Here are a few buttery-colored plants flowering today in garden, starting with Arum creticum ‘Golden Torch’. This started as a small field division of a particularly large flowered selection from our 2010 expedition to Crete.

Arum creticum ‘Golden Torch’

Paeonia mlokosewitschii is known for being un-pronouncable, so most folks refer to it as Molly the Witch peony. This is a particularly lovely butter yellow form from Ellen Hornig of the former Seneca Hill Perennials.

Paeonia mlokosewitschii JLBG-03

Trillium sp. nov. freemanii is a still unpublished new trillium species (hopefully soon), that we discovered in 1998. Normally red flowered, this is a rare yellow-flowered form.

Trillium sp. nov. freemanii JLBG-014

Four favorites flowering today in the garden

Epimedium Pink Champagne clump in flower


Epimedium ‘Pink Champagne’ is dazzling today in the garden, both for the great foliage and floral show.

Euphorbia x martinii Ascot Rainbow in full flower


Euphorbia x martinii ‘Ascot Rainbow’…WOW.  Variegated foliage and very cool flowers.  The key to growing this well is good drainage and immediately after flower, cut it back to near the ground.

Clematis ochroleuca Penny's Bend in flower


Clematis ochroleuca is an amazing dwarf bush clematis native to North Carolina and Virginia, yet winter hardy in Minnesota.  This is one of our favorite late winter plants.

Paeonia ostii clump in garden in flower


The first peony of the season is the Chinese tree peony, Paeonia ostii.  Untouched by late frosts, this gem is just wrapping up its floral show.  This is one peony that’s as thrilled with summer heat and humidity as it is with polar vortexes.  Yes, we are currently sold out…sorry.

Plant Delights May 2015 Newsletter

Greetings PDNers!

Spring Open Nursery and Garden Days

One more weekend of our Spring Open Garden and Nursery Days remains… this Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. We hope you’ll join us to walk the 10+ acres of gardens and take home a few of the incredibly cool plants for sale in the nursery, many exclusives, available only at Plant Delights. The first open weekend we welcomed visitors from 21 states (Vermont to Louisiana and west to Oklahoma) and even a couple from Germany.

Paeonia 'Bartzella'

Paeonia ‘Bartzella’

Visitors are enjoying the new garden areas including plantings by the sales greenhouses and the recently opened 2+ acre Souto garden section. We hope you’ll allow plenty of time to see all the amazing plants while getting lots of landscape ideas for the garden at your home.

The peonies are peaking now, with our clump of Paeonia ‘Cora Stubbs’ sporting 55 insanely fragrant flowers! Peonies like Paeonia ‘Bartzella’, which are usually finished flowering by Open Nursery and Garden Days, have just opened their first flowers. We also have four agaves in spike so far, including our largest hardy agave, Agave ‘Grey Gator’, whose spike began Thursday night.

A number of plants that sold out earlier are now back in stock with even more right behind. We hope you’ll visit the Plant Delights website often to find the best perennial treasures.

Spring Open Nursery & Garden Days Final Weekend

May 8 – 10

Friday and Saturday 8a-5p
Sunday 1-5p

Rain or Shine!
Free Parking!

Click for more info

Happy Open Nursery Days Shoppers

Happy Open Nursery Days Shoppers

Congratulations Dr. Olsen

Dr. Richard T. Olsen

Dr. Richard T. Olsen (from USNA website)

We recently posted a congratulatory note on social media to let you now about former PDN’er and NCSU graduate, Dr. Richard Olsen, who was recently appointed the new Director of your U.S. National Arboretum in Washington DC. In case you are not connected to social media, we posted how thrilled we are for Richard.

Since finishing his PhD at NCSU in 2006, Richard has worked with the U.S. Department of Agriculture as a tree breeder. Even during Richard’s tenure at Plant Delights as a student, we knew he was an amazing plantsman, destined for horticultural greatness. It’s great to know that the folks at the U.S. Department of Agriculture recognized this too.

The U.S. National Arboretum is best known for a few of its more public plant collections: the Gotelli Conifer Garden, Asian Valley, the Bonsai pavilion, Fern Valley, and the National Herb Garden. Lesser known are many of its amazing tree collections and breeding plots that are rarely explored or off limits to visitors. These breeding programs have so far yielded over 650 plants introduced into commerce.

The 446-acre U.S. National Arboretum had lost its way in recent years. Visitors noticed the lack of general maintenance from unmown lawns to research plots where weeds were taller than the research plants. Most recently, the National Arboretum had greatly reduced their hours and were closed to the public most of the week. Coinciding with Richard’s hiring, the National Arboretum is now open again seven days a week… hooray!

The National Arboretum also endured a PR fiasco a few years earlier when a plan to get rid of parts of several plant collections (boxwoods, daylilies, azaleas) met with a very public backlash. Since that time there has been major behind the scenes strategizing involving Richard and several others to craft a long-range strategic plan for the National Arboretum.

We look forward to the Arboretum regaining the stature it once had as one of the great jewels in the U.S. horticultural crown.



Industry News

In news from the nursery world, comes the closure of Greer Gardens of Oregon. For 50 years Harold Greer and his staff have made a wide assortment of rhododendrons and other amazing plants available to gardeners around the country. The Greer’s fourteen-acre garden and nursery will become a retirement home featuring many of the Greer’s amazing plants. Thanks for a great run and for all the great plants!

In other news from the nursery world, Scarlet Tanager CEO, Niles Kinerk, tells us that because sales have rebounded this spring, he will be able to scale back both Spring Hill Nursery and Michigan Bulb and not close them in June as he had previously planned. It’s always good to avert another significant loss to the mail order industry!

The More You Know

In the “you can’t make this up” file comes news that researchers have determined that moths remember on which plant they lose their virginity. A study of African moths showed that, like humans, the moths recognized and remembered their first time and returned there for subsequent mating. In this case, the moths would return to mate on a plant that wasn’t their natural preferred host simply based on good first time memories. Read the whole store here.

If you’re up for more reading, we’ve recently put a series of new plant articles on-line including many articles we write for Walter Magazine. Enjoy!

American Hosta Society Annual Convention in Raleigh June 18-20

Hosta 'Totally Awe Sum'

Hosta ‘Totally Awe Sum’

Only a few weeks remain until we welcome the American Hosta Society annual convention to Raleigh. Plant Delights Nursery/Juniper Level Botanic Garden will welcome the group to dinner, tours, and shopping on June 18. We really hope you’ll be able to join us. Register to attend the events here.

Let’s Stay Connected!

