Skinny Trillium

Many gardeners tend to ignore the narrow leaf Trillium lancifolium in favor of the larger, more impressive species, but we think this smaller toadshade is quite garden worthy. Below are two clones we’ve named and introduced in the past. One is in full flower here at JLBG, and the other is right behind in mid-March. Hardiness is Zone 6a-9b.

Those of us who have studied trilliums extensively in the wild, feel that all Trillium lancifolium are not created equal. In other words, what is currently known as Trillium lancifolium is most likely 2-3 different species. These are botanically known as cryptic species, since they are hiding in plain site. Advances in DNA now allows researchers to confirm field observations, so don’t be surprised if you see more new trillium species being named from this complex.

The first image below is Trillium lancifolium ‘Lancelot’, a selection from North Florida that forms dense clumps, compared all of the other plants from this population, which grew as solitary stems. The flowers are also butterscotch instead of the typical purple.

Trillium lancifolium ‘Lancelot’

Trillium ‘Black Panther’ is a JLBG selection from a cross of genetics from a Florida population with a Tennessee collection. It also forms dense clumps.

Trillium lancifolium 'Black Panther' in the garden
Trillium lancifolium ‘Black Panther’

Delicate Toadshade

Flowering now in the garden is the delicate toadshade, Trillium delicatum. This diminutive trillium, published in 2019, hails from Central Georgia, where it naturally grows in floodplains. Despite a damp habitat, it has performed beautifully for us, even in average to dry garden soils. This species is quite rare, and is suffering significant damage from feral hogs, making ex-situ conservation even more important. Our clumps are getting large enough for us to hopefully make divisions available within the next year.

Trillium delicatum

Up and Underwood

Our 2nd earliest trillium is up and almost ready to flower. The deep south native Trillium underwoodii is the second toadshade to emerge, only behind the Florida genetics of Trillium maculatum, which emerges here in December. Although there is plenty of cold remaining, Trillium underwoodii is able to tolerate multiple nights of hard freezes below 20 F after the foliage has emerged. Winter hardiness is Zone 6a-9b.

Playing 3 on 3

Here’s a fun combination this from the garden this week, where we combined two three-leafed plants together…a silver leaf Trillium cuneatum with the hardy purple-leaf shamrock, Oxalis triangularis. You can have all kind of fun making these little vignette combinations in your garden, using your school colors, or any other design scheme that suits your tastes.


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

Arum creticum ‘Golden Torch’

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

Paeonia mlokosewitschii JLBG-03

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

Trillium sp. nov. freemanii JLBG-014

Striking Gold

Trillium cuneatum ‘Oconee Gold’ is a rare gold-flowered selection of the typically purple-flowered southeastern toadshade. We found our original plant of this in Oconee County, SC, and have propagated them from seed since that time. If we keep the yellow-flowered plants isolated from purple-flowering clones, we have more than 50% that reproduce with yellow flowers. The time from seed to flower is usually five years. Winter hardiness is Zone 5a-8b.

Florida trilliums

When people think of trilliums, they usually think of the cold north, but states like Florida are also home to four species of trilliums which all thrive throughout the southeastern states. Here are two of the earliest species to flower in our garden.

The first is Trillium maculatum ‘Kanapaha Giant’ from Alachua County. This is consistently the earliest trillium to emerge and flower for us. This is followed close behind by Trillium underwoodii. Both of these are usually in flower by early February.

Trillium maulataum ‘Kanapaha Giant’
Trillium underwoodii ‘Dazzler’

Rude Croatian

One of the gems from our 2012 botanizing trip to the Balkans, was a growable selection of Paris quadrifolia. For those who haven’t mastered Latin, quadrifolia means 4-leaves. All cultivated forms of this widespread European trillium relative had failed to thrive in our hot humid summers. Our collection from the Croatian town of Rude (I’m not making this up), has thrived, forming a lovely patch and even flowering. Hopefully, one day in the future, we’ll have enough to share.

Horticultural Bright Lights Symposium

We hope you’re making plans to attend the upcoming Horticultural Bright Lights Symposium in celebration of the 40th Anniversary of the JC Raulston Arboretum, Raleigh, NC.  The dates are Friday and Saturday, September 23 and 24, 2016…830am – 330pm each day You can register here, but don’t wait, since we expect a sell out!

We’ve already registered, so we’ll hope to see you there!  Did I mention the rare plant auction?  We’re also opening the nursery and gardens at Plant Delights/Juniper Level Botanic Garden on Thursday September 22, 8-5, for symposium attendees.

This very special symposium features 8 of the top young stars of the horticultural world, all of which will boggle your mind with their knowledge and passion for gardening

The incredible speaker lineup includes:

*Matthew Pottage is the Curator of the RHS Wisley Gardens, UK.  It says something to be named the youngest curator ever appointed by the Royal Horticultural Society.  Matthew is a phenomenal plantsman, whose horticultural favorites includes conifers, hardy exotics and variegation.

*Claudia West is the Ecological Sales Manager and Design Consultant for North Creek Nurseries, PA, as well as co-author of the hot new book, Planting in a Post-Wild World: Designing Plant Communities for Resilient Landscapes.  Claudia will make you look at landscape design in a whole new light…did I mention she’s one of the best speakers I’ve heard in the last decade.

*Dr. Jared Barnes is an inspirational horticulture professor at Stephen F. Austin State University, Texas.  Jared is also an NCSU grad, a world traveler, and all around passionate plant nerd.

*Aaron Floden currently works at the University of Tennessee herbarium as a botanist, plant explorer, and virtual walking plant encyclopedia on anything botanical. Aaron is currently finishing his PhD thesis on the taxonomy of the genus, polygonatum.  Aaron has also discovered and published new species of Clematis, monarda, trillium, and polygonatum. When I’m stumped about a plant, Aaron is usually my first call.

*Hans Hansen is a mad plantsman, worldly plant explorer, tissue culture pioneer, amazing gardener, and currently Director of Plant Development at Walters Gardens in Michigan. Hans is unquestionably the top perennial plant breeder in the world today.  His portfolio include 2 hosta of the year winners and much more including some revolutionary bigeneric hybrids.

*Rebecca McMackin is the Horticulture Director of the Brooklyn Bridge Park, as well as an ecological garden designer, instructor at the Brooklyn Botanic and New York Botanic Garden, and obsessed horticulturist. Who needs sleep?

*Tim and Matt Nichols – What’s the chance of having two equally obsessed woody plantsmen from the same family?  Together, the Nichols brothers operate their mail order nurseries, Mr. and  Did I mention that they grow over 1000 different maples?  Who knew you could get this crazed growing maples?


Register now, spaces are limited for this insider’s glimpse into the newest advances in plant selection and designing for pollinators, wildlife, and sustainability, putting you on the cutting edge in gardening.
Early Bird Registration until September 4, 2016,
Get a Chance to Win a Mr. Maple Japanese Maple.
Cost: $130 for members, $180 for nonmembers
Includes 2 days of speakers, breakfast and lunch each day.
Questions? Contact Chris Glenn at or (919) 513-7005


It’s time for our Spring Open Nursery and Garden Days

It’s finally here…the time we share the gardens and open the nursery to the public. Starting tomorrow (Friday) morning, we welcome visitors to stroll the gardens and shop till you drop for cool perennials. Click here for times and directions.  The gardens here and Juniper Level look absolutely fabulous.  Below are a few images of what you’ll see.

2014 9249 patio toward waterfall

2014 9249 combo on patio with Penstemon digitalis

Plant combinations abound throughout the gardens giving you ideas for your garden spaces at home.

Trichocereus Big Time flowers

Here are a few of the gems you’ll find scattered around the garden.  Many of the cactus are flowering this week including Trichocereus ‘Big Time’

Notocactus apricus in flower

Notocactus apricus is another favorite winter hardy cactus.

Trillium flexicpes A2AL-086

Trilliums are everywhere with over 1000+ selected clones as well as many of our seed-propagated selections for sale.

Sarracenia x moorei PDN002 in flower

Pitcher plants are in full flower throughout the gardens and nursery…a sight not to be missed.

Hosta Autumn Frost3

Of course, who can resist great hostas like Hosta ‘Autumn Frost’

For spring, we’ve added a series of short garden chats in the garden that Tony will lead. There is no charge or pre-registration required…just bring your questions

Friday April 29 @ 9am – Gardening in Sun

Friday April 29 @ 11am – Gardening in Shade

Friday April 29 @ 3pm – Hosta Breeding and Evaluation at PDN/JLBG

Saturday April 30 @ 9am – Soil preparation and planting

Saturday April 30 @ 11am – Growing Agaves in North Carolina

Saturday April 30 @ 3pm – Growing Peonies in the South

Plant Delights February 2016 Newsletter

Greetings from Plant Delights Nursery and Juniper Level Botanic Garden.

Now hiring shippers!

Now hiring shippers!

We hope you’ve received your 2016 Plant Delights Nursery catalog. If you’re an active customer and haven’t seen yours, drop us an email and we’ll send a catalog. If you’re not an active customer (haven’t purchased recently), you may shop online or order a printed copy. If you’re a garden writer/blogger, garden celebrity, local garden guru, etc., just let us know and we’ll be glad to add you to our complimentary permanent catalog mailing list.

Only a few weeks remain before we begin shipping plants again starting the first week of March. This means we’re beginning to hire seasonal shippers to help during our busy spring season. So, if you’re interested in joining us and are physically fit, please let us hear from you.

Visit Us During Open Nursery and Garden Days

Grading the road near Greenhouse 14

Grading the road near
Greenhouse 14

Our first Open Nursery and Garden days for 2016 are only a short time away. Winter Open Days are actually one of our best attended events, so if you haven’t dropped by, we hope you’ll join us this year. Winter is a great time to see the structure of the garden before the spring flush. In NC, it doesn’t take much gardening prowess to have a nice spring garden, but if your garden looks good in winter, it will be fabulous the rest of the year. You’ll also be amazed how many plants actually flower in the winter season when few people venture out to garden centers. Did we mention our open nursery days also offer the chance to select your own seed-grown flowering hellebores in person?

Renovations are in full swing as we continue with our entrance, exit drive, and parking lot enhancements. You’ll see the progress we’ve made during our upcoming Winter Open Nursery and Garden Days, although neither project will be completed.

2016 Open Nursery and Garden Dates

February 26 – 28 and March 4 – 6

April 29 – May 1 and May 6 – May 8

July 8 – 10 and July 15 – 17

September 9 – 11 and September 16 – 18

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

Rain or Shine!
Free Parking!

Click for more info

Happy Open Nursery Days Shoppers

Happy Open Nursery Days Shoppers

Sign Up for New Classes at PDN/JLBG

We have a super list of classes scheduled for 2016 with topics from soil to propagation, and from botanical illustration to relaxing your body. We hope you’ll join us for some of these educational and stimulating events.

Anita will be leading our expanded series of thought-provoking mindfulness and meditation classes, and botanical artist Preston Montague will be teaching us how to illustrate the natural world.

