From Ashwood, we headed south, stopping for the evening near the town of Shaftesbury at the small, but lovely Coppleridge Inn. We arrived just after dark, which made the last hour of driving down narrow winding roads more treacherous than we would have preferred, but at least we arrived before the dinner hour wrapped up. The English love of drinking is legendary and sure enough, it seemed that everyone in the town was at the Coppleridge Inn pub for their evening rounds of drinking and socializing.
After a lovely breakfast at the Coppleridge Inn, we headed out on the short 10 minute drive into the quaint town of Shaftesbury for the annual Shaftesbury Galanthus Festival…my first chance to see rabid galanthophiles in action. Galanthomania (maniacal collecting of snowdrops) has exploded in the UK, like coronavirus in the rest of the world, with both being quite costly once you become infected.
When we arrived for the morning talks, we were informed that the town doesn’t have enough parking and because of that, the pay lots require that you leave for 1 hour, after a four hour stay.
At breakfast, we had discovered that we were only a 30 minute drive from Stonehenge, so we decided that it would be our lunch break. Neither Hans or I had ever visited Stonehenge, so this break allowed us to check out what should be a required mecca for all serious rock gardeners.
Despite not seeing a single road sign until we reached the turnoff to the stones, the site receives over 1 million visitors annually. We arrived to find a bright sunny, but brisk day, where for time’s sake, we opted to ride the buses from the visitor center to the stones. In recent years, the Stonehenge visitor center had been moved quite a distance away from the stones to preserve the integrity of the site.
Time to return to Shaftesbury for the final talk of the day, a lecture by our friend Dr. John Grimshaw.
2018 was a year of exceptional changes for us here at the gardens and nursery. Our long-time nursery soil company was sold and the quality of the mix went to hell. Because many of our crops are challenging in containers, before we knew it, our plant losses in the nursery were well into the upper six figures. To say our nursery staff had to scramble is an understatement. After trialing our most difficult crops in a number of new potting soil mixes, is was an easy choice to make the switch to Pacific Organics. https://www.pacific-organics.com/
Despite the name, Pacific Organics is a NC-based national company, who have a bigger footprint of users in the northeast US than here in NC, where cheap nursery soil is king. Unbenownst to us, the folks at Pacific Organics have worked closely with the world renowned soil researchers at NC State, so we know the quality of the research they use to formulate their mix.
We take great pride in our plant quality and in 2018 we had numerous growing issues resulting from the quality of our potting media. Many of you were affected by having plants canceled from you order, refunds and shortages on desired crops. This was completely unacceptable! We can already see a dramatic difference in plant growth and quality, and we sincerely apologize for the problems of the past year.
We’d like to welcome several new staff members to our team. Wesley Beauchamp joined us last fall as our nursery grower, coming to us from the mega-greenhouse producer Metrolina. Everyone who purchases a plant will be the beneficiary of Wesley’s plant-growing magic.
In the gardens, we welcome our new garden curator, Amanda Wilkins, a NC State grad, who we lured back to Raleigh after finishing her Masters in Plant Taxonomy at the University of Edinburgh, followed by a stint as Curator at the Mobile Botanic Gardens.
Looking to the Future As most of you know, in 2018 Anita and I gifted Plant Delights Nursery and Juniper Level Botanic Garden to NC State University. An operational endowment has been set up at NC State University to fund the operation of the gardens. Once the endowment is fully funded, JLBG will open as a full time public botanic garden that will be a sister institution to the JC Raulston Arboretum.
So, what changes will you see and when? For now, not much. We are developing a membership structure for JLBG to mirror that used by the JC Raulston Arboretum. Once that is completed, you will be able to join JLBG as you would any other horticultural organization. At some undetermined point in the future, we will switch to a membership only plant shipping model. Anyone would be able to shop or pick up plants at the nursery, but order shipping would be reserved only for JLBG members.
This change allows Anita and I to scale back our involvement in daily operations as we age, while allowing JLBG and PDN to continue via a more financially sustainable future model to collect, evaluate, propagate, share, and preserve plants through ex-situ (off site) conservation. In other words, less computer time for Tony and more time in the field and in the garden. We hope that folks who believe in our mission will help us to fully fund the operational endowment.
Anita and Tony Avent (NC State University)
Hot off the Press Arizona plantsman Ron Parker has just published his first book, which details the agaves of Arizona, including the Pre-Columbian man-made hybrids. Ron has done a phenomenal amount of field work, visiting each of the sites he writes about. Anyone interested in century plants will have a hard time putting this fascinating book down. You can order directly from Ron or from any of the on-line book sellers.
