The University of Sichuan, published in “Current Chemical Biology” (Volume 3, 2009), has shown the common snowdrop, Galanthus nivalis, has great potential as an anti-fungal, anti-viral (including HIV), and anti-tumor agent for several cancers, including breast cancer. The report also studied the significant anti-tumor lignin activities of other related monocots including Aspidistra elatior (cast iron plant), Polygonatum odoratum and P. cyrtonema (Solomon’s seal), Narcissus pseudonarcissus (daffodil), Ophiopogon japonicus (mondo grass), Typhonium divaricatum (dwarf voodoo lily), and Viscum sp. (mistletoe).
Other common ornamental plants with very specific anti-HIV activity include Lycoris radiata (surprise lilies), Polygonatum multiflorum and P. cyrtonema (Solomon’s seal), Hippeastrum hybrids (amaryllis), Cymbidium hybrids (orchids), and Narcissus pseudonarcissus (daffodil). This is just another reason that the federal government should be doing much more to make plant exploration and importation easier and reverse the current trend toward plant exclusion and making plant importation exceedingly difficult.
Enjoy, and until the next newsletter, we’ll keep in touch on Facebook!