We caught the Nessus Sphinx moth feasting on a patch of phlox this spring. Remember that garden diversity brings more fascinating pollinators into the garden.
One of many exciting new introductions for 2022 is Phlox divaricata ‘Blue Ribbons’ PPAF. This variegated version of our wonderful native woodland phlox was discovered here as a single sport in our garden by our plant taxonomist, Zac Hill. Instead of being all green, each leaf is edged with a wide creamy border and flushed with pink during the colder months. In early spring, the entire clumps are topped with sweetly fragrant blue flowers. We think Phlox ‘Blue Ribbons’ is an incredible design addition for the woodland garden. Hardiness is Zone 3-8. The new catalog, with this and many other amazing gems, goes on-line in 2 weeks!
Two of our favorite upright phlox are from the fashionably early series from Walters Gardens. These both derive from another of our favorites, Phlox ‘Minnie Pearl’. Here they are in the garden this week, with never a sign of mildew.
There are several tiny rock garden-sized phlox, bred in the EU, and sold by specialist nurseries as forms of the Western US native, Phlox douglasii. The only problem is that Phlox douglasii isn’t really growable much outside climates similar to its native haunts. Phlox expert Charles Oliver determined these are actually hybrids between Phlox douglasii and the East Coast native Phlox subulata. This week, one of those hybrids, Phlox ‘Ochsen Blut’ is ravishing, and thriving in our crevice garden. The name, which translates to Ox Blood, indicates that the breeder most likely doesn’t have any training in marketing.
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.
Plants and More Plants
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Rain or Shine!
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/.
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:
- Alien Species Reconsidered: Finding a Value in Non-Natives
- Invasive Plants Can Create Positive Ecological Change
Sign Up for Close-Up Photography Workshop and Garden Walks
We 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
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!
-tony and anita
One of the reason we are so passionate about plant trialing is that we can avoid offering plants like this phlox. This is Purple Eye Flame phlox taken in our gardens this week, part of the Bar Series from the Netherlands. While many of the phlox from this “disease resistant” series are excellent, others leave a bit to be desired when it comes to things like mildew resistance. Often these plants perform well in the breeders’ climate, but not so well in other parts of the world. While it will never be possible to adequate trial all plants in each ecological region, more trials are always better than less.
PDN Fall Nursery News
We hope you’ve received your copy of the Fall 2014 Plant Delights Nursery catalog. Kudos to our graphic designer Shari Sasser at Sasser Studios for the catalog redesign and new look. Among other things, the fall catalog includes three new aucubas, six new crinum lilies, and twenty new fern offerings. These are a fraction of the many exciting new plants you’ll find either in the print version or online.
It’s always interesting for us to see what sells and what doesn’t. Top sellers from the fall catalog so far include, Adiantum venustum, Agapanthus ‘White Heaven’, Agave ‘Huasteca Giant’, Agave ‘Shadow Dancer’, Alstroemeria ‘Koice’, Aster ‘Fanny’, Begonia ‘Pewterware’, Bouvardia ‘Scarlet Hummer’, Canna ‘Pacific Beauty’, Dryopteris erythrosora v. prolifica, Echinacea ‘Fatal Attraction’, Epimedium ‘Domino’, Eucalyptus neglecta, Heuchera ‘Citronelle’, Hibiscus ‘Kopper King’, Hibiscus ‘Midnight Marvel’, Hosta ‘Orange Marmalade’, Juniperus conferta ‘All Gold’, Lespedeza ‘White Fountain’, Ligularia ‘Chinese Dragon’, Lilium formosanum Giant form, Oxalis ‘Francis’, Patrinia scabiosifolia, Phlox ‘Peppermint Twist’, Ruellia ‘Black Beauty’, Salvia greggii ‘Teresa’, and Salvia ‘Golden Girl’.
On the other end of the scale, plants which will be severely disciplined for not selling to this point include Aspidistra crispa ‘Golden Freckles’, Aucuba ‘Sagama’, Begonia henryi,Buddleia ‘Blue Chip Jr.’, Buddleia ‘Pink Micro Chip’, Choisya ‘Limo’, Crinum x digweedii ‘Mermaid’, Harpochloa falx, Lycoris x jacksoniana ‘Caldwell’s Rose’, Ophiopogon ‘Tuff Tuft Lavender’, Taxus bacatta ‘Aurescens Nana’, and Trismeria trifoliata. We know how well these plants perform, and how hard they auditioned just to earn a spot in the catalog. We really hope you’ll save these gems from the whips and chains of our growing staff and give ’em a try!
October Photography Class with Josh Taylor
Saturday, Oct. 11, 2014, 8am–4pm
Garden Photography – Photo Capture and Processing with Josh Taylor
Learn how to get the best possible images from your camera and how to process your images in Lightroom with Photoshop/Photoshop Elements.
The morning focus of this all-day workshop will be on learning and getting reacquainted with your camera ISO settings, histogram, exposure compensation, shooting modes, bracketing, white balance, etc. You’ll spend 3 hours in the garden with your camera and the instructor.
The afternoon session will be devoted to post-processing with Lightroom using participants’ images for demonstrations. Register hereor call to register at 919-772-4794. See some examples of Josh’s work on his website: www.joshuataylorphotography.com.
Sweden & Germany 2014 Expedition Log
We’ve finally finished the online version of Tony’s expedition log from his trip to Germany and Sweden this spring…lots of cool plants, great gardens, and amazing people. If you’d like to travel along, enjoy the trek here.
Last Open Nursery and Garden Days for 2014 are Sept. 19-21
This weekend, we’re putting the wraps on our final open nursery and garden days for 2014, so we hope you can make the trip to Plant Delights Nursery and Juniper Level Botanic Garden to share the splendor of the fall gardens. Not only is there lots to see here in September, but our muscadine grape trials are ripe, so you can sample each variety while you’re here…or park your spouse under the grapevines to keep them from pestering you while you peruse the gardens and shop.
2015 Open Nursery and Garden Dates
February 27 – March 1
March 6 – 8
May 1 – 3
May 8 – 10
July 10 – 12
July 17 – 19
September 11 – 13
September 18 – 20
Fridays/Saturdays 8a-5p and Sundays 1-5p
Rain or Shine! Free Parking
Click for more info
Fall is a fabulous time to plant!
In most parts of the country, it’s a fabulous time to plant…everything except agaves, echinaceas, bananas, and elephant ears (from Zone 7b north). North of us, just don’t plant anything marginally hardy in your zone as your first frost approaches and, in climates where the ground freezes in winter, allow enough time to get the roots anchored to keep the plants from heaving out of the ground.
Four months ago, we posted photos of our new four seasons garden that we’d just installed near our retail greenhouses. This section of the garden is now 16 weeks old, so we’d love for you to see what it looks like now and see how much it’s grown…a great demonstration why good organic soil preparation is so important and how much plants will grow when they’re properly cared for.
Nursery Industry News
PDN kudos to Plant Delights customer Allen Lacy, the founder and chief weed puller at the new Linwood Arboretum. Allen received some great publicity recently in an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer that we’d like to share.
We were also glad to see a recent article about our friend, the late Logan Calhoun, that just appeared in the Dallas News. Logan was a Plant Delights customer who shared many special plants that we still offer today…fifteen years after his untimely death.
In other news from the nursery world, Q&Z Nursery of Rochelle, Illinois, a major wholesale hosta tissue culture lab, is closing its doors. Although very disappointing, I can’t say I’m surprised. Q&Z, which has operated for 22 years since splitting from its former retail division T&Z, chose its market niche to be a hosta liner supplier to small mom and pop backyard nurseries.
They did this by offering a huge selection of new hostas (over 400 of their own introductions), without much, if any, in-ground evaluation, introducing seemingly every mutation that they found in the lab. If they tissue cultured a variegated hosta and it mutated back green, they would name and introduce the plant, knowing these small nurseries were usually more interested in having new hosta names in their catalog than having the best new hostas. This business model cost them the business of larger, more discriminating retailers, especially because they rarely had good photography of mature clumps of their new introductions…the single most important factor in properly introducing a new plant. Still, a few of their hostas turned out to be good plants that had staying power, including Hosta ‘Diamond Tiara’, ‘Pineapple Upside-down Cake’, Hosta ‘Radiant Edger’, Hosta ‘Sugar and Cream’, Hosta ‘Sugar and Spice’, Hosta ‘Summer Breeze’, ‘Summer Lovin’, and Hosta ‘Victory’.
Once the economy tanked, it took many of the smaller nurseries with it, making it even more difficult for such a business model to be sustainable. The founder/owner, Mark Zilis, is one of the most knowledgeable folks in the hosta world, as witnessed by his landmark hosta book, The Hostapaedia, which you can currently still purchase on the Q&Z website.
We’d like to publicly thank Mark and his staff for their contributions to the world of hostas, and wish them the best in their future endeavors.
Garden Director Needed
In local news, one of our neighboring botanic gardens is in need of a new director. Dr. Peter White, director of the NC Botanical Garden, is stepping down to return to teaching and writing, so the garden is in need of a new director. Interested? If so, you can find out more here.
Wedding Anniversary Flowers
Do you struggle with what to get that special gardener in your family? Consider giving a wedding anniversary flower. Not only are there designated precious stones to celebrate wedding anniversaries, but there are designated plants. The list below suggests what you might present plantwise.
