2008 Plant Delights Nursery August Newsletter

Dear PDN’ers:

Greetings from PDN, we hope all is well in your neck of the woods. In the spirit of the late George Carlin…why is it that woods have a neck instead of say, an arm or a foot? Inquiring gardeners want to know.

The fall 2008 Plant Delights catalog went in the mail Monday and should be arriving at your homes in short order. We hope you’ll find some treasures you just can’t live without. If you can’t wait, the new catalog is already on line at www.plantdelights.com.

Weather permitting, we’re ready to start shipping from the fall catalog as soon as you’re ready to receive your plants. We finally have our stock back up of Colocasia ‘Thailand Giant’ after our debacle that I described earlier. Again, thanks so much for your patience as we work to resolve our screw-up. Another small error in our last e-newsletter, I wrote about Hymenocallis pumila and meant H. pygmaea…sorry.

We mentioned several months ago an upcoming article about PDN in Garden & Gun magazine. Well, the article showed up in the June 2008 issue, and if you haven’t got your subscription yet, you can now find it on-line at gardenandgun.com/stories/features/the_plant_hunter-113.

In the world of writing, Dr. Mike Dirr mentioned the other day he has completed (except for final proofing), an update to his 1998 Manual of Woody Landscape Plants. For those who want to have the latest version of Mike’s plant bible, we’ll pass along printing details as we get them.

One of our first classes to fill each year is our Propagation Class, and while the initial class has come and gone, we are holding a second section on Saturday August 16, from 10am – 4pm. This section will be taught by Amber Harmon, who is in charge of the propagation here at PDN. There are still a few places available, so please call if you’d like to join us.

Headlining the fall events in the Triangle region of NC is the ‘Surround Yourself with Shady Characters’ Symposium, sponsored by the JC Raulston Arboretum. The list of internationally recognized speakers is truly superb, so this is not a symposium to be missed. For symposium attendees, PDN will serve bagels and coffee on Friday, September 26 from 9-10am, and the gardens and nursery will be open from 8am-4pm for viewing and shopping. You can click here to find out more from the JCRA website.

In other important upcoming events, we hope you will participate in the Garden Conservancy’s Open Days, benefitting the JC Raulston Arboretum. The dates are Saturday, September 20 from 9-5 and Sunday, September 21, from 12-5. Since that is a Plant Delights Nursery Fall Open House weekend as well, we hope you’ll spend the entire day visiting some of the great gardens of the region. The cost to visit is $5 per garden, which obviously is not applicable here at PDN, but we will gladly accept the same fee and send the donation along to the Garden Conservancy. You can read more about the area gardens which are participating at www.opendaysprogram.org.

In sad news, we regretfully report the passing of world-renowned plant explorer Peter Wharton, at age 57. Peter was the curator of the Asian Garden at the University of British Columbia (UBC), Canada. I’m sure many of you have met Peter or have seen his handiwork at the magnificent UBC gardens. When Peter, who was scheduled to be in China this fall, went to the doctor a few months ago for a melanoma, the cancer had already spread to the rest of his body so much so, that there was no viable treatment. Peter is survived by his wife and three children.

UBC has established the Peter Wharton Memorial Fund to endow a lecture series in his memory at the garden. For information on making a donation, contact maryn.ellis@ubc.ca. The UBC Botanical Garden is planning a celebration of Peter’s life on Saturday, September 6 from 2-5pm in the gardens. They have asked those who plan on attending to RSVP botg@interchange.ubc.ca.

There is so much going on with the plants out in the garden, it’s hard to know where to start. This has been an amazing few weeks of lycoris, as the stalks of colorful flowers emerge from nowhere. Lycoris is a group of Asian bulbs, whose foliage disappears in late spring, making the summer-borne flowers live up to their common name of surprise lily or hurricane lily. Lycoris grow equally as well in light open shade as in full sun. While they are obscenely drought-tolerant, flowering is sacrificed if they are dry for too long in the early summer. Many customers tell us they have much better luck with our container-grown plants than with often poorly stored dried bulbs. We already carry a nice selection of lycoris, but more are in the pipeline thanks to the magic of tissue culture. When we get plantlets back from the lab, we must then line them out in the field for at least one additional year to get them to flowering size.

Another summer flowering geophyte we don’t hear much about these days is the hardy cyclamen. While most catalogs tend to over-hype the flowering abilities of most plants, we find the opposite true for Cyclamen hederifolium. For us, they start flowering in mid-July and continue into the fall. It seems to us this is dependent on occasional summer rain showers, but we have seen consistent flowers each year for the last decade or so. Cyclamen purpurascens is another species in flower now, which makes a nice compliment to C. hederifolium.

Another geophyte that doesn’t get nearly enough attention is the hardy non-weedy oxalis. In the summer months, oxalis are the Timex┬« of the garden…they ‘take a lickin’ and keep on tickin… There are so many great garden specimens, but without a doubt the Oxalis regnellii types are the best in our climate. Not only is the foliage colorful on cultivars such as ‘Jade’ or ‘Triangularis’, but they are also in full flower during the summer months. We have found them to fare best in part sun to light shade conditions and have grown them in both dry sandy soils and rich boggy soils.

August is also a peak month for crocosmia in NC. I love crocosmia, but we’ve been frustrated for years at how good they looked the first year and how bad they looked every subsequent year. The problem is that many commonly grown cultivars, such as the beautiful C. ‘Lucifer’ simply crowd themselves out. If C. ‘Lucifer’ isn’t divided every year, it’s worthless. You’ll quickly find giving away crocosmia corms is harder than finding someone to take your extra garden squash. Over the years, we have found several that don’t choke themselves out as fast, including three wonderful specimens from England’s David Tristam and a few other stalwarts such as C. ‘Star of the East’ and C. ‘Jenny Bloom’.

I hope many of you have experimented with our ever increasing selections of hardy sinningias, which are simply superb for summer flowering. These drought-tolerant plants are great when grown in reasonably well-drained sites that get from 2-6 hours of full sun daily. I first knew sinningias from the house plant gloxinias purchased as a gift, only to watch them fade away in a horticulture hospice ward a few months later. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine these could be grown as winter hardy (Zone 7) perennials.

If large bold tropical-looking plants are your thing, I hope you are growing Cestrum ‘Orange Peel’. This amazing Argentine native has been flowering non-stop since early spring and now tops 8′ tall. Of a similar stature is the amazing Aralia cordata. This 8′ tall herbaceous aralia makes a monstrous clump, topped in August with large arching sprays of white flowers. This is simply a glorious and easy to grow plant that should be in all gardens large enough to hold it. Last, but not least, are the lobelias which seem to come and go in popularity. Part of the problem with growing lobelias is that gardeners like to mulch them along with the rest of their plants. Unfortunately, lobelias don’t take kindly to mulch, as their rosettes should remain exposed at all times. In the wild, most lobelias grow in moist soils, with some actually growing in standing or running water. While the above is true for hybrids of L. cardinalis, L. ‘Candy Corn’ requires very dry soils and doesn’t even form a winter rosette. If you treat your lobelias well, you’ll have stunning plants in August…just waiting for the hummingbird assault.

I’ll stop here, so you can get out into your own gardens, since I’m sure you’re not reading this at work. We wish you a great remainder of the summer gardening season and hope to see you at our Fall Open House and the JCRA symposium.

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

Please direct all replies and questions to office@plantdelights.com.

Thanks and enjoy

-tony