One of the most amazing ferns in our collection is the little-known Chinese Adiantum fimbriatum. Closely allied to the hugely popular Adiantum venustum, the fimbriate maidenhair fern is actually a far better grower in our hot, humid climate, despite coming from elevations from 9,000-12,000′.
Adiantum capillus-veneris ‘Bermuda Run’ is looking exceptional in the garden this fall. Actually, it looks exceptional most of the year for us. Until the temperatures drop below 12 degrees F, this amazing fern remains evergreen. This fern has a huge native range, being found on every continent except Antarctica.
Adiantum capillus-veneris, along with a couple of pteris fern species are often found growing in mortar cracks in many of the Southeast coastal cities and adjacent tropical islands. It is thought that some of these populations may have been spread along the early trade routes. This particularly dense form is our collection from the mortar walls on Bermuda. The same species is native to North Carolina, but only in a solitary population. Winter hardiness is Zone 7b-10b.
If you’re a nursery, and you’d like to offer ferns, the plants at your disposal are somewhat limited. A large majority of ferns sold in America are still sadly dug from the wild. When you see a catalog listing primarily these ferns together…usually an very inexpensive prices, you can be pretty much assured they were dug from the wild: Osmunda regalis (royal fern), Osmunda cinnamomea (Cinnamon Fern), Polystichum acrostichoides (Christmas Fern), Matteuccia Matteuccia struthiopteris (Ostrich fern), Adiantum pedatum (Maidenhair fern), Athyrium filix-femina (lady fern), and Onoclea sensibilis (Sensitive Fern). These ferns are often sold bareroot, to save the nursery the expense of having to pot the collected plants, many of which are so large, they won’t fit in small containers.
The other majority of ferns in the market are produced by tissue culture, either by a couple of labs in Florida, one in Texas, and one in Holland. Without the amazing work of these labs, the fern selections available to homeowners would be limited to the wild collections. Even with their amazing work, these labs must focus on well-known ferns that sell in very large numbers.
While we make use of the lab offerings, we also made a commitment over 30 years ago to grow many of our own ferns from spores. Outside of a few small fern specialists, there are few nurseries who grow their own ferns from spores, since this is the most costly and time consuming option. The reason we do this is so that we can offer fern species and selected forms that are otherwise unavailable.
Below is a quick summary of how the process works. Fern spores (fern equivalents of seed) are collected through the summer, and are dried in paper envelopes until they separate from the foliage. They are then sown in pots with potting soil that is sterilized here, and then sealed in ziploc bags. The spore takes from 1 month to 6 months to germinate. Once the spores germinate, they are ready to have sex…a process that is reversed from more modern evolved flowering plants.
To assist the ferns have sex, we gently add water to the newly germinated sporelings, since ferns (other than desert ferns) only have sex while they are swimming. The water is swirled around to mimic the feel of a whirlpool, then the bags are then resealed, and put in the dark where they are subjected to a near constant montage of Barry White music.
Within a few weeks, tiny fern fronds begin to emerge. At this point, the ziploc bags are opened to allow the humidity to equalize with the ambient air. After another couple of weeks the pots are removed from the ziploc bags. If the spore were viable and cleaned well without contamination, and if germination was good, there will be up to several hundred plants per pot.
After a few weeks, the sporelings are transplanted into a cell pack flat. Here they grow out for another few months until they are ready to be planted into our 1 qt. pots, in which they will be sold. In all, it’s about an 18 month process, and a good bit of labor. We’re really quite passionate about our fern collection at JLBG, which the visiting British Fern Society declared one of the largest/most diverse in the world. We hope you find the results worthwhile.
Humanity could not exist without plants. People’s interactions with plants have evolved throughout history from medicinal, to magical, to nutritional. These interactions often resulted in whimsical, fanciful tales tied to oral history passed from one generation to the next.