- 1st Carnation
- 2nd Lily of the Valley
- 3rd Sunflower
- 4th Hydrangea
- 5th Daisy
- 6th Calla
- 7th Freesia
- 8th Lilac
- 9th Bird of paradise
- 10th Daffodil
- 11th Tulip
- 12th Peony
- 13th Chrysanthemum
- 14th Dahlia
- 15th Rose
- 20th Aster
- 25th Iris
- 28th Orchid
- 30th Lily
- 40th Gladiolus
- 50th Yellow rose, violet
- Source: Wikipedia
We try to share important life events from the horticultural world, but here’s one we missed. Ken Durio, 84, founder and president of the infamous Louisiana Nursery passed away last fall on October 28. I say infamous because Louisiana Nursery, was always the topic of customer stories whenever plant people gathered to discuss their new acquisitions. From the 1960s through the 1990s, if you wanted a rare plant…especially a woody plant, there were few sources other than Louisiana Nursery of Opelousas, Louisiana.
While Louisiana Nursery listed virtually every plant you could imagine, to the tune of 5,000 listings in their prime, the quality of the plants you received, combined with the extravagant prices and their less than stellar customer service, made it a major frustration for most consumers. I’ll never forget ordering their $5 catalog in the late 1980s only to get a return note asking which of their 12 catalogs I wanted…at $5 each…the iris catalog, the hemerocallis catalog, the magnolia catalog, etc.
Ken Durio was an avid and knowledgeable plantsman who started Louisiana Nursery soon after graduating from LSU in 1950. Although it seems hard to imagine today, back in the 1950s and 1960s, Louisiana was one of the epicenters of plant exploration and introduction in the US.
By the 1980s, Ken Durio had developed a reputation as one of the most ornery and curmudgeonly nurserymen in the country, which is why, when I was asked to speak in Baton Rouge in 1996, I told them I would only come if they’d take me to meet the infamous Ken Durio. After trying to talk me out of it, they reluctantly relented and off we went. Despite many tales of people being run off the nursery for no apparent reason, I found Ken both welcoming, hospitable, and glad to chat plants. By this time, however, the nursery had become quite run down as sales had dramatically declined. Louisiana Nursery (no relation to the garden center, Louisiana Nursery.com) became a victim of the Internet, as gardeners were now able to find better quality plants cheaper and without so much hassle.
No matter what you thought of their business, their plant collections and breeding efforts in groups like iris, daylilies, magnolias, and figs were truly remarkable. One of Ken’s surviving sons, Dalton, recently returned home to take care of his dad in the last stages of life and is currently trying to resurrect the nursery. Fingers crossed for a successful re-launch. You can watch his progress at www.durionursery.biz.
Until next month, join us on the Plant Delights blog , where you can sign up and follow our regular posts from the nursery and garden.
-tony and anita
Here’s a new photo of Phlox paniculata ‘Dunbar Creek’ that’s looking particularly good in the garden right now. I love the recurved petals and lack of mildew.
Greetings and Happy Spring!
The Perfect Storm
As we mentioned in an earlier email, we experienced the perfect storm of events which impacted our order processing and shipping operations this spring. The combination of delayed ordering due to the long winter, a nearly universal demand for plants to be shipped in May, and the poorly-designed e-commerce system we purchased in December have created an operational and shipping nightmare. The entire company is working in crisis mode and we are burning the midnight oil to fulfill orders and work through the issues.
We know these delays are unacceptable to you and they are unacceptable to us as business owners. We appreciate your patience and your notes of support as we work to ship the orders that were delayed.
Despite seeming like spring has only just begun, we’re actually only a few weeks from the official start of summer. Rains have been steady so far this year, although our recent May rain of 5.17 inches was a bit more than we would have preferred for a single weather event. Fingers crossed for a great gardening summer in most parts of the country, although our thoughts are with those in the already drought stricken areas like California, Texas, and Oklahoma.
Spring open garden and nursery days were well attended and it was wonderful meeting so many folks, including visitors from as far away as California. It’s always great to put faces with the names that we’ve previously met only on social media. Because our growing season was two weeks later than normal, visitors were able to see different plants than they normally see in spring, including peak bloom on many of the early peonies. At least it was dry during open garden and nursery, which is always a relief.
Weathering the Winter in JLBG
In the last couple of weeks, the agaves here at Juniper Level B.G. have awoken from their winter slumber with seven species so far sending up flower spikes. It looks like we’ll be breaking out the tall ladders for some high-wire sexual liaisons before long. We didn’t get great seed set on last year’s century plant breeding, but the highlights of the successful crosses were hybrids of Agave victoriae-reginae and Agave americana ssp. protamericana which we expect will turn out to be quite interesting. Although only six months old, we can already tell they’re truly unique.
We continue to watch as plants in the garden recover from the severe winter. Most of the cycads (sago palms) we cut back have resprouted, with a few still to begin. So far, the only sure loss from that group was a several year old Dioon merolae. Most of our palms came through the winter okay, except for those in an out-lying low part of the garden, where damage to windmill palms was quite severe.
Many of the butia, or jelly palms, we thought survived have now declined to a brown pile of branches. We’re not giving up quite yet, as one Butia x Jubaea that we thought was a goner when the spear pulled (a term for the newly emerging leaves rotting so that they easily pull out of the top) has just begun to reflush.
Bananas have been slow to return for many customers, including the very hardy Musa basjoo. It seems that gardeners in colder zones who mulched their bananas have plants which are growing now. Perhaps this past winter will put a damper on the mail order nurseries who continue to list plants like Musa basjoo as hardy to Zone 4 and 5, (-20 to -30 degrees F), which is pure insanity.
We are grateful Tony had the opportunity to speak recently at the relatively new Paul J. Ciener Botanic Garden in Kernersville, NC. This small botanic garden is truly delightful, and the staff, including former JLBG curator Adrienne Roethling, have done a great job in the first phase of their development. We hope you’ll drop by if you’re heading through NC on Interstate 40.
Tony also spoke in Memphis last month, and then he headed into the Ozarks for some botanizing in northwest Arkansas. He had an amazing several days that resulted in finds like a stoloniferous form of Viola pedata, several trilliums he’d never seen before, and a new clematis species that’s still waiting to be named. We’ve posted some photos from the trip on our blog.
We both love to share our plant passion with you on the PDN blog and our social media sites. We originally posted only on Facebook, then Google+, Twitter, Pinterest and LinkedIn, so we created a PDN Blog as our main social media platform. Tony uses the blog to share his perspectives with you about the plant and gardening world as he sees it. The PDN blog, in turn, propagates his posts to Facebook, Google+, and Twitter and allows him to get back out in the garden and greenhouses where he finds meaningful content to share with you!
Anita manages the Juniper Level Botanic Garden website and the JLBG page at Facebook, along with the PDN and JLBG pages at Pinterest and LinkedIn. Thus far, the only issue we seem to have with social media is when the blog sends our posts to other social media sites, FB and Google+ remove the links to the plants, as well as some of the post. We have no ability to control or change this, and FB’s customer service is as responsive as asking a flat tire to change itself. Hopefully, one day we’ll discover a way to work around this challenge.
Suspending Web Ordering for Inventory June 17-18
Please note we will be closed to take plant inventory in the greenhouses on the above dates. This will require us to empty all shopping carts and suspend website ordering from 12:01am EDT on June 17 through 6:00pm EDT on June 18 in order to obtain accurate inventory numbers. We apologize for any inconvenience during inventory in June and October each year.
Taxonomy and Nomenclature
Longtime readers know Tony’s fascination with plant taxonomy and nomenclature. He always assumed plant naming and renaming had to do with science and taxonomy, but it seems that politics and nationalism are also at play. A recent example is the genus acacia, a member of the Mimosa family. It was determined in 2005 from DNA analysis that acacias from Africa and acacias from Australia were genetically different enough that they were not actually the same genus. Since the original type specimen, named by Linnaeus in 1773, was from Africa, the acacias in Australia were changed to racosperma.
What should have been cut and dried got hijacked when Australia protested, arguing that since they had so many more acacias than Africa (960 vs. 160), it would be too disruptive to change the Australian plants so Australia should get to keep the genus acacia, and a new type specimen (a replacement for the original African standard) should be declared as being from Australia. Follow me here…this would require the original African acacias to be renamed.
As it turned out, even the African acacias weren’t really all the same genus either, so they would then need to be divided anyway. This probably wouldn’t have garnered much in the way of horticultural headlines were it not for the fact that acacias are iconic cultural trees for both cultures. The result was a six-year heavyweight taxonomic and political rumble, the likes of which had never been seen before in the botanical world.
In 2005, the International Botanical Congress voted to officially give the name acacia to Australia. Africa vehemently protested, and accused the committee of stealing African Intellectual Property rights. In 2011, the International Botanical Congress, in a split decision, re-affirmed leaving Australia with the rights to acacia, and handing a still-steaming African delegation two new genera, vachellia (69 species) and senegalia (73 species), which taxonomist are still sorting out to this day. And you though taxonomy was boring!
In a recent discovery, scientists found bumblebees use electrical signals to determine which flowers have more nectar, allowing them to forage for pollen more efficiently. Bees build up positive electrical charges as they fly, which helps the pollen stick to them as they land on the flowers. Scientist found that this electrical charge is transferred to the flowers when they land to feed. Subsequent bees pick up on this electrical charge, telling the bee which flowers have already been foraged so they don’t waste their energy where little pollen will likely remain. This use of electrical signals had previously been documented in sharks, but not in insects. This fascinating research was first published in the February 21, 2013 issue of Nature magazine.
Industry mergers are back in the news this month as the 1,000,000 square foot Kentucky wholesaler Color Point (74th largest in the US) has signed a letter of intent to purchase the 3,500,000 million square foot Mid-American Growers of Illinois, which ranks number 13. Interestingly, both nurseries are owned by siblings…the two youngest sons of the famed Van Wingerden greenhouse family, who made their fortunes supplying plants to the mass market box stores.
