Plant Delights Nursery May 2014 Newsletter

Dear PDN’ers!

Greetings and Happy Spring!

The Perfect Storm

As we mentioned in an earlier email, we experienced the perfect storm of events which impacted our order processing and shipping operations this spring. The combination of delayed ordering due to the long winter, a nearly universal demand for plants to be shipped in May, and the poorly-designed e-commerce system we purchased in December have created an operational and shipping nightmare. The entire company is working in crisis mode and we are burning the midnight oil to fulfill orders and work through the issues.

We know these delays are unacceptable to you and they are unacceptable to us as business owners. We appreciate your patience and your notes of support as we work to ship the orders that were delayed.

Despite seeming like spring has only just begun, we’re actually only a few weeks from the official start of summer. Rains have been steady so far this year, although our recent May rain of 5.17 inches was a bit more than we would have preferred for a single weather event. Fingers crossed for a great gardening summer in most parts of the country, although our thoughts are with those in the already drought stricken areas like California, Texas, and Oklahoma.

Spring open garden and nursery days were well attended and it was wonderful meeting so many folks, including visitors from as far away as California. It’s always great to put faces with the names that we’ve previously met only on social media. Because our growing season was two weeks later than normal, visitors were able to see different plants than they normally see in spring, including peak bloom on many of the early peonies. At least it was dry during open garden and nursery, which is always a relief.

Cattail Bridge at Mystic Creek

Cattail Bridge at Mystic Creek

Weathering the Winter in JLBG

Juniper Level Botanic GardenIn the last couple of weeks, the agaves here at Juniper Level B.G. have awoken from their winter slumber with seven species so far sending up flower spikes. It looks like we’ll be breaking out the tall ladders for some high-wire sexual liaisons before long. We didn’t get great seed set on last year’s century plant breeding, but the highlights of the successful crosses were hybrids of Agave victoriae-reginae and Agave americana ssp. protamericana which we expect will turn out to be quite interesting. Although only six months old, we can already tell they’re truly unique.

We continue to watch as plants in the garden recover from the severe winter. Most of the cycads (sago palms) we cut back have resprouted, with a few still to begin. So far, the only sure loss from that group was a several year old Dioon merolae. Most of our palms came through the winter okay, except for those in an out-lying low part of the garden, where damage to windmill palms was quite severe.

Cycas panzhihuaensis

Cycas panzhihuaensis

Many of the butia, or jelly palms, we thought survived have now declined to a brown pile of branches. We’re not giving up quite yet, as one Butia x Jubaea that we thought was a goner when the spear pulled (a term for the newly emerging leaves rotting so that they easily pull out of the top) has just begun to reflush.

Bananas have been slow to return for many customers, including the very hardy Musa basjoo. It seems that gardeners in colder zones who mulched their bananas have plants which are growing now. Perhaps this past winter will put a damper on the mail order nurseries who continue to list plants like Musa basjoo as hardy to Zone 4 and 5, (-20 to -30 degrees F), which is pure insanity.

Tony’s Travels


Hans and Tony courtesy of C. C. Burrell

Hans and Tony
courtesy of C. C. Burrell

We are grateful Tony had the opportunity to speak recently at the relatively new Paul J. Ciener Botanic Garden in Kernersville, NC. This small botanic garden is truly delightful, and the staff, including former JLBG curator Adrienne Roethling, have done a great job in the first phase of their development. We hope you’ll drop by if you’re heading through NC on Interstate 40.

Tony also spoke in Memphis last month, and then he headed into the Ozarks for some botanizing in northwest Arkansas. He had an amazing several days that resulted in finds like a stoloniferous form of Viola pedata, several trilliums he’d never seen before, and a new clematis species that’s still waiting to be named. We’ve posted some photos from the trip on our blog.

Connecting Socially

Zircon says "Don't mess with my social media links!"

Zircon says
“Don’t mess with my
social media links!”

We both love to share our plant passion with you on the PDN blog and our social media sites. We originally posted only on Facebookthen Google+, Twitter,  Pinterest  and LinkedIn, so we created a PDN Blog as our main social media platform. Tony uses the blog to share his perspectives with you about the plant and gardening world as he sees it. The PDN blog, in turn, propagates his posts to Facebook, Google+, and Twitter and allows him to get back out in the garden and greenhouses where he finds meaningful content to share with you!

Anita manages the Juniper Level Botanic Garden  website and the JLBG page at Facebook, along with the PDN and JLBG pages at Pinterest and LinkedIn. Thus far, the only issue we seem to have with social media is when the blog sends our posts to other social media sites, FB and Google+ remove the links to the plants, as well as some of the post. We have no ability to control or change this, and FB’s customer service is as responsive as asking a flat tire to change itself. Hopefully, one day we’ll discover a way to work around this challenge.

Suspending Web Ordering for Inventory June 17-18

Please note we will be closed to take plant inventory in the greenhouses on the above dates. This will require us to empty all shopping carts and suspend website ordering from 12:01am EDT on June 17 through 6:00pm EDT on June 18 in order to obtain accurate inventory numbers. We apologize for any inconvenience during inventory in June and October each year.

Taxonomy and Nomenclature

Longtime readers know Tony’s fascination with plant taxonomy and nomenclature. He always assumed plant naming and renaming had to do with science and taxonomy, but it seems that politics and nationalism are also at play. A recent example is the genus acacia, a member of the Mimosa family. It was determined in 2005 from DNA analysis that acacias from Africa and acacias from Australia were genetically different enough that they were not actually the same genus. Since the original type specimen, named by Linnaeus in 1773, was from Africa, the acacias in Australia were changed to racosperma.

What should have been cut and dried got hijacked when Australia protested, arguing that since they had so many more acacias than Africa (960 vs. 160), it would be too disruptive to change the Australian plants so Australia should get to keep the genus acacia, and a new type specimen (a replacement for the original African standard) should be declared as being from Australia. Follow me here…this would require the original African acacias to be renamed.

As it turned out, even the African acacias weren’t really all the same genus either, so they would then need to be divided anyway. This probably wouldn’t have garnered much in the way of horticultural headlines were it not for the fact that acacias are iconic cultural trees for both cultures. The result was a six-year heavyweight taxonomic and political rumble, the likes of which had never been seen before in the botanical world.

In 2005, the International Botanical Congress voted to officially give the name acacia to Australia. Africa vehemently protested, and accused the committee of stealing African Intellectual Property rights. In 2011, the International Botanical Congress, in a split decision, re-affirmed leaving Australia with the rights to acacia, and handing a still-steaming African delegation two new genera, vachellia (69 species) and senegalia (73 species), which taxonomist are still sorting out to this day. And you though taxonomy was boring!

A dramatic re-enactment by Jasper and Henry

A dramatic re-enactment by Jasper and Henry

Sticky Bees

Phlox paniculata 'Purple Eyes' with bees

Phlox paniculata ‘Purple Eyes’ with bees

In a recent discovery, scientists found bumblebees use electrical signals to determine which flowers have more nectar, allowing them to forage for pollen more efficiently. Bees build up positive electrical charges as they fly, which helps the pollen stick to them as they land on the flowers. Scientist found that this electrical charge is transferred to the flowers when they land to feed. Subsequent bees pick up on this electrical charge, telling the bee which flowers have already been foraged so they don’t waste their energy where little pollen will likely remain. This use of electrical signals had previously been documented in sharks, but not in insects. This fascinating research was first published in the February 21, 2013 issue of Nature magazine.

Industry Updates

Industry mergers are back in the news this month as the 1,000,000 square foot Kentucky wholesaler Color Point (74th largest in the US) has signed a letter of intent to purchase the 3,500,000 million square foot Mid-American Growers of Illinois, which ranks number 13. Interestingly, both nurseries are owned by siblings…the two youngest sons of the famed Van Wingerden greenhouse family, who made their fortunes supplying plants to the mass market box stores.

In sad news from the gardening world, UK plantsman Adrian Bloom of Blooms of Bressingham shared the news that his wife of 48 years, Rosemary, has been diagnosed with advanced terminal cancer, falling ill after returning from a Swiss skiing trip in March. Adrian underwent prostate cancer treatment back in 2011. Please join us in sending thoughts and prayers to the Bloom family.

2014 Summer Open Nursery and Garden Days

Mark your calendar for July Summer Open Nursery and Garden Days. We’ll have the cooling mister running full blast to keep you cool while you shop for colorful and fragrant perennials for your summer garden. And of course, the greenhouses will be full of many cool plants, including echinaceas, salvias, phlox, cannas, dahlias, crinum lilies, and lots of unique ferns. JLBG is especially lush and green during the summer so come and walk the shady paths of the Woodland Garden, or cool off at the Grotto Waterfall Garden and Mystic Falls Garden. It’s always great to see you and meet you in person and to reunite with our long-time customers and friends.

Days: July 11-13 and July 18-20 Rain or Shine!
Times: Fridays and Saturdays 8a-5p, Sundays 1-5p

Woodland Garden Paths near the Water Oak Garden

Woodland Garden Paths near the Water Oak Garden

Southeast Palm Society at PDN/JLNG on August 9th


 Sabal uresana

Sabal uresana

Just a reminder that we will be hosting the summer meeting of the Southeast Palm Society at Plant Delights Nursery/Juniper Level Botanic Garden on Saturday August 9, 2014. You are welcome to attend but you will need to register in advance by July 1, 2014. You will find the details here.

Soothing Stress in the Garden

As crazy as things have been in the nursery, the botanic garden here at Juniper Level provides a paradoxically exciting calmness. As a stress reliever, as well as a passion, we spend as much evening and weekend time as possible in the gardens viewing the amazing plants and plant combinations through the lens of our cameras. We each see the garden differently, so Anita shares her photos on the JLBG Facebook page and her Google+ profile, and Tony shares his photos on the PDN blog.

In addition to the sensory beauty and serenity of gardens large or small, researchers worldwide have documented the positive and calming benefits to the human nervous system of spending time in the garden. So relax, refresh, and restore your natural state of balance and calm by spending time in your favorite garden spot.

Until next time, happy gardening!

-tony and anita

Henry in the Grotto Garden at dusk

Henry in the Grotto Garden at dusk

Featured Plants

Crinum 'Lorraine Clark'

Crinum ‘Lorraine Clark’

Curcuma longa 'Snowdrift'

Curcuma longa ‘Snowdrift’

Canna 'Lemon Punch'

Canna ‘Lemon Punch’

Echinacea 'Secret Glow' PPAF

Echinacea ‘Secret Glow’ PPAF

Kniphofia 'Redhot Popsicle' PPAF

Kniphofia ‘Redhot Popsicle’ PPAF

Salvia 'Amistad' PP# 23,578

Salvia ‘Amistad’ PP# 23,578

Saururus cernuus 'Hertford Streaker'

Saururus cernuus ‘Hertford Streaker’

Plant Delights Nursery April 2014 Newsletter

Greetings PDN’ers!

It looks like we’ve finally moved past our persistent winter at Plant Delights, as have many of you in much of the country. Yes, we feel for those of you living in more northerly climates who still have snow and will continue having frosts into early June. Interestingly, most of our gardening friends in the UK have experienced an exceedingly warm winter, along with those in northern Florida, who were just below the southern-dipping polar vortexes this winter.

Our last spring frost at Plant Delights was March 27, and the long range forecast doesn’t show anything below freezing for the remainder of the spring season…if you put any faith in long-range weather forecasts. Actually, March 27 isn’t too far off our normal average last frost date of April 1. Like carrying an umbrella to prevent rain, we attribute the predicted lack of late spring frosts this year to the installation of permanent heaters in all of our previously unheated hosta cold frames. We were simply tired of lugging portable space heaters into the cold frames with each late spring frost and waking up several times through the night to refill the heaters with fuel.

Here at Juniper Level, we see many signs of spring in the garden…hostas popping through the ground, early arisaemas coming into flower, and toad lily foliage emerging. We had to cover a few early-emerging perennials with frost cloth once last week when our temperatures dropped to 26 degrees F, but hopefully that’s it for freezing weather until fall. We might actually have a decent magnolia bloom this year, although our largest plant of Magnolia ‘Butterflies’ tried to open the day before we dropped to 26 F, so it was seriously frost-slapped.

