April brings the start of my two favorite seasons… baseball and gardening. With both, there is the fading of bad memories from the preceding season and a childish optimism about the upcoming year. All in all, we had a relatively mild winter with no snow and a low temperature of 14.7 degrees F. This spring has been relatively cool, which has kept plant emergence far behind 2007, and has allowed us to better weather the late spring frosts which are inevitable every year.
For the first time since last spring, all of the public reservoirs around Raleigh are finally full and watering restrictions have been relaxed. Gardeners not only here, but in other areas hit with the drought in 2007 can finally begin replanting plants lost last year. Some parts of the country have had too much water, but I guess we will never be able to spread the water around more evenly.
We made an interesting, but disappointing discovery this winter when we found Agave parryi ‘Cream Spike’ isn’t nearly as hardy as we had thought and hoped. Although we originally received our plants as A. parryi, we now believe them to actually be a less-hardy species, A. applanata. Whatever they are, they make great container plants, but are no good as a garden specimen in cold climates, since ours were killed at 15 degrees F. We listed it as hardy to Zone 7b, so if you purchased one thinking it was going to be hardy in Zone 7b, please contact us for a refund or credit. We are very sorry for the error.
There’s so much blooming in the garden now, it’s hard to know where to start. One of the overlooked woodland plants I wouldn’t garden without are Solomon’s seals. Solomon’s seals include the genera Disporum, Disporopsis, Polygonatum, Smilacina, and Uvularia. Some polygonatums can reach 6’+ tall, while most disporopsis and disporums range from 6″ to 18″ tall. While none of these members of the lily family have overly flashy flowers, they have a wonderful presence in the woodland garden… especially now. Solomon’s seals grow from thick underground rhizomes, which serve as a storage structures allowing them to withstand drought conditions such as we experienced last summer. All of the Solomon’s seal genera, except for disporopsis, can be found native in both the US and Asia. As was the case with many other woodland genera (asarum and arisaema), the US only kept a small fraction of the species, while most took the trip to Asia. We’re glad to help reunite these long-separated siblings. On a side note, one of our wonderful customers shared a variegated Uvulaia perfoliata with us a few years ago, and we forgot who you are, so if you are the one, thanks, and please let us hear from you.
Another favorite group for spring is phlox. Most of these are US natives that have either been selected or hybridized for great garden potential. The phlox season begins with Phlox subulata, P. nivalis, and P. bifida for sunny sites and P. stolonifera and P. divaricata for shadier sites, all groundcover phlox for us are still in full bloom. The upright phlox such as P. maculata doesn’t start for another month, with the exception of the wonderful P. maculata hybrid, P. ‘Minnie Pearl’, whose first flowers are starting to open now. This amazing find from Mississippi is drawing rave reviews from gardeners and nurserymen around the world. Two other little-known native phlox are the tight-clumping P. latifolia, which opens in the next few weeks and the wide-spreading P. pilosa that opens around the same time. These small growers are happy in either full to part sun. As a rule, phlox are very drought tolerant, while able to withstand moist years as well. We hope you will explore this amazing genus of plants.
Visitors often ask if we have a problem with deer and the answer is no. The answer is no because we use Benner Deer Fence. We also planted a holly hedge around the perimeter when we first purchased the property, but in the areas that weren’t hedged, a row of the 7.5′ tall black plastic netting did just the trick. There are plenty of deer tracks on one side of the fence, but not the other. We use metal stakes, driven in the ground every 8′ to support the netting which is attached by tie wire. Current prices are between $1.40 and $1.60 per linear foot. You can find out more at the Benner’s Gardens website.
I hate to pass along more sad news, but the co-founder of Goodness Grows Nursery in Georgia Marc Richardson, passed away on February 3, 2008 at age 52 of lung cancer. Mark is survived by his partner of 31 years, Rick Berry, who will continue to run the nursery operations. Goodness Grows, a retail/wholesale perennial grower just outside Athens, is best known for its introduction, Veronica ‘Goodness Grows’.
In good news, best retirement wishes go out to Margaret Roach, who is retiring from Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, where she has worked for 15 years. For much of her time there she was Editor of Martha Stewart Living magazine and later was Editorial Director of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia (MSLO). Margaret is looking forward to spending more time in her wonderful garden, writing her new gardening blog, and working on a series of other projects.
Like Freddy Krueger, House and Garden has been killed once again. The magazine, which started in 1901, closed from 1993-1996, before re-opening, has once again gone to the recycle bin in the sky. Most gardening magazine editors tell me this is a tough time to make money in the magazine publishing business. In another move that shocked long-time subscribers and staff, Horticulture magazine is moving their operations from Boston, where it has been since its inception in 1904, to Kansas City, the home of its owner since 2002, F&W publications. As of this writing, it is uncertain if any staff members other than editor Meghan Lynch will remain with the publication. If you haven’t seen the May 2008 issue, Dr. Bobby Ward wrote a nice piece about our berm gardening here at PDN.
With all the magazines going out of business, it’s quite unusual to find a new magazine hitting the newsstands, but such is the case with the Charleston, SC based, Garden and Gun magazine. I admit the name sounds a bit strange and conjures up images of articles about plants to draw deer into your garden, but instead Garden and Gun is a southern upscale version of Town and Country magazine. Their stable of authors includes well-known southern favorites such as Pat Conroy (The Great Santini, The Prince of Tides, My Losing Season), Daniel Wallace (Big Fish), and Winston Groom (Forrest Gump). If you’re looking for a good literary gardening publication, check it out and you’ll see an upcoming feature on Plant Delights. Perhaps we’ll hang a few back issues from our deer fence to really antagonize the critters.
