Greetings from Plant Delights, where after two weeks of late spring weather, we have once again plunged back into the grip of winter. For nurserymen, it is the month of April that results in the most premature grey hair accompanied by high blood pressure due to the worry about late spring frosts. After two weeks of temperatures in the 80’s, a cold front has once again gripped our area, with predictions of five consecutive nights of freezing temperatures and lows of 24-26 degrees F, which will shatter our old low temperature records for most of those dates. Where’s global warming when you really need it?
Since we haven’t uncovered the overwintering greenhouses yet, the containerized nursery plants are fine, other than causing some heating bills that we could have done without. Our primary concerns are for plants in the display garden, where some arisaemas are in full flower and early hostas are in full leaf. Our crew has spent over 24 man hours covering tender vegetation with spun-bound polyester frost fabric (I’m glad nursery folks never got the memo that polyester went out of fashion). Frost cloth is made for this purpose and can offer several degrees of protection for tender plants in just such a situation. The key to how much damage we will see is a combination of how cold the temperatures drop and how long they stay there. Typically, frost clothes can offer protection down to about 27 degrees F, but below that, cold injury could still occur.
There is also the issue of trees and shrubs that have already developed spring growth. While these are virtually impossible to protect with frost cloth, they can be very sensitive to frost damage. Japanese maples are one of many trees that are particularly sensitive and can be killed outright by late spring freezes when they are at a susceptible stage of growth. In such cases, there are really only two options for protection. One is the application of irrigation, which, while the water is freezing actually releases heat that protects the plants. This technique is most commonly used on field grown crops such as strawberries. The downside is that water must be applied at the proper rate and the application must continue continuously until the temperatures rise above freezing. The other option is to rent kerosene space heaters and simply heat up the night air around the plant. This is similar to the smudge pots that are used in Florida orange orchards when frosts are imminent. These heaters can usually be rented from stores who specialize in the rental of construction equipment. If you would like to know more of the technical details about water application to protect plants, the following NCSU website is quite useful:
We’d like to thank everyone who has ordered this spring, and we hope you have been well pleased if you have received your order. We are currently shipping most orders within 7 days of receipt, and we anticipate being able to continue this turnaround until the week of April 23-27, when a one-week delay is possible. Due to the volume of orders, there is a possible two-week delay for orders received between April 28 and May 11. We will always work to get your orders out as fast as possible, but be aware that our shipping staff and facilities are near capacity during this three-week period. Thanks in advance for your understanding.
We are delighted to announce that Raleigh resident and PDN cover artist Jack Pittman has been nominated for another Reuben Award. The Reuben Awards (named after Rube Goldberg) are the cartoonists’ equivalent of the Emmys or Oscars. Jack has previously won Reubens in 1995, 1998, and 2004. We are truly fortunate to have Jack create our catalog covers. It’s quite rewarding to know that other businesses who have seen his PDN creations have subsequently used his artwork. I’ve included a link to Jack’s site as well as to the Reuben Awards site.
There’s so much going on in the garden now, it’s hard to even cover a fraction of it. As you know, I’m a big fan of arisaema and am glad to see the interest in these cool plants increase each year. In the garden, arisaema sikokianum is one of the first species up each year, and its stunning flowers are certainly a reason that it’s consistently among the most popular. A. sikokianum is one of the few species that does not produce offsets, so you’ll need two plants to produce a seed crop. The same is true for species like A. engleri, A. tortuosum, and A. sazensoo. Even having two plants won’t always do the trick, since flowering size plants tend to be female. Arisaema are among the original transgender plants, changing from male (when they are young and weak) to female (when they are vigorous and ready to reproduce). Occasionally small flowering plants can be male, and you can easily check by snorting inside the spathe. If your nose is subsequently covered in white pollen, you snorted a male. Exhaling onto the spadix of the female is a primitive but effective way to pollinate your plant, although a small paintbrush works better and results in less strange looks from your spouse and neighbors. In case you have a garden of all females, simply behead one of your females. Yes, cut your flowering plant to the ground. This sounds drastic (be aware that you won’t see any growth until the following season) but when your plant re-emerges next year, it will be a male and will be ready to tackle its reproductive responsibilities. The penalty, if you get caught, is only ten years hard labor, and for a gardener, that’s a moot point.
Other early flowering species include four of the most vigorous growers: A. ringens, A. urashima, A. amurense, and A. taiwanense. Unlike A. sikokianum, each of the species is a rapid multiplier and after a few years can be split into dozens of individual clumps. These are all superb garden specimens and because they multiply, they are much more likely to have male and female flowers in the same clump. If you order arisaema for early shipment, you will get them as a dormant tuber in a plastic bag of peat moss. Once they begin to sprout, we pot them and ship them growing in the container. You can take a look at more arisaema species at
I promised to update you on the progress of our Wollemia nobilis (Wollemia Pine), which we planted outdoors in early January. So far, it’s endured several nights of 15 degrees F, with no damage, so we are optimistic about our long-term chances in our climate.
We had a little faux pas with one of our new offerings, Colocasia ‘Royal Cho’. We have trialed a number of colocasias and were sent incorrect information about which cultivar was ready for release; we have just become aware of the error. Everyone who received this cultivar should have been notified about the error, and we appreciate your help in returning these. We apologize and appreciate your understanding in solving this problem. We still have plenty of other colocasias including our new introduction, C. ‘Coal Miner’, which I think is one of the most exciting new elephant ears that I’ve ever grown. See our listing at
We’ve had a number of folks requesting the 2007 Gardening Jihad t-shirt, and they have just arrived at the nursery. They aren’t available on-line yet, but give the office a call and we can add them to your order.
We’d also like to invite you to visit our new garden site, http://www.juniperlevelbotanicgarden.org. We included much more about the garden, the collections, and our greatly expanded photo gallery of the garden and its early development.
Over the last few months, I’ve mentioned many of the mail order nurseries that have closed around the country; regrettably I must add another name to that increasing list. Porterhowse Nursery of Oregon has closed to deal with family illness. Plantsman Don Howse started his wonderful nursery, which specialized in conifers, after working at the large wholesale conifer specialist, Iseli Nursery. If you never had the chance to visit Porterhowse, you missed a fantastic, well-designed collector’s garden that despite the time I allotted on each visit, I never had enough time to see everything. If you ever get the chance to hear Don speak, you’ll find it a real treat. Be sure to ask him what it was like being on a botanizing trip in Pakistan on 9/11/2001.
As always, we thank you for your continued support and patronage.
Please direct all replies and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks and enjoy