I could sit and watch pitcher plants all day as prospective food is constantly lured into the waiting pitchers. Here’s the latest victim this week…a wasp, unaware that he’s the next meal for this hungry Sarracenia flava. Pitcher plants are quite easy to grow, both in the ground and in containers. In pots, we grow them in straight peat moss that sits in a tray of water. Lots of sun is the only other key and you’ll be rewarded with hours of cheap thrills watching nature at its most cunning. I think these are a great way to get kids interested in horticulture.
Flowering now in the garden are the pitcher plants, and here’s a new photo of Sarracenia ‘Daina’s Delight’. The flowers are truly other-worldly. Pitcher plants are actually very easy to grow if you can provide full sun and fairly moist, acidic soil…just not soil that stays soggy. In containers, grow them in straight peat moss and keep it moist.
This weekend marks the start of our 25th Anniversary Summer Open House at Plant Delights Nursery. The weather and moisture levels have been incredible this year, the gardens look amazing and the plants lush. I never imagined having this many lushes in the garden at one time. Also I don’t ever remember a time in July when the US Drought Monitor map showed no drought conditions east of the Mississippi River…incredible! If you haven’t been to our Open House in a few years, we hope you will join us and experience the joy of the summer garden for two weekends this July – the 12, 13, 14 and July 19, 20, 21. For details, click here.
We still have a few spaces remaining in the second section of our Propagation Class which will be coming up soon on Saturday, August 17, from 10-4pm. This class will be taught by PDN staff member Aaron Selby, who is in charge of producing all of the plants we sell. You can sign up online here.
Many of you who have attended our past propagation classes have heard us talk about the valuable information in Dr. Norm Deno’s home-published books, “Seed Germination Theory and Practice”, Volumes 1,2, and 3. One of our recent class participants let us know that the USDA now has Dr. Deno’s books available online. You can download the .pdfs here at the usda.gov page.
The American Horticulture Society has recently announced its 2013 awards and congratulations go to our friend, Dr. Paul Capiello of Yew Dell Botanic Gardens in Kentucky, for receiving the LH Bailey Award, given to an individual who has made significant lifetime contributions to at least three fields of horticulture; teaching, research, communications, plant explorations, administration, art, business, or leadership. Dr. Dennis Werner of NC State University received the Luther Burbank Award for extraordinary achievement in the field of plant breeding and our friend, Neil Diboll of Prairie Nursery, won the Paul Ecke Jr. Commercial Award for commitment to the highest standards of excellence in commercial horticulture. Congratulations to these friends!
In another very special award on July 22, the academic scientific organization, American Society of Horticultural Science, will posthumously induct the late Dr. J.C. Raulston into its Hall of Fame. The ASHS Hall of Fame is a distinguished group of individuals who have made extraordinary contributions to horticulture and the greater public good. Well deserved!
In the “you can’t make this up” category this month, comes a new organic gardening book by Gene Logsdon, “Holy Shit – Managing Manure to Save Mankind.” I will admit to not having read it yet, but I’m certainly adding it to my “must read” list…anything with a title like that can’t be missed.
A heads up for gin and tonic drinkers out there to perhaps stock up. It seems that a new fungal blight (Phytophthora austrocedrae) is following in the footsteps of the famed Irish potato blight and threatening junipers in the UK where many of the berries that provide the flavor to gin are sourced. So far, the fungus is limited to the UK, where losses have reached nearly 70% of the crop, but EU producers are very concerned since there are no plant movement restrictions within the EU.
In North Carolina, some sorry SOB stole more than 1,000 venus fly-trap plants from the Stanley Rehder Carnivorous Plant Garden in Wilmington, NC over the Memorial Day weekend. The NC Coastal Land Trust is offering a $1,500 reward to anyone who can help find the thieves, so if you have information about the stolen plants please call the Wilmington NC Police Department at 252-343-3600 or send an anonymous text to CRIMES (274637). The message must start with TIP708.
In case you missed it, the Barrel Monster creator, Joe Carnevale has been outed as the daredevil who posted photos and videos of himself on top of some of Seattle’s tallest buildings, including the Space Needle.
You can see more amazing photos at Joe’s website www.nopromiseofsafety.com or if you have a fear of heights, you’ll find less extreme photos of Joe as he created our Plant Delights Barrel Monster here at the nursery.
