Fireworks in September

Some new plants are flashes in the proverbial pan, while others become long term industry standards. Here is our patch of Solidago rugosa ‘Fireworks’ in the garden this morning. This 1993 introduction from the NC Botanical Garden and Niche Garden has still not been topped 28 years later…one of the most stunning and best performing perennials we’ve ever grown.

2012 Plant Delights Nursery September Newsletter

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=””>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!

2010 Plant Delights Nursery September Newsletter

Dear PDN’ers:

Greetings from Plant Delights, where fall has officially arrived along with some welcome cooler temperatures. Despite recent obscenely hot weather in much of the country (the hottest summer on record in our region), most plants in the garden have still done amazingly well…as long as you could supply adequate moisture.

I don’t recall a recent season when plants from hot climates, such as agaves have grown so well. That being said, don’t rush out and plant them, this time of year…at least not north of Zone 8. I like to use mid-August as a outdoor planting cutoff for agaves in our region. If you purchase them after this date, up-pot and grow them as house plants during the winter. Since agaves grow to the size of the pot, an agave transplanted into a 2 or 3 quart pot should easily triple in size during the winter. A bright spot indoors near a window will be perfect to keep your plant until after the last spring frost.

One of the fascinating new plants that we offered this fall is the Chinese fig, Ficus gasparriniana var. laceratifolia. This cool plant, collected as seed in the wilds of China by friend Linda Guy, makes a compact shrub, topped from now until nearly Christmas with small but sweet, plum-red figs. This would make a great indoor Christmas potted plant in colder zones, as well as a fun plant for kids to enjoy.

I’ve just finished a stroll around the gardens, enjoying all the amazing plants that are still in flower as we wrap up September. I’ve been disappointed over the last few years that more folks haven’t tried Caryopteris divaricata ‘Blue Butterflies’. This is truly a wonderful garden perennial and a much more robust version of its smaller variegated cousin, Caryopteris ‘Snow Fairy’Caryopteris‘Blue Butterflies’ can easily reach 6-7′ tall for us, and is smothered in small curly blue flowers throughout the summer.

Despite our brutally hot summer, the heat tolerant fuchsias, such as F. ‘Sanihanf’ are still in flower and looking great. This Japanese breeding breakthrough is truly one of the most amazing horticultural advances that I’ve seen in several decades. A bit of trivia is that fuchsias are named after the 16th century German botanist/physician Leonhart Fuchs.

Zingiber mioga and its cultivars are another fall favorite. These woodland gingers give the effect of a hedychium in the shade but with better winter hardiness. The difference between zingiber and its cousin, hedychium, are the flowers. They emerge flat on the ground, making the clump appear like someone strewed small yellow orchid flowers underneath the plants…very cool.

We can’t really talk fall, without mentioning the array of amazing hardy cyclamen. If you’re just starting out with hardy cyclamen, Cyclamen hederifolium is the easiest to grow. For us, it starts flowering in late July and picks up speed through the fall and winter.

Of course, we all know that solidagos are a standout in the fall garden. While there are certainly aggressively weedy native solidagos, please don’t let these keep you from trying some of the real stars of the genus, which light up the fall garden with their golden flowers. I’m sure you also know by now that goldenrods don’t cause hay fever…despite a well-funded smear campaign by the radical wing of the National Ragweed Association.

Finally, ornamental grasses are always a superb addition to the fall garden, with the genus of Miscanthus, Panicum, Arundo, and Muhlenbergia being the stars in late September. Not only are they great in the garden, but be sure to pick a handful of long-lasting plumes for a vase in the house, to which you can then add other fall bloomers.

These are just a fraction of the amazing array of plants for fall flowering…we hope you are enjoying some of these great gems in your own garden.

We’ve wrapped up our final Open House for 2010, although mail order shipping will continue through November. As always, we met some really neat folks at Fall Open House. One couple brought their mother to visit all the way from Hungary, and we enjoyed chatting with a number of visitors from California who found their way to NC. A highlight for me was a visit by Alfred Millard, the CEO of Behnke Nursery in Beltsville, Maryland…just north of Washington DC. Behnke’s has long been one of my favorite East Coast garden centers, and a place where I’ve picked up many great plants through the years. Alfred was our Behnke tour guide when we took a bus load of gardeners there, back in 1988. If you’re visiting the nation’s capital, be sure to make the short trek just north of town to check out Behnke’s.

