I doubt any of our garden visitors actually slow down enough to notice some of the smaller treasures flowering now, like the dwarf Chinese gesneriad, Petrocosmea oblata. When I say small, I’m talking 2″ in full flower. We are fascinated by the array of Asian gesneriads that thrive in rock cracks, most of which are fairly unknown outside of their native habitat, unless they are grow in containers by members of the American Gesneriad Society. It’s our hope to bring more of these treasures to light.
We love the late winter flowering Drabas, which thrive in our dry crevice garden. Below is the miniature Draba hispanica, which has been in flower since late February. This Spanish species likes to grow in dry limestone cracks, such as the one we provided here. Unless you’re an avid rock gardener, you may not realize that draba is actually in the cabbage family, Brassicaceae. Once the flowers finish, you’re left with a fuzzy evergreen bun of foliage for the rest of the season. Zone 5a-8a, at least.
We are pleased to introduce two new miniature hostas from our own breeding program for 2016. Many years ago, we began work to create miniature hostas with good vigor and good multiplication rates. The first few years resulted in hostas that were either miniature or vigorous, but not both. After several generations, our goals were realized and these are the first two introductions from that work. Hosta ‘You’re So Vein’ is a 2004 cross… a hybrid of Hosta ‘Blue Mouse Ears’ with unique leaf veins, which are most prominent in the early season.
Hosta ‘Sun Mouse’ is our other 2016 introduction of a cross we made back in 2007. This is also a hybrid and not a sport of Hosta ‘Blue Mouse Ears’. The vigor is outstanding as is the multiplication rate and leaf thickness. The foliage color also holds very well through the summer. We predict both of these will become standard with collectors of small and miniature hostas. We hope you’ll enjoy them both, but remember that quantities of both are limited.
Here are some new hosta images from the garden, starting with the miniature Hosta ‘Church Mouse’…very cool ruffled edges.
Here is Hosta ‘Rainbow’s End’…a stunning favorite that just glows.
Another superb small hosta, Hosta ‘Virginia Reel’. Love this plant
Here’s a fascinating hosta image just captured by staff member Jim Burgan, who noticed the light coming through the fern onto the hosta leaf…pretty cool.
One of the really tiny and well-behaved groundcovers for summer interest is Laurentia fluvitalis. Here it is flowering in the garden today at under 1″ tall with lovely sky blue flowers…perfect for a miniature garden. Good sun, and slightly moist soils are best.
Greetings from PDN where fall is finally in the air, after a long, hot summer. We’ve been enjoying a deluge of rain (6.5″ in the last 2 days) after an extended dry spell in midsummer. Along with the cooler temperatures, plants are starting their fall flush and in some cases, rebloom. For those who couldn’t work in the garden during the oppressive heat, now is a great time to get back into the garden and add some new plants…hint, hint. We hope you all have your new fall catalog by now, have visited the new website, and have found some treasures that you just can’t live without.
Remember that only a short time remains before we open for the final time for 2010, September 10-12 and 17-19. The gardens have on their fall coat with an array of foliage and flowers to enjoy. Every Fall Open House we sell off a few of our largest potted variegated agaves that have been restarted, so if these are of interest, drop by to see what is available…many are quite rare but much too large to ship.
We also have a couple of special non-plant treats for Fall Open House. On the first Saturday, September 11 from 9am until noon, we are hosting a “Meet the Cartoonists”…a chance to meet our catalog cover cartoonist in person. Jack Pittman, who has drawn our catalog covers since 1998, is a nationally-renowned cartoonist who has won a number of awards from the National Cartoonist Association. Jack has assembled a group of his professional cartoonist friends, known by the moniker “The Usual Suspects,” who you might also want to meet. Joining Jack are Grey Blackwell and Duane Powell. Grey Blackwell is another award recipient from the National Cartoonists Association, whose clients include ESPN, Fox Sports, Mad Magazine, and our own News & Observer. Duane is the recently retired long-time political cartoonist for the News & Observer in Raleigh. Nick Meglin, who was scheduled to appear, has been called away to New York.
On the second Saturday, September 18, photography instructor Josh Taylor of www.archiphotoworkshops.com is teaching a workshop (8am-4pm) at PDN on photographing close-ups of fall garden colors, textures, and patterns where you can learn and apply close-up techniques for creating striking images. The workshop focuses on compositional elements, close-up techniques and lighting, and includes a classroom orientation, an illustrated handout, and shooting sessions with the instructor. Instruction will cover how to do close-ups with a basic lens through advanced techniques using macro lenses and micro/ring lights. Also, some Photoshop™/Photoshop Elements™ techniques will be introduced. Photographers of all levels are welcome. Advance registration ($150) is required and only a few seats remain, so sign up today if you’re interested.
