2009 Plant Delights Nursery October Newsletter

September was a busy month at Plant Delights, not only with our Fall Open House, but also with a visit from 655 of America’s top garden writers as the group descended upon the Raleigh-Durham area for their annual convention. It was great to meet so many folks at the nursery whose names I’d only heard, including the infamous owner of Burpee seed, George Ball. Dan Hinkley later told me that George was probably looking for more land to purchase. Not to worry… we don’t have any for sale. The weather cooperated, everyone was in good spirits, and a great time was had by all… except perhaps those involved in the post-convention bus trip mishap. To read a wonderfully unique perspective about the bus travails check out The Grumpy Gardener. Our sincere thanks to our local site chairman Pam Beck, the local organizing committee, and for those attendees who took time to visit PDN in person and make the convention such a success.

Do you have your 2010 calender started yet? Mark down Sunday, October 10 – Wednesday, October 13 when the International Plant Propagators Society Southern Region pulls into Raleigh for its annual convention. This is our first opportunity to welcome the group to our area and we hope you will make plans to join us for a super meeting. IPPS is an international professional society dedicated to propagating plants and sharing propagation information. Students, as well as anyone actively involved in plant propagation, are welcome to attend the meeting. Not only will the nursery and garden tours be top notch, but the list of speakers is a virtual “who’s who” in the nursery and academic field. Headquarters for the meeting will be the downtown Sheraton Raleigh, so save the dates, and we’ll update information about the meeting as it evolves.

Because of some major changes in the show, I’d also like to mention our upcoming NC State Fair Flower Show, which runs from October 15-25. For those who may not know, I spent my first 16 years after college working for our NC Fairgrounds, with our flower show being one of my main focuses. I’ve now been gone for 15 years and to say the show had gone downhill would be an understatement. I’m very excited, however, about this year’s NC State Fair Flower Show, now under the direction of retired NC Master Gardener Coordinator Erv Evans. Erv took over the management of the show this spring and has already made an amazing transformation on the way to returning the show to its former splendor and beyond. If you haven’t been in a few years, I hope you’ll make time to check out the changes. You can find out more about attending at The NC State Fair website.

As I mentioned last month, we’re all faced with budget cuts this year, except for many of the fruit/vegetable and the annual color producers, many of which have had record years. I’ve previously detailed some of the industry casualties and this month we add Monnier’s Country Gardens in Oregon to the list. Ron & Debbie Monnier ran an amazing nursery which specialized in fuchsias, featuring an incredible listing. It’s always a great loss when such a specialist nursery closes its doors.

Not only has the economic downturn hit nurseries, but also some botanic gardens are feeling the pinch. Due to the economic lunacy in California, the entire staff of the University of California Santa Cruz Botanic Garden has been laid off. Donations are currently being sought to keep the garden functioning. It’s a shame that folks in positions of authority don’t realize the difference between collections of living plants and other programs that can be temporarily shelved and then restarted. If you are in a position to help, visit the arboretum’s website to see how to donate to the “Save the Staff Fund”.

In other bouts of lunacy, this week I received a most disturbing national survey from the folks at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Texas. I’ve always been a big fan of the center, so I was truly appalled at the moronic survey they sent. The center has obviously been hijacked by a bunch of brainwashed, koolaid-drinking eco-Nazis that wouldn’t know science if it bit them in the backside. It’s people who perpetuate these out and out lies that cause the general public to dismiss real science-based environmental issues. Let me give you a few examples. The opening letter reads “Gardeners and growers, often seeking show-off plants, import misplaced species without any awareness of their environmental impact. As a result, we’ve imported plants, like kudzu and loosestrife, overrun natural areas, while others have just taken more water and energy than they deserve.”

Hmmm…more water and energy than they deserve? What exactly does that mean and who was anointed to decide that? Kudzu… imported without any awareness of it’s environmental impact? I don’t think so. Few plants have been as widely researched as kudzu, which was studied by our Federal Government (the folks behind the bailout), who then encouraged its widespread planting all because of its known environmental impact…it grew where little else would and held the ground from washing away. European loosestrife actually behaves well as a garden plant until it comes in contact with our native loosestrife and it is their offspring that have become the poster child for the botanical ethnic cleansing crowd.