After our colder than recent normal winter, it’s been interesting reading social media comments from around the country. Keen gardeners seem to be divided into two distinct groups…controlling gardeners who want to be assured that all their plants will perform exactly as they have been told or as the books indicate, regardless of the vagaries of nature. These are in contrast to garden gamblers, who expect the unexpected and are always pushing the limits by trying plants that may not grow in their climate.

Controlling gardeners like predictability, which by nature is the very antithesis of gardening. It’s winters like the one we just encountered that cause the most distress for these controlling gardeners, since nature is, at best, predictably unpredictable. Controlling gardeners are the ones who always strive for perfection based on an expectation that exists in their head. These are the gardeners who believe gardening books and magazines which list plant color combinations and themes for events, which will reportedly all flower together in perfect harmony. Most folks don’t realize that what flowers together in one region and even in one year will rarely do the same in a different climate or different year.

Our current spring is a classic case where you can throw most of your garden flower combination planning efforts out the proverbial window. Here at Juniper Level Botanic Garden, most plants in the garden are currently three weeks behind our normal timing in terms of emergence and flowering. Once the weather warms, however, the timing gap, compared to normal, will shrink as plants that normally don’t overlap in bloom will flower together. This creates combinations that we wouldn’t see in milder winters, when more favorable winter temperatures allow plants that received adequate winter chilling requirements (number of hours below 45 degrees F) to go ahead and begin growing much earlier.

Like a conventional game of chance, where gamblers always lose far more times than they win, garden gamblers are used to disappointments and find that a few occasional “wins” or gardening successes gives them an emotional joy that far outweighs their disappointments…we resemble that remark. Here at JLBG we often plant-out dozens of seedlings of a marginally hardy plant in the hope that just one plant will be genetically more tolerant of low winter temperatures. For a garden gambler, few things in life compare to these successful eureka moments.

So, what’s the point? The point is to relax and enjoy gardening, remembering that nature is always in charge. Life and death in the garden are no different than life and death outside the garden. Our options are to dwell on the sadness of death or celebrate the life that passed and embrace the next life that lies ahead. Death creates wonderful new opportunities, whether we desire it or not. The death of a large tree creates opportunities for a sun garden, while the death of a plant with a large footprint presents the chance for many, new, smaller-growing plants. To not accept gardening realities is to introduce stress into our gardening life…again, the antithesis of why most of us garden. We need to cherish everything in our gardening life as a wonderful opportunity. Of all the different plants we’ve tried to grow (48,000 at this point), we’ve killed 26,000. Focusing on the plants that didn’t survive doesn’t allow the celebration of the 22,000 successes.

Realistically, both groups of gardeners mentioned above have short memories, combined with an incredible gift of rationalization. We remember after our winter of 1984/1985, almost every camellia in the region was killed to the ground. Over and over, we heard gardeners claim they would never grow camellias again and they should never be planted in our region. That lasted about two years. After a short time, we rationalized it wouldn’t get that cold again, or wondered what would happen if a plant that died was planted in a slightly different location or soil type. As gardeners, this is what keeps us going. We’re reminded of the Ben Franklin quote…”I didn’t fail the test, I just found 100 ways to do it wrong.”

Garden curator Todd Wiegardt and the Juniper Level Botanic Garden staff have been busy cleaning up our plant damage from the winter. Agaves were particularly hard hit this winter, due to the wet cold. We lost a number of trial agaves, but our older specimens fared pretty well, although they show cosmetic damage. Now is the time of year when we cut off those dead leaves, and cut the live agaves back to green tissue. Usually by late May or June, the rapid new growth will make the plants look as good as new in most cases.

We also perform lots of perennial cutbacks now to plants like salvias. We like to wait on the perennial salvias until the danger of late freezes has passed. Woody salvias like Salvia greggii are also cut back now, so they will have time to re-flush for the spring flowering season. Ornamental grassesliriope, and ophiopogon should also be cut back now if the old foliage shows winter damage. Waiting until the new foliage begins to emerge will find you snipping off the ends of the new growth, which isn’t optimal for the plants appearance.

We also do quite a bit of grooming now of our evergreen ferns, just before the new growth begins to emerge. These are cut now, along with any other evergreen perennials that show winter foliar damage. Several folks have asked about hellebores, and we’ll repeat our advice…we always remove all of the old foliage, just prior to the first flowers opening. This makes the plant more attractive in flower without reducing the future growth of the plant by cutting the energy-producing leaves too early in the season.

Also, after the danger of severe freezing has passed, it’s time to cut the dead fronds from palms and cycads, which we’ve just completed here at JLBG. Remember that virtually all hardy cycads will lose their fronds below 12 degrees F, but should reflush within 4 weeks after the old fronds are removed.

There are plenty of plants, however, you also shouldn’t cut back now and that list includes hydrangeas, whose flower buds are hidden from view up and down those dead-looking stems. Also, until you’re sure if a shrub or tree has died back, don’t cut. Scraping the bark is a good way to see if the stem is still green under the bark, but be careful to actually scrape below the bark to see the green tissue.

Then of course, there is the bizarre ritual of crape murder, where mindless people destroy the appearance and health of perfectly innocent crape myrtles, simply because they saw a neighbor or uneducated landscape wannabe do the same. Something is out of whack when waterboarding is illegal, but we have large numbers of recidivist crape murderers running free in area subdivisions without so much as a chainsaw ankle bracelet. Obviously, the SPCP (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Plants) needs better lobbyists to get this insane practice criminalized.

We’ve recently increased our social media interactions. We’re posting more frequently on our Plant Delights blog, which in turn, will also post to FacebookTwitter, and Google+. For those who don’t participate in our conversations on Facebook or other social media, you may now subscribe to our PDN blog using the subscribe button to the right of the posts on the PDN blog page. We’ve also created new boards at Pinterest for Plant Delights Nursery so if you participate in social media, follow us at Pinterest as well as FacebookTwitter, and Google+.

New JLBG Logo

We’ve created a social presence for Juniper Level Botanic Garden now that we are moving forward to obtain a 501(c)(3) designation for JLBG from the Internal Review Service. JLBG was recently recognized as a non-profit entity by the State of NC so we’re excited to be taking steps to preserve and endow the Garden for future generations. We’ve added social media options for you to follow JLBG on FacebookGoogle+PinterestLinkedIn and Twitter. Please check out the initial posts from JLBG and stay tuned to our progress as we move JLBG into awareness as a non-profit foundation and special destination for plant lovers and serious plant enthusiasts.

You’ll notice on the PDN website that we’ve refreshed the PDN logo (see it at the top of this email, too) and we’re also working now to completely change the format and content of the JLBG website. By June you’ll see a new JLBG website with a new look and logo.

We’ve also updated many of our email contact addresses to shorten our response time to your emails. Instead of sending all inquiries to, please, going forward, use the emails listed below:

We are pleased to announce that we will be hosting the summer meeting of the Southeast Palm Society at Plant Delights Nursery and Juniper Level Botanic Garden on Saturday August 9, 2014.

All members and guests interested in this wonderful group of plant people may join us for the event…see the schedule below. To help us properly accommodate and provide lunch for everyone, please email us at no later than July 1, 2014 to let us know if you will be attending.

Schedule: Southeast Palm Society at Plant Delights Nursery/Juniper Level Botanic Garden

9:15-10:00am – History of PDN & JLBG (slide show in PDN Education Center)
10:00-11:00am – Explore Juniper Level Botanic Garden on your own
11:00-Noon – General meeting (Patio Garden)
Noon-12:45pm – Lunch at PDN, provided by PDN (must sign up in advance (Patio Garden))
12:45-1:45pm – Guided Tour of JLBG Palm Collections
2:00-3:00pm – Guided Tour of JLBG Succulent Collections
PDN and JLBG will be open to attendees from 9:00am – 4:00pm on August 9, 2014.

We recently received a note from our friend Dr. Charlie Keith of the Keith Arboretum in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Dr. Keith, now 81, is looking for someone to purchase and run his amazing arboretum that contains probably the most diverse tree collection in the US. Interested parties may contact Dr. Keith through his website.

We also heard from NC Master Gardener Bob Kellam that the deadline is approaching to get your official NC Master Gardener license plate. Don’t miss this one-time opportunity. You’ll find more information here.

Happy Gardening!

-tony and anita

Plant Delights Nursery February 2014 Newsletter

Dear PDN’ers

It’s hard to imagine winter is finally nearing an end when outside today we see the ground covered in snow with freezing rain forecasted to develop tonight and tomorrow. But to help us remember spring is just around the corner, at least in NC, the greenhouses are bursting with colorful hellebores and other lovely treasures to soothe away any winter blahs and blues. It’s less than two weeks until our 2014 Winter Open Nursery and Garden and we’re eager to show you our plant goodies!

‘Anna’s Red’ hellebore
Photo courtesy Visions, NL

Our selection of hellebores is so outstanding it’s hard to really show it justice in words. We have over 500 gallon-size hellebores in flower and over 1000 one quart hellebores in bloom. The quality of hellebore colors we have available are better each year and 2014 is no exception.

Speaking of weather, winter 2013/2014 has been quite an event in many parts of the country, with temperatures finally returning to more “normal” winter levels. We’ve amusingly watched the last fifteen years as zone creep, aka: zone denial, has taken hold of much of America. It’s been fascinating to observe how quickly peoples’ memories of hard winters fade when they are only a couple of years removed. Some gardeners have recently admitted being lulled into a false sense of security by the constant media drumroll that our climate has dramatically warmed forever.

Gardeners in Zone 4 or 5 have a few Zone 7 winters where the winter low temperatures don’t drop below 0 degrees F, and all of a sudden they decide that Zone 7 plants will actually survive in Zone 4 and 5. It’s not uncommon these days to find less than reputable online nurseries listing plants like the hardy banana, Musa basjoo, as hardy to Zone 4 and 5, which is pure insanity. Windmill palms, which we consider marginally hardy for us here in Zone 7b, have now been planted throughout the mid-Atlantic states and even into parts of the Midwest. Because of the recent mild winters, some windmill palms have actually achieved good size before this winter’s reality check. My friend Al Hirsch recently reminded folks on one of the hardy palm groups that he had actually freeze-tested windmill palms in the lab, and 5 degrees F was their low temperature tolerance…except for some of the hardier forms. Just because we’ve had a string of mild winters doesn’t mean the winter temperature tolerance of plants change.

The first winter hardiness maps from the Arnold Arboretum comprised 40 years of temperature data because weather scientists had noted that temperature patterns typically varied in 15-20 year swings. Using the 20 year model, below are statistics for our nursery in Raleigh, North Carolina, not including the still-trending winter of 2013/2014. The last time we got as cold as we have during this current winter 2013/2014 was all the way back during the winter of 1999-2000. I have posted our actual minimum low temperature charts for Juniper Level Botanic Garden…weather geeky stuff, to be sure.

Winter 1993-2012 8 nights per winter below 20F (Zone 8 temperatures)
Winter 1973-1992 12.5 nights per winter below 20F (Zone 8 temperatures)
*Record winter 1976-1977 38 nights below 20F
Winter 1993-2012 8 nights total below 10 degrees F (Zone 7 temperatures)
Winter 1973-1992 25 nights total below 10 degrees F (Zone 7 temperatures)
*Record winter 1980/1981 8 nights below 10 degrees F

So, what does all this mean? It means that despite all the predictions of a perpetual warming trend there is a good chance that we will see more “normal” winters, so plant accordingly and pay attention to proper hardiness zones. With cold winters returning, it’s been great to finally get useful hardiness data. Obviously, since having a Zone 7b temperature only once in the last fourteen years (2008/9) it’s been hard to truly evaluate winter hardiness of new plants.

Because we trial so many plants, we expect our loss rate of new plants to be fairly high. From this year’s trials, we were surprised to see dramatic foliage burn on the hardy bromeliad, Puya dyckioides. The plants look fine at the base…just fried. Another bromeliad, Dyckia choristaminea ‘Frazzle Dazzle’, however, looks fabulous…what a great plant. Several of the aspidistras (cast iron plants) are showing foliage burn this year, including many of the white-tipped cultivars. As is the case with so many white variegated plants, the white variegated parts of the leaf simply aren’t as cold tolerant at the green tissue. We attribute this to a reduction in sugar content (plant antifreeze) in those parts of the leaf.

