2007 Plant Delights Nursery July Newsletter

Greetings from Plant Delights and we hope the summer find you all well.

We recently finished our 2007 Summer Open House and would like to thank everyone who took time out of their busy schedules to visit and take home a few special plants. For those who have never been to visit us in the summer, this is a great chance to see numerous summer flowering plants, many of which only make an appearance during the summer months. We really hope we can encourage more folks to visit during this exciting time of year in the garden. If you missed our open house, we’re just over a week away from hosting the Summer Meeting of the Southeastern Palm Society.

This is a great chance to talk with other palm and exotic plant growers from around the southeast, as well as pick up some of the latest new plants. If you would like to attend and are not a member of SPS (we hope you will join SPS at the meeting), just email our Administrative Assistant, Julie Picolla, so we can get a head count of how many to expect for lunch. You can download the meeting schedule at www.sepalms.org/SPS_Meetings_News.htm.

The 2007 Fall Plant Delights Catalog is at the printers and will go in the mail next week. Thank goodness I can finally unchain myself from this computer and head back out into the garden where I belong. It’ll take days to wipe the chlorophyll from my keyboard, so don’t expect me to be back into the office anytime soon. I can tell that focusing on writing catalogs gets progressively more difficult as you age… either that or my ADHD is getting much worse. Regardless, the symptoms are the same.

As with all fans of native plants, we mourn the passing of former First Lady, Lady Bird Johnson. I hope everyone has had the opportunity to visit the wonderful center named in her honor in Austin, Texas. If not, put it on your list. You can find out more at www.wildflower.org.

In other gardening news, Dr. David Creech, director of the SFA Mast Arboretum in Nacogdoches, Texas, will be retiring at the end of August and that opens a position in the horticulture program at Stephen F. Austin State University. If you’ve got your PhD and are passionate about plants, consider throwing your proverbial hat in the ring. SFASU is an exciting place, not just because most of the former Space Shuttle Challenger pieces landed there, but because Dr. Creech’s boundless enthusiasm for plants has resulted in a truly amazing botanical collection. As a good friend of the late Dr. JC Raulston, he shared the same philosophy and vision…. It’s all about the plants. If you’ve never seen the collections at SFASU, put this on your list to visit the next time you’re in East Texas.

Another change that came as a shock to most of us in the horticulture world was the spring departure of Doug Ruhren from the Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden. It was Doug’s design skills and plant knowledge that took Daniel Stowe from a flat country field to a destination garden, setting it apart from the cookie-cutter gardens that are popping up around the country. It’s a shame that something as silly as differing management philosophies over how to deal with problem staff were allowed to get in the way of keeping a horticulturist as brilliant as Doug at the garden. Far too often, garden management folks simply don’t realize the importance and scarcity of top flight horticulture and subsequently lose the heart and soul of their gardens. Doug is still actively involved in garden design with both private and public projects.

In other news, the famous Western Hills Nursery in Occidental, California has new owners. The property and nursery has been purchased by Robert Stansel and Joseph Gatta. For those who might be unfamiliar with Western Hills Nursery, it was opened in 1960 by famed California horticulturists Marshall Olbrich and Lester Hawkins, who bequeathed the nursery to one of their staff members, Maggie Wych. For much of its existence, Western Hills was considered the top nursery in the country to acquire new rare plants, and on more than one occasion the late Dr. JC Raulston raved about visiting Western Hills. Not only did the nursery offer great plants, but the 3-acre garden is a plantsman’s masterpiece. After struggling with the nursery’s financial health, Wych put the nursery up for sale in 2005. The nursery has now reopened, and you can find out more, including how to visit, by going to www.westernhillsnursery.com”.

In news that just delights me, The Garden Conservancy has adopted Pearl Fryar’s topiary garden in Bishopville, SC, as one of its new conservation projects. I first met Pearl nearly a decade ago when we were both working on the same program, and I came away with a new appreciation of topiary and for the soul of a very special man. If you haven’t read Pearl’s heartwarming story, take time to read about him and hopefully visit his garden at www.fryarstopiaries.com.