Take for example the genus Adiantum, maidenhair fern: The genus is derived from the Greek for “unwetted” because water rolls off the fronds. The individual pinnae were thought to resemble the hair of Venus, from Roman mythology, when she was born from the sea, fully formed and with dry hair, thus the common name maidenhair fern.
As part of our Gardening Unplugged garden chat series held in conjunction with our Open Nursery & Garden Days, assistant nursery manager, Dennis Carey, leads a brief tour through the gardens discussing the plant folklore surrounding some popular garden plants. Learn more about adiantum and other plant folklore here!
PDN Fall Nursery News
We hope you’ve received your copy of the Fall 2014 Plant Delights Nursery catalog. Kudos to our graphic designer Shari Sasser at Sasser Studios for the catalog redesign and new look. Among other things, the fall catalog includes three new aucubas, six new crinum lilies, and twenty new fern offerings. These are a fraction of the many exciting new plants you’ll find either in the print version or online.
It’s always interesting for us to see what sells and what doesn’t. Top sellers from the fall catalog so far include, Adiantum venustum, Agapanthus ‘White Heaven’, Agave ‘Huasteca Giant’, Agave ‘Shadow Dancer’, Alstroemeria ‘Koice’, Aster ‘Fanny’, Begonia ‘Pewterware’, Bouvardia ‘Scarlet Hummer’, Canna ‘Pacific Beauty’, Dryopteris erythrosora v. prolifica, Echinacea ‘Fatal Attraction’, Epimedium ‘Domino’, Eucalyptus neglecta, Heuchera ‘Citronelle’, Hibiscus ‘Kopper King’, Hibiscus ‘Midnight Marvel’, Hosta ‘Orange Marmalade’, Juniperus conferta ‘All Gold’, Lespedeza ‘White Fountain’, Ligularia ‘Chinese Dragon’, Lilium formosanum Giant form, Oxalis ‘Francis’, Patrinia scabiosifolia, Phlox ‘Peppermint Twist’, Ruellia ‘Black Beauty’, Salvia greggii ‘Teresa’, and Salvia ‘Golden Girl’.
On the other end of the scale, plants which will be severely disciplined for not selling to this point include Aspidistra crispa ‘Golden Freckles’, Aucuba ‘Sagama’, Begonia henryi,Buddleia ‘Blue Chip Jr.’, Buddleia ‘Pink Micro Chip’, Choisya ‘Limo’, Crinum x digweedii ‘Mermaid’, Harpochloa falx, Lycoris x jacksoniana ‘Caldwell’s Rose’, Ophiopogon ‘Tuff Tuft Lavender’, Taxus bacatta ‘Aurescens Nana’, and Trismeria trifoliata. We know how well these plants perform, and how hard they auditioned just to earn a spot in the catalog. We really hope you’ll save these gems from the whips and chains of our growing staff and give ’em a try!
October Photography Class with Josh Taylor
Saturday, Oct. 11, 2014, 8am–4pm
Garden Photography – Photo Capture and Processing with Josh Taylor
Learn how to get the best possible images from your camera and how to process your images in Lightroom with Photoshop/Photoshop Elements.
The morning focus of this all-day workshop will be on learning and getting reacquainted with your camera ISO settings, histogram, exposure compensation, shooting modes, bracketing, white balance, etc. You’ll spend 3 hours in the garden with your camera and the instructor.
The afternoon session will be devoted to post-processing with Lightroom using participants’ images for demonstrations. Register hereor call to register at 919-772-4794. See some examples of Josh’s work on his website: www.joshuataylorphotography.com.
Sweden & Germany 2014 Expedition Log
We’ve finally finished the online version of Tony’s expedition log from his trip to Germany and Sweden this spring…lots of cool plants, great gardens, and amazing people. If you’d like to travel along, enjoy the trek here.
