2021 January E-Newsletter


We have finally closed the book on a tumultuous 2020, as we turn the calendar page to 2021.

Over the past twelve months, it suddenly became not only legal, but required to wear masks in public. So, we quickly learned how to work and shop in a mask, we adapted to contactless pickups, eating restaurant food in our vehicles, zooming, and spending inordinate amounts of time with our same-roof families, and an array of other new normals. Both home and public gardens have risen in importance in people’s lives as most folks have had little choice but to shelter in safe places, and what could be safer than outdoors in the garden. Although COVID vaccinations are underway, we’re still a way from achieving herd immunity, so we expect another season of significant garden immersion. 

Whether you like social media or not, we’ve seen a dramatic jump in Facebook participation in a time that pretty much every type of plants has its own worldwide group of enthusiasts. I can’t think of a better way to “find your plant people” than to join like-minded plant friends on-line.  Here are just a few of the many plant groups that we follow:

Agave (over 14,000 members)
Aspidistra (over 600 members)
Variegated Plants (over 16,000 members)
Asarum (over 700 members)
Solomon’s Seal (over 1,200 members)
Variegated Agaves (over 5,000 members)
Southeast Palms and Subtropicals (over 400 members)
Lycoris and Nerines (over 1,100 members)
Crinum (over 1,200 members)

Thank goodness that our gardens seem oblivious to the craziness in the world. So far, winter 2020/2021 at PDN/JLBG has been consistently cool, but without any cold temperature extremes. While plants are getting their required winter chilling hours (under 40 degrees F), we’ve only seen lows of 21F as of mid-January. Hellebore flowers in the garden are beginning to push as we quickly approach our first Winter Open Nursery & Garden Days. Those potted hellebores which will be for sale on site for our open days are also looking amazing, so we should have a bumper crop of flowering plants for you to choose from this winter.

We’d like to again thank everyone for their patience in 2020, as we navigated the transition to a socially distanced workplace, which coincided with an unpredicted rise in plant demand. Longer than normal wait and response times from our customer service department were simply unavoidable. Although we’d like to think we are better prepared for 2021, we won’t know how well we polished our crystal ball until the shipping season begins.

