I picked a lovely night to write to you from our home patio, where I’m sitting adjacent to the falling water sound of the Mt. Michelle waterfall, punctuated by the intermittent peeps from nearby mating frogs, each in search of a suitable companion. It’s not yet the cacophony that we’ll have in a few more weeks, where up to eight different species of poorly harmonized frogs will be trying to communicate simultaneously like a restaurant full of cell phone users. In the dark of this evening, it’s fascinating to watch the mosquitos continually trying to attack my cursor as it moves around the laptop screen. So, what is the best way to clean blood off laptop screens…inquiring minds want to know?
We’ve just added another three dozen new plants to the website, many available only in very limited quantities. Shop Now!
It’s been quite a start to the year in most parts of the country, with spring arriving far too soon. Many folks had their gardening chores recently interrupted by another round of winter including some major snows in parts of West Virginia, Pennsylvania and surrounding states. We thought we were going to get by without a late frost, but on April 10 temperatures at the nursery dropped to 32 F and later on April 25 we hit a frosty 36 F, with many hostas in full leaf and even elephant ears beginning to grow. Our garden curator, Todd Wiegardt, the garden staff, and our wonderful volunteers spent a day and a half covering the most susceptible plants. So far, most of the plants we covered seem to have fared fine. We don’t bother covering plants like bananas, cannas, and elephant ears for such light frosts since they are engineered to bounce right back despite being rendered a temporary pile of black mush.
For those who follow us on Facebook, we detailed our experiments with the new product, Freeze-Pruf. It was our hope that it would serve as a replacement for the long, drawn-out process of covering plants, but no such luck. We’ve also posted our first video about the process of protecting sensitive plants in the garden from a late spring frost. You can find the video on our website here.
We continue to post an insane number of plant photos from the garden on our Facebook page. This has become an wonderful way for us to share exciting garden plants several times each week. You’re sure to be seeing lots of agave photos, as we have six blessed events that will soon take place on our Southwest-themed patio. Yes, our Agave palmeri ‘Cutty Shark’, Agave protoamericana ‘Blue Steel’, Agave victoriae-reginae, Agave striata, a second Agave protoameriana, and Agave ‘Stormy Seize’ began spiking recently…three on April 10, one on April 17, and two on April 24. Strangely, all started spiking on Tuesdays…hmmm. Based on our past experience, the taller agaves usually take 45-50 days to reach their full size and flower. We’ve got a couple more agaves that are looking sort of pregnant, so there could even be more. Spring is shaping up as quite a year for agave breeding.
We’ve recently added a really neat advanced search feature on the website. You can click boxes like “ferns” and “zone 6″ and get a list of ferns for zone 6, or find all the red-flowering hummingbird-attractive flowers for zone 5. We hope you’ll check it out and let us know what you think. Advanced Search
Especially busy is our shipping/customer service department as we enter what we affectionally call “snowball season”. Snowball season in the mail order business is when, no matter how fast you run, the giant snowball of incoming and pending orders rolling down the hill behind you is getting bigger, faster, and closer each day. The dilemma is that no matter how much staff we hire, customers still outnumber us by 1000:1. To help with the snowball season, we’ve hired lots of new shipping staff and welcome recent NCSU Landscape Architect graduate, Allison Morgan, to our Customer Service staff.
The nature of mail order is that most folks want their plants between late April and late May, which is sort of like squeezing a theater full of people out through one set of double doors during a fire drill. While we try to get orders out the door the week they arrive, this becomes a logistical impossibility for the next four weeks. This rush combines with our other annual nightmare where plants that have been ordered early but not shipped don’t emerge from dormancy in spring. While our growing staff does a great job, some plants simply don’t cooperate with our plans, which creates problem orders on our end and disappointment on your end. In some cases, we will have more of a particular plant ready in a later crop, but in other cases, the production time for a new crop may be several years. We thank for your patience and understanding during the next few weeks and thank you so much for keeping those orders coming. Trust us, there is nothing more anguishing for us that to not be able to supply an ordered plant.
