2008 Plant Delights Nursery February Newsletter

Dear PDN’ers:

Greetings from Plant Delights and we hope you’re having a good winter season wherever you garden. Here in Raleigh, we’ve had several nights in the mid-teens, with a low at the nursery of 14.7 degrees F, which equates to a consistent cold (until last week), with fairly mild minimum temperatures.

We have actually had good rains since fall and the winter garden looks great. Helleborus niger has been superb this year, especially our long-lived clumps of the heat-tolerant H. niger var. macranthus. If you like hellebores for color in the winter garden, don’t miss our Winter Open House on Friday/Saturday Feb. 22, 23 and Feb. 29, March 1. We should have over 1000 double hellebores in full flower for sale …a site you’re not likely to find anywhere else.

Many folks still ask us about the name Juniper Level Botanic Gardens, and as we have mentioned in the past, we are adjacent to the Juniper Level Baptist Church. You can read more about the church and the history of the area at www.juniperlevelmbc.org.

I don’t think we appreciate the array of cool plants that strut their stuff in the late winter months. One of my favorite bulbs is Nothoscordum sellowianum. This amazing rock garden bulb has already begun to flower with small yellow ground-hugging flowers that will continue for the next few months. The yellow flowers contrast nicely with the blue-lavender flowers of the winter-blooming Iris unguicularis that is also in full flower now.

You don’t normally think of trilliums as winter plants, but that’s only because few gardeners are familiar with the southern US species. Both Trillium underwoodii and T. maculatum are in full leaf and in bud now, surviving temperature drops into the mid-teens with no problem. They are closely followed by Trillium foetidissimum which has just popped through the ground. These winter trilliums have developed a survival mechanism similar to rhododendrons, whose leaves become flaccid and curled on cold mornings, only to recover as the day warms. If you grow these species, the pile of limp foliage on a cold morning would cause you to give up on the plant, only to find it looking fine again by late afternoon. There’s plenty more cool winter interest plants that you’ll see when you visit the winter open house.

Now that we’re in February, let me remind you our shipping season begins in a few more weeks…for those of you in the southern zones. Also remember the deadline of February 15 is drawing near to enter our 2008 Pick the Top 25 Sellers Contest. Okay, it’s not the Powerball Lottery, but you’ve got nothing to lose and the chance to win a $250 PDN gift certificate.

There’s lot of news from the gardening community this month, so I’ll start with the bad news first. Our condolences go out to woody plant guru Mike Dirr and his wife Bonnie, whose 31-year old daughter Suzy passed away on January 24, after a lifetime bout with Cystic Fibrosis, including two lung transplants. You can read the heartwarming story of Suzy’s battle at www.uga.edu/gm/604/FeatDirr.html

Condolences also go to Horticulture Magazine Science editor Roger Swain, whose wife Elisabeth passed away on February 7, after a battle with liver cancer. I had the pleasure of dining at Roger and Elisabeth’s home several years ago…both were very sweet people and it is a memory I will always treasure. Our thoughts are with both the Dirr and Swain family during this difficult time.

Plantsman and designer Doug Ruhren has departed North Carolina to take over as head horticulturist for the American Camellia Society at the 150 acre Massee Lane Garden in Fort Valley, Georgia. For those who have never met Doug, he first put his stamp on the Watkins Rose Garden, then Montrose Gardens, followed by the JC Raulston Arboretum, and most recently the Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden. We hate to lose Doug from our state, but look forward to watching him transform the Massee Lane Gardens.

In Charlotte, NC The Wing Haven Foundation has agree to purchase and preserve the Elizabeth Lawrence garden (NC’s most famous garden writer), located just near Winghaven from its current owner Lindie Wilson. The next step is to set up a $50,000 stewardship fund with the Garden Conservancy to insure the ‘perpetual monitoring of the property.’ You can find out more about how to help preserve the garden by visiting the Lawrence Garden website at www.elizabethlawrence.org/friends.html

Other cool events around the country include The Lone Star Regional Native Plant Conference, held May 28-31 in Texas. This conference which is held every other year features an incredible array of native plant speakers and habitat tours. To find out more, go to http://pnpc.sfasu.edu.

