Washington’s Palm ready for winter

Due to having three consecutive mild winters, with no temperatures below 20 degrees F, we’ve actually been able to get a trunk on our Washingtonia filifera palm. Typically not hardy in our climate, our plant was grown from seed collected from a wild population in Arizona that had experienced 10 degrees F. We’ll see what this winter has in store.

Cycad-o-Rama

We are just loving our hardy hybrid cycads in the garden this time of year, and here are two we photographed this week. The first is Cycas x bifungensis (bifida x taitungensis), and the second is Cycas x panziholuta (panzhihuanensis x revoluta). We have found that hybrids between hardy species are even more winter hardy than the species themselves. Hardiness for both is probably Zone 7b and south.

Cycas x bifungensis
Cycas x panziholuta

Sunrise over Maui

Here’s a recent image of the amazing Colocasia esculenta ‘Maui Sunrise’, still looking great in late October! Moist, rich soils and full sun are the key for your plants to look this spectacular! Winter hardiness is Zone 7b and warmer.

Colocasia esculenta ‘Maui Sunrise’

It ain’t worth a thing if it ain’t got that bling!

Apologies for commandeering the famed Duke Ellington line, but it seems appropriate for the new Colocasia ‘Waikiki’.

Colocasia esculenta ‘Waikiki’

When we first met Hawaii’s John Cho in 2003, we knew some special elephant ears would be the result of our collaboration, but it was hard to imagine something like the seriously tricked-out Colocasia ‘Waikiki’. Almost every year, John, who has now retired, but is still actively breeding elephant ears, travels to JLBG to evaluate his new hybrids at our in-ground trials and make future introduction decisions. There are some seriously amazing new selections starting down the introduction pipeline.

Colocasia trials
Colocasia ‘Waikiki’
Colocasia ‘Wakiki’

Colocasia ‘Waikiki’ will be released from Plant Delights Nursery on January 1, so if you like this, mark you calendars and stay tuned to the website.

Can you say Poo-yuh?

As an avid bromeliad collector back in the 1970s, I’ve had a long fascination with members of the bromeliad family. Although, I’m long past my house plant days, I continue to test bromeliads from cold climates for their adaptability in our Zone 7b NC garden. So far, we’ve had one member of the genus Puya to survive for well over a decade, so we’re trying more. Here is our trial clump of Puya caerulea var. violacea this week, where it is thriving so far in the crevice garden. This 2.5 year old plant is just waiting for a really cold winter to see how it fares, but so far, so good.

Flaming Torch of Summer

The 7′ tall, and very floriferous Hedychium ‘Flaming Torch’ is looking quite stunning today in the garden. Although they are commonly called ginger lily, they are not a true lily (genus Lilium) or a true ginger plant (genus Zingiber). Hedychiums are prized for their summer and early fall floral shows atop bold-foliaged stalks. The inflorescences are quite exotic looking, resembling clusters of orchids. Slightly moist, rich garden soils and at least 1/2 day sun are best for these hardy tropical looking plants.

Elliptical Ginger Lily

Here’s another oddity in the fabulous ginger genus, hedychium. First, Hedychium ellipticum requires shade, compared to most hedychiums that need sun to flower. Also, Hedychium ellipticum has pendant stalks, compared to the rigidly upright stalks of most more commonly grown ginger lilies. We love the elegant flower heads that adorn the garden in late July/early August. This photo is from the gardens at JLBG last week. Hardiness is Zone 7b south. Sadly, this is always a poor seller when offered by Plant Delights…perhaps people just need to see this in person to appreciate its exquisite beauty.

Four long weeks!

Last year, we were thrilled when one of our cycads produced a female cone…a first for JLBG. We subsequently impregnated it with pollen supplied from the garden of one or our former volunteers, Mike Papay. Our plant produced a great seed crop (56 seed), which was recently planted.

As a point of reference, I should mention that cycads are dioecious…each plant is either male or female. The genus cycas is one of the oldest known surviving plant genera, having emerged between 250 and 350 million years ago, when it diverged from ginkgos. Cycas, having been around for a very long time, also have supercharged, swimming sperm…a trait not seen in modern plants.

This year, we welcomed our first male cycad to cone. The first photo was taken 1 month prior to the second photo, so it’s taken that long for this males’ cone to grow from a tiny bulge to be ready to spread its pollen (sperm). Since we don’t have any flowering females in the garden this year, we’re shipping off the pollen to a palm and cycad breeder in Georgia. This afternoon, we used the Lorena Bobbitt technique to sever its cone, which is now boxed (bottom image) and leaving town before the plant rights groups find out.

Canna show you this?

Flowering at our exit drive this week is the beautiful Canna ‘Red Futurity’…a superb purple-foliaged canna lily. Learn more about growing canna lilies in your garden.

Meet Hamabo

We expect most everyone has grown a hibiscus at one time or another, either tropical or hardy. How many of you have tried the Asian Hibiscus hamabo? This fascinating 8-10′ tall evergreen shrub has thrived in our trials since 2018, and is just now flowering at JLBG for the first time. We had always considered this species tropical, so we were thrilled to hear that it survived as a die back at the SFASU Arboretum in Texas after this springs’ arctic blast of -4F. Dr. Dave Creech at SFASU tells me that it remains evergreen down to 10 degrees F. Has anyone else had experience with growing this outdoors in a cold winter climate?

Hidden no longer

Late June is when the amazing hidden cone gingers (curcuma) begin to explode here at JLBG. Here is our clump of Curcuma ‘Pink Wonder’ this week emerging from what looked like a bare patch of ground in the woodland garden. After the flowers finish, the red-striped foliage explodes to 6-7′ tall.

Gardening Unplugged

It’s hard to believe that it is already time for our 2019 Fall Open Nursery & Garden Days! My how time flies.

During each day of our Open Nursery & Garden Days, we offer a free garden chat as part of our educational outreach, Gardening Unplugged”. These are 15 minute discussions walking through the gardens, focusing on seasonally prominent topics, plants and garden design ideas. Join Tony and our expert horticultural staff as we explore all that nature has to offer. Meet at the Welcome Tent near the parking lot to join us!

This Fall topics include:

Dividing perennials – Crinum being dug to divide
Hardy Tropicals
Scent-sational Ginger Lilies
Fall Blooming Bulbs – Crinum buphanoides

Smellivision

When will they develop scratch and sniff smart phones?

“I’ll never forget my first encounter as a preteen with Hedychium coronarium, when my dad took me to the garden of a local gardener, Rachel Dunham. There, in the midst of her lawn was a huge clump of hardy ginger plant in full flower. I was amazed how a plant that looked so tropical and had such fragrant flowers could be so winter hardy and easy to grow. Since Mrs. Dunham was overly generous, I went home with a huge sack of plants for my own garden. As with every OCD gardener, this would mark only the beginning of my hedychium collecting phase, which continues today. Thirty five years later, I would finally see ginger lilies in the wild on a botanical expedition to North Vietnam.” Tony Avent

Join Tony, Saturday September 21 at 10:00am, during our 2019 Fall Open Nursery & Garden Days as he talks about the scent-sational ginger lilies at Juniper Level Botanic Garden.

Hedychium ‘Vanilla Ice’

Retirement Garden Party

Each year we offer nearly 1,500 unique, rare and native perennials for sale, out of the 26,000 taxa in the garden.

xAmarcrinum ‘Dorothy Hannibal’

As we are constantly trialing new plants coming to the market and evaluating underutilized or unknown perennials from around the world, we must retire hundreds of plants each year to make room in our greenhouses for new treasures. Here are a few of our favorite plants being retired at the end of this year, so don’t miss out!