Until next month, connect and follow us and the cats on Facebook, Pinterest, and our blog, where you may sign up and follow our regular posts from Plant Delights Nursery and Juniper Level Botanic Garden.

Happy Spring Gardening!

-tony and anita

Paeonia japonica – a peony for shade

Paeonia japonica two flowersThe Japanese woodland peony, Paeonia japonica just opened yesterday in the garden!  Unlike most other peonies, this one requires light shade, so plant it with hostas and ferns.  Our supply of these is always limited, so if you like it, don’t delay in getting one for your garden.


Plant Delights April 2015 Newsletter

Greetings PDNers!

Nursery Update—Made it through Winter

It’s been quite a late winter at Juniper Level/Plant Delights, with the latest-occurring single digit temperature we’ve seen since our records began in the 1970s. Plants like hellebores in bloom when the cold snap hit have recovered, although flowers that were fully open or nearly so were slightly damaged. Hellebores are really tough and, after removing a few damaged flowers, they look great.

Helleborus x hybridus PDN Double Pink w/Spots

Helleborus x hybridus PDN Double Pink w/Spots

Plants and More Plants

Trillium vaseyi

Trillium vaseyi

Some of the very early trilliums, like the Florida forms of Trillium underwoodii, were also damaged. On a few of these, the entire stem collapsed back to the rhizome. When this happens, these trilliums will not return until next year. All of the other trillium species had the good sense to wait until later to emerge and are unscathed.

One of the benefits of cold winters is a good chilling period for most perennials. Like a bear needs to hibernate, the same is true for most perennials and the longer rest and deeper chill they receive, the better they return for the upcoming season. Consequently, we expect a stunning spring display.

Paeonia 'Bartzella'

Paeonia ‘Bartzella’

The fat peony buds have already poked through the ground and started to expand. We moved quite a few of our peonies last year into sunnier areas, so we have really high expectations for 2015. We continue to expand our peony offerings based on the results of our trials where we evaluate for good flowering and good stem sturdiness. It’s a shame that many of the best-selling peonies often don’t meet that criteria.

One of the first plants to sell out this spring was the amazing mayapple, Podophyllum ‘Galaxy’. We have another crop in the production pipeline but they aren’t ready yet…hopefully in the next few months. Thanks for your patience since there was obviously pent up demand.

Phlox 'Pink Profusion'

Phlox ‘Pink Profusion’

The early spring phlox are just coming into their glory here at Juniper Level. Two new offerings from our friend Jim Ault are just superb. If you have a sunny garden, don’t miss trying Phlox ‘Forever Pink’ and Phlox ‘Pink Profusion’.

The flower buds have also begun on the sarracenias (pitcher plants) in the garden. Not only is pitcher plant foliage unique in appearance and its ability to attract and digest insects, but the flowers are also amazing. Each flower arises before the foliage, atop a 6-18” tall stalk (depending on the species). The flowers, which resemble flying saucers, come in red, yellow, and bicolor.

Sarracenia flava

Sarracenia flava

Pitcher plants are very easy to grow in a container of straight peat moss, and kept sitting in a tray of water. In the garden, sandy soils or a combination of peat and sand work great. Just remember…no chemical fertilizers or lime nearby…they need a pH below 5.0. Pitcher plants also like damp feet but dry ankles, so growing them in a swamp is a no-no. We hope you’ll find something you like from our selection of ten different offerings.

In case you missed it, we recently added a number of new hellebores to the website, many of which are available in large enough quantities that we can offer quantity discounts. Of course, this will be the last of our hellebore crop for 2015, so when they’re gone, they’re gone for the entire year.

Greenhouse Filled with Hellebores

Greenhouse Filled with Hellebores

Plant Cartoon

I hope all the aroid collectors saw this wonderful cartoon. If not, check out the link below. We’re not sure what that says about us, but it’s probably true. http://www.foxtrot.com/2015/02/08/calling-all-florists

Open Nursery and Garden

Thanks to everyone who visited during our winter open nursery and garden days…many braving some unseasonably cold weather. Remember that we will open again the first two weekends of May, and we expect much nicer weather for you to shop and enjoy the spring garden.

2015 Spring Open Nursery & Garden Days

May 1 – 3
May 8 – 10

Fridays/Saturdays 8a-5p
Sundays 1-5p

Rain or Shine!
Free Parking!

Click for more info

Happy Open Nursery Days Shoppers

Happy Open Nursery Days Shoppers

Fern Conference

Pyrrosia polydactyla

Pyrrosia polydactyla

Whether you’re a ferner or a native, you may be interested in the upcoming fern meeting….aka the Next Generation Pteridological Conference, scheduled to start at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington DC on June 1. If you’ve got a fern “jones,” consider joining us for the Smithsonian’s fern conference. Not only will you enjoy fern presentations, but you’ll be able to talk spores, stipes, and croziers while enjoying cocktails in the nation’s capital. For more information visit http://botany.si.edu/sbs/.

Invasive Species

A hot-button topic is invasive exotics and, like with any scientific topic, the best thing we can have is dissenting opinions. Those with an open mind will enjoy these recent eye-opening publications:

Sign Up for Close-Up Photography Workshop and Garden Walks

Josh Taylor Photography Class at PDNWe have a number of educational events scheduled at Plant Delights this spring from classes to conventions and we’d love for you to join us. You’ll find our list of classes here, starting with our Close-Up Garden Photography workshop on Saturday May 2.

American Hosta Society National Convention in Raleigh June 18-20

Hosta 'Showbiz'

Hosta ‘Showbiz’

In June, we welcome the American Hosta Society, as hosta lovers from around the world descend on the Raleigh area to share and learn about their favorite genus of plants.Plant Delights Nursery/Juniper Level Botanic Garden will welcome the group to dinner, tours, and shopping on June 18. We really hope you’ll be able to join us. Register to attend the events at americanhostasociety.org.

Let’s Stay Connected!

Until next month, connect and follow us and the cats on FacebookPinterest, and our blog, where you may sign up and follow our regular posts from the nursery and the botanic garden.

Happy Gardening!

-tony and anita

Peony obovata in seed

Paeonia obovata seed pods3

The Chinese Paeonia obovata is one of the few peony species that’s grown as much for its seed as for its flowers…the seed last much longer.  Here’s a photo I just snapped in the garden of its amazing seed pods.  Be sure to see this when you visit this weekend for our final Open Nursery and Garden days for 2014.

Plant Delights Nursery September 2014 Newsletter

Greetings PDN’ers!

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.