Back in the Raleigh area, City leaders have made an unfortunate and less than intelligent decision to ban hand watering of plants due to the current water shortage. Below, is a letter I have sent to both the Raleigh City Council and the local media outlets. Please feel free to share this with any interested party and if you live in the effected area, you may want to contact the City Council and express your displeasure with their recent actions.

Open Letter to the City of Raleigh:

I continue to await an article that correctly shows who is responsible for the current water shortage, but alas, no luck. Let’s look at the facts. Raleigh was 7.24″ (17%) below normal for its annual rainfall in 2007. In 2006, Raleigh was 10.64″ (25%) above normal in rainfall. For a two-year period, that put us well above average. Is this the first time we’ve had well below normal annual rainfall? Of course not. 2005, was nearly as dry as we ended that year 5.5″ below normal. What did city officials do after that dry year? They continued to encourage growth, sell more water, and did nothing to increase future water supply. If you look at area lake levels, you will notice Gaston Lake and Kerr Lake are full. Jordan Lake is only down 8″, while Falls Lake is 8.4′ below normal and Lake Michie is 7.3′ below normal. Why are the differences so dramatic…poor planning! Being a Raleigh native, I remember in 1981 when Falls and Jordan Lakes were completed and City officials assured us Raleigh and surrounding towns would never again face a water shortage or water restrictions. Fast forward 27+ years and residents are now being blamed for the current water shortage, and are being asked to change their lifestyle because City leaders didn’t properly do their job. Raleigh officials have oversold their supply of water while encouraging growth beyond their ability to supply water. Planning based on average rainfall forgets to take into account that averages are just that…averages of two extremes…below normal years and above normal years. Imagine a business the size of Raleigh or Durham making such an egregious error in planning. Such a lack of foresight and poor management would most certainly result in immediate dismissal of officers and board members, as it should.

Any farmer will tell you the first thing to do in a drought is to clean the silt from your pond or lake, greatly enlarging your pool of available water. Since the 2002 drought, I have watched and waited for Raleigh and Durham to clean the silt from their water supplies, yet from driving by the lakes, this has still not been done. Without a doubt, it’s more difficult for a municipality, since they must work through the Army Corp of Engineers, and have the silt tested for contaminants, but surely this should have been put on the fast track after 2002. I’ve heard cost mentioned as a reason this didn’t occur, but that doesn’t pass the laugh test. Compared to the loss of revenue from water sales and the tax revenue being lost by affected businesses, this is false economics. Having driven by area lakes, the amount of silt…i.e. rich topsoil, in both lakes is huge, with its removal nearly doubling the water storage capacity. The financial investment of cleaning the lakes could be easily offset by selling the dredged topsoil to homeowners, landscapers, and developers.

Instead, Raleigh leaders have opted to further punish homeowners and the green industry (nurseries, landscapers) businesses by outlawing hand watering. I keep waiting for these same leaders to require all restaurants to close or only use paper plates and cups. How about that long-awaited ban of drinking Aquifina water, which is pumped from Falls Lake? Yes, if the spigot to the Pepsi-Cola plant (Raleigh’s largest municipal customer) was shut off, the water savings would be tremendous. Instead, city leaders have chosen the easy path of punishing only the green industry…and now the power washing industry. All other industries are only asked to follow best management practices.

It seems we need to clue the Council in that the green industry produces and sells a living product that cannot be installed without water. These are the same city leaders that require our plants to be used in the form of a mandatory landscape ordinance. Imagine the outrage if our esteemed leaders did something equally as bizarre and banned pet watering and bathing. To not allow any hand watering for the green industry is the same as forcing a non-water dependant business to close. Where’s the common sense? We’re all willing to do our part, but we are not willing to shoulder the entire burden for the city’s lack of planning. Let’s start by cutting off the water to these same city leaders that got us into this situation. Then, let’s rescind the hand-watering ban and please, let’s think before passing any more ridiculous regulations that put so many people out of business and residents out of work…shame, shame, shame!

-Tony Avent

As always, we thank you for your continued support and patronage.

Please direct all replies and questions to office@plantdelights.com.

Thanks and enjoy