Lavender and White

On my very short commute home, we’ve designed beds along the way that help relieve the stresses of the day. One of my favorite beds in summer is this combination of Allium ‘Millenium’, Sinningia tubiflora (white), Verbena bonariensis, and Pervoskia atriplicifolia. Both the sinningia and the verbena can be a bit aggressive in some areas of the garden, but not here, where they’ve all reached a happy equilibrium. Not only are they visually attractive, but this bed is awash with pollinators, despite none of these plants being southeast US natives.

Perovskia – Russian Sage

Perovskia Filagrin4

Perovskia ‘Filigran’ is certainly one of the stars of the summer garden…as seen in our gardens this week.  Here is a plant that grows as well for us as it does in the mile high city of Denver.  Full sun and decent drainage and you’ll be rewarded with this type of performance all summer.  I love this plant!

2011 Plant Delights Nursery December Newsletter

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all of our extended PDN family. As we wrap up the year and get the new catalog ready to go in the mail and online (Dec 31), we want to remind everyone that this is the last week to buy Plant Delights gift certificates as Christmas presents for your gardening friends and family. You can order our gift certificates online and we’ll get them right in the mail or give us a call at 919.772.4794.

We’d like to congratulate the 2011 Winner of the Top 25 contest, Amy Hill of Archdale, North Carolina. Amy is our first NC winner in several years and takes home a $250 Plant Delights gift certificate for the best score in predicting the top 25 best sellers for 2011. If you’d like enter the contest for 2012, all you have to do is go the contest page on our website, fill in your form and badda bing, badda boom…you’re done.  To get started, see which plants topped the sales list last year.

December was a sad month for the horticulture world with the passing of our friend, Bob Stewart of Michigan’s Arrowhead Alpines mail order nursery, who lost a long battle with colon cancer. Bob and his wife Brigitta started their nursery in 1991 and quickly became the “go to” source for rare and unusual alpine plants and much more. I find most mail order nursery owners to be fascinating conversationalists, and none more so than Bob (primarily to the overwhelming prevalence of ADD in the group). Conversations with Bob might start with primulas and before you knew it, Bob had shifted to the inner most details of nuclear fusion. While Bob and I shared a passion for plants, we diverged on our feelings about Master Gardeners. While we both agreed that the name “Master Gardeners” was probably not the best choice, Bob held Master Gardeners in great disdain. Bob’s tolerance of those promoting themselves as knowledgeable while not understanding much more than the basics of horticulture, was not particularly high. This gruff persona that emanated strongly through his catalog writing, however, was a stark contrast to the passionate and personable Bob you would met in person. Bob is survived by his wife Brigitta, who will continue to run the nursery, and his son Ender, whose passion for computers equals Bob’s passion for plants. Our friend, Allen Bush, wrote a wonderful article about Bob only a few months before his death. Allen captured Bob so well, I encourage you to read his article. We’ll all miss you but never forget you, my friend.

Another dear friend who lost a very sudden battle with cancer this month was Wolfgang Oehme, 82, of Oehme and Van Sweeden Landscape Architects. Wolfgang came to the US as a young man and wound up leaving a huge mark on the American landscape. In addition to designing gardens around the world, Wolfgang was a true trendsetter in the world of landscape architecture. His concept of the New American Garden took the world by storm in the 1970s, with the use of large drifts of plants in a naturalistic style. Wolfgang, or “Wolfi” as he was known to his friends, was renowned for a few signature plants whose use he championed in virtually all of his designs. This short list included Miscanthus sinensis, Fargesia clumping bamboo, Pennisetum alopecuroides, Perovskia atriplicifolia, Rudbeckia ‘Goldsturm’, Panicum virgatum, and Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’.