Industry News January 2019 marked my first trip to the Mid-Atlantic Nursery and Trade Show (MANTS) in Baltimore. I’ve been hearing about MANTS for years, but my first journey certainly didn’t disappoint. The show is both amazing and huge! Nursery folks and allied trade vendors lined what seemed to be acres of the Baltimore Convention Center.
Riding the train back and forth from the airport to the convention center is relatively easy, if you don’t mind being entertained by some colorful, non-paying characters who ride along with you. If you work in the green industry, I’d say MANTS is a must.
Currently the recently reconstituted Southern Nursery Association holds their meeting and Plant Conference just prior to MANTS at the same venue, so if you’re looking for some educational opportunities, this is for you. Unfortunately, this years’ show coincided with the prolonged government shutdown, so many of the stars of the show were MIA.
One of the SNA award winners for 2019 was Tree Town USA CEO Jonathan Saperstein. Why is that interesting, you ask? Last fall, Tree Town USA, with a little help from their bank, purchased one of the largest nurseries in the US…the Hines divisions of Color Spot Nurseries, which includes over 2,000 acres in California and Oregon. Tree town’s operations now include 19 farms and over 6,000 acres of production. Did I mention that Jonathan is 29 years old! Not bad to make Forbes’ list of Top 30 under 30! We wish him good luck and will be thinking of him when he wakes up in the middle of the night and wonders, “What the hell have I done?”
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 selling her business several years ago, and before restarting it after the post-sale went south, Jackie has taken up car racing. Having spent time with Jackie at her beautiful home, garden, and bamboo collection in Washington, this comes as quite a shock….for someone of our “experienced years.”
She started competing in 2015, and has now put together an all-female team that will compete in the open wheel and sports car series for 2019, with Caterpillar as a sponsor. The season begins in January with Jackie on the sideline due to a back injury, but we wish her good luck as she heals and returns to the cockpit. Read more of Jackie’s inspirational story.
Jackie Heinricher – Garden Entrance
Back last fall, an article appeared in our local NC paper about a move to limit plantings in new county-owned properties to only native plants. While the move was hailed by native plant advocates, such decisions showcase a sad lack of critical thinking skills and emotional knee jerk decisions that have become sadly prevalent. Here is a link to the original article, followed by an unpublished letter that we wrote to the newspaper editor.
Native Plants Only…Diversity or Adversity?
It’s hard to know where to begin after reading the September 11, 2018 N&O article about new Wake County properties being restricted to using only native plants in landscaping. The article mentioned diversity, yet the entire focus was about restricting diversity.
We believe that diversity is not only desirable, but critical, since it brings together individuals which have unique traits that create a more robust and vital collective population. We find it fascinating that our society promotes diversity when it comes to humans and edible plants, but decries the absolute need to restrict diversity when it comes to ornamental plants.
City, county, and state borders are geopolitical…they have absolutely nothing to do with plant nativity or adaptability. Secondly, plant nativity is not a place, but a place in time. To call a plant native, you must consider nature as static (never changing), and then pick a random set of dates that you consider to be “ideal”. Most of the plants currently considered native to Wake County today, actually speciated tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of years ago. The current conditions are nothing like the conditions then.
Having been born in Wake County 60+ years ago with a passion for “native plants”, I spent my childhood roaming the woods, where houses now stand. As an adult, I have taken over 60 botanizing trips throughout the US, searching for great new garden plants.
Over the last 30 years, we have grown over 60,000 different plants from around the world in our Southern Wake County Botanic Garden, which currently houses, most likely, the most diverse collection of Southeast US native plants in the USA. Our unique perspective comes from a mix of professional experience, observation, and on-site research.
The News & Observer article advocates the concept of a horticultural ethnic superiority, ethnic isolation, and ethnic cleansing. This starts with an assumption that “native plants” are superior to non-natives, and that non-natives should be excluded in landscape situations.
If we were having this conversation about the species Homo sapiens instead of ornamental plants, we’d be laughed out of the town. Also, if “native” plants were actually better adapted and preferred by wildlife, they would take over any site in the county where they were planted, meaning we could then have neither endangered native plants nor invasive exotic plants.
As for the superiority of native plants for both adaptability and for supporting pollinators, that is another great myth, which despite its popularity in the media has no basis in good research. A new book in the works detailing extensive research and pollinator counts from the South Carolina Botanic Garden will show that plants native to a specific region are neither favored by or required by native pollinators.
If you disregard all of the above, and just take the idea as presented in the paper to have all natives at County facilities, then to be consistent, all turfgrasses must also be banned…no lawns or athletic fields. Bermudagrass (Africa), Tall Fescue (Europe), Zoysia (Asia), and Centipede (China), must never be allowed on county facilities using the same reasoning…or lack, thereof.