In March, we were fortunate to have Swedish plantsman Peter Korn speak to our local chapter of the North American Rock Garden Society. Everyone in attendance was blown away by Peter’s amazing garden. I didn’t have any plans to visit Sweden until I saw Peter’s talk, now Sweden has moved up quite high on my travel plans.
I just got notice for the upcoming Conifer Symposium to be held in Watkinsville, Georgia from May 22-25, 2008. The CANR Conifer Conference features tours of Conifer Gardens and 13 well-known speakers including Carol Reese, Rita Randolph, Don Howse, David Creech, Richard Bitner, and many more. If you like conifers, this should be one heck of a symposium.
While you have your calender in hand, the Garden Conservancy Open Days once again includes the Raleigh area. The tour features six private gardens to visit on Saturday, September 20 (9 am to 5 pm) and Sunday, September 21 (12 pm to 5 pm). A portion of the proceeds from the weekend will benefit the JC Raulston Arboretum. Discount tickets may be purchased in advance or entrance to the gardens can be ‘pay as you go’ with a fee of just $5.00 per garden, collected at each garden entrance. Call 1-888-842-2442 or visit www.opendaysprogram.org for more information. For local ticket information, please contact Autumn Keck at the JC Raulston Arboretum at email@example.com or (919) 513-3826. Your $5 admission fee per garden supports the expansion of the Open Days Program around the country and helps build awareness of the Garden Conservancy’s work of preserving exceptional American gardens such as Montrose in Hillsborough, the Elizabeth Lawrence garden in Charlotte, North Carolina and Alcatraz Island, San Francisco, California.
I was recently at the US National Arboretum in Washington DC to speak for the Lahr Native Plant Symposium, which was the first time in over a year I’ve been able to visit. From my first visit in the mid-1970’s, the US National Arboretum has been one of my very favorite botanical gardens. From the world class herb garden to the bonsai pavilions, from the Gotelli conifer collection to the native plant collections, the Arboretum is an amazing place. I’ll have to admit my favorite has always been the Asian Valley and the later addition, China Valley, which despite dozens of visits still yields surprising treasures around each corner. There was always so much to see, I could never finish by the time the gates closed at 5 pm, so in the summer months, I would spend hours after the gates closed dodging security personnel as I continued exploring every nook and cranny of the gardens. The Arboretum was probably the first public garden to feature the ‘New American Garden’ landscape trend that swept the nation back in the early 1980’s, and their legendary woody plant breeding work includes industry stalwarts such as the disease resistant, cold hardy Lagerostroemia fauriei crape myrtle hybrids.
The 446-acre site on the west side of Washington DC makes it a true jewel in the Nation’s crown. Because the Arboretum is housed under the US Department of Agriculture, Agriculture Research Service, its budget is subject to both political whims and departmental trends. Other area gardens are under different parent institutions and often not subject to the same fate. For example, the US Botanic Garden comes under the auspices of the Architect of the Capitol and many of the gardens in downtown DC fall under the Smithsonian Institution. This year’s proposed budget takes funding for the US National Arboretum from $5 million to $2 million. You can imagine the devastating effect on the Arboretum, if it can even remain open. While I’m a big advocate of fiscal responsibility on the part of our Federal lawmakers, not funding the US National Arboretum simply doesn’t make sense. Not only does the Arboretum represent our Nation’s gardening efforts to visitors from around the world, but it does the same to residents of our country, who support it with their tax dollars. The Arboretum needs those of you who care about its success to write letters of support to your congresspersons to try and restore their funding. You can also find a list of key lawmakers involved in budget processes at the Friends of the National Arboretum website Thanks for taking time to engage our political leaders about this important issue.
We hope you will be able to visit us for our Spring Open House, May 2-4 and 9-11 (8 am -5 pm Friday, Saturday, and 1-5 pm on Sunday). I’m afraid many folks may need to replace plants that didn’t survive our stressful 2007 summer and of course, if you’re looking for a worthy recipient of your economic stimulus check from Uncle Sam, we’re here for you.
Since we’re all thinking and hearing about recycling these days, Plant Delights is glad to help you clean up by recycling any pots that come from here, so if you are heading this way, throw those old pots in the car and we’ll take them off your hands. Please, do not bring odd-sized pots from other vendors since these will not fit our production standards.
Our Spring Open House will also be your last chance to say goodbye to departing Garden Curator Adrienne Roethling, who will be leaving us after 8+ years in that position. Adrienne has been an important part of our operation as she oversaw the development and growth of the garden during this time. Adrienne and her husband Jon are moving to Kernersville, NC where she will assume a similar position at the developing Paul J. Ciener Botanical Garden. Taking over for Adrienne is Todd Wiegardt, who has served as Adrienne’s assistant for the last year. I hope you will take time to thank her for her contributions and to welcome Todd.
It’s been a good spring for the growth of most nursery plants, and to that end, we have more new and returning items we have just added to the website. Remember some are only available in limited quantities, so if you see something that strikes your fancy, don’t hesitate too long.
If you’ve submitted your ballot for our Top 25 contest, visit our best sellers’s list for the current standings. There was some minor shuffling in the top 25 with the big mover for the month being Agave ovatifolia which leapt up to 14. May is when we begin to see more dramatic shifts in peoples’ ordering habits. Don’t get discouraged if your selections don’t appear on the list yet, as it changes dramatically as the season progresses.
As always, we thank you for your continued support and patronage.
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Thanks and enjoy