Even with his amazing body of work, it was his quirky behavior that made people love Wolfi. I’ve never know anyone else to tout their work as much as Wolfi, but he did so with such a child-like excitement that it didn’t come off as bragging. I had the pleasure (make that unique experience) of staying in Wolfi’s home a few times over the years…yielding experiences I’ll never forget. Many people might think that Wolfi’s fetish for nude swimming in his back yard pool, hidden from the neighbors only by a few large clumps of miscanthus, would be unusual but for Wolfi, that fell into the range of normal behavior. After late dinners, Wolfi would drive me around Baltimore County looking at his designs, often stopping his car in the middle of four lanes of traffic to get out to inspect or even weed a particularly nice planting of perennials. Shining a flashlight in Baltimore County clients yards after midnight to see 20-year-old clumps of fargesias didn’t seem strange at all to Wolfi, while all I could do was think of where to buy a bulletproof vest. Then there were the nights at the Towson County courthouse…

As we strolled around the courthouse, well after midnight, Wolfi would suddenly decide that a planting of coreopsis needed to be moved to a new location, so we would pull the plants from their amended beds barehanded and move them to another bed where Wolfi thought they fit better. Wolfi was oblivious to the police cars speeding back and forth along the streets just feet away from our exploits. I, on the other hand, was keenly aware of everyone around us and how we seemed to be invisible…like being with the Keyser Soze of horticulture. It soon became obvious that this was part of Wolfi’s nightly routine.

As the story goes, the landscape design contract for the courthouse was outsourced to an azalea-loving landscape architect in Texas, which caused Wolfi great consternation. Instead of complaining, Wolfi called the architect and had them rework their plan based on his choice of plants. Wolfi then adopted the completed garden, sans any authority, and made it his own playground. Eventually the county government realized his interest and put him in charge of their landscape advisory committee.

Wolfgang will be long remembered through his books, Bold Romantic Gardens (1990), and the German language Zwischen Gartengrasern (2008). Wolfgang worked for a variety of clients in downtown Washington DC and even designed Oprah Winfrey’s garden in Chicago. Wolfi’s work has been featured in an array of books, most recently, Ornamental Grasses: Wolfgang Oehme and the New American Garden by Stefan Leppert (2009). I could go on with more Wolfi stories, but I’ll suffice to say that Wolfgang Oehme was a true genius who ate, slept, and breathed plants, and whose influence on our landscapes will live on for generations to come…so long, my friend.

The horticulture world lost yet another larger-than-life figure recently with the passing of Dr. John A. A. Thomson on November 28, just 5 days after his 100th birthday. Many of you will recognize the name from the hokey SUPERthrive® advertisements. Dr. Thomson, a PhD biochemist, invented SUPERthrive® in 1939 and subsequently marketed it though his company, the Vitamin Institute. I never met Dr. Thomson in person, but can only imagine he must have been an interesting fellow.

Thomson’s ads always seemed a bit over the top, not to mention overly egotistical. The in-your-face claims, combined with his 1940s ad style just seemed out of touch with the modern day. One of my favorite claims was that Super Thrive was used during WWII to transplant mature trees to camouflage the troops. Although I’ve received a number of samples, I never got around to giving them a try…how about you? Join us on our Facebook page and share your SUPERthrive® stories. It will be interesting to see if the marketing changes with Dr. Thomson’s passing. Dr. Thomson was recognized for his contributions to horticulture by receiving The Lifetime Achievement Award from the Lawn & Garden Marketing & Distribution Association in 2006, and The Sustainable Environmental Education’s Environmental Awareness Award in 2009.

On a more regional note, one of the top plantsmen in the Memphis, Tennessee region, Plato Touliatos, passed away of cardiac arrest after a two year battle with prostate cancer. Plato Touliatos was much more than the owner of Trees by Touliatos/Nature Center and Arboretum for 50 years…he was a plantsman, businessman, and philosopher whose life was spent teaching people about the natural world. In 2009, Plato and his wife Sarah were inducted into the Tennessee Nursery and Landscape Association Hall of Fame…well deserved! Every time I found myself in Memphis, Plato was always at the top of my list of people to visit…you will be sorely missed, my friend.