In the Winter Botanic Garden

Helleborus 'HGC Joker'

Helleborus ‘HGC Joker’

Here in eastern NC, we’ve had a mild winter so far, with only one night below 20 degrees F, compared to 2013/2014 when we had thirteen nights below 20 degrees F during the same period. The January ice/freezing rain storm left quite a few memories by removing a couple of large evergreen specimens (one persea and a magnolia) from the garden, while pruning limbs from several other specimens. No structural damage resulted.

Because the temperatures were so mild early in fall/winter, some plants starting growing much sooner than normal including many of the hellebores. The new growth on a few hellebores was kissed by the cold and is looking a bit black, but the next round of new growth will be fine. A few of our later hellebores are already in flower and, in most cases, the flowers can take quite a bit of freezing since they’ve learned how to lose turgidity during very cold weather and regain it when the temperatures warm.

We prefer to remove the old, tattered hellebore foliage to improve the floral show, but we always wait until the flower buds are showing color and have risen above the old leaves. We do this so the old leaves will keep the developing flower buds in shade and consequently cooler, which in turn delays flowering.

Trillium underwoodii

Trillium underwoodii

Many of the southern trilliums also emerged a bit early this year, although they can tolerate temperatures in the teens F once they’ve emerged…just not too many nights of those temps. This year we saw Trillium foetidissimum, Trillium underwoodii, and Trillium recurvatum up in December.

Bananas, cannas, crinum lilies, podophyllums, and the winter growing Zantedeschia aethiopica (calla) have also tried growing above ground several times this winter, getting nature-slapped repeatedly. Fortunately, these have an abundance of underground dormant eyes that will continue to resprout.

The foliage on our lycoris (surprise lilies) looks the best we can remember for this time of year. The longer the foliage grows undamaged, the more food is going into the bulb. It’s looking like we’ll have an exceptional bloom season this summer. We hope you’re going to try several of the choice new surprise lilies that we’re bringing to market for the first time.

Our Research Programs in the Garden and Nursery

Ensete maurelii

Ensete maurelii

We’re always conducting horticultural research, both in the field and the nursery. One of the most recent mad scientist quests was to see if we could cause a non-offsetting banana to offset. Our subject for the experiment was the lovely Ensete maurelii, which is a genus of solitary-trunked banana relatives. We were curious to learn if ensetes had dormant buds around the base that were simply kept from sprouting by the plant’s auxin hormones.

To answer the question, we severed the auxin translocation system by slicing through the stalk about one inch above the soil level. Once the knife came out the other side of the stalk, we applied down pressure until the knife emerged through the root. Next, we rotated the stalk 90 degrees and repeated the process. To our surprise, after eight weeks, the crown began to sprout pups…up to fifteen per plant. This practice, called crown cutting or rossisizing, has long been used on hostas, but now we can use it to multiply some of the rarer bananas and their relatives.


Congratulations to Florida plantsman Adam Black who was named the new Director of Horticulture at Peckerwood Gardens in Texas. We look forward to watching Adam put his stamp on this already amazing garden.


We were saddened to lose plantsman and garden writer Allen Lacy, 80, in December. The former NY Times/Wall Street Journal garden columnist and philosophy professor was given a second lease on life after defying death and giving up his former hard-living lifestyle. He subsequently established the Linwood Arboretum in his home state of New Jersey, all while receiving dialysis. Our thoughts are with his widow, Hella, and their children.

This Christmas season also marked the passing of our friend Rene Duval who, along with his surviving partner of 43 years, Dick Weaver, started the well-known North Carolina mail order nursery, We-Du. In the 1980s, the Polly Spout (near Marion, NC) based We-Du Nursery was one of the most important sources of new and unusual perennials in the country. The opportunity to visit and chat with Dick and Rene was always special, as was the chance to buy plants that were unknown and unavailable elsewhere. After retirement, Dick and Rene moved first to Puerto Rico, then to North Central Florida. Dick, who originally worked at Arnold Arboretum, plans to move north to Pennsylvania to be closer to family. Our thoughts are with him.

Connect with Us!

Until next month, connect and follow us and the cats on FacebookPinterest, Tony’s blog and Anita’s blog. We encourage you to sign up to follow our regular posts.

Happy Gardening!

tony and anita

Plant Delights April 2015 Newsletter

Greetings PDNers!

Nursery Update—Made it through Winter

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

Helleborus x hybridus PDN Double Pink w/Spots

Helleborus x hybridus PDN Double Pink w/Spots

Plants and More Plants

Trillium vaseyi

Trillium vaseyi

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

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

Paeonia 'Bartzella'

Paeonia ‘Bartzella’

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

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

Phlox 'Pink Profusion'

Phlox ‘Pink Profusion’

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

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

Sarracenia flava

Sarracenia flava

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

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

Greenhouse Filled with Hellebores

Greenhouse Filled with Hellebores

Plant Cartoon

I hope all the aroid collectors saw this wonderful cartoon. If not, check out the link below. We’re not sure what that says about us, but it’s probably true.

Open Nursery and Garden

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

2015 Spring Open Nursery & Garden Days

May 1 – 3
May 8 – 10

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

Rain or Shine!
Free Parking!

Click for more info

Happy Open Nursery Days Shoppers

Happy Open Nursery Days Shoppers

Fern Conference

Pyrrosia polydactyla

Pyrrosia polydactyla

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

Invasive Species

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

Sign Up for Close-Up Photography Workshop and Garden Walks

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

American Hosta Society National Convention in Raleigh June 18-20

Hosta 'Showbiz'

Hosta ‘Showbiz’

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

Let’s Stay Connected!

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

Happy Gardening!

-tony and anita

Trillium viridescens

Trillium viridescens in bud at stop 11 AR

It was great to finally see Trillium viridescens in the wild, although due to the cold spring, only a couple of plants were beginning to flower.  These also grew in floodplains, where they were unfortunately being devastated by the excessive deer populations…a problems that must be addressed before we loose more valuable plant populations.  I hope you’ve enjoyed the quick adventure recap.

Trillium sessile dwarfs

Trillium sessile at stop 13 AR

Another plant that really threw us for a loop were the populations of dwarf Trillium sessile.  These plants all topped out between 2″ and 3″ tall…totally unlike any of the other Trillium sessile that we’ve ever seen.  Very cute!

2013 Plant Delights Nursery May Newsletter

PDN patio garden

PDN patio garden

Dear PDN’ers

Thanks to everyone who took the time to visit during our recent Spring Open House.  In contrast to our Winter Open House, the weather was excellent and the threat of rain never materialized.  We were delighted to meet visitors who came from as far away as Canada to the north and Oregon to the west.  We’ll do it again in July, so we hope your vacation plans include Plant Delights, where we promise a garden and nursery both filled with amazing plants!

Hosta greenhouse

One of our two hosta greenhouses

Despite having a very busy spring, many great plants remain, including many full pots of hostas.

If you purchased any of our hardy cypripedium ladyslipper orchids this year, you no doubt noticed the amazing, often multi-crowned plants that we were able to supply.  There are still a few varieties that have not sold out.

While lots of other cool plants remain, work has already begun on the fall catalog, as descriptions are now being written on an array of very cool, exciting new plants that we’ve selected and propagated for fall.

In other good news on the plant front, our first crop of Amorphophallus paeoniifolius ‘Thailand Giant’  sold out in record time this spring, but a second crop is now ready and online.  Just remember that when these are gone, they’re all gone.

In the “oops” plant category, our production assistant and resident plant nerd, Zac Hill, recently brought to my attention that the plant we originally acquired and now sell as Verbesina microptera is actually Verbesina olsenii.  It turns out the true Verbesina microptera is a much smaller plant with white flowers than the massive yellow-flowered giant we grow.  Time to change your tags…sorry.

Since our late spring propagation class has filled and has a waiting list, we have added a second section on Saturday August 17, from 10am – 4pm.  This class will be led by PDN staff member, Aaron Selby, who is in charge of producing all of the plants sold at Plant Delights.  You can sign up online here.

We empathize with those suffering from weather disasters around the country this spring.  For many, the annoyance of late spring freezes and even late snows have been the worst in many years…unfortunately these weather events have been enough that we may lose more garden centers that have been hanging on by a financial thread.  All this pales, however, to those who suffered the terrible tornadoes this month, especially in Moore, Oklahoma.  Our thoughts and prayers go out to all of those affected!

Echinacea 'Evan Saul'

Echinacea ‘Evan Saul’

In the “I’m from the Government and I’m here to help” section this month, comes NC House Bill 476, designed to protect underground cables.  Instead, the bill makes many home gardening chores a criminal offense.  The bill will ban all homeowners from digging at a depth greater than 10”, all trenching for water lines, etc, and all farm plowing greater than 12”…without first calling 811 underground utility locators and then waiting two business days which, including weekends, adds up to 4 days.  The new proposed law even makes these acts illegal on your own property!  Now, you may not be aware that Chapter 785 of the North Carolina Damage Prevention Act currently exempts homeowners from these requirements, except when digging in the utility easement right-of-ways.  Not only is this proposed new law a further intrusion into personal property rights (don’t worry…the fine can’t exceed $2500 each time you dig), it eliminates the spontaneity that is a backbone of gardening.  Let’s say you just watched a HGTV show on goldfish ponds and want to add a wildlife habitat to your back yard…sorry, a 2 day wait.  How about planting that large tree you just purchased at your neighborhood garden center…a 2 day wait.  That farm field or vegetable garden that finally dried out enough for some deep cultivation on Saturday…sorry, a 2 business day wait.  How about your mailbox smashed by drunken teenagers on Saturday night…sorry a 2 business day wait.  You all could really help us send a message that this is a bad idea, by emailing your legislator…or if you’re from out of town, just pick a name from the list that sounds interesting and sound off.  To borrow the old Bartles and James line, we thank you for your support!

Interesting Stuff

The garden world was shaken to its core this month with the announcement that England’s Chelsea Flower Show had agreed to temporarily rescind its long-time ban on garden gnomes for its 100 anniversary.  This is the equivalent of US Open golfers being allowed to compete in Speedos and flip flops…it just doesn’t happen.  Until now, gnomophobia ran rampant at Chelsea, where the only thing at Chelsea that was allowed to get in the way of the plants were the upturned noses of the UK’s gardening elite.  Garden gnomes, as you may be aware, are the antithesis of everything Chelsea, since they are associated with the less tasteful gardens of the great unwashed lower class.  Reportedly, many exhibitors enjoyed the relaxation of the gnome ban for a year, while others stayed as far away from the gnomes as possible.  Even singer Elton John donated his famous pink rhinestone-studded sunglasses to adorn one of the gnomes auctioned for a garden education charity.

Speaking of gnomes, you may not be aware that some experts on the subject think gnomes aren’t as meek and mild as they are often portrayed in the press.  Author Chuck Sambuchino has actually written a book, How to Survive a Garden Gnome Attack…I’m not making this up.  If you start feeling a soft spot for gnomes and are thinking of including them in your garden, read this book first.  Then, of course, there is the wonderfully educational Gnome Management in the Garden video that’s also a must see from researchers at Utah State.