Sarcococca saligna also took a bit hit and has foliage that is completely fried brown, although it should reflush fine when cut the ground. All of the other sarcococca species look fine. The evergreen Schefflera delavayi looks good with only slight leaf burn on one plant. Edgeworthias look fine and are starting to flower, although customers in Virginia report bud drop after a low of 2 degrees F. Our Exbucklandia populnea also got a good bit of leaf burn, but the stems are all fine. Our Arbequina olive looks great, but some of the other clones we had on trial are already showing foliar damage.

Since we mentioned hardy palms earlier, our Trachycarpus fortunei (Windmill palms) looks fine, other than a few scorched older leaves. The Trachycarpus fortunei ‘Wagnerianus’ also look great. Surprisingly, our plant of Trachycarpus takil got some unexpected leaf scorch. Needle palm, Sabal minor, Sabal x brazoriensis, Sabal sp. ‘Tamaulipas’, Sabal minor var. louisiana, all look fine, although some of our less hardy forms of Sabal palmetto took a hit. Butia catarinensis looks quite dead, as does our Butia odorata. Surprisingly, one of our Butia eriospatha growing nearby shows minimal damage along with one specimen of Butia capitata. The real palm shocker was two Serenoa repens from Colleton County, SC showing little or no damage. We say, surprising, because we have never been able to over-winter a Serenoa repens.

The xButyagrus nabonnandii look pretty fried and the spears have started to pull. Spears are the undeveloped newer emerging leaves, which give us the first indication of cold damage on palms trees. Spear pull isn’t always deadly, but it’s certainly not a good sign. xJubautia splendens ‘Dick Douglas’, a hybrid of Butia x Jubaea looks better than the xButyagrus, but the spears have also pulled from several of these…most disappointing. Most of our Cycas looks okay, although all have lovely tan-brown foliage. After last frost we’ll cut back the old fronds and they should promptly reflush with new leaves.

We have quite a collection of winter-hardy cactus in the garden and had planted out quite a few more in 2013. As expected, we had a number of those which didn’t survive the winter, but overall, we were quite pleased. Bamboos also took a bit hit this year and we expect all members of the genus Bambusa to be killed back to the ground. Time will tell, but perhaps there will always be a surprise. Rohdea chinensis var. chinensis provided quite an unexpected surprise. The Taiwan form shows no ill effects from the winter, while the mainland China form shows substantial leaf burn.

We’re always interested in pushing the envelope when it comes to agaves. Overall, there are few surprises from the winter so far. We’re thrilled our first sacrificial planting of Agave albopilosa looks great so far. Agave gentryi ‘Jaws’ got hit pretty hard but the central stalk seems fine so they should recover quickly once the weather warms. Ditto for Agave ‘Green Goblet’. Agave filifera, Agave parviflora, Agave difformis, Agave ‘Mateo’, and Agave ocahui…all burned pretty bad but should be fine. One real surprise was Agave neomexicana ‘Sunspot’, which looks to have made the journey to the big compost pile in the sky. Since the parent species it quite hardy, we’re guessing it simply got too wet and cold at the same time, since we know it has overwintered in much colder regions.

As expected, Agave ovatifolia looks absolutely superb…always one of the best over-wintering agaves in our climate. Agave horrida perotensis was hit pretty hard, which was expected based on past winters.

Agave ovatifolia

What we didn’t expect was Agave striata ‘Live Wires’ which was severely burned although we think it will return okay. Agave flexipes again proved to be an excellent agave for our climate with only burn on the lower most leaves. Surprisingly, Agave multifilifera looks only slightly burned so far. Honestly, we were hoping for a little more carnage in the agave world since we’ve got over 100 new agaves potted and waiting for a trial spot in the garden.

Last fall we offered a new selection of aucuba, Aucuba japonica ‘Male Man’, grown from cuttings from another friend who picked this up overseas. When it flowered, we were shocked to learn that unbeknownst to us, our male aucuba had undergone previously undisclosed sex reassignment surgery and was now a female. Please accept our oops, and change your tags to Aucuba japonica var. borealis ‘Bored Female’.

In other non-plant matters, Plant Delights has several cool job openings.

Jasper at work

First, we have one opening for a full time Customer Service representative (CSR). If enjoy working and chatting on the phone with customers, and you like plants and chocolate, and you reside in the Raleigh, NC area, learn more. Additionally, we are also now hiring energetic and friendly seasonal staff to work 25-40 hours per week in our Shipping department starting in March and extending into the fall. Occasional weekend (daytime) work will be required. Please send resumes and cover letters to our Business and HR Manager, Heather Brameyer to:

Our friends at Peckerwood Gardens in Hempstead, Texas are looking for a Garden Manager. This is an incredible opportunity to work with one of the southernmost gardens being managed by the Garden Conservancy and the chance to work with garden founder, John Fairey. You can find out more at

So, you want to start a nursery? Here’s your chance…not to start from scratch, but to buy an existing mail order nursery. Bob Roycroft of Roycroft Daylily Nursery in Georgetown, SC is retiring and has his nursery up for sale. Bob has 33+ acres near Myrtle Beach that is available, along with his nursery and website. You can reach Bob for more details at

If you’re in the world of garden design, you’ll want to know that Pantone has declared the color Radiant Orchid (18-3224) as the color of the year for 2014. We’re sure you’ll want to change all of your landscape color themes to keep in step with this important development.


If you’re looking for a unique gift for that half-cocked gardener in your life, how about Flowershells? So, what’s a flowershell, you ask? Flowershells are made for the hunters-gardeners in your life who want to be more sustainable with their pastimes. Flowershells are 12 gauge shotgun shells filled with a mix of gunpowder and flower seed, so every time you blast away, you’re planting flowers. Instead of taking a life when you shoot, you’ll be giving life…what a unique concept. If you find the idea intriguing, check out Unfortunately, Flowershells don’t really exist, but this delightful parody comes from the fertile minds of Studio Total…a creative Swedish advertising agency.

Until next month…happy gardening!

-tony and anita

2013 Plant Delights Nursery November Newsletter

Dear PDNers,

Greetings from Juniper Level Botanic Gardens, where a low temperature of 26 degrees has left the garden feeling and smelling like fall. I was just noticing the strong smell of chrysanthemum foliage yesterday, whose oils were released after the recent cold snap, like collards after a frost. So, where did the year go? It seems like just yesterday we were enjoying epimedium flowers and now the early hellebore season has already begun. As we age, it seems like the world spins faster on its axis every year.

Iris unguicularis 'Dazzling Eyes' (Dazzling Eyes Winter Blooming Iris)

Iris unguicularis ‘Dazzling Eyes’ (Dazzling Eyes Winter Blooming Iris)

I apologize for being silent so long, but I’ve been sequestered away in our underground horticultural bunker, writing the 2014 Plant Delights Nursery spring catalog. Now that the main text is complete and the photos have been selected, I’m playing catch-up on long overdue writing. We’re very excited about our 2014 catalog, which will head to the printer in a few more weeks and will subsequently arrive at your home shortly after the first of the year. We’re wrapping up our 2013 plant shipping season, which ends the week of November 25-29. Plant shipping will resume in mid-February, weather permitting, but if you encounter a horticultural emergency between now and then, please let us know and we’ll see if we can help.

T-Shirts Sale!

T-Shirts Sale!

It’s that time of year to consider gift certificates for your favorite gardener or that hard-to-buy-for family member. You can find them online here.

We’re discontinuing our t-shirts so from now until the holidays we are having a 50% off sale. We hope you’ll check out our selection for the gardeners in your family at T-Shirt Sale!  When they are gone, they are GONE! Order yours while supplies last.

As we transition from fall to winter, we’re excited to see the next gardening season begin.  One of the first signs of late fall is the winter-blooming Iris unguicularis. We’ve always considered ourselves to be at the northern end of where Iris unguicularis is winter hardy, but as more and more success reports come in from places like Kansas City, we realize we have severely underestimated the range in which this gem can be cultivated.

During the fall rain lily flowering season, we discovered there was a mixup in our stock of Zephyranthes grandiflora, which had been infiltrated with Zephyranthes rosea…a smaller and less winter hardy pink-flowered rain lily. If you got a Zephyranthes grandiflora from us in 2013, you may have received the wrong plant, so please contact us for a credit or refund…very sorry.

The latest name revision to come about because of DNA research was to the aroid genus, Alocasia, when the odd, deciduous Alocasia hypnosa underwent re-assignment therapy to become the only member of the genus Englerarum. Englerarum hypnosum is an odd bird, growing on limestone rock outcrops from southern China south into Thailand. You may read more at here.

Speaking of plant name changes, one of the funniest parodies we’ve seen regarding these changes has been floating around YouTube, so if you haven’t seen it, here’s the link. It probably won’t make much sense, however, unless you’re a plant name geek.

In the “you just can’t make this stuff up” department, a newly built Premier Inn in England reacted hastily when it was pointed out, on social media, that a landscape firm with an obviously wicked sense of humor, had installed new plantings around the hotel that resembled male genitalia. Instead of embracing their unexpected publicity, uptight corporate executives ordered the offending plants removed.

There was huge news from the nursery industry recently with the merger of the two largest industry associations, the OFA (Association of Horticulture Professionals), and the ANLA (The American Nursery and Landscape Association). As of January 1, 2014, the new organization will join all members of the horticultural supply chain together under one organization called the American Horticulture Association…aka American Hort. American Hort’s mission will be to unite, promote, and advance our industry through advocacy, collaboration, connectivity, education, market development, and research. The headquarters will be in Columbus, Ohio, with a government relations office in Washington DC.

In other nursery news, two of the country’s largest nurseries have joined forces. Color Spot has purchased the last three, recently bankrupted, Hines Nursery locations (270 acres in Rainbow, California, 1,100 acres in Winter, California, and 1,000 acres near Portland, Oregon). Reportedly, the deal to buy Hines was finalized last October, but not announced until this October…nearly a year later. Color Spot president, Jerry Halamuda, said the management team at Hines would remain, just days before they all departed. With this acquisition, Color Spot is now the largest nursery/greenhouse operation in the country with just over 18 million square feet of greenhouse crop production and 2,500 outside acres…more than double its next closest rival, Kurt Weiss Greenhouses of New York. That’s seriously big, but then when you sell to box stores, you need lots of plants.

Our plant explorer friend, the UK’s Tom Mitchell, has finally launched his new mail order nursery and he is willing to ship to the US with a phytosanitary certificate, if you find some gems you can’t live without.

Congratulations to our friend and native plant guru, Jan Midgley of Alabama, on the publication of her new book, Native Plant Propagation. I had a blast reading through her 100+ page manual and learned quite a few new tips that we’ll be using here at the nursery. You can purchase your own copy directly from Jan, by emailing her at

Happy birthday to California plantswoman, Ruth Bancroft, who celebrated her 105th birthday on September 5. For those who have never visited, Ruth’s cactus and succulent garden in Walnut Creek, California, was the first garden ever selected for preservation by the Garden Conservancy.

Congratulations also go out to our friend, Ozzie Johnson of Marietta, Georgia, whose plant introduction, Mahonia eurybracteata ‘Soft Caress’, was named the 2013 RHS Chelsea Flower Show Plant of the Year!

Many customers who visit our gardens are enamored with the dwarf loblolly pines, which were grafted from the amazing specimens at the JC Raulston Arboretum in Raleigh. These dwarf pines are almost never available for purchase since grafting them is extremely difficult. The most successful grafter of these in Texas had excellent success this year and consequently, they are available for a short time from our friends at Yucca Do Nursery. Don’t miss this rare opportunity to buy one.

Since our last newsletter, we’ve lost several friends, including some giants in the horticulture world. PDN lost a dear friend in mid-October with the passing of Janie Bryan, 57, following a decade-long battle with breast cancer. Many gardeners knew Janie through her work running the Index Seminum seed exchange for the NC Botanic Garden in Chapel Hill, where she worked for 25 years. Janie handled her illness and impending death with a tremendous amount of grace, and I’ll treasure the time we had to chat through the years, most recently at last year’s PDN open house. Our thoughts go out to her husband, son, grandson, and other family.