To keep this non-native ban consistent, Wake County must also ban the planting of most fruits and vegetables, since almost none are US natives. That would leave only sunflowers, a single Texas native pepper, grapes, blueberries, cranberries, persimmon, and paw paws. Of course, Wake County Extension Agents should no longer plant or recommend planting any non-native fruits or vegetables.
Then there are those pesky honeybees (Africa by way of Europe) and earthworms (mostly Europe) that must also be banned from all county properties, since they both radically alter what grows and gets pollinated. Pretty much all of our domesticated animals, both food and pets would need to be banned…all except for turkeys.
Wait…there are still those non-native Homo sapiens, who got here via Africa. So, let me understand this….we clear land to build buildings and parks, creating non-native ecosystems for non-native Humans, and then require them to be planted with ornamental plants native only to the human-created county borders. Please excuse the excessive use of logic.
It’s disappointing that many in our country lack the ability to distinguish valid research from poorly constructed research, designed to support a pre-determined agenda. Indeed, it seems that if we hear anything enough times, read it in print, or see it in the media, it automatically becomes a fact.
How about let’s embrace all diversity and create a better habitat for all, and for goodness sakes include plants that are currently “native” in our region.
One of our long time concerns is the accuracy of plant tags…especially now that 60% of the plants purchased in the country are now sold through the box stores. While we’re thrilled that more plants are available to the masses, most tags are produced from a single national vendor, and the information may not be correct for your climate. Sizes, in particular vary widely. What may make a 1′ tall x 2′ wide shrub in one climate may reach 6′ tall x 9′ wide in another…yes, we have real life examples. The dirty little secret is that most plant measurements are taken from sheared plants growing in nursery containers, and not mature landscape specimens.
Often information on the web is also quite inaccurate since most sites simply copy from another site and never take time to actually observe the plants in person. We always recommend when possible to shop with vendors who actually grow the plants themselves…in the ground. If that’s not possible, visit local botanic gardens and observe the plants yourselves. You’ll save so much future garden maintenance time if you get the plant in the right location first time.
With the quest for cheaper and cheaper plants, time devoted to accuracy of information is often sacrificed. The tag in the photo fails on a couple of details. In most areas, mondo grass is best in light shade, although it can be fine with a few hours of morning sun. Our favorite faux pas is listing two genera for the same plant. Ophiopogon is correct, but convallaria is a lily of the valley…a completely different plant. We won’t mention the name of the box store where we saw this, but always be wary.
It doesn’t seem possible, but both Anita and I hit the big 60 this year. During my youth, I entertained occasional thoughts about what old age would be like, and wondering if I’d actually make it. Well, it’s here, I’m here, and whatever it was that I expected, I’m not sure this is it.
I was pretty lucky genetically…other than minor issues like flat feet, an over-curved spine, and bad knees. I realize now that I was fortunate that my prefrontal cortex was overly active early in life, resulting in a low risk tolerance. In other words, I was a real bore growing up. Other contemporaries led much more exciting childhoods, but in doing so, affected their bodies, at a cost that wouldn’t be evident until much later. As one whose idea of excitement was spending time alone in the woods, the closest I ever came to real danger was years later after I began overseas plant exploration travels.
When we built our new home last year, I wondered how much of the physical landscaping I’d be still able to do. What a lovely surprise to find the body still functioning remarkably well. To be able to start a new garden at age 60, with a similar vigor as 30 years of age is truly something I never dreamed possible, but it’s sure enjoyable.
I’ve been very blessed to still be able to garden like a maniac, and to still be able to travel and explore the world for new plants. As Toby Keith so eloquently put it, “I’m not as good as I once was, but I’m as good once as I ever was.”
News from PDN/JLBG
We’d like to introduce several new members of our PDN/JLBG team. Our former garden supervisor, Keith Lukowski has headed to graduate school, where he is studying public gardens…we wish him the best. In Keith’s place, we are pleased to welcome Lauri Lawson, who spent most of the last 12 years as the face and backbone of Niche Gardens in Chapel Hill. Since our gardens continue to expand at a crazy rate, we created a second garden position for which we were able to lure back former staffer Thomas Thornton. Thomas has run his own landscape business while studying landscape architecture. We’re sure you’ll enjoy engaging with both Lauri and Thomas when you visit JLBG.
It’s also with great regret that we say goodbye to longtime nursery manager Mike Spafford, who after 15 years at PDN felt it was time to start his new life on the NC coast. To replace Mike, if such is possible, we’d like to welcome Meghan Fidler, who comes to us after a stint managing Atlantic Avenue Garden Center in Raleigh, and prior to that as an anthropology instructor. Meghan will be assisted by longtime PDN’er Dennis Carey, who moves from our IT/SEO specialist to our new Assistant Nursery Manager position, where he will oversee the growing and production duties. Dennis’s background in computers and an advance degree in horticulture will allow us to incorporate more technology and analytics in the growing process. We are thrilled to welcome all these new faces as we plow headlong into the future.