Hibiscus 'Summer Storm'

Hibiscus ‘Summer Storm’

Over the last hundred years, many insect plant pests have entered the country and have become major problems for gardeners and nurserymen.  I’m glad to report success on one front…the Asian longhorned beetle.  New Jersey is the second state to report complete eradication after an eleven-year battle…the other being Illinois in 2008.  This is great news, since the Asian longhorned beetle has been reported to have eliminated 70% of the tree canopy in an infected area.  So far, Asian longhorned beetle has been responsible for the death of over 80,000 trees in the US.  The key is early detection and the US Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is asking for your help in watching out for and reporting sightings of this pest.  You can find out more at

Nursery News and Happenin’s

One of the business casualties of the recession was one of the older professional nursery associations, SNA…the Southern Nursery Association.  Like so many nursery businesses, SNA was slow to adjust to changing times and didn’t reduce its expenses to match its declining income.  SNA was a wonderful organization, but the aspect that many of us missed the most was their event, the Southern Plant Conference.  The late JC Raulston was one of the key players in getting this started as an event where plant nerds in the nursery business could get together and talk about all their new plant favorites.  Finally, this year, SNA is trying the Freddie Kruger thing and resurrecting itself with a new edition of the Southern Plant Conference as the centerpiece of its new multi-day event.  The new SNA Southern Plant Conference, sandwiched between the trade show and other educational sessions, will be held on August 5 at the Georgia International Conference Center across from Hartsfield Airport in Atlanta.  The incredible speaker list includes: Allen Armitage, Paul Capiello, Steve Castorani, Rick Crowder, Mike Dirr, John Elsley, Joseph Hillenmeyer, John Hoffman, Richard Olsen, Tom Ranney, James Owen Reich, Ted Stephens, Brian Upchurch, Takay Uki Kobayashi of Japan, and yours truly.  I sure hope to see you there. You can find out more here.

If you’re looking to manage a garden and can deal with the climate of Texas, then Peckerwood Gardens may be looking for you.  The Garden Conservancy along with garden creator, John Fairey, are looking to hire a Garden Manager for their extensive property in Hempstead, Texas (outside of Houston).  Since John has recently turned 80, it’s time to transfer more of the operations of the garden over to this position.  You can find more about the position on their website and if interested, email a cover letter expressing interest and a resume to:

Congratulations are in order to our friend, landscape artist Pearl Fryar, who on May 2, received the prestigious Verner Award from the South Carolina Arts Commission.  If you’ve never been to Pearl’s topiary extravaganza in Bishopville, SC, don’t miss it while Pearl’s still around.  Of all the people I’ve met in my life, I can think of no one that better embodies all that’s wonderful about our great country.

In news from the nursery world, Bob Hoffman, owner of NJ’s Fairweather Gardens mail order nursery is suspending all operations for the next year.  As you may recall, Bob lost his partner Bob Popham suddenly three years ago and has been running the nursery alone since then, so a respite is sorely needed.  Bob’s current plans are to rest, regroup, and re-open in a year.  Enjoy the time off!

In sad news, one of the best known names in plant nerd circles passed away on May 14.  Plantsman Don Jacobs, 93, had been in declining health for the last two years, battling cancer, heart failure, and a series of strokes.  I always enjoyed stopping at Don’s backyard nursery in the suburbs of Atlanta and was fortunate to make a final stop in 2010, just prior to Don becoming ill.  To say Don was a quirky nurseryman would be the understatement of the century, but Don’s impact on the number of rare and unusual plants available to gardeners was huge.  Don ran a small mail order nursery that never published a catalog…just a single page typed list that you could only get if you requested it each year.  When you ordered, Don would then propagate or divide your plant which you would receive…usually within a year or two.  Don’s nursery wasn’t for gardeners without patience, but was instead for serious plantsmen who realized that rare plants were worth the wait.  I always enjoyed following Don around the garden, shadowed by his pet parrot who oversaw our every step from the tree limbs above.

Few people ever took the time to chat with Don about his life, which included a PhD in Ecology from the University of Minnesota in 1944.  Don taught ecology for nine years at the University of Georgia, before becoming frustrated with the university system and starting a wholesale tropical fish and pet store.The store became the largest of its kind in the Southeast US and during the 24 years he ran it he also developed and patented seven water treatment systems for aquariums, which are still used today.  In 1979, Don sold his business and started a mail-order plant hobby business that he named Eco Gardens.  You’ll find Don’s plants grown worldwide, most named with the cultivar prefix “Eco”, such as Viola pedata ‘Eco Artist Palette’.  There was rarely a time when I visited and didn’t find other nurserymen and plant collectors from overseas that had flown to the US just to visit Don and purchase plants.  Don also authored 2 books, “Know Your Aquarium Plants” (1971), and “Trilliums in Woodland and Garden; American Treasures” with his son, Rob (1997).  Don is survived by his three children and their families.  Those who want to honor his memory, please make donations in his name to The American Cancer Society, The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society or the American Heart Association.

Also, from the botanical world, those of us who love ferns suffered a huge loss on May 14 with the death of South Africa’s Koos Roux.  Koos, 59, was the fern taxonomist at the Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden’s Compton Herbarium.  Koos, an avid bicyclist and South African national cycling champion was out riding with his son, Kobus 19, when he was hit and killed in a hit and run accident.  Our thoughts go out to his surviving family.

Until next month…happy gardening.



2013 Plant Delights Nursery April Newsletter

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Stone wall in the spring woodland garden







Dear PDN’ers

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.

Interesting Stuff

Athyrium (Lady Fern, Japanese Painted Fern) and Azalea 'Redwing'

Athyrium (Lady Fern, Japanese Painted Fern) and Azalea ‘Redwing’

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.

Cypripedium 'Paul'

Cypripedium ‘Paul’

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.

Under the arching oak in the woodland garden

Under the arching oak in the woodland garden

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!



2013 Plant Delights Nursery February Newsletter

February 2013

Dear PDN’ers,

I don’t know about you, but I’ve about enjoyed this winter long enough…and winter megastorm Nemo missed us.  While we’ve only had a low temperature of 18 degrees F in Raleigh, very mild by our norms, it has been consistently cool, which is great for the plants but not so much for those of us with thin blood…I mean chlorophyll.

Out in the garden, our early trilliums are about 2-3 weeks behind normal, which is actually a good thing when it comes to avoiding those pesky late spring frosts.  Despite the cool, some plants just can’t wait.  Our silly clumps of Arisaema ringens are already trying to poke their heads through the soil far too early. When this happens, adding a few inches of mulch to help keep the soil cool will help delay their emergence.  Podophyllum pleianthum, a Chinese mayapple, also always emerges too early.  Fortunately, it seems to be quite tolerant of getting burned back to the ground time after time.

We’ve had a great hellebore show in the garden this winter which, thanks to the cool weather, will continue for a while.  Since most hybrid hellebores seed around the parent clump, you’ll need to consciously decide when you have enough seedlings.  When that point arises, the spent flowers can be circumcised as an effective means of population control.  Six to sixteen weeks (depending on the temperature) is the typical gestation period for hellebores, so mark your calendar so you don’t forget when snipping time arrives.  As we’ve discussed on Facebook, we’ve found that when you plant hellebores about 15′ apart in the garden, they come relatively true to type…double whites produce more double whites, etc.  Anything closer than that produces a combination of the parental colors and forms, which can be both good and bad depending on the traits of each neighbor.  If you are looking for hellebores that don’t seed in the garden, you should explore the Helleborus niger hybrids: Helleborus x ballardiae, Helleborus x ericsmithii, and Helleborus x nigercors (nigersmithii).  These are all sterile moms and will not produce viable seed.  Check out our full selection of Hellebores here.

Speaking of hellebores, this is our final Winter Open House weekend for 2013 with lots of great hellebores remaining.  I just counted, and we still have over 300 doubles in flower along with over 160 incredible single yellows.  These are some of the finest hellebores we’ve ever had for Open House, so drop by if you can.  Anything that doesn’t go out the door this weekend will go on the web next week.  We’ve posted some killer hellebore photos on our Facebook page, so check ’em out.  Please remember you DO NOT have to join or register with Facebook to visit our Facebook page or see the photos…only if you want an email to know when we post more.  We think you’ll find our Facebook page worthwhile if you like plants.

While there are many things to love about the end of winter, the one thing I don’t look forward to is the annual rite of tree-topping…the only fad that’s spreading around the country faster than body art.  Tree topping, aka butchering, especially of crape myrtles, is truly one of the most bizarre rituals to ever affect the gardening community.  I’ve almost concluded that alien mind control must be at work here, causing Homo sapiens males with power tools and no critical thinking skills to bizarrely butcher any tree in their yard they think might possibly look like a crape myrtle.  Other than releasing extra testosterone and making your carbon footprint the size of Sasquatch, there is absolutely no logical reason to top trees.  Tree topping does not keep the tree shorter and it does not make it flower better. It does, however, make your tree decrepitly ugly, weak-branched, and more susceptible to disease while putting on display your low gardening IQ to all your neighbors.  Please, mow your grass an extra time or two, but leave the trees alone.

An interesting new trend is emerging in botanical circles that has already caused a divisive fracture in the taxonomic community.  The trend is one of naming new plants after the highest bidder, as has been done for years with buildings and sporting events.  One taxonomy camp argues that the money is needed to support their work, while the other camp wants genus and species names reserved for locations where the plants were found, people who were associated with finding the plants, or to simply name the plants after things they resemble.

Most recently, a worldwide naming auction was held for a new species of Hesperantha (iris family) that was discovered in 2011 by Odette Curtis in the Lowland Renosterveld management region of South Africa.  The auction for the Overberg Lowlands Conservation Trust was managed by Fauna & Flora International on the Giving Lots on-line auction site.  The winning bid was $47,000 USD, although the winner has not been publicly identified.  Not only will the winner get to name the species, but they will receive a painting and bronze cast of their new namesake…no mention of a herbarium sheet.

In other interesting news from the science community, Indian researchers have discovered an additional way in which carnivorous plants attract their insect prey…they glow.  Yes, in addition to fragrance, color, and nectar, Dionaea (Venus fly-traps), Sarracenia, and Nepenthes (tropical pitcher plants) actually emit a UV spectrum blue glow in and around the entrance to the pitchers that resembles airport landing lights.  The blue glow evidently attracts insects out trolling for a good time in the same way blue Christmas lights attract rednecks.

In a related note, have you heard of plant neurobiology?  My spell checker certainly hasn’t.  Plant neurobiology is the study of how plants communicate, feel, and react.  Those of a certain age may remember the 1973 book, The Secret Life of Plants, which got many folks of our generation thinking about a rarely discussed subject.  Well, now folks interested in the subject will have a place to congregate at the first ever plant neurobiology convention this summer.  If this floats your proverbial boat, check out the agenda here.

