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 freemanii is a still unpublished new trillium species (hopefully soon), that we discovered in 1998.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

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.

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.

PDN Spring 2014 Open Nursery Days May 2-4 and May 9-11

We’re really excited to show you our new plant offerings at the 2014 Spring Open Nursery and Garden! The lineup includes stars like our amazing Baptisias ‘Blue Towers’ and  ‘Blonde Bombshell’ which are nearing full flower now as are the peonies including the wonderful Paeonia ‘Cora Stubbs’. And you’ll also want to see starlets Iris cristata ‘Vein Mountain’Amsonia rigida, and Clematis ochroleuca ‘Bald Knob’. The hardy ladyslipper orchids are in full flower, so come ready to drool. The hostas look in insanely good, from the dwarf Hosta ‘Mini Skirt’ to the giant Hosta ‘Empress Wu’. We get excited just typing the names of these garden gems!

We’ve been busy propagating, growing, and filling our sale greenhouses with over 1,700 different types of perennials for your spring shopping pleasure. And as always, we add new plants to the sales area right before Open Nursery and Garden… with many only available in small numbers, so plan to visit in person, if you are able, to claim your garden treasures!

May 2, 3, 4 and May 9, 10, 11
Fridays and Saturdays 8a – 5p
Sundays from 1-5p
Rain or Shine

Of course, the nursery and garden will be staffed with our expert horticultural plant-loving staff to talk with you about our gorgeous and colorful spring perennial plant treats which will also be for sale when you visit. Come see us to visit, shop and stroll through Juniper Level Botanic Garden.

Campanula 'Sarastro'

Campanula ‘Sarastro’

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.


2008 Plant Delights Nursery May Newsletter

Greetings from Plant Delights, we hope your spring has been as beautiful as ours…realizing, of course, that some of you in the colder climates are just starting the spring season. We have had wonderful rains and no temperatures in the 90’s yet…unlike the folks in Phoenix who have already seen 109 degrees F…geez. It’s been a short week because of the Memorial Day holiday, but despite overdoing it in the garden last weekend, I’m ready to start again. It’s only Friday, but I can already feel a weekend of binge planting coming on…how about you?

New crops and sold out items are continually becoming ready. For the latest additions just added to the website, click here. Remember some are only available in limited quantities, so if you see something that strikes your fancy, don’t hesitate too long.

Many gardeners are still dealing with the drought of last summer and hostas are some of the plants most affected. We’ve had many folks asking why their hostas are so much smaller than in previous years, and the answer is probably drought. While hostas are very tolerant of short-term droughts, long-term droughts are another matter. As the hosta clumps age, the center of the clump begins to die out. This, combined with the umbrella-shape of many hostas, causes them to naturally shed water. The only remaining living parts are new buds which break on the outer edges of the clump. These newly formed plants become naturally smaller and smaller. When water is scarce, this problem is further exacerbated. The solution is to dig up hostas that have gone backward and choose 3-5 healthy divisions. Bareroot these removing dead root pieces, and replant them into a new hole. The unviable parts of the original clump can be discarded. It is always helpful to add more compost when replanting the new divisions and if possible, find a spot that holds more moisture. We have hostas thriving in a bog with pitcher plants, so anything short of growing them as an aquatic in the winter is fine.

At our Spring Open House, visitors were dazzled by our 2-year old clumps of Paeonia ‘Bartzella’, which were in full-flower with 11 huge bright yellow flowers. If you haven’t tried this yet, put one on your wish list. There are a couple of nurseries selling smaller tissue-cultured plants, which are probably many years from flowering, but these are an option if you can’t afford our huge flowering-sized plants. P. ‘Bartzella’ is but one of a series of intersectional peonies (herbaceous peonies crossed with tree peonies). Keep watching as more and more of these gems become available.

Another of the plant groups we have really enjoyed are the hardy orchids. If you’re just getting started, bletillas are a great place to begin. Although they prefer moist to boggy soils, they are thoroughly drought tolerant. If you feel comfortable with bletillas, the next genera to try is calanthe. These early spring-blooming orchids are quite easy to grow and very tolerant of low-light situations. Once you master calanthes, cypripediums are next on the list. Cypripediums or lady slippers are easy when grown in the right situation: moist, well-drained soils and cool climates. When we started trialing these, everyone told us they would not tolerate our hot humid summers. After several years of trialing them, we have had very good success.