Last Open Nursery and Garden Days for 2014 are Sept. 19-21
This weekend, we’re putting the wraps on our final open nursery and garden days for 2014, so we hope you can make the trip to Plant Delights Nursery and Juniper Level Botanic Garden to share the splendor of the fall gardens. Not only is there lots to see here in September, but our muscadine grape trials are ripe, so you can sample each variety while you’re here…or park your spouse under the grapevines to keep them from pestering you while you peruse the gardens and shop.
2015 Open Nursery and Garden Dates
February 27 – March 1
March 6 – 8
May 1 – 3
May 8 – 10
July 10 – 12
July 17 – 19
September 11 – 13
September 18 – 20
Fridays/Saturdays 8a-5p and Sundays 1-5p
Rain or Shine! Free Parking
Click for more info
Fall is a fabulous time to plant!
In most parts of the country, it’s a fabulous time to plant…everything except agaves, echinaceas, bananas, and elephant ears (from Zone 7b north). North of us, just don’t plant anything marginally hardy in your zone as your first frost approaches and, in climates where the ground freezes in winter, allow enough time to get the roots anchored to keep the plants from heaving out of the ground.
Four months ago, we posted photos of our new four seasons garden that we’d just installed near our retail greenhouses. This section of the garden is now 16 weeks old, so we’d love for you to see what it looks like now and see how much it’s grown…a great demonstration why good organic soil preparation is so important and how much plants will grow when they’re properly cared for.
Nursery Industry News
PDN kudos to Plant Delights customer Allen Lacy, the founder and chief weed puller at the new Linwood Arboretum. Allen received some great publicity recently in an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer that we’d like to share.
We were also glad to see a recent article about our friend, the late Logan Calhoun, that just appeared in the Dallas News. Logan was a Plant Delights customer who shared many special plants that we still offer today…fifteen years after his untimely death.
In other news from the nursery world, Q&Z Nursery of Rochelle, Illinois, a major wholesale hosta tissue culture lab, is closing its doors. Although very disappointing, I can’t say I’m surprised. Q&Z, which has operated for 22 years since splitting from its former retail division T&Z, chose its market niche to be a hosta liner supplier to small mom and pop backyard nurseries.
They did this by offering a huge selection of new hostas (over 400 of their own introductions), without much, if any, in-ground evaluation, introducing seemingly every mutation that they found in the lab. If they tissue cultured a variegated hosta and it mutated back green, they would name and introduce the plant, knowing these small nurseries were usually more interested in having new hosta names in their catalog than having the best new hostas. This business model cost them the business of larger, more discriminating retailers, especially because they rarely had good photography of mature clumps of their new introductions…the single most important factor in properly introducing a new plant. Still, a few of their hostas turned out to be good plants that had staying power, including Hosta ‘Diamond Tiara’, ‘Pineapple Upside-down Cake’, Hosta ‘Radiant Edger’, Hosta ‘Sugar and Cream’, Hosta ‘Sugar and Spice’, Hosta ‘Summer Breeze’, ‘Summer Lovin’, and Hosta ‘Victory’.
Once the economy tanked, it took many of the smaller nurseries with it, making it even more difficult for such a business model to be sustainable. The founder/owner, Mark Zilis, is one of the most knowledgeable folks in the hosta world, as witnessed by his landmark hosta book, The Hostapaedia, which you can currently still purchase on the Q&Z website.
We’d like to publicly thank Mark and his staff for their contributions to the world of hostas, and wish them the best in their future endeavors.
Garden Director Needed
In local news, one of our neighboring botanic gardens is in need of a new director. Dr. Peter White, director of the NC Botanical Garden, is stepping down to return to teaching and writing, so the garden is in need of a new director. Interested? If so, you can find out more here.
Wedding Anniversary Flowers
Do you struggle with what to get that special gardener in your family? Consider giving a wedding anniversary flower. Not only are there designated precious stones to celebrate wedding anniversaries, but there are designated plants. The list below suggests what you might present plantwise.