Another great event is coming up next week…the 2013 Salvia Summit to be held at the Huntington Botanical Gardens in California.  Although I had the Salvia Summit on my schedule for over a year, I’ll regretfully have to miss the summit due to unforeseen circumstances at the nursery.  I truly hope many of you who love salvias will be able to attend and hear the incredible list of great speakers.

Closer to Plant Delights, we are pleased to welcome England’s famed garden writer, Dr.Noel Kingsbury to Raleigh next week.  This will mark Noel’s first visit to the region, where he will be speaking to the Friends of the JC Raulston Arboretum on Thursday, March 7, at 7:30pm on The Politics of the Garden.  Noel will follow this up with an all day workshop discussing long term plant performance on Saturday, March 9, from 9:00am to 3:00pm, at the Brickhaven building adjacent to the JC Raulston Arboretum.  The workshop will teach gardeners how to look at the garden from a long-term perspective in terms of sustainability as well as aesthetics.

The workshop cost is $80.00 for JCRA members and $95.00 for nonmembers.  Space is limited to the first 25 participants.  To register, contact Chris Glenn at (919) 513‑7005 or

On the heels of Noel’s talk comes Magnolia Mayhem, a mini-symposium also at the JC Raulston Arboretum on Saturday, March 23, from 8:00am until 2:00pm.  Speakers include Kevin Parris, magnolia breeder extraordinaire and director of the Spartanburg Community College Arboretum, and Aaron Schettler, magnolia collector and director of grounds at Raleigh’s Meredith College.  The talks will be followed by a Mark Weatherington tour of the JC Raulston Arboretum magnolia collection, then a tour of the adjacent magnolia collection.  If that’s not enough, a pre-convention tour on Friday, March 22, will include Camellia Forest Nursery, the Charles R. Keith Arboretum, and plantsman Tom Krenitsky’s private garden.  Details are available here.

If you’re in town for the event and have time, we’d be delighted to have you visit us as well…just call (919)772-4794 and set up an appointment (weekends not available).

Last month, I mentioned the demise of the well-respected mail order firm, High Country Gardens, in New Mexico.  Well, in late February, a white knight rode into town and swooped them up, and last week reopened their website for business.  It seems that American Meadows of Vermont has a friendly financier who thought this was a good investment, so as of last week, HCG is back in business under the leadership of its founder, David Salman.  We wish HCG the best in ramping back up production of the plants that made HCG a favorite of gardeners in the high desert.  In 2008, American Meadows itself was sold by founders Ray and Chy Allen to long-time employee Mike Lizotte and his business partner, Ethan Platt (formerly of Green Mountain Coffee Roasters).  We wish Mike and Ethan good luck with their new long-distance venture.

Other horticulture stalwarts continue to struggle with the latest bad news coming from the 100-year-old, 400-acre, Briggs Nursery of Elma, Washington.  Briggs has been struggling for years due to a combination of original family members cashing out, a move to a new location, a very high debt load ($5 million), and a failure to modernize their plant offerings.  Most homeowners have probably never heard of Briggs, but their state-of-the-art tissue culture lab produces the lion’s share of the rhododendrons and blueberries produced in the US.  Did I mention that Briggs propagated and sold huge numbers of the Pink Champagne Blueberry (not to be confused with Pink Lemonade, which is fine) last year, only to then receive a “oops, we sent you the wrong plant” notice from the US government?

Briggs has been sold several times in recent years, most notably to the abysmal failure, International Garden Products.  A year ago, J. Guy of the defunct Carolina Nurseries was brought in to try and modernize the nursery in hopes of saving what was left of Briggs.  Unfortunately, the lack of capital and the unwillingness of Briggs’ bank to take any further risks resulted in the bank asking for the nursery to be placed in court receivership, which occurred in late January.  The courts will now determine the best way to proceed with Briggs, whether that be new financing, selling the nursery, or closing the business.  As you can imagine, several suitors from a variety of industries are already in the hunt.  Unfortunately, as one prospective purchaser described to me, the spate of past sales has left the assets of Briggs in quite disarray.  Fingers crossed we don’t lose this valuable resource.

Another name I never expected to hear in the same sentence with foreclosure is Kerry Herndon of Kerry’s Nursery in Florida…formerly Kerry’s Bromeliads.  Kerry’s, founded in 1970, has expanded enormously both via growth and acquisition, and is now one of the largest growers in the country (ranked #21) with 2.8 million square feet of production.  Kerry is a rock star of the horticulture world, with people following his every word as it relates to business management both in his “no limits” talks and trade magazine columns.

Kerry’s specializes in orchids and bromeliads (over 7 million plants in production) which are sold primarily through the big box stores like Home Depot, Publix, Kroger, Safeway, and Trader Joe’s.  Florida Federal Land Bank Association recently filed a foreclosure lawsuit over the nursery’s $12 million debt, although Kerry remains optimistic a settlement can be reached that allows them to remain open.  The supply of orchids and bromeliads available to home gardeners would take a huge hit if Kerry’s closes, so fingers crossed for a good resolution in the courts.

In still more disappointing news, the 185,000 subscriber strong, Garden Design Magazine has reached the end of the road. The stunning, high quality idea magazine for designers got the axe after the previous publisher, World Publications, sold out to Bonnier Corporation who found the magazine too small for their market.

Finally, the horticulture book world lost a giant recently with the passing of 86-year-old author, Jack Kramer.  Jack will go down as the most prolific gardening writer of our time, authoring a staggering 161 gardening books…mostly about houseplants. A few of Jack’s many titles include; Bromeliads for Home and Garden (2011), The Art of Flowers (2002), Women of Flowers (1996), Sunset’s How to Grow African Violets (1977), and Underwater Gardens (1974).   Jack was also a former syndicated columnist for the Los Angeles Times before retiring to Naples, Florida in 1987.  Here is a nice article about Jack.

Until next month, I’ll see you on Facebook where we learn and share together.



2011 Plant Delights Nursery April Newsletter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Visit Us on Facebook!

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

In the past, we’ve had customers who live near the nursery willing to house new employees (either short or long-term), and we are once again looking for housing for a new employee that will be joining us in late May after finishing up at the University of Georgia. If you have a room available and are interested, please let us know so that we can pass your contact information along to our new employee. You can share your interest by email to Krista at
A couple of months back, I mentioned the Chapter 11 bankruptcy auction of Hines Nurseries, formerly the largest nursery in the country. Well, as it turns out, even after the auction, Hines is still in business thanks to some clever legal maneuvering. As you may recall, Hines Nurseries is owned by the hedge fund, Black Diamond Capital Management. For those who don’t know Black Diamond, they also own companies like Sunworld (one of the worlds leading producers of fruit and vegetables) and Werner Ladders (the worlds top producer of ladders).

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

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

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

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


2011 Plant Delights Nursery January Newsletter

We hope you’ve all received your 2011 catalogs by now. If not, it’s probably been confiscated by a postal carrier who also has a penchant for gardening, so give us a holler and we’ll send another. We were very honored to be named one of the seven “Best Mail-Order Plant Sources” by Garden Design Magazine in their December 2010 issue.

We hope you’ve also had time to check out the new version of our Plant Delights website, which includes a number of new items and features. Until you’ve worked on a website this large (27,000 pages indexed by Google), you can’t imagine the time involved. We mentioned last August that we had switched websites, but the new site didn’t live up to our expectations, so for the new year we switched out both our entire nursery database and website systems.

I’m not going to begin to tell you that we’ve worked out all the bugs, so please bear with us as we solve problems that we don’t yet realize are problems. What the new website will allow is faster turnaround of changes and hopefully better Search Engine Optimization (SEO), so more folks in cyberspace can find us.

Because we also have more in-house control of the site, we’ve been able to add several new features. One of these is a “wish list”, where you can tell us which and how many you want of sold out items. If your wish list includes plants that we can produce quickly, then we will. We’ve also added the capability to find plants by categories on the homepage, such as Deer Resistant Plants, Hummingbird Favorites, or Ornamental Grasses.

We’ve recently added several new plant articles including ones on arisaema, curcuma, cyclamen, hedychium, and tricyrtis.

In the plant exploration section, we’ve added images to several of our older expeditions for the first time, including China, Korea, Mexico, and Argentina. We’ve also changed the images in the later galleries to hot links, which should make it easier to follow and know which photos belong where.

We continue to add new plants to the on-line catalog as they become ready including some new ones this week. Most of these plants are available in very limited supply, so if you see something that strikes your fancy, don’t delay. Some of these plants are first time offerings including the hard-to-find Arisaema dahaiense. New plants are listed here.

If you’d like to enter our Top 25 contest for the $250 gift certificate, remember that only 3 weeks remain before our entry deadline of February 15.

I’m traveling around the country this spring and this week I’m in the Big Apple to speak at the Metro Hort’s Plant-O-Rama series for horticultural professionals at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. The details are below, so if you’re in the area, be sure to drop by.

While I’m in NY, I’ll also be appearing on another segment of the Martha Stewart Show, which will air live at 10am on Wednesday January 26 on the Hallmark Channel. If you’re so inclined, be sure to tune in and watch our segment on ferns.

If you enjoy traveling to visit great gardens, there are a few spaces remaining for the upcoming JC Raulston Arboretum’s tour to England from June 11-20. The tour, led by Assistant Director Mark Weathington, includes Kew Gardens, RHS Garden Wisley, the Chelsea Physic Garden, Beth Chatto’s Garden, Roy Lancaster’s home garden and The Sir Harold Hillier Arboretum (led by Roy Lancaster). The tour will also include some special private gardens and nurseries, so don’t miss this incredible opportunity. For more information go to the JCRA website or email Mark directly at

Speaking of tours, we have a number of bus groups who visit PDN every year, while we hear from others who would like to join a bus tour, but don’t have enough folks to fill the bus. If this is the case, let us know once you have finalized your dates and we’ll help publicize your tour here in our monthly e-newsletter.

In the garden this month, we’re starting to see signs of life despite still being in the midst of a winter that has included a number of healthy winter storms. The flower buds on Helleborus x hybridus are beginning to swell, but no color is showing quite yet. Many folks like to cut the old foliage from their lenten roses, but the key is good timing. If you cut the foliage too early, you lose the protection that the foliage provides for the developing flower buds while exposing the plants to more sun, which speeds up flowering…not always a good thing in midwinter. Our rule of thumb is that we remove all of the previous year’s foliage only when we see the first sign of color in the flower buds. This year, it looks like that’s going to be in mid-February.

Unlike Helleborus x hybrids, Helleborus niger is already in flower and its hybrids, including H. x ericsmithii, H. x ballardiae, and H. x nigercors, are showing flower color and can be cleaned up now. While these hellebore hybrids were once quite rare, recent breeding breakthroughs and tissue culture advances have made these wonderful plants much more readily available.