If that’s not enough, here are more examples of the actual survey questions.

2-“Were you aware of the economic benefits of using wildflowers as opposed to other readily available plants, as listed below? They use less fertilizer, use less pesticide, and require less maintenance.”

Those statements are so moronic, it’s hard to know where to start. Native plants, as a group, DO NOT use less fertilizer, they DO NOT use less pesticide, and they DO NOT require less maintenance. These statements are patently false. For all plants, it’s about using the right plant for the right place. With proper soil preparation, no plant ever should need chemical fertilizers! If any of these statements were true, then native plants would be running wild and there would be no issue with invasive plants.

4-“Were you aware of the environmental benefits of using native plants as listed below? The absorb CO2 (carbon dioxide) and produce Oxygen. They attract beneficial wildlife such as bees and songbirds. They conserve water resources and prevent water pollution. They create natural habitat landscapes around buildings that provide energy savings.”

Again, where to begin with such mindless drivel? Note to whoever wrote this…even 3rd graders know that almost all plants regardless of their nativity absorb CO2 and produce Oxygen. Many foreign born plants are much preferred by bees and songbirds than many of our natives (read the study on the “invasive” Chinese tallow tree), and plants regardless of where they are from can produce energy savings when used correctly. As for preventing water pollution, research has shown that few plants can rival a good lawn in this regard.

I’m sure the person who wrote this letter and survey is well-intentioned (probably a big assumption), but surely someone with some measure of common sense should have proofread this garbage before it was sent out as a national survey. We are passionate about native plants…not because they are somehow better, but because they some are truly great plants. I have spent the last eight years serving on our North Carolina Plant Conservation Scientific Committee, and it is junk like this that undermines our science-based efforts to protect endangered native species. Folks, please stick to the science! Now, dismount from the soapbox and let’s get back to more plant stuff.

In our crop monitoring last month, we were shocked to find an infestation of foliar nematodes on our crop of Buddleia ‘Blue Chip’. Foliar nematodes are problematic not only because they damage the foliage and therefore the plants vigor, but they also spread by splashing water to surrounding plants.

Buddleia ‘Blue Chip’ is one of the few plants that we do not propagate ourselves due to the contract with the patent owner and the contracted grower. When our plants arrived in late spring, we didn’t detect a problem, but as it turned out, the contract grower had sprayed the plants with chemicals which masked the foliar nematode symptoms, making them impossible to detect initially. After growing the buddleias in our warm climate without regular spraying, the nematode populations regrew to levels which caused the symptoms (brown interveinal chlorosis) to be expressed.

We have visited two large wholesalers who grow Buddleia ‘Blue Chip’ and the plants they received are infested also. We know that the contract grower started with clean plants, so the infestation more than likely occurred in their propagation facility due to poor pest monitoring. We know that all plants which we received after May are infested, but we are unsure about the plants we received last fall and shipped out early this spring. We have clean stock plants in our garden and have stuck cuttings from these. As soon as this new crop is ready, (probably spring 2010) we will replace all plants shipped this year. Just to be on the safe side, we recommend destroying all Buddleia ‘Blue Chip’ plants received from us this year. The other option is to have your plants checked by your state Department of Agriculture. Please let us know if you would like a refund, credit, or replacement when the new plants are ready. We apologize for this unacceptable occurrence and appreciate your help as we get this situation resolved. Since all plants sold in the US are coming from the same grower, you should also question your retailer if you purchased Buddleia ‘Blue Chip’ from someone else.

One other smaller screw-up to report was with Hedychium densiflorum ‘Stephen’. The label on our garden specimen had been moved and the wrong plant was subsequently propagated. Again, we are re-propagating the correct clone and these will be available in spring 2010, so please contact us to get a replacement, credit, or refund.