Hibiscus 'Kopper King' PP# 10,793

Hibiscus ‘Kopper King’ PP# 10,793

It’s always interesting for us to see what sells and what doesn’t. Top sellers from the fall catalog so far include, Adiantum venustumAgapanthus ‘White Heaven’Agave ‘Huasteca Giant’Agave ‘Shadow Dancer’Alstroemeria ‘Koice’Aster ‘Fanny’Begonia ‘Pewterware’Bouvardia ‘Scarlet Hummer’Canna ‘Pacific Beauty’Dryopteris erythrosora v. prolificaEchinacea ‘Fatal Attraction’Epimedium ‘Domino’,  Eucalyptus neglectaHeuchera ‘Citronelle’Hibiscus ‘Kopper King’Hibiscus ‘Midnight Marvel’Hosta ‘Orange Marmalade’Juniperus conferta ‘All Gold’Lespedeza ‘White Fountain’Ligularia ‘Chinese Dragon’Lilium formosanum Giant formOxalis ‘Francis’Patrinia scabiosifoliaPhlox ‘Peppermint Twist’Ruellia ‘Black Beauty’Salvia greggii ‘Teresa’, and Salvia ‘Golden Girl’.

Aspidistra crispa 'Golden Freckles'

Aspidistra crispa ‘Golden Freckles’

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 falxLycoris 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

Photo Class

Photo Class

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.

Main building at the Munich Botanical Garden

Main building at the Munich Botanical Garden

Last Open Nursery and Garden Days for 2014 are Sept. 19-21

Grasshopper on Hibiscus 'Turn of the Century'

Grasshopper on Hibiscus ‘Turn of the Century’

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
Winter 2015
February 27 – March 1
March 6 – 8

Spring 2015
May 1 – 3
May 8 – 10

Summer 2015
July 10 – 12
July 17 – 19

Fall 2015
September 11 – 13
September 18 – 20

Fridays/Saturdays 8a-5p and Sundays 1-5p
Rain or Shine!     Free Parking
Click for more info

Juniper Level Botanic Garden

Juniper Level Botanic Garden

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.

Four Seasons Garden - May 2014

Four Seasons Garden – May 2014

Four Seasons Garden - September 2014

Four Seasons Garden – September 2014

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’.

Hosta 'Summer Lovin'

Hosta ‘Summer Lovin’

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

Hydrangea macrophylla 'Yofloma'

Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Yofloma’

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.

Hemerocallis 'August Flame'

Hemerocallis ‘August Flame’

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.

Iris unguicularis 'Purple Snow'

Iris unguicularis ‘Purple Snow’

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

Featured Plants

Bouvardia ternifolia 'Scarlet Hummer'

Bouvardia ternifolia ‘Scarlet Hummer’

Buddleia 'Pink Micro Chip' PPAF

Buddleia ‘Pink Micro Chip’ PPAF








Canna 'Pacific Beauty'

Canna ‘Pacific Beauty’

Harpochloa falx

Harpochloa falx








Phlox 'Peppermint Twist' PP# 18,196

Phlox ‘Peppermint Twist’ PP# 18,196

Ruellia 'Black Beauty'

Ruellia ‘Black Beauty’


Cora Stubbs Peony

Paeonia Coral Stubbs single flower7

The peonies were insanely beautiful this weekend for open house.  Here’s one of the stars, Paeonia ‘Cora Stubbs’…great sturdy stems and huge, fragrant flowers. We only offer peonies that we’ve trialed here at Juniper Level Botanic Garden for heat tolerance, great flowering, and good stem sturdiness.

Paeonia japonica

Paeonia japonica flower6

Here’s Paeonia japonica in flower in the garden yesterday.  Unlike most peonies, Paeonia japonica will not tolerate full sun, instead preferring to grow in the woodland garden with hostas.

2011 Plant Delights Nursery April Newsletter

There’s been a lot going on since we last chatted. Spring has come, gone, and now returned. During that time, I spent a week botanizing my way back from a talk in Mobile, Alabama. I made a number of amazing horticultural discoveries including some fantastic trillium finds and I’m hoping to write up the expedition as time permits. While I was gone, the night temperatures back at PDN unexpectedly dropped to 29 degrees F, sending the garden and research staff scurrying to cover the sensitive plants with frost cloth. Due to their hard work, you won’t notice any substantial plant damage when you visit for our Spring Open House.

Speaking of Open House, we’re only a few days away from the start of our annual Spring Open House…April 29-May 1 and May 6-8 from 8am-5pm on Friday and Saturday and 1pm-5pm on Sunday. On the second Saturday, May 7, we’ll be hosting the WPTF’s Weekend Gardener Radio show from 8-11am. We’ll be joined by NC’s own Rufus Edmisten…former Secretary of State, Attorney General, and assistant to the prosecutors in the 1973 Watergate trial. Rufus is quite the gardener, but I’m sure you can get him to chat about almost anything. We are also pleased to once again have Kona Chameleon here to service your caffeine needs while you shop with a variety of coffees, lattes, espressos, etc.

The PDN display gardens are looking pretty incredible with a wide array of plants in flower. I’m lucky to be able to sit outside while I write this, embracing the spring beauty while trying to ignore the noisy flock of robins that make the televison coverage of the Libyan rebels seem tame, as they fight for the last berries from our Nellie Stevens holly hedge. It’s hard to know what to tell you to look for first when you visit. The first flowers of the incredible double yellow Peony ‘Bartzella’ just opened yesterday, so I’m sure some of the 18 flowers on each clump will still be open…more if the temps cool just a bit. The baptisias should also be at peak…if the weather cooperates.

This is such a great time of year for the coral bells and foamy bells as their new foliage almost glows in the spring garden. Two of my favorites, Heuchera ‘Citronelle’ and Heuchera ‘Tiramisu’ are looking fabulous. Some of these clumps are now five-years-old and getting better each year…a far cry from some of the early coral bell introductions that were far too short-lived for us in the east. Hardy geraniums, bush clematis, and amsonia (blue star) all look great this time of year. These are each tough, long-lived stars of the spring garden that I wouldn’t garden without.

An area of great interest that we’ve been focusing on is rain gardens which catch, manage, and clean water runoff. We’d love to show you how to manage your runoff and select great plants that our research has shown love these conditions. Our rain gardens are particularly showy in spring with an incredible display of Louisiana Iris and sarracenia in full flower.

If you’re into odd, phallic plants, we’ve certainly got you covered. How about palms? Have you ever seen a windmill palm in flower? If not, these aren’t to be believed…although for us with a farming background, the flower spikes look like something that should be hanging from a horse in heat. If you’re really lucky, there will also be sauromatum, helicodiceros, and an amorphophallus or two for you to sniff while you’re here. If you’re one of those folks who thinks snorting white powder gives you a thrill, you haven’t lived until you’ve plunged your sniffer into a recently opened amorphophallus…and it’s still legal.