Progress continues on our crevice garden project using recycled concrete. We were thrilled to be able to entice crevice garden master craftsman, Kenton Seth to travel from Colorado to be part of the project. This fall, he and our own crevice specialist, Jeremy Schmidt, installed the second of our three phase of our project along our exit drive. There are lots of planting pockets for an array of interesting plants…as though we needed more.
Jeremy Schmidt (left) and Kenton Seth during Crevice Garden installation
This summer we were thrilled to have a visit from two of the country’s top bulb researchers. Both Gerald Smith (retired from High Point University) and Ray Flagg (retired from Carolina Biological Supply) are extensively published taxonomists who, in retirement, continue to work on the taxonomy of Mexican rain lilies. We spent quite a bit of time going through our extensive rain lily collections and discussing issues of taxonomic confusion. If anyone has wild collected rain lilies with collection data from Mexico, we’d love to put you in touch with Gerald and Ray. They were particularly interested in one of our Mexican rain lilies, which they felt could be a new species.
Gerald Smith (left) and Ray Flagg
Meetings at PDN/JLBG
Plant Delights and Juniper Level Botanic Garden are pleased to be a part of a number of specialty plant group conventions.
In early summer 2017, we were pleased to host the American Peony Society, who took time to tour the gardens, enjoy lunch, and even some plant shopping. We always meet such fascinating people and learn so much.
In November, we hosted the North American Rock Garden Society for their annual meeting. It was great to welcome rock gardeners from around the world, and learn about more potential plants for our new crevice garden.
American Peony Society meeting at JLBG
Upcoming Meetings for 2018
For 2018, we welcome three more National/International plant meetings to PDN/JLBG.
March 23-25 – We welcome the International Magnolia Society, a group of keen plantsmen/women who share a passion for anything magnolia. Great speakers and tours are on the agenda.
Jun 14-17 – We welcome the American Conifer Society, a group of conifer enthusiasts ranging from hobbyist to professionals. If you enjoy conifers, this is meeting not to be missed.
July 30-August 3 – We are pleased to welcome the Perennial Plant Association, a group of professionals from around the world who are involved with perennials, including designers, writers, marketers, growers, and retailers.
We hope you’ll join us for as many of these special meetings as possible. The opportunity to meet and chat with the movers and shakers of the plant world is quite special.
PPA group at Denver Botanic Gardens Chatfield Farms in 2017
Another red flag for the nursery industry was recently raised for mega-producer Costa Farms, who sold a majority stake of their nursery to the financial holding firm, the Markel Ventures Corporation. The only part of the Costa business that will remain unsold is the cannabis division…what does that tell us about profit difference between ornamental grass and recreational grass?
I’ve lost track of how many times, we’ve written about these merger/ventures, which never work out….repeat…NEVER. When each one is announced, its press release touts why their deal to acquire more capital is different from all the rest, yet, within a few years, each one ends in the same fate…bankruptcy or fire sale.
Why is this so, you ask? The nursery industry is a cyclical industry, whose ability to make money is directly tied to both the housing economy and the weather. Even farming, which is considered extremely volatile as an investment, is only tied to weather and very little to the general economy.
Also, excess capital of this sort is needed when a nursery tries to expand too fast in order to be everything to everybody….think Color Spot, Hines, and most recently Zelenka/Berry Nurseries. So, let’s see…Costa Farms purchased Delray Plants (March 2017), Layman Wholesale Nurseries (2012), and Hermann Engelmann Greenhouses, Inc. (Spring 2014). Costa Farms also purchased the facilities of an orchid and bromeliad producer in Homestead, FL, in 2015, moving its Desert Gems cacti and succulent production to those greenhouses.
Costa Farms currently have about 4,000 acres in production including 19 million square feet of climate controlled greenhouses. These facilities have revenues of $500 million annually on sales of 150 million plants. Did I mention that they employee 5,000 workers, both in and outside of the US? If you read plant tags, you’ve undoubtedly purchased their plants through Lowes, The Home Depot, Walmart, Ikea, and other outlets.
In 2016, that was enough to win International Grower of the Year at the IPM International trade show in Essen, Germany, so as a company, they seem to be doing a great job, and we wish them the best, but we’ll be watching the red flag.
If I’d kept up better with our newsletter writing, I’d have mentioned this earlier, but belated congratulations to NCSU plant breeder Dr. Tom Ranney. At the International Plantarium Show in the Netherlands, four of Tom’s creations, all in the Proven Winners (PW) program, won top awards. They are Deutzia ‘Yuki Cherry Blossom’, Deutzia ‘Yuki Snowflake’, Hydrangea ‘Invincibelle Ruby’ and Hydrangea ‘Invincibelle Blush’. Tom’s work continues to amaze the best plants people around the world.