On both weekends, we will be displaying sculpture from NC native Andy Cobb. Andy’s specialty is metal frogs…some of the most enchanting metal frogs that you’ll ever meet. Since this is the last open day for the year, we hope you’ll find time in your schedule to drop by!
I’ve been talking all year about the upcoming IPPS Southern Region meeting in Raleigh, October 10-13, and am glad to report that there is now an Online Registration Form. We have a tremendous program that includes both nursery and garden bus tours, fifteen speakers, a rare plant auction, great networking opportunities for others involved in plant production, and dinners at both the JC Raulston Arboretum and here at Plant Delights. If you’re involved in plant propagation or production don’t miss this great opportunity! You do not have to be a member of IPPS to attend the convention, but we hope you will be impressed enough with the organization to want to join afterwards.
If you live in North Carolina or will be down in this neck of the woods between October 14-24, then you’ll want to know about a great opportunity…our NC State Fair. So, how many of you have ever entered plants in the NC State Fair…or your own State Fair Flower Show? Did you know that there are a number of horticultural exhibits from landscape gardens to pumpkins, to cut flowers, to potted plants, to arrangements and dish gardens? Did you know that you can win cash prizes? When I worked for the fair, I knew several exhibitors who got a significant part of their yearly income from fair premiums…not to mention those colorful ribbons. In this time of economic difficulty, here is a great opportunity to let your plants pay you back…especially if you have one of those spouses who simply doesn’t get the gardening thing and constantly fusses about the money you spend on gardening.
Even if you choose not to enter, be sure to visit the Fair’s Flower and Garden Show. Under the direction of retired NCSU Horticulture Extension Specialist Erv Evans, and with assistance from the Gardeners of Wake County, the flower show has made a dramatic comeback after years of disheartening neglect. Many of the display garden spaces have been redone, the miniature train garden has been expanded, and there is a greatly expanded fair demonstration schedule with some amazing lecturers. Also, be sure to see Barrel Monster creator, Joe Carnevale’s new giant insect creation along with the new scarecrow and carved pumpkin contest.
In more news from the nursery world, one of the largest greenhouse operations in the Midwest, box store grower, Green Circle Growers of Oberlin, Ohio was hit by a freak windstorm that knocked the glass out of 15 acres of their 100 acre greenhouse operation. I can only imagine what it would have been like to be there during the storm. Click Here to see photos.
We wrote recently about the foreclosure sale of the former Western Hills Nursery in Occidental, California and the efforts to preserve their 3 acre garden. Well, there’s good news! Nursery owners Chris and Tim Szybalski of Berkeley’s Westbrae Nursery have purchased Western Hills to preserve the gardens and open them to the public. In a welcome show of good sense, they will not be trying to run Western Hills as a nursery. For those unfamiliar with Western Hills, think the predecessor of Heronswood and you’ll get the idea. Falling land prices in California allowed the new owners to invest $1 million less than the foreclosed-upon previous owner.
Continuing with the bankruptcy theme, we wrote a few months ago about the financial demise of the Park Seed/Wayside Gardens/Jackson and Perkins conglomerate, when it declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy. By moving operating funds back and forth between companies, the owners had made it so difficult to figure out which company owned which assets, that after spending $1,000,000 to sort out the finances, the bankruptcy attorney gave up and a judge allowed the consolidation to continue in order for the entire group to be able to come up with enough funds to print a fall Jackson and Perkins catalog. The entire group of companies currently has assets of $8.33 million and liabilities of $44.79 million. This also meant that the three companies had to be sold as one. The August 23 bidding war for the companies was between 3 firms: Verdero Capital, Blackstreet Capital (both venture capital firms), and Gardens Alive Corp (which owns the most mail order nurseries in the US). Although the bids at the start of the day were between $7 and $9 million, when the dust settled it was Blackstreet Capital coming out on top with a bid of $12.8 million, along with a promise to keep the company in Greenwood, SC for at least 3 years. Although Blackstreet Capital has a history with underperforming business turnarounds, venture capital firms and horticulture businesses have had a relationship track record as successful as Tiger Wood’s first marriage. Could this be the one success story? I surely wouldn’t take that bet, but I certainly wish them well.