To top things off, our Agave salmiana ‘Green Goblet’ is in the midst of a phallic moment, having just started producing a flower spike last Saturday. It should be up to about 10-14′ tall by the weekend and could possibly be ready to open by the second Open House weekend.

If you just can’t make it to Open House, we request that you send a signed note from your doctor…unless they work for the Wisconsin teachers union, which renders the excuses useless. If your excuse for not attending the Spring Open House is approved, you can find a list of new plants that are ready just in time for Open House on our website. Please remember that many of these items are available in very limited quantities.

We’ve still got a few openings in our Creative Garden Photography Workshop to be held during our Spring Open House on May 7, so if you’re interested, don’t delay in getting registered. Responses from last years attendees were exceptional!

We found out recently that we have been selected as a workshop site for the upcoming North American Association for Environmental Education convention in Raleigh this fall. The meeting, expected to bring 1000+ people to Raleigh, will be held from October 12-15, 2011 at the Raleigh Civic and Convention Center. The workshop/tour at Plant Delights will be on Wednesday October 12 from 1-4:30pm. You must register to attend, and you can do so without registering for the entire conference. You can find out more and register online at http://www.naaee.net/conference

While we’ve had a Plant Delights Facebook page for more than a year, we haven’t publicized it. During this time, we’ve tried to figure how to beneficially use the page, short of telling you what everyone is eating for lunch. We’ve settled on using our Facebook page to keep you up-to-date on nursery news between our monthly newsletters…for example, letting you know that we were okay after the recent tornado outbreak. We also can let you know which nursery crops are particularly huge or just looking great…as we recently did with some greatly oversized hostas. Lastly, one of the really neat features that Facebook presents is the opportunity for you to connect with other PDN gardening friends. This can be particularly useful to share plant information or to fill a bus or car pool to a PDN Open House…wouldn’t it be neat to find a new friend to share the ride from out of town! If you’d like to become a fan of our page, you can click on the Facebook logo on our homepage or you can find us here:

Visit Us on Facebook!

Speaking of tornadoes, our section of North Carolina had quite an outbreak on Saturday, April 16 when 28 tornados touched down in our region…a state record. Five of the tornadoes were rated as EF3, with wind speeds of 136 to 165 mph. I was actually driving back home from talks in coastal Virginia as the storms moved closer and had stopped to botanize a section of woods as the storm headed our way. As it turned out, I got out of the woods just in time, as the area near Roanoke Rapids was devastated only minutes after I left…the things we do for plants! It was surreal driving home, listening to the tornado updates on the radio and altering my route to dodge the storms. Casualties from the tornadoes included 24 people with another 133 injured, 21 businesses destroyed, another 92 with significant damage, and 439 homes destroyed with another 6,189 that sustained significant damage. Thanks to customers around the world…as far away as Sumatra and Indonesia, for checking to make sure we were okay. From now on, we’ve made it easier for you to follow us on Facebook! We were very lucky to have been in an unaffected pocket in the middle of the tornado touchdowns, but our thoughts and prayers go out to those who were adversely affected by the storm.

In the past, we’ve had customers who live near the nursery willing to house new employees (either short or long-term), and we are once again looking for housing for a new employee that will be joining us in late May after finishing up at the University of Georgia. If you have a room available and are interested, please let us know so that we can pass your contact information along to our new employee. You can share your interest by email to Krista at

A couple of months back, I mentioned the Chapter 11 bankruptcy auction of Hines Nurseries, formerly the largest nursery in the country. Well, as it turns out, even after the auction, Hines is still in business thanks to some clever legal maneuvering. As you may recall, Hines Nurseries is owned by the hedge fund, Black Diamond Capital Management. For those who don’t know Black Diamond, they also own companies like Sunworld (one of the worlds leading producers of fruit and vegetables) and Werner Ladders (the worlds top producer of ladders).

Black Diamond runs Hines Nurseries through a shell company…a company that exists in name and cash only. Consequently, when Hines Nurseries went bankrupt this past fall, it wasn’t Black Diamond that went bankrupt…only the shell company that operated Hines. Everyone in the industry assumed that Hines would be sold off for the parts…some locations as a nursery, while other locations, like the property in Texas, would become a housing development. Bids were indeed submitted for exactly that, but Black Diamond submitted its own bid by setting up a new shell company. Since Black Diamond submitted the only bid for the entire operation, they won the auction. In doing this, they were able to eliminate the debt from their recent purchase of Bordier’s Nursery of California. Some folks wonder if this wasn’t the plan all along, but I guess we’ll never know. Although many of the other creditors and bidders raised challenges to this legal maneuvering, the judge found that there were no other bids worth considering. The question remains how long Black Diamond will keep Hines operating. As a business, Black Diamond hates the nursery model, which they describe as requiring too much capital and having too much risk. In other words, Black Diamond’s business model of running everything from a complex set of algorithms simply doesn’t work in the nursery business where you have living products which are started, but not sold the same year.

In a spring faux pas, the plants we sold as Iris ‘Oriental Beauty’ were not correct. The plants we shipped were a Dutch Iris, but just not the one we promised. Please email us if you received one of these and we’ll issue a refund or credit…sorry! In other inventory matters, we have also temporarily run out of Colocasia ‘Thailand Giant’ due to some production issues. We should have another crop ready by early to mid June. Thanks for your patience.

In the Top 25 this month, Iris ‘Red Velvet Elvis’ remains at the top of the list with Colocasia ‘Thailand Giant’ close behind, while the great native, Spigelia marilandica has catapulted into the third spot. Gladiolus ‘Purple Prince’ is another surprise visitor to the top 25 in 11th place.

We hope your selections for the Top 25 contest are faring well, and remember you can now monitor their standing.
I’ll end by saying again that we look forward to seeing you at Open House…please say hello, and thanks for your continuing support!


2011 Plant Delights Nursery March Newsletter

Howdy folks and welcome to spring! Alright, I know that’s rubbing it in to those of you in the northern climatic zones, but here at Juniper Level, spring is in full swing. Even for those of you still suffering through snow and other winter weather, it won’t be long before you will join us in the most exciting of garden seasons.

There is so much happening in the gardens here at Juniper Level, it’s hard to know where to start. Because I spend so much time in the garden photographing, I often notice the plants the minute they come into flower. Yesterday, for example, I enjoyed the flowers of the woodland peony, Paeonia japonica, which looked like a giant full moon-like round ball in the morning, then opening just after noon to reveal the stunning yellow stamens and red-based filaments against a white background…a striking combination. I cannot imagine why everyone with a woodland garden doesn’t grow this gem or its woodland counterpart, Paeonia obovata.