Our condolences to the family of Ruth Bancroft, founder of California’s Ruth Bancroft Garden. Ruth passed away at age 109, after a recent stroke. I’ve had the pleasure of spending of bit of time with Ruth in her garden, and our gardens at JLBG are the recipient of her generosity. Ruth’s garden was the first garden preserved by the Garden Conservancy. What an amazing life!
We were also sad to hear of the passing of Ohio nurseryman Jim Zampini, 85. Jim was an amazing plantsman, with a history of introducing over 200 new plants to the market. Unfortunately, most were introduced with nonsensical name ending in –zam, and marketed under incorrectly trademarked names. A few better known plants include Prunus ‘Snow Fountain’ and Thuja ‘Bowling Ball’, and Berberis ‘Bonanza Gold’ (we aren’t using the nonsensical fake cultivar names). I had the pleasure of visiting Jim at his Lake County Nursery, back in its heyday, and it was quite the operation. The nursery continues to be run by Jim’s sons.
On an international scale, Cally Gardens of Scotland owner and plant explorer Michael Wickenden, 61, passed away during a plant trek in Myanmar (Burma) last fall. Michael became ill and passed away before he was able to reach a hospital for treatment for a suspected case of dengue fever. Michael was a brilliant plantsman, photographer, and advocate for the free-sharing of plant germplasm…one of the good guys. He will be sorely missed.
We were thrilled to hear from the staff at Atlanta’s Garden Hood garden center that indeed they are alive and well. As it turns out, Scott only closed one part of his nursery/garden center business and sold the other to his nursery manager. Garden Hood is a delightful garden center, run by plant lovers in Atlanta that I’ve had the pleasure of visiting. We wish them the best of luck, and hope you’ll drop by for a visit when you’re in the area.
Greetings from Plant Delights and Juniper Level Botanic Garden.
Salvia nutans – Coming Soon
So far, it’s been a great spring at PDN and JLBG. Rains have been pretty regular so far…thanks to two early-season tropical storms. No sign of an imminent summer let-up in moisture. Of course, constant rain can also spell trouble for some more dryland-loving plants like the new perennial snapdragons we’re testing. While the majority of plants we trial from other breeders don’t pass our NC stress test, it is always nice to have a truly stressful spring to let us know what plants are really tough and will survive.
Growth in the garden has been amazing this spring, and the summer show is shaping up to be the best ever. There’s just so much to see in the summer, we really hope you’ll make plans to attend our upcoming Open Nursery and Garden Days, July 8-10 and 15-17. If you’re averse to heat, arrive early when the weather is still delightful, but don’t come without your camera.
Polianthes ‘Pink Sapphire’ – Coming Soon
We’re already putting together our fall catalog and have many new exciting plants in store. Several fabulous new hardy hibiscus and salvias will be included and so much more.
Horticulture enrollments have always been a roller coaster ride, but with the job increases in the technology field, fewer and fewer students are migrating to careers with plants. With a wide range of career paths that includes farming, landscaping, greenhouse and nursery growing, plant breeding, and flower arranging, there is something for anyone who enjoys being around plants.
In a recent survey, only 48 percent of adults aged 18 to 34 said they are familiar with horticulture, as compared with 65 percent of older adults. And, while the majority of respondents view horticulture as essential to food, water, and the environment, only 26 percent strongly agree that horticulture is a diverse area of study that will lead to a fulfilling and respected career.
According to a 2015 employment outlook report from USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and Purdue University, a total of 35,400 U.S. students graduate each year with a bachelor’s degree or higher in agriculture-related fields—22,500 short of the 59,700 industry job openings available annually. No wonder it’s getting so hard to find good help.
To combat declining enrollments in horticulture programs and a lack of qualified industry workers, Longwood Gardens, The American Society for Horticultural Science (ASHS), and 150 partner organizations announced the launch of the Seed Your Future initiative. The public rollout of Seed Your Future will officially begin in 2017, but fundraising to support the effort has already begun. You can learn more and make a donation to this effort at the Seed Your Future website.
Tom Ranney at JCRA
There is a wonderful article about NCSU plant breeder Tom Ranney in the most recent issue of the trade magazine Nursery Manager. I expect many of you grow some of Tom’s introductions, even though you may not realize it. We hope you enjoy the article about one of the world’s top woody plant breeders.
We were pleased to be featured in the spring 2016 issue of Garden Design in a fern article by British garden writer Noel Kingsbury.
Georgia plantsman Scott McMahan has closed his McMahan’s Nursery and sold his garden center, Garden Hood to his former manager, and returned to his previous career at the Atlanta Botanical Garden. Scott has been an International plant explorer for many years and will now have the same job full-time with the garden.