Nursery News and Happenin’s
I mentioned a few months ago that one of the country’s most noted wholesalers, Briggs Nursery of Washington state, was in bank-ordered receivership. Well, the good news is that Briggs was just purchased out of receivership for $12 million dollars by one of its competitors, Sidhu Nursery of Canada. Briggs’ CEO, J. Guy, who had been brought in a year earlier to reorganize the nursery, had resigned just prior to the bidding in order to form a private group to launch an unsuccessful bid for Briggs. Sidhu expects the nursery to remain in operation at its current site.
In another not so surprising move, Stacy’s Garden Center of York, South Carolina, has also filed for bankruptcy with a balance sheet showing $5 million in debt. Stacy’s includes 260 acres of production in York County, SC where 16 million plants are produced annually. Since retired naval officer, Louis Stacy, founded the company in 1969, Stacy’s has been known as an annual and perennial supplier to the larger box stores in 24 states. Despite a work force that peaks at 800 people in spring, Stacy’s had fallen on hard financial times in recent years and many of us in the industry were surprised they lasted this long. A contract with Metrolina Greenhouses (the VanWingerden clan) of Huntersville, NC has been signed to buy the assets of Stacy’s pending the approval of the bankruptcy court. Once approved, the operations will go forward under the Metrolina name. Creditors who will get financially screwed to the tune of between $500,000 and $1.5 million include Express Seed of Cleveland, OH, Container Centralen of Winter Garden, FL, Sun Gro Horticulture of Chicago, IL, Bank of the West, Temecula, CA, and Ednie Flower Bulbs of Fredon, NJ.
Last July, I wrote about the financial travails of the 72-year-old Waterloo Gardens in Pennsylvania. Things didn’t look good then and the final nail has been driven in the proverbial coffin as they recently announced the closure of their last garden center location. I can only imagine how tough it is from going from being the toast of the industry a decade ago to the toast, itself, now. Thanks for an incredible run and for being an industry standard for so long.
From across the northern border, more disappointing news as Minter Gardens of Chilliwack, British Columbia is closing due to funding challenges. The world-class Minter Gardens was started by nurseryman, Brian Minter, after he and his wife purchased the 32-acre site in 1977. The gardens opened to the public in 1980 and have been regarded as one of British Columbia’s top public gardens. Minter Gardens was even included in Rae Spencer-Jones’s book, “1001 Gardens You Must See.” The gardens contain various theme areas including a rose garden, children’s garden, fragrance garden, rhododendron garden, fern garden, formal garden, water gardens, and much more.
While Brian’s garden center operations will continue, the gardens, located about 90 minutes from Vancouver, will close on October 14, due primarily to a dramatic drop in attendance from highs of 100,000+ annually before the last five years of recession. If you’ve been looking for a vacation spot, this appears to be your last chance to visit before it closes. You can find out more at www.mintergardens.com
Although it’s not going out of business, the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society is in a world of financial hurt after the weather didn’t cooperate for this year’s Philadelphia Flower Show. The show usually generates about $1 million in profits, but this year the show fell $1.2 million short…oops. This leaves the PHS scrambling to make up the difference through a series of cost cutting, insurance claim filing, and fund raising measures. PHS blames a botched weather forecast and local media hype of an impending massive winter storm that never fully materialized in Philadelphia for the lowest attendance since 2001. Sorry, but I find it a bit humorous about all this ruckus over an incorrect forecast. Aren’t the words “weather forecast” listed in the Thesaurus as a synonym for “inaccurate”?
In sad news, plantsman Charles Applegate of Ohio’s Kingwood Center passed away at the age of 82, due to complications from recent surgery. When I first visited Kingwood Center, probably three decades ago, it was evident before you even entered the main gardens that there was a plantsman extraordinaire on staff. I was fortunate to meet the master behind the plants, who I would visit several more times over the next few decades when I was in the area. Charles had an incredible passion for both new plants and garden design…two skills that unfortunately rarely mix.
Charles’ design skills had roots in his dual master degrees…one in art and a second in theater. As an actor, he had a feature role in the 1963 movie, “Red Runs the River.” What most people knew Charles for, however, was his work with plants. Charles was a plant breeder, working primarily with daylilies but dabbling in other genera. He introduced over 45 daylilies; Hemerocallis ‘Blessing’ and ‘Guile’ are his most famous. In addition, two of his most recognized annual introductions were Coleus ‘Kingwood Torch’ and Talinum ‘Kingwood Gold’. Charles was passionate about keeping great plants in cultivation even if they had been dropped by commercial horticulture in favor of the latest and greatest.