There has recently been a big uproar in the nation’s capital over a plan by the US National Arboretum to remove a section of the Glen Dale azalea display. Azaleas lovers across the country have launched an email campaign to prevent the arboretum staff from removing the azaleas. While I like azaleas as much as anyone, I have a different take on the issue. The azaleas in question are breeding rejects from the USDA program which produced the Glen Dale Series. The breeding work of the late Arboretum director, Ben Morrison, produced the release of 454 azalea cultivars. Do we really need more azaleas from a program that has yielded 454 named varieties? When most breeding programs are concluded, the culls (rejects) are typically discarded. For some reason, these culls were never discarded, and over the years folks have become emotionally attached to these plants and consequently are now protesting the plan to discard them. The land at the US National Arboretum is some of the most expensive land in the country and is not the place to maintain a collection of cull azaleas…no matter how nice they look for a couple of weeks in spring. My suggestion to concerned members of the Rhododendron Society and the general public is that they raise private money and pay for the plants to be moved to a nearby park, which has more space and is in an area which is not focused on genetically important collections. Perhaps then, the USNA can replant a complete, labeled collection of the named Glen Dale hybrids along with other important hybrids that can serve as a real reference collection instead of the mass of unlabeled, unnamed plants that exist there now.

Congratulations are in order to Dr. Harold Pellett, the retired University of Minnesota professor and executive director of the Landscape Plant Development Center (LPDC) in Minnesota. Harold is the 2011 recipient of the prestigious Scott Medal, awarded by Pennsylvania’s Scott Arboretum at Swarthmore College. Harold’s work is responsible for several plant introductions for the northern and midwest regions including Physocarpus ‘Center Glow’, Pyrus ‘Silver Ball’, Diervilla ‘Cool Splash’, and Clematis ‘Center Star’ (we’re ignoring those illegal trademark names that LPDC uses).

We are saddened this month to report the death of a couple of horticultural stalwarts. On January 9, we lost our good friend Clif Russell, 79, of Churchville, PA. Clif and his wife Norma spent much of their life as missionaries in Peru, but returned to the US in the mid 1970s, and in 1981 started a wholesale perennial nursery, Russell Gardens Wholesale. For those who had the good fortune to visit, Clif’s nursery was a treasure trove of rare and unusual plants. Like many of us, his passion for plants and obsessive nature often overrode his business decisions. Many of the cool plants found in nurseries and gardens throughout the Northeast started their lives at Russell’s. Clif is survived by his wife, Norma, and five children: Clifton Jr., Jay Timothy, Andrew, Alan, and Kent.

January 12 saw the passing of horticultural icon, Fred Case, 83, of Saginaw, Michigan. Fred was a high school science teacher who retired from the classroom but never stopped teaching. Fred was an active conservationist known worldwide for his books, including “Orchids of the Western Great Lakes Region” (1964), “Wildflowers of the Northeastern States” (1978), “Wildflowers of the Western Great Lakes Region” (1999), and “Trilliums” (1997). Even in his twilight years, Fred continued to tromp through the woods, studying the native flora. Fred was awarded the Edgar Wherryi Award from the North American Rock Garden Society in 1974 and the Scott Medal in 2004. Fred was preceded in death by his wife Roberta (Boots) Case in 1998, but survived by a son and daughter-in-law, David B. and Sheri Leaman Case. We were fortunate to have visited the nursery a couple of times and always found it an incredible learning experience.

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


2009 Plant Delights Nursery May Newsletter

Greetings from Juniper Level, NC where the weather has simply been wonderful for gardening this spring. Overall, most of the country has enjoyed a good gardening spring, except for the terrible drought still persisting in southeast Texas. Florida had been suffering the same fate as Texas until the recent multi-day deluge that quickly brought most of the state out of a rainfall deficit. Even most of the Midwest has been calm this spring, leaving the poor caravans of storm chasers from the Vortex2 expedition exasperated…sorry folks…you can stay there permanently if it’ll keep the tornados away.

Our heart goes out to the staff of the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden in California, which suffered extensive damage to both structures and the garden in the recent wind-driven Jesusita Fire. The gardens, which focus on California natives, are outstanding if ever have the chance to visit. We hope they can get reopened soon. You can read more about their damage in this news release.

May was the first month since last September that we have seen near normal sales levels and we can’t thank you enough. It was great to see so many of you here for our Spring Open House including a tour bus of wonderful gardeners from Utah, along with visitors from Germany, Russia, and China. It was also great to meet Keith Ferguson, retired Deputy Keeper of the Kew Herbarium and his wife Lorna, who even dropped by from the UK. The May Open House brought many first time visitors, whom we hope to see again in the future.

It was great to have Sally Walker drop by for a visit recently and to see her in good shape after hip surgery. Sally is co-owner of Southwest Native Seed, a small company based in Tucson that sells seed of plants native to Arizona. Sally has quite a horticultural background, having worked at nurseries such as Jack Drake’s Alpine Nursery in the UK and later for Marshall Olbrich at California’s famed Western Hills Nursery. Sally and her husband Tim have operated their seed business for 30+ years …. sorry no website or telephone.

Spring Open House visitors were treated to an amazing sight as four of our agaves are nearing flowering. These include Agave salmiana v. ferox ‘Logan Calhoun’, Agave lophantha (three spikes), A. striata (many spikes), and Agave parviflora. We’ve already started making crosses, although reaching the top of the 25′ tall A. salmiana spike has proven problematic…i.e., I don’t relish the idea of falling off a ladder and landing on something with that many spines. At least my pole saw allows me to sever flower clusters so they can serve as a pollen donor for the shorter-spiked species. It looks like we’ll also have a flowering overlap with several manfredas, as well as pollen from a xMangave ‘Macho Mocha’ that just couldn’t wait, thanks to magnolia specialist, Pat McCracken.

Congratulations are in order for NCSU Plant Breeder Dr. Tom Ranney for winning the American Horticulture Society’s Marc Cathey Award for ‘outstanding scientific research that has enriched the field of horticulture’. Tom’s released hybrids include Calycanthus ‘Venus’ along with the creations of two new bigeneric genera xSchimlinia floribunda (Schima x Franklinia) and xGordlinia (Gordonia x Franklinia). Many more exciting plants are in the pipeline.

I’m sure many of you know Bob Lyons, either from his days at Virginia Tech, as former JC Raulston Arboretum Director, or now as Graduate Coordinator for the Longwood Gardens program. On May 9, Bob’s home exploded and burned to the ground in a gas-leak fire. Bob was outdoors at the time, while the gas company was searching for the leak. Bob lost all of his possessions including his computer, camera, books, and collection of 15,000 slides. Fortunately, his digital images were saved on an off-site backup (let this be a lesson to us all). Bob tells me that his Plant Delights order was sitting on his deck at the time and the plants were not as heat-tolerant as promised. The plants can be replaced, but thank goodness, no one was injured. Longwood has provided Bob housing until he can recover. Here is a link to a UDaily article with images of the fire.

I mentioned in an earlier newsletter, that Bob Stewart of Arrowhead Alpines had been diagnosed with late-stage colon cancer. Although Bob’s chemo treatments continue, he tells me his tumors have shrunk and his treatments are proving very effective. We are thrilled at the news and wish Bob, Brigitta, and their family the best of luck in his continuing battle.

In another update from the world of horticulture, Fred Case, author of two excellent books, Trilliums, and Orchids of the Western Great Lakes Region is recovering at home after surgery for a severe aortic aneurism. Fred is suffering from limited mobility, but is improving all the time. Fred does still sneak out of the house and drive his golf cart around the garden when medical personnel aren’t around. You can read more about Fred at the Timber Press website and if you’d like to send get well wishes, address them to Fred at 7275 Thornapple La., Saginaw, MI 48609-4259.

Our condolences go out to gardener and author Bob Nold of Colorado in the death of his wife of 27 years, Cindy Nelson-Nold, who passed away suddenly of an apparent heart attack. Bob has two wonderful books to his credit, High and Dry: Gardening With Cold-Hardy Dryland Plants, and Penstemons. Cindy’s photographs and illustrations grace the pages of Bob’s books.

It’s been one of those springs that makes it hard to sit indoors at a desk, but at least I have the excuse of needing to take photos. I could write about something exciting in the garden every day, but due to time constraints, I’m limiting myself to once a month. We’re just wrapping up the early hymenocallis flowering and I sure wish more of you would try these gems. I think most folks get turned off by hymenocallis after trying the hybrids [mostly with the South American H. narcissiflora (aka: Ismene calathina) hybrids] typically sold by the Dutch, which, frankly don’t make great garden specimens. You will be so much more pleased with either the US or Mexican species. For us, the first to flower is H. liriosme, a clumping Gulf Coast species followed by H. traubii, a spreading species from Florida. Next in line is Hymenocallis pygmaea…a dwarf spreading species from here in North Carolina. Hymenocallis can be grown in typical garden soil, but they go really nuts when planted in a very moist site or a boggy situation. The white spidery flowers typically open around 4pm and are deliciously scented to attract pollinators…and gardeners. The next round of hymenocallis, which come later in the season are equally as wonderful. See the hymenocallis listed in our catalog.

One of my favorites that just finished flowering is the wonderful Aruncus ‘Misty Lace’. I’ve always loved the light airy nature of aruncus, but just couldn’t find many that would survive our hot, humid summers. This Allan Armitage introduction performs fabulously and has become a favorite in the late spring garden. See the aruncus catalog page.

Also flowering now are some of the late season Jack-in-the-pulpits. Four of my favorites are the tall stately, Arisaema tortuosum, A. consanguineum and A. heterophyllum along with the shorter, but very cute white-flowered Arisaema saxatile. A. heterophyllum, A. consanguineum and A. saxatile all offset and form nice clumps, while A. tortuosum remains solitary. Each of these species perform better in a light-filtered shade to several hours of full sun and in soils that don’t stay too wet. See the arisaema catalog page.

Arisaemas are members of a group of plants known as aroids, which include common house plants like philodendron and spathiphyllum. Other hardy family members that are outstanding now are the zantedeschias, known by the common name of calla lilies. Zantedeschia aethiopica is actually a winter grower, which in our climate keeps getting killed to the ground during the winter, but quickly regrows once the frosts end and is still in full flower. Z. aethiopica only comes in white (and a faintly pink-tinted selection). It’s hard to beat two giant-spotted leaved selections, Z. ‘Hercules’ and Z. ‘White Giant’. I’ve tried the commonly sold Z. aethiopica ‘Green Goddess’ and ‘Pink Persuasion’ but neither has performed well in our climate. This is the season where the cool winter growing Z. aethiopica overlaps with the warm season species that flower through the summer. My favorite of the summer bloomers has to be Z. ‘Picasso’, whose white-edged purple flowers have just started to open. Visit the calla lilies in our catalog.

Another superb plant in the garden now are the early- to mid-season daylilies. One of my personal favorites that we just added to the catalog is Hemerocallis ‘FreeWheelin’. In daylily circles, these types are known as spider flowers for their very long petals. I’m always amazed at the number of folks that don’t realize daylilies make great plants for wet soils. We have long been growing them as pond marginals alongside Louisiana and Japanese iris where they prosper in boggy conditions. If you have such conditions, give daylilies a try there. See more daylilies in our catalog.