Swan Island Dahlias

The dahlia world suffered a huge loss in late summer with the death of Ted Gitts and his wife Debbie, both 59, who passed away after a tragic car accident. Ted and Debbie owned the Oregon-based mail order nursery, Swan Island Dahlias. Swan Island, the largest dahlia farm in the country and perhaps the world, is known not only as a retailer, but as a breeder and introducer of dahlias. Ted’s parents had purchased Swan Island Dahlias 50 years ago so Ted, along with his brother Nicholas, was part of the second generation of family running the business.

October also saw the passing of Welch plantsman, Ray Morgan, whose 2007 book, Impatiens: The Vibrant World of Busy Lizzies, Balsams, and Touch-Me-Nots, took our knowledge of impatiens to a new level. Ray was a retired nurseryman and the holder of the UK’s National Collection of Impatiens.

xFatshedera lizei 'Angyo Star' (Angyo Star Tree Ivy)

xFatshedera lizei ‘Angyo Star’ (Angyo Star Tree Ivy)

Also overseas, we lost one of the giants in the variegated plant world with the passing of Japan’s Dr. Masato Yokoi, at age 82. I had the pleasure of Dr. Yokoi’s visit in the 1990s, when he was taking photos for his book, Variegated Plants in Color, Volumes I and II. Dr. Yokoi was a retired professor at Chiba University and one of the most respected people in Japanese horticulture. One phone call from Dr. Yokoi could open the door to even the most secluded plant collector. The plant world is so much richer for his contributions.

Finally, this fall (September 20) also saw the passing of Jim Van Sweeden, co-founder of the world-renowned landscape architecture firm, Oehme and Van Sweeden. Jim was preceded in death by his business partner, Wolfgang Oehme, less than two years earlier. Jim was the polished front man for the firm, originating the concept of the New American Garden which featured large sweeps of perennials, especially ornamental grasses. Jim was a highly honored designer (ASLA Design Medal 2010) and writer, whose literary works include Bold Romantic Gardens (1990, co-authored with Wolfgang. Oehme), Gardening with Water (1995), Gardening with Nature (1997), Architecture in the Garden (2003) and Art in the Garden (2011). Job well done, my friend!

Until next month…happy gardening!

2013 Plant Delights Nursery August Newsletter

Dear PDN’ers

We’re fast approaching our final Open Nursery and Garden dates for 2013 and, to put a fitting exclamation point on our 25th anniversary year, we’ve invited one of the country’s TheEmbersmost famous beach music bands, The Embers, to perform in the gardens on Sunday, September 8, from 1:30-4:30pm.  Our Fall Open Nursery and Gardens will be held from Friday, September 6 through Sunday, September 8 and from Friday, September 13 through Sunday, September 15.  Hours are 8:00am-5:00pm on Fridays and Saturdays and from 1:00-5:00pm on Sundays.  We hope you’ll join us to enjoy and learn about great plants as you shag through the gardens…and take plants as well as design ideas home with you.

We hope you’ve received the fall catalog by now and found some gems you can’t live without…if not, give us a holler at and we’ll fix that.  In the meantime, you can find the new fall catalog plants online here.

1308_Tony&AnitaAvent_254C copykkFor those who missed our announcement on Facebook a few weeks ago, I am blessed to have found a new soul mate, Anita, and the two of us began our married life together on August 3 with a private ceremony here in the gardens.  Anita and I were born the same year at the same Raleigh hospital and she grew up just around the corner from the nursery.  We actually knew each other growing up in the 1960s, but both went our separate ways…she to become an insurance administrator and mother of three adult children and I to start a plant business.  Although we hadn’t seen each other in 40 years until this spring, we knew immediately when we re-connected that we were destined to spend the rest of our lives together.  Anita looks forward to meeting all of my unique plant friends, both at nursery open house days as well as traveling with me to speak around the country.  At the nursery, Anita will be working as our Vice President of Planning and Development, which will include getting our foundation for the preservation of the gardens at Juniper Level established.  Please join me in welcoming Anita into the Plant Delights family!



We’ve been enjoying an incredible year for summer-flowering bulbs, especially lycoris.  Lycoris are often better known by their common names; surprise lilies, hurricane lilies or, my favorite…naked ladies.  While most people only grow one or two clones, we have been collecting surprise lilies for years and currently grow 435 lycoris clones…you’ve gotta love obsessive compulsions. The common name comes from their trait of flowering in the summer before the foliage emerges.

Lycoris are divided into two basic groups; those that produce leaves in early fall and those that produce leaves in late winter.  As a rule, those that produce leaves in early fall are winter hardy from Zone 6b-7b and south, while those that produce late winter foliage are hardy as far north as Zones 3-4.

Under proper garden conditions, lycoris should be reliable bloomers but the lack of regular annual flowering is usually weather related.  For instance, Lycoris x squamigera must have a cold winter to flower.  When we experience mild winters that don’t drop below 15 degrees F, we rarely see flowers on Lycoris x squamigera. The opposite is true for Lycoris aurea…a cold winter will kill off the foliage before it produces enough food to support next year’s crop of flowers.  Most lycoris also need occasional summer moisture to flower well.  Although lycoris are amazingly drought tolerant, they rarely flower well without a few summer showers…the exception being the drought-loving Lycoris incarnata.



Also remember that to flower well, lycoris need sunlight when their foliage is out.  Most lycoris grow fine in either full sun or light deciduous shade.  Since tree leaves drop in fall when the lycoris foliage is above ground, the plants actually get plenty of light during the winter months despite growing in what is light shade in summer.  Evergreen shade, however, is a no-no for lycoris.  Although we already offer a nice selection of lycoris, our field production is such that our offerings will be increasing dramatically over the next few years. You can view our current lycoris selections here.

We are looking to fill the position of Administrative Horticulturist. Qualified individuals must have advanced MS Office Suite skills, be proficient using and maintaining relational databases, websites and, preferably, Adobe Photoshop. The ideal candidate will possess strong communication skills, a positive attitude and be detailed oriented. This position is responsible for plant inventory management, including plant purchasing, support work on the print and online catalog production/website and other related duties as needed,. We are seeking a team player who enjoys working in a friendly and fast-paced environment. Understanding plant nomenclature is preferred. Send resumes with cover letters of interest to   You can find out more here.

Nursery News and Happenin’s

Our friends at the South Carolina Botanical Garden are recovering from a massive rainstorm on July 12 and 13 that dumped 8 inches of rain on the garden in a matter of hours, completely overwhelming their inadequate storm water management system.  The damage was exacerbated by 20 inches of rain that had fallen in the previous 10 days.  For those who are familiar with the SC Botanical Garden, the duck pond flooded, overtopping and undermining the dam and scouring the mountain meadow and the new Natural Heritage Garden trail.  Small trees, shrubs, and several bridges were lost along with large numbers of incredibly rare and endangered perennials.  Other planted areas of the garden are now covered with deep layers of silt and gravel.  Costs to restore the infrastructure alone will be $200,000, which is not covered by insurance.  You can donate to their recovery effort at  Let’s all help get this great garden back on its feet!

In the nursery industry, consolidation continues this month with the recent engagement of two of the country’s largest wholesale nurseries.  Monrovia Nursery, which has been hanging on by a financial thread for the last few years, has agreed to purchase another of the country’s largest wholesale nurseries, Imperial Nurseries of Connecticut, from owner Griffin Land and Nurseries Inc.  Imperial Nurseries is a 450-acre wholesale ornamentals nursery, started in 1955 as part of the American Sumatra Tobacco Company.  Negotiations aren’t complete, but it is planned that when the deal concludes this fall, Imperial may continue to operate under their current name.  This is all quite fascinating since Monrovia has been struggling with its own severe financial issues and only recently closed its entire NC operation.  This reminds me of 2004, when the bankrupt K-Mart purchased Sears.  I’m obviously not smart enough to figure out how debt-ridden, nearly bankrupt companies can buy other companies.  Sounds like fuzzy math to me, so it’s probably good that I only have to worry about growing plants.

Gardeners in the Deep South are mourning the loss of Marion Drummond, who passed away on August 24, at age 83, from melanoma cancer.  The tenacious Drummond got her first full-time job in 1992 at age 62, when she was named as the first site director of LSU’s Hilltop Arboretum, shortly after finishing her Landscape Architecture studies.  During her tenure, she coordinated plantings as well as starting a gardening symposium and the now well-known plant sale.  Throughout her career, Marion was honored with a number of awards including the Southern Garden History Society’s Certificate of Merit and the Robert Reich Service Award from the Louisiana Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects. Marion is survived by a daughter, Laurie Lynn, and sons Findlay and Carter.  Donations can be made to Marion’s Greenhouse Project at Hilltop Arboretum.

The tropical plant world lost a gentle giant when noted plantsman John Lucas of Tradewinds Signature Botanicals in LaBelle, Florida recently passed away due to complications from an automobile accident.  We offer one of John’s introductions, Agave ‘Tradewinds’, but he was much better known for his work with bougainvillea, serving as founder and current president of the Bougainvillea Society of America.  John was recognized as having introduced every new bougainvillea cultivar to the US since the 1920s and at the time of his death had 125 cultivars in his nursery.  John traveled extensively around the world and was responsible for helping assemble the bougainvillea collections at the famed Nong Nooch Tropical Gardens in Thailand.  John was born in southeast Pennsylvania and later attended Oberlin College in Ohio before serving in the Air Force in Homestead, Florida and falling in love with the tropical climate, subsequently founding his nursery in Florida in 1969.

Tropical garden pathway

PDN Tropical garden pathway

In the not-so-tropical plant world, we lost another horticultural giant with the passing of Dr. William Ackerman, 89, on July 6, as a result of complications from a recent fall.  Anyone interested in camellias will recognize his name as the man who started the winter hardy camellia breeding program at the US National Arboretum.  After the great freezes of 1978 and 1981 at the US National Arboretum in Washington DC killed virtually all of the 956 camellia in the collection, Ackerman took note of fifteen survivors including two unfazed camellias, Camellia oleifera (later named Camellia ‘Lu Shan Snow’), and Camellia ‘Plain Jane’.  He used these two parents, adding Camellia hiemalis to the mix, to create over 50 cold hardy camellia hybrids.  Even after retiring from the US National Arboretum in the early 1980s, Ackerman continued his cold hardy camellia breeding program at his 7-acre farm in Montgomery County, Maryland.  Most of Ackerman’s camellias are fall/winter flowering types that belong to either the Winter series or the Ashton series.  Bill’s 2007 book, “Beyond the Camellia Belt,” details his life’s work with camellias.  Job well done!

We lost another friend this month when Woodlanders Nursery co-founder, Julia Mackintosh, passed away on August 24 at the age of 88.  Julia was born in England, but received her Master’s degree in Architecture from Harvard.  Julia and her husband, Robert, headed to Grenada, where Julia taught at the newly-founded Westmoreland School.  In 1975, they moved to Aiken, SC, and started the well-known mail order nursery, Woodlanders.  Julia and Robert finally retired and moved to Raleigh in 1997, where they managed the conserved Margaret Reid Wildflower Garden until her death.  Julia is survived by her husband of 60 years, Robert, brother Michael, and three daughters, Amy, Louisa, and Susan.  Julia will be remembered both by the people whose lives she touched and those who grow the plants she helped make available.

Speaking of Woodlanders Nursery, July 14, 2013 was declared “Bob McCartney Day” in Aiken, SC, by Aiken mayor, Fred Cavanaugh.  McCartney, 76, is co-owner of Woodlanders Nursery in Aiken and has spent the last few decades turning Aiken into a citywide arboretum of rare trees.  Bob grew up in Virginia then went off to school, receiving a BS from Utah State followed by a Masters in Wildlife Management from LSU.  After a 4-year stint in the Coast Guard and a horticultural career at Colonial Williamsburg, Bob moved to Aiken in 1980 to become a partner in Woodlanders Nursery, where he remains today.  A big PDN salute for a job well done!

Yours truly was very humbled last month to receive the Perennial Plant Association’s Award of Merit.  Unfortunately, I was on the road to several speaking engagements during the July 23 ceremony in British Columbia and was unable to accept in person, but many thanks to all who made this possible.

