Greetings from Juniper Level and we hope you’re having a great spring. Other than a couple of cold spells, we’ve had a near perfect spring with cool temperatures and timely rains. Only recently have we seen a few days in the 90’s, which normally dot our spring season. We’ve been spared the crazy weather seen in other parts of the country including Colorado’s frequent late spring snows, North Dakota’s floods, and tornados throughout the Southeast. At least the gardeners in northern Georgia and upstate South Carolina are finally getting some rain after being parched for several years. Even Atlanta’s Lake Lanier is within 7′ of finally refilling. Parts of the Texas Hill Country set a record last year with only 2″ of rain, but fortunately, the weather patterns have changed in recent weeks and the rains have finally returned.
We’ve just added some more plants to the on-line catalog including the very rare variegated shredded umbrella plant, Syneilesis ‘Kikko’. As always, most of these gems are only available in limited quantities, so don’t delay. They are integrated into the main on-line catalog or you can find the new additions listed separately.
It was great to have our friends Carl Schoenfeld and Wade Roitsch from Yucca Do visit a few weeks ago along with encyclopedic Texas nurseryman Pat McNeal. We have long worked together to trial plants in each other’s climates, so it was interesting for them to see the damage that occurs to woody lilies when temperatures drop into the single digits F. Yucca Do has recently completed their move to Giddings, Texas, about 1.5 hours west of their former location outside of Houston. The old property was sold to the Peckerwood Garden Foundation, which will allow Peckerwood to expand their gardens as well as have more parking. You can read more about the Yucca Do move at www.yuccado.com/themove.htm.
It’s been a busy spring…. just not as busy as we would have liked. It was great to have visits from an array of groups including most recently the Carolina Gardener Symposium as well as attendees from Southeast Palm Society meeting in Raleigh.
Last fall, I had the pleasure of meeting and lecturing with Lucinda Hutson of Austin, Texas. Lucinda is a delightful person; a combination artist, designer, and chef. Lucinda has published several cookbooks as well as an array of articles in addition to her career as an interior/exterior designer. You can get an idea of Lucinda’s exuberant style and possibly book her as a lecturer through her website at www.lucindahutson.com.
If you’re out and around North Raleigh on Tuesday May 5, I’ll be presenting a free gardening seminar at 7pm at the North Raleigh Library at 7009 Harps Mill Road. If we have a good crowd, I’ll consider doing more of these in the future. No registration is necessary, but the library phone number is 919-870-4000. Bring your gardening questions and problems; I hope to see you there.
Obviously, the big upcoming events for us are our two Spring Open Nursery and Garden weekends on Friday – Sunday, May 1-3 and May 8-10. We will be open from 8am-5pm on Friday and Saturday and 1-5pm on Sunday. There is so much to see that we truly wish everyone could visit and enjoy the gardens for themselves. Just walking through the gardens now is a sensory delight. Not only are the colors and textures a thing to behold, but the exuberant fragrances are just amazing. From banana shrubs to phlox to dianthus, it’s amazing what fragrances plants can add to your garden. At Open House, not only can you see how plants should grow in the garden, you will no doubt leave with a cartload of ideas, inspiration, and hopefully a few cool plants. This year, one of our largest agaves ( Agave salmiana v. ferox ‘Logan Calhoun’) has sent up a huge flower spike, which should be close to fully open, so come and enjoy a phallic moment with us in the garden. Directions can be found on our website.
One of the many challenges of running a nursery is predicting what will sell and in what quantities. Sometimes we hit the target, and sometimes we miss as bad as a North Korean missile launch. There are many factors that determine how well a plant sells, but the most important is the photograph…hence the reason many mail order catalogs pay professional photographers to take studio shots that often use dozens of plants which are then ‘cut and pasted’ to make one photo. A particular favorite is the commonly used mail order photo of Arum italicum showing the arum seed heads with leaves inserted from a calla lily. I don’t know about you, but I’ve got a problem trusting folks who use doctored photos, but then they probably laugh at our meager sales. Another key factor in determining sales is photo placement…did you realize the location of an image on a page can double or triple sales of that item? That being said, here are our top 10 list of great plants for 2009 that didn’t sell as well as they should have …. consequently, we have some really nice ones remaining.
1. Agapanthus ‘Back in Black’ …must be the photo, as it’s a really cool plant.
2. Agave guiengola ‘Creme Brulee’ …we possibly saturated the market last year, but this is a really amazing potted specimen.
3. Colocasia ‘Blackwater’ – this narrow leaf C. ‘Fontanesii’ has evidently been overshadowed by the great new John Cho hybrids.
4. Colocasia esculenta ‘Hilo Bay’ – this overshadower has the most distinctive leaf, but is the worst seller…really hard to capture this well in an image…bummer.
5. Cypripedium parviflorum v. pubescens – the high cost of 7 years production time has unfortunately put this plant out of reach this season for many economically impaired gardeners. It should have sold much better…very disappointing. Disappointing, heck…this means I’ll have more for my own garden.