From the “I’m from the government and I’m here to help” file this month, I couldn’t pass up sharing the ultimate paradox below from the USDA Invasive Species website. “The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) prohibits discrimination in all its programs and activities on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, disability, and where applicable, sex, marital status, familial status, parental status, religion, sexual orientation, genetic information, political beliefs, reprisal, or because all or a part of an individual’s income is derived from any public assistance program.” To file a complaint of discrimination write to USDA, Director, Office of Civil Rights, 1400 Independence Avenue, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20250-9410 or call (800) 795-3272 (voice) or (202) 720-6382 (TDD). USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.
Perhaps we should take up a collection and purchase them a dictionary, since discrimination is the foundation of the entire Invasive Species program. If they couldn’t discriminate based on national origin, race, parental status, and genetic information, their program wouldn’t exist. Heck, Arizona is getting condemned for far less than what the Eco-Nazi’s in charge of the invasive species movement are advocating. Of course, now these same folks are changing the plant import laws to “guilty until proven innocent.” If this idiocy wasn’t so serious, I’d be laughing.
Also, in the “In Case You Missed it” file, the worldwide average land surface temperature for June was the hottest on record since 1880 (1880 is 50 years after the end of the Little Ice Age). Not to be outdone, Mars is heating up faster than Earth! It seems that NASA scientists have discovered a 1.17 degree Fahrenheit rise in the Martian surface temperature between 1975 and 1995…OMG…Cosmic Warming! Dry ice at Mars’ southern poles is melting at an alarming rate. Of course, the study goes on to suggest that wind and dust storms may have caused the Mars temperature rise. Well, maybe not. I’ll bet they don’t know about the thousands of vanished Hummers from dealerships around Roswell, NM.
In sad news, the horticulture world lost a huge stalwart on August 9, with the untimely passing of the UK’s Jim Archibald, age 68. Jim is survived by his wife, Jenny, a son, and daughter. Jim and Jenny ran Archibald Seed, making available seed from their wild collections from around the world. For several years, Jim had been receiving treatments for skin cancer, but his condition had recently deteriorated. For those unfamiliar with Archibald Seed, this was the list to acquire the newest and rarest perennials, bulbs, and rock garden plants. There are few top-level gardeners worldwide who don’t grow plants from Archibald Seed. We were fortunate to have Jim and Jenny visit the nursery in 2006. The Archibald’s were also featured in Bobby Ward’s book The Plant Hunter’s Garden: The New Explorers and Their Discoveries.
We’ve also lost another familiar name and smile this month, as Jim Wilson, 85, passed away due to congestive heart failure and pulmonary fibrosis at his new hometown of Columbia, Missouri. I’m sure many folks will remember Jim from his decade as host of the PBS show, “The Victory Garden”, as co-host of the HGTV show “Great Gardeners”, as Executive Secretary of the All American Selections Program, from his 13 gardening books, or his numerous lectures across the country. I first met Jim in the late 1980s when I invited him to be a garden judge for our NC State Fair Flower and Garden Show. At the time, he and his wife Jane were running a herb farm in South Carolina, which provided fresh herbs to restaurants in the region. Throughout the years, we would cross paths at meetings and talks…most recently when Jim attended the Garden Writers Convention in Raleigh last October. Because of his immeasurable contributions to garden communication during his 56 year career in horticulture, Jim was a 1995 inductee into the Garden Writers Hall of Fame. This was only one of many honors that Jim received during his lifetime. Even last fall when we chatted, Jim was all excited about his new book, a collaboration with photographer Walter Chandoha titled Homegrown Vegetables, Fruits and Herbs: A Bountiful, Healthful Garden for Lean Times. Jim was an absolute delight as a person and he will be sorely missed.
On a regional note, Nell Lewis of Greensboro, NC passed away on August 13, at the ripe old age of 92. Nell was best know for her garden column that ran in the Greensboro News and Record from 1965-2004. Nell was a proverbial mover and shaker in the garden world, having played a major role in designing and planting the wildflower trails at the Greensboro Arboretum and Bicentennial Garden. Some of Nell’s favorite plants in her wonderful woodland garden were hellebores, and a selection of H. niger with particularly large flowers that originated there now carries her name. What many folks don’t know is that Nell was a nationally-renowned Graphoanalyst (handwriting specialist), who traveled the country testifying at criminal trials. Nell is survived by a sister, two daughters, numerous grandchildren, and a ton of hellebores.
Greetings from PDN, where we’re in the midst of a wonderful spring season. Although we had a short hot spell early in April, overall, it’s been a very nice spring for the plants. Because of our prolonged cold winter and the lack of a late spring frost, we had one of the best magnolia seasons in memory, and now the perennials are bursting forth with amazing vigor. Without question, we’ve also had the best peony season ever.and it’s not even over yet. We continue our peony trials for varieties that will grow and flower well, even in the low-chill southeast. Our offerings reflect the best of those trials that we have been able to make available so far.
