2008 Plant Delights Nursery October Newsletter

Greetings from PDN and we hope all is well in your garden. It’s been a challenging time since we last wrote, from Hurricane Ike to the stock market dropping like a hot potato. Our thoughts go out to the people and gardens affected by Hurricane Ike. At the Stephen F. Austin Mast Arboretum in Nacogdoches, TX, the Pineywoods section of the garden no longer has many pines or woods of any kind. The photos I’ve seen show the Arboretum stunningly devastated. Likewise, Mercer Arboretum & Botanic Gardens in Houston suffered severe damage from both wind and flooding. Moody Gardens on Galveston Island also suffered heavy damage, but has reopened. Our thoughts and prayers are with those who were adversely affected by the storm.

Outside of Hurricane Ike, this has been about as good of a late summer and fall as it gets. The temperature in most of the Southeast has been far below normal and we have had good rains leaving us 7.5″ above normal for our yearly rainfall. There are still some very dry parts of the country including areas around western NC, eastern TN, upstate SC, and south to Atlanta.

We’ve just finished our fall inventory as we crunch numbers and figure out which new and returning plants have earned the right to grace the pages of our 2009 catalog. While we’re pretty good at predicting sales numbers, we occasionally overpropagate or the catalog photo just wasn’t as good as we had hoped, so this is your chance to benefit from our errors as we clear out our overstocked plants with a 20% off sale. You can find the list of items which are on sale on our Sale Page. The sale is only valid on orders placed between now and November 2 for delivery by November 15. Enjoy.

We’d like to congratulate Raleigh Landscape Architect and PDN customer, Rodney Swink for being awarded the American Society of Landscape Architects LaGasse Medal for his leadership in management and conservancy of natural resources and public lands. Rodney is the Director of the NC Department of Commerce’s Office of Urban Development … congratulations!

In other news from the gardening world, Dr. H. Marc Cathey passed away on October 8 following a long struggle with Parkinson’s disease at age 79. Marc served two terms as president of the American Horticultural Society from 1974 to 1978 and again from 1993-1997. Marc began his studies at NC State University, with a BS in 1950, and later finished his Ph.D at Cornell. In 1956, he began his career at the USDA Agricultural Research Service in Beltsville, MD. After some pioneer work with day length and its use in forcing horticultural crops, he was promoted to Director of the US National Arboretum in 1981 where he remained until he retired from government service. During his career, Marc was the ultimate showman when it came to horticultural promotion. From the New American Garden concept to the Capitol Columns, to the 1990 USDA Hardiness Zone Map, Marc was unquestionably a marketing genius. With his flamboyant personality, Las Vegas style, and oversized ego, you either loved or hated Marc, but without question he tirelessly promoted gardening until the end. If I see you at the bar one night, we’ll share more Marc stories.

If you live in the Research Triangle region of NC, and have an area you’d like to clear of unwanted vegetation, there is help available in the form of the goat patrol. Having used goats here at PDN when we first purchased the property, I can attest both to their effectiveness and their entertainment value. Anyway, if you’d like something with a little more personality than a weedtrimmer, go for it.

Last month I mentioned our Taiwan expedition log was coming, but it took a bit longer than expected to get the 400 images posted.

Visitors to our garden in October are constantly amazed at the fall show of color … other than garden mums. As gardeners, we miss such an opportunity when we don’t take advantage of the great plants that enjoy strutting their stuff this time of year.

This has been an especially great year for dahlias. Typically, dahlias flower in spring and slow down during the heat of summer. Since dahlias prefer cool nights, we get our best flowering of the season when fall rolls around. We are particularly enamored with the dark foliaged types, of which many new cultivars have been recently released, most from European breeding programs. We’re constantly asked about winter hardiness, and in our region of NC, dahlias are reliable when left in the ground over the winter. Based on our experience, it should be fine to leave dahlias in the ground in regions which only hit 0 degrees F for short periods. Since dahlias are tubers, there is no problem planting them in the fall. D. ‘Party’ and D. ‘Flame’ are personal favorites, but then I like my plants a little on the tacky side.

Without question, one of the other great plant groups for fall is salvia. Salvia greggii is actually a woody subshrub that we treat as a perennial. Like dahlias, they start flowering in spring, but their real show comes in fall as the nights cool. Other salvia species with the same traits include the US native Salvia farinacea and the South American Salvia guaranitica. I do not recommend planting them in fall if you are in the same zone of their maximum hardiness. In other words, don’t plant a Zone 7 salvia in the fall while living in Zone 7 … fine in Zone 8, etc. Another group of salvias are those that only flower in fall, triggered by shortening day length. These include the giant yellow-flowering Salvia madrensis, the tall blue-spiked S. ‘Blue Chiquita’, the tall Salvia leucantha and Salvia puberula, and the bright red-orange Salvia regla.