The summer-flowering salvias are just starting to strut their stuff. These include the wonderful but underappreciated US native Salvia farinacea, which flowers non-stop from now until fall and is obscenely drought tolerant. Another favorite of mine is Salvia gregii from Texas and across the border in Mexico. Last year, we introduced the Stampede series, but as we mentioned in the catalog, the breeder was unwilling to share the parentage so we could adequately predict hardiness. Salvia gregii has a huge range and an accompanying difference in winter hardiness. This unwillingness to share plant background information is unfortunately common with annual breeders, who really don’t give a damn if a plant is winter hardy or not.

From further south in Argentina, the blue-flowering Salvia guaranitica makes a stunning sage with flowers that start now in NC and continue through fall. Salvia guaranitica produces swollen water storage organs on their roots which aid in survival during dry periods. Keep in mind that most cultivars of Salvia guaranitica develop into a large spreading clump when grown in anything resembling ideal conditions. Of the hybrid salvias, my favorite for this time of year is Salvia ‘Silke’s Dream’. This robust grower (S. darcyi x microphylla) makes a 5′ wide x 2′ tall clump, topped from now until fall with spikes of peachy-red. We also offer a similar cross called S. ‘Scarlet Spires’, which strangely failed to overwinter when planted side by side with S. ‘Silke’s Dream’. The two should have identical in hardiness, so I’m not sure what is amiss, but we’d love to hear your results.

In the aroid world, many of the amorphophallus flowers are still popping through the ground. Amorphophallus dunnii, when planted in mass is simply superb in flower and without the odor usually associated with the genus. Flowering now is the macabre Amorphophallus henryi with its shiny purple flower and over-endowed spadix. We are well past the early arisaema season, but the later species are in full glory. This includes A. fargesii with its cobra-like flower heads and huge tropical-looking foliage; the small A. saxatile with the lemon-scented white flowers; the mid-season forms of Arisaema consanguineum with their elegant long drip-tip foliage; A. tortuosum with its flower perched atop 4′ tall cobra-skin stalks; and the elegant Arisaema candidissimum in both pink and white-flowered forms.

There is one arisaema relative that boasts continuous flowering and it is the genus pinellia. While we love all of the pinellias, they do spread from seed, and some, such as P. ternata, spread obscenely fast by bulbils which form on the stem. The plant we can unquestionably recommend for any garden is the hybrid, Pinellia ‘Polly Spout’, discovered by plantsman Dick Weaver. This sterile hybrid starts flowering in May and continues non-stop through September. This is a delightful and easy-to-grow plant that should become a mainstay in all woodland gardens.

Another plant great for woodland gardens are the woodland Martagon lilies. These lilies are hybrids using one or more of five woodland species including L. martagon (Europe) , L. hansonii (Asia), L. tsingtauense (Asia), L. medeoloides (Asia), and L. distichum (Asia). The results are early-emerging whorled-leaf lilies that flower now (NC) with pendent flowers whose range includes white, yellow, pink, orange, and red. Martagon lilies are never going to be widely available or as cheap as Asiatic lilies, due to their much slower rate of growth and propagation. From scales or tissue culture, it takes us 4-5 years to produce a flowering-sized plant. When we started experimenting with Martagon lilies, most folks told us they would not survive due to our summers, but thankfully, we never shared this information with our lilies. We are very pleased to be able to add more and more of these special lilies to our offerings.

One final plant before I end that I think deserves much more recognition than it gets is Pennisetum orientale ‘Karley Rose’. I like the species itself, but this selection from our friends at Sunny Border Nursery in Connecticut is simply superb every single year. P. ‘Karley Rose’ makes a nice tidy clump and has never offered us a single seedling in the garden. The elegant purple-tinted plumes begin to arise now and can be enjoyed through most of the summer. If I were to design a grass, I would be hard-pressed to improve on this plant. We’re sold out now, but hope to have another crop ready soon.