6. Epimediums, especially ‘Pink Elf’, E. x youngianum ‘Tamabotan’, E. x versicolor ‘Cherry Tart’ and E. grandiflorum ‘Pierre’s Purple’. So, do we just have too many eps? These are all great selections and ‘Cherry Tart’ is just delightful, but for some reason, folks just won’t buy it. E. ‘Pink Elf’…one of only three patented epimedium in the world…very floriferous…must be the darn photograph.
7. Fargesia denudata – do people really trust that there are clumping bamboos when disreputable nurseries are selling Phyllostachys nigra (black bamboo) and claiming it to be clumping…which is it not. Perhaps folks want all bamboos to be 30’ tall…and they are really hard to photograph well. I wish you knew how hard it’s been to get these into the trade.
8. Hostas…geez, is it the deer or too much to choose from? A new hosta will sell really well, then when collectors get their fill, sales drop off for the next 2-5 years until regular gardeners realize how great they are. Disappointments for 2009 include
H. ‘Appetizer’…a really nice dwarf;
H. ‘Applause’…which looks like a clump of hands clapping;
H. ‘Cathedral Windows’…an incredible sport of H. ‘Stained Glass’;
H. ‘Deliverance’…ok, the movie connotation probably did this one in;
H. ‘Electrocution’…so where are you gardeners with the sick sense of humor?
H. ‘Landslide’…it’s a photo thing along with leaves that aren’t round and cupped;
H. ‘Mango Tango’…it’s as nice as H. ‘Stitch in Time’, but the name just doesn’t have the same ring;
H. ‘Parasol’…we thought the name on this H. ‘Blue Umbrellas’ sport was perfect, but you must not have agreed; and
H. ‘White Wall Tire’;…sold great last year, but is a dud in 2009…must be the Detroit crash that has affected this one.
9. Malvaviscus ‘Pam Puryear’ …something about a pink turk’s cap just didn’t find a niche in the market.
10. xHeucherella ‘Alabama Sunrise’ …okay great name, great photo, great plant …. guess I’ll need to call the psychic hotline to figure this one out.
And this business looks easy to who?
Speaking of hostas, our staff suggested we let you know which containers of hostas are obscenely huge and need a good home, so here’s the list of those that would make instant clumps or are so dividable you can immediately get into the nursery business. Applause
Key Lime Pie
Peedee Elfin Bells
Pineapple Upside Down Cake
Pot of Gold
For those who entered our Top 25 contest to compete for the $250 worth of plants, click here for the results though April 26, 2009. Topping the list for the first time is the new Echinacea ‘Tomato Soup’, which just edged out Colocasia ‘Thailand Giant’for the top spot. The only other colocasia in the list so far is Colocasia ‘Mojito’in the 4th spot. In third place is the first appearance for Syneilesis aconitifoliain the top 25. The only other echinacea in the list this month is E. ‘Green Envy’. Thanks to the shade gardeners, it’s good to see two ferns, an asarum, an epimedium, and even an aspidistra make the list. The list changes each month, so if your picks don’t show up near the top yet, don’t despair.
In other news, we reported last month the Northwest Flower and Garden Show and the San Francisco Flower and Garden Show were both being phased out unless a new owner stepped forward. The latest news is Duane Kelly has two different parties interested in purchasing and continuing the shows. No final decisions have been made, but at least there is hope. In the Southeast, the Southeastern Flower Show in Atlanta is taking a temporary hiatus for 2010, while it re-evaluates the financial commitments required to put on its annual flower show. There is still no word on when or if the New England Flower Show in Boston will ever resume, since the financial mess there is still to be resolved and their bills from the 2008 show remain to be paid.
We were saddened to learn of the passing of plantsman Alex Summers of Bridgeville, Delaware on Sunday, April 11. Summers, 96, was a founding member of the American Hosta Society in 1968 and served as president for the first decade of the society’s existence. Alex was also a keen gardener as anyone who has visited his garden knows firsthand. Alex was preceded in death by his wife Gene, but is survived by his son Alan. Instead of sending flowers, the family asks donations be made to the American Hosta Society.
We lost another giant of the plant world on April 12, with the passing of Dr. Thad Howard of Texas at age 79. Thad is best known for his extensive work with bulbs for hot climates, though his numerous plant expeditions into Mexico, and for his 2001 book, Bulbs for Warm Climates (University of Texas Press). I was fortunate to visit Thad at his home in May 2003 and take him on a ride though Texas to visit other bulb greats such as Crinum guru, Dave Lehmiller, the wonderful Yucca Do Nursery, and to meet another Texas crinum guru, Marcelle Sheppard for the first time. It was truly a trip that I.ll remember for the rest of my life. Thad also was a mentor to a number of young men, who later went on to become bulb experts in their own right including Steve Lowe of Tejas Bulbs, and garden writer/lecturer Scott Ogden.
As always, thanks for taking time to read our rants and most of all, thank you so much for your support and orders this year!
Please direct all replies and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks and enjoy