Finally, the strangest of the plantsmen to pass away this month has to be North Korea’s Kim Jong Il…yes, you heard me right. The story goes back several years, when the late Dutch plant breeder Kees Sahin, who was friend of Kim’s dad, was visiting North Korea with Japanese plant breeder Motoderu Kamo. Kamo gave the elder Kim one his begonia hybrids, which was subsequently named Begonia ‘Kimjongilia’ for Kim Jong Il’s 46th birthday. Kim was so taken with the begonia, that he declared begonias the National Flower of North Korea. After supplying Kim with more begonia genetics, Kim Jong Il began what would become the largest begonia breeding project in the world. According to Kees, Kim would fly over his begonia fields in his helicopter and make his final selections from the air. At the time of Kim Jung Il’s death, there were sprawling greenhouse complexes all across North Korea, all for the purpose of housing Kim’s massive begonia collection. For international begonia shows, Kim would fly his prize begonia hybrids to the show with one person holding each begonia in the back of a cargo plane, to keep from damaging the plants. Also, according to Kees, Kim’s head begonia breeder became so renowned internationally, that Kim had him killed for upstaging the Dear Leader. As Dave Barry liked to say…I am not making this up!

I don’t know how many of you watch golf tournaments, but if you were watching the Chevron World Challenge a few weeks ago and enjoying the futility as golfers tried to cope with the high winds as they played in Southern California, those same winds were causing horrific devastation to the nearby horticulture community. On November 30, these severe tornado-like winds swept through Pasadena, California and left a devastated Huntington Botanic Garden in their wake. Although the garden buildings fared okay, the gardens lost an estimated 150 significant trees and other plants. According to reports, the Jungle garden is even more of a jungle and the subtropical hill, the North Vista, and the Camellia garden were heavily damaged. The Desert Garden fared reasonably well, with only significant damage toward the north end where limbs and plant debris abound. You can imagine what it’s like to clean up leaf and limb debris in a densely planted cactus garden…on second thought…I bet you can’t.  Curator Gary Lyons has asked for volunteers to help with the clean up. You can email him or the volunteer coordinator Mikki Heydorff.

In a final bit of news that you’ll need to know before starting to plan your spring garden, the color of the year for 2012 is Tangerine Tango. Yes, The Pantone Color Institute, the purveyors of all things color, have named Tangerine Tango as the color of the year for 2012. Folks from garden designers to fashion designers to paint manufacturers use Pantone’s color predictions in their designs. According to the folks at Pantone, “There’s a lot of homework that goes into it. But it’s also, what is it that people are needing? There are a lot of concerns out there and serious issues we are facing. Color, from a psychological standpoint, can be uplifting. We arrived at this particular orange because it’s hopeful and optimistic and also has sophistication.” I don’t know about you, but it sounds like the Pantone folks take themselves way too seriously!

Once again, we can’t thank you enough for your patronage during 2011! We’ve enjoyed our new foray on Facebook where we can share our plant passion with you as well as seeing and hearing about your successes. We hope to meet more of you on Facebook during the upcoming year as we continue to share photos of our favorite plants and gardening tips We’ll chat again in 2012! Thanks!


2008 Plant Delights Nursery October Newsletter

Greetings from PDN and we hope all is well in your garden. It’s been a challenging time since we last wrote, from Hurricane Ike to the stock market dropping like a hot potato. Our thoughts go out to the people and gardens affected by Hurricane Ike. At the Stephen F. Austin Mast Arboretum in Nacogdoches, TX, the Pineywoods section of the garden no longer has many pines or woods of any kind. The photos I’ve seen show the Arboretum stunningly devastated. Likewise, Mercer Arboretum & Botanic Gardens in Houston suffered severe damage from both wind and flooding. Moody Gardens on Galveston Island also suffered heavy damage, but has reopened. Our thoughts and prayers are with those who were adversely affected by the storm.

Outside of Hurricane Ike, this has been about as good of a late summer and fall as it gets. The temperature in most of the Southeast has been far below normal and we have had good rains leaving us 7.5″ above normal for our yearly rainfall. There are still some very dry parts of the country including areas around western NC, eastern TN, upstate SC, and south to Atlanta.

We’ve just finished our fall inventory as we crunch numbers and figure out which new and returning plants have earned the right to grace the pages of our 2009 catalog. While we’re pretty good at predicting sales numbers, we occasionally overpropagate or the catalog photo just wasn’t as good as we had hoped, so this is your chance to benefit from our errors as we clear out our overstocked plants with a 20% off sale. You can find the list of items which are on sale on our Sale Page. The sale is only valid on orders placed between now and November 2 for delivery by November 15. Enjoy.

