2010 Plant Delights Nursery November Newsletter

Dear PDN’ers:

Here at PDN, the year is winding down as shipping ceases at the end of November…except for horticultural emergencies. We’ve spent the last month selecting plants for the new catalog, writing catalog descriptions, and choosing the catalog images. All that remains now is to finish the catalog proofing process before heading into the design and layout phase. Soon, we will start preparing the nursery for 2011 by moving out the plants that didn’t sell well enough and moving the new plants from the production greenhouses into the shipping greenhouses.

It may seem too early to start planning for next year, but we want you to be sure and mark a special date on your 2011 schedule. Our 2011 Winter Open House is scheduled for Friday and Saturday, February 25, 26 followed by Friday and Saturday, March 4, 5…from 8am-5pm on all days. As a special enticement, the JC Raulston Arboretum will be also holding a special half-day mini-symposium on Saturday February 26, featuring Dan Hinkley, Todd Lasseigne, and yours truly. After the talks, you can spend the afternoon at the JC Raulston Arboretum and then come visit us at Plant Delights. We really hope your schedule will allow you to attend this plant intensive event!

I am saddened to report the untimely passing of our friend and obsessed plantsman, Greg Speichert, 47, who died on November 4 while attending the Independent Plant Breeders Conference in Philadelphia. The cause of death is still unknown, but Greg had been on a recent health kick because of high blood pressure, and by all accounts had made great progress. Only a day earlier, he spent the night at Asiatica Nursery and left for Philadelphia with a great outlook and a truckload of plants.

Greg served as the Director of Hilltop Garden and Nature Center at Indiana University Bloomington since August 2007, but prior to taking this position, Greg owned a mail order water gardening nursery, Crystal Palace Perennials. Although running a business wasn’t Greg’s forte, finding and championing good plants was…along with writing about them. For many years, Greg and his wife, Sue, published Water Gardening Magazine. Additionally, his articles have been published in virtually every plant magazine. Others may recognize his name from his books, Water Gardening In Containers: Small Ponds Indoors & Out with Helen Nash (Sterling 1999) and The Encyclopedia of Water Garden Plants (Timber Press 2004). We are fortunate to offer a number of Greg’s introductions, including Aspidistra retusa ‘Nanjing Green’, Miscanthus ‘Gilded Tower’ and Persicaria ‘Red Dragon’.

Greg leaves behind a legacy of sharing great plants and his family: a wife, Sue and an adopted niece and nephew, Ariel and Aaron Sanders. Donations in lieu of flowers may be made to the Indiana University Foundation for the benefit of Hilltop Gardens, for either the Hilltop General Operating Fund (38IU02050) or the Hilltop 21st Century Endowment Fund (37IU02052), at PO Box 500, Bloomington, IN 47402. For more information about IUF.

By now, you all know that Asiatica Nursery closed this fall, and now owner Barry Yinger has put his entire Pennsylvania property on the market. This is an amazing piece of land with lots of potential and a ton of cool plants. For those who don’t know the history, Barry grew up on his family farm and later remodeled the old barn on the property into a modern home/studio/office. The more than 72 acres include three spring-fed ponds, a permanent deer fence for 40 acres, and a number of fields (half wooded, half mowed), visually isolated from all neighbors. Fields can be certified organic now. Also included is the original 1880 farmhouse plus a 4500 sq. ft. 1880 bank barn residence/office rebuilt in 2005 with original stonework and beams, 3 bedrooms (2 master suites), 4 baths, large sun room, radiant floor heat, granite counter tops, and many other high end extras. The large home office with a second kitchen and handicapped-accessible bath could be a separate apartment. Also on the property are: an 1880 stone springhouse and 2 frame outbuildings, 2 wells, a large storage room, emergency generator, underground cable tv and high speed internet, an 1800 sq. ft. Nexus greenhouse (built 1998) with automatic controls plus a custom 1000 sq. ft. polycarbonate greenhouse (2005) with radiant in-floor heat. Hundreds of rare and unusual trees and shrubs grow on the property…it is a fabulous gardening site. There is a Farmer’s market next door and the property is 15 minutes from York and Harrisburg, PA, one hour from Baltimore, and two hours from downtown Philadelphia and Washington DC. The address is: 600 York Road, York Haven, PA 17339. Price: $899,000. Contact Barry Yinger at genepool@nni.com or 717 938-0770. No realtors please.

The demise of the nursery industry continues as International Garden Products (IGP) filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on October 4, 2010. So, who is IGP, you ask? IGP is a venture capital firm, founded in 1996 to purchase nurseries. At one time, IGP was a $170 million business, including the likes of Iseli Nursery (Boring, OR), Skagit Gardens (Mount Vernon, WA), Briggs Nursery (Olympia, WA), Weeks Wholesale Rose Growers Inc. (Upland, CA), Ridge Manor Nurseries (Madison, OH), Thompson & Morgan (Ipswich, England), and Little Valley Wholesale Nursery (Brighton, CO) and both the now defunct Langeveld International (Lakewood, NJ) and Vandenberg Bulb Co. (Chester, NY). One by one, the nurseries and its portfolio have either been sold off or gone bankrupt.