In order to turn around the last few years of declining business, we have spent most of the year studying and working on search engine optimization (SEO). For those of you non-techies, SEO is how well the search engines such as Google like your website and consequently, how high your site ranks. As you can imagine, the key to having a successful Internet business is having folks be able to find you when searching for a product that you carry…in our case, perennials.

When you perform an Internet search, each search engine uses their own secret computer formulas called algorithms (despite claims to the contrary, these are not named after the same guy that invented the Internet). A website can rank high in a search engine in one of two ways: organic content or pay per click ads.

Organic content searches are those based on site content (the number of times relevant terms are used on your site) and the outside links to your website. Pay per clicks ads are when a business buys their way onto the first page of the search results for a particular product. For example, Nursery A may not fare well in a web search for perennials, since their site content is weak or they don’t have many “good links”, so they buy a search term. Well, you don’t actually buy the search term, you bid for the word. The more people who want a particular word, the higher the price. You might pay $.10 for the word “Amorphophallus”, but $2 for “perennials”. When you win the bid for a word, you get an business ad on the first search page for that word. Every time a visitor clicks one of your ads, you pay the bid price to the search engine, such as Google. These ads appear above and around the ten organic searches on the first page.

When we put together a list of the top 100 mail order nurseries in the country and ranked them by the amount of web traffic, SEO rank, and Pay per Click rank, we were surprised at what we found. For starters, 3 mail order nurseries ranked in the top 10,000 heaviest trafficked websites on the Internet and another 29 ranked in the top 100,000. FYI, PDN came in at #17 on the list. On the bottom end, 7 of the top 100 mail order nurseries were not in the top 1,000,000 sites for web traffic.

Of the top 100 mail order nurseries, 37 purchased pay per click ads, with the top 2 highest ranked nurseries spending over $1 million per year, while another 9 nurseries spent over $100,000 per year. Instead of purchasing pay per click ads, we have focused our efforts on providing good content. Unfortunately, as we discovered, content alone is not enough to generate good rankings. There are a number of other factors, primarily the number of good links.

Folks have been great at linking to our homepage, which now boasts over 15,000 links. When we recently reworked our website, we created a genus page for each type of plant that we offer. While this makes it easier for shopping, it made it more difficult for each genus of plant to rank well with the search engines, since we don’t yet have many links to the individual genus pages. This is where we need your help. If you have a website or access to a website, we would be most appreciative if you would consider putting a link to the page or pages of your favorite plant genera.

While all links are welcome, the more traffic that the linking site itself has, the better it helps. If you have access to a .edu or .gov website from which to link, these count the most. Any help you could provide would be truly appreciated!

We recently discovered that the “Contact Us” button on our new website was not working during the first month after its August launch. Although it showed that messages were sent, they never arrived. The problem is now corrected, but if you wrote us during that time and figured that you had been ignored, please forgive us and try again.

In news from the horticultural world, Heronswood founder, Dan Hinkley, received the prestigous Award of Merit by the Perennial Plant Association. The award is their highest honor and is given to an individual in recognition of outstanding contributions to the perennial industry. Congratulations!

In other news, Martha Stewart’s long-time gardener, Andrew Beckman is changing careers, as he leaves New York and heads to Oregon, where he will become Acquisitions Editor for Timber Press. His partner, Bob Hyland, will be closing their nursery, Loomis Creek, and will be looking for a new, less life-consuming adventure in Oregon. We wish them both the best as they head west.

In sad news, we lost another mail order nurseryman this week, when Jackson Muldoon, the founder of Transpacific Nursery in Oregon, died on September 8 at age 63. Jackson started the nursery in 1985 and had made several plant collecting trips to China. Although I never met Jackson in person, I did drop by his nursery several years ago during a jaunt though Oregon.

Another tragic loss for horticulture was the untimely death of legendary gardener and garden writer, Wayne Winterrowd, 68. Wayne passed away due to heart failure after suffering a heart attack on September 13. Wayne is survived by his long-term partner, Joe Eck, and a son, Fotios Bouzikos. Wayne was a Louisiana native, who taught school for 26 years, until he and partner Joe Eck formed their landscape design business, North Hill Associates in 1983. In 1995, Joe and Wayne also started their own successful gardening conference, inviting top speakers from around the world.