Transitions


While we are always losing loved ones, 2020 seemed particularly difficult. The horticultural/botanical world experienced a number of loses of significant contributors to the field. Below are a few.
In January, Southeast US, legendary nurserywoman Margie Jenkins passed away at age 98. It’s hard to have been involved in the nursery business in the southeast US without knowing “Ms. Margie”. Margie was an incredible plantsperson and nursery owner, who traveled the country acquiring new plants and sharing those plants she’d found and propagated. Margie was showered with professional awards from throughout the Southeastern US region for her amazing work. True to the Margie we all knew, she served customers up until the week of her death…life well lived!
Margie Jenkins at Jenkins Nursery
Contributions can be made to the Margie Y. Jenkins Azalea Garden at the LSU AgCenter’s Hammond Research Station. Please make checks payable to the LSU AgCenter and write “Margie Jenkins” in the memo field. Memorial donations can be mailed to 21549 Old Covington Hwy., Hammond, LA 70403. The Margie Y. Jenkins Azalea Garden was established in 2006 to honor, share and teach about the contributions Ms. Margie made to the nursery and landscape industry by displaying her favorite plants – including azaleas and natives. Other donations can be made to the Louisiana Nursery and Landscape Foundation for Scholarship and Research “Margie Y Jenkins Scholarship Fund” mailed to LNLFSR, PO Box 1447, Mandeville, LA 7047.
From the west coast, we were shocked by the February death of 61 year old California bulb breeder William Welch, better known as Bill the Bulb Baron. Bill was a prolific breeder and worldwide authority on narcissus, especially the tazetta group, and amarcrinum…to mention but a few. Bill was incredibly generous with genetics and ideas to improve both genera.  Just prior to his death last year, Bill was awarded the American Daffodil Society Gold Medal for his pioneering work with hybridizing narcissus.
March saw the passing of plantsman John Fairey of Texas at age 89. John was the founder of the former Yucca Do Nursery and the associated Peckerwood Gardens, which was renamed to the John Fairey Garden just days before his death.  Where John grew up in South Carolina, woodpeckers were called Peckerwoods, but in recent years, members of the white supremacist movement began calling themselves “peckerwoods”, which didn’t exactly help garden fundraising, so a name change was dictated. As a career, John taught landscape architecture at Texas A&M, while building the gardens, starting the nursery, and becoming one of the most significant plant explorers of Northern Mexico.  I had the pleasure of plant exploring in Mexico with John, and was actually just standing just a few feet away when he had a heart attack on a 1994 expedition.
John Fairey, Mexico border inspection.
John was recipient of many of the country’s top horticulture awards and the 39-acre garden he created probably holds the most significant ex-situ conservation collections of Northern Mexican flora in the world, thanks to over 100 expeditions south of the border. Our best wishes are with the gardens as they navigate the funding obstacles to keep the garden intact and open to the public.
In the Pacific Northwest, plant legend Jerry John Flintoff also passed away in March, after a period of declining health. I first had the opportunity to visit Jerry’s garden in 1995 with my friend, Dan Hinkley.  Jerry was a consummate plantsman and a voracious consumer of horticultural information.  His numerous introductions are legendary in plant collector circles, the best known being Pulmonaria ‘Roy Davidson’, Primula sieboldii ‘Lois Benedict, and the semi-double Sanguinaria canadensis ‘Jerry Flintoff’.
Dan Hinkley and Jerry Flintoff at Flintoff Garden
Across the pond, March also saw the passing of UK conifer guru Derek Spicer, 77, owner of the wholesale Killworth Nursery. Derek traveled the world studying conifers, which culminated in his epic 2012 book with Aris Auders, The RHS Encyclopedia of Conifers. This incredible encyclopedia lists all 615 conifer species, 8,000 cultivars, and 5,000 photos.  If you like conifers, be sure to put this treasure on your gift list.  Just last year, Derek was posthumously awarded the prestigious RHS Veitch Memorial Medal for his lifetime contributions.
We were saddened by the passing in May of one of our closest friends, plantsman Alan Galloway, age 60. In addition to serving as an adjunct researcher for Juniper Level Botanic Garden, Alan was a close friend and neighbor, living less than two minutes from the garden/nursery.
In July, we lost another plant legend in the southeast region with the passing of camellia guru and breeder, Dr. Cliff Parks at age 84 after a short period of declining health. Cliff was a repository of knowledge about the genus camellia.  He was co-author of the highly prized book, Collected Species of the Genus Camellia.  Cliff traveled throughout China studying the genus and returned with species that had never been cultivated in the west. These genetics were used in his breeding, the best of which were eventually introduced through Camellia Forest Nursery, run by his son, David.
Camellia sasanqua ‘William Lanier Hunt’ – A Camellia Forest introduction, 1986
Retirements/Congratulations
There were several significant horticultural community retirements also in 2020.
In California, Jim Folsom retired at the end of 2020 as director of The Huntington Botanical Gardens, after a 36-year career at the garden. If you’ve visited The Huntington, then you are well aware of Jim’s amazing accomplishments. If you haven’t visited, put it on your garden bucket list. The Huntington Gardens have one of the most extensive plant collections in the US. It’s rare that I can go to a botanic garden and see many plants that I don’t know, but at The Huntington, I have spent three consecutive days in the garden and constantly find arrays of unknown plants. Jim is an Alabama native, who tells me that he and his wife look forward to more traveling in retirement.  Last year, Jim was honored by the American Hort Society with their highest honor, the L.H. Bailey Award. Congratulations!
Jim Folsom at Huntington Botanical Gardens
Also from the botanical world, taxonomist Dr. Alan Meerow hung up his microscope after a distinguished 20 year career at the USDA-Agricultural Research Service’s National Germplasm repository in Miami. Alan’s work included work with tropical and subtropical ornamentals with a specialty in Amaryllids. His work has helped elucidate the relationships between members of the Amaryllidaceae family with some recently published and still controversial relationship discoveries.  Alan was a key contributor to the now defunct International Bulb Society, and the recipient of a number of top awards including the American Society of Plant Taxonomists’ Peter Raven Award for Scientific Outreach and the David Fairchild Medal for Plant Exploration by the National Tropical Botanical Garden.
Longtime NC State plant breeder, Dr. Tom Ranney was just selected as a Fellow in the prestigious National Academy of Inventors. Congratulations for another well-deserved honor.
Welcome
January starts a new chapter in plant breeding at NC State as we welcome plant breeder, Dr. Hsuan Chen to the JC Raulston/NC State staff.  In addition to new plant breeding projects, Dr. Chen will take over much of the work of retired plant breeder and redbud specialist Dr. Dennis Werner. We look forward to more introductions from a plant pipeline full of great new plants.
Southeastern Plant Symposium
We had planned to welcome visitors to Raleigh for the 2nd annual Southeastern Plant Symposium last June before COVID intervened.  We pivoted and moved on-line to the Zoom platform along with everyone else and we were thrilled at the participation and comments. For 2021, we are still planning to hold our event in person in mid-June, with the realistic expectation that we may need to switch to on-line, depending on the COVID situation, but we will make that decision when time nears.  The symposium dates for 2021 are June 11 and 12. Below is the current speaker line up.