We’d like to congratulate Raleigh Landscape Architect and PDN customer, Rodney Swink for being awarded the American Society of Landscape Architects LaGasse Medal for his leadership in management and conservancy of natural resources and public lands. Rodney is the Director of the NC Department of Commerce’s Office of Urban Development … congratulations!

In other news from the gardening world, Dr. H. Marc Cathey passed away on October 8 following a long struggle with Parkinson’s disease at age 79. Marc served two terms as president of the American Horticultural Society from 1974 to 1978 and again from 1993-1997. Marc began his studies at NC State University, with a BS in 1950, and later finished his Ph.D at Cornell. In 1956, he began his career at the USDA Agricultural Research Service in Beltsville, MD. After some pioneer work with day length and its use in forcing horticultural crops, he was promoted to Director of the US National Arboretum in 1981 where he remained until he retired from government service. During his career, Marc was the ultimate showman when it came to horticultural promotion. From the New American Garden concept to the Capitol Columns, to the 1990 USDA Hardiness Zone Map, Marc was unquestionably a marketing genius. With his flamboyant personality, Las Vegas style, and oversized ego, you either loved or hated Marc, but without question he tirelessly promoted gardening until the end. If I see you at the bar one night, we’ll share more Marc stories.

If you live in the Research Triangle region of NC, and have an area you’d like to clear of unwanted vegetation, there is help available in the form of the goat patrol. Having used goats here at PDN when we first purchased the property, I can attest both to their effectiveness and their entertainment value. Anyway, if you’d like something with a little more personality than a weedtrimmer, go for it.

Last month I mentioned our Taiwan expedition log was coming, but it took a bit longer than expected to get the 400 images posted.

Visitors to our garden in October are constantly amazed at the fall show of color … other than garden mums. As gardeners, we miss such an opportunity when we don’t take advantage of the great plants that enjoy strutting their stuff this time of year.

This has been an especially great year for dahlias. Typically, dahlias flower in spring and slow down during the heat of summer. Since dahlias prefer cool nights, we get our best flowering of the season when fall rolls around. We are particularly enamored with the dark foliaged types, of which many new cultivars have been recently released, most from European breeding programs. We’re constantly asked about winter hardiness, and in our region of NC, dahlias are reliable when left in the ground over the winter. Based on our experience, it should be fine to leave dahlias in the ground in regions which only hit 0 degrees F for short periods. Since dahlias are tubers, there is no problem planting them in the fall. D. ‘Party’ and D. ‘Flame’ are personal favorites, but then I like my plants a little on the tacky side.

Without question, one of the other great plant groups for fall is salvia. Salvia greggii is actually a woody subshrub that we treat as a perennial. Like dahlias, they start flowering in spring, but their real show comes in fall as the nights cool. Other salvia species with the same traits include the US native Salvia farinacea and the South American Salvia guaranitica. I do not recommend planting them in fall if you are in the same zone of their maximum hardiness. In other words, don’t plant a Zone 7 salvia in the fall while living in Zone 7 … fine in Zone 8, etc. Another group of salvias are those that only flower in fall, triggered by shortening day length. These include the giant yellow-flowering Salvia madrensis, the tall blue-spiked S. ‘Blue Chiquita’, the tall Salvia leucantha and Salvia puberula, and the bright red-orange Salvia regla.