Our hostas in the garden are also looking great this spring.mainly because we focused our efforts on improving the soil and moisture where we grow them in the garden. We discovered early on that hostas do not thrive in sandy soils, even when compost is added. Once we added a small bit of clay to our mix however, their performance improved dramatically. Hostas also perform much better when they are grown in either morning sun, or very open high shade. They really don’t fare very well in deep, dry shade.
Of course, we don’t want all hostas to get large, hence several new miniature offerings this spring. Since the wildly popular Hosta ‘Blue Mouse Ears’ was introduced in 2000, growers have been looking for new variegated sports of this gem. We are pleased to offer three this season, each of which has its own personality and will make a delightful small clump in the garden. These include Hosta ‘Frosted Mouse Ears’, Hosta ‘Mighty Mouse’, and Hosta ‘Pure Heart’. Although our photos of Hosta ‘Frosted Mouse Ears’ and Hosta ‘Mighty Mouse’ look similar, they are not. In spring, Hosta ‘Mighty Mouse’ has a much brighter edge, while Hosta ‘Frosted Mouse Ears’ has a chartreuse border. Small hostas aren’t for everyone, but if you enjoy these cuties and can keep them from getting overrun in the garden, they are really quite superb.
I love the flush of spring iris, first the woodland dwarf Iris cristata, followed by two other shade lovers, Iris japonica and Iris tectorum. Now, we are just getting off to a great start with the fabulous Louisiana iris. The first few have just opened, with more to follow by this weekend. While Louisiana iris are great right out of the southern US swamps, you would be amazed what breeders have been able to do in terms of flower size and flower colors… to the point that Louisiana iris is now a rival of Siberian and Japanese iris. I was talking with Kelly Norris of the American Iris Society when he visited last fall about how badly people underestimate the winter hardiness of the Louisiana Iris. Just because they were born in the Deep South doesn’t mean they don’t fare well further north.
Another plant that impresses me more each year is Ligularia japonica. Our hot summers render us a ligularia-deprived climate, unless you still consider farfugiums to be ligularias. While ligularias are very important landscape staple in the northeast, their bold-textured form is sadly absent from the southeast, with the exception of Ligularia japonica. We’re still not sure how far south they can go, but certainly into Zone 8 and possibly further. So far, we have offered material from Japanese genetics, but we have a new crop for next year of Chinese native material, thanks to a 2005 collection from our friend Hans Hansen. Because of their large leaves, ligularias prefer soils that stay a bit on the moist side.
This spring, we’ve been working with the folks at Floating Islands Southeast www.floatingislandse.com to install one of their floating islands in our rain garden retention pond. With their help, it has just been planted, so we look forward to having it fill in as the season progresses.we invite you to watch as it develops. If you aren’t familiar with their products, the islands, made of recycled plastic bottles, etc., are designed be planted and then float in ponds as a nutrient bioretention filter.
Speaking of Open House, it’s already time for our Spring Open House. I know many of you missed the Winter Open House in February due to cold weather, but I hope you will be able to visit with us during our Spring Open House, which starts this today and continues next weekend also.
I normally don’t take off on overseas plant exploration trips in April, but this year was an exception as I was fortunate to spend a week in early April botanizing on the Greek island of Crete. Over the last few years, we noticed how well many of the plants from Crete were performing well in our garden, so we decided to see what other plants might have good garden potential. We were quite amazed at the botanical crossover including three North Carolina natives which are also native in Crete.despite our non-Mediterranean, wet-summer climate. If you’d like to travel vicariously with us, without leaving the comfort of home, we have posted our expedition log with images on-line at www.plantdelights.com/Tony/crete.php.
In the nursery world, we regret to report that Jane Bath’s Georgia nursery, Land Arts, has closed its doors after 18 years in business, although Jane’s landscape business remains open. You may remember Jane’s most famed plant introduction, the wildly popular, Dianthus ‘Bath’s Pink’.
Bad news in the nursery industry continued this month when George W. Park Seed Company (which includes Wayside Gardens) filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy protection on April 2. Park Seed also operates two affiliate businesses, Park Seed Wholesale and Jackson and Perkins Direct Marketing (Roses), which were also included in the filing. Park has 120 days to present a plan for restructuring for long term success, or the assets will be sold to pay off its debts. In the meantime, it’s business as usual. There is always the option that another firm will purchase the company and try to keep it running.