In sad news from the gardening world, UK plantsman Adrian Bloom of Blooms of Bressingham shared the news that his wife of 48 years, Rosemary, has been diagnosed with advanced terminal cancer, falling ill after returning from a Swiss skiing trip in March. Adrian underwent prostate cancer treatment back in 2011. Please join us in sending thoughts and prayers to the Bloom family.
2014 Summer Open Nursery and Garden Days
Mark your calendar for July Summer Open Nursery and Garden Days. We’ll have the cooling mister running full blast to keep you cool while you shop for colorful and fragrant perennials for your summer garden. And of course, the greenhouses will be full of many cool plants, including echinaceas, salvias, phlox, cannas, dahlias, crinum lilies, and lots of unique ferns. JLBG is especially lush and green during the summer so come and walk the shady paths of the Woodland Garden, or cool off at the Grotto Waterfall Garden and Mystic Falls Garden. It’s always great to see you and meet you in person and to reunite with our long-time customers and friends.
Days: July 11-13 and July 18-20 Rain or Shine!
Times: Fridays and Saturdays 8a-5p, Sundays 1-5p
Southeast Palm Society at PDN/JLNG on August 9th
Just a reminder that we will be hosting the summer meeting of the Southeast Palm Society at Plant Delights Nursery/Juniper Level Botanic Garden on Saturday August 9, 2014. You are welcome to attend but you will need to register in advance by July 1, 2014. You will find the details here.
Soothing Stress in the Garden
As crazy as things have been in the nursery, the botanic garden here at Juniper Level provides a paradoxically exciting calmness. As a stress reliever, as well as a passion, we spend as much evening and weekend time as possible in the gardens viewing the amazing plants and plant combinations through the lens of our cameras. We each see the garden differently, so Anita shares her photos on the JLBG Facebook page and her Google+ profile, and Tony shares his photos on the PDN blog.
In addition to the sensory beauty and serenity of gardens large or small, researchers worldwide have documented the positive and calming benefits to the human nervous system of spending time in the garden. So relax, refresh, and restore your natural state of balance and calm by spending time in your favorite garden spot.
Until next time, happy gardening!
-tony and anita
The native Phlox ‘Minnie Pearl’ has been simply incredible in the garden this spring…in bloom for weeks already and still looking great. Phlox ‘Minnie Pearl’ is the first to flower of the upright phlox, and in our trials has never shown any sign of mildew. You’ve never grown a phlox like this.
I’ve never encountered the likes of phlox like we saw in the Ozarks. Our first stop had three species of phlox growing together in a flood plain, Phlox paniculata, Phlox divaricata, and Phlox pilosa…which doesn’t look anything like Phlox pilosa I’ve seen in other regions. I appears that all the phlox integrade, as many plants there appeared to be hybrids among the many species. Truly, a fascinating conundrum.
It’s been quite a spring so far…very cool for much longer than usual…at least until early April. Plant emergence was far behind recent springs when, out of nowhere, temperatures rose in the 80s for ten days and the garden sprung to life. The subsequent late April temperature cool down, however, kept plant development about 1-2 weeks behind recent springs. Because of the sudden warm-up we experienced in early April, many smaller perennials will wilt despite the soil still being moist. As a gardener, this drives me a bit mad, but you have to realize the plants will adjust their stomatal openings (breathing holes) and be fine once they acclimate to the new temperature regimen, which usually only takes a couple of days.
One of the garden tasks that need attention in spring is assessing the amount of shade in your woodland garden. Spring is a great time to take stock of your woodland perennials, who will tell you if they are unhappy with the amount of light they are receiving. They won’t tell you via email or through their union reps, so you have to tune in and observe. If your plants seem to be going backwards in vigor or size…they used to flower but they no longer do so, you need to stop and figure out why. In almost all cases, spring ephemerals suffer a gradual decline in the woodland garden. Hostas that get smaller, trilliums that no longer flower and other woodland perennials that simply aren’t as vigorous as they once were are a sign of trouble. There are a number of potential culprits, from voles to a lack of summer moisture, but the cause that I see more than any other is an increase in the amount of shade.
Most shade plants need some light. In the case of spring ephemerals (plants that go through their entire life cycle in late winter/early spring), they need light during the short window of time before the trees develop their leaves. If you try growing spring ephemerals under evergreens, the results are usually not good. If all you have are evergreen trees and shrubs as an overstory, you can still help the situation by thinning out or removing selected limbs until you see rays of light reaching the plants below. Even plantings under deciduous trees can decline if the overstory isn’t selectively thinned on at least an annual basis. Now is a great time to monitor the perennials in your shade garden and determine which limbs need to be either removed or thinned, so get the hand pruners and pole saw ready. If you do this early enough in the year, plants can recover in only one season.
As most of you know, we are rapidly approaching our Spring Open House, May 3-5 and May 10-12. This a very special open house for us as it marks our 25th year in existence. Plant Delights and the gardens here at Juniper Level have come a long way since 1988, and we hope you will join us to celebrate this very special occasion. All of this would never have been possible without your tremendous support and for that, we can’t thank you enough. The dates for this and future open nursery and garden dates can be found at here.
The gardens here at Juniper Level look amazing thanks to garden curator, Todd Wiegardt, and his amazing staff and volunteers. I’m writing this from the garden patio where the evening aromas are in stronger than a Willie Nelson tour bus…from phlox to michellias (banana shrubs), to chionanthus and amorphophallus…there’s an aroma for everyone. Although the garden is perfumed all day, many of the best fragrances occur in late afternoon, so schedule your visit accordingly. If you’re attending open house for the first time, plan to be a bit overwhelmed. With over 20,000 different plants in the garden, it’s impossible to even begin to see everything in one trip. Heck, even I find new plants every day that I’ve forgotten. Our horticulture staff is stationed throughout the garden and nursery to answer any of your gardening questions, so don’t hesitate to ask anything that comes to mind as you stroll through the acres of gardens.
We also still have some room in our close-up photography class which takes place during the first Saturday of our open house. We are fortunate to have Josh Taylor, of Maryland, who also teaches photography at the Smithsonian, here to lead the class. You can sign up online here.
Strangely, we also have room remaining in our June propagation class for the first time in over 20 years. Again, don’t hesitate if you’d like one of the last spots.
Spring has been too busy for much traveling, but a recent 4-talk speaking trip through Tennessee, Virginia, and North Carolina did provide a bit of time for some spring botanizing. The highlight of the trip was the chance to see the recently discovered and soon-to-be named Trillium tennesseense….see the image we posted on the Trillium facebook page. Lots of other gems along the way, too numerous to mention here.
In the “in case you missed it file” this month, scientists have discovered that some plant nectar comes laced with caffeine, which enhances the Pavlovian response of garden pollinators. A bevy of bees in your garden may be, in fact, more like a line of latte-lovers standing in line at Starbucks than we ever realized. This adds to the stack of mounting evidence of how plants manipulate animals for mutual benefit. Although this relationship has been know for years using nectar sugars, this is a first for plants resorting to psychoactive drugs to lure suitors. These results come from honeybee expert, Geraldine Wright, of England’s Newcastle University, as an offshoot of her research to study human abused drugs.
Nursery News and Happenin’s
A recent shocker in the horticulture world was the fatal heart attack of Glasshouse Works co-founder, Tom Winn, age 67, on March 8. Tom is survived by his long-time partner, Ken Frieling. In 1985, Tom and Ken created one of the world’s finest sources of rare plants…primarily tropicals. Around 1990, when we were getting Plant Delights started, Glasshouse Works was one of my favorite places to visit, both to acquire plants, and also to learn about the mail order nursery business. Their display gardens were small, but packed with an incredible array of rare plants which served as an inspiration for our own gardens at Plant Delights. Tom was the front man for the nursery while Ken worked behind the scenes, so I know his life will be completely turned upside down. Our thoughts are with Ken and he continues to manage the nursery and deal with his loss. You can share a memory, a note of condolence or sign the online register book.
I also just heard from Jacque Wrinkle, that her husband, Guy Wrinkle, passed away April 20. Almost all collectors of cycads, caudiciforms (plants with swollen bases), or unusual bulbs have heard of or dealt with Guy and his mail order nursery, Guy Wrinkle’s Rare Exotics in Vista, California. I purchased my Trachycarpus takil from Guy in the mid-1990s and recently found it to be one of the few true Trachycarpus takil on the entire East Coast. We would later trade variegated agaves even before we finally met in person at the fall 2009 Agave summit in California. Guy retired from his career a biology professor in fall 2007 to devote more time to his love of plants.Unfortunately, he was diagnosed in 2009 with brain cancer, a condition he battled successfully until a new, more aggressive cancer recently proved too much to overcome. You can find one of Guy’s many articles online at Rare Exotics. Our thoughts are with his wife Jacque during this difficult time.
We recently also mourned the death of NC Botanical Garden founding director (1961-1986), Dr. Ritchie Bell, at the ripe age of 91. I was fortunate to have known Ritchie since the mid-1970s when he was a lone voice for the growing and propagating of native plants. I was greatly influenced by Ritchie’s philosophy of “Conservation through Propagation” which, unfortunately has now been largely abandoned by the garden he founded. Ritchie was also known as the author of several fabulous books; “Manual of the Vascular Flora of the Carolinas” (1968, co-authored with Albert Radford and Harry Ahles), “Wildflowers of North Carolina” (1968, co-authored with William Justice), “Florida Wild Flowers and Roadside Plants” (1980, co-authored with Bryan Taylor), “Fall Color and Woodland Harvests of the Eastern Forests” (1990, co-authored with his wife Anne Lindsey Bell) and “Fall Color Finder” (1991, co-authored with Anne Lindsey Bell). Ritchie was honored with a number of awards including the Silver Seal Award from the National Council of Garden Clubs and the Distinguished Alumnus Award from the University of North Carolina. Job well done, my friend!