In his 48 years at Kingwood, most as Senior Gardener (he refused promotions to administration), Charles made a huge impact on everyone he met personally and also on those who only saw his handiwork. Charles is survived by his wife, Linda, and sons Johnathan and Seth. Great job, my friend.
We lost another amazing plantsman on May 30, when University of Arkansas professor and plant breeder, Jon Lindstrom, passed away from melanoma skin cancer at the untimely age of 54. As a plant breeder, Jon always took the road less traveled, creating a number of revolutionary hybrids like Buddleia ‘Orange Scepter’ and Sinningia ‘Arkansas Belle’, which he allowed us to introduce. Jon also developed bigeneric hybrids of sinningia x paliavana as well as tri-generic hybrids between agave, manfreda, and polianthes (tuberose). A PDN salute for a job well done and a life cut far too short. Memorial contributions may be made to “The Jon Lindstrom Scholarship” in care of the Department of Horticulture, 316 Plant Sciences Bldg, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, AR 72701.
Until next month…happy gardening.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve about enjoyed this winter long enough…and winter megastorm Nemo missed us. While we’ve only had a low temperature of 18 degrees F in Raleigh, very mild by our norms, it has been consistently cool, which is great for the plants but not so much for those of us with thin blood…I mean chlorophyll.
Out in the garden, our early trilliums are about 2-3 weeks behind normal, which is actually a good thing when it comes to avoiding those pesky late spring frosts. Despite the cool, some plants just can’t wait. Our silly clumps of Arisaema ringens are already trying to poke their heads through the soil far too early. When this happens, adding a few inches of mulch to help keep the soil cool will help delay their emergence. Podophyllum pleianthum, a Chinese mayapple, also always emerges too early. Fortunately, it seems to be quite tolerant of getting burned back to the ground time after time.
We’ve had a great hellebore show in the garden this winter which, thanks to the cool weather, will continue for a while. Since most hybrid hellebores seed around the parent clump, you’ll need to consciously decide when you have enough seedlings. When that point arises, the spent flowers can be circumcised as an effective means of population control. Six to sixteen weeks (depending on the temperature) is the typical gestation period for hellebores, so mark your calendar so you don’t forget when snipping time arrives. As we’ve discussed on Facebook, we’ve found that when you plant hellebores about 15′ apart in the garden, they come relatively true to type…double whites produce more double whites, etc. Anything closer than that produces a combination of the parental colors and forms, which can be both good and bad depending on the traits of each neighbor. If you are looking for hellebores that don’t seed in the garden, you should explore the Helleborus niger hybrids: Helleborus x ballardiae, Helleborus x ericsmithii, and Helleborus x nigercors (nigersmithii). These are all sterile moms and will not produce viable seed. Check out our full selection of Hellebores here.
Speaking of hellebores, this is our final Winter Open House weekend for 2013 with lots of great hellebores remaining. I just counted, and we still have over 300 doubles in flower along with over 160 incredible single yellows. These are some of the finest hellebores we’ve ever had for Open House, so drop by if you can. Anything that doesn’t go out the door this weekend will go on the web next week. We’ve posted some killer hellebore photos on our Facebook page, so check ’em out. Please remember you DO NOT have to join or register with Facebook to visit our Facebook page or see the photos…only if you want an email to know when we post more. We think you’ll find our Facebook page worthwhile if you like plants.
While there are many things to love about the end of winter, the one thing I don’t look forward to is the annual rite of tree-topping…the only fad that’s spreading around the country faster than body art. Tree topping, aka butchering, especially of crape myrtles, is truly one of the most bizarre rituals to ever affect the gardening community. I’ve almost concluded that alien mind control must be at work here, causing Homo sapiens males with power tools and no critical thinking skills to bizarrely butcher any tree in their yard they think might possibly look like a crape myrtle. Other than releasing extra testosterone and making your carbon footprint the size of Sasquatch, there is absolutely no logical reason to top trees. Tree topping does not keep the tree shorter and it does not make it flower better. It does, however, make your tree decrepitly ugly, weak-branched, and more susceptible to disease while putting on display your low gardening IQ to all your neighbors. Please, mow your grass an extra time or two, but leave the trees alone.