For those who may not know much about the company’s history, George W. Park Seed Company began business in 1868, and started their wholesale division a few years later in 1870. Wayside Gardens opened in 1920 and operated until 1975, when it was purchased by Park Seed and moved from Mentor, Ohio to Greenwood, SC. Jackson and Perkins, was founded in 1872, and was subsequently purchased in 1966 by Harry and David Co., who owned it until 2007.
Park Seed was still run by members of the Park family until a “hostile takeover” in 2008. Don and Glenda Hachenberger, first obtained a 50% stake of Park Seed and Wayside Gardens in 2005, when they financed Karen Park Jennings takeover of the nursery in a family squabble, from her brother Leonard Park. As the Park stable of businesses began to decline, the Hachenberger’s were able to acquire 100% ownership in 2008. In 2007, they (technically J & P Acquisitions, a company made up of Don and Glenda Hachenberger and their children’s trust fund) also purchased Jackson and Perkins from Harry and David for 21 million dollars, and moved its operations to Greenwood, South Carolina. All four companies were are currently operated under the Park Seed umbrella, and since neither Wayside, Jackson and Perkins, or Park Wholesale have staff, all the work is performed by the employees of Park Seed.
In 2009 alone, sales of the Park Seed umbrella companies declined a whopping 29%, from 61.6 million to 43.7 million. The worst decline was from Park/Wayside (35%), Jackson and Perkins (30%), and Park Wholesale (15%). In addition to the current bankruptcy issues, the Hachenberger’s investment group was also sued for breech of contract by Harry and David in June of last year, and again in February of 2010.
The Park family of companies, while owned by Don and Glenda Hachenberger, who are in the midst of divorce proceedings (never a good thing), are run by Furman graduate, Charles (Chas) Fox. Chas’s bio indicates that he played three years in the NFL, before getting into the horticulture business. Interestingly all of the NFL sources that I’ve checked with, indicated that he only played 4 games in 1986 as a receiver with the St. Louis Cardinals (now the Arizona Cardinals). Fox is also president of Southern Sun Biosystems, a venture capital-funded company that he co-founded to sell high dollar propagation systems. Although Southern Sun Biosystems was a financial bust, Fox was also able to sell his company to the Hachenbergers, who it seems were looking for a quick way to shed some extra cash. Chas also started the now defunct Knox Nursery in South Carolina.
You can read more about the Park Seed story, including comments from readers and even some Park Seed staff in the Greenwood Index Journal.
There is a small charge to access their archives, but in summary, many of the posters seem to think that Park’s problems are more of a management issue than an economic one. This theme is also echoed in the on-line comments posted on the Garden Watchdog forum. Regardless of the cause, the Park family of companies are a very important part of the mail order nursery industry and a large employer in the Greenwood area. We wish them the best of luck in turning their ship around and returning to their glory days.
In the “I’m from the government and I’m here to help” file this month is the government caused shortage of tree bark for both homeowners and the nursery industry. So, why should we care about bark? Only because virtually every nursery in the US uses a potting mix that is primarily pine bark. In its efforts to promote green energy, and since free market economics don’t make the use of biofuels logical, USDA started a biomass fuel subsidy program with your tax dollars, which now threatens the availability of bark for the nursery industry. In February, The Farm Security Administration Biomass Crops Assistance Program (BCAP) set a subsidy rate of $45 per ton for woody biomass, which would mean that the price of pine bark could easily double or triple, which will affect both availability and affordability for nurseries, that are already struggling because of the recession. The American Nursery and Landscape Association is working with USDA in the hopes that someone with common sense will listen. And who is it that doesn’t think we don’t need lobbyists to prevent ridiculous legislation such as this?
We’ve had our own little fiasco this spring, when we discovered that we had used a defective batch of nursery fertilizer last summer and fall. It seemed that the slow release fertilizer that we used from late July through October had a defective coating that caused the fertilizer to dump all the nutrients at once during the middle of the winter. We first noticed the problem in late winter when some crops in the nursery started declining and dying. The problem worsened as we neared spring, and many plants that should have emerged didn’t. Testing of the affected crops revealed extraordinarily high levels of salts. We contacted representatives of the fertilizer manufacturer, who have worked with us and agreed that the fertilizer is indeed the culprit, but that doesn’t bring the plants back to life. To this point, the casualty count is over 5,000 plants. As you can imagine, this has caused us to be sold out of many plants that were in plentiful supply in the fall, many of which you had already ordered and paid for. For those who ordered plants so affected, we sincerely apologize, and appreciate your patience as we repropagate those items which could be re-propagated and refund for those whose propagation isn’t feasible or timely.