Speakers confirmed for 2021 include:
Dan Hinkley, Heronswood founder
Hans Hansen, plant breeder, Walters Gardens
Kelly Norris, Des Moines Botanic Garden
Hayes Jackson, Horticulture Director
Ian Caton, Wood Thrush Nursery
Dr. Aaron Floden, Missouri Botanic Gardens
Dr. Peter Zale, Longwood Gardens
Dr. Patrick McMillan, SC Botanic Gardens
Janet Draper, Smithsonian Institution
Richard Hawke, Chicago Botanic Garden
Mark Weathington, JC Raulston Arboretum
Tony Avent, Juniper Level Botanic Garden
 
Until next time…happy gardening
 
-tony

Brexit Redux – Part II

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.

Coppleridge Inn Pub

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.

We arrived at the Shaftesbury Art Center, where we were asked to stand in a very tiny cramped lobby until time for the program to start. The lobby held only a dozen of the nearly 200 attendees of the program.
The registration table was guarded closely by the Galanthus King to make sure no one picked up their badge before the appointed hour. I’m assuming he must be royalty of some kind, by the size of the Mr. T starter kit that hung around his neck.
After two amazing talks, we were directed into the alley behind the Arts Center where we stood in line for nearly an hour to wait for the Snowdrop vending to begin. Perhaps some organizational assistance could help them in minimizing wait times…thank goodness the weather was decent.
The vending area was a bit of a madhouse, being far too small for the number of symposium participants to safely shop from the amazing array of vendors. Snowdrops ranged in price from $10 to several hundred dollars each.

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.

Transportation to see the Stones….the Stonehenge Stones, not the other famous British Stones
We shot photos from virtually every angle and in every light exposure possible, since you never know if you will have another opportunity.

Time to return to Shaftesbury for the final talk of the day, a lecture by our friend Dr. John Grimshaw.

What’s Growing On?

March 2019 Newsletter

News from JLBG/PDN

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.

Epimedium and Heuchera in our sales house.

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?”

Connect with Us!

Until next month, connect and follow us and the cats on FacebookPinterestInstagram and Tony’s blog. We encourage you to sign up to follow our regular posts.

Happy Gardening!

-tony and anita

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 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.
 