- 1st Carnation
- 2nd Lily of the Valley
- 3rd Sunflower
- 4th Hydrangea
- 5th Daisy
- 6th Calla
- 7th Freesia
- 8th Lilac
- 9th Bird of paradise
- 10th Daffodil
- 11th Tulip
- 12th Peony
- 13th Chrysanthemum
- 14th Dahlia
- 15th Rose
- 20th Aster
- 25th Iris
- 28th Orchid
- 30th Lily
- 40th Gladiolus
- 50th Yellow rose, violet
- Source: Wikipedia
We try to share important life events from the horticultural world, but here’s one we missed. Ken Durio, 84, founder and president of the infamous Louisiana Nursery passed away last fall on October 28. I say infamous because Louisiana Nursery, was always the topic of customer stories whenever plant people gathered to discuss their new acquisitions. From the 1960s through the 1990s, if you wanted a rare plant…especially a woody plant, there were few sources other than Louisiana Nursery of Opelousas, Louisiana.
While Louisiana Nursery listed virtually every plant you could imagine, to the tune of 5,000 listings in their prime, the quality of the plants you received, combined with the extravagant prices and their less than stellar customer service, made it a major frustration for most consumers. I’ll never forget ordering their $5 catalog in the late 1980s only to get a return note asking which of their 12 catalogs I wanted…at $5 each…the iris catalog, the hemerocallis catalog, the magnolia catalog, etc.
Ken Durio was an avid and knowledgeable plantsman who started Louisiana Nursery soon after graduating from LSU in 1950. Although it seems hard to imagine today, back in the 1950s and 1960s, Louisiana was one of the epicenters of plant exploration and introduction in the US.
By the 1980s, Ken Durio had developed a reputation as one of the most ornery and curmudgeonly nurserymen in the country, which is why, when I was asked to speak in Baton Rouge in 1996, I told them I would only come if they’d take me to meet the infamous Ken Durio. After trying to talk me out of it, they reluctantly relented and off we went. Despite many tales of people being run off the nursery for no apparent reason, I found Ken both welcoming, hospitable, and glad to chat plants. By this time, however, the nursery had become quite run down as sales had dramatically declined. Louisiana Nursery (no relation to the garden center, Louisiana Nursery.com) became a victim of the Internet, as gardeners were now able to find better quality plants cheaper and without so much hassle.
No matter what you thought of their business, their plant collections and breeding efforts in groups like iris, daylilies, magnolias, and figs were truly remarkable. One of Ken’s surviving sons, Dalton, recently returned home to take care of his dad in the last stages of life and is currently trying to resurrect the nursery. Fingers crossed for a successful re-launch. You can watch his progress at www.durionursery.biz.
Until next month, join us on the Plant Delights blog , where you can sign up and follow our regular posts from the nursery and garden.
-tony and anita
Who turned on the heat? While we’ve had really good rains in June, they have been accompanied by abnormally high temperatures which arrived much too early in the season. Because of the hot weather, we have put all plant shipping on hold until temps drop back to the upper 80’s/low 90’s. As much as we are told that we can control the climate, we can’t get our operator manual to work correctly, so we will therefore resume shipping as soon as Momma Nature allows.
We’ve just finished our late spring inventory: the kick-off event for our fall catalog production season which is now underway. Catalog descriptions are nearly finished, as we now make sure we have good photos to go with each new introduction. In evaluating the spring season, sales were not quite what we had hoped for, so once again we have an excess of several items and unfortunately for us (fortunately for you,) we need the space for summer production. Consequently, it’s time for our summer overstock sale. This year, we’re dubbing it our “World Cup, Kick’em Out, 20% Off Sale”. Click here to find out what’s on sale.
We’ve also added several new plants to the web since last month, many of which are available in limited quantities.
In plant news, it was great to hear from plantsman Jim Waddick of Kansas City, who shared with us that his Helicodiceros muscivorus has been hardy outdoors and actually flowered this year. Since there are so few of these grown, there haven’t been many folks testing it for winter hardiness. We’ll get our Zone 7 rating changed to a Zone 5b … thanks, Jim.