Horticulture magazine has announced a fall symposium in Raleigh on Saturday, October 20. The symposium includes a line-up of Lucy Hardiman, designer and author from Oregon; Scott Kunst of Old House Gardens; Landscape Architect Gordon Hayward of Vermont; Rosemary Alexander, founder of the English Gardening School at the Chelsea Physic Garden; and Horticulture.s own Nan Sinton. We’re hosting a special brunch on Friday morning at the nursery before the symposium, where you will be able to tour the gardens and… if the mood strikes you… shop until you drop. We hope to see you here. Details are available at www.hortmag.com.

It’s been quite the year for Amorphophallus titanum flowering. Just after the plant at UNC-Charlotte flowered, another at Cleveland’s Clemet Zoo flowered. To learn more or to see the video, go to www.clemetzoo.com/animal_plant/horticulture/cronus.asp.

Amorphophallus are one of our specialty research genera to determine which species might survive outdoors in our warm temperate climate. Amorphophallus are quite valuable for a lightly shaded garden since most don’t emerge before late spring/early summer and add a valuable freshness when the woodland garden begins to tire as the spring ephemerals go dormant. Not all amorphophallus species have huge or incredibly smelly flowers, but all do possess the delightful form of a deciduous perennial palm tree. Additionally, the seed heads provide another great garden feature. A. henry produces club-like spikes of blue fruit, A. konjac delivers a giant stalk of orange berries, and A. kiusianus produces fruit that starts pink and gradually turns blue. Another interesting thing we’ve noticed is that most species grow better in partial sun and in some cases full sun for several hours. Dense shade tends to produce very weak plants that aren’t particularly attractive. We’re now up to 11 species that have been successful outdoors in the ground… see the list below. There are still many more species that we are yet to try, and we hope for a few more hardy species.

* A. albus
* A. bulbifer
* A. corrugatus
* A. dunnii
* A. henryi
* A. kiusianus
* A. konjac
* A. symonianus
* A. thaiensis
* A. yuloensis
* A. yunnanensis

For the first time in several years, we are working to catch up on Hosta registrations from our breeding program. While our hosta breeding has continued, we simply have not had the time to catch up on evaluations and subsequent registrations. After dedicating three consecutive days to the project, we have named 18 new hostas, most of which will be gradually introduced over the next few years. We are also changing the name of our Hosta ‘Chickadee’ to ‘Dixie Chickadee’ since research revealed that the late Dr. Herb Benedict introduced (but never registered) a plant by the same name. The name change will be reflected in our catalog as of January 2008. We feel this will be the easiest way to avoid possible confusion.

There are so many great plants that look great in the summer that it often makes us wish that visitors could see them all, but the best we can do is to tell you about them and hope you will try them for yourselves. I’ll start with some of the late-flowering daylilies. If you’re like most folks, your normal daylilies have come and gone, but not if you grow some of the wonderful late-flowering varieties. While there are some modern day breeders working on late-flowering varieties, many of the most popular selections are still WWII era introductions. Two of my favorites which are in full flower now are H. ‘Autumn Minaret’ (yellow) and H. ‘August Flame’ (red).

Other flowers similar in height include the perennial Alstroemerias, such as Mark Bridgen’s great hybrids, A. ‘Freedom’ and A. ‘Sweet Laura’… both great in the garden and for making summer flower arrangements.

Mid to late July is also when the first of the ginger (hedychium) hybrids start to flower. The first in what will be a summer sucession of flowers include H. densiflorum ‘Stephen’, H. ‘Kanogie’, H. ‘Daniel Weeks’, and H. coccineum ‘Flaming Torch’. While the plants will survive amazing drought conditions, remember that moisture is the key to good hedychium flowering. Additionally, planting hedychiums on a slope is preferred, although certainly not necessary. One of the things that struck me in the wild is that hedychiums are always found growing on a slope.

There are a number of great summer bulbs including crocosmias. The new selections from David Tristam are exceptionally good flowering and a far cry from C. ‘Lucifer’, which essentially crowds itself out and stops flowering after only one season.