An interesting new trend is emerging in botanical circles that has already caused a divisive fracture in the taxonomic community. The trend is one of naming new plants after the highest bidder, as has been done for years with buildings and sporting events. One taxonomy camp argues that the money is needed to support their work, while the other camp wants genus and species names reserved for locations where the plants were found, people who were associated with finding the plants, or to simply name the plants after things they resemble.
Most recently, a worldwide naming auction was held for a new species of Hesperantha (iris family) that was discovered in 2011 by Odette Curtis in the Lowland Renosterveld management region of South Africa. The auction for the Overberg Lowlands Conservation Trust was managed by Fauna & Flora International on the Giving Lots on-line auction site. The winning bid was $47,000 USD, although the winner has not been publicly identified. Not only will the winner get to name the species, but they will receive a painting and bronze cast of their new namesake…no mention of a herbarium sheet.
In other interesting news from the science community, Indian researchers have discovered an additional way in which carnivorous plants attract their insect prey…they glow. Yes, in addition to fragrance, color, and nectar, Dionaea (Venus fly-traps), Sarracenia, and Nepenthes (tropical pitcher plants) actually emit a UV spectrum blue glow in and around the entrance to the pitchers that resembles airport landing lights. The blue glow evidently attracts insects out trolling for a good time in the same way blue Christmas lights attract rednecks.
In a related note, have you heard of plant neurobiology? My spell checker certainly hasn’t. Plant neurobiology is the study of how plants communicate, feel, and react. Those of a certain age may remember the 1973 book, The Secret Life of Plants, which got many folks of our generation thinking about a rarely discussed subject. Well, now folks interested in the subject will have a place to congregate at the first ever plant neurobiology convention this summer. If this floats your proverbial boat, check out the agenda here.
Another great event is coming up next week…the 2013 Salvia Summit to be held at the Huntington Botanical Gardens in California. Although I had the Salvia Summit on my schedule for over a year, I’ll regretfully have to miss the summit due to unforeseen circumstances at the nursery. I truly hope many of you who love salvias will be able to attend and hear the incredible list of great speakers.
Closer to Plant Delights, we are pleased to welcome England’s famed garden writer, Dr.Noel Kingsbury to Raleigh next week. This will mark Noel’s first visit to the region, where he will be speaking to the Friends of the JC Raulston Arboretum on Thursday, March 7, at 7:30pm on The Politics of the Garden. Noel will follow this up with an all day workshop discussing long term plant performance on Saturday, March 9, from 9:00am to 3:00pm, at the Brickhaven building adjacent to the JC Raulston Arboretum. The workshop will teach gardeners how to look at the garden from a long-term perspective in terms of sustainability as well as aesthetics.
The workshop cost is $80.00 for JCRA members and $95.00 for nonmembers. Space is limited to the first 25 participants. To register, contact Chris Glenn at (919) 513‑7005 or firstname.lastname@example.org
On the heels of Noel’s talk comes Magnolia Mayhem, a mini-symposium also at the JC Raulston Arboretum on Saturday, March 23, from 8:00am until 2:00pm. Speakers include Kevin Parris, magnolia breeder extraordinaire and director of the Spartanburg Community College Arboretum, and Aaron Schettler, magnolia collector and director of grounds at Raleigh’s Meredith College. The talks will be followed by a Mark Weatherington tour of the JC Raulston Arboretum magnolia collection, then a tour of the adjacent magnolia collection. If that’s not enough, a pre-convention tour on Friday, March 22, will include Camellia Forest Nursery, the Charles R. Keith Arboretum, and plantsman Tom Krenitsky’s private garden. Details are available here.
If you’re in town for the event and have time, we’d be delighted to have you visit us as well…just call (919)772-4794 and set up an appointment (weekends not available).
Last month, I mentioned the demise of the well-respected mail order firm, High Country Gardens, in New Mexico. Well, in late February, a white knight rode into town and swooped them up, and last week reopened their website for business. It seems that American Meadows of Vermont has a friendly financier who thought this was a good investment, so as of last week, HCG is back in business under the leadership of its founder, David Salman. We wish HCG the best in ramping back up production of the plants that made HCG a favorite of gardeners in the high desert. In 2008, American Meadows itself was sold by founders Ray and Chy Allen to long-time employee Mike Lizotte and his business partner, Ethan Platt (formerly of Green Mountain Coffee Roasters). We wish Mike and Ethan good luck with their new long-distance venture.