Our biggest snafu of the year is with Colocasia gigantea ‘Thailand Giant’. Since these grow so fast in containers, we schedule staggered late winter shipments from the tissue culture lab that produces these for us. This winter, the colocasia crashed (died) in the lab and had to be restarted. Unfortunately, we didn’t find out until it was too late to do anything but wait, which took longer than expected. Production is back on track and we should have plants ready to ship within the next 4 weeks. We will ship all backorders for this plant, unless we hear differently. We take full responsibility for the screw-up and cannot apologize enough. Thank you so much for your patience and understanding.

People news in the gardening world is headlined by the move of Bill Cullina from the New England Wildflower Society to the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens. Bill has written a number of truly fabulous and informational gardening books and has become one of the stars on the horticultural lecture circuit. If you are a fan or would like to be, you can find out more at http://williamcullina.com

Also in plant-people news, we regretfully report the May 14 passing of Geoffrey Charlesworth at age 87. Geoffrey was preceeded in death by his partner of nearly 60 years, Norman Singer. Geoffrey arrived in the US from England where he had a career teaching math at Hofstra University. In 1968, Norman and Geoffrey purchased a 5-acre property in Sandisfield, Massachusetts, which would become home to their amazing garden. I was fortunate to visit them in 1999 and was thrilled to find what I feel was one of the finest private garden/plant collections in the country. Geoffrey also wrote two highly renown gardening books, The Opinionated Gardener in 1987 (rated by Horticulture Magazine in 2004 as #3 on its top 100 gardening books) and A Gardener Obsessed in 1994. The latter referred to Geoffrey’s obsession of sowing at least 1,000 new rare plants every year from seed. A celebration of his life will be planned within a few months. Donations in Geoffrey’s memory may be made to the Berkshire Botanical Garden, PO Box 826, Stockbridge, MA 01262 (details provided by Pamela Johnson).

We also regretfully report that Dr. Dave Beattie, Professor of Ornamental Horticulture at Penn State University, has passed away after an extended illness. Beattie was widely known for his extensive work with the genus astilbe. In addition to his teaching and writing, Dave was very active in the Perennial Plant Association and in 2000 he founded the Penn State Center for Green Roof Research. http://www.greenroofs.org/boston/index.php?page=beattiewin

We reported earlier about the passing of Mike and Bonnie Dirr’s daughter Susy, and at this time, the Dirrs are in the process of relocating back to Athens, GA. Mike and Bonnie are advertising Suzy’s Chapel Hill, NC home for sale, so if you are looking for a home in that area, let me know and I’ll forward your note. The home is a cottage style with 1700 square feet including three bedrooms, two full baths, a 2-car garage, a 200-square foot screened and winterized porch, and according to Mike, “a half-acre lot with the best garden in Governor’s Village.” I’ll bet with Mike as the landscaper, it’s pretty cool.

This spring has been busy on many fronts, as we were fortunate to have been able to purchase a 3.6 acre tract adjoining the nursery from the family of our late neighbor, Eddie Souto. Eddie was a wonderful man who immigrated as a child from Portugal and went on to become a successful local businessman. Eddie, 57, passed away last October after a 10-year battle with cancer. He is survived by his sons David, of Raleigh, and Todd, of Illinois. Part of the land will be used for field production and research on non-economic crops while the rest will be made into The Eddie Souto Memorial Garden, which will be open to the public even when the gardens around the house are closed.

In the news since we last talked, I completely forgot to mention World Naked Gardening Day, which we all missed on May 3. I’m sure you’ll all want to bookmark the page so you can celebrate next year. I wonder if you are allowed to wear chaps if you garden with agaves and cactus? http://www.wngd.org

Several years ago, we mentioned the artistic work of Clark Sorensen, but he has expanded his line and is certainly worth a second mention. If you’ve got a male gardener in your household who is hard to buy for, there is nothing quite like Clark’s art. Check it out at http://www.clarkmade.com

Have you had trouble with voles, moles, or other subterranean varmits? If so, and you don’t like to use chemicals, then we’ve got the solution for you. Yes, it’s the Rodenator to the rescue! http://www.rodenator.com If you enjoyed the movies Caddyshack or The Terminator, then you’ve got to watch the testosterone-filled video on the website. http://www.rodenator.com/videos.htm Warning: This should not be viewed by squeamish children or members of PETA…enjoy!

As always, we thank you for your continued support and patronage.

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

Thanks and enjoy