Gladiolus ‘Atom’ was one of the few plants that we offered this year that we didn’t grow ourselves, and guess what … we received and sold the wrong plant! Once they flowered, we were greeted with nice pink flowers … not the brilliant red with a white picotee edge we expected. Therefore, if you got one of these before we saw them flower, please contact our customer service department for a refund or credit. Although we’ve discarded the off-type stock, we would like to know the identity of the plant we sold, so if you recognize this cultivar, please let us know.
In the latest news from the nursery industry, CEO Steve Hutton announced the closure of the Conard Pyle Wholesale Nursery in West Grove, PA, which is shutting down its 32 year old wholesale division. What will remain of the scaled back 113-year old company is only their rose and liner division. For those of you who don’t know the name Conard Pyle, these are the folks who market and license Mediland-Star Roses and Knockout Roses.
Another sad development is the liquidation plant auction this week of 5,000,000 container plants at Carolina Nurseries in South Carolina. Not only was Carolina Nurseries the largest nursery in South Carolina (700 acres), but president J. Guy was the founder of the Novalis program, which currently serves as a nationwide conduit and marketing program to get new plants from breeders to independent garden centers.
Carolina Nurseries was hit hard like everyone else during the economic downturn, but the nail in the proverbial coffin was their inability to maintain their financing due to the tightening credit market. Carolina Nursery had been a long-time customer of Wachovia, which as we know, went belly-up in the mortgage crisis meltdown due to risky loans. Although Carolina Nursery president J. Guy had actually been a long-term Wachovia board member, the “new” Wachovia (aka Wells Fargo) found that Carolina’s square peg no longer fit into Wells Fargo’s new round hole. I can relate, since we had the same experience with the original Wachovia when they merged with First Union in 2001. Fortunately, we were small enough to fire Wachovia and find a small town bank who understood and appreciated our business. As a friend reminded me, the Wachovia of the last decade wasn’t really Wachovia, but actually First Union in drag. It is unclear at this time what will happen after the plant auction at Carolina Nurseries this week, but if I were a betting man, I wouldn’t count J. Guy out after only one knockout. We’ve got our fingers crossed for a Freddy-Krueger like reappearance.
In related news, financial issues have put several botanic gardens and private gardens on the market this month including The Berry Botanic Garden in Portland, Oregon, the Harland Hand Garden in El Cerrito, California, and the 3 acre Western Hills Nursery and Garden in Occidental, California. I never made it to The Berry Botanical Garden, but have visited the other two and can’t say enough good things about them. Harland Hand was an amazing plantsman and designer, and the garden sits high atop a hill that overlooks the San Francisco Bay. You can find out more at www.harlandhandgarden.com. I have written in the past about Western Hills, which we thought was safe after a couple purchased it in 2007, but that didn’t work out since the garden and nursery went into foreclosure early this year. You can find out more at www.westernhillsnursery.com. If you know of anyone who might be interested in either of these properties, contact the Garden Conservancy at email@example.com.
I had mentioned in an earlier newsletter about the excellent bloom on many of the perennials this year due to the abnormally large number of chilling hours this winter. One benefit that I didn’t realize until recently was the increased height of our lilies. I have never been able to get many of our lilies to reach their “advertised” heights … until this year. Lilies that normally only reached 3-4′ are now 6-7′ tall with amazing flower heads.
On the opposite end of the winter spectrum were unexpected losses of some colocasias and bananas. Although our winter temperatures in 2008 (7-9° F) were much colder than 2009 temperatures (16° F), the ground was frozen for 6+ weeks this winter as we stayed below freezing for more than a week at a time. Despite mulching the colocasia clumps with small shredded leaf mulch “volcanos”, we still lost elephant ears that we shouldn”t have, including Colocasia ‘Mojito’, C. ‘Diamond Head’, and C. gigantea ‘Thailand Giant’ (which we view as marginal in our zone). Even hardy bananas such as Musa velutina didn’t re-emerge until mid-June. I’m betting that without the excess winter moisture, we wouldn’t have seen as many winter losses, so I’m considering covering the leaves with a fabric in the future to reduce the winter moisture from reaching the dormant corms.