Congratulations go out to two botanical garden giants who have recently landed new positions.Plantsman and showman, Jimmy Turner, who has been the public face of the Dallas Arboretum for the last decade, will be heading around the world to Australia, having been named the Director of Horticulture Operations for the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney, Blue Mountain Botanic Garden Mt. Tomah, and the Australian Botanic Garden Mt. Annan. Jimmy has been one of the true rock stars in the world of American horticulture, establishing and promoting great heat tolerant plants from his trials at the Dallas Arboretum. You can read more about Jimmy’s great work in Dallas at   Good luck, my friend…a huge loss for American horticulture.

Additionally, plantsman Rick Lewandowski, formerly the Director of Mt. Cuba Center in Delaware, has been named the new Managing Director of the 252-acre Shangri La Botanical Gardens and Nature Center in coastal Orange, Texas. Congratulations to Rick, and we look forward to watching as he puts his stamp on the gardens.

Until next month…happy gardening



2013 Plant Delights Nursery July Newsletter

Dear PDN’ers,

This weekend marks the start of our 25th Anniversary Summer Open House at Plant Delights Nursery.  The weather and moisture levels have been incredible this year, the gardens look amazing and the plants lush.  I never imagined having this many lushes in the garden at one time.  Also I don’t ever remember a time in July when the US Drought Monitor map showed no drought conditions east of the Mississippi River…incredible!  If you haven’t been to our Open House in a few years, we hope you will join us and experience the joy of the summer garden for two weekends this July – the 12, 13, 14 and July 19, 20, 21.  For details, click here.

The Sunken Aquatic Garden

The Sunken Aquatic Garden

We still have a few spaces remaining in the second section of our Propagation Class which will be coming up soon on Saturday, August 17, from 10-4pm.  This class will be taught by PDN staff member Aaron Selby, who is in charge of producing all of the plants we sell.  You can sign up online here.

Many of you who have attended our past propagation classes have heard us talk about the valuable information in Dr. Norm Deno’s home-published books, “Seed Germination Theory and Practice”, Volumes 1,2, and 3.  One of our recent class participants let us know that the USDA now has Dr. Deno’s books available online.  You can download the .pdfs here at the page.

Stone steps out of the Sunken Garden

Stone steps out of the Sunken Garden

The American Horticulture Society has recently announced its 2013 awards and congratulations go to our friend, Dr. Paul Capiello of Yew Dell Botanic Gardens in Kentucky, for receiving the LH Bailey Award, given to an individual who has made significant lifetime contributions to at least three fields of horticulture; teaching, research, communications, plant explorations, administration, art, business, or leadership. Dr. Dennis Werner of NC State University received the Luther Burbank Award for extraordinary achievement in the field of plant breeding and our friend, Neil Diboll of Prairie Nursery, won the Paul Ecke Jr. Commercial Award for commitment to the highest standards of excellence in commercial horticulture. Congratulations to these friends!

In another very special award on July 22, the academic scientific organization, American Society of Horticultural Science, will posthumously induct the late Dr. J.C. Raulston into its Hall of Fame. The ASHS Hall of Fame is a distinguished group of individuals who have made extraordinary contributions to horticulture and the greater public good. Well deserved!

Agapanthus (lily-of-the-nile)

Agapanthus (lily-of-the-nile)


Interesting Stuff

In the “you can’t make this up” category this month, comes a new organic gardening book by Gene Logsdon, “Holy Shit – Managing Manure to Save Mankind.”  I will admit to not having read it yet, but I’m certainly adding it to my “must read” list…anything with a title like that can’t be missed.

A heads up for gin and tonic drinkers out there to perhaps stock up.  It seems that a new fungal blight (Phytophthora austrocedrae) is following in the footsteps of the famed Irish potato blight and threatening junipers in the UK where many of the berries that provide the flavor to gin are sourced.  So far, the fungus is limited to the UK, where losses have reached nearly 70% of the crop, but EU producers are very concerned since there are no plant movement restrictions within the EU.

In North Carolina, some sorry SOB stole more than 1,000 venus fly-trap plants from the Stanley Rehder Carnivorous Plant Garden in Wilmington, NC over the Memorial Day weekend.  The NC Coastal Land Trust is offering a $1,500 reward to anyone who can help find the thieves, so if you have information about the stolen plants please call the Wilmington NC Police Department at 252-343-3600 or send an anonymous text to CRIMES (274637).  The message must start with TIP708.

Eucomis 'Sparkling Burgundy' (Sparkling Burgundy Purple Pineapple Lily)

Eucomis ‘Sparkling Burgundy’ (Sparkling Burgundy Purple Pineapple Lily)

In case you missed it, the Barrel Monster creator, Joe Carnevale has been outed as the daredevil who posted photos and videos of himself on top of some of Seattle’s tallest buildings, including the Space Needle.

You can see more amazing photos at Joe’s website or if you have a fear of heights, you’ll find less extreme photos of Joe as he created our Plant Delights Barrel Monster here at the nursery.

Nursery News and Happenin’s

I mentioned a few months ago that one of the country’s most noted wholesalers, Briggs Nursery of Washington state, was in bank-ordered receivership.  Well, the good news is that Briggs was just purchased out of receivership for $12 million dollars by one of its competitors, Sidhu Nursery of Canada.   Briggs’ CEO, J. Guy, who had been brought in a year earlier to reorganize the nursery, had resigned just prior to the bidding in order to form a private group to launch an unsuccessful bid for Briggs.  Sidhu expects the nursery to remain in operation at its current site.

In another not so surprising move, Stacy’s Garden Center of York, South Carolina, has also filed for bankruptcy with a balance sheet showing $5 million in debt.  Stacy’s includes 260 acres of production in York County, SC where 16 million plants are produced annually.  Since retired naval officer, Louis Stacy, founded the company in 1969, Stacy’s has been known as an annual and perennial supplier to the larger box stores in 24 states.  Despite a work force that peaks at 800 people in spring, Stacy’s had fallen on hard financial times in recent years and many of us in the industry were surprised they lasted this long.  A contract with Metrolina Greenhouses (the VanWingerden clan) of Huntersville, NC has been signed to buy the assets of Stacy’s pending the approval of the bankruptcy court.  Once approved, the operations will go forward under the Metrolina name.  Creditors who will get financially screwed to the tune of between $500,000 and $1.5 million include Express Seed of Cleveland, OH, Container Centralen of Winter Garden, FL, Sun Gro Horticulture of Chicago, IL, Bank of the West, Temecula, CA, and Ednie Flower Bulbs of Fredon, NJ.

Agaves on the patio

Agaves on the patio

Last July, I wrote about the financial travails of the 72-year-old Waterloo Gardens in Pennsylvania. Things didn’t look good then and the final nail has been driven in the proverbial coffin as they recently announced the closure of their last garden center location.  I can only imagine how tough it is from going from being the toast of the industry a decade ago to the toast, itself, now.  Thanks for an incredible run and for being an industry standard for so long.

From across the northern border, more disappointing news as Minter Gardens of Chilliwack, British Columbia is closing due to funding challenges.  The world-class Minter Gardens was started by nurseryman, Brian Minter, after he and his wife purchased the 32-acre site in 1977.  The gardens opened to the public in 1980 and have been regarded as one of British Columbia’s top public gardens.  Minter Gardens was even included in Rae Spencer-Jones’s book, “1001 Gardens You Must See.”  The gardens contain various theme areas including a rose garden, children’s garden, fragrance garden, rhododendron garden, fern garden, formal garden, water gardens, and much more.

While Brian’s garden center operations will continue, the gardens, located about 90 minutes from Vancouver, will close on October 14, due primarily to a dramatic drop in attendance from highs of 100,000+ annually before the last five years of recession. If you’ve been looking for a vacation spot, this appears to be your last chance to visit before it closes. You can find out more at

Although it’s not going out of business, the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society is in a world of financial hurt after the weather didn’t cooperate for this year’s Philadelphia Flower Show.  The show usually generates about $1 million in profits, but this year the show fell $1.2 million short…oops.  This leaves the PHS scrambling to make up the difference through a series of cost cutting, insurance claim filing, and fund raising measures.  PHS blames a botched weather forecast and local media hype of an impending massive winter storm that never fully materialized in Philadelphia for the lowest attendance since 2001.   Sorry, but I find it a bit humorous about all this ruckus over an incorrect forecast.  Aren’t the words “weather forecast” listed in the Thesaurus as a synonym for “inaccurate”?

In sad news, plantsman Charles Applegate of Ohio’s Kingwood Center passed away at the age of 82, due to complications from recent surgery.  When I first visited Kingwood Center, probably three decades ago, it was evident before you even entered the main gardens that there was a plantsman extraordinaire on staff.  I was fortunate to meet the master behind the plants, who I would visit several more times over the next few decades when I was in the area.  Charles had an incredible passion for both new plants and garden design…two skills that unfortunately rarely mix.

Charles’ design skills had roots in his dual master degrees…one in art and a second in theater.  As an actor, he had a feature role in the 1963 movie, “Red Runs the River.”  What most people knew Charles for, however, was his work with plants.  Charles was a plant breeder, working primarily with daylilies but dabbling in other genera. He introduced over 45 daylilies; Hemerocallis ‘Blessing’ and ‘Guile’ are his most famous.  In addition, two of his most recognized annual introductions were Coleus ‘Kingwood Torch’ and Talinum ‘Kingwood Gold’.  Charles was passionate about keeping great plants in cultivation even if they had been dropped by commercial horticulture in favor of the latest and greatest.

In his 48 years at Kingwood, most as Senior Gardener (he refused promotions to administration), Charles made a huge impact on everyone he met personally and also on those who only saw his handiwork.  Charles is survived by his wife, Linda, and sons Johnathan and Seth.  Great job, my friend.

We lost another amazing plantsman on May 30, when University of Arkansas professor and plant breeder, Jon Lindstrom, passed away from melanoma skin cancer at the untimely age of 54.  As a plant breeder, Jon always took the road less traveled, creating a number of revolutionary hybrids like Buddleia ‘Orange Scepter’ and Sinningia ‘Arkansas Belle’, which he allowed us to introduce.  Jon also developed bigeneric hybrids of sinningia x paliavana as well as tri-generic hybrids between agave, manfreda, and polianthes (tuberose).  A PDN salute for a job well done and a life cut far too short.  Memorial contributions may be made to “The Jon Lindstrom Scholarship” in care of the Department of Horticulture, 316 Plant Sciences Bldg, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, AR 72701.

Until next month…happy gardening.



2013 Plant Delights Nursery May Newsletter

PDN patio garden

PDN patio garden

Dear PDN’ers

Thanks to everyone who took the time to visit during our recent Spring Open House.  In contrast to our Winter Open House, the weather was excellent and the threat of rain never materialized.  We were delighted to meet visitors who came from as far away as Canada to the north and Oregon to the west.  We’ll do it again in July, so we hope your vacation plans include Plant Delights, where we promise a garden and nursery both filled with amazing plants!

Hosta greenhouse

One of our two hosta greenhouses

Despite having a very busy spring, many great plants remain, including many full pots of hostas.

If you purchased any of our hardy cypripedium ladyslipper orchids this year, you no doubt noticed the amazing, often multi-crowned plants that we were able to supply.  There are still a few varieties that have not sold out.

While lots of other cool plants remain, work has already begun on the fall catalog, as descriptions are now being written on an array of very cool, exciting new plants that we’ve selected and propagated for fall.

In other good news on the plant front, our first crop of Amorphophallus paeoniifolius ‘Thailand Giant’  sold out in record time this spring, but a second crop is now ready and online.  Just remember that when these are gone, they’re all gone.

In the “oops” plant category, our production assistant and resident plant nerd, Zac Hill, recently brought to my attention that the plant we originally acquired and now sell as Verbesina microptera is actually Verbesina olsenii.  It turns out the true Verbesina microptera is a much smaller plant with white flowers than the massive yellow-flowered giant we grow.  Time to change your tags…sorry.

Since our late spring propagation class has filled and has a waiting list, we have added a second section on Saturday August 17, from 10am – 4pm.  This class will be led by PDN staff member, Aaron Selby, who is in charge of producing all of the plants sold at Plant Delights.  You can sign up online here.

We empathize with those suffering from weather disasters around the country this spring.  For many, the annoyance of late spring freezes and even late snows have been the worst in many years…unfortunately these weather events have been enough that we may lose more garden centers that have been hanging on by a financial thread.  All this pales, however, to those who suffered the terrible tornadoes this month, especially in Moore, Oklahoma.  Our thoughts and prayers go out to all of those affected!

