2008 Plant Delights Nursery March Newsletter

Spring is well on its way here at Plant Delights as many of the spring ephemerals are in full flower. We’re hoping some of the early plants will slow down a bit to avoid a devastating April freeze like we endured in 2007. All in all, it’s been a good winter, although we could have done without the early March freeze (24 degrees F) that took out the flowers on the early magnolias, including M. denudata, M. ‘Galaxy’, and Michellia maudiae.

We’ve completed another great winter open house, but still have some superb selected flowering hellebores we’re adding to the web. These are available in limited quantities, so don’t delay. We also added a total of 56 new or returning plants you may wish to peruse.

The first waves of epimediums are just opening including E. stellatum, E. acuminatum, E. epsteinii, E. sempervirens, E. davidii, E. franchetii, and the early flowering E. grandiflorum ‘Yubae’. The rest of the species and hybrids will be following over the next month. Every year we become more enamored with this fun group of fairy wings, but beware, epimedium collecting is addictive. We’ve also been raising quite a few of our own seedlings and have some really special plants that we’ve been watching for several years. We should be making some final selections this year and look forward to getting them propagated for sale.

Another of our favorite early spring woodland plants is Sanguinaria canadensis (bloodroot). This delightful native wildflower (named for the red sap that emerges from the crushed roots) is one of the first rites of spring and a sign that spring is finally here. The single flowered forms open first, followed several weeks later by the splendid double flowered Sanguinaria canadensis ‘Multiplex’. If you grow sanguinaria, be sure to divide your clumps every 3-4 years. If not, sanguinaria suffers from a strange malady that causes the entire clump to dry rot if not divided.

Several of the early flowering iris are also gracing the garden now including the winter growing Iris unguicularis and the early spring-flowering Iris japonica ‘Eco Easter’. This has been a superb year for Iris unguicularis, which has been flowering on and off for several months. Iris ‘Eco Easter’ is a superb form of Iris japonica and is one of the only forms of this species to flower in our climate, which is typically too cold for the developing flower buds. This is a widely spreading species, so be sure to allow enough room for it to spread.

Also in flower now is the wonderful Cyclamen coum with its pink flowers held just above the silver and green patterned leaves. Accompanying the cyclamen are the perennial primulas including a number of Primula vulgaris cultivars. We are very thrilled to have discovered quite a few primulas which survive as perennials in our hot, humid, anti-primula climate.

The Boraginaceae family provides several great early spring bloomers including pulmonarias (lungwort) and Trachystemon orientalis. Most of our pulmonarias have just begun to flower, most opening blue and changing to pink. Two of our top performers are Pulmonaria ‘Trevi Fountain’ and P. ‘Samourai’. The closely related trachystemon forms a large basal rosette of large fuzzy dark green leaves that emerge just as the 8″ tall flower spikes of small blue dodecatheon-like flowers fade. Trachystemon is an incredibly tough woodland groundcover that is amazingly drought tolerant.

Last month, I mentioned the yellow-flowering Nothoscordum sellowianum as one of my favorite winter flowering bulbous plants, and while it is still in full flower, it has now been joined by another favorite, Fritillaria thunbergii. I got my first start of this unusual summer dormant gem from plantsman John Elsley and planted it into our woodland, where it has thrived for us for more than a decade. The narrow leaves with hooked ends adorn the upright stalks that are now topped with bizarre flowers that seem oblivious to subfreezing temperatures.

A few other plants that dare to flower at the end of the winter season include Euphorbias with E. characias in their parentage. This includes not only the species itself, but the wonderful hybrid E. ‘Nothowlee’. Although it’s not usually thought of for winter flowers, rosemary is simply stunning in the winter garden. We have a giant clump of Rosmarinus ‘Arp’, growing just outside our front door so we not only enjoy the dark blue winter flowers but also the evergreen foliage that makes a wonderful addition to Michelle’s rosemary chicken.

We’ve finally had enough rain that all of the local reservoirs are full or nearly so … including the poorly managed Falls Lake Reservoir (now 2.7′ below full) that feeds Raleigh and surrounding cities. City leaders have such a lack of respect for the Green Industry that they banned all hose watering, while allowing car washes to remain in operation as long as they use no more than 55 gallons per car, or no more than 3 gallons per minute for self-serve washes. It’s pretty clear by their logic, clean cars are far more important than live plants.

For those who have visited Plant Delights, there is a good chance you have dined at the nearby landmark, Stephenson’s Nursery and Barbeque. It is with sadness that I report the death of its founder, Paul Stephenson, 79, of nearby McGee’s Crossroads. Mr. Paul, as he was known, played semi-pro baseball before starting the Barbeque in 1958, followed by the nursery in 1979. The nursery and barbeque will continue operating under the direction of Paul’s children.

I mentioned in an earlier E-newsletter that the Pike Nursery chain, based in Atlanta had declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy, but was to continue in operation. The latest in the unfortunate saga is that the assets of Pike have now been auctioned off.

We’re glad to report a segment shot last summer on our gardens here at Juniper Level, will air on Martha Stewart’s television show on Wednesday March 19. I’ll also be on the show live the same day. If you’re really bored that day, you can find out the time and channel in your area by going to Martha’s website, look for the local channel schedule and enter your zip code.

If you’ve submitted your ballot for our Top 25 contest, click here for the current standings. For us, the shock is the huge interest in agaves, with 6 of our top 11 best sellers belonging to that genus. The 2nd most popular genus in the Top 25 is colocasia with 3 entries. Don’t get discouraged if your selections don’t appear on the list yet, as it changes dramatically as the season progresses.

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

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

Thanks and enjoy