2007 Plant Delights Nursery September Newsletter

It’s been quite a month since we last talked. August at the Raleigh-Durham airport was the hottest month here since records have been kept… some 60+ years. As part of our 3-week heat binge, our 105 degree F temperature also tied a record for hottest temperature. Our 101 degree F temperature on September 10 smashed our old record of 97 degrees F. We can usually ship orders if the temperatures remain around 90 degrees F, but this summer has been the first since we have been in business that we have missed 3 consecutive weeks of shipping because of high temperatures. Rain has either occurred in the form of deluges or has been virtually non-existent depending on where you live. I expect many of us are ready for the weather patterns to change… we can’t even manage a decent tropical storm this year, despite the ominous hurricane predictions by the climate experts.

We’ve got one open house weekend under our belt and one more to go. Despite the weather, the gardens look quite good, so come and see what has survived the brutal heat… we hope to see you here.

In upcoming events, the Garden Conservancy is holding its open day tours in Raleigh on September 22 and 23. The Garden Conservancy is the Non-Profit National Organization dedicated to preserving America’s Greatest Gardens for future generations. On the Conservancy’s Annual Open Days, private gardeners around the country open their properties to visitors for a charge of $5 per person per garden (discount tickets are available on-line). Proceeds are split between a local garden (the JC Raulston Arboretum in Raleigh) and the Conservancy’s preservation program. You can find a list of gardens open near you on the Garden Conservacy website. Their website also has more information about the Garden Tours Program.

If you live in the Raleigh area and would like to submit your garden as a tour subject for future years, contact chairman Helen Yost at helen@gardensgardens.com. If you live in an area that doesn.t yet participate in the Open Days Program, this is probably due to the lack of a coordinator in the region. If you would like to volunteer your services, contact the Garden Conservancy office at the link above.

Following the Garden Conservancy Open Days is the Horticulture Magazine Symposium on October 20 in Raleigh. If you haven’t signed up, there is still time to register at www.hortmag.com. We look forward to seeing you there.

Do you have your 2008 calender yet? If so, hold the dates of September 25-27, 2008. The JC Raulston Arboretum Symposium will feature Bill Cullina, Larry Stanley, Sean Hogan, Thomas Bonnicksen, John Grimshaw, Richard Olsen, and Dave Demers. I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait!

In sad news, former director of NY’s Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Judy Zuk, 55, passed away after a lengthy battle with breast cancer. Judy was an amazing woman who, during her 15 years at the helm of BBG, helped to re-energize this great old garden with her amazing enthusiasm and foresight. Judy was active in so many phases of horticulture from APGA (the American Public Gardens Association) to serving as the co-editor-in-chief of The American Horticultural Society A-Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants. Her list of honors includes the prestigious Scott Medal, the Medal of Honor from the Garden Club of America, and then being named as an APGA Honorary Life Member. When she retired from BBG due to declining health in 2005, she was honored with the naming of Magnolia ‘Judy Zuk’, a cultivar developed at BBG. Judy was very special person and a great friend of PDN. While she will be greatly missed, her legacy lives on at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.

In the “It’s just interesting department,” Google has begun to scan old catalogs and put them on line. Thanks for Larry Hatch of the New Ornamentals Society for alerting me that a 100-year old catalog from the famed Biltmore House Nursery is now available for viewing. I was fascinated to see that many of the plants that we consider relatively new to horticulture were actually available a century earlier. If you have a few minutes, you’ll find this link fascinating.

So, what’s looking so great in the gardens in September, you ask? If you like bulbous plants in the Amaryllid family, there is no better month than September. Whether it’s habranthus, zephyranthes, lycoris, crinum, or rhodophiala, these are great providers of fall color. The habranthus and zephyranthes (both called rain lilies) are dependent on rain to flower well. That being said, because they are bulbous, they can sit in seemingly suspended animation during the worst of drought conditions, only to be ready to flower 2-3 days after a rain shower. Lycoris flower the same time of year, regardless of rain, emerging overnight when the ‘time is right’ (sorry to sound like a Cialis commercial). Rhodophiala bifida is a heat lover that flowers much the same as lycoris, appearing overnight with bright red or carmine pink flowers.

Crinums have a wide flowering season depending on the species involved in their parentage. C. bulbispermum is an early spring bloomer, while cultivars such as C. ‘Stars and Stripes’, and C. ‘Summer Nocturne’ flower in the fall. There are several cultivars such as C. ‘Olene’ that flower in spring and continue through fall.

* habranthus
* crinum
* lycoris
* rhodophiala
* zephyranthes

Also flowering now are several great gesneriads. When I used to grow and sell house plants, I never dreamed that so many members of the African Violet (gesneriad) family would be winter hardy outdoors here in Zone 7b. It’s hard to choose a favorite, but I hope that everyone has tried our introduction, Gloxinia ‘Evita’, by now. We have best luck growing this in a site that receives sun for a couple of hours in the afternoon. This amazing plant spreads from an underground rhizome and starts flowering in August and hits full stride by mid-September. Gloxinia ‘Chic’ is another great selection with narrow cherry-red flowers that grows under similar conditions.

Fall is also a great time for many of the sinningias. These include the all-summer flowering S. sellovii and Sinningia conspicua. Both of these are incredibly drought tolerant with S. sellovii enjoying full-day sun. S. conspicua grows best in sites that receive 2-4 hours of full sun. For light shade to a couple of hours of sun, try Titanotrichum oldhammii. This amazing gesneriad begins flowering in early September with terminal racemes of simply stunning bright yellow flowers with cinnamon interiors. For light shade, try Eucodonia ‘Adele’. This darling gesneriad begins flowering this month with lovely purple flowers that lay atop the quilted bronzy leaves.

Another group of fall favorites are some members of the hibiscus (Malvaceae) family. Abutilons (flowering maple) are drought-tolerant members of the family that begin flowering in mid-summer with bell-shaped flowers that continue until frost with some of their most prolific flowering of the season in September. Another superb mallow is Malvaviscus drummondii. This drought tolerant US native is simply covered in bright orange-red flowers from summer through fall. If you have a moist site, then check out the sea-shore mallow, Kosteletzkya virginica. This native mallow is covered with flowers that resemble miniature hibiscus and is available in both pink and white. Another fall flowering mallow that can tolerate both boggy soils and extended drought is Hibiscus grandiflorus. In addition to the hairy grey leaves and bright pink flowers that top the plant in September, H. grandiflorus makes a stunning 6-7′ tall clump. While most hibiscus are native to very moist sites, such is not the case with Hibiscus aculeatus, which can be found at home in dry sand. This native mallow is covered with light yellow flowers from summer through fall.

There are so many other plants that are just looking great now from the fall-flowering sedums to the fall-blooming red hot poker, Kniphofia rooperi. I didn’t even have time to mention Salvia, Anisacanthus, manettia, lobelia, and so much more. I hope you’ll take some time and browse the on-line catalog for some great fall bloomers to add to your garden. To make it easy, just go to the catalog welcome page and type the word ‘fall’ into the search box and you’re on your way!

In the Top 25 this month there weren’t many big moves. The largest movers include Canna ‘Phaison’, which moved from 13th to 8th, and Begonia ‘Heron’s Pirouette’, which moved from 13th to 9th. So, how are your top 25 predictions faring? Only three more months remain before we award the $250 Plant Delights gift certificate to the person who came the closest to predicting the correct finishing order of sales.

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

Thanks and enjoy

-tony