February 2019 Newsletter

February 2019 Greetings from wet Raleigh, where we’re making good progress with our arc construction after a record-setting year of precipitation that topped out at just over 60” of rainfall…the most ever recorded for Raleigh. Of course, both the east and west ends of North Carolina made our 60” look like a drop in the proverbial bucket.     Our largest coastal town, Wilmington, set a yearly rainfall record of 102”, while at the far western end of our state, Mt. Mitchell recorded just over 140” of rain. I guess we picked a bad year to start growing dryland alpines, but if they survive this year, they should be great going forward. In the News A shout out to our friend Jackie Heinricher, founder of the bamboo tissue culture lab, BooShoots in Washington, who has added a new career to her resume…that of race car driver.  I can’t say we have many racers who are also nurserymen.    After Read more [...]

Cast iron makes a return

We now have so many aspidistra (cast iron plants), that there is at least one species flowering virtually every month of the year. Winter still has the most flowering species, and here are a few that are currently blooming in our collection. Most folks don't see the flowers because they either don't know to look or plant their plants too deep, so the flowers form underground. We like to snip off some of the oldest leaves for a better floral show. Aspidistra fungilliformis 'China Star' is a Chinese collection from Jim Waddick Aspidistra tonkinensis is a Dylan Hannon collection from Vietnam...not enough to share yet, but soon. Aspidistra sp. nov. is an Alan Galloway collection from Vietnam.  We thought this was Aspidistra lutea, but we now think it may be a new undescribed species. This one offsets slow, so it may be a couple of years before we can share...hopefully by then we can get this named. Aspidistra vietnamensis...a Japanese selection. Most of the plants in the trade Read more [...]

Adore us some acorus

I was just walking through our woodland garden and stopped to snap this photo of one of my favorite perennials, Acorus gramineus 'Minnimus Aureus'. No matter how many new plants hit the market, this will always be a favorite and a plant I wouldn't garden without. The evergreen chartreuse gold foliage remains bright all winter in the shade or part sun garden, so there's no need for a carpet of mulch. Each plant spreads slowly, eventually kniting together to form a solid weed-subduing mat. The fine texture of acorus is a beautiful contrast to bold-textured plants like the aucuba in the foreground. Did we mention that it's deer resistant? Acorus, zone 5a-9b, is moisture loving, but also pretty darn drought tolerant.   Acorus used to reside comfortably in the aroid family, with the likes of peace lilies and jack-in-the-pulpits, but now DNA researchers all reach different conclusions on where it belongs taxonomically and how it is related to the rest of the aroids. Check out Read more [...]

Growing Pitcher Plants in Containers

In early summer of 2016, after my first couple of months working at Plant Delights Nursery, I bought my first pitcher plant, Sarracenia 'Hurricane Creek White'. After reading the article Introduction to Sarracenia - The Carnivorous Pitcher Plant on PDN's website, I followed the simple instructions on growing pitcher plants in containers. I selected a decorative frost proof container that was equivalent to, or maybe a little larger than a 3gal container. I used sphagnum peat moss, as recommended, for the potting mix. The sphagnum peat moss is very dry and almost powdery when it comes out of the bag. Put the peat moss in a bucket and add water. Mix well, and allow the peat to soak up the water until it is no longer powdery and is more a spongy consistency. Now you are ready to plant. I started off with one of our 3.5" pitcher plants, which had one to two growing points and four to six pitchers, much like the plant pictured here. Fill your decorative container Read more [...]

Baptisias: Great American Natives!

Baptisias, commonly known as false indigo, are North American native members of the pea family and quite drought tolerant once established. They provide amazing architectural form in a sunny garden or perennial border, and are deer-resistant and a butterfly magnet (See the top 25 flowers that attract butterflies here.). Not only do baptisia come in blue, which many people are familiar with in the most common species, B. australis, but they are also available in a wide array of colors such as white, yellow, purple, and pink, and new breeding efforts are producing bicolor flowers such as those of Lunar Eclipse. Baptisias have long been one of our favorite groups of sun perennials here at PDN. Through our trials of new varieties introduced  to the market, as well as our own breeding program, we continue to select for improved structure and habit as well as flower color. In 2017, we have introduced 2 new varieties in our Tower Series, Yellow Towers and Ivory Towers. These Read more [...]

Agave winter protection experiment

One of the difficulties growing agaves in our climate is keeping them dry in winter.  Our biggest losses occur when temperatures drop below 20 degrees F, and the ground is damp. While we always plant agave on slopes, that only helps with the external drainage...it does not necessarily keep the soil dry.  Once agaves grow large enough, they are better able to shed water and keep the soil dry, so our dilemma is getting young plants to survive.  This year, we decided to experiment using microwave covers.  Keep in mind  we are not interested in cold protection, only protection from moisture.  We were also looking for something that would keep the soil dry, while not baking the plants when the sun was bright.  If the covers were not filled with holes, the heat underneath would actually make the plants start to grow and become more cold sensitive. We're only half way through winter, but so far, our experiment is a great success. We only cover the agaves several days before the temperatures Read more [...]