For those who entered our Top 25 contest to compete for the $250 worth of plants, here are the results though late May 2009. The list changes each month, so if your picks don’t show up near the top yet, don’t despair. The Top 25 has been shuffled a bit since last month as Colocasia ‘Thailand Giant’ retook the top spot in a throw down tussle with Echinacea ‘Tomato Soup’, while Colocasia ‘Mojito’ edged ahead of Syneilesis into 3rd place. Big movers for the month include Dianthus ‘Heart Attack’ which leapt from 15th to 8th place, Salvia chamaedryoides moved from 18th to 14th, and Euphorbia ‘Nothowlee’ from 26th to 16th. Rohdea japonica and Tiarella ‘Pink Skyrocket’ both appeared out of nowhere to jump to 17th place and 20th respectively. We hope your choices are faring well as we countdown to the contest winner in December.

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

Thanks and enjoy


2009 Plant Delights Nursery February Newsletter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Again, we thank you for your support!

Please direct all replies and questions to

Thanks and enjoy


2008 Plant Delights Nursery July Newsletter

We hope everyone is having a great summer and preparing for your visit to PDN for our Summer Open House, July 11-13 and 18-20. The gardens look fabulous and I’m sure you’re likely to see a few things that will strike your fancy. It got a little warm after our last email with four straight days in the 100’s … a record for June in our part of NC. Those in the Pacific Northwest are enduring the opposite problems … daytime highs in some regions hadn’t risen out of the 50’s by the end of June. At that rate, their tomatoes won’t ripen until 2010. Our thoughts and prayers are with those who live along the Mississippi River and watched their homes and livelihoods swept away or buried under the swollen waters. We’ve had a good year from a rainfall perspective and are actually finally running slightly ahead of normal for the year … a far cry from 2007. I wish we could share more rain with our friends in Atlanta, whose main supply, Lake Lanier, is still 15′ below normal. I spoke with folks from the Georgia Green Industry last week who told me that 20% of the nurseries in Georgia went out of business in 2007, and they anticipate some larger nurseries may bite the dust this year … a sad fate for a once vibrant industry.

In other items of interest, if you didn’t see it this spring, we wrote an article in the News and Observer newspaper about the senseless annual butchering of trees, especially crape myrtles.

In other cool stuff … if you live in or near the Triangle region of NC, check out Larry Hatch’s Google Map of Great Trees of the Triangle, which locates significant specimens of cool trees. This would be a great project for neighborhoods around the country.

If you haven’t checked out our shipping cam in a while, we have upgraded our camera to give you a much better view of your plants being shipped. We hope you will take a peek as time permits. Most of our shipping and packing takes place Monday-Thursday, 8am-4:30pm EST and in summer, mostly Monday and Tuesday.

Many of you have heard of our collaboration with elephant ear breeder, Dr. John Cho of Hawaii, to bring new unique elephant ears to gardeners around the world. John’s real job is working as a plant pathologist for the University of Hawaii and developing disease resistant varieties for commercial taro production. I thought I’d share a note from John about a recent non-gardening project.

Letter from Dr. Cho:

Just returned from a successful mission to the Dominican Republic (DR). I have been working with the IDIAF (DR’s counterpart to our USDA) to develop strategies to return the country’s taro (they call yautia coco) production back to what it was before taro leaf blight was introduced into the country in 2004 and essentially eliminated taro production since 2004.

My first visit was in October 2006, where I developed short term and long term strategies using cultural and breeding tactics to return their production to what was a $10 (with potential for $25) million industry where taro was grown on about 4,000 acres.

As a result of my recommendations, IDIAF research and extension scientists have initiated a breeding program using my elite taro hybrids as parents to use in crosses with their local taro variety. Because the breeding program would probably take at least 2 to 3 years, I recommended to jump start their taro production and that they identify cooperator-growers located in drier parts of the Dominican and away from the affected taro growing areas to grow taro using only clean tissue cultured plant materials under drip irrigation.

In September 2007, IDIAF identified one grower in a distal, dry part of the island and helped plant 4,000 tissue cultured plantlets generated from their laboratory. When I returned to the Dominican last week, IDIAF scientists and I visited this farmer. The grower since September had aggressively taken also very lateral shoots from the 4,000 tc plants and their progeny and we found that he had over 2.3 million plants in the ground, was planting 300,000 plants (lateral shoots) every month, would be harvesting his first crop of about 300,000 plants in June 2008. This grower from our estimates stands to make over $3 million this year with the potential of over $7 million in two years.

We had to conclude that this was a success story in the making and that the Dominican Republic would be back to their 2003 production levels before taro blight was introduced into the country within two years. At the present time another grower has been identified by IDIAF and planting will be initiated some time this year.

I feel good about helping the Dominican Republic and I have a clear conscious about Hawaii’s taro growers because the Dominican production will not compete with Hawaii in any way since their taro is produced for a different food use, different market, and uses a different type of taro.

In sad news, we regret to report children’s book illustrator Tasha Tudor of Vermont passed away at the spry age of 92. Fans of the book, The Secret Garden are familiar with her work, which graced nearly 100 books including non-garden favorites like Little Women and The Night Before Christmas. You can leave messages for the family at

If you have an interest in ferns, you most likely encountered the dynamic Richmond, VA fern guru, Nancy Swell. I’m saddened to report we lost Nancy last week after a long illness. If you’d like to send your condolences or have questions, you can contact Gina McMillan at (804) 245-0518 for more info.

On a happier note, we’d like to wish a Happy 100th Birthday to the delightful Ruth Bancroft. If you don’t know Ruth, her garden was the first in the country selected for preservation by the Garden Conservancy. I’ve had the pleasure of several visits to Ruth’s Walnut Creek, California garden and Ruth has generously shared many plants that now grow here at PDN. There will be a big bash/symposium on July 18 and 19 to celebrate. To find out more, go to I hope you will all have the opportunity to visit the garden and meet this special lady.

For those who are worried about having enough water for your garden, you may want to consider growing more geophytes. Geophyte is a fancy word for herbaceous plants with underground storage organisms which include bulbs, tubers, tuberous roots, rhizomes, and corms. Plants developed these underground storage organs to assist in surviving adverse conditions such as extended droughts.

Last month I wrote about the wonderful spring-flowering martagon lilies, but now I’d like to focus on more of the wonderful species lilies that pick summer to flower. If you’ve purchased dried up, virused bulbs often shipped in from overseas, you’ll have a surprise when you purchase one of our vigorous specimens, many of which are seed-grown. In addition to their beauty, another of the great characteristics of lilies is they are very drought tolerant. Consistently, one of our top sellers is Lilium formosanum. This native to Taiwan not only flowers the first year from seed, but reaches an amazing height of 7′ tall when grown in full sun and decent soil. It’s one of the latest flowering of the lily species, starting for us around August 1. Lilium rosthornii, a close relative of the Chinese L. henryi, is another favorite. These lilies will be opening any day now and have large clusters of orange flowers on arching stems. You shouldn’t have to stake a Lilium rosthornii if it is grown in full sun, but it will arch, so plant accordingly.

Lilium brownii ‘Sichuan Splendor’ is another superb species that will be opening shortly. The sturdy upright stems are topped in early summer with huge clusters of white flowers with a dusty purple back. Another recent Chinese species to be re-collected is Lilium sargentiae. This 5′ tall specimen is topped right now with large white trumpets. While this species does produce a few axillary bulbils to aid in reproduction, its numbers are tiny compared with the vigorous bulbil-producing species like Lilium lancifolium.

While I’ve started with the Asian species, let’s not forget some of our great natives, starting with Lilium michiganense. This 6′ tall lily spreads by horizontally-growing rhizomes, and is topped now with pendent orange flowers. This species prefers a moist, rich soil to perform its best. Another native lily with the same preference is the new species, Lilium pyrophilum, which was discovered growing with pitcher plants in NC. Although it adapts well to drier soils, this lily is stunning when well-grown and it bursts into flower with large clusters of bright orange in July.

Another bulbous star of the summer garden is the summer-flowering hymenocallis. Hymenocallis are members of the amaryllis family numbering around 50 species which occur from North American south through Mexico and into South America. A few of the species flower in early spring but most are summer flowering and in bloom now. Most hymenocallis prefer moist soils and are right at home in a bog. That being said, they are amazingly tolerant of dry soils, although flowers will not be as prolific. All hymenocallis have similar white flowers with long white tepals at the base of a white cup (corona), held in multi-flowering umbels at the end of tall stalks. We are pleased to offer 7 different hymenocallis with many more in the pipeline.

One of the smallest of the summer-flowering species is the NC native Hymenocallis pumila, which is found in scattered ditches along the coastal plain. In the ground, it makes a nice sized patch of 8″ tall rosettes that spread by underground rhizomes.

H. maximiliani is a Mexican species and has been tremendously vigorous and floriferous in our trials. The narrow, dark green glossy leaves are topped with a cloud of 30″ tall flowers for much of the summer … a clump is simply amazing.

Hymenocallis ‘Tropical Giant’ is the largest of the hymenocallis we currently offer. Most folks consider this to be a selection of H. caribaea, but that species is completely confused in the trade with the tropical H. littoralis. Compared to H. maximiliani, the leaves are much wider and lighter green. The flowers, which are also in full bloom now, are much larger in all parts than H. maximiliani, but like the aforementioned, have a long flowering period in summer.

Crinums are another member of the Amaryllid family that are superb at withstanding drought. Many of the species hail from the deserts of Africa, where they form huge underground bulbs able to withstand months and even years with little moisture. A mature crinum bulb can easily exceed the size of a large softball. Some crinum species such as C. bulbispermum start flowering in May, but July is without question one of the peak flowering months. You’ll find some crinum bulbs offset quickly, while others grow solitary for years … hence the variability in price. We have been successful with multiplying some in tissue culture, which allows for a much lower price than would be otherwise possible. We have also had very good success with others by slicing the basal plate … basically cutting the bulb into four pieces. We hope you will enjoy our extraordinarily large offering of these amazing bulbs.

Many of you have been kind enough to purchase our nursery-propagated trillium, which also have an underground storage organ … in this case, a rhizome. If you’ve never tried growing trilliums from seed, you can’t imagine what is involved. First, the trillium flowers need to be hand pollinated to get maximum seed set. Sure, you’ll get a few if you don’t, but recent research shows 40% more seed will be produced if you hand pollinate. Then you wait until they are almost ripe before they are gathered. I say almost ripe, because ripe trillium seed are covered with a sweet substance, known as an eliasome. Eliasome makes the seeds attractive to pollinators, which in turn help with distribution. In doing so, the eliasome create headaches for nursery folks trying to gather and plant the seeds as ants usually commandeer the seed capsules a day before you are ready to harvest them.