I inexplicably missed the passing of our fern friend, Barbara Joe Hoshizaki, who passed away last June 24 at the age of 83. Barbara retired from the fern world a few years ago, due to aging and cognitive issues.Barbara Joe spent 28 years teaching biology at California City College when she wasn’t working in her wonderful home garden. She was a tireless promoter of ferns and served as President of the American Fern Society, President of the Southern California Horticultural Institute, and was a member of a number of other organizations. Barbara is best known for her book, “The Fern Grower’s Manual” (1975), and an expanded 2 edition with Robbin Moran (2001). Barbara was extremely helpful in identifying many of our ferns from our overseas expeditions, and we owe her a huge dept of gratitude. Barbara is survived by her husband, Takashi; two children, Carol (George Brooks) and Jon (Madeleine Takii), and other family members. The family requests that donations be made to the Organization for Tropical Studies, Box 90630, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708‑0630, “OTS in Memory of Barbara Hoshizaki.”
My final farewell today is to a group…the International Bulb Society. The 80-year-old International Bulb Society, which has long been an incredible resource to bulb lovers around the world, has decided to fold at the end of 2013. The society’s problems began over a decade earlier, when a series of ego-driven personality conflicts caused many of the members to drop out and join the recently-formed Pacific Bulb Society. Despite the fact that most new members didn’t live anywhere near the Pacific Ocean, the new group offered a more user-friendly format with far less drama while making sharing rare plants at low cost a key principle…the antithesis of IBS. I am truly sad to see IBS go as it brought together so many wonderful experts from around the world, and if you could afford the plant prices, it was a place to acquire the rarest of the rare bulbs. Who knows…if you believe in the afterlife, perhaps there will one day be a reincarnation of this wonderful group.
Until next month, we’ll keep posting plant photos from the garden and sharing all sorts of cool things from the world of horticulture on our Facebook Page.
We’ll see you there!
Greetings from Plant Delights! We hope everyone has made it through another summer garden season in good shape. We’re wrapping up the open houses for 2012 with our final three days, Friday through Sunday this weekend. If you’re in the area, we sure hope you’ll join us. It’s been great to meet so many of our nearly 7,000 Facebook fans and friends in person at open house…thanks so much for taking time to follow our plant postings.
As we inch closer to the autumnal equinox, temperatures have begun to fall, which marks a resurgence of many plants that hibernated during the dog days of summer. Dahlias are like many plants that live for fall, and many of us cut our dahlias to the ground in late August so the fall flush will be look fresh and new. Perennial salvias such as the woody-stemmed Salvia greggiis put on their best floral show of the year in autumn when they flower nonstop for several months. Other salvia species like Salvia leucantha, and my personal favorite, the Salvia leucantha hybrid Salvia ‘Phyllis Fancy’, only flower in fall. Salvia ‘Phyllis Fancy’ is a Barry Bonds-sized steroidal monster, producing a 7′ tall x 8′ wide specimen in only 12 months.
What an amazing year this has been for butterflies in the garden…certainly, the best that I remember in over a decade. While butterflies were in abundance, Japanese beetles were nowhere to be found this year…not that we have much trouble with them anyway since we try to keep stressed plants out of our garden. Remember that most garden insects have cyclical population spikes, so don’t get too excited when a pest leaves or a new pest arrives.
One insect that made an appearance in our area starting a couple of years ago was the Genista caterpillar (Uresiphita reversalis). Baptisias have long been considered insect resistant since their leaves contain chemicals that repel most insects. Unfortunately, Genista caterpillars are immune to these leaf toxins. To make matters worse, the caterpillars have chemicals in their bodies that make them immune to most caterpillar predators…ain’t that just grand. While the Genista caterpillar is native to southern and central US, they have not been seen this far east until the last few years.
The unattractive nocturnal moths lay their eggs in spring, which subsequently hatch and the Genista caterpillar larvae begin feeding on the tender new baptisia plant growth. The larvae work fast and can completely strip the foliage of a mature baptisia in a few days…fortunately, this shouldn’t cause permanent damage to the plant. The larvae have 5 stages before they pupate for overwintering. Since the moths are quite prolific, they can actually lay several generations of eggs each year, so you’ll need to monitor your baptisias all summer. When the caterpillars are young they can be easily killed with organic BT (Bacillus thuringensis) products. Spinosad, a biological insecticide composed of Saccharopolyspora spinosa bacteria from crushed sugar cane, has also shown good effectiveness.
While I never expected to commit to writing another regular column other than our monthly e-newsletter, I recently had my arm twisted thanks to one of those once in a lifetime opportunities…the recent launch of Walter Magazine. The name may sound strange for those of you outside North Carolina, but our city of Raleigh, was named after Sir Walter Raleigh, a 16th century English flamboyant dressing explorer/spy. While writing a plant feature column for my hometown magazine was a great oppurtunity, this is also my first time to pair with former New York Times freelance botanical illustrator, the amazing Ippy Patterson.
I can’t believe I’m actually promoting a shrub pruning demonstration, but this isn’t just any shrub pruning. One of my favorite people, topiary artist Pearl Fryar, is coming to Raleigh for an artistic demonstration at NCSU’s new Gregg Art Gallery at 1903 Hillsborough Street. The date is Sunday October 28, from noon until 4pm. This free event is a gathering of artists and musicians…refreshments will be provided. If you’ve seen the movie, “A Man Named Pearl”.
and want to meet this amazing man in person, don’t miss the event.
In the latest news from the nursery world, the 65-year-old Klupengers of Oregon is closing their doors. Klupengers is a 320 acre wholesaler specializing in japanese maples, rhododendrons and azaleas. Klupengers Nursery had sold out once before, but wound up buying the nursery back in 2010 hoping to outlast the downturn, which didn’t work out so well. Everything including land is currently being liquidated, unless someone wants to buy the entire operation.
It was also time for more consolidation in the green industry this month as the world famous, 3rd generation Ecke Ranch was purchased by Agribio International. For those of you not in the horticulture industry, the majority of the poinsettias you buy at Christmas were introduced by the 1000-employee Ecke Ranch of California. Ecke also has a large geranium breeding program. It appears for now the company will remain intact other than a change in ownership.
Agribio Holding B.V. is a Dutch investment firm, specializing in purchasing plant breeding businesses. It recently acquired Barberet and Blanc, a carnation breeder in Spain; Bartels Stek, an aster, solidago, and phlox breeder in Holland; Fides, a bedding and potted plant breeder in Holland; Oro Farms, a production facility in Guatemala; Japan Agribio, a breeder of bedding and potted plants in Japan; and Lex+, a rose breeder in Holland. The acquisition of Ecke makes Agribio one of the largest producers of cutting-produced ornamentals in the world.
It’s with sadness that I report Ohio hosta breeder and nurseryman Bob Kuk, of Kuk’s Forest Nursery passed away on August 14 after a short illness. During his lifetime, Bob developed and introduced over 50 hostas including Hosta ‘Bizarre’, ‘Emerald Necklace’, ‘Golden Empress’, ‘Queen Josephine’, and ‘Unforgettable’. In 2011, Bob was awarded the Distinguished Hybridizer Award by the American Hosta Society for his body of work. Our thoughts go out to both Bob’s hosta family and friends. < href=”http://www.americanhostasociety.org/2011FisherSpeech.html”>Learn more about Bob.
I recently got an email from Dr. Charlie Keith, whose Chapel Hill, NC Arboretum I’ve written about several times. Charlie is turning 80 soon, and has come to the realization that he hasn’t been able to raise adequate funds to preserve the arboretum as he had hoped. Consequently, he’s looking to sell the arboretum property which houses one of the largest woody plant collections in the country. Charlie will be hosting an open house on October 21, from 1-5pm, with plantsmen Mark Weathington of the JC Raulston Arboretum and author Tom Krenitsky as tour guides. The arboretum is located at 2131 Marion’s Ford, Chapel Hill (for more information). If you know of anyone interested in purchasing the 80 acre property, please get in touch with Charlie, as his collection is simply too important to lose.
From the medical world, recent research from The University of Sichuan, published in “Current Chemical Biology” (Volume 3, 2009), has shown the common snowdrop, Galanthus nivalis, has great potential as an anti-fungal, anti-viral (including HIV), and anti-tumor agent for several cancers, including breast cancer. The report also studied the significant anti-tumor lignin activities of other related monocots including Aspidistra elatior (cast iron plant), Polygonatum odoratum and P. cyrtonema (Solomon’s seal), Narcissus pseudonarcissus (daffodil), Ophiopogon japonicus (mondo grass), Typhonium divaricatum (dwarf voodoo lily), and Viscum sp. (mistletoe).
Other common ornamental plants with very specific anti-HIV activity include Lycoris radiata (surprise lilies), Polygonatum multiflorum and P. cyrtonema (Solomon’s seal), Hippeastrum hybrids (amaryllis), Cymbidium hybrids (orchids), and Narcissus pseudonarcissus (daffodil). This is just another reason that the federal government should be doing much more to make plant exploration and importation easier and reverse the current trend toward plant exclusion and making plant importation exceedingly difficult.
Enjoy, and until the next newsletter, we’ll keep in touch on Facebook!