Plants that have really impressed me this year are some of the new echinaceas, which just get better with age. The one that truly boggles my mind so far is Echinacea ‘Hot Papaya’. The flowers emerge orange and initially appear ho-hum, but then they quickly “fill out” while morphing into a dark scarlet red that is simply unreal. I have them planted alongside my driveway, and everyday I pass them, I can’t help but say “wow” … what an amazing breakthrough. Echinacea ‘Tomato Soup’ has also developed into an amazingly large clump, but the habit is much more open, making it better to blend into a perennial border with complementing colors and contrasting forms. Echinacea ‘Milkshake’ is another cultivar that never ceases to amaze me with its huge cones of double white … again, a clump that keeps getting better each year. If you haven’t tried some of these amazing new echinaceas, what are you waiting for?
The key to establishing echinaceas is to plant them before fall and be sure the planting bed is well-drained in the winter. I also recommend that you remove the flowers until the plant is well established. Tissue cultured clonal echinaceas tend to go to flower much more quickly than they should, often before developing a dense crown. By removing the developing flowers, the energy is sent back into crown development, which results in better survivability and a sturdier plant. I know removing the first flowers is tough, but get the bud vases ready.
Another plant that I gain a new respect for every year is the hardy gladiolus. I will admit to having never grown a gladiolus a decade ago, not caring much for the over-the-top annual funeral-spray glads. Fast forward a decade, and a trip to South Africa to see them in the wild, and I have a whole new respect for the genus. Despite the fact that all Holland-produced glads are now bred against being winter hardy, many of the old hybrids and species selections remain.
Having now grown a number of gladiolus species, I am particularly impressed with selections and hybrids of Gladiolus dalenii. G. dalenii seems to impart the best traits of spike form and hardiness into its offspring. Some selections such as G. ‘Boone’, which we hope to offer in spring, are reportedly hardy to Zone 5. While we list most of our gladiolus offerings as Zone 7b, that’s only because we don’t know how much winter cold they will tolerate. In a baptisia that we dug and sent to a friend in Minnesota, there were a few hiding corms of Gladiolus papilio. We were all surprised when they not only returned, but naturalized there at temperatures near -30° F, without the benefit of snow. Unfortunately, this was not an attractive form of the species, but it does show the incredible hardiness potential of the genus. A few years ago, some of our gladiolus clumps got so large that they finally produced enough stems for me to cut for indoor arrangements. Again, I was impressed at how nice they were as cut flowers, so if you’re looking for a few brownie points, especially if your spouse thinks you spend too much on plants, gladiolus are your answer.
We’ve spent the last few years bulking up some exceptional selections that will start appearing next year, along with raising some of our own gladiolus from seed. We discovered that if you grow gladiolus cultivars near each other, they are quite promiscuous and will cross pollinate. We’re in the process of making final selections, but there are some real gems in the pipeline. I hope you will give the hardy glads a try in your garden and, please, let us know your results if you are in an area that drops below 0° F in the winter.
In the Top 25 contest this month there weren’t many major moves. Canna ‘Phaison’ moves from 10th to 7th place while Begonia ‘Heron’s Pirouette’ moved from 16th to 13th, and Colocasia ‘Mojito’ jumped from 26th to 20th. Salvia chamaedryoides moved into 26th place from just outside the top 30. Echinacea ‘Tomato Soup’ slid up from 8th to 5th place, Echinacea ‘Green Envy’ moved from 20th to 14th, but the biggest movers were Dianthus ‘Heart Attack’, Agastache ‘Cotton Candy’, Adiantum venustum, and Geranium ‘Anne Thomson’ all of which moved from outside the top 30 to 7th, 15th, 21st, and 22nd place respectively.
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