When we were planting the seed this week, PDN Research Horticulturist Jeremy noticed insects were stealing the seed in the rows as fast as we could plant them. According to Jeremy, 1 large ant or 1 wasp could handle a seed each, while it required 5 smaller ants to work together to haul a single seed. I should mention trillium seed are about the size of an okra seed. These eliasomes have been called Ant Nip by Alabama trillium guru Harold Holmes, but we think it’s more like Insect Crack. If you’ve got some extra ripe trillium seed nearby, spread them on the ground, grab your camera, and get ready for some great photos. Did I mention … from seed, it takes 4-5 years to produce a flowering-size plant?

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

Please direct all replies and questions to

Thanks and enjoy


2008 Plant Delights Nursery February Newsletter

Dear PDN’ers:

Greetings from Plant Delights and we hope you’re having a good winter season wherever you garden. Here in Raleigh, we’ve had several nights in the mid-teens, with a low at the nursery of 14.7 degrees F, which equates to a consistent cold (until last week), with fairly mild minimum temperatures.

We have actually had good rains since fall and the winter garden looks great. Helleborus niger has been superb this year, especially our long-lived clumps of the heat-tolerant H. niger var. macranthus. If you like hellebores for color in the winter garden, don’t miss our Winter Open House on Friday/Saturday Feb. 22, 23 and Feb. 29, March 1. We should have over 1000 double hellebores in full flower for sale …a site you’re not likely to find anywhere else.

Many folks still ask us about the name Juniper Level Botanic Gardens, and as we have mentioned in the past, we are adjacent to the Juniper Level Baptist Church. You can read more about the church and the history of the area at

I don’t think we appreciate the array of cool plants that strut their stuff in the late winter months. One of my favorite bulbs is Nothoscordum sellowianum. This amazing rock garden bulb has already begun to flower with small yellow ground-hugging flowers that will continue for the next few months. The yellow flowers contrast nicely with the blue-lavender flowers of the winter-blooming Iris unguicularis that is also in full flower now.

You don’t normally think of trilliums as winter plants, but that’s only because few gardeners are familiar with the southern US species. Both Trillium underwoodii and T. maculatum are in full leaf and in bud now, surviving temperature drops into the mid-teens with no problem. They are closely followed by Trillium foetidissimum which has just popped through the ground. These winter trilliums have developed a survival mechanism similar to rhododendrons, whose leaves become flaccid and curled on cold mornings, only to recover as the day warms. If you grow these species, the pile of limp foliage on a cold morning would cause you to give up on the plant, only to find it looking fine again by late afternoon. There’s plenty more cool winter interest plants that you’ll see when you visit the winter open house.

Now that we’re in February, let me remind you our shipping season begins in a few more weeks…for those of you in the southern zones. Also remember the deadline of February 15 is drawing near to enter our 2008 Pick the Top 25 Sellers Contest. Okay, it’s not the Powerball Lottery, but you’ve got nothing to lose and the chance to win a $250 PDN gift certificate.

There’s lot of news from the gardening community this month, so I’ll start with the bad news first. Our condolences go out to woody plant guru Mike Dirr and his wife Bonnie, whose 31-year old daughter Suzy passed away on January 24, after a lifetime bout with Cystic Fibrosis, including two lung transplants. You can read the heartwarming story of Suzy’s battle at

Condolences also go to Horticulture Magazine Science editor Roger Swain, whose wife Elisabeth passed away on February 7, after a battle with liver cancer. I had the pleasure of dining at Roger and Elisabeth’s home several years ago…both were very sweet people and it is a memory I will always treasure. Our thoughts are with both the Dirr and Swain family during this difficult time.

Plantsman and designer Doug Ruhren has departed North Carolina to take over as head horticulturist for the American Camellia Society at the 150 acre Massee Lane Garden in Fort Valley, Georgia. For those who have never met Doug, he first put his stamp on the Watkins Rose Garden, then Montrose Gardens, followed by the JC Raulston Arboretum, and most recently the Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden. We hate to lose Doug from our state, but look forward to watching him transform the Massee Lane Gardens.

In Charlotte, NC The Wing Haven Foundation has agree to purchase and preserve the Elizabeth Lawrence garden (NC’s most famous garden writer), located just near Winghaven from its current owner Lindie Wilson. The next step is to set up a $50,000 stewardship fund with the Garden Conservancy to insure the ‘perpetual monitoring of the property.’ You can find out more about how to help preserve the garden by visiting the Lawrence Garden website at

Other cool events around the country include The Lone Star Regional Native Plant Conference, held May 28-31 in Texas. This conference which is held every other year features an incredible array of native plant speakers and habitat tours. To find out more, go to

Back in the Raleigh area, City leaders have made an unfortunate and less than intelligent decision to ban hand watering of plants due to the current water shortage. Below, is a letter I have sent to both the Raleigh City Council and the local media outlets. Please feel free to share this with any interested party and if you live in the effected area, you may want to contact the City Council and express your displeasure with their recent actions.

Open Letter to the City of Raleigh:

I continue to await an article that correctly shows who is responsible for the current water shortage, but alas, no luck. Let’s look at the facts. Raleigh was 7.24″ (17%) below normal for its annual rainfall in 2007. In 2006, Raleigh was 10.64″ (25%) above normal in rainfall. For a two-year period, that put us well above average. Is this the first time we’ve had well below normal annual rainfall? Of course not. 2005, was nearly as dry as we ended that year 5.5″ below normal. What did city officials do after that dry year? They continued to encourage growth, sell more water, and did nothing to increase future water supply. If you look at area lake levels, you will notice Gaston Lake and Kerr Lake are full. Jordan Lake is only down 8″, while Falls Lake is 8.4′ below normal and Lake Michie is 7.3′ below normal. Why are the differences so dramatic…poor planning! Being a Raleigh native, I remember in 1981 when Falls and Jordan Lakes were completed and City officials assured us Raleigh and surrounding towns would never again face a water shortage or water restrictions. Fast forward 27+ years and residents are now being blamed for the current water shortage, and are being asked to change their lifestyle because City leaders didn’t properly do their job. Raleigh officials have oversold their supply of water while encouraging growth beyond their ability to supply water. Planning based on average rainfall forgets to take into account that averages are just that…averages of two extremes…below normal years and above normal years. Imagine a business the size of Raleigh or Durham making such an egregious error in planning. Such a lack of foresight and poor management would most certainly result in immediate dismissal of officers and board members, as it should.

Any farmer will tell you the first thing to do in a drought is to clean the silt from your pond or lake, greatly enlarging your pool of available water. Since the 2002 drought, I have watched and waited for Raleigh and Durham to clean the silt from their water supplies, yet from driving by the lakes, this has still not been done. Without a doubt, it’s more difficult for a municipality, since they must work through the Army Corp of Engineers, and have the silt tested for contaminants, but surely this should have been put on the fast track after 2002. I’ve heard cost mentioned as a reason this didn’t occur, but that doesn’t pass the laugh test. Compared to the loss of revenue from water sales and the tax revenue being lost by affected businesses, this is false economics. Having driven by area lakes, the amount of silt…i.e. rich topsoil, in both lakes is huge, with its removal nearly doubling the water storage capacity. The financial investment of cleaning the lakes could be easily offset by selling the dredged topsoil to homeowners, landscapers, and developers.

Instead, Raleigh leaders have opted to further punish homeowners and the green industry (nurseries, landscapers) businesses by outlawing hand watering. I keep waiting for these same leaders to require all restaurants to close or only use paper plates and cups. How about that long-awaited ban of drinking Aquifina water, which is pumped from Falls Lake? Yes, if the spigot to the Pepsi-Cola plant (Raleigh’s largest municipal customer) was shut off, the water savings would be tremendous. Instead, city leaders have chosen the easy path of punishing only the green industry…and now the power washing industry. All other industries are only asked to follow best management practices.

It seems we need to clue the Council in that the green industry produces and sells a living product that cannot be installed without water. These are the same city leaders that require our plants to be used in the form of a mandatory landscape ordinance. Imagine the outrage if our esteemed leaders did something equally as bizarre and banned pet watering and bathing. To not allow any hand watering for the green industry is the same as forcing a non-water dependant business to close. Where’s the common sense? We’re all willing to do our part, but we are not willing to shoulder the entire burden for the city’s lack of planning. Let’s start by cutting off the water to these same city leaders that got us into this situation. Then, let’s rescind the hand-watering ban and please, let’s think before passing any more ridiculous regulations that put so many people out of business and residents out of work…shame, shame, shame!

-Tony Avent

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

Please direct all replies and questions to

Thanks and enjoy


2007 Plant Delights Nursery March Newsletter

It’s hard to believe that March is already here as we move nearer to the long-awaited spring season. The Winter Open House is behind us, and the response was tremendous. We’ve never been able to offer such a stupendous selection of flowering hellebores, and the response reflected that. There are still plenty of great selections remaining, which have been added to the website at Website-Only Plants – click on March 2007 additions. I can tell you that the yellow, double white, double purple, and single black-purple flowered hellebores are stunning.

The first top 25 list of the year is filled with surprises. The biggest is that only 6 plants from the final 2006 list are currently among the top 25. It’s almost unheard of for a hosta, a trillium, a zephyranthes, and a hellebore to make the list, but there they are. Of the top 25, there are 11 plants that we’ve never offered before, so we thank you for your confidence and for giving them a try. I’m sure that the list will change dramatically over the rest of the year, but what an unusual start to the new year.

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

Please direct all replies and questions to

Thanks and enjoy


2006 Plant Delights Nursery December Newsletter

The 2007 Plant Delights Nursery catalog is in the mail! If you just can’t wait, the Plant Delights Nursery website has already been updated to the new catalog, so click away at With 160 new offerings as well as quite a few returning favorites, we hope you will find an array of plants that you can’t live without.

We’d like to thank each and everyone of you for helping to make 2006 our best year in business. As we launch into our 17th year of mail order, we are well aware that we have already exceeded the typical 15-year life expectancy of a mail order nursery. That being said, we continue full-speed ahead, while watching out for the inevitable road bumps along the way. We’d like to thank those of you who have taken time to write kind notes and especially to those who have taken time to post comments on the Garden Watchdog website. We are honored to be ranked as one of the top 30, out of 5498 garden-related mail order companies in the US.

I always look forward to meeting many of you in person as I crisscross the country on the speaking circuit. To see when I’m going to be in your area, check the upcoming “on the road” schedule at

I’d also like to publicly thank our wonderful staff, without whose dedication and hard work, the success that Plant Delights has enjoyed would not have been possible.

We’ve closed out our 2006 shipping season and will start up again in mid-February. However, if you have a horticultural emergency arise before then, we might be able to help, so don’t hesitate to give us a call. In the meantime, the rest of our staff are keeping the plants healthy and getting the gardens in shape for our next open house.

I hope you have already made plans to attend our 2007 Winter Open House, February 23 & 24 and March 2 & 3, 2007. We’ve got some very special hellebores for you to pick from along with quite a few other winter goodies. Once again, we are coordinating open house days with our friends at Pine Knot Farms of Virginia (about 1hr 15 minutes north of PDN), who hold their winter open house at the same time.