Greetings from PDN and we hope you’ve all had a great gardening summer. Folks in much of the Northeast and Midwest still haven’t had much of a summer, many experiencing the coldest summer temperatures in recorded history. Many of you in this wet, cool corridor have seen an array of diseases along with heat-loving plants that just haven’t grown very quickly. In years like this, good soil preparation really pays off since good drainage is so important when the rains just won’t stop. Over the years, I’ve also found organically gardened soils that haven’t been “chemicalled” to death tend to fare better since they still have plenty of good microbes to fight off the damaging ones.
There are also going to be more foliar diseases in years like this, but be sure to determine what pathogen is causing the symptoms before embarking on a course of action. Some plants with foliar damage may simply go dormant early and be fine next season, while other may need more air movement to keep diseases at bay. Consequently, some perennials may fare better if they are cut back or thinned to allow more air to penetrate the constantly damp foliage. I find most foliar problems can be solved with improving the cultural conditions, so please don’t adopt the philosophy of “spray first and ask questions later.” Given the choice, I’ll always take a drought instead of a monsoon since you can always add water, but it’s so hard to remove it. Years like this may be a good time to re-examine our planting schemes, opting more for plants like hibiscus that will take both wet and dry conditions.
We’re almost ready for our Fall Open House that begins soon and we hope to see both many of our regular gardening friends, as well as many out-of-towners that haven’t visited in a while. The greenhouses are chocked full of great looking plants, just waiting for you to select your favorites. We’ve got a special guest this year who will be here to greet Open House visitors…yes, it’s the barrel monster. Unless you were hiding under a rock or in Iraq for the last few months, you’ve heard the story of a NC State student who creatively rearranged traffic barrels at a road construction site into the now world famous barrel monster. If you did miss it, you can find out more at www.thebarrelmonster.com.
Our staff is also busy potting many new plants for the spring catalog. Unlike many mail-order nurseries who don’t actually grow their own plants, such is not the case at PDN. Growing our own plants allows us more control over timing, quality, and trueness to name. There are only a few plants we aren’t able to produce in our climate and some others where the patent owners limit the production of liners. We’ll spend the next month analyzing sales figures from this year to determine which plants have earned their way back into the catalog and which will be relegated to an on-line offering only. Then, we’ll look at the pool of new plants we have selected and try to guess which ones will generate enough income to also make it into the print catalog. We’re getting our crystal ball professionally cleaned before the process moves into high gear.
We hope you’re enjoying our fall catalog supplement and finding some cool new plants that you can’t live without. A couple of errors crept into the catalog for which we’d like to apologize. First, Phlox ‘Triple Play’ actually is from iris breeders Jan Sacks and Marty Schafer of Joe Pye Weed Gardens and not from Darrell Probst (they’re all friends and neighbors). We apologize for the incorrect information. Also, the liners we purchased of Crocosmia ‘Walcroy’ turned out to be another cultivar, so we have pulled them from the sales area until we get the correct plant re-propagated. If you are one of the eight folks that purchased this during our July open house, give us a holler so we can get the error corrected.
One of the many cool plants from our fall catalog is the breeding breakthrough, Tom Ranney’s Hydrangea arborescens ‘Spirit’. I had the fortune of spending a couple of days with Tom Ranney recently, looking through his amazing breeding creations. Tom is getting closer to a release time for his hybrid x Gordlinia grandiflora (gordonia x schima). Meanwhile, his work continues on sterile miscanthus and even hybrids between miscanthus and sugar cane (saccharum/erianthus)…who knew? There are a number of other amazing plants including some wild mahonia hybrids, but I don’t want to get you too excited too early. If you have the opportunity to hear Tom speak about his amazing breeding work, don’t miss the chance.
Another interesting trip this month was to the home of the late rain lily guru, John Fellers. I was presented with the opportunity to help salvage some of John’s breeding work. I wasn’t quite prepared for what I found when I arrived…a greenhouse with nearly 10,000 pots of rain lilies, each labeled with a nonsensical code. John was a code breaker in WWII and obviously truly loved his craft and consequently, managed to leave us with a puzzle that will take months…maybe years to solve. Due to John’s declining health, his rain lily collection had declined dramatically in vigor, so it will take a couple of years to regrow the plants to flowering size so we can figure out what we have. Our goal is to share John’s breeding stock with other rain lily breeders, which will hopefully lead to more new rain lilies for our gardens.
For those who haven’t heard, Mike Dirr’s new Manual of Woody Landscape Plants (2009) has just been published by Stipes Press, replacing the 1998 version. I’ll direct you to Stipes website www.stipes.com – but be warned, their website is so old and outdated it doesn’t even have a shopping cart. One thing is for sure…they don’t believe in spending a lot of money on marketing. While you’re ordering, you’ll also want to pick up the most recent edition of Allan Armitage’s Herbaceous Perennials, also revised and released last year.
If you’re planning to attend the Garden Writers Association meeting here in Raleigh in September, we are pleased to announce that Hawaiian elephant ear breeder, Dr. John Cho will be at the PDN morning tour to talk to attendees about his breeding work and show you around the colocasia trials here at Plant Delights. We’ve spent this week together deciding which selections make the final cut, so don’t miss this great opportunity.
Another local event not to be missed is the JC Raulston Arboretum Green Industry Reunion. JCRA Director, Ted Bilderback has invited all past students of the NCSU Horticulture Department along with anyone who was involved with the arboretum to attend a party on Friday October 9, from 5-9 pm. Ted promises a barbeque dinner and fun for all, while reconnecting with folks you may not have seen for a while. For more information or to register ($50 each), call or e-mail Anne Porter at (919) 513-3826 or email@example.com.
On a sad note, another retired Director of the US National Arboretum has passed away…also in North Carolina. Dr. John Creech, 89, of Columbus, NC passed away after a period of declining health. Dr. Creech retired from the Arboretum in 1980, and moved back to the mountains of NC. His legacy includes a number of plants he introduced to the trade including a sedum bearing his name and the well-known southern staple, Lagerstroemia fauriei that he collected on one of his early plant expeditions. Memorials can be made to the Western North Carolina Arboretum, 100 Frederick Law Olmsted Way, Asheville, NC 28806-9315 or Hospice of the Carolina Foothills, 130 Forest Glen Drive, Columbus, NC 28722.
There continue to be a number of changes in the world of horticulture…many the result of the economic downturn. Northwest Bulb and Perennial of Oregon, one of a handful of wholesale producers and distributors of perennials has been sold to a competitor, DeVroomen of Holland. DeVroomen has their US headquarters in Illinois and will use the Oregon operation to grow domestic perennials. Former Northwest Bulb owner, Rene Heuermann is now a DeVroomen employee.
In other plant people news, plantsman John Elsley has departed as Director of Horticulture for Klehm’s Song Sparrow mail order nursery in Wisconsin. John tells me he doesn’t have any specific new projects in mind, but is open to offers. If you’re interested in John’s services, just drop us a note and we’ll put you in touch.
Also in the mail order world, Carroll Gardens of Westminster, Maryland has closed their doors according to President Alan Summers (son of the recently deceased American Hosta Society founder, Alex Summers). Carroll Gardens always had an amazing listing, although on line chat groups didn’t always find the customer service to match their amazing offerings. Another small, but delightful nursery, Canyon Creek has also closed their doors to mail order.
While many nurseries are struggling to keep their financing in place, this will not be a problem for Monrovia Nurseries based in California, who secured $100 million in working capital from GE Capital Markets. Do you ever wonder what the interest payments would be on $100 million dollars?…it’s certainly beyond my comprehension.
In other some good news, The Northwest Flower and Garden Show has been purchased by O’Loughlin Trade Shows, who will continue to operate the show. O’Loughlin Trade Shows is a producer of consumer shows that already operates the Portland and Tacoma Home and Garden Show. The San Francisco Flower & Garden Show was also sold, but to a different group of business investors from the Bay Area.
The Southeastern Flower Show is also back in action for 2010 after taking a sabbatical in 2009. The 23rd annual show is scheduled for the Cobb Galleria Centre in Atlanta, GA from February 4-6, 2010.
The sponsoring organization, the Southeastern Horticultural Society is also holding a fund-raiser next month at the garden of Vince and Barbara Dooley. Known as “Coach” to his friends, Vince became enamored with plants, thanks in large part to Dr. Mike Dirr, who became a close friend during his tenure at the University of Georgia. Vince was the football Coach at the University of Georgia for 25 years before becoming Athletic Director. The event will be held on Sunday, September 13 from 5-8 pm at the Dooley home in Athens, GA. You can find out more about tickets at www.sehort.org.
Many of you may be familiar with the late NC garden writer Elizabeth Lawrence, who was a true horticultural pioneer/plant nerd in the Southeast US. Alan Bush, founder of the former Holbrook Nursery in NC, wrote a wonderful piece about visiting Elizabeth that you can find by clicking here.
And in case you missed it, there have been increasing incidents of the use of manure causing toxic effects on plants, even after the manure has been composted. The common thread seems to be if the animals have eaten hay treated with the herbicides Milestone, Forefront, or Grazon. Typically, the active ingredients from most herbicides are either broken down by the animals’ digestive system or during the composting process, but this is not the case with this group of chemicals. As it turns out, these chemicals degrade best with exposure to light, but in the meantime, their use may kill valuable ornamentals. Obviously, we all need to perform due diligence to track down the source of our composts.
As always, thanks for taking time to read our rants and most of all, thank you so much for your support and orders this year!