Of the four technically remaining IGP nurseries, Iseli Nursery and Weeks Roses are still functioning in bankruptcy, while the two later acquisitions, California Nursery Supplies and Old Skagit Inc. are out of business. Iseli Nursery is one of the top conifer growers in the country, so if you have ever purchased conifers in a garden center anywhere in the US, there is a good chance they came from Iseli. Weeks Roses is the major US supplier of roses. The hybrid-tea rose business has been in the proverbial toilet for years, ever since the introduction of the Knockout Roses, and the recent Jackson and Perkins bankruptcy didn’t help.

A series of bad business decisions, combined with the recession, led to the IGP bankruptcy. Since 2008, Iseli’s sales have declined 35%, while Weeks dropped 9% during the same period. IGP currently lists debts of $47 million, but has secured $7.5 million in bank funding, which they estimate will be enough to keep the last two companies afloat.

As if that wasn’t enough, Hines Nurseries has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection for the second time, after emerging from bankruptcy in 2008. At the time of their last bankruptcy filing, Hines was the largest nursery in the US, supplying plants to box stores across the county. To reduce debt as part of the 2008 bankruptcy, Hines sold off several of their operations, but last year got into the acquisition business again, when they purchased the bankrupt Bordiers Nursery of California…hmmm. As of the most recent bankruptcy filing date, Hines employed 825 full-time staff and owned or leased over 3,500 acres for nursery operations in Arizona, California, Texas, and Oregon. Hines lists assets of $179 million and debts of $87 million. As is the usual recipe for disaster in the nursery industry, Hines is owned by a private equity firm, Black Diamond Capital Management.

On a much smaller, but no less important scale, Rocky Mountain Rare Plants is closing its doors after this year…its 14th season. For those who are unfamiliar with RMRP, they offer seed, primarily wild-collected from the Rocky Mountain region. While we can’t grow lots of their material in the east, we were always able to find a few choice gems worth trialing.

So, on a more positive note, let’s talk plants. This was a lovely but later fall flowering season in the garden, since the extraordinarily hot summer caused heat delay on many reliable fall bloomers. Plants such as Dahlia imperialis, brugmansias, rabdosia, and many other perennials are several weeks to a month late starting to flower. Obviously, that’s problematic if the flowers in question aren’t frost-resistant, due to the danger of freezing.

I don’t know about you, but I think one of the great side benefits of having a garden is the ability to use those plants in flower arrangements. Although we’ve had several light frosts already, there are still plenty of plants available. Recently, to use a fall theme, I put together a vase of some of my favorites. I started with Gladiolus ‘Halloweenie’…a fantastic orange and yellow fall-flowering gladiolus. To complement the color of the gladiolus, I added one of my favorite fall flowering sages, the bright orange, Salvia regla. As a color foil, I used one of my favorite fall natives, the white flowering Eupatorium havanense…an absolutely splendid perennial that is probably much more winter hardy than we list and should be grown for fall interest in every sun garden. As a textural contrast, I included a few plumes from a miscanthus…in this case, Miscanthus ‘Andante’, which reflowers well into the fall. A favorite filler which I use in almost all arrangement is Asparagus virgatus. I can’t imagine a garden without this lovely and easy-to-grow South African textural gem. Voila! Even for non-talented arrangers such as myself…a hard to miss masterpiece.

There is a wealth of other late-fall flower arranging favorites. Most folks know Verbena bonariensis for summer flowering, but we find the frost-resistant flowers continue well into fall with an airy texture that makes them so valuable as a cut flower. For something a bit taller, it’s hard to beat Verbesina microptera, the giant Mexican frostweed. For us, it’s in full flower now, with massive 10′ tall stalks of giant yellow panicles. I’ve mentioned Salvia regla, with its brilliant orange red flowers, but there are other colors as well in the fall-flowering salvia group. Salvia madrensis has lovely butter yellow flower stalks, Salvia puberula has pink flowers, Salvia disjuncta flowers red, while Salvia leucantha has purple flowers. There is such a diversity that I can’t imagine a fall garden or fall arrangements without these great fall-flowering salvias. Farfugium is another genus of plants that just doesn’t get the credit it should as a fall flowering plant. The branched flower spikes of attractive lemon-yellow daisies are stars of the mid-fall garden. While all farfugiums are great, the double-flowered clones such as Farfugium ‘Yaezaki’ are especially cool.

Even though we’re talking fall, the Christmas holiday season is nearly upon us, and it’s time to start thinking about what to get that special gardener in your life. As always, we have a plentiful stock of Plant Delights gift certificates available, and if you start now, there’s plenty of time to get them to you before it’s too late. Another great gift idea is a new book titled Bizarre Botanicals, by my friend Larry Mellichamp. A few years ago, I was asked by Timber Press to write a book on the subject, but upon hearing the topic, I knew it could be much better authored by Dr. Larry Mellichamp, a brilliant botany professor at UNC-Charlotte. While it took some arm twisting and able assistance from his co-worker Paula Gross, Larry finally relented and the newly published book is everything we hoped for and more. If you find unique natural traits and odd plants fascinating, this book is for you. More importantly, if you have a child that shows any interest in plants, this engaging book, with its amazing photographs, will surely send them over the edge.

For those who entered the Top 25 contest, we’ll post the final results and announce the winner next month.

Thanks for taking time to read our newsletter, and from the Plant Delights family to yours…Happy Thanksgiving!