Another early spring favorite are the epimediums or fairy wings. It’s hard to imagine the amazing advancements in this genus in just the last decade. I remember working with epimediums in the shade house at the JC Raulston Arboretum back in the 1980s and while I thought they were nice, I wasn’t enamored enough of the cute, small-flowered selections to even include them in our catalog until over a decade later. In 1998, thanks to epimedium guru Darrell Probst, we saw the future of epimediums and finally took the plunge. Here we are thirteen years later with our own epimedium breeding program and seven introductions under our belt. I guess it’s the combination of larger flower size, amazing floral colors, great foliage, and superb vigor that made me finally embrace the genus. Others are getting excited about epimedium also, some for the aforementioned traits, and others for its medicinal qualities as a male enhancement “tool” as in the product, ExtenZe®! If you’re just getting started with epimediums, we highly recommend two of the most vigorous hybrids on the market, Epimedium ‘Domino’ and ‘Pink Champagne’, both Darrell Probst hybrids. We’ve got absolutely incredible plants of these available (full flower) and many more great selections ready to ship.

For the first time in years, we have stock of two of the finest Chinese mayapples, Podophyllum versipelle and Podophyllum pleianthum. In comparison to our native Podophyllum peltatum, both of the Chinese species have much larger foliage and they lack stolons (runners). Additionally, both of these Chinese species remain up until fall, unlike our native, which goes dormant in late spring. The liver-colored flower clusters on the Asian species are simply incredible. These are truly amazing plants that you must see in person to appreciate. Since they don’t spread, I’ll pass along a little propagation trick that we discovered. You can take a spade and slice down and out about 12-18″ away from an established clump, and everywhere you cut a root you will find a new plant a year later.

Another plant I’ve finally figured out how to grow is the Asian Cypripedium japonicum. If you have seen this in person, it’s completely different from all the other ladyslipper orchids with a corrugated, round fan-shaped leaf. I failed on my first few attempts a decade earlier, but now have this happily growing in the garden. In addition, our containerized crop looks fabulous and are currently in full flower. Although we only recommend this for keen gardeners, we hope those who are so inclined will give it a try. This is only one of several hardy cypripediums that we offer. I know I’ve mentioned these in the past, but I was particularly interested to see how they fared after our brutal summer of 2010, since word on the street is that many of the Cypripedium species and hybrids won’t tolerate our summers. Amazingly, our plants in the garden are already up and looking superb. The myth about their lack of heat tolerance is so busted!

For March, we have added several new plants to the online catalog…several in very short supply. We’ve had many folks ask about Epimedium wushanense, so after two years of withholding our stock for division, we can offer this again. We hope you find something interesting on the list.

In gardening news, we were surprised to learn that Dr. Todd Lasseigne will be leaving North Carolina to become the first full-time director of the new Oklahoma Centennial Botanical Garden in Tulsa. Todd is currently the Director of the Paul Ciener Botanic Garden in Kernersville, NC. Just after the grand opening at the Ciener Garden, Todd will depart NC to start his new job on April 18…and what a job he is facing!

I wanted to see what Todd got himself into, so I dropped by the Tulsa garden last weekend. To say I was shocked would be the understatement of the century. The garden is little more than a bare piece of prairie, in an undeveloped region northwest of Tulsa that could easily be the movie set for a Midwestern version of the movie Deliverance. The garden site is reachable by a new $2 million winding gravel road off the main highway. I know what it’s like when someone donates land, but geez, folks…surely you could have traded for some road frontage. Getting folks to visit gardens in such a remote location is going to require some heavy duty marketing. As one who believes you can build a garden anywhere, we look forward to seeing the progress and we wish Todd the best in his new venture.

On a sad note, plantsman Norman Beal of Raleigh is giving up his amazing garden due to health issues. If you haven’t had the pleasure of visiting Norman’s garden, it is undoubtedly one of the finest plantsman’s gardens in the triangle region, being featured on numerous tours and garden shows. I truly hope someone with an appreciation of Norman’s great work will be able to purchase this incredible one acre garden. You can find more info at www.2324NewBernAve.info, where it is listed under the MLS # 1773772 or call Norman’s realtor, Gary Clark at 919-744-7334.

We were saddened this month to hear of the loss of one of the great characters of the hosta world, when Mildred Seaver passed away at the ripe old age of 98. Mildred was one of the founders of the New England Hosta Society, and a winner of the American Hosta Society’s top honor, the Alex Summers Award, in 1988. Mildred lived most of her life in Western Massachusetts, but spent her last few years in a Delaware retirement home near her son, Charlie. Mildred was a prolific introducer of hostas with over 65 introductions to her credit, although most were made without the benefit of ever making an intentional cross. Mildred was able to spot a unique seedling as good as anyone who has ever grown hostas. Many of her hostas bore part of her name “Sea”. Some of her most enduring hosta introductions include Hosta ‘Allan P. McConnell’, ‘Sea Fire’, ‘Spinning Wheel’, ‘Spilt Milk’, ‘High Noon’, ‘El Dorado’, ‘Komodo Dragon’, and most recently Hosta ‘Queen of the Seas’.

As a larger than life character, Mildred Seaver stories will abound for decades in the hosta world…no doubt due to her boisterous, pseudo-confrontational, kooky style. At a hosta convention in the late 1990s, Mildred publically offered to swap her hotel room key (with her inside) for a piece of my newest introduction…classic Mildred. My favorite memory of Mildred occurred when I was visiting friends in Western Massachusetts in the early 1990s and I asked them to drop me off at Mildreds home for a visit. Their incredulous response was, “By yourself?” After walking around her garden, Mildred and I headed off to lunch at a nearby restaurant with me behind the wheel of her car…my first driving Miss Daisy moment. While we were waiting for our meals, I posed a question to Mildred that I’d long wanted to ask…”When did you become crazy?” Taken aback only briefly, Mildred quickly regained her composure and shared a story of being in the hospital when she was in her ‘50s and having the doctors tell her that she might not survive. She remembered laying there thinking about her life as a shrinking violet, and worrying that she might die and no one would ever remember meeting Mildred Seaver. She promised herself that if she survived her medical ordeal, she would make certain that everyone remembered meeting Mildred Seaver. All I can say is…”Mission accomplished Mildred…we’ll miss you!” In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Mildred’s memory to the American Hosta Society, P. O. Box 7539, Kill Devil Hills, NC 27948. To send on-line condolences to the family visit www.mccreryandharra.com

Late February also saw the passing of nurseryman Tom DeBaggio of DeBaggio Herb Farm in Virginia, after a long battle with Alzheimers. To say Tom was a renaissance man, doesn’t do Tom justice. In addition to running a destination herb nursery and being a world renown authority, Tom was a prolific author, writing Basil: An Herb Lover’s Guide with Susan Belsinger (1996), The Encyclopedia of Herbs: A Comprehensive Reference to Herbs of Flavor and Fragrance with Art Tucker (2000), and Growing Herbs from Seed, Cutting and Root with Jim Wilson (2000).