In addition to his regular magazine articles in Horticulture Magazine and beyond, Wayne and Joe both have written a number of books, including: Our Life in Gardens (2010), Annuals and Tender Plants for North American Gardens (2004), A Year at North Hill : Four Seasons in a Vermont Garden (1996), Living Seasonally: The Kitchen Garden and the Table at North Hill (1999), Annuals for Connoisseurs (1992), and Roses: A Celebration, with Pamela Stagg (2003).

Their home garden was a 28-acre property in Vermont, which they purchased in 1977 and named North Hill. I had the pleasure of visiting their garden in 1999 and was truly blown away. I’m pretty jaded when it comes to gardens, but I can think of few gardens in the world whose combination of plantsmanship and design skills have left me so speechless…imagine a Northeast version of Dan Hinkley’s, Heronswood. In the past, Wayne and Joe had opened their gardens as a fundraiser for various groups, and hope Joe is able to continue this tradition. If you have the opportunity to visit, don’t miss it. You can find more information at

Once again, we thank you for your support!


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!

Please direct all replies and questions to

Thanks and enjoy


2006 Plant Delights Nursery October Newsletter

It’s starting out to be a great fall at PDN. It’s actually hard to believe that it’s already fall…especially since we still haven’t seen those major hurricanes that we’ve been promised! Not only has the weather been superb, but fall has brought out garden visitors en mass. We just finished the best attended fall open house in our history, followed by a wonderful visit from participants at the 30th Anniversary J.C. Raulston Arboretum Symposium. It was great to have so many folks visiting for the first time and seeing others returning for the first time in a decade. We would like to personally thank everyone who took time out of their busy schedules to attend either of these events.

We’d also like to welcome a great new crop of PDN volunteers. Our volunteer program, which started in 2003, has swelled to 12 people, including some that have been here since our program began. Volunteers spend their time helping in either the botanic garden or research divisions. In exchange for their invaluable hard work, they not only go home with excess plants and knowledge, but know that they have contributed to making the gardens even better for the next group of visitors. It is our hope that in the next few years we’ll begin laying the groundwork for a foundation and friends group to assist in the eventual transition of Juniper Level Botanic Gardens to a public garden (hopefully a long time from now). We’ll keep you posted.

From the nursery end, we have a couple of plant snafues to report regarding plants shipped early in the year as Hemerocallis multiflora. Due to a vendor error, the plants that we shipped are Hemerocallis fulva instead of the plant pictured in our catalog, which also turned out not to be H. multiflora. We got the original plant from China and thought we had it identified correctly…guess not. The plant we pictured is now most likely an exceptional form of H. citrina. Also, we had a few of the Echinacea ‘Sunset’ to flower with distorted petals. If you have Hemerocallis multiflora and your plant flowered orange, or an Echinacea ‘Sunset’ with distorted petals, simply contact our Customer Service Department at for a credit or refund. Please accept our apologies for this error.

We’ve made quite a few production changes that have helped us produce even better plants for the upcoming season. Due to our hot summers, we have very high losses on some plants that do not fare well in containers. This year, we switched many of our production houses to a new silver reflective shade cloth… the one that many open house visitors asked about. This has made a huge difference in over-summering plants such as hellebores. Where we lost virtually our entire crop in 2005, this year was the exact opposite due to the new reflective shade. I think you are going to be amazed when you attend our winter open house in February.

In the jobs department, we have an opening and are looking to fill our Propagation/Production Supervisor position with a very special person. This is the person who propagates and overseas the potting of every plant that we sell, so it goes without saying that this is a very important position. If you have an interest in learning more or to forward an application, please email Heather Brameyer in our HR Department at

Last month, I talked about some of the plants in flower this fall, but I didn’t have time to write about all the ones I wanted to mention, so here’s a little follow-up.