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Greetings from Juniper Level and we hope you’re having a great spring. Other than a couple of cold spells, we’ve had a near perfect spring with cool temperatures and timely rains. Only recently have we seen a few days in the 90’s, which normally dot our spring season. We’ve been spared the crazy weather seen in other parts of the country including Colorado’s frequent late spring snows, North Dakota’s floods, and tornados throughout the Southeast. At least the gardeners in northern Georgia and upstate South Carolina are finally getting some rain after being parched for several years. Even Atlanta’s Lake Lanier is within 7′ of finally refilling. Parts of the Texas Hill Country set a record last year with only 2″ of rain, but fortunately, the weather patterns have changed in recent weeks and the rains have finally returned.
We’ve just added some more plants to the on-line catalog including the very rare variegated shredded umbrella plant, Syneilesis ‘Kikko’. As always, most of these gems are only available in limited quantities, so don’t delay. They are integrated into the main on-line catalog or you can find the new additions listed separately.
It was great to have our friends Carl Schoenfeld and Wade Roitsch from Yucca Do visit a few weeks ago along with encyclopedic Texas nurseryman Pat McNeal. We have long worked together to trial plants in each other’s climates, so it was interesting for them to see the damage that occurs to woody lilies when temperatures drop into the single digits F. Yucca Do has recently completed their move to Giddings, Texas, about 1.5 hours west of their former location outside of Houston. The old property was sold to the Peckerwood Garden Foundation, which will allow Peckerwood to expand their gardens as well as have more parking. You can read more about the Yucca Do move at www.yuccado.com/themove.htm.
It’s been a busy spring…. just not as busy as we would have liked. It was great to have visits from an array of groups including most recently the Carolina Gardener Symposium as well as attendees from Southeast Palm Society meeting in Raleigh.
Last fall, I had the pleasure of meeting and lecturing with Lucinda Hutson of Austin, Texas. Lucinda is a delightful person; a combination artist, designer, and chef. Lucinda has published several cookbooks as well as an array of articles in addition to her career as an interior/exterior designer. You can get an idea of Lucinda’s exuberant style and possibly book her as a lecturer through her website at www.lucindahutson.com.
If you’re out and around North Raleigh on Tuesday May 5, I’ll be presenting a free gardening seminar at 7pm at the North Raleigh Library at 7009 Harps Mill Road. If we have a good crowd, I’ll consider doing more of these in the future. No registration is necessary, but the library phone number is 919-870-4000. Bring your gardening questions and problems; I hope to see you there.
Obviously, the big upcoming events for us are our two Spring Open Nursery and Garden weekends on Friday – Sunday, May 1-3 and May 8-10. We will be open from 8am-5pm on Friday and Saturday and 1-5pm on Sunday. There is so much to see that we truly wish everyone could visit and enjoy the gardens for themselves. Just walking through the gardens now is a sensory delight. Not only are the colors and textures a thing to behold, but the exuberant fragrances are just amazing. From banana shrubs to phlox to dianthus, it’s amazing what fragrances plants can add to your garden. At Open House, not only can you see how plants should grow in the garden, you will no doubt leave with a cartload of ideas, inspiration, and hopefully a few cool plants. This year, one of our largest agaves ( Agave salmiana v. ferox ‘Logan Calhoun’) has sent up a huge flower spike, which should be close to fully open, so come and enjoy a phallic moment with us in the garden. Directions can be found on our website.
One of the many challenges of running a nursery is predicting what will sell and in what quantities. Sometimes we hit the target, and sometimes we miss as bad as a North Korean missile launch. There are many factors that determine how well a plant sells, but the most important is the photograph…hence the reason many mail order catalogs pay professional photographers to take studio shots that often use dozens of plants which are then ‘cut and pasted’ to make one photo. A particular favorite is the commonly used mail order photo of Arum italicum showing the arum seed heads with leaves inserted from a calla lily. I don’t know about you, but I’ve got a problem trusting folks who use doctored photos, but then they probably laugh at our meager sales. Another key factor in determining sales is photo placement…did you realize the location of an image on a page can double or triple sales of that item? That being said, here are our top 10 list of great plants for 2009 that didn’t sell as well as they should have …. consequently, we have some really nice ones remaining.
1. Agapanthus ‘Back in Black’ …must be the photo, as it’s a really cool plant.
2. Agave guiengola ‘Creme Brulee’ …we possibly saturated the market last year, but this is a really amazing potted specimen.
3. Colocasia ‘Blackwater’ – this narrow leaf C. ‘Fontanesii’ has evidently been overshadowed by the great new John Cho hybrids.
4. Colocasia esculenta ‘Hilo Bay’ – this overshadower has the most distinctive leaf, but is the worst seller…really hard to capture this well in an image…bummer.
5. Cypripedium parviflorum v. pubescens – the high cost of 7 years production time has unfortunately put this plant out of reach this season for many economically impaired gardeners. It should have sold much better…very disappointing. Disappointing, heck…this means I’ll have more for my own garden.
6. Epimediums, especially ‘Pink Elf’, E. x youngianum ‘Tamabotan’, E. x versicolor ‘Cherry Tart’ and E. grandiflorum ‘Pierre’s Purple’. So, do we just have too many eps? These are all great selections and ‘Cherry Tart’ is just delightful, but for some reason, folks just won’t buy it. E. ‘Pink Elf’…one of only three patented epimedium in the world…very floriferous…must be the darn photograph.
7. Fargesia denudata – do people really trust that there are clumping bamboos when disreputable nurseries are selling Phyllostachys nigra (black bamboo) and claiming it to be clumping…which is it not. Perhaps folks want all bamboos to be 30’ tall…and they are really hard to photograph well. I wish you knew how hard it’s been to get these into the trade.
8. Hostas…geez, is it the deer or too much to choose from? A new hosta will sell really well, then when collectors get their fill, sales drop off for the next 2-5 years until regular gardeners realize how great they are. Disappointments for 2009 include
H. ‘Appetizer’…a really nice dwarf;
H. ‘Applause’…which looks like a clump of hands clapping;
H. ‘Cathedral Windows’…an incredible sport of H. ‘Stained Glass’;
H. ‘Deliverance’…ok, the movie connotation probably did this one in;
H. ‘Electrocution’…so where are you gardeners with the sick sense of humor?
H. ‘Landslide’…it’s a photo thing along with leaves that aren’t round and cupped;
H. ‘Mango Tango’…it’s as nice as H. ‘Stitch in Time’, but the name just doesn’t have the same ring;
H. ‘Parasol’…we thought the name on this H. ‘Blue Umbrellas’ sport was perfect, but you must not have agreed; and
H. ‘White Wall Tire’;…sold great last year, but is a dud in 2009…must be the Detroit crash that has affected this one.
9. Malvaviscus ‘Pam Puryear’ …something about a pink turk’s cap just didn’t find a niche in the market.
10. xHeucherella ‘Alabama Sunrise’ …okay great name, great photo, great plant …. guess I’ll need to call the psychic hotline to figure this one out.
And this business looks easy to who?
Speaking of hostas, our staff suggested we let you know which containers of hostas are obscenely huge and need a good home, so here’s the list of those that would make instant clumps or are so dividable you can immediately get into the nursery business. Applause
Key Lime Pie
Peedee Elfin Bells
Pineapple Upside Down Cake
Pot of Gold
For those who entered our Top 25 contest to compete for the $250 worth of plants, click here for the results though April 26, 2009. Topping the list for the first time is the new Echinacea ‘Tomato Soup’, which just edged out Colocasia ‘Thailand Giant’for the top spot. The only other colocasia in the list so far is Colocasia ‘Mojito’in the 4th spot. In third place is the first appearance for Syneilesis aconitifoliain the top 25. The only other echinacea in the list this month is E. ‘Green Envy’. Thanks to the shade gardeners, it’s good to see two ferns, an asarum, an epimedium, and even an aspidistra make the list. The list changes each month, so if your picks don’t show up near the top yet, don’t despair.
In other news, we reported last month the Northwest Flower and Garden Show and the San Francisco Flower and Garden Show were both being phased out unless a new owner stepped forward. The latest news is Duane Kelly has two different parties interested in purchasing and continuing the shows. No final decisions have been made, but at least there is hope. In the Southeast, the Southeastern Flower Show in Atlanta is taking a temporary hiatus for 2010, while it re-evaluates the financial commitments required to put on its annual flower show. There is still no word on when or if the New England Flower Show in Boston will ever resume, since the financial mess there is still to be resolved and their bills from the 2008 show remain to be paid.
We were saddened to learn of the passing of plantsman Alex Summers of Bridgeville, Delaware on Sunday, April 11. Summers, 96, was a founding member of the American Hosta Society in 1968 and served as president for the first decade of the society’s existence. Alex was also a keen gardener as anyone who has visited his garden knows firsthand. Alex was preceded in death by his wife Gene, but is survived by his son Alan. Instead of sending flowers, the family asks donations be made to the American Hosta Society.
We lost another giant of the plant world on April 12, with the passing of Dr. Thad Howard of Texas at age 79. Thad is best known for his extensive work with bulbs for hot climates, though his numerous plant expeditions into Mexico, and for his 2001 book, Bulbs for Warm Climates (University of Texas Press). I was fortunate to visit Thad at his home in May 2003 and take him on a ride though Texas to visit other bulb greats such as Crinum guru, Dave Lehmiller, the wonderful Yucca Do Nursery, and to meet another Texas crinum guru, Marcelle Sheppard for the first time. It was truly a trip that I.ll remember for the rest of my life. Thad also was a mentor to a number of young men, who later went on to become bulb experts in their own right including Steve Lowe of Tejas Bulbs, and garden writer/lecturer Scott Ogden.
As always, thanks for taking time to read our rants and most of all, thank you so much for your support and orders this year!
Please direct all replies and questions to email@example.com.