In 1997, at age 56, Tom was diagnosed with Alzheimers. Determined to share his experiences, Tom continued his writing with two books about his disease, Losing My Mind: An Intimate Look at life with Alzheimer’s (2002), and When It Gets Dark: An Enlightened Reflection On Life With Alzheimer’s (2007). Tom’s contributions both to our knowledge of herbs and our understanding of life are immeasurable. Thanks Tom!

There’s been quite a bit of interest over the last few years about phytoremediation…using plants to extract pollutants from the environment. I’m sure we’ve all heard about the experiments using house plants to extract air pollutants, but that research continues around the world.

Researchers at the University of Sydney found that six or more plants in a 1500 square foot house could achieve “noteworthy” contaminant reductions. Researchers found that contaminants are reduced both by the leaf stomata (tiny openings on the leaf undersides), as well as by microorganisms in the potting soil. Researchers at the University of Washington found that plants in a computer lab reduced dust by 20%. In 2009, researchers at the University of Georgia identified five “super ornamentals” which showed a very high rate of air contaminant removal. These include Hedera helix (English Ivy), Asparagus sp. (asparagus fern), Setcreasea pallida (purple heart wandering jew), Hemigraphis exotica (waffle plant), and Hoya sp. (wax plant). As if we needed one, we have another great reason to grow plants!

We’ve still got a few openings in our Creative Garden Photography Workshop to be held during our Spring Open House on May 7, so if you’re interested, don’t delay in getting registered. Responses from last years attendees were exceptional! http://www.plantdelights.com/Classes/products/550/

In the Top 25 this month, Iris ‘Red Velvet Elvis’ remains at the top of the list, with Colocasia ‘Thailand Giant’ close behind. The shock is to find Paris polyphylla still in third! It’s great to see six ferns in the top 25 this month, including Athyrium ‘Ghost’ at #5, Dryopteris x australis at #15, Arachniodes standishii at #16, Dryopteris labordei ‘Golden Mist’ at #17, Dryopteris celsa at #18, and Athyrium filix-femina ‘Frizelliae’ at #24. We hope your favorite plants rise to the top before years end!

Thanks for taking time to read our newsletter and we hope you enjoy the new catalog and website.


2010 Plant Delights Nursery April Newsletter

Dear PDN’ers:

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.

Again, we truly thank you for your business.

Please direct all replies and questions to office@plantdelights.com.

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Thanks and enjoy


2009 Plant Delights Nursery February Newsletter

Greetings from Plant Delights! We hope everyone is coping well with a winter that, at best, brings back memories of winters past. Parts of central and southern Florida have endured abnormal freezes, while much of the Midwest was hit with a devastating ice storm leaving them without power for up to a week. Here in Juniper Level, we saw a low of 9 degrees F on January 16 … the lowest temperature in 5 years. Some of our test agaves bit the dust, but all of the plants that have been out in the gardens for years made it through fine. We’ll report later on the freeze damage as it continues to show. Don.t be fooled into thinking plants which look great the day after a freeze are all fine, since damage often takes a month or more to show up.

One of the most intriguing physiological reactions to cold weather is how evergreen plants change the pressure in their cell walls to cope with low temperatures. It’s interesting to venture out on very cold mornings to see plants such as aspidistra, trillium, and rohdea appear as small piles of melted blackened mush. Once the temperature rises, however, the cells return to normal, the stomata (leaf breathing apparatus) reopen, and the plant miraculously bounces back. Gardeners in colder climates have no doubt noticed this on rhododendrons, which similarly curl their leaves on cold nights to reduce water loss.

For those who have pushed palms past their recommended zones, you may be seeing some damage now in regions which have experienced near normal winter temperatures for the first time in many years. Three types of palm damage occurs … foliar burn, spear pull, and the call of the grim reaper.

Foliar burn occurs when the foliage turns a sickly pale grey green … usually about 3-4 weeks after the freeze event. Some very tender palm foliage will turn brown the morning after the freeze, but this is much less common. Trachycarpus latisectus and T. martianus are good examples of palms that we grow as dieback perennials. These damaged leaves will not recover, but the plant should resume growing normally in spring. I would not cut the damage leaves until the growth resumes vigorously during spring. In our experience, spear pull usually occurs without widespread leaf burn. In this case, a slight tug on the new growth results in the top few developing leaves coming out in your hand. In most cases, the plant will survive. I prefer to leave the damaged spear leaves intact until spring, when they can be removed to allow air to reach the damaged tissue and prevent rot. Some growers find a fungicide helpful, although I have never resorted to this. To prevent damage, some palm growers like to clothespin the new leaves together which seems to help. The older a palm gets, the less likely it is to have spear pull damage, which is why some palm growers prefer to grow them indoors until they reach a 3-5 gallon size. Since we grow only small-sized palms, we plant ours at a smaller size and consequently experience more spear pull until the plants gain some age. Palm death is pretty easy to recognize as a complete tissue meltdown, resulting in a pile of mush and the accompanying smell of rotting plant flesh. That being said, if there is any doubt, leave it alone … it doesn’t cost anything to wait until spring and see.

We have spent much of the last decade assembling an excellent array of hellebores and in 2006, we added a Winter Open House to showcase these and other wonderful plants that strut their stuff in the winter garden. Instead of starting our own breeding program, we relied on the work of others including John Elsley of SC, Dick and Judith Tyler of VA, Dan Hinkley of WA, Ernie and Marietta O’Byrne of OR, and John Massey of Ashwood Nursery in the UK. We pick outstanding selections from these breeders work, and plant them together in the garden. We find by planting color forms about 20′ from each other, we can lessen (not eliminate) cross pollination between colors.