A lightning-induced fire has put a damper on the run of Quality Cactus/Select Seeds of Texas. This unique wholesale nursery was the only source for many rare southwest/Mexican native plants from seedlings to mature specimens. Best of luck as they try and rebuild.
Wade Roitsch at Yucca Do
Our friends at Yucca Do Nursery are calling it quits after 28 years in the mail order nursery business. Owner Wade Roitsch is winding down operations now so, if you want any plants before the doors close, don’t delay. Wade and Carl will continue to explore in the search for new plants, so thankfully they’ll remain an important part of the horticultural community. It’s been a real honor for us to be able to work closely with them during the run of Yucca Do, and our horticultural hats are off to their incredible contribution to our industry and to our gardens.
Our friend and fellow plant explorer, Fred Spicer, has resigned his position as director of the Birmingham Botanic Gardens after over a decade at the helm. The garden has changed dramatically under his leadership, to become one of the major plant collections in the Southeast US. We wish Fred the best of luck in his next great adventure.
The horticultural world has experienced several significant losses this spring.
Dr. Sam Jones, 83, of Piccadilly Farms in Georgia passed away on February 9. Sam was preceded in death by his wife of 56 years, Carleen. Sam was a professor of botany at the University of Georgia (1967-1991), and he and Carleen ran their side business, Piccadilly Farms. Piccadilly was the first US company to widely promote hellebores and the first to hold a hellebore festival. Sam and Carleen were awarded the Perennial Plant Association’s highest honor, the Award of Merit, in 2005. Piccadilly is now owned and operated by their daughter and son-in-law, Valerie and Bill Hinesley.
Robert Mackintosh, co-founder of Woodlanders Nursery in Aiken, SC, passed away on February 14 at the age of 90. Robert was preceded in death by his wife of 60 years, Julia. Robert enjoyed a career as a Harvard-educated Landscape Architect, while starting Woodlanders Nursery as a hobby in 1975. The nursery, now in its 41st, year is known internationally as a source of rare plants. Woodlanders Nursery is now in the hands of co-owners Bob McCartney and George Mitchell.
Judith and Dick Tyler
Hellebore specialist Judith Tyler, 70, co-founder of Pine Knot Nursery in Virginia, passed away suddenly on March 18, just a week after their annual Hellebore Festival. Judith had just been to a follow-up pneumonia appointment when doctors discovered she had late stage cancer only days before her death. Judith and her husband Dick have run Pine Knot Farms since 1983, during which time they have become known internationally as hellebore experts, due in part to their wonderful book, Hellebores: A Comprehensive Guide, with friend Cole Burrell.
We are currently looking to fill our position for a greenhouse/nursery grower. If you or anyone you know might be interested in such a position, click here to learn more.
Greetings from Plant Delights Nursery and Juniper Level Botanic Garden.
Now hiring shippers!
We hope you’ve received your 2016 Plant Delights Nursery catalog. If you’re an active customer and haven’t seen yours, drop us an email and we’ll send a catalog. If you’re not an active customer (haven’t purchased recently), you may shop online or order a printed copy. If you’re a garden writer/blogger, garden celebrity, local garden guru, etc., just let us know and we’ll be glad to add you to our complimentary permanent catalog mailing list.
Only a few weeks remain before we begin shipping plants again starting the first week of March. This means we’re beginning to hire seasonal shippers to help during our busy spring season. So, if you’re interested in joining us and are physically fit, please let us hear from you.
Visit Us During Open Nursery and Garden Days
Grading the road near Greenhouse 14
Our first Open Nursery and Garden days for 2016 are only a short time away. Winter Open Days are actually one of our best attended events, so if you haven’t dropped by, we hope you’ll join us this year. Winter is a great time to see the structure of the garden before the spring flush. In NC, it doesn’t take much gardening prowess to have a nice spring garden, but if your garden looks good in winter, it will be fabulous the rest of the year. You’ll also be amazed how many plants actually flower in the winter season when few people venture out to garden centers. Did we mention our open nursery days also offer the chance to select your own seed-grown flowering hellebores in person?
Renovations are in full swing as we continue with our entrance, exit drive, and parking lot enhancements. You’ll see the progress we’ve made during our upcoming Winter Open Nursery and Garden Days, although neither project will be completed.
We have a super list of classes scheduled for 2016 with topics from soil to propagation, and from botanical illustration to relaxing your body. We hope you’ll join us for some of these educational and stimulating events.
Anita will be leading our expanded series of thought-provoking mindfulness and meditation classes, and botanical artist Preston Montague will be teaching us how to illustrate the natural world.