Thanks and enjoy
April brings the start of my two favorite seasons… baseball and gardening. With both, there is the fading of bad memories from the preceding season and a childish optimism about the upcoming year. All in all, we had a relatively mild winter with no snow and a low temperature of 14.7 degrees F. This spring has been relatively cool, which has kept plant emergence far behind 2007, and has allowed us to better weather the late spring frosts which are inevitable every year.
For the first time since last spring, all of the public reservoirs around Raleigh are finally full and watering restrictions have been relaxed. Gardeners not only here, but in other areas hit with the drought in 2007 can finally begin replanting plants lost last year. Some parts of the country have had too much water, but I guess we will never be able to spread the water around more evenly.
We made an interesting, but disappointing discovery this winter when we found Agave parryi ‘Cream Spike’ isn’t nearly as hardy as we had thought and hoped. Although we originally received our plants as A. parryi, we now believe them to actually be a less-hardy species, A. applanata. Whatever they are, they make great container plants, but are no good as a garden specimen in cold climates, since ours were killed at 15 degrees F. We listed it as hardy to Zone 7b, so if you purchased one thinking it was going to be hardy in Zone 7b, please contact us for a refund or credit. We are very sorry for the error.
There’s so much blooming in the garden now, it’s hard to know where to start. One of the overlooked woodland plants I wouldn’t garden without are Solomon’s seals. Solomon’s seals include the genera Disporum, Disporopsis, Polygonatum, Smilacina, and Uvularia. Some polygonatums can reach 6’+ tall, while most disporopsis and disporums range from 6″ to 18″ tall. While none of these members of the lily family have overly flashy flowers, they have a wonderful presence in the woodland garden… especially now. Solomon’s seals grow from thick underground rhizomes, which serve as a storage structures allowing them to withstand drought conditions such as we experienced last summer. All of the Solomon’s seal genera, except for disporopsis, can be found native in both the US and Asia. As was the case with many other woodland genera (asarum and arisaema), the US only kept a small fraction of the species, while most took the trip to Asia. We’re glad to help reunite these long-separated siblings. On a side note, one of our wonderful customers shared a variegated Uvulaia perfoliata with us a few years ago, and we forgot who you are, so if you are the one, thanks, and please let us hear from you.
Another favorite group for spring is phlox. Most of these are US natives that have either been selected or hybridized for great garden potential. The phlox season begins with Phlox subulata, P. nivalis, and P. bifida for sunny sites and P. stolonifera and P. divaricata for shadier sites, all groundcover phlox for us are still in full bloom. The upright phlox such as P. maculata doesn’t start for another month, with the exception of the wonderful P. maculata hybrid, P. ‘Minnie Pearl’, whose first flowers are starting to open now. This amazing find from Mississippi is drawing rave reviews from gardeners and nurserymen around the world. Two other little-known native phlox are the tight-clumping P. latifolia, which opens in the next few weeks and the wide-spreading P. pilosa that opens around the same time. These small growers are happy in either full to part sun. As a rule, phlox are very drought tolerant, while able to withstand moist years as well. We hope you will explore this amazing genus of plants.
Visitors often ask if we have a problem with deer and the answer is no. The answer is no because we use Benner Deer Fence. We also planted a holly hedge around the perimeter when we first purchased the property, but in the areas that weren’t hedged, a row of the 7.5′ tall black plastic netting did just the trick. There are plenty of deer tracks on one side of the fence, but not the other. We use metal stakes, driven in the ground every 8′ to support the netting which is attached by tie wire. Current prices are between $1.40 and $1.60 per linear foot. You can find out more at the Benner’s Gardens website.
I hate to pass along more sad news, but the co-founder of Goodness Grows Nursery in Georgia Marc Richardson, passed away on February 3, 2008 at age 52 of lung cancer. Mark is survived by his partner of 31 years, Rick Berry, who will continue to run the nursery operations. Goodness Grows, a retail/wholesale perennial grower just outside Athens, is best known for its introduction, Veronica ‘Goodness Grows’.
In good news, best retirement wishes go out to Margaret Roach, who is retiring from Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, where she has worked for 15 years. For much of her time there she was Editor of Martha Stewart Living magazine and later was Editorial Director of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia (MSLO). Margaret is looking forward to spending more time in her wonderful garden, writing her new gardening blog, and working on a series of other projects.
Like Freddy Krueger, House and Garden has been killed once again. The magazine, which started in 1901, closed from 1993-1996, before re-opening, has once again gone to the recycle bin in the sky. Most gardening magazine editors tell me this is a tough time to make money in the magazine publishing business. In another move that shocked long-time subscribers and staff, Horticulture magazine is moving their operations from Boston, where it has been since its inception in 1904, to Kansas City, the home of its owner since 2002, F&W publications. As of this writing, it is uncertain if any staff members other than editor Meghan Lynch will remain with the publication. If you haven’t seen the May 2008 issue, Dr. Bobby Ward wrote a nice piece about our berm gardening here at PDN.
With all the magazines going out of business, it’s quite unusual to find a new magazine hitting the newsstands, but such is the case with the Charleston, SC based, Garden and Gun magazine. I admit the name sounds a bit strange and conjures up images of articles about plants to draw deer into your garden, but instead Garden and Gun is a southern upscale version of Town and Country magazine. Their stable of authors includes well-known southern favorites such as Pat Conroy (The Great Santini, The Prince of Tides, My Losing Season), Daniel Wallace (Big Fish), and Winston Groom (Forrest Gump). If you’re looking for a good literary gardening publication, check it out and you’ll see an upcoming feature on Plant Delights. Perhaps we’ll hang a few back issues from our deer fence to really antagonize the critters.
In March, we were fortunate to have Swedish plantsman Peter Korn speak to our local chapter of the North American Rock Garden Society. Everyone in attendance was blown away by Peter’s amazing garden. I didn’t have any plans to visit Sweden until I saw Peter’s talk, now Sweden has moved up quite high on my travel plans.
I just got notice for the upcoming Conifer Symposium to be held in Watkinsville, Georgia from May 22-25, 2008. The CANR Conifer Conference features tours of Conifer Gardens and 13 well-known speakers including Carol Reese, Rita Randolph, Don Howse, David Creech, Richard Bitner, and many more. If you like conifers, this should be one heck of a symposium.
While you have your calender in hand, the Garden Conservancy Open Days once again includes the Raleigh area. The tour features six private gardens to visit on Saturday, September 20 (9 am to 5 pm) and Sunday, September 21 (12 pm to 5 pm). A portion of the proceeds from the weekend will benefit the JC Raulston Arboretum. Discount tickets may be purchased in advance or entrance to the gardens can be ‘pay as you go’ with a fee of just $5.00 per garden, collected at each garden entrance. Call 1-888-842-2442 or visit www.opendaysprogram.org for more information. For local ticket information, please contact Autumn Keck at the JC Raulston Arboretum at firstname.lastname@example.org or (919) 513-3826. Your $5 admission fee per garden supports the expansion of the Open Days Program around the country and helps build awareness of the Garden Conservancy’s work of preserving exceptional American gardens such as Montrose in Hillsborough, the Elizabeth Lawrence garden in Charlotte, North Carolina and Alcatraz Island, San Francisco, California.
I was recently at the US National Arboretum in Washington DC to speak for the Lahr Native Plant Symposium, which was the first time in over a year I’ve been able to visit. From my first visit in the mid-1970’s, the US National Arboretum has been one of my very favorite botanical gardens. From the world class herb garden to the bonsai pavilions, from the Gotelli conifer collection to the native plant collections, the Arboretum is an amazing place. I’ll have to admit my favorite has always been the Asian Valley and the later addition, China Valley, which despite dozens of visits still yields surprising treasures around each corner. There was always so much to see, I could never finish by the time the gates closed at 5 pm, so in the summer months, I would spend hours after the gates closed dodging security personnel as I continued exploring every nook and cranny of the gardens. The Arboretum was probably the first public garden to feature the ‘New American Garden’ landscape trend that swept the nation back in the early 1980’s, and their legendary woody plant breeding work includes industry stalwarts such as the disease resistant, cold hardy Lagerostroemia fauriei crape myrtle hybrids.
The 446-acre site on the west side of Washington DC makes it a true jewel in the Nation’s crown. Because the Arboretum is housed under the US Department of Agriculture, Agriculture Research Service, its budget is subject to both political whims and departmental trends. Other area gardens are under different parent institutions and often not subject to the same fate. For example, the US Botanic Garden comes under the auspices of the Architect of the Capitol and many of the gardens in downtown DC fall under the Smithsonian Institution. This year’s proposed budget takes funding for the US National Arboretum from $5 million to $2 million. You can imagine the devastating effect on the Arboretum, if it can even remain open. While I’m a big advocate of fiscal responsibility on the part of our Federal lawmakers, not funding the US National Arboretum simply doesn’t make sense. Not only does the Arboretum represent our Nation’s gardening efforts to visitors from around the world, but it does the same to residents of our country, who support it with their tax dollars. The Arboretum needs those of you who care about its success to write letters of support to your congresspersons to try and restore their funding. You can also find a list of key lawmakers involved in budget processes at the Friends of the National Arboretum website Thanks for taking time to engage our political leaders about this important issue.
We hope you will be able to visit us for our Spring Open House, May 2-4 and 9-11 (8 am -5 pm Friday, Saturday, and 1-5 pm on Sunday). I’m afraid many folks may need to replace plants that didn’t survive our stressful 2007 summer and of course, if you’re looking for a worthy recipient of your economic stimulus check from Uncle Sam, we’re here for you.