Other horticulture stalwarts continue to struggle with the latest bad news coming from the 100-year-old, 400-acre, Briggs Nursery of Elma, Washington. Briggs has been struggling for years due to a combination of original family members cashing out, a move to a new location, a very high debt load ($5 million), and a failure to modernize their plant offerings. Most homeowners have probably never heard of Briggs, but their state-of-the-art tissue culture lab produces the lion’s share of the rhododendrons and blueberries produced in the US. Did I mention that Briggs propagated and sold huge numbers of the Pink Champagne Blueberry (not to be confused with Pink Lemonade, which is fine) last year, only to then receive a “oops, we sent you the wrong plant” notice from the US government?
Briggs has been sold several times in recent years, most notably to the abysmal failure, International Garden Products. A year ago, J. Guy of the defunct Carolina Nurseries was brought in to try and modernize the nursery in hopes of saving what was left of Briggs. Unfortunately, the lack of capital and the unwillingness of Briggs’ bank to take any further risks resulted in the bank asking for the nursery to be placed in court receivership, which occurred in late January. The courts will now determine the best way to proceed with Briggs, whether that be new financing, selling the nursery, or closing the business. As you can imagine, several suitors from a variety of industries are already in the hunt. Unfortunately, as one prospective purchaser described to me, the spate of past sales has left the assets of Briggs in quite disarray. Fingers crossed we don’t lose this valuable resource.
Another name I never expected to hear in the same sentence with foreclosure is Kerry Herndon of Kerry’s Nursery in Florida…formerly Kerry’s Bromeliads. Kerry’s, founded in 1970, has expanded enormously both via growth and acquisition, and is now one of the largest growers in the country (ranked #21) with 2.8 million square feet of production. Kerry is a rock star of the horticulture world, with people following his every word as it relates to business management both in his “no limits” talks and trade magazine columns.
Kerry’s specializes in orchids and bromeliads (over 7 million plants in production) which are sold primarily through the big box stores like Home Depot, Publix, Kroger, Safeway, and Trader Joe’s. Florida Federal Land Bank Association recently filed a foreclosure lawsuit over the nursery’s $12 million debt, although Kerry remains optimistic a settlement can be reached that allows them to remain open. The supply of orchids and bromeliads available to home gardeners would take a huge hit if Kerry’s closes, so fingers crossed for a good resolution in the courts.
In still more disappointing news, the 185,000 subscriber strong, Garden Design Magazine has reached the end of the road. The stunning, high quality idea magazine for designers got the axe after the previous publisher, World Publications, sold out to Bonnier Corporation who found the magazine too small for their market.
Finally, the horticulture book world lost a giant recently with the passing of 86-year-old author, Jack Kramer. Jack will go down as the most prolific gardening writer of our time, authoring a staggering 161 gardening books…mostly about houseplants. A few of Jack’s many titles include; Bromeliads for Home and Garden (2011), The Art of Flowers (2002), Women of Flowers (1996), Sunset’s How to Grow African Violets (1977), and Underwater Gardens (1974). Jack was also a former syndicated columnist for the Los Angeles Times before retiring to Naples, Florida in 1987. Here is a nice article about Jack.
Until next month, I’ll see you on Facebook where we learn and share together.
Greetings and a belated Happy New Year from Plant Delights. We’ve just added several new plants to the website. Many are very special plants available only in limited quantities, so if you see something that looks interesting to you, don’t wait too long.
So far, it’s been a very mild winter here at Plant Delights and also across much of the country. Although we dipped to 17 degrees F once, that night and one other constitute our only nights below 20 degrees F all winter. A mild winter like this has several interesting effects on garden plants. Plants from warm climates which don’t have a high chill requirement (the number of hours under 40 degrees F required to break dormancy) will often sprout too early, needing only a small window of good weather to start growing. Sprouting early isn’t a problem as long as we don’t have a crazy temperature drop the remainder of the winter. Because of the mild temperatures, we’ve had our best flowering season ever for plants like the winter flowering Iris unguicularis.