Not only are there good salvias for fall, but there are good salvia relatives that are easy to miss because they were kicked out of the genus salvia for alternative sexual habits. These include rabdosia, perovskia, rostrinucula, leonotis, and lepechinia. Rabdosia longituba is the one of the five that must have shade … no sun or it’ll burn like a blue-eyed blonde. For us, rabdosia comes into flower from late September to mid-October with hundred of tiny blue flowers. It reseeds politely, so plant accordingly. Rostrinucula is unquestionably one of my favorite fall-flowering plants and one I would not garden without. From the ground, it resprouts in spring to reach 4′ tall, and starting in late August, it flowers into November, covered with long, pendent terminal catkins of lavender that open at the top and progress downward while the catkin extends. It’s one of those cool plants that just makes you smile. Lepechinia hastata is the crown jewel of the genus and looks like a 5′ tall salvia. The menthol-fragranced leaves serve as a nice foil to the tall spikes of mauvy lavender flowers that last from late August until frost. Lepechinia is particularly drought and heat tolerant as well as being a favorite of hummingbirds. Leonotis is known in some gardening circles, but virtually unknown in others. Here in our part of NC, we are at the northern end of hardiness range for this gem. Leonotis is just coming into full flower with tall spikes of bright orange flower balls. There isn’t much unknown about perovskia, but after being the ‘flavor of the month’ for years as a staple of ‘The New American Garden,’ its availability has waned in recent years as growers moved on to other new introductions. Despite not getting the headlines it used to, it is still one of the stalwarts for hot, dry gardens. As is the case with most of these genera, drought tolerance isn’t an issue once the plants are established.

The cyclamen, in particular C. hederifolium, have just outdone themselves this year. As always, they start flowering for us in July and continue non-stop into fall. Early on, we had little success with them until we learned they need to be planted where they will be dry in the summer months, simulating their Mediterranean upbringing. We look for areas we can’t keep wet in the summer, despite irrigation, and plant them there. Areas near water-hogging trees and shrubs are perfect … as long as they aren’t completely dark. We find light shade to several hours of sun is perfect. These are great to plant now, since they continue to grow through the winter.

We all recognize the toad lilies as being great fall bloomers for the woodland garden, and I hope you have explored some of the newer and lesser known members of the genus. Most folks start with the axillary-flowering Tricyrtis hirta, which is still one of the best in the genus. Another of the purple-flowering species is the stoloniferous Tricyrtis formosana, which is less hardy, but flowers terminally for a much longer time in late summer. There are also a number of hybrids between T. formosana and T. hirta including T. ‘Imperial Banner’, and T. ‘Sinonome’. In addition to the great variegated foliage, our clumps of T. ‘Imperial Banner’ are simply stunning in flower this fall.

Many folks grow red hot pokers, but most of the common species and cultivars are either spring or summer growers. Kniphofia rooperi is one of the few exceptions, as it starts flowering in late August to early September and is still in flower. I particularly like the flower heads, which are shorter, but much wider than the spring flowering species. If you haven’t grown this great plant, and like pokers, I think you will find it outstanding.

You don’t normally think of coreopsis for flowering in the fall, but southeast US natives, C. helianthoides and C. integrifolia are simply stunning this time of year. Both species are spreading plants, native to wet soils, yet both are amazing garden specimens in the driest garden spots. We’re currently sold out of C. integrifolia, but put this on your list for spring.

We all know ornamental grasses are stalwarts of the fall garden, but few can hold a candle to Muhlenbergia capillaris ‘White Cloud’. Unfortunately this gem comes into flower about four weeks after our fall open house, so visitors don’t get to see it in person. The 4′ tall x 4′ wide clumps of this great native are topped now with airy plumes of white flowers. The other favorite fall bloomer is the giant sugar cane, Saccharum arundinaceum. This grass is not for the faint of heart with its 12′ plumes of lavender, opening in mid-October.

In the Top 25 this month, there were no new moves into the top 30, although Aloe polyphylla, Agave ‘Creme Brulee’, Anisacanthus wrightii, and Clematis ‘Stolwijk Gold’ lurk close behind. Euphorbia ‘Nothowlee’ continues its climb upward, moving into the 3rd position, where it will need a huge leap to overtake either of the top 2 by year’s end. The lovely and talented Salvia chamaedryoides moves into 7th place, while Tiarella ‘Pink Skyrocket’ also cracks the Top 10. It is amazing to be this close to the end of the season and still find 3 agaves in the Top 10 and 6 in the top 30. Gaillardia ‘Fanfare’ has made a late season move, jumping from 20th to 15th, but no other significant moves took place. We hope your choices have put you in place to win our $250 Plant Delights gift certificate.