Echinacea 'Evan Saul'

Echinacea ‘Evan Saul’

In the “I’m from the Government and I’m here to help” section this month, comes NC House Bill 476, designed to protect underground cables.  Instead, the bill makes many home gardening chores a criminal offense.  The bill will ban all homeowners from digging at a depth greater than 10”, all trenching for water lines, etc, and all farm plowing greater than 12”…without first calling 811 underground utility locators and then waiting two business days which, including weekends, adds up to 4 days.  The new proposed law even makes these acts illegal on your own property!  Now, you may not be aware that Chapter 785 of the North Carolina Damage Prevention Act currently exempts homeowners from these requirements, except when digging in the utility easement right-of-ways.  Not only is this proposed new law a further intrusion into personal property rights (don’t worry…the fine can’t exceed $2500 each time you dig), it eliminates the spontaneity that is a backbone of gardening.  Let’s say you just watched a HGTV show on goldfish ponds and want to add a wildlife habitat to your back yard…sorry, a 2 day wait.  How about planting that large tree you just purchased at your neighborhood garden center…a 2 day wait.  That farm field or vegetable garden that finally dried out enough for some deep cultivation on Saturday…sorry, a 2 business day wait.  How about your mailbox smashed by drunken teenagers on Saturday night…sorry a 2 business day wait.  You all could really help us send a message that this is a bad idea, by emailing your legislator…or if you’re from out of town, just pick a name from the list that sounds interesting and sound off.  To borrow the old Bartles and James line, we thank you for your support!

Interesting Stuff

The garden world was shaken to its core this month with the announcement that England’s Chelsea Flower Show had agreed to temporarily rescind its long-time ban on garden gnomes for its 100 anniversary.  This is the equivalent of US Open golfers being allowed to compete in Speedos and flip flops…it just doesn’t happen.  Until now, gnomophobia ran rampant at Chelsea, where the only thing at Chelsea that was allowed to get in the way of the plants were the upturned noses of the UK’s gardening elite.  Garden gnomes, as you may be aware, are the antithesis of everything Chelsea, since they are associated with the less tasteful gardens of the great unwashed lower class.  Reportedly, many exhibitors enjoyed the relaxation of the gnome ban for a year, while others stayed as far away from the gnomes as possible.  Even singer Elton John donated his famous pink rhinestone-studded sunglasses to adorn one of the gnomes auctioned for a garden education charity.

Speaking of gnomes, you may not be aware that some experts on the subject think gnomes aren’t as meek and mild as they are often portrayed in the press.  Author Chuck Sambuchino has actually written a book, How to Survive a Garden Gnome Attack…I’m not making this up.  If you start feeling a soft spot for gnomes and are thinking of including them in your garden, read this book first.  Then, of course, there is the wonderfully educational Gnome Management in the Garden video that’s also a must see from researchers at Utah State.

Hibiscus 'Summer Storm'

Hibiscus ‘Summer Storm’

Over the last hundred years, many insect plant pests have entered the country and have become major problems for gardeners and nurserymen.  I’m glad to report success on one front…the Asian longhorned beetle.  New Jersey is the second state to report complete eradication after an eleven-year battle…the other being Illinois in 2008.  This is great news, since the Asian longhorned beetle has been reported to have eliminated 70% of the tree canopy in an infected area.  So far, Asian longhorned beetle has been responsible for the death of over 80,000 trees in the US.  The key is early detection and the US Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is asking for your help in watching out for and reporting sightings of this pest.  You can find out more at

Nursery News and Happenin’s

One of the business casualties of the recession was one of the older professional nursery associations, SNA…the Southern Nursery Association.  Like so many nursery businesses, SNA was slow to adjust to changing times and didn’t reduce its expenses to match its declining income.  SNA was a wonderful organization, but the aspect that many of us missed the most was their event, the Southern Plant Conference.  The late JC Raulston was one of the key players in getting this started as an event where plant nerds in the nursery business could get together and talk about all their new plant favorites.  Finally, this year, SNA is trying the Freddie Kruger thing and resurrecting itself with a new edition of the Southern Plant Conference as the centerpiece of its new multi-day event.  The new SNA Southern Plant Conference, sandwiched between the trade show and other educational sessions, will be held on August 5 at the Georgia International Conference Center across from Hartsfield Airport in Atlanta.  The incredible speaker list includes: Allen Armitage, Paul Capiello, Steve Castorani, Rick Crowder, Mike Dirr, John Elsley, Joseph Hillenmeyer, John Hoffman, Richard Olsen, Tom Ranney, James Owen Reich, Ted Stephens, Brian Upchurch, Takay Uki Kobayashi of Japan, and yours truly.  I sure hope to see you there. You can find out more here.

If you’re looking to manage a garden and can deal with the climate of Texas, then Peckerwood Gardens may be looking for you.  The Garden Conservancy along with garden creator, John Fairey, are looking to hire a Garden Manager for their extensive property in Hempstead, Texas (outside of Houston).  Since John has recently turned 80, it’s time to transfer more of the operations of the garden over to this position.  You can find more about the position on their website and if interested, email a cover letter expressing interest and a resume to:

Congratulations are in order to our friend, landscape artist Pearl Fryar, who on May 2, received the prestigious Verner Award from the South Carolina Arts Commission.  If you’ve never been to Pearl’s topiary extravaganza in Bishopville, SC, don’t miss it while Pearl’s still around.  Of all the people I’ve met in my life, I can think of no one that better embodies all that’s wonderful about our great country.

In news from the nursery world, Bob Hoffman, owner of NJ’s Fairweather Gardens mail order nursery is suspending all operations for the next year.  As you may recall, Bob lost his partner Bob Popham suddenly three years ago and has been running the nursery alone since then, so a respite is sorely needed.  Bob’s current plans are to rest, regroup, and re-open in a year.  Enjoy the time off!

In sad news, one of the best known names in plant nerd circles passed away on May 14.  Plantsman Don Jacobs, 93, had been in declining health for the last two years, battling cancer, heart failure, and a series of strokes.  I always enjoyed stopping at Don’s backyard nursery in the suburbs of Atlanta and was fortunate to make a final stop in 2010, just prior to Don becoming ill.  To say Don was a quirky nurseryman would be the understatement of the century, but Don’s impact on the number of rare and unusual plants available to gardeners was huge.  Don ran a small mail order nursery that never published a catalog…just a single page typed list that you could only get if you requested it each year.  When you ordered, Don would then propagate or divide your plant which you would receive…usually within a year or two.  Don’s nursery wasn’t for gardeners without patience, but was instead for serious plantsmen who realized that rare plants were worth the wait.  I always enjoyed following Don around the garden, shadowed by his pet parrot who oversaw our every step from the tree limbs above.

Few people ever took the time to chat with Don about his life, which included a PhD in Ecology from the University of Minnesota in 1944.  Don taught ecology for nine years at the University of Georgia, before becoming frustrated with the university system and starting a wholesale tropical fish and pet store.The store became the largest of its kind in the Southeast US and during the 24 years he ran it he also developed and patented seven water treatment systems for aquariums, which are still used today.  In 1979, Don sold his business and started a mail-order plant hobby business that he named Eco Gardens.  You’ll find Don’s plants grown worldwide, most named with the cultivar prefix “Eco”, such as Viola pedata ‘Eco Artist Palette’.  There was rarely a time when I visited and didn’t find other nurserymen and plant collectors from overseas that had flown to the US just to visit Don and purchase plants.  Don also authored 2 books, “Know Your Aquarium Plants” (1971), and “Trilliums in Woodland and Garden; American Treasures” with his son, Rob (1997).  Don is survived by his three children and their families.  Those who want to honor his memory, please make donations in his name to The American Cancer Society, The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society or the American Heart Association.

Also, from the botanical world, those of us who love ferns suffered a huge loss on May 14 with the death of South Africa’s Koos Roux.  Koos, 59, was the fern taxonomist at the Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden’s Compton Herbarium.  Koos, an avid bicyclist and South African national cycling champion was out riding with his son, Kobus 19, when he was hit and killed in a hit and run accident.  Our thoughts go out to his surviving family.

Until next month…happy gardening.



2013 Plant Delights Nursery April Newsletter

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Stone wall in the spring woodland garden







Dear PDN’ers

It’s been quite a spring so far…very cool for much longer than usual…at least until early April.  Plant emergence was far behind recent springs when, out of nowhere, temperatures rose in the 80s for ten days and the garden sprung to life.  The subsequent late April temperature cool down, however, kept plant development about 1-2 weeks behind recent springs.  Because of the sudden warm-up we experienced in early April, many smaller perennials will wilt despite the soil still being moist.  As a gardener, this drives me a bit mad, but you have to realize the plants will adjust their stomatal openings (breathing holes) and be fine once they acclimate to the new temperature regimen, which usually only takes a couple of days.

One of the garden tasks that need attention in spring is assessing the amount of shade in your woodland garden.  Spring is a great time to take stock of your woodland perennials, who will tell you if they are unhappy with the amount of light they are receiving.  They won’t tell you via email or through their union reps, so you have to tune in and observe.  If your plants seem to be going backwards in vigor or size…they used to flower but they no longer do so, you need to stop and figure out why.  In almost all cases, spring ephemerals suffer a gradual decline in the woodland garden. Hostas that get smaller, trilliums that no longer flower and other woodland perennials that simply aren’t as vigorous as they once were are a sign of trouble.  There are a number of potential culprits, from voles to a lack of summer moisture, but the cause that I see more than any other is an increase in the amount of shade.

Most shade plants need some light.  In the case of spring ephemerals (plants that go through their entire life cycle in late winter/early spring), they need light during the short window of time before the trees develop their leaves.  If you try growing spring ephemerals under evergreens, the results are usually not good.  If all you have are evergreen trees and shrubs as an overstory, you can still help the situation by thinning out or removing selected limbs until you see rays of light reaching the plants below.  Even plantings under deciduous trees can decline if the overstory isn’t selectively thinned on at least an annual basis.  Now is a great time to monitor the perennials in your shade garden and determine which limbs need to be either removed or thinned, so get the hand pruners and pole saw ready.  If you do this early enough in the year, plants can recover in only one season.

Interesting Stuff

Athyrium (Lady Fern, Japanese Painted Fern) and Azalea 'Redwing'

Athyrium (Lady Fern, Japanese Painted Fern) and Azalea ‘Redwing’

As most of you know, we are rapidly approaching our Spring Open House, May 3-5 and May 10-12.  This a very special open house for us as it marks our 25th year in existence.  Plant Delights and the gardens here at Juniper Level have come a long way since 1988, and we hope you will join us to celebrate this very special occasion.  All of this would never have been possible without your tremendous support and for that, we can’t thank you enough.  The dates for this and future open nursery and garden dates can be found at here.

The gardens here at Juniper Level look amazing thanks to garden curator, Todd Wiegardt, and his amazing staff and volunteers.  I’m writing this from the garden patio where the evening aromas are in stronger than a Willie Nelson tour bus…from phlox to michellias (banana shrubs), to chionanthus and amorphophallus…there’s an aroma for everyone.  Although the garden is perfumed all day, many of the best fragrances occur in late afternoon, so schedule your visit accordingly.  If you’re attending open house for the first time, plan to be a bit overwhelmed.  With over 20,000 different plants in the garden, it’s impossible to even begin to see everything in one trip.  Heck, even I find new plants every day that I’ve forgotten.  Our horticulture staff is stationed throughout the garden and nursery to answer any of your gardening questions, so don’t hesitate to ask anything that comes to mind as you stroll through the acres of gardens.

Cypripedium 'Paul'

Cypripedium ‘Paul’

We also still have some room in our close-up photography class which takes place during the first Saturday of our open house.  We are fortunate to have Josh Taylor, of Maryland, who also teaches photography at the Smithsonian, here to lead the class.  You can sign up online here.

Strangely, we also have room remaining in our June propagation class for the first time in over 20 years.  Again, don’t hesitate if you’d like one of the last spots.

Spring has been too busy for much traveling, but a recent 4-talk speaking trip through Tennessee, Virginia, and North Carolina did provide a bit of time for some spring botanizing.  The highlight of the trip was the chance to see the recently discovered and soon-to-be named Trillium tennesseense….see the image we posted on the Trillium facebook page.  Lots of other gems along the way, too numerous to mention here.