Not only are there good salvias for fall, but there are good salvia relatives that are easy to miss because they were kicked out of the genus salvia for alternative sexual habits. These include rabdosia, perovskia, rostrinucula, leonotis, and lepechinia. Rabdosia longituba is the one of the five that must have shade … no sun or it’ll burn like a blue-eyed blonde. For us, rabdosia comes into flower from late September to mid-October with hundred of tiny blue flowers. It reseeds politely, so plant accordingly. Rostrinucula is unquestionably one of my favorite fall-flowering plants and one I would not garden without. From the ground, it resprouts in spring to reach 4′ tall, and starting in late August, it flowers into November, covered with long, pendent terminal catkins of lavender that open at the top and progress downward while the catkin extends. It’s one of those cool plants that just makes you smile. Lepechinia hastata is the crown jewel of the genus and looks like a 5′ tall salvia. The menthol-fragranced leaves serve as a nice foil to the tall spikes of mauvy lavender flowers that last from late August until frost. Lepechinia is particularly drought and heat tolerant as well as being a favorite of hummingbirds. Leonotis is known in some gardening circles, but virtually unknown in others. Here in our part of NC, we are at the northern end of hardiness range for this gem. Leonotis is just coming into full flower with tall spikes of bright orange flower balls. There isn’t much unknown about perovskia, but after being the ‘flavor of the month’ for years as a staple of ‘The New American Garden,’ its availability has waned in recent years as growers moved on to other new introductions. Despite not getting the headlines it used to, it is still one of the stalwarts for hot, dry gardens. As is the case with most of these genera, drought tolerance isn’t an issue once the plants are established.

The cyclamen, in particular C. hederifolium, have just outdone themselves this year. As always, they start flowering for us in July and continue non-stop into fall. Early on, we had little success with them until we learned they need to be planted where they will be dry in the summer months, simulating their Mediterranean upbringing. We look for areas we can’t keep wet in the summer, despite irrigation, and plant them there. Areas near water-hogging trees and shrubs are perfect … as long as they aren’t completely dark. We find light shade to several hours of sun is perfect. These are great to plant now, since they continue to grow through the winter.

We all recognize the toad lilies as being great fall bloomers for the woodland garden, and I hope you have explored some of the newer and lesser known members of the genus. Most folks start with the axillary-flowering Tricyrtis hirta, which is still one of the best in the genus. Another of the purple-flowering species is the stoloniferous Tricyrtis formosana, which is less hardy, but flowers terminally for a much longer time in late summer. There are also a number of hybrids between T. formosana and T. hirta including T. ‘Imperial Banner’, and T. ‘Sinonome’. In addition to the great variegated foliage, our clumps of T. ‘Imperial Banner’ are simply stunning in flower this fall.

Many folks grow red hot pokers, but most of the common species and cultivars are either spring or summer growers. Kniphofia rooperi is one of the few exceptions, as it starts flowering in late August to early September and is still in flower. I particularly like the flower heads, which are shorter, but much wider than the spring flowering species. If you haven’t grown this great plant, and like pokers, I think you will find it outstanding.

You don’t normally think of coreopsis for flowering in the fall, but southeast US natives, C. helianthoides and C. integrifolia are simply stunning this time of year. Both species are spreading plants, native to wet soils, yet both are amazing garden specimens in the driest garden spots. We’re currently sold out of C. integrifolia, but put this on your list for spring.

We all know ornamental grasses are stalwarts of the fall garden, but few can hold a candle to Muhlenbergia capillaris ‘White Cloud’. Unfortunately this gem comes into flower about four weeks after our fall open house, so visitors don’t get to see it in person. The 4′ tall x 4′ wide clumps of this great native are topped now with airy plumes of white flowers. The other favorite fall bloomer is the giant sugar cane, Saccharum arundinaceum. This grass is not for the faint of heart with its 12′ plumes of lavender, opening in mid-October.

In the Top 25 this month, there were no new moves into the top 30, although Aloe polyphylla, Agave ‘Creme Brulee’, Anisacanthus wrightii, and Clematis ‘Stolwijk Gold’ lurk close behind. Euphorbia ‘Nothowlee’ continues its climb upward, moving into the 3rd position, where it will need a huge leap to overtake either of the top 2 by year’s end. The lovely and talented Salvia chamaedryoides moves into 7th place, while Tiarella ‘Pink Skyrocket’ also cracks the Top 10. It is amazing to be this close to the end of the season and still find 3 agaves in the Top 10 and 6 in the top 30. Gaillardia ‘Fanfare’ has made a late season move, jumping from 20th to 15th, but no other significant moves took place. We hope your choices have put you in place to win our $250 Plant Delights gift certificate.

We hope you enjoy your garden this fall season as much as we do ours. For a little solace from the constant barrage of 24/7 media, remember, there’s no place like a garden. From the bottom of our hearts, we thank you for your continued support and hope to see you soon!

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

Thanks and enjoy