2010 Plant Delights Nursery March Newsletter

Dear PDN’ers:

So far, it’s been a great spring in Raleigh as we just missed a late spring frost when the temperature dropped to 33 degrees F on March 27, after 3+ weeks of above freezing temperatures. We’ve got a couple weeks that could still have a killing frost, so we’re keeping our fingers…and other body parts crossed until then. I recently returned from speaking to a great group in northwest Arkansas, who weren’t as lucky. Despite being 70 degrees F when I first arrived, I left just before a snowstorm dropped a foot of snow on the region and adjacent to Oklahoma. The area is still recovering from a massive ice storm 2 years earlier that left the region looking like low-end tree pruning firms had a citywide special on tree topping.

We’ve just added a batch of new plants to the web, most are available in a limited supply including some fabulous new hellebores from both Ernie and Marietta O’Byrne ( the Winter Jewels Series), and from Glenn Withey and Charles Price ( the Mardi Gras Series). These amazing plants are not to be missed if you like cool hellebores. We’ve got a small number of the always popular Disporum flavens that we can spare and, as promised, we have a few of the miniature Narcissus ‘Julia Jane’ for those who have a predilection for cute, dwarf narcissus. Four arisaemas have also just been added: A. concinnum, A. kishidae ‘Jack Frost’, A. kiushianum, and our US native, A. triphyllum. Finally, we have a few plants to spare of the amazing golden-leaf bleeding heart, Dicentra ‘Goldheart’, which we haven’t offered in several years.

Click for Web or Open House Only Plants It’s interesting each season to watch what sells and what doesn’t. There are always a few surprises in both directions and topping this year’s list of “why don’t you like me?” is Chrysosplenium macrophyllum. It’s taken us Epimedium grandiflorum ‘Purple Prince’ (Fairy Wings) 10 years to build up enough stock and so far, only 2 of you have indulged. Okay, it’s pretty esoteric and granted, we don’t have any idea how far north it will survive, but how are we going to find out unless you give this plant a try? So, what happened to Epimedium grandiflorum ‘Purple Prince’, which has sold well in the past, but is feeling no love this spring? Perhaps we need to learn Photoshop™, to enhance the image color like one of the Dutch catalogs I was looking through this weekend. I wonder how many folks realize that they are being enticed by totally unrealistic enhancements. I actually thought that using unrealistic enhancements to attract mates for money was illegal …hmmm.

There’s nothing like plant name changes to get gardeners riled up, but these come about due to a variety of different reasons. Just because one taxonomist decides a plant deserves a new name, we don’t jump up and immediately make the change. We give these changes little attention until we have time to study the research to see if it makes sense with our personal experiences. In many cases, these name changes are reversed years later, causing those who want to be the first to jump on a passing bandwagon, to jump off again, and leaving everyone else thoroughly confused. A good example is that of the aroid Sauromatum venosum. In 2000, a couple of my aroid buddies (Aroidiana Volume 23, pg. 48) decided their research showed that sauromatum was actually a typhonium, and subsequently did away with the genus sauromatum. To us, something about that just didn’t smell right…a little aroid pun. Fast forward a decade later and guess what? Sauromatum is being reinstated as a genus and Sauromatum venosum is being moved out of typhonium and back into sauromatum. Note to all of you folks who jumped on the earlier bandwagon…it’s time to disembark. We have the same thoughts about the lumping of cimicifuga into actaea…someone was sniffing too much herbarium dust.

This brings me to the latest taxonomic snafu…trachycarpus palms. For years, we have grown three primary species: Trachycarpus fortunei, Trachycarpus takil, and Trachycarpus wagnerianus. There have been extensive articles written about Trachycarpus takil and the trek to find the real plant to gather seed (Princeps 37(1) 1993, pp 19-25). Guess what we learned in 2009? They gathered seed off the wrong plants. It turns out that virtually everything in cultivation and in writings about Trachycarpus takil is actually a form of Trachycarpus fortunei from the Indian town of Nanital, so this plant is now referred to as Trachycarpus fortunei ‘Nanital’. Although this represents a name change, it is quite different from the example above because this is simply a correction of an earlier error.