One of the other effects is that the lack of winter cold may adversely affect the flowering of plants like peonies that require a high number of chilling hours for good flower development. Fortunately many of these plants requiring high chilling hours won’t sprout early as we see when they get their required cooling needs met early in the winter and are ready to go with only a couple of days of spring warmth. I’m expecting one of our best magnolia seasons in years if nothing crazy happens from now until spring.
Speaking of weather, the big news for gardeners this month is the release of the new official USDA Plant Hardiness Map. Ever since a botched map effort by the late Dr. Marc Cathey in 2003 (known as the American Horticulture Society version), the USDA has been working on a much improved hardiness map update. On August 18, 2004, USDA formed a technical review committee of 23 people including yours truly. The group consisted of nurserymen, crop researchers, foresters, climatologists, and others. The committee had a number of meetings at the USDA headquarters in Maryland and many subsequent meetings by phone.
The details of the map making process was quite fascinating. The first few meetings were spent hashing out what we wanted in the map. Several of us had pushed for a 30-year map, which would more closely echo short term natural temperature fluctuations, and the USDA agreed. Another of my requests to create an a, b, c, and d breakdown for each numbered zone was delayed until the future.
We also wanted a map that would allow more temperature interpolations between weather stations, which would take into account things like lake and mountain effects which were missing in the previous map. The process then progressed to the USDA to gather the data and create the map with their in-house staff. A complication arose when their in-house algorithm specialist was commandeered by the Department of Defense and sent to Afghanistan to run algorithms to locate Osama bin Laden. During this time, the specialist would join us via conference call from a safe place in Afghanistan…I’m not making this up.
After two years, the map was supposedly ready as the committee members gathered in Maryland for the unveiling. We were never privy to exactly what went wrong, but the map we saw showed all of the US getting colder, which was certainly not the case. My best guess is that someone reversed all the data. After this debacle, the map trail went cold for nearly a year, during which time the USDA decided in 2007 not to complete the map in-house, but instead to outsource the project to the PRISM (Parameter-elevation Regressions on Independent Slopes Model) Climate Group at Oregon State.
After PRISM completed their initial map, we were shown a draft map via phone conference. The rest of the year was spent going back and forth about areas which the review team felt were not zoned correctly. During this time, more data sites were added to those regions of concern, either from Canadian, Mexican, or military data. Finally in April 2008, the technical review team finished their work and the map was back in the lap of the USDA for publication. The subsequent 3 years and 9 months were spent by USDA trying to figure out what colors to make the zones and then finding a website that could host the map without crashing like their previously launched food pyramid…I’m not making this up. Whoever said that the Federal Government moves slowly was spot on…hence the reason the most recent climatic data in the map is 6 years old.
So, let’s talk about the map. On the map website, there is a static version and an interactive version. I like the interactive map the best. Plant Delights is located at zip code 27603, so enter our zip code and this will bring up the map where we are located. You will notice that most of the area is olive (Zone 7b), with a few blocks of light orange (Zone 8a) nearby. Everywhere you click on this map, you can see the longitude and latitude, along with the hardiness zone and the average minimum winter temperature for the 30 year period of 1976-2005. By clicking around the map where we are located, you will see that all areas inside the orange blocks have an average minium winter temperature above 10 degrees F, making them Zone 8a. If you click anywhere that has an olive color, you are now in Zone 7b and the average minimum winter temperature will be below 10 degrees F. With these maps, you can pick out the warm spot in a neighborhood before purchasing your new house.
I hope you’ll enjoy the new map, and would like to thank everyone with the Department of Agriculture and all the other committee members for their hard work on this project. If you’d like to read more about the history of the hardiness maps, check out our online article.
While we’re talking about the USDA, I want to once again mention one of their divisions, the US National Arboretum, which became embroiled in a bit of controversy last year when a few members of the Arboretum staff decided to eliminate several of their significant plant collections. While public outcry salvaged those collections, the Arboretum is now seeking input from the public about the direction that it should take in the future. Although it’s not very well written as a questionnaire, I hope you’ll take time to complete the following survey.
In other plant news, the Perennial Plant Association has announced that Polygonatum odoratum ‘Variegatum’ has been selected as the 2013 Perennial Plant of the Year…congratulations! Here you can find the list of current and past winners of this prestigious award.