If you live in a large part of the US (except Colorado), you have enjoyed a warmer than normal fall. After a December cold spell, where we dropped to 15 degrees, we have rebounded nicely and have certainly enjoyed the opportunity to continue planting as we re-work older sections of the garden. Continuing the work we started two years ago, older beds are dug and raised using a sandy-clay-compost mix that we blend from on-site materials. We’re now able to add more height and contouring than was possible when many of the beds were initially planted, and the array of new plants is truly exciting.

There is quite a bit of flowering in the garden now, starting with the wonderful winter-blooming Iris unguicularis and the always welcome Helleborus niger. While they aren’t flowering now, arums always provide winter interest in the garden. We continue to expand our arum offerings each year, although many are still available in limited quantities. Although you don’t think of trillium as a winter-interest plant, T. underwoodii emerges every year in December and amazingly endures the cold that follows…. at least in our zone.

Although they don’t flower in the biblical sense, conifers are also a favorite part of the winter garden. Although we don’t offer them through the printed catalog, we are always propagating a few of our favorites for on-line and open-house shoppers. We are continually trying new plants in the garden and are thrilled to have planted our first Wollemia nobilis (Wollemia Pine). This amazing conifer, related to Araucaria was only discovered about ten years ago near Sydney, Australia. Initial reports indicate that it may survive at least 10 degrees F, so we’ve got our fingers crossed. If you’d like to see the plant in person, be sure to ask when you visit during open house.

Since our planting season began in earnest last March, we have added 2000 new plants to the garden. This will be our first winter to test out quite a few of those, including many new plants from Northern Vietnam, Northern Thailand, and many of the South African ferns. So far, it’s been a pleasant surprise to see how many of our new agaves have fared. Agave difformis and many others still look great, while 15 degrees F turned Agave chiapensis into a pile of green slime. Oh well, that’s why we try ’em.

We are pleased to announce the winner of our Top 25 Contest for 2006. Congratulations to Jeanne McClay of Virginia who wins the $250 PDN gift certificate. We’d also like to recognize the rest of the top 5, who were only separated by a scant 356 points… congratulations and thanks for participating.

1. Jeanne McClay of VA 2. Matthew Garrett of NC 3. Bobbie Wright of NC 4. Jacob Toth of Canada 5. Nick Yuro of TX

To enter the Top 25 Contest for 2007 and the chance to win a $250 gift certificate, simply go to, read the instructions and fill in the on-line form or if you would prefer, print it out and fax or send it along. Unlike many contests, there are no strings attached, no costs, and your name doesn’t get passed along to other mailers. The final Top 25 list for 2006 is below:

Final Top 25 Best Sellers for 2006 as of December 29, 2006

1. 5869 Colocasia gigantea Thailand Giant 2. 3695 Zantedeschia aethiopica ‘White Giant’ 3. 6644 Echinacea ‘Evan Saul’ 4. 5660 Nierembergia gracilis ‘Starry Eyes’ 5. 6177 Coreopsis ‘Heaven’s Gate’ 6. 127 Yucca rostrata 7. 5106 Tiarella ‘Pink Skyrocket’ 8. 6698 Heucherella ‘Stoplight’ 9. 4368 Dianthus barbatus ‘Heart Attack’ 10. 1285 Dicliptera suberecta 11. 6128 Canna ‘Phaison’ 12. 4905 Aloe polyphylla 13. 1796 Eucomis ‘Sparkling Burgundy’ 14. 3096 Liriope muscari ‘Peedee Ingot’ 15. 4995 Heuchera ‘Frosted Violet’ 16. 6645 Echinacea ‘Sunset’ 17. 1148 Verbena Snowflurry’ 18. 5247 Agave parryi var. truncata 19. 5566 Gaillardia ‘Fanfare’ 20. 5778 Arisaema triphyllum ‘Black Jack’ 21. 688 Salvia chamaedryoides 22. 3654 Alocasia ‘Portodora’ 23. 4820 Begonia grandis ‘Heron’s Pirouette’ 24. 3880 Trachycarpus fortunei ‘Taylor Form 25. 2317 Muhlenbergia capillaris 26. 5414 Baptisia minor ‘Blue Pearls’ 27. 5341 Sedum telephium ssp. ruprechtii ‘Hab Gray’ 28. 2526 Acanthus ‘Summer Beauty’ 29. 1506 Selaginella braunii 30. 6541 Tricyrtis ‘Lemon Twist’

In other area gardening news, the JC Raulston Arboretum is looking to fill its Assistant Director position. This is a wonderfully exciting position for the right person (PhD or Masters level).

The gardens at the JC Raulston Arboretum are in the midst of a major renovation under the direction of Director Dr. Dennis Werner, who took over the reins a year ago, so drop by if you are in the area and watch the changes progress.

Please direct all replies and questions to

Thanks and enjoy -tony

2004 Plant Delights Nursery December Newsletter

2004 is nearly history as we prepare for the upcoming new year. The 2005 catalog has finally gone to the printer and will be mailed at the end of December. The catalog preparatory process, which starts in earnest in late September, takes about 2 ” months from start to finish. It would be fun to share the intricacies of catalog prep…perhaps a new web project…stay tuned.

We’ve recently installed the Plant Delights Shipping Cam, which will now allow you to watch your order being boxed live from your home computer. The link automatically refreshes every 15 seconds. For now, the link to shipping cam is on the homepage, but it will be moved to the Shipping Division section when that section is complete this fall.

We have also recently posted several new Plant Delights job openings, so if you are anyone you know is interested, please pass along our vacancies. We always hate to lose key employees, but we can soften the blow by bringing in equally qualified candidates. Your help would be most appreciated in spreading the word. Thanks.

We’d like to welcome two new staff members that have recently joined our ranks. June Brotherton has joined us as our Administrative Assistant for Horticulture. June coordinates anything horticultural, from inventory control, to tours, to catalog production. Becky Skinner joins our customer service staff after having spent the spring season with our shipping division. Be sure to give ’em both a phone welcome when you call.

We are also saddened to announce that Dr. Bob Lyons of the JC Raulston Arboretum is leaving this month to become the Graduate Coordinator for the Longwood Gardens program. Bob has been great to work with during his tenure at the JCRA, and we wish him the best of luck in his new career. Of course, this means that we are now looking for a replacement for Bob. This is a PhD faculty position at NCSU and obviously a very influential position in the NC gardening community. The position will be advertised shortly, so if you know anyone who might be interested, please encourage them to contact the NCSU Horticulture Department at 919.515.3132.

Get well soon wishes to another NC horticultural stalwart, Dick Bir, who recently underwent a 7-bypass heart surgery…guess that’s possible with a really big heart. Dick promises to be back on the speaking circuit by spring.

Back at PDN, work is continuing in the display gardens as we finish renovating the section as you enter the main driveway to the left. What was certainly the most boring section in the garden went from being a flat area with primarily older woody plantings to a 2-3′ deep sunken rock garden. Planting is nearly 80% complete, and this area should be a real showplace for many new treasures by the time of spring open house.

Our research staff has also been quite busy as we expand our trial beds which we also use for field productions. Fall projects include expanding our area for fern and epimedium trials, and trillium, Solomon’s seal, and miscellaneous bulb production. -tony

2004 Plant Delights Nursery April Newsletter

It’s been quite a good spring so far at Plant Delights…better if we could quit having late spring frosts. We covered plants in the garden for the nights of April 4 and 5 when temperatures were predicted to drop into the mid-20s, but we stayed just above freezing for the night. We are hopeful that this is the last frost until fall.

So far, shipping has gone very smoothly and we finally have a good handle on our computer program, which drove us completely nuts last year. We’ve got some very big shipping weeks between now and open house on April 30-May 2 and May 7-9, so many of you will have plants on the way shortly. We’ve been adding more plants to the website and expect even more to be added in early April. As I mentioned earlier, the new website feature allows you to print out these addition lists for study away from your computer. These additions are often plants that are available only in small quantities, so don’t delay if any of these excites you.

Adrienne and her garden staff are quickly getting the garden ready for open house with mulching and other spring spruce-up chores. The new waterfall from Mt. Michelle is complete except for some final touches and will be unveiled at the spring open house. We’ll also welcome the waterfall artists Roger Halligan and Jan Chenoweth of Two Oaks Studio on Saturday, May 1, from 9-1.

Spring travel has been filled with new plant discoveries. A week long botanical expedition in March covered the area between western Louisiana and East Texas. Not only did we find large populations of all five trillium species (T. pusillum var. texanum, T. gracile, T. ludovicianum, T. recurvatum, and T. viridescens) in the area, but we found some amazing narcissus. Narcissus from old homesites have naturalized throughout this region and are now hybridizing along the roadsides. Each stop yields an amazing array of new selections. We kept our eyes open for space shuttle debris, but couldn’t tell the difference between that and old Chevy parts. I’ve said it before, but Texas is one of my favorite areas for botanizing.

March took me back to Tampa, Florida for the Greenfest Celebration to raise money for H.B. Plant Park. It also provided time to again visit plant breeder Roy Works and his amazing collection of plants. Roy not only breeds rainlilies, and crinums, but coleus and cycads. Cycads! Think of what it takes to hybridize a cycad…a truly amazing experience.

March also sent me to South Carolina, where I stopped in to Nurseries Caroliniana for the first time in several years. Plantsman Ted Stephens has both a retail and wholesale nursery in North Augusta. Ted’s nursery is filled with rare horticultural treasures, many from his regular visits to Japan. As always, it’s easy to come back with more plants than you have room to plant.

The Great Plants, Great Plantspeople Symposium, celebrating Horticulture Magazine’s 100th anniversary is coming up at Plant Delights on June 4 and 5. -tony

2001 Plant Delights Nursery February Newsletter

As I look out the window through the cold, ice filled screen, I quickly turn to pages 24 and 25 of our printed catalog. There I find Cannas. Lots of vibrant, alive and colorful flowers that scream at me by saying “SPRING IS COMING – REALLY!”

Spring was here, if only briefly, and we enjoyed the heck out of it. Kind of like when you’re at a restaurant and they bring out a tray full of tasty food – to the guy in the next booth. We think that this ice-encrusted day is an anomaly, and spring will wrap its warm arms around us again tomorrow.

We’ve already started shipping to southern locations on February 12, and the pace is certainly picking up. We’ve had many people place orders so far, and ordering early definitely improves your chances of getting everything you want.

Right now, there are several plants that look especially good, including Tiarella ‘Jeepers Creepers’, Sisyrinchium sp. ‘Puerto Yellow’, Pulmonaria ‘Dark Vader’, Euphorbia robbiae and Trillium underwoodii.

One last thought. We couldn’t do without our favorite people in the world – you! Thanks for taking a few moments to take a look around our site. We hope you find something you like, and remember, ice is for hockey and cold drinks.

David Lee Customer Service and Shipping Manager