While we’re discussing trachycarpus, another problem plant is Trachycarpus wagnerianus. This species was described from a single plant that was being cultivated in Japan and has never been seen or documented in the wild. This is a classic example of poor taxonomy, but was accepted for decades in the past when the opportunity for field studies was more difficult. It is our own and other palm growers contention that this is nothing more than a compact form of Trachycarpus fortunei and therefore, we are changing its name to Trachycarpus fortunei ‘Wagnerianus’. This is not something new, having been proposed since 1977 (Principes Vol 21, 1977, pp. 155-160). I hope these examples illustrate the methods behind the name changing madness, and that all name changes aren’t created equal.

In news from the botanic garden world, Dr. Peter Wyse Jackson, 55, has been selected as the next director of the Missouri Botanic Garden, succeeding Dr. Peter Raven, who had previously announced his retirement. At least the staff won’t have to learn a new name since Peter will be following Peter…there’s probably a great joke in there, but I digress. Jackson is currently Director of the Dublin Botanic Garden in his native Ireland but will assume the directorship of MOBOT (as it is known in botanical circles) on September 1, 2010 and will work alongside Peter Raven until July 2011.

We also recently learned that our good friend, Viki Ferennia, author of Wildflowers in Your Garden (1993), and former assistant horticulturist at Wayside Gardens has taken over as the lead horticulturist at Ohio’s Holden Arboretum. It’s great to have Viki back in public horticulture…congratulations!

The Scott Arboretum has announced Bill McNamara of California’s Quarryhill Botanic Garden as the winner of the prestigious 2010 Scott Medal. I’ve had the pleasure of visiting Quarryhill several times and it was great to have Bill finally visit PDN in 2006. Bill has managed the gardens since their inception by the late Jane Jansen who, in 1987, turned part of her vineyard into a repository for wild-collected Asian native plants. Quarryhill is located in the Napa Valley region of California, and if Asian plants are your interest, be sure to drop by when you are in the area.

I was saddened to learn that my longtime friend and sedum breeder, Edward (Crazy Ed) Skrocki passed away on March 23 at the age of 79, only weeks after he was diagnosed with a very aggressive form of cancer. Ed is survived by his sister, Doris Skok of Pennsylvania as well as four nieces and nephews.

Ed was a fascinating man (and I don’t use the term lightly) and the type of character that I also find truly interesting. I first visited Ed 20 years ago on his 30 acre farm in Southington, Ohio (just outside of Cleveland). We pulled up to find a 90lb man in a bee suit – black spandex shorts, a yellow and black striped shirt, and bobbing antennas attached to his head…out pollinating sempervivums (hens and chickens). At the time, Ed claimed to have over 3000 named varieties of sempervivums. Eddie was an eclectic collector of plants with his specialties including hosta, ajuga, sedums, orostachys, and sempervivums. Some of his sempervivum introductions that are still on the market include S. ‘Bedivere’, S. ‘Circus’, S. ‘Climax’, S. ‘Flamingo’, S. ‘Gizmo’, S. ‘Grape Tone’, S. ‘Happy’, S. ‘Icycle’, S. ‘Jewel Case’, S. ‘Kip’, S. ‘Lively Bug’, S. ‘Mars’, S. ‘Montage’, S. ‘Ohioan’, S. ‘Pink Cloud’, S. ‘Royal Ruby’, S. ‘Rubikon Improved’, S. ‘Skrocki’s Bronze’, S. ‘Spanish Dancer’, S. ‘Starshine’, S. ‘Streaker’, S. ‘Utopia’, and S. ‘Witchery’ …to mention a few.

My first trip to have lunch with Ed was in his nursery delivery vehicle.an old Cadillac hearse which drew stares wherever we parked. During the same first trip, Ed took us to see his neighbor, Mike Tyson…yes, the boxer, and although he wasn’t home, we did get to see his massive estate. Ed was also a collector of old cars, in particular hearses and Packards. Ed could often be found selling Packard parts at car shows in the 1980s.