It’s quite exciting when a plant you find in the wild turns out to be a new species, especially in your own state. You can imagine our excitement when we heard last month of the publication of a new wild ginger, Asarum sorriei…unfortunately published using the antiquated genus name, Hexastylis. In 1999, I was botanizing in Moore County, NC and stopped at a site that consisted of a low area with sarracenia (pitcher plants) and zigadenus (death camash). The low area quickly transitioned into a drier area with amsonia…all within a few hundred feet. It was a fascinating site, but the one plant that seemed most out of place was an asarum that grew in sphagnum moss among the pitcher plants in full sun. The flowers and foliage were quite similar to Asarum minor, but the habitat was quite un-minor like. It seemed obvious that this find was either a new species or at least an ecotypical variant of Asarum minor. Shortly thereafter, I passed along the info to Alan Weakley, author of the “Flora of the Carolinas and Virginia.” According to the publication, others also noticed the plant around 2004, and then finally last month the ginger was christened as a new species, Asarum sorriei. We look forward to getting this into cultivation as soon as possible. You can read much more about this in the scientific publication “Phytoneuron.”
We are very pleased to announce that the Hardy Plant Society, based in Pennsylvania, is planning a road trip to see gardens in the Raleigh area this spring, including Plant Delights. This will be a group of very serious plant nerds, so if you’d like to join the fun, read on. The 4-day tour departs from Downingtown, PA with a stop at the Lewis B. Ginter Botanical Garden in Richmond VA for lunch and a garden tour. Then on to Raleigh where you will visit a number of private gardens in addition to the JC Raulston Arboretum. Included is a tour of Plant Delights Nursery plus the chance to shop for special finds for your own garden. Cost: $685 (double occupancy, $240 additional for single supplement) includes motor coach transportation, driver tip, all breakfasts and lunches, admission to the Lewis B. Ginter Botanical Garden, Wine & Cheese social, and room. You will be staying at the downtown Raleigh Sheraton, a great location for walking to nearby restaurants for evening meals. The trip registration form will be posted on the HPS website, www.hardyplant.org. Spaces are limited and on a first-come basis. For any questions or a form, contact Janice Thomas: email@example.com or 610-458-9794.
Finally, in the “in case you missed it” file this month, researchers from UCLA have identified how a component of the hardy raisin tree (Hovenia dulcis), called dihydromyricentin works as an anti-hangover treatment by counteracting acute alcohol intoxication. Research showed that the dihydromyricetin blocked the action of alcohol on the brain neurons, which also reduced the desire to drink…human clinical trials are next. This could do wonders for the sale of the formerly obscure Hovenia tree.
Remember that the deadline to enter our Top 25 contest is nearly here. If you’d like the chance to win a $250 gift certificate to Plant Delights, be sure to submit your entry here.
We’ve had an order snafu and one of our orders only has a new customer’s name associated with it, John F. Wichter III. If this is you, please contact us with your shipping address so we can send you your order. Thanks!
Between e-newsletters, keep up with the goings on, cool plants and plant stories we share on our Facebook page. See you there!
I have to begin the newsletter with a congratulations to American Idol winner, Scotty McCreery from just a few minutes up the road in Garner…well done! We wish him and all the other top contestants well as they embark on their musical careers…hope some of ‘em have an interest in gardening as well.
No doubt you’ve also heard about the tornado outbreaks this year, including the one that hit all around PDN in early April. While PDN escaped without any damage, such was not the case for other area nurserymen. Three area wholesalers took huge hits, Watson’s Nursery in Sanford, Lee and Sons in Four Oaks, and Cyn-Mar in Pine Level. All are rebuilding under very difficult financial circumstances. If you are able to help these nurseries recover, donations of money and other items can be handled through the NC Nursery and Landscape Association at http://www.ncnla.com/
After years of declining attendance at the NC Nursery and Landscape Association’s Summer Show in Charlotte, the decision was made to move the show around the state starting this year. The first version of the revamped show will take place in Raleigh from August 17-19, and we are very pleased to be included as one of the tour stops. Nursery tours are a new part of the nursery show, and there will be three different tours to choose from; a retailer tour, a nursery production tour, and a landscape tour. Although we could fit in all of the categories, we will be a part of the nursery production tour on August 19. Folks are already very excited about the new show format, which we hope will bring more visitors from around the country. If you work in the plant industry, be sure to put this on your summer 2011 schedule. You can find out more HERE
On the national nursery scene, now that the giant Hines Nurseries has emerged from bankruptcy, they have begun