In the Winter Botanic Garden
Helleborus ‘HGC Joker’
Here in eastern NC, we’ve had a mild winter so far, with only one night below 20 degrees F, compared to 2013/2014 when we had thirteen nights below 20 degrees F during the same period. The January ice/freezing rain storm left quite a few memories by removing a couple of large evergreen specimens (one persea and a magnolia) from the garden, while pruning limbs from several other specimens. No structural damage resulted.
Because the temperatures were so mild early in fall/winter, some plants starting growing much sooner than normal including many of the hellebores. The new growth on a few hellebores was kissed by the cold and is looking a bit black, but the next round of new growth will be fine. A few of our later hellebores are already in flower and, in most cases, the flowers can take quite a bit of freezing since they’ve learned how to lose turgidity during very cold weather and regain it when the temperatures warm.
We prefer to remove the old, tattered hellebore foliage to improve the floral show, but we always wait until the flower buds are showing color and have risen above the old leaves. We do this so the old leaves will keep the developing flower buds in shade and consequently cooler, which in turn delays flowering.
The foliage on our lycoris (surprise lilies) looks the best we can remember for this time of year. The longer the foliage grows undamaged, the more food is going into the bulb. It’s looking like we’ll have an exceptional bloom season this summer. We hope you’re going to try several of the choice new surprise lilies that we’re bringing to market for the first time.
Our Research Programs in the Garden and Nursery
We’re always conducting horticultural research, both in the field and the nursery. One of the most recent mad scientist quests was to see if we could cause a non-offsetting banana to offset. Our subject for the experiment was the lovely Ensete maurelii, which is a genus of solitary-trunked banana relatives. We were curious to learn if ensetes had dormant buds around the base that were simply kept from sprouting by the plant’s auxin hormones.
To answer the question, we severed the auxin translocation system by slicing through the stalk about one inch above the soil level. Once the knife came out the other side of the stalk, we applied down pressure until the knife emerged through the root. Next, we rotated the stalk 90 degrees and repeated the process. To our surprise, after eight weeks, the crown began to sprout pups…up to fifteen per plant. This practice, called crown cutting or rossisizing, has long been used on hostas, but now we can use it to multiply some of the rarer bananas and their relatives.
Congratulations to Florida plantsman Adam Black who was named the new Director of Horticulture at Peckerwood Gardens in Texas. We look forward to watching Adam put his stamp on this already amazing garden.
We were saddened to lose plantsman and garden writer Allen Lacy, 80, in December. The former NY Times/Wall Street Journal garden columnist and philosophy professor was given a second lease on life after defying death and giving up his former hard-living lifestyle. He subsequently established the Linwood Arboretum in his home state of New Jersey, all while receiving dialysis. Our thoughts are with his widow, Hella, and their children.
This Christmas season also marked the passing of our friend Rene Duval who, along with his surviving partner of 43 years, Dick Weaver, started the well-known North Carolina mail order nursery, We-Du. In the 1980s, the Polly Spout (near Marion, NC) based We-Du Nursery was one of the most important sources of new and unusual perennials in the country. The opportunity to visit and chat with Dick and Rene was always special, as was the chance to buy plants that were unknown and unavailable elsewhere. After retirement, Dick and Rene moved first to Puerto Rico, then to North Central Florida. Dick, who originally worked at Arnold Arboretum, plans to move north to Pennsylvania to be closer to family. Our thoughts are with him.
From all of us at Plant Delights Nursery and Juniper Level Botanic Garden, we give thanks to you for joining our plant-loving family.
Shipping Season Ends Soon
We’re wrapping up our 2015 shipping season on November 30, so if you’ve put off making your fall order, better hurry. We’ll begin shipping again in mid-February, but will try to accommodate any horticultural emergencies between now and then as the weather and our staffing will allow.
A handwritten Plant Delights Nursery Gift Certificate
Makes the perfect Hostess gift for your next soiree
Makes the perfect gift for Teachers (Way better than a coffee mug!)
Has no fees and never expires
Can be accompanied by our color catalog and a note with your personalized sentiment
Can be emailed as well for fast delivery
Check off your shopping list with a PDN Gift Certificate!
PDN’s 2016 Spring Catalog Coming Soon
We’ve been busy writing and assembling the 2016 Plant Delights Nursery catalog, which is now in the design phase. Only a few more weeks before it heads off to the printer on the journey that will land it in mailboxes early in 2016. As always, the catalog will feature over 500 treasures including nearly 100 first time offerings.
Fall in Juniper Level Botanic Garden
We’ve enjoyed wonderful fall gardening weather, which featured mild temperatures and a crazy amount of moisture. Thank goodness we missed the deluge that occurred three hours south in South Carolina, where they endured 26″ of rain in a single storm. As you can imagine, plant growth in the gardens this fall has been nothing short of miraculous. Most pitcher plants form new pitchers in spring and fall and, as long as I’ve been growing them, they are truly exceptional with all the moisture this year.