Since we’re all thinking and hearing about recycling these days, Plant Delights is glad to help you clean up by recycling any pots that come from here, so if you are heading this way, throw those old pots in the car and we’ll take them off your hands. Please, do not bring odd-sized pots from other vendors since these will not fit our production standards.
Our Spring Open House will also be your last chance to say goodbye to departing Garden Curator Adrienne Roethling, who will be leaving us after 8+ years in that position. Adrienne has been an important part of our operation as she oversaw the development and growth of the garden during this time. Adrienne and her husband Jon are moving to Kernersville, NC where she will assume a similar position at the developing Paul J. Ciener Botanical Garden. Taking over for Adrienne is Todd Wiegardt, who has served as Adrienne’s assistant for the last year. I hope you will take time to thank her for her contributions and to welcome Todd.
It’s been a good spring for the growth of most nursery plants, and to that end, we have more new and returning items we have just added to the website. Remember some are only available in limited quantities, so if you see something that strikes your fancy, don’t hesitate too long.
If you’ve submitted your ballot for our Top 25 contest, visit our best sellers’s list for the current standings. There was some minor shuffling in the top 25 with the big mover for the month being Agave ovatifolia which leapt up to 14. May is when we begin to see more dramatic shifts in peoples’ ordering habits. Don’t get discouraged if your selections don’t appear on the list yet, as it changes dramatically as the season progresses.
As always, we thank you for your continued support and patronage.
Please direct all replies and questions to email@example.com.
Thanks and enjoy
What an incredible gardening year this has been. This year’s record June rainfall (thanks TS Alberto) is quite a contrast to 2005, when we already had both a drought and water restrictions. Our summer garden is as lush as I ever remember and I hope you will be able to visit for our upcoming summer open house that starts this Friday. We will be open Friday-Sunday for two consecutive weekends, July 7-9 and 14-16. The hours are 8-5 on Fridays, 8-8pm on Saturdays, and 1-5 on Sundays. If you don’t get our open house flyers, click here for directions and information about attending the open house
The number of plants in flower are simply amazing. The hemerocallis and hymenocallis are both stunning now. Buddleias should be almost at peak bloom for open house as will many of the summer phlox. If you haven’t tried some of the hardy gesneriads, be sure and see the wonderful sinningias in full flower. Lest I forget the eucomis, which are really in perfect form now, along with companions such as thalictrum, and several of the great lilies. We’ll even have a dasylirion in full flower for open house this year, so don’t miss the blessed event. (Read more about Buddleia here)
We’re in full swing writing the fall catalog which goes in the mail in 4 weeks. Once we finish taking a few more photographs and proofreading the text, the formatting process begins. I can already tell you that there are some truly exciting new plants…. in fact, more new plants that we’ve ever offered in our fall catalog. Several of them are already available, but only if you attend our summer open house, so get a jump on your friends.
In order to clear out some room for these new items, we’re offering an on-line only sale on some items that are currently overstocked from the spring catalog. This sale only lasts until Thursday July 6 at midnight, so don’t delay. The more overstocked items we can move, the more room we will have for new plants at the summer open house. click here for list of sale plants
I don’t want to dwell on weather, but need to make a mention of one special weather event…. the Carolina Hurricanes. In case you missed it, our Raleigh-based ice hockey team won the Stanley Cup at the end of June. I realize that many of you may not be ice hockey fans, and I will admit to just figuring out the difference between a red line and blue line, but this is the first professional sports championship for a NC team and we think they deserve a huge congratulations. And they said hockey and sweet tea wouldn’t mix.
We’ve previously talked at length about the closure of Heronswood Nursery in Kingston, Washington, but we’ve also recently lost another of my favorite mail-order nurseries, Roslyn Nursery on Long Island, New York. I understand that the owner, Philip Waldman is having some health issues, but hope these can all be resolved so that he can continue gardening. Thanks to the Philip and Harriet Waldman and the entire Roslyn staff for their contributions to the plant world.
Our friends at Boo-Shoot Gardens north of Seattle, WA, are looking for a Customer Service Manager. Boo-Shoot is a wholesale producer of bamboo. For more information, visit their web site. This is a really great wholesale nursery with great folks, so if you are looking for a job in the Horticulture field and live in, or want to move to the beautiful Skagit Valley, check them out. You can Send resume to Boo-Shoot Gardens LLC, 5722 Campbell Lake Road, Anacortes, WA 98221
Howdy folks, and I hope everyone is having a great spring as is the case at Juniper Level. So far, the late spring frosts haven’t been too bad. We’re keeping our fingers crossed that we are finished with winter, but we’ll be watching the forecasts closely over the next few weeks. There is nothing more agonizing for a nursery than trying to figure out when to uncover the greenhouses in spring. If you wait too long, plants stretch and become weak. If you uncover too early, well…. you know what happens if it gets cold again. Also, if you have more rain than your quota, please send some our way. We’re already six inches behind for the year since the folks in the PNW have been hoarding all the winter moisture.
We’ve been snapping photos as fast as we can and still can’t keep up. It’s been a great spring for most plants in the garden, especially the arisaemas. The early-flowering A. amurense group has been stunning this year. This is also the best show we have ever had from Arisaema kishidae ‘Jack Frost’…. a patch is certainly quite stunning. Arisaema taiwanense is also coming into full flower, along with the beautiful Arisaema sikokianum. If you haven’t tried the Asian jack-in-the-pulpits, you’ll find them quite easy, especially when they are planted in well-draining soil. We have found that even the often-difficult Himalayan species have grown very well when we plant them under large trees or shrubs where they will be very dry during the summer months when they are dormant.
The terrestrial Calanthe orchids are also just coming into flower, and what a sight. If you live in a zone where these will thrive, it’s hard to imagine a better and easier-to-grow spring woodland flower. If you have a woodland garden and don’t grow Phlox divaricata, why not? There is no single plant that makes a better floral show than the US native, Phlox divaricata.
Although not as showy as phlox, a group of plants that I wouldn’t be without are the Solomon’s Seal. This broad group of architectural gems for the woodland include several genera of shade-loving Lily relatives such as disporum, disporopsis, polygonatum, and smilacina (now Maianthemum).
I mentioned helleborus in our last update, but need to make a special mention of H. ‘Walhelivor’. This stunning hybrid from David Tristam of England is one that you really should try. The problem is that it doesn’t photograph well, which explains why we had only sold three plants of this before winter open house. When people saw it in person, over 100 flew off the benches in just a matter of hours. Please forgive my photographic skills, and give this unique hellebore a try.
Many of the early hostas are up, while most of the later emergers are still sleeping. Emergence comes from the genetics of the Hosta species used to breed a hybrid. Species from warm climates tend to emerge earlier. This information can be useful to those of you who live south of Zone 7 where there is often not enough winter chill for hostas to thrive. We have compiled a list of some of our favorite low-chill hostas that are much better adapted to warmer climates.
Low Chill Hosta List Green Foliage
clausa Crystal Chimes (yingeri) Old Faithful (plantaginea) Potomac Pride (yingeri) Raspberry Sorbet Stingray Teaspoon (venusta) tibae Tortifrons (longipes) tsushimensis venusta White Necklace yingeri
Sweet Tater Pie (yingeri, nakaiana)
Baby Bunting (venusta)
American Sweetheart Bob Olsen Carolina Sunshine (tibae) Cherish (venusta) Chickadee (plantaginea) Diana Remembered (plantaginea) Dixie Chick (plantaginea) Ebb Tide (montana) Fan Dance (sieboldii) Fragrant Bouquet (plantaginea) Grand Tiara (nakaiana) Guacamole (plantaginea) Harpoon Korean Snow (yingeri) Masquerade (gracillima) Ming Treasure (plantaginea) Mistress Mabel (plantaginea) Red Hot Flash (sieboldii) So Sweet (plantaginea) Stained Glass (plantaginea) Teeny Weeny Bikini
Did I mention ferns? I used the search feature on our website the other day and found that we have over 119 different ferns listed. If you haven’t explored the world of ferns, please follow our lead and enjoy the wonder of these delightful garden plants.
There aren’t as many early spring flowers in the sunny part of the garden, but a couple that I wouldn’t be without are the dianthus and the early sun-loving phlox. I’m particularly fond of Phlox nivalis ‘Camla’, which makes a solid carpet of mauvy flowers year after year… simply outstanding. My favorite dianthus are D. barbatus ‘Heart Attack’, D. ‘Feuerhexe’, and the stunningly brilliant D. ‘Neon Star’. Even in our hot humid summers, these wonderful cultivars don’t even blink.
We are in full shipping mode now with plants flying out the door and headed your way. If you don’t believe me, watch our shippers work via the PDN Shipping Cam If it looks like they aren’t moving, hit the refresh button.
If you live nearby or are looking for an excuse to visit, I’ll be giving two Plant Expedition talks next week…. one on our 2005 trip to North Vietnam/Thailand (April 18 – Gardeners of Wake Co., Raleigh) as well as our 2006 trip to South Africa (April 20 – JC Raulston Arboretum, Raleigh). You can find more details on my program schedule.
Our spring open house begins in three weeks (May 5-8 and 12-14), so start making your plans to attend. The garden renovations from this winter are settling in and will be in full splendor for spring open house. We have directions and a list of nearby hotels to help you plan.
We were thrilled to be featured in the April edition of The NY Times in an article by famed garden writer Ken Druse. If you missed it, you can find the article at The NY Times website. You will need to register, but it is free.
There is also an easier to access audio/video version with more photos (try the moden version if broadband won’t load for you).
I know you’ve got better things to do that sit here reading my diatribe, so I’ll stop now and let you get back to important things such as gardening. Again, thanks for being a PDN customer!
Please direct all replies and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks and enjoy -tony