I’m just back from speaking to the Western NC Master Gardener Symposium…always a great time chatting with MG groups. While in Asheville, I dropped by to finally visit our friends Matt and Tim Nichols…the owners of Mr. Maple mail order nursery in East Flat Rock, NC. It just happened that the PBS show, Growing a Greener World was filming there at the time, which afforded a chance to connect with host Joe Lamp’l, and producer Erica Glasener…a great day!
While Lycoris x squamigera is one of the first surprise lily to flower each summer, Lycoris x caldwellii (Lycoris chinensis x longituba) is one of the last, usually in early to mid September in NC. With the popularity of Lycoris x squamigera in gardens through the upper midwest, it is quite shocking not to find the equally winter hardy Lycoris x caldwellii...especially since it offsets quite fast for a surprise lily. We guess some of the lack of other hardy clones in gardens is that most people purchased mislabeled plants and think they are actually growing Amaryllis belladonna. Unless you garden from Zone 8 south, you are not growing Amaryllis belladonna outdoors. We’re doing our best to get these great lycoris spread far and wide.
Foxtrot – “a dance characterized by long, continuous flowing movements” – Wikipedia.Pennisetum ‘Foxtrot’ – I’ve long loved this splendid fountain grass, but somehow never managed to remember to stop and take a good photo…until now. We like it so much, we planted a big mass around our new home. These were planted as 1 quart pots in January…yes, we shop here also.
I will admit I originally purchased this from We-Du Nursery co-founder, Dick Weaver for the name, after he shared the story of tromping through the woods near his home in Polly Spout, NC, and spotted what appeared to be a green cow pie. It turned out to be an exceptional form of the native woodland groundcover, Erigeron pulchellus. Figuring a plant named ‘Cow Pie’ wouldn’t sell well to city folks, Dick opted for the name Erigeron ‘Meadow Muffin’. We’ve grown this for nearly 30 years, and as a shade groundcover, it’s hard to beat. The semi-evergreen (temperature dependent) rosettes knit closely together, forming a dense mat. In mid-spring, the clump are topped with an incredible show of light pink daisies. We hope you love this as much as we did, and help us keep the story alive. In case you know Dick during his NC nursery days (after retiring as the taxonomist at the Arnold Arboretum) he recently moved from his retirement home in Florida to Pennsylvannia after the passing of his long time partner, Rene Duval.
We were marveling this week at the incredible number of pollinator insects feeding on Sedum ‘Dynomite‘ in the garden. Visitors included honeybees, native bumblebees, dirt daubers, and assorted other wasps…all feasting away as if the buffet was closing.
Gardens can be environmentally healthy and attractive. Fom a different angle, the same plant of Sedum ‘Dynomite‘, combined with Persicaria ‘Golden Arrow’. Part of the fun of the garden is creating fun color, texture, and form combinations.
This spring, we introduced a new seed strain of century plant, named Agave ‘Durango Fandango’. These arose from a cross made by one of our volunteer agave curators, Mike Papay. Agave flexispina pollen was applied to a hardy selection of Agave schidigera. As with all agave crosses, it takes a while to full evaluate the offspring, but we wanted to share photos of our plants that went into the ground in March 2017 from 1 quart pots. Since both parents mature around 2-3′ in width, we expect the same from the offspring, but one of the nice surprises is the stunning red border that becomes more prevalent as it grows. Since both parents are winter hardy in Zone 7b, we expect the same for Agave ‘Durango Fandango’. If you want to try this or any of our agave hybrids, remember that the amount of plants available is limited by the seed set from the cross, and there will be no more once those are gone…until one of the offspring flowers, which could take many years.
It’s especially sad for us to announce the all too early passing of former PDN’er Hunter Stubbs, 47, who passed away this weekend from brain cancer. Hunter was a star student of the late Dr. JC Raulston, and an amazing worker for us, before he moved to Asheville, and became a household name in the landscape community. Hunter’s first job there was as landscape manager for Richmond Hill Inn, and his incredible passion for plants led him to start a horticulture symposium there, for which he enticed Dan Hinkley and I to speak on the same program. Hunter went on to become part-owner of the BB Barnes Landscape Division. Like JC Raulston, Hunter almost seemed bigger than life…always smiling, and always positive. Even at the NC Nursery Show this January, you would have been hard pressed to know anything was wrong. Hunter is survived by his wife Carla, and two children, Hayden and Carson. Life well lived, my friend.
I had the wonderful opportunity recently to spend the day with NC State plant breeder, Dr. Dennis Werner in his extensive redbud breeding plots. So far, four redbuds have been named and released, including Cercis ‘Ruby Falls’ (weeping purple leaf), Cercis ‘Whitewater’ (weeping variegated leaf), and Cercis ‘Merlot’ (upright purple leaf with better color retention), and Cercis ‘Pink Pom Poms’ (double pink flowered upright). The new plants in the pipeline are almost unimaginable, from foliage colors to size, form, and even leaf shape. If you’ve never bred plants, it’s hard to imagine the incredible amount of thought, work, and time it takes to create such an amazing array of plants. Even though Dr. Werner has now retired, he will be continuing his work as a JC Raulston Arboretum volunteer plant breeder…how cool! We’re saving some room in our garden for more of these exciting introductions that will be coming soon.