In the “in case you missed it file” this month, scientists have discovered that some plant nectar comes laced with caffeine, which enhances the Pavlovian response of garden pollinators.  A bevy of bees in your garden may be, in fact, more like a line of latte-lovers standing in line at Starbucks than we ever realized. This adds to the stack of mounting evidence of how plants manipulate animals for mutual benefit.  Although this relationship has been know for years using nectar sugars, this is a first for plants resorting to psychoactive drugs to lure suitors.  These results come from honeybee expert, Geraldine Wright, of England’s Newcastle University, as an offshoot of her research to study human abused drugs.

Under the arching oak in the woodland garden

Under the arching oak in the woodland garden

Nursery News and Happenin’s

A recent shocker in the horticulture world was the fatal heart attack of Glasshouse Works co-founder, Tom Winn, age 67, on March 8.  Tom is survived by his long-time partner, Ken Frieling.  In 1985, Tom and Ken created one of the world’s finest sources of rare plants…primarily tropicals.  Around 1990, when we were getting Plant Delights started, Glasshouse Works was one of my favorite places to visit, both to acquire plants, and also to learn about the mail order nursery business.  Their display gardens were small, but packed with an incredible array of rare plants which served as an inspiration for our own gardens at Plant Delights.  Tom was the front man for the nursery while Ken worked behind the scenes, so I know his life will be completely turned upside down.  Our thoughts are with Ken and he continues to manage the nursery and deal with his loss.  You can share a memory, a note of condolence or sign the online register book.

I also just heard from Jacque Wrinkle, that her husband, Guy Wrinkle, passed away April 20.  Almost all collectors of cycads, caudiciforms (plants with swollen bases), or unusual bulbs have heard of or dealt with Guy and his mail order nursery, Guy Wrinkle’s Rare Exotics in Vista, California.  I purchased my Trachycarpus takil from Guy in the mid-1990s and recently found it to be one of the few true Trachycarpus takil on the entire East Coast.  We would later trade variegated agaves even before we finally met in person at the fall 2009 Agave summit in California.  Guy retired from his career a biology professor in fall 2007 to devote more time to his love of plants.Unfortunately, he was diagnosed in 2009 with brain cancer, a condition he battled successfully until a new, more aggressive cancer recently proved too much to overcome.  You can find one of Guy’s many articles online at Rare Exotics.  Our thoughts are with his wife Jacque during this difficult time.

We recently also mourned the death of NC Botanical Garden founding director (1961-1986), Dr. Ritchie Bell, at the ripe age of 91.  I was fortunate to have known Ritchie since the mid-1970s when he was a lone voice for the growing and propagating of native plants.  I was greatly influenced by Ritchie’s philosophy of “Conservation through Propagation” which, unfortunately has now been largely abandoned by the garden he founded.  Ritchie was also known as the author of several fabulous books; “Manual of the Vascular Flora of the Carolinas” (1968, co-authored with Albert Radford and Harry Ahles), “Wildflowers of North Carolina”  (1968, co-authored with William Justice), “Florida Wild Flowers and Roadside Plants” (1980, co-authored with Bryan Taylor), “Fall Color and Woodland Harvests of the Eastern Forests” (1990, co-authored with his wife Anne Lindsey Bell) and “Fall Color Finder” (1991, co-authored with Anne Lindsey Bell).  Ritchie was honored with a number of awards including the Silver Seal Award from the National Council of Garden Clubs and the Distinguished Alumnus Award from the University of North Carolina.  Job well done, my friend!

I inexplicably missed the passing of our fern friend, Barbara Joe Hoshizaki, who passed away last June 24 at the age of 83.  Barbara retired from the fern world a few years ago, due to aging and cognitive issues.Barbara Joe spent 28 years teaching biology at California City College when she wasn’t working in her wonderful home garden.  She was a tireless promoter of ferns and served as President of the American Fern Society, President of the Southern California Horticultural Institute, and was a member of a number of other organizations.  Barbara is best known for her book, “The Fern Grower’s Manual” (1975), and an expanded 2 edition with Robbin Moran (2001).  Barbara was extremely helpful in identifying many of our ferns from our overseas expeditions, and we owe her a huge dept of gratitude.  Barbara is survived by her husband, Takashi; two children, Carol (George Brooks) and Jon (Madeleine Takii), and other family members.  The family requests that donations be made to the Organization for Tropical Studies, Box 90630, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708‑0630, “OTS in Memory of Barbara Hoshizaki.”

My final farewell today is to a group…the International Bulb Society.  The 80-year-old International Bulb Society, which has long been an incredible resource to bulb lovers around the world, has decided to fold at the end of 2013.  The society’s problems began over a decade earlier, when a series of ego-driven personality conflicts caused many of the members to drop out and join the recently-formed Pacific Bulb Society.  Despite the fact that most new members didn’t live anywhere near the Pacific Ocean, the new group offered a more user-friendly format with far less drama while making sharing rare plants at low cost a key principle…the antithesis of IBS.  I am truly sad to see IBS go as it brought together so many wonderful experts from around the world, and if you could afford the plant prices, it was a place to acquire the rarest of the rare bulbs.  Who knows…if you believe in the afterlife, perhaps there will one day be a reincarnation of this wonderful group.

Until next month, we’ll keep posting plant photos from the garden and sharing all sorts of cool things from the world of horticulture on our Facebook Page.

We’ll see you there!



2013 Plant Delights Nursery February Newsletter

February 2013

Dear PDN’ers,

I don’t know about you, but I’ve about enjoyed this winter long enough…and winter megastorm Nemo missed us.  While we’ve only had a low temperature of 18 degrees F in Raleigh, very mild by our norms, it has been consistently cool, which is great for the plants but not so much for those of us with thin blood…I mean chlorophyll.

Out in the garden, our early trilliums are about 2-3 weeks behind normal, which is actually a good thing when it comes to avoiding those pesky late spring frosts.  Despite the cool, some plants just can’t wait.  Our silly clumps of Arisaema ringens are already trying to poke their heads through the soil far too early. When this happens, adding a few inches of mulch to help keep the soil cool will help delay their emergence.  Podophyllum pleianthum, a Chinese mayapple, also always emerges too early.  Fortunately, it seems to be quite tolerant of getting burned back to the ground time after time.

We’ve had a great hellebore show in the garden this winter which, thanks to the cool weather, will continue for a while.  Since most hybrid hellebores seed around the parent clump, you’ll need to consciously decide when you have enough seedlings.  When that point arises, the spent flowers can be circumcised as an effective means of population control.  Six to sixteen weeks (depending on the temperature) is the typical gestation period for hellebores, so mark your calendar so you don’t forget when snipping time arrives.  As we’ve discussed on Facebook, we’ve found that when you plant hellebores about 15′ apart in the garden, they come relatively true to type…double whites produce more double whites, etc.  Anything closer than that produces a combination of the parental colors and forms, which can be both good and bad depending on the traits of each neighbor.  If you are looking for hellebores that don’t seed in the garden, you should explore the Helleborus niger hybrids: Helleborus x ballardiae, Helleborus x ericsmithii, and Helleborus x nigercors (nigersmithii).  These are all sterile moms and will not produce viable seed.  Check out our full selection of Hellebores here.

Speaking of hellebores, this is our final Winter Open House weekend for 2013 with lots of great hellebores remaining.  I just counted, and we still have over 300 doubles in flower along with over 160 incredible single yellows.  These are some of the finest hellebores we’ve ever had for Open House, so drop by if you can.  Anything that doesn’t go out the door this weekend will go on the web next week.  We’ve posted some killer hellebore photos on our Facebook page, so check ’em out.  Please remember you DO NOT have to join or register with Facebook to visit our Facebook page or see the photos…only if you want an email to know when we post more.  We think you’ll find our Facebook page worthwhile if you like plants.

While there are many things to love about the end of winter, the one thing I don’t look forward to is the annual rite of tree-topping…the only fad that’s spreading around the country faster than body art.  Tree topping, aka butchering, especially of crape myrtles, is truly one of the most bizarre rituals to ever affect the gardening community.  I’ve almost concluded that alien mind control must be at work here, causing Homo sapiens males with power tools and no critical thinking skills to bizarrely butcher any tree in their yard they think might possibly look like a crape myrtle.  Other than releasing extra testosterone and making your carbon footprint the size of Sasquatch, there is absolutely no logical reason to top trees.  Tree topping does not keep the tree shorter and it does not make it flower better. It does, however, make your tree decrepitly ugly, weak-branched, and more susceptible to disease while putting on display your low gardening IQ to all your neighbors.  Please, mow your grass an extra time or two, but leave the trees alone.

An interesting new trend is emerging in botanical circles that has already caused a divisive fracture in the taxonomic community.  The trend is one of naming new plants after the highest bidder, as has been done for years with buildings and sporting events.  One taxonomy camp argues that the money is needed to support their work, while the other camp wants genus and species names reserved for locations where the plants were found, people who were associated with finding the plants, or to simply name the plants after things they resemble.

Most recently, a worldwide naming auction was held for a new species of Hesperantha (iris family) that was discovered in 2011 by Odette Curtis in the Lowland Renosterveld management region of South Africa.  The auction for the Overberg Lowlands Conservation Trust was managed by Fauna & Flora International on the Giving Lots on-line auction site.  The winning bid was $47,000 USD, although the winner has not been publicly identified.  Not only will the winner get to name the species, but they will receive a painting and bronze cast of their new namesake…no mention of a herbarium sheet.

In other interesting news from the science community, Indian researchers have discovered an additional way in which carnivorous plants attract their insect prey…they glow.  Yes, in addition to fragrance, color, and nectar, Dionaea (Venus fly-traps), Sarracenia, and Nepenthes (tropical pitcher plants) actually emit a UV spectrum blue glow in and around the entrance to the pitchers that resembles airport landing lights.  The blue glow evidently attracts insects out trolling for a good time in the same way blue Christmas lights attract rednecks.

In a related note, have you heard of plant neurobiology?  My spell checker certainly hasn’t.  Plant neurobiology is the study of how plants communicate, feel, and react.  Those of a certain age may remember the 1973 book, The Secret Life of Plants, which got many folks of our generation thinking about a rarely discussed subject.  Well, now folks interested in the subject will have a place to congregate at the first ever plant neurobiology convention this summer.  If this floats your proverbial boat, check out the agenda here.

Another great event is coming up next week…the 2013 Salvia Summit to be held at the Huntington Botanical Gardens in California.  Although I had the Salvia Summit on my schedule for over a year, I’ll regretfully have to miss the summit due to unforeseen circumstances at the nursery.  I truly hope many of you who love salvias will be able to attend and hear the incredible list of great speakers.

Closer to Plant Delights, we are pleased to welcome England’s famed garden writer, Dr.Noel Kingsbury to Raleigh next week.  This will mark Noel’s first visit to the region, where he will be speaking to the Friends of the JC Raulston Arboretum on Thursday, March 7, at 7:30pm on The Politics of the Garden.  Noel will follow this up with an all day workshop discussing long term plant performance on Saturday, March 9, from 9:00am to 3:00pm, at the Brickhaven building adjacent to the JC Raulston Arboretum.  The workshop will teach gardeners how to look at the garden from a long-term perspective in terms of sustainability as well as aesthetics.

The workshop cost is $80.00 for JCRA members and $95.00 for nonmembers.  Space is limited to the first 25 participants.  To register, contact Chris Glenn at (919) 513‑7005 or

On the heels of Noel’s talk comes Magnolia Mayhem, a mini-symposium also at the JC Raulston Arboretum on Saturday, March 23, from 8:00am until 2:00pm.  Speakers include Kevin Parris, magnolia breeder extraordinaire and director of the Spartanburg Community College Arboretum, and Aaron Schettler, magnolia collector and director of grounds at Raleigh’s Meredith College.  The talks will be followed by a Mark Weatherington tour of the JC Raulston Arboretum magnolia collection, then a tour of the adjacent magnolia collection.  If that’s not enough, a pre-convention tour on Friday, March 22, will include Camellia Forest Nursery, the Charles R. Keith Arboretum, and plantsman Tom Krenitsky’s private garden.  Details are available here.