Ed was able to acquire many species of sedums from collectors in China and Germany before anyone else, because he was able to trade on the huge black market for nude matchbook covers (I’m not making this up) in those countries. One of my favorite sedums, Sedum tetractinum, which is now sold around the country, is only in the country because of Ed’s trading prowess. His matchbook cover collection was legendary, and only expanded years ago when his garbage man told him of a widow in Cleveland who discarded boxes of matchbook covers which Ed immediately purchased for a few hundred dollars. Ed estimated there were over 1 million books, all between 1930 and 1960. Ed had a penchant for turning trash into treasure. I remember when he cleared around his pond one year in the late 1980s and subsequently painted bundles of brush, covered them with glitter and voila…glitter twigs, of which he sold thousands.

Did I mention that Ed dug three wells to have water to irrigate his nursery, but to his dismay, he hit natural gas all three times, and finally resorted to buying his water? Ed had a large property that he rented out for groups…he liked to tell folks that he rented the property to gay groups in the summer and straight groups in the winter. Some folks weren’t quite sure how to take Ed, and he frightened off many young men as he jokingly threatened to let the air out of their tires so they couldn’t leave.

Ed allowed us to introduce two of his hosta seedlings to the market, Hosta ‘Patrician’ in 1993 and Hosta ‘Cadillac’ in 1998. Several years ago, I finally persuaded a reluctant Ed to appear on Erica Glasener’s television series, “Gardener’s Diary”. Ed claimed to be miserable doing the show until the finished tapes arrived, which he proudly sent around the world to all of his plant friends. If you ever get to see the show, watch for the repeat of Ed’s fascinating segment. For those of us who corresponded with Ed and received his exhaustive handwritten notes on his trademark pea-soup-green paper, he will be sorely missed…the plant world has lost another of its true characters.

In the “I’m from the government and I’m here to help” files, The National Invasive Species Information Center has reported a new bill regarding invasive plant species has been entered in the Maryland General Assembly. The introduction and reading of this new bill will, according to their website, “…designates 45 plant species as invasive plants and authorizes the Maryland Department of Agriculture to designate additional species of plants as “invasive”, requires retail outlets and landscapers to provide certain disclosures regarding invasive plants and makes a violation of the law a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of $500. See Maryland Noxious Weed I.D. (PDF | 500 KB) for the 6 plant species currently regulated in Maryland.” The text in the link also includes a list of the 45 plants which will be designated as “invasive”.

Obviously, the folks who put together this list are nothing more than a bunch of ethnic cleansing eco-nazis, since many of the plants are indeed weeds. Only a few rise to the level of truly invasive plants…those which invade a natural functioning ecosystems, displace natives once population equilibrium has been reached. We used to say that these plants naturalized well which was a selling point. There is a concerted effort by a small but vocal group of folks to use ethnic profiling to limit the use of plants that don’t fit their narrow view of what is acceptably indigenous at their mystically established point in time. Of course, if they really wanted to be taken seriously, that list should first include humans, European honeybees, and earthworms …which are all terribly invasive and unmistakably alien.

As part of our educational mission, we continue to add newly written plant articles to the website. You can find our most recent additions by clicking on the links below. Feel free to link to any of these from your own website and share with friends who may also be interested.

Cypripedium Orchids – Does the Lady Slipper Fit Your Garden? www.cypripediumladyslipperorchid.com

Buddleia – The Butterfly Bush www.buddleiabutterflybush.com

Ringing the Coral Bells – The Heuchera and xHeucherella Story www.heucheracoralbells.com

Tiarella – A Crown in the Garden www.tiarellafoamflower.com

Hardy Terrestrial Orchids for Southeast Gardens www.hardyorchidplants.com

Echinacea Explosion – The Coneflower Chronicles www.echinaceaconeflower.com

Winter Hardy Palms for Temperate Gardens www.hardypalm.net

Again, we truly thank you for your business.

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

Click here to Subscribe, Unsubscribe, or change your email.

Thanks and enjoy

-tony