Marco Van Noort
One of the plants that we have extolled the virtues of is Geranium ‘Rozanne’ PP 12,175. Well, there has been an ongoing controversy with a look-a-like called Geranium ‘Jolly Bee’, which finally reached a conclusion. Geranium ‘Rozanne’ was patented in the US on February 25, 1999. Less than a year later, in January 18, 2000, a similar seedling from Holland’s Marco Van Noort hit the market, named Geranium ‘Jolly Bee’ PP 12,148. All of us who had grown both varieties, agreed that they were extremely similar, but not exactly the same.we chose to sell G. ‘Rozanne’. Both varieties were issued a US patent, since Van Noort did not include Geranium ‘Jolly Bee’ as the closest similar variety on his patent application, which he was required to do by law. Blooms of Bressingham, which has the marketing rights to Geranium ‘Rozanne’ filed a patent infringement suit against Van Noort. The bitter dispute lasted over seven years, and Van Noort recently gave up after spending over 200,000 Euros. DNA tests showed that the two varieties were indeed similar, but not the same. Heck, I could have told them that for far less money. Van Noort has agreed to stop sales of Geranium ‘Jolly Bee’ after July 1, 2010.
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So far, it’s been a great spring in Raleigh as we just missed a late spring frost when the temperature dropped to 33 degrees F on March 27, after 3+ weeks of above freezing temperatures. We’ve got a couple weeks that could still have a killing frost, so we’re keeping our fingers…and other body parts crossed until then. I recently returned from speaking to a great group in northwest Arkansas, who weren’t as lucky. Despite being 70 degrees F when I first arrived, I left just before a snowstorm dropped a foot of snow on the region and adjacent to Oklahoma. The area is still recovering from a massive ice storm 2 years earlier that left the region looking like low-end tree pruning firms had a citywide special on tree topping.
We’ve just added a batch of new plants to the web, most are available in a limited supply including some fabulous new hellebores from both Ernie and Marietta O’Byrne ( the Winter Jewels Series), and from Glenn Withey and Charles Price ( the Mardi Gras Series). These amazing plants are not to be missed if you like cool hellebores. We’ve got a small number of the always popular Disporum flavens that we can spare and, as promised, we have a few of the miniature Narcissus ‘Julia Jane’ for those who have a predilection for cute, dwarf narcissus. Four arisaemas have also just been added: A. concinnum, A. kishidae ‘Jack Frost’, A. kiushianum, and our US native, A. triphyllum. Finally, we have a few plants to spare of the amazing golden-leaf bleeding heart, Dicentra ‘Goldheart’, which we haven’t offered in several years.
Click for Web or Open House Only Plants It’s interesting each season to watch what sells and what doesn’t. There are always a few surprises in both directions and topping this year’s list of “why don’t you like me?” is Chrysosplenium macrophyllum. It’s taken us Epimedium grandiflorum ‘Purple Prince’ (Fairy Wings) 10 years to build up enough stock and so far, only 2 of you have indulged. Okay, it’s pretty esoteric and granted, we don’t have any idea how far north it will survive, but how are we going to find out unless you give this plant a try? So, what happened to Epimedium grandiflorum ‘Purple Prince’, which has sold well in the past, but is feeling no love this spring? Perhaps we need to learn Photoshop™, to enhance the image color like one of the Dutch catalogs I was looking through this weekend. I wonder how many folks realize that they are being enticed by totally unrealistic enhancements. I actually thought that using unrealistic enhancements to attract mates for money was illegal …hmmm.
There’s nothing like plant name changes to get gardeners riled up, but these come about due to a variety of different reasons. Just because one taxonomist decides a plant deserves a new name, we don’t jump up and immediately make the change. We give these changes little attention until we have time to study the research to see if it makes sense with our personal experiences. In many cases, these name changes are reversed years later, causing those who want to be the first to jump on a passing bandwagon, to jump off again, and leaving everyone else thoroughly confused. A good example is that of the aroid Sauromatum venosum. In 2000, a couple of my aroid buddies (Aroidiana Volume 23, pg. 48) decided their research showed that sauromatum was actually a typhonium, and subsequently did away with the genus sauromatum. To us, something about that just didn’t smell right…a little aroid pun. Fast forward a decade later and guess what? Sauromatum is being reinstated as a genus and Sauromatum venosum is being moved out of typhonium and back into sauromatum. Note to all of you folks who jumped on the earlier bandwagon…it’s time to disembark. We have the same thoughts about the lumping of cimicifuga into actaea…someone was sniffing too much herbarium dust.