At the same time, we’re excitedly gearing up for our Spring Open Nursery and Garden event, May 4-6 and May 11-13. Hours are 8am-5pm on Friday and Saturday and 1-5pm on Sundays. The gardens are looking particularly amazing, so we hope you can visit. On Open House days visitors are allowed to purchase plants on site, walk through the gardens, and have their gardening questions answered by our staff. The gardens have several areas to picnic, so we’d love to have you bring your lunch to enjoy in the gardens. If you are visiting from outside the local area and would like to car pool with others from your region, please use our Facebook page to connect. If you don’t have a GPS/navigation device, you can get printed directions, at http://www.plantdelights.com/Visiting.asp
We are holding our Plant and Garden Photography class during the second Saturday of our Open House on May 12 from 8am-4pm and have only a few spots remaining. If you’re interested in joining us, you can find out more online
Plant Delights was very blessed to have been featured in the March/April issue of “American Gardener” Magazine. If you aren’t a subscriber, we will have extra copies at Open House. You can also find a condensed version online
For a while, I’ve been following the recession-era demise of one of America’s top destination garden centers, Matterhorn Nursery of Spring Valley, New York, whose business is up for auction this weekend. It’s a very sad fall for Matt Horn and his wife Ronnie, who have operated the 36 acre garden center and display garden for over 31 years. Matterhorn filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in fall 2010 after the recession cut their sales by over 50% and a deal to raise money by selling off 15 acres of the property to a nearby municipality fell through. At the time, Matterhorn said they were in the midst of their “sustainable” renovations including installing solar panels, biomass boilers, green roofs, and other “feel-good”, but poor ROI’s (return on investments). After over a year in Chapter 11, it was unfeasible for the company to remain viable with such a high debt load so the property will be auctioned. If you have a desire to instantly own one of the country’s top garden centers, you can find the auction information here.
For the last couple of decades Matt was the poster boy, out-of-the-box thinker for everything a garden center could and should be. In short, Matterhorn was everything to everyone…if you could dream it, Matt had probably already done it. Matterhorn was set up like a European village with mini-shops throughout the property selling everything from outdoor furnishings to food and drinks.
I always enjoyed hearing Matt speak at trade meetings, but always marveled how they managed cash flow and debt load. Unfortunately, Matterhorn now joins an all-too-long line of nursery businesses to have finance issues collide head on with the economic slowdown. Matt and Ronnie will continue to run their landscape design and maintenance business, and knowing them, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them back in the retail business in the future…best of luck, my friends.
Calls are coming in from around the Southeast US about the latest horticultural scourge…kudzu bugs. These beetles are voracious, going through kudzu faster than Newt Gingrich does cash. Not only do kudzu bugs eat kudzu, but they also eat crops like soybeans and related ornamental legumes. When kudzu is dormant, these ugly light brown beetles, which are attracted to bright colors and heights can actually loiter on cars and homes, waiting until kudzu begins growing again. Research has shown that these tough critters can even hold onto a car going 80 miles per hour..now that’s a video I want to see. The kudzu bug infestation began in the Atlanta, Georgia area and has now spread from Alabama to the edges of southern Virginia. There really isn’t much to do to keep them out of your home other than to carefully caulk the cracks in your house. As far as damaging the ornamental legumes in your garden, we’re just going to have to see what they attack, but prime candidates are close relatives like lupinus (lupines), baptisia, indigofera, erythrina (coral been), amorpha (lead plant), and cytisus (scotch broom). Here’s a video of the critters. Finally, if you or your spouse are having trouble sleeping, especially after a hard day in the garden, your prayers have been answered. Move over Ambien, the long-awaited three volume set, Algae of the Ukraine is now available. This riveting 1639 page hardcover set, sure to make the NY Times best seller list, includes nomenclature, taxonomy, ecology, and geography of all the greats: Cyanoprocaroya, Euglenophyta, Chlorophyta and many more. You’ll be the life of the party when you whip out volume one and begin extolling the virtues of the Ukranian Dinophyta. If you hurry, the English language edition can be yours for the bargain price of only $235 as long as supplies last. www.koeltz.com Be sure to let me know if that doesn’t put you to sleep.
Enjoy, and until the next newsletter, we’ll see you on Facebook!