Till next time…happy gardening
 
-tony

Chelsea Gardens

Chelsea is always a sell out, so get your tickets early.

 

Interesting 3D garden

Meatball Garden

hmmm

 

A new use for driftwood

Dyslexis hopscotch paving patterns

Larger than life cattails

Run for the metal roses

No one’s going to steel this bull

Plants that never die

Modernist garden

A new take on stained glass

Crevice fountains

Not sure how they did this, but it’s pretty amazing.

 

About face…

If it looks like a nymph and moves like a nymph….

Can you trust the tags?

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.

Plant Delights December 2017 Newsletter

Sixty is the new Thirty

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

Bulb taxonomy

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

Industry News

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. 

Congratulations

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. 

Condolences

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.

Connect with Us!

Until next month, connect and follow us and the cats on Facebook, Pinterest, InstagramTony’s blog, and Anita’s blog. We encourage you to sign up to follow our regular posts. Our upcoming Open Nursery and Gardens dates are posted on the Plant Delights website. Visit www.jlbg.org to learn more about Juniper Level Botanic Garden. Keep up with Tony’s speaking schedule here.

Your partners in Conservation through Gardening!  
-tony and everyone at PDN & JLBG

Garden Hood is alive and well!

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.

Plant Delights June 2016 Newsletter

Greetings from Plant Delights and Juniper Level Botanic Garden.

Salvia nutans

Salvia nutans – Coming Soon

Botanical Interest

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'

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.

2016 Open Nursery and Garden Dates

Summer
July 8 – 10 and July 15 – 17

Fall
September 9 – 11 and September 16 – 18

Friday and Saturday 8a-5p
Sunday 1-5p

Rain or Shine!
Free Parking!

Click for more info

Happy Open Nursery Days Shoppers

Happy Open Nursery Days Shoppers

The Future of Horticulture

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.

Cyrtomium lonchitoides

Cyrtomium lonchitoides

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

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.

Industry News

Scott McMahan

Scott McMahan

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

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.

In Memoriam

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

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.

9241-driveway-border-by-ghse-10-looking-south

Grower Needed

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.

Connect with Us!

Until next month, connect and follow us and the cats on FacebookPinterest, Tony’s blog and Anita’s blog. We encourage you to sign up to follow our regular posts.

Happy Gardening!

~tony and anita

Plant Delights February 2016 Newsletter

Greetings from Plant Delights Nursery and Juniper Level Botanic Garden.

Now hiring shippers!

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

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.

2016 Open Nursery and Garden Dates

Winter
February 26 – 28 and March 4 – 6

Spring
April 29 – May 1 and May 6 – May 8

Summer
July 8 – 10 and July 15 – 17

Fall
September 9 – 11 and September 16 – 18

Friday and Saturday 8a-5p
Sunday 1-5p

Rain or Shine!
Free Parking!

Click for more info

Happy Open Nursery Days Shoppers

Happy Open Nursery Days Shoppers

Sign Up for New Classes at PDN/JLBG

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'

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.

Trillium underwoodii

Trillium underwoodii

Many of the southern trilliums also emerged a bit early this year, although they can tolerate temperatures in the teens F once they’ve emerged…just not too many nights of those temps. This year we saw Trillium foetidissimum, Trillium underwoodii, and Trillium recurvatum up in December.

Bananas, cannas, crinum lilies, podophyllums, and the winter growing Zantedeschia aethiopica (calla) have also tried growing above ground several times this winter, getting nature-slapped repeatedly. Fortunately, these have an abundance of underground dormant eyes that will continue to resprout.

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

Ensete maurelii

Ensete maurelii

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.

Kudos…

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.

Passages

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.

Connect with Us!

Until next month, connect and follow us and the cats on FacebookPinterest, Tony’s blog and Anita’s blog. We encourage you to sign up to follow our regular posts.

Happy Gardening!

tony and anita