This brings me to the latest taxonomic snafu…trachycarpus palms. For years, we have grown three primary species: Trachycarpus fortunei, Trachycarpus takil, and Trachycarpus wagnerianus. There have been extensive articles written about Trachycarpus takil and the trek to find the real plant to gather seed (Princeps 37(1) 1993, pp 19-25). Guess what we learned in 2009? They gathered seed off the wrong plants. It turns out that virtually everything in cultivation and in writings about Trachycarpus takil is actually a form of Trachycarpus fortunei from the Indian town of Nanital, so this plant is now referred to as Trachycarpus fortunei ‘Nanital’. Although this represents a name change, it is quite different from the example above because this is simply a correction of an earlier error.
While we’re discussing trachycarpus, another problem plant is Trachycarpus wagnerianus. This species was described from a single plant that was being cultivated in Japan and has never been seen or documented in the wild. This is a classic example of poor taxonomy, but was accepted for decades in the past when the opportunity for field studies was more difficult. It is our own and other palm growers contention that this is nothing more than a compact form of Trachycarpus fortunei and therefore, we are changing its name to Trachycarpus fortunei ‘Wagnerianus’. This is not something new, having been proposed since 1977 (Principes Vol 21, 1977, pp. 155-160). I hope these examples illustrate the methods behind the name changing madness, and that all name changes aren’t created equal.
In news from the botanic garden world, Dr. Peter Wyse Jackson, 55, has been selected as the next director of the Missouri Botanic Garden, succeeding Dr. Peter Raven, who had previously announced his retirement. At least the staff won’t have to learn a new name since Peter will be following Peter…there’s probably a great joke in there, but I digress. Jackson is currently Director of the Dublin Botanic Garden in his native Ireland but will assume the directorship of MOBOT (as it is known in botanical circles) on September 1, 2010 and will work alongside Peter Raven until July 2011.
We also recently learned that our good friend, Viki Ferennia, author of Wildflowers in Your Garden (1993), and former assistant horticulturist at Wayside Gardens has taken over as the lead horticulturist at Ohio’s Holden Arboretum. It’s great to have Viki back in public horticulture…congratulations!
The Scott Arboretum has announced Bill McNamara of California’s Quarryhill Botanic Garden as the winner of the prestigious 2010 Scott Medal. I’ve had the pleasure of visiting Quarryhill several times and it was great to have Bill finally visit PDN in 2006. Bill has managed the gardens since their inception by the late Jane Jansen who, in 1987, turned part of her vineyard into a repository for wild-collected Asian native plants. Quarryhill is located in the Napa Valley region of California, and if Asian plants are your interest, be sure to drop by when you are in the area.
I was saddened to learn that my longtime friend and sedum breeder, Edward (Crazy Ed) Skrocki passed away on March 23 at the age of 79, only weeks after he was diagnosed with a very aggressive form of cancer. Ed is survived by his sister, Doris Skok of Pennsylvania as well as four nieces and nephews.
Ed was a fascinating man (and I don’t use the term lightly) and the type of character that I also find truly interesting. I first visited Ed 20 years ago on his 30 acre farm in Southington, Ohio (just outside of Cleveland). We pulled up to find a 90lb man in a bee suit – black spandex shorts, a yellow and black striped shirt, and bobbing antennas attached to his head…out pollinating sempervivums (hens and chickens). At the time, Ed claimed to have over 3000 named varieties of sempervivums. Eddie was an eclectic collector of plants with his specialties including hosta, ajuga, sedums, orostachys, and sempervivums. Some of his sempervivum introductions that are still on the market include S. ‘Bedivere’, S. ‘Circus’, S. ‘Climax’, S. ‘Flamingo’, S. ‘Gizmo’, S. ‘Grape Tone’, S. ‘Happy’, S. ‘Icycle’, S. ‘Jewel Case’, S. ‘Kip’, S. ‘Lively Bug’, S. ‘Mars’, S. ‘Montage’, S. ‘Ohioan’, S. ‘Pink Cloud’, S. ‘Royal Ruby’, S. ‘Rubikon Improved’, S. ‘Skrocki’s Bronze’, S. ‘Spanish Dancer’, S. ‘Starshine’, S. ‘Streaker’, S. ‘Utopia’, and S. ‘Witchery’ …to mention a few.
My first trip to have lunch with Ed was in his nursery delivery vehicle.an old Cadillac hearse which drew stares wherever we parked. During the same first trip, Ed took us to see his neighbor, Mike Tyson…yes, the boxer, and although he wasn’t home, we did get to see his massive estate. Ed was also a collector of old cars, in particular hearses and Packards. Ed could often be found selling Packard parts at car shows in the 1980s.