Fall is certainly the season for salvia… especially the S. greggii and S. microphylla types. These desert salvias simply love the cooler nights and begin to flower equally or better than they do in spring. The range of colors is from reds through to whites. If blue is your color, then Salvia guaranitica is your plant. S. guaranitica ‘Argentina Skies’ (light blue) and Salvia guaranitica ‘Black and Blue’ (dark cobalt blue) are both still in full flower. Need lavender?…no problem, the range of Salvia leucantha cultivars are ready and flowering. If yellow is your color, Salvia madrensis ‘Red Neck Girl’ is just what the doctor ordered. The huge spikes of butter yellow will be opening shortly. If this is too tall, Salvia nipponica and Salvia koyamae are woodland groundcover salvias…very cool.

One of my favorite groups of the fall garden is the hardy gesneriads (African Violet cousins). For purples, try the colorful achimenes with their pansy-like flowers. If orange is your color, the continuous-flowering Sinningia sellovii is just waiting for the hummingbirds… birds not included in the shipment. If you like your plants a little on the bright and gaudy side, the brilliantly stunning Gloxinia ‘Evita’ is one of those plants that you just have to see to believe – just ask anyone who has attended our fall open house. For a little more demure shade of red, Gloxinia ‘Chic’ is just perfect. One last favorite gesneriad is the breathtakingly beautiful Titanotrichum oldhammii with its long tubular yellow flowers highlighted by an orange-red throat.

While many of the hardy hibiscus are still producing a few scattered flowers, several other mallows are still in full swing. The US native, Malvaviscus drummondii with its unusual reddish-orange turban-like flowers is a hummingbirds’ delight. Another great native mallow for fall is Pavonia lasiopetala. The small but bright pink flowers are a welcome addition to the fall garden.

I mentioned a bit about hummingbirds, but this is a great time to think about plants that will entertain and feed hummers as they pass through your garden. If you garden in the South and you don’t grow cestrums, why not? Few plants provide the duration of color and look splendid as we head further into fall. Think big yellow and orange mounds of color! Another hummer favorite is manettia or firecracker vine. This amazing non-intrusive vine doesn’t really get going until late summer and fall, when it becomes a feast for hummers and gardeners who like bright orange flowers. More hummer food… how about Cuphea micropetala? Think flowers that look like miniature cigars. Your hummers won’t mind this smoking section. Finally… I promise, another hummer favorite is Bouvardia ternifolia. The brilliant tubular flowers on this Mexican native just scream for the hummers. If you plant all the aforementioned plants together, you’ll need body armor to get near the bed to tend the flowers.

What else is blooming now? Plenty! Lantanas are at their peak, as is one of the late Elizabeth Lawrence’s favorites, Kalimeris pinnatifida … both, virtual flowering machines.

If you’ve got shade, we’ve even got fall flowers for you. The easy-to-grow hardy Cyclamen hederifolium is in full flower throughout the woodland, as is the stunning pink Begonia grandis ‘Herons Pirouette’. How could we talk about fall shade gardens without mentioning the wonderful Tricyrtis ? …many of which are currently in full flower, with flower colors from purple to yellow. I’ll end with one of the least known, but most spectacular fall woodland plants that we grow, the underappreciated Rabdosia longituba …won’t you please adopt one today?

There’s so much more that I don’t have time to mention, from solidago to aster, and from polygonum to costus. While some of you in the northern zones have already closed down your planting for the year, much of the rest of the country is still in full fall planting mode. We’ll let you continue to browse and hope you’re enjoying your fall garden as much as we are.

While I’d love to join you in the garden, it’s that time of year when the staff locks me away to begin writing the 2007 Plant Delights Nursery catalog. You’d be amazed how well solitary confinement works to stimulate the creative juices and make the imagination run wild… quite similar to too many shots of an adult beverage. Surely, you didn’t think a sane person writes this catalog? As always, there are many cool new plants in the pipeline… just waiting for the 2007 catalog to hit the presses.

For those who entered our Top 25 Contest, be sure to check out how your favorite plants are selling. There was some minor shuffling in the Top 25, but the only new entry was Selaginella braunii that nearly cracked The top 25, by rising to #27. Only a few more months remain before we announce the winner of our Top 25 contest… we hope your picks are measuring up. If not, you’d better get your gardening friends busy!

Please direct all replies and questions to

Thanks and enjoy,