Other plants enjoying an exceptional fall include our fall-flowering Gladiolus ‘Halloweenie’, the giant tree dahlias, Dahlia imperialis, and the stunning Salvia regla. The winter-flowering Iris unguicularis is now beginning to bloom. We and the honeybees have enjoyed great flowering on the fatsias in the garden. We love those alien-like flower spikes in November. Even the dazzling Schefflera delavayi has flowered beautifully sans frost, and seems to be setting another excellent crop of seed.
Projects Around the Gardens
We have a number of fall/winter projects underway including renovations and hedge removal along our nursery and garden entry and exit drive. We’re recycling sections of concrete from the new property to use in constructing a new rock garden section. Weather permitting, we’ll have something new for you to see in spring.
We’ve also finally broken ground on our new retirement bungalow and begun ground-shaping and berm building on the new property, incorporating compost from our nursery. Each fall we receive 400-500 tons of leaves from the local municipality, which are composted here and added to the gardens. As much as it pains us to see people discarding such wonderful resources, we are thrilled to be the recipients.
New Online Customer Reviews Added
We’ve recently added customer reviews to the Plant Delights website, so we hope you’d be willing to take time and share comments on your favorite plants and education center classes. You can do that on the individual product pages here.
Also, these websites have general business reviews, so we’d really love it if you would also review Plant Delights Nursery!
We’ve already posted our greatly expanded education center schedule for 2016 on the PDN and JLBG websites. Because Anita’s first class in 2015 was so well received, we’re kicking off the new year with another Mindfulness in the Garden Retreat on January 30.
Anita will lead you through simple sensory exercises to soothe the body and open the heart. If you’re ready to reduce stress and suffering, you’ll enjoy this intimate opportunity to experience the peaceful and healing effects of sensing the garden from your heart.
Seating for this class is limited and pre-registration is required at 919-772-4794. The class fee is $40. Click here for more information on any of our 2016 classes or call 919-772-4794.
Tony looks forward to meeting many of our International Facebook friends in Frankfurt, Germany for the International Hardy Plant Union Conference in February 2016, where he’ll be speaking. We hope you’ll be able to attend this special gathering of plant nerds.
It is with sadness that we share the passing of Camellia Forest Nursery founder, Kai Mei Parks, 79, who suddenly passed away from pancreatic cancer in mid-October. Tony treasures his early visits to the 35-year old Camellia Forest when it was once a one woman operation, and his delightful chats with Kai Mai. She was a strong-willed workaholic, without whom we wouldn’t have her nursery treasure today. Camellia Forest has been managed by her son David for the last decade plus, but you could still find Kai Mei pulling orders almost until the end. Please join us in celebrating the life of this amazing lady!
The International Horticultural Community also suffered a huge loss with the untimely death of UK plantsman, Mark Flanagan at age 56, due to sudden heart problems. Mark was the Chairman of the Royal Horticulture Society’s Woody Plant Committee and Keeper of the Gardens at Windsor Great Park (including The Savill Garden). Mark was a world-renowned plant explorer, collecting in Japan, China, South Korea, and the Russian Far East. Mark was also co-author with Tony Kirkham of two widely acclaimed books, Plants from the Edge of the World (Timber Press, 2005), and Wilson’s China (Kew Publishing, 2009). Mark was awarded two of England’s highest honors, as a Member of the Royal Victorian Order (MVO) and with the Royal Horticultural Society’s highest accolade in horticulture, the Victoria Medal of Honor (VMH). We celebrate Mark’s valuable contributions to horticulture, and offer our condolences to his family.
A September 2015 study with responses from over 1,400 garden writers shed an interesting light on garden writing as a career. The study showed, of both full- and part-time writers, the majority earn below the National Poverty Level of just over $11,000 per year. Garden writer earnings have declined over 24% since 2009 due to a number of factors, including a decline in bookstores, the domination of Amazon, on-line piracy, the consolidation of publishers, and the increased availability of free on-line content. Of those surveyed, 33% have self-published at least one book. Most have also resorted to additional sources of income to support themselves.
In nursery industry news this month, Mike Shoup, 63, founder of the famous Antique Rose Emporium, is selling his display gardens and garden center facilities. The rose breeding and mail order divisions, however, will be retained.
The eleven-acre garden center and gardens, which include restored historical buildings, gift shops, and a chapel, are located near Brenham, Texas in the town of Independence. Serious inquiries may be directed to Jenny at 979-836-5664.
Garden for Sale
Our longtime customers Sherrill and Joyce Morris are downsizing and are hoping to sell their house and garden to another plant lover. If you’re looking to move to the area just south of Plant Delights, take a look.