We hope you enjoy your garden this fall season as much as we do ours. For a little solace from the constant barrage of 24/7 media, remember, there’s no place like a garden. From the bottom of our hearts, we thank you for your continued support and hope to see you soon!

Please direct all replies and questions to

Thanks and enjoy


2003 Plant Delights Nursery January Newsletter

January is off to a roaring start in many ways as orders begin rolling in. So far, we aren’t sold out of any catalog items, but unexpected strong demand on a few items will soon result in some sold out postings. Remember that when you pay for your plants, they are reserved for you until you want them shipped (or your climate allows). The only exception would occur if the plants that we have set aside for you fail to survive until this time (which rarely occurs).

Weatherwise, it’s been a hard winter, but good from a perspective of being consistently cold. We have had lows of only 10 degrees F, but we’ve seen damage on plants that have been unaffected by lower temperatures in previous years. Surprisingly, plants that we expected to see damaged have so far been unaffected.

January was a busy travel month with trips ranging from Hawaii to Maine. Having the good fortune to meet a Colocasia breeder in Hawaii, we have signed an agreement to trial many of his new cultivars here on the NC mainland. We are thrilled to have this opportunity to work towards introducing some fantastic new cultivars for the ornamental world. (See our Plant Exploration Log section for a detailed summary of the Hawaii trip.)

As a climatic contrast from Hawaii, Maine was cold! This is the first time that I’ve seen ice sculptures used as yard ornaments instead of as hotel salad bar decorations. The nice folks in Maine presented me with a copy of the famous McLaughlin Garden Nude Calendar. Even Ms. November and Mr. February were kind enough to autograph their respective months.

From Maine to Florida in the same week was another vivid contrast in climates, although Tallahassee hit a decade breaking low of 14 degrees F while I was there. Many parts of Florida have been experiencing a bad case of zone creep as evidenced by the large, but very dead Livistona palms planted around town. One of the many highlights of the trip was a chance to spend two days in the wild studying trilliums and other wildflowers with botanists Melanie Darst and Angus Gholson.

I’d like to also express our condolences for two recent disasters that affected the horticultural community. First the explosion of the Space Shuttle Columbia over Texas inpacted our friends in the plant world. Not only are our wishes with the families of the crew, but also with Dr. Dave Creech, Director of the SFASU Mast Arboretum in Nacogdoches, Texas. According to Dr. Creech, the garden is strewn with hundreds of pieces of shuttle debris including some that are quite unimaginable. I imagine that working at the Arboretum will never be the same.

Our thoughts also go out to our friends Barry Yinger and Andy Wong of Asiatica in Pennsylvania. Barry has long been a great source of new Asian plant introductions as well as a great source of information. While Barry was traveling in the far reaches of the world, his home and office exploded in a devastating fire that destroyed everything except for a distant greenhouse. Fortunately no one was injured, but the task of rebuilding his home along with his massive horticultural library, slide collection, and other personal effects must indeed be daunting.

So, did you make a top 25 prediction list like we suggested? Remember that next year, we will hold an official contest, so practice this year. As of the end of January, the top 20 list looked like this:

1. Heucherella ‘Sunspot’ PPAF, EUPVR
2. Tiarella ‘Pink Skyrocket’ PPAF PVR
3. Lilium formosanum
4. Athyrium niponicum ‘Burgundy Lace’ PPAF, PVR
5. Hippeastrum ‘Ackermanii’
6. Alcea rugosa
7. Colocasia esculenta ‘Black Runner’
8. Amorphophallus titanum
9. Athyrium filix-femina ‘Frizelliae’
10. Disporum ‘White Lightning’
11. Polygonatum kingianum Orange Flower Form
12. Yucca rostrata
13. Coreopsis ‘Limerock Ruby’ PPAF
14. Muhlenbergia capillaris
15. Acanthus ‘Summer Beauty’
16. Juncus effusus ‘Blonde Ambition’
17. Alocasia wentii
18. Disporum flavens
19. Perovskia atriplicifolia ‘Filigran’
20. Geranium ‘Anne Thomson’