Hedychium Brugmansia If you’re one of those who think that the only cool flowers in bloom now are pansies and garden mums, boy are you missing out on some great garden plants! The cool nights of fall have reinvigorated many summer flowering plants, while a number of others are just starting their season of bloom. The ginger lilies (Hedychium) have put on their best show of the summer now that the blooms don’t fade as quickly in the 90 degree plus heat. Their deliciously scented flowers are truly super during a garden stroll. Other similar plants for delicious nocturnal fragrance are the angel trumpets (brugmansia), which like the gingers love the fall weather, when they flower like crazy.

fuchsia malvaviscus Dahlia Dahlias are another perennial whose best season in our climate is fall. Yes, they look good from spring through summer, but they are simply superb in fall as their floriferousness multiplies. Ditto for the native malvaviscus, whose summer-long display of mini-hibiscus flowers are still produced in extraordinary abundance. I still feel I haven’t raved enough about the heat-loving, winter hardy fuchsia hybrids from Japan. The poorly named Sani-series are truly one of the most amazing horticultural break-through that I’ve ever seen… still in full bloom after an entire summer of flowering.

Geraniums Salvia Abutilon Hardy geraniums, such as G. ‘Rozanne’ are also still in full flower along with most of the salvias, especially the S. gregii types, S. guaranitica, S. regla, S. leucantha types, and any of their hybrids. Lest I forget, the amazing abutilons are another plant genera that flowers through the summer, but just explodes in bloom when fall arrives.

Rostrinucula dependens Clinopodium georgianum Cuphea micropetala Tricyrtis When thinking of plants that are only fall bloomers, the toad lily, Tricyrtis hirta, is the first one that comes to mind. Certainly toad lilies aren’t the only fall bloomers, so consider the likes of aconitums, Cuphea micropetala, the native Clinopodium georgianum, and my personal favorite, rostrinucula…a plant that should be in every fall garden, but probably won’t sell until we change to name to something more recognizable like a ‘salvia’ or perhaps hire it a better PR firm.

Solidago Helianthus Coreopsis helianthoides Aster Other not-to-be-missed plants that only strut their stuff in fall includes most of the native goldenrods (Solidago), the native swamp sunflower (Helianthus angustifolius), the fall flowering native Coreopsis helianthoides, and a wide array of native asters (frankly we don’t care that the evil empire of taxonomy no longer considers them true asters). Come to think of it, they can kiss my Symphyotrichum.

Muhlenbergia Saccharum arundinaceum Two of the most beautiful of all of the ornamental grasses are also just coming into full flower. If you want to ‘Super Size’ your garden, Saccharum arundinaceum is a grass for you, with 12′ tall pink plumes appearing now. If you need something a bit smaller, Muhlenbergia capillaris ‘White Cloud’ is hands down the most elegant grass we grow. The only downside is that it doesn’t flower for us until now, when most garden visitors have departed for the season. If you already enjoy the typical pink-flowered version, the white-flowered form is even better…simply indescribable.

Cyclamen Gloxinia nematanthodes xAmarcrinum We’re still enjoying good blooms on many of our favorite geophytes as we move into October. The amazing hardy cyclamens, especially C. hederifolium is still in full flower, despite having been flowering for months. Gloxinia ‘Evita’, which grows from a small rhizome, also continues to flower with its blazing, fluorescent orange-red blooms. On a larger scale, xAmarcrinum ‘Fred Howard’ simply loves fall weather, as it produces stalk after stalk of fragrant pink flowers.

For those who entered our Top 25 contest to compete for the $250 worth of plants, here are the results though early October. Echinacea ‘Tomato Soup’ has widened the lead over Colocasia ‘Thailand Giant’, looking to be the first plant in nearly 5 years to steal the top spot away from the elephant ear. One of the big movers was the fall-flowering Muhlenbergia capillaris, which jumped from 19th to 16th place. The two real shockers for the October list were two plants that only appeared in the fall catalog, Agave bracteosa ‘Monterrey Frost’ at 17th and Hydrangea ‘Spirit’ at 20th. It’s very rare for a plant that only appears in fall to be able to crack the top 30. When we calculate the winner of the Top 25 contest, these plants will be excluded since they did not appear in the spring catalog.

We hope your choices are faring well as we countdown to the contest winner in December.

As always, thanks for taking time to read our rants and most of all, thank you so much for your support and orders this year!

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

Thanks and enjoy