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!
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!
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!
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.
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 www.HungryPests.com.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
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.