Ed was able to acquire many species of sedums from collectors in China and Germany before anyone else, because he was able to trade on the huge black market for nude matchbook covers (I’m not making this up) in those countries. One of my favorite sedums, Sedum tetractinum, which is now sold around the country, is only in the country because of Ed’s trading prowess. His matchbook cover collection was legendary, and only expanded years ago when his garbage man told him of a widow in Cleveland who discarded boxes of matchbook covers which Ed immediately purchased for a few hundred dollars. Ed estimated there were over 1 million books, all between 1930 and 1960. Ed had a penchant for turning trash into treasure. I remember when he cleared around his pond one year in the late 1980s and subsequently painted bundles of brush, covered them with glitter and voila…glitter twigs, of which he sold thousands.
Did I mention that Ed dug three wells to have water to irrigate his nursery, but to his dismay, he hit natural gas all three times, and finally resorted to buying his water? Ed had a large property that he rented out for groups…he liked to tell folks that he rented the property to gay groups in the summer and straight groups in the winter. Some folks weren’t quite sure how to take Ed, and he frightened off many young men as he jokingly threatened to let the air out of their tires so they couldn’t leave.
Ed allowed us to introduce two of his hosta seedlings to the market, Hosta ‘Patrician’ in 1993 and Hosta ‘Cadillac’ in 1998. Several years ago, I finally persuaded a reluctant Ed to appear on Erica Glasener’s television series, “Gardener’s Diary”. Ed claimed to be miserable doing the show until the finished tapes arrived, which he proudly sent around the world to all of his plant friends. If you ever get to see the show, watch for the repeat of Ed’s fascinating segment. For those of us who corresponded with Ed and received his exhaustive handwritten notes on his trademark pea-soup-green paper, he will be sorely missed…the plant world has lost another of its true characters.
In the “I’m from the government and I’m here to help” files, The National Invasive Species Information Center has reported a new bill regarding invasive plant species has been entered in the Maryland General Assembly. The introduction and reading of this new bill will, according to their website, “…designates 45 plant species as invasive plants and authorizes the Maryland Department of Agriculture to designate additional species of plants as “invasive”, requires retail outlets and landscapers to provide certain disclosures regarding invasive plants and makes a violation of the law a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of $500. See Maryland Noxious Weed I.D. (PDF | 500 KB) for the 6 plant species currently regulated in Maryland.” The text in the link also includes a list of the 45 plants which will be designated as “invasive”.
Obviously, the folks who put together this list are nothing more than a bunch of ethnic cleansing eco-nazis, since many of the plants are indeed weeds. Only a few rise to the level of truly invasive plants…those which invade a natural functioning ecosystems, displace natives once population equilibrium has been reached. We used to say that these plants naturalized well which was a selling point. There is a concerted effort by a small but vocal group of folks to use ethnic profiling to limit the use of plants that don’t fit their narrow view of what is acceptably indigenous at their mystically established point in time. Of course, if they really wanted to be taken seriously, that list should first include humans, European honeybees, and earthworms …which are all terribly invasive and unmistakably alien.
As part of our educational mission, we continue to add newly written plant articles to the website. You can find our most recent additions by clicking on the links below. Feel free to link to any of these from your own website and share with friends who may also be interested.
Cypripedium Orchids – Does the Lady Slipper Fit Your Garden? www.cypripediumladyslipperorchid.com (Note: That URL has been retired, The replacement is https://www.plantdelights.com/blogs/articles/cypripedium-orchids)
Buddleia – The Butterfly Bush www.buddleiabutterflybush.com (Note: That URL has been retired, The replacement is https://www.plantdelights.com/blogs/articles/buddleia-davidii-the-butterfly-bush)
Ringing the Coral Bells – The Heuchera and xHeucherella Story www.heucheracoralbells.com (Note: That URL has been retired, The replacement is https://www.plantdelights.com/blogs/articles/ringing-the-coral-bells)
Tiarella – A Crown in the Garden www.tiarellafoamflower.com (Note: That URL has been retired, The replacement is https://www.plantdelights.com/blogs/articles/tiarella-foam-flower)
Hardy Terrestrial Orchids for Southeast Gardens www.hardyorchidplants.com (Note: That URL has been retired, The replacement is https://www.plantdelights.com/blogs/articles/hardy-orchids-in-the-garden)
Echinacea Explosion – The Coneflower Chronicles www.echinaceaconeflower.com (Note: That URL has been retired, The replacement is https://www.plantdelights.com/blogs/articles/echinacea-chronicles-of-the-coneflower-plant)
Winter Hardy Palms for Temperate Gardens www.hardypalm.net (Note: That URL has been retired, The replacement is https://www.plantdelights.com/blogs/articles/cold-hardy-palms-for-temperate-gardens)
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