If you’re in town for the event and have time, we’d be delighted to have you visit us as well…just call (919)772-4794 and set up an appointment (weekends not available).

Last month, I mentioned the demise of the well-respected mail order firm, High Country Gardens, in New Mexico.  Well, in late February, a white knight rode into town and swooped them up, and last week reopened their website for business.  It seems that American Meadows of Vermont has a friendly financier who thought this was a good investment, so as of last week, HCG is back in business under the leadership of its founder, David Salman.  We wish HCG the best in ramping back up production of the plants that made HCG a favorite of gardeners in the high desert.  In 2008, American Meadows itself was sold by founders Ray and Chy Allen to long-time employee Mike Lizotte and his business partner, Ethan Platt (formerly of Green Mountain Coffee Roasters).  We wish Mike and Ethan good luck with their new long-distance venture.

Other horticulture stalwarts continue to struggle with the latest bad news coming from the 100-year-old, 400-acre, Briggs Nursery of Elma, Washington.  Briggs has been struggling for years due to a combination of original family members cashing out, a move to a new location, a very high debt load ($5 million), and a failure to modernize their plant offerings.  Most homeowners have probably never heard of Briggs, but their state-of-the-art tissue culture lab produces the lion’s share of the rhododendrons and blueberries produced in the US.  Did I mention that Briggs propagated and sold huge numbers of the Pink Champagne Blueberry (not to be confused with Pink Lemonade, which is fine) last year, only to then receive a “oops, we sent you the wrong plant” notice from the US government?

Briggs has been sold several times in recent years, most notably to the abysmal failure, International Garden Products.  A year ago, J. Guy of the defunct Carolina Nurseries was brought in to try and modernize the nursery in hopes of saving what was left of Briggs.  Unfortunately, the lack of capital and the unwillingness of Briggs’ bank to take any further risks resulted in the bank asking for the nursery to be placed in court receivership, which occurred in late January.  The courts will now determine the best way to proceed with Briggs, whether that be new financing, selling the nursery, or closing the business.  As you can imagine, several suitors from a variety of industries are already in the hunt.  Unfortunately, as one prospective purchaser described to me, the spate of past sales has left the assets of Briggs in quite disarray.  Fingers crossed we don’t lose this valuable resource.

Another name I never expected to hear in the same sentence with foreclosure is Kerry Herndon of Kerry’s Nursery in Florida…formerly Kerry’s Bromeliads.  Kerry’s, founded in 1970, has expanded enormously both via growth and acquisition, and is now one of the largest growers in the country (ranked #21) with 2.8 million square feet of production.  Kerry is a rock star of the horticulture world, with people following his every word as it relates to business management both in his “no limits” talks and trade magazine columns.

Kerry’s specializes in orchids and bromeliads (over 7 million plants in production) which are sold primarily through the big box stores like Home Depot, Publix, Kroger, Safeway, and Trader Joe’s.  Florida Federal Land Bank Association recently filed a foreclosure lawsuit over the nursery’s $12 million debt, although Kerry remains optimistic a settlement can be reached that allows them to remain open.  The supply of orchids and bromeliads available to home gardeners would take a huge hit if Kerry’s closes, so fingers crossed for a good resolution in the courts.

In still more disappointing news, the 185,000 subscriber strong, Garden Design Magazine has reached the end of the road. The stunning, high quality idea magazine for designers got the axe after the previous publisher, World Publications, sold out to Bonnier Corporation who found the magazine too small for their market.

Finally, the horticulture book world lost a giant recently with the passing of 86-year-old author, Jack Kramer.  Jack will go down as the most prolific gardening writer of our time, authoring a staggering 161 gardening books…mostly about houseplants. A few of Jack’s many titles include; Bromeliads for Home and Garden (2011), The Art of Flowers (2002), Women of Flowers (1996), Sunset’s How to Grow African Violets (1977), and Underwater Gardens (1974).   Jack was also a former syndicated columnist for the Los Angeles Times before retiring to Naples, Florida in 1987.  Here is a nice article about Jack.

Until next month, I’ll see you on Facebook where we learn and share together.



2013 Plant Delights Nursery January Newsletter

We’ve finally turned the page on 2012 which, as you all know, was a huge year of change.  Due to the search engine optimization work on our website that we’ve described previously, we saw a huge increase in business and ended 2012 with our second best year in our 25 year history.  Speaking of 25-years, we are forever indebted to our loyal customers for making that possible in an industry whose life expectancy is usually only 10-15 years.

Over the years, I’ve been lucky enough to meet many wonderful folks as I travel around the country on the speaking circuit.  As the curtain fell on 2012, I gave my 725th talk since record keeping started in 1984.  Of those presentations, 389 have been in our home state of North Carolina, followed by Virginia 43, Georgia 24, South Carolina 23, Ohio 18, Pennsylvania 16, Massachusetts 15, Florida 14, and Maryland and New York with 14 each.

We hope by now you have received your 2013 Plant Delights Nursery catalog in the mail. If you’re wondering who all those folks are on the cover, you can find the identification key on our Facebook Page .

For 2013, we list over 110 exceptional new plants, which is the most in our 25 year history.  While we are still working on a major website redesign, we have continued to upgrade our existing website by adding plants into over 100 categories and subcategories such as Evergreen Perennials, Giant Plants, Salt-tolerant plants, and many more.  With our current listing of 1,740 different plants on the website, that translates into 174,000 individually coded plants.  Yes, my eyes still hurt, but we hope this will make the website much more useful for you.

Many of us in the mail order nursery business feel a tight family bond with others in our industry, and we were shocked and devastated to learn of the closing of the wonderful High Country Gardens just a few weeks ago.  High Country Gardens was the brainchild of New Mexico native son, David Salman, and his wife Ava.  High Country Gardens actually started with a retail operation, Sante Fe Greenhouses, in 1984 and then expanded into mail order in 1993. Just prior to the recession in 2006, David had expanded, opening a retail outlet in Albuquerque, followed by yet another in 2008. At the same time, David built a 10-acre state-of-the-art growing facility just outside of Albuquerque in Bernadillo.  In 2010, the two Albuquerque stores were consolidated into a single larger facility.

The beauty of High Country Gardens was that David and Ava were able to create a drought-tolerant plant business market for high desert gardens that previously didn’t exist on a large scale. While David managed the plants and the business, his wife Ava oversaw the catalog production, website, and marketing efforts. While some of the plants we purchased through the years from David were better suited to New Mexico, we always found several choice gems that fared equally as well here in the humid Southeast US.

It’s sad to loose a compatriot, but even more so when it’s one who does things at such an extraordinary high level.  David is a 2008 recipient of the American Horticulture Society’s Great American Gardeners Award, and the HCG catalog won one gold award and four silver awards from Catalog Age magazine. David’s prolific writing has been featured in magazines such as Fine Gardening, Horticulture, The American Gardener and, of course, on his own website blog.

I first met David in person several years ago in New York, when we were both advising on the Martha Stewart Gardening product line, but I was already following the evolution of his business.  Looking back, I should have picked up on the obvious red flags that all was not well when the 2012 HCG catalog went online in January with a 50% off sale on everything.  Although many of HCG’s plants were sold in 2” pots, I never could quite figure out how David could sell his plants as cheaply as he did and stay in business.  In the end, this was a part of HCG’s undoing…combined with the recession, an epic drought in his region, an ill-timed expansion, and the usual suspect, a high debt load.

David tells me he hopes to start a smaller business that will allow him to be a full-time plant breeder and possibly a wholesale liner producer.  Fingers crossed that goal comes to fruition and we all have access again to the great plants that High Country Gardens was known for.  A great big PDN salute for a job well done as we await the next chapter.

I recently received a letter from Wendel Whisenhunt asking if we know anyone who might be interested in working for the Parks Department in Oklahoma City.  It seems the city’s Parks and Recreation Department is looking for a Horticulture and Gardens Manager.  This position will serve as the horticultural spokesperson for the city and will oversee specialty parks and grounds in Oklahoma City. This sounds like a great job for a plant person who is looking to make a difference…assuming you can deal well with wind. For more information, you can apply online at

Additionally, the Winghaven Foundation in Charlotte NC which runs the Winghaven Garden and the Elizabeth Lawrence Garden is looking for a new Executive Director.  The Director oversees the operation, staff, and fundraising efforts for both gardens.  Qualifications include ten years experience in historic preservation, fund raising, and garden and staff management. If you know of someone interested in such a position with these wonderful gardens, contact Doug Anderson, Search Consultant at of 704.347.0090.

A huge congratulations to Peckerwood Gardens and Yucca Do Nursery founder, John Fairey, 82, on being selected as the winner of the 2013 Scott Medal. The Scott Medal is one of the most prestigious Awards in the horticultural field, awarded each year by the Swarthmore College selection committee.  John also taught Landscape Architecture at Texas A&M for 48 years while building his award-winning garden, now adopted by the Garden Conservancy for preservation.  I was fortunate to have visited Peckerwood many times since then early 1990s and travelled with John on a plant collection trip to Mexico in 1994, during which he had a heart attack high in the mountains.  Fortunately, we were able to get him to a hospital in Monterrey, where he recovered and obviously has continued full speed since that time.

Congratulations also to young plantsman extraordinaire, Kelly Norris, who was recently hired as the new Horticulture Manager of the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden. A new non-profit foundation is taking over an old city facility including a 1979 built geodesic dome.  The plan calls for fourteen acres of new gardens starting this year.  We wish Kelly the best of luck in his new adventure.

Get well wishes go out to award-winning garden photographer Saxon Holt, who according to his email had a “an unfortunate encounter with gravity” when he fell off a ladder, resulting in multiple fractures and bruises to ribs, shoulder and head. The most debilitating was a skull fracture that has left him with a paralyzed facial nerve.  Saxon has been told he will recover, but slowly.  Here is a link to some of the books and magazines on which Saxon has worked…I’ll bet you’ll recognize several.

Just after the last newsletter went out, we learned of the passing of palm guru, Richard (Dick) Douglas, of Walnut Creek in northern California. (We currently offer Dick’s hardy Chamaedorea hybrid). Although I never had the opportunity to visit Dick’s garden, hardy palm enthusiasts claim it to be the finest collection of mature hardy palms in the country.  Dick’s breeding efforts have given many of us opportunities to grow palms in cooler parts of the country.  Here are some photos of Dick’s garden.

In more bad news from the nursery world, Commerce Corporation, a massive Maryland-based distributor of supplies and products to garden centers, seems poised to close after being unable to find a buyer.  Evidently the company notified its 280 employees that the company was closing while simultaneously telling the news media that it was not closing. A number of popular garden center brands had already been sensing the financial collapse and pulling their products, hastening the impending collapse.  If you can’t find your favorite brands at your favorite garden center this spring, this might be the reason.

Commerce Corporation was started by four Lessans brothers in 1923, and is now run by his grandson, Richard Lessans.  Starting in 1982, the company had expanded by purchasing other similar companies in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Washington DC, and New England.  Commerce continued to expand, opening a 4-acre distribution center in Cleveland, Ohio, a new distribution center in Ontario, California, and expanding its footprint in Michigan.

The story of Commerce’s demise has taken on soap opera-like qualities with the surprise firing of its President, Malcomb Cork, followed by a suit accusing him of not repaying a nearly half million dollar shareholder loan from the company.  Cork is countersuing for breach of his employment contract.  Meanwhile, 280 people will be looking for new jobs, although competition has already begun to cherry pick some of Commerce’s top staff.  It looks like the lawyers are going to be the only ones coming out of this in good shape.

It’s that time of year when the self-appointed arbiters of all things color, Pantone, selects the color of the year and for 2013, the winner is Emerald Green (PANTONE® 17-5641).  Pantone describes Emerald as bringing “a sense of clarity, renewal and rejuvenation, which is so important in today’s complex world. This powerful and universally appealing tone translates easily to both fashion and home interiors. Most often associated with brilliant, precious gemstones, the perception of Emerald is sophisticated and luxurious. Over the years, this luminous color has been the color of beauty and new life in many cultures and religions. It’s also the color of growth, renewal and prosperity – no other color conveys regeneration more than green.”  For those who plan their gardens around such declarations it’s time to get on the hunt for Emerald Green plants.

Until next month, we’ll see you on Facebook where we learn and share together.