Other favorite summer-flowering bulbs include the many selections of crinum and lycoris. Crinums are winter dormant, while lycoris are dormant in spring and early summer. Both plants provide a great mid to late summer show, despite the vargaries of the weather. Many of the crinums and lycoris have also proven to be much more winter hardy than some gardening texts give them credit. Thanks to help from our bulb friends, we’ve been able to assemble one of the best offerings of both of these great bulb genera that you’ll find. While both are great southern pass-along plants, you first need a friend to pass them along. In the meantime, we’ll be your intermediary.

Lilies…yes, summer is the time for a great show of lilies. Many of the asiatic hybrids don’t do much for me, but some of the species selections are phenomenal. Lilium formosanum is certainly hard to beat for a white lily, but the yellow-orange Lilium henryi provides a different effect with its arching stems of pendant flowers. If you haven’t grown the recently discovered US native Lilium pyrophilum, then you’ve missed a truly great lily… find a moist spot and enjoy! Lest I end without mentioning Lilium lancifolium ‘Flora Plena’. The amazing tiger lily is great in the garden, great as a cut flower, and also makes bulbils in the leaf axils that you can share with gardening friends.

If you like red hot pokers, how about some that bloom in the summer? One of my favorite summer flowering clones is Kniphofia ‘Nancy’s Red’, which is in full flower as we speak. I couldn’t stop without mentioning the wonderful eupatoriums. All it takes is a slightly moist location and you’ll have a landing tower for butterflies, not to mention the wonderful bouffant purple flower heads. I could go on for hours, but I’m already two pages over what marketing consultants tell us that customers will actually bother to read… you know, short attention spans and all that garbage.

In other plant news, we like to let you know when we find a mix-up or when a plant doesn’t perform as we have touted it. This is going back a few years, but we offered a Hosta ‘Blue and Gold’ in 2003, which was reportedly a sport of H. ‘Hadspen Blue’. Now that our plant is mature, it is obviously H. ‘Tokudama Flavocircinalis’… a great hosta, but not a sport of H. ‘Hadspen Blue’. If you are one of the seven people who purchased these, change your tags.

We have also been very disappointed at the overwintering performance of many of the new coreopsis hybrids. Part of the problem seems to be that one of the parents that imparts the cool colors to the hybrids is Coreopsis tinctoria, which is an annual species. While true winter hardiness is not the problem, we are finding that when planted in the ground and allowed to flower, they are not surviving even our last two mild winters of 15 degrees F. Reportedly, non-flowering plants installed in late fall will survive fine. A few folks tell me that if they are cut to the ground in the early fall, that this may help with winter survival, but we aren’t betting on this. Researchers from NC State University think the problem is that the excessive flowering does not allow energy to go into developing enough basal growth for the plant to overwinter. We are pulling these from the market and hope the introducers of these will be willing to assist us with refunding money to customers (yeah, right!) who have not found them to be as winter hardy as promised. To get a credit or refund, just email our customer service department at office@plantdelights.com.

As if we needed more pests, the following alert from the Florida Department of Agriculture may be of interest for those living in or vacationing to Florida. To quote information from officials in Florida, ‘The redbay ambrosia beetle, Xyleborus glabratus was first detected in the U.S. in a survey trap in Georgia in 2002. It now exists from Florida to South Carolina on redbay and sassafras. Not enough is known about this ambrosia beetle, but its behavior seems very similar to the Granulate (Asian) ambrosia beetle. This beetle also makes “toothpicks” and is thought to vector a wilt disease. Please report any wilting or bark beetle activity on redbay or sassafras so it can be checked.” For more information, see the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Pest Alert at www.doacs.state.fl.us/pi/enpp/ento/x.glabratus.html.

There’s been some movement in the Top 25 this month, although most of the list has stayed relatively stable. Tiarella ‘Pink Skyrocket’ zoomed from off the list last month to 10th place overall, while Nierembergia ‘Starry Eyes’ also shot from 22nd to 14th place. In a couple of other big moves, the perennial hollyhock, Alcea rugosa, jumped from off the list to 19th place and Aloe polyphylla moved from 27th to 20th. So, how are your top 25 predictions faring? Only four more months remain before we award the $250 Plant Delights gift certificate to the person who came the closest to predicting the correct finishing order of sales.

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

Thanks and enjoy