After flowering, hellebore seed is gathered in June and July and sown immediately in containers of potting soil … fresh sowing is very important for good germination. Unlike many other seed, hellebore seed will not germinate until it has been subjected to cold temperatures (stratification). We leave hellebore seed pots outdoors until they begin to germinate … usually early-mid January for H. x hybridus. These seedlings are then transplanted at the two leaf stage into cell packs where they remain for a couple of months, at which time they are shifted up into 1 qt pots. The key is to push the hellebores at this early stage to get as much growth as possible while the weather is cool, since hellebores go into a semi-dormant state in summer. The more growth you get in early spring, the better the chance of them flowering the following spring. Because of the cool temperatures in the Pacific Northwest, they are able to get a much higher percentage of plants to flower during the first season than here in the Southeast.

In summer, it’s just a matter of keeping the hellebores alive in containers … a real chore in the Southeast. One secret we discovered is to switch to an aluminized shade cloth compared to the typical black shade cloth. Even with the same percentage of shade, the aluminized cloth keeps the greenhouse nearly 10 degrees cooler, so the plants actually survive the summer. Before we switched shade cloth types, we would loose between 90 and 100% of our entire hellebore crop during the summer. Regardless of your economics, it’s hard to make money that way. We lost so many hellebores before we switched, we probably still haven’t broken even on them.

In late fall, the hellebores begin growing again and we typically expect to get 10% to flower the first season and the remainder in season two. Starting a couple of years ago, we switched our emphasis to grow plants that have flowered before we sell them. As I mentioned, this usually requires keeping the plants for an extra season and also includes the time required to sort through all the hellebores on a weekly basis during the flowering season and group them by flower color. Granted, the economics are probably better to sell the plants before flowering, but we hope the added value is worthwhile to you as a gardener.

As a homeowner, you can certainly allow the seed to fall from your hellebores and sprout in the garden, but keep mind it will generally take 3 to 4 years for these plants to flower and if you’re looking for a particular color pattern in your planting scheme, this may not be the best idea. We hope you will enjoy our amazing selections. As a reminder, our Winter Open House this year is Friday and Saturday from 8 am to 5 pm on February 27 and 28 and March 6 and 7. Click here to find out more about visiting.

Another winter grower we got into in a big way about a decade ago are trillium. As we studied the genus, we realized two things … first, most of the plants sold in the US were collected from the wild for sale and secondly, no one was focusing on the Southeastern species.

When outcry arose in the US about wild collecting trillium for sale, many of the commercial harvesters went underground and so, soon began a large business in trillium laundering. Plants were dug in the wild (usually Tennessee and Arkansas), then sold to large wholesale growers and brokers in Europe. The European growers operate on the military policy of ‘Don’t ask, Don’t tell.’ The trillium are then being re-exported back into the US, where there is plausible deniability and the trail of these wild collections have gone cold. I should add, however, that in most cases, trillium are anything but rare in the wild, and where land is being cleared or sustainably harvested, I see no reason why trillium could not be harvested and sold … although that is not the direction we decided to head into.

As I mentioned, most of the collectors were only selling the ‘northern’ species including T. grandiflorum, T. luteum, T. erectum, T. vaseyi, and a few others. As we began to study trillium, we realized there were a number of species that were completely ignored. As a rule, most of these are the sessile type, which means the flower sits directly atop the leaf, as compared the pedicellate trillium, where a short stem (pedicel) attaches the flower to the leaf.

We began a series of treks through the southern states studying trillium and bringing back individual samples to grow and propagate. As you can imagine, this is a slow process since all trillium in our climate take 4 to 5 years to grow from seed. Each plant is hand-pollinated and then the seeds are sown directly in the ground after harvest. Like hellebores, the seed must be sown fresh. Four years later, seed from those plants are harvested and sown and four years later, we finally have enough to sell. We have even found that the rare solid-silver leaved variants, which we have found in almost all of the southern species, come amazingly true from seed. It is our belief that we now have the largest seed-grown commercial trillium production in the country. One of the advantages of growing tens of thousands of trillium is we are able to select some amazing seedlings which will then be propagated for introduction in the future. We hope you appreciate the time and energy involved in making these special plants available.

Of these southern trillium, the first to emerge in winter is Trillium underwoodii from the Florida Panhandle. For us this form of T. underwoodii emerges often in early January, and is amazingly resilient after cold snaps, including our recent 9 degree F freeze which found a few clones in full flower. Too many freezes when the plant is fully expanded will result in the foliage becoming tattered while also eliminating the possibility of seed. The second to emerge is T. foetidissimum, followed by T. ludovicianum in mid- to late-January. Next in line in late January is T. maculatum, the Florida Panhandle forms of T. lancifolium, and then the Gulf Coast forms of T. gracile in early February. The same species originating in a more northern locale maintains its genetics for later emergence even when moved. A classic example is the Alabama form of T. underwoodii, which emerges 2 to 3 months after the Florida form when grown side by side. Finally, Trillium decumbens, T. cuneatum, T. ooestingii break the ground in March, followed by the northerly forms of T. lancifolium and T. recurvatum in late March. Most of the early sessile trillium have emerged, before being joined by the first of the southeastern pedicellate species including T. pusillum in late March and T. catesbiae in early April. I know some of you wonder why we bother to put origin information on many of our offerings, but this often makes the difference between success and failure with these southeastern natives in some of the more northern climates. Over the years, we will continue to add a tremendous array of different species from different populations. If you would like to learn more about trillium, there are two great books on the subject. Trillums by Fred and Roberta Case, and Trilliums in Woodland and Garden: American Treasures by Don and Rob Jacobs.

If you’re like me, you’ve recently sworn off news shows, since watching too much of the incessant gloom and doom serves as a self-fulfilling prophecy. In some good news, however, a recent study reported in the UK Daily Telegraph, documented that: ‘As little as 30 minutes a week tending the garden or allotment can dramatically improve men’s performance in bed, according to the experts in the field. Digging, weeding or mowing the lawn for half an hour reduced men’s risk of failing to live up to expectations in bed by more than a third, the survey found. Men who spend even more time in the vegetable patch can more than halve their risk of impotence, researchers at the Medical University of Vienna found in their study…Erectile function can be maintained even by low, regular physical activity, concludes the report. Energy expenditure of as little as 1,000 calories a week reduces the risk. Doctors should use these findings to encourage their patients to do more physical training and adopt a healthier lifestyle…The latest study, published in the journal European Urology, shows men do not have to be keep-fit fanatics to reap the benefits and need to burn just 1,000 calories a week. This reduced impotence by around 38 per cent, the research showed… Men who burned off up to 4,000 kilocalories a week saw their impotence risk drop almost 52 per cent.

You can read the entire article by clicking this link … then get off the couch and get back in the garden!

In upcoming events (the same weekend as our 2nd Spring Open House), the Middle Atlantic Chapter of the American Rhododendron Society would like to invite you to ‘Gardening at the Peaks’ from May 8-10 at the Holiday Inn Tanglewood in Roanoke, Virginia. The meeting will feature tours of two amazing gardens, Paul James mountain garden just south of Ronoake along with the Glebe Hill garden of Gary and Carol Osbourne. If you haven’t visited either of these gardens, you’re in for a real treat. Paul keeps hinting about restricting tours of his world class plant collection (6000+ species), so this may be one of the last chances to see this amazing gardening treasure. In addition, the two speakers include Kristine Johnson of the Great Smokey Mountains National Park and Virginia’s own garden writer and photographer extraordinaire Pamela Harper. To register for the meeting, contact Sharon Horn at oldturnpikefarm@gmail.com or by phone at 540.350.2666.

Those involved in wholesaling or retailing perennials, no doubt know the name Dale Hendricks. Dale and his business partner Steve Castorani started Pennsylvania’s North Creek Nurseries in 1988 (the same year PDN started) as a wholesale source of perennials, with a focus on US natives. As of December 30, Dale has retired from the business and sold his ownership stake to his business partner, Steve. As part of Dale’s mid-life crisis, Dale tells me he realized that he enjoyed the plants rather than running a business that had become very large and extremely successful … a common problem among ex-hippies. Along with spending more time with his family, Dale has already started a small backyard business called Green Light Plants to organically grow a few special plants for his former business. Dale will also be spending time on the board of the Community Gardens of Chester County, and in his spare time will continue speaking and doing nursery consulting. Even if you’ve never heard of Dale before, you have no doubt grown some of his plants or felt his considerable influence on the horticultural world. If you see a display that says ‘American Beauties’ at your local garden center, that’s all thanks to Dale. From all of us at PDN, we’d like to salute Dale and wish him the best of luck in his new life.

While we’re giving out pats on the back, we’d like to also congratulate plantsman Hans Hansen of Minnesota for winning the first Todd Bachman Award, (named after the nursery CEO killed at the 2008 Beijing Olympics), given by the Minnesota Landscape Association to someone under 40 years old who has demonstrated innovation in business, marketing, horticultural production, floral, or landscape practices in the horticulture industry. Hans has spent the last 17 years as manager of the tissue culture lab of Shady Oaks Nursery in Minnesota. Hans is a pioneer in working with many tissue cultured plants, being the first to successfully culture variegated agaves, arisaemas, and a number of other plants as well as being the first to tetraploid hosta in vitro. His hosta introduction are consistently ranked among the top in the field. He has also participated in a number of plant exploration trips, resulting in many of the plants you find in the pages of our catalog. Embarking on a new phase of his career, Hans departed Shady Oaks in fall and will be joining another firm by spring. We offer our heartfelt thanks for all of Hans’s work and wish him best of luck in his new venture.

If you’ve created or discovered the next million dollar plant and don’t know where to turn to get started, one of the important steps, once you determine that your plant is a good candidate for the market, is to obtain a plant patent. There are a number of avenues from using a patent lawyer to using a patent agent with a wide range of prices. A large number of the new perennials hitting the market are being patented by a small firm in Minnesota, run by a friend and former Minnesota nurserywoman and now patent agent, Penny Aguirre of Biological Patent Services. There are quite a few plants we offer whose patents have been handled by Penny, so if you find yourself in need of such services, you can contact Penny at pennyag@earthlink.net. We don’t get any kickback from this, but are only providing this as one option with which we are very familiar.

Chances are you’ve never heard of the Keith Arboretum, but if you like woody plants, I’d recommend you fix that deficiency. I remember back in the 1980s when the late JC Raulston first led me to Charlie Keith’s garden in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. JC was fascinated with the tree collection Charlie had assembled. Fast forward 20+ years when Mike Dirr finally made the pilgrimage, only to be equally as blown away by Charlie’s collection. In fact, it was Mike who encouraged Charlie to preserve the garden for future generations, resulting in the establishment of The Keith Arboretum. If you’re in the area, Charlie is looking for volunteers to help with labeling. You can find out more at www.keitharboretum.org. I hope you’ll take the opportunity to learn more about this incredibly special world-class collection of trees.

If you keep up with national news, you may remember the December 19, 2008 construction accident at the Atlanta Botanical Garden. While under construction, a temporarily-elevated walk linking the garden to the adjacent Piedmont Park collapsed, killing one construction worker and injuring 18 others. An investigation is continuing, but the garden tells us the construction work will continue. As of mid-January, all of the injured men were out of the hospital and able to walk, with none suffering permanent brain damage. The garden in conjunction with the contractor, Hardin Construction Company has set up the Jonquil Fund to help the workers and their families. So far, over $70,000 has been raised. If you’d like to contribute to this fund, visit the gardens website at www.atlantabotanicalgarden.org.

Our condolences also go out to Lori Kordner and her family, in the death of her husband, Tim (age 49), who took his life on Jan. 21. Tim was a local radio and television gardening personality who ran a garden center known as Brewery Creek in Belle Plaine, MN for 30+ years and who regularly sold produce at the Minneapolis and St. Paul farmers markets. In addition, Tim had recently increased his focus on peonies when he purchased the entire breeding collection of intersectional peonies from retired peony breeder, Roger Anderson (P. ‘Bartzella’). Tim’s peony nursery, Century Oaks Peonies, was just on tour last summer with the American Peony Society.

Last month, I mentioned the death of Eddie McRae and that his wife Judith, ran her own lily nursery, but I got the name wrong. Her nursery is The Lily Garden and not The Lily Nook, which is a Canadian firm…sorry.

While I’m correcting errors, crinum expert Jay Yourch noticed we had mistakenly used the wrong image for Crinum ‘Summer Nocturne’ in our spring catalog. The correct image is now on-line, but unfortunately, we can’t change the printed catalog … those darn gremlins.

Before I close, I’d like to remind everyone that February 15 is the deadline for entering our Top 25 contest for 2009. It doesn’t cost anything to enter and you’ve got a chance to win our $250 gift certificate. Follow this link to the contest rules and entry form.

As with all businesses, 2009 is not getting off to a banner start for many of us in the nursery business as we brace ourselves for making for many sleepless nights and difficult decisions. Once again, we would like to sincerely thank those of you who have placed orders and plan to do so this year. We’re working on writing descriptions for some new plants that will make their way onto the website shortly … we’ll send you an email when they’re posted. Many nurseries are hanging on by a thread and unless business picks up soon, many of your favorites may not be around for future seasons.

Again, we thank you for your support!

Please direct all replies and questions to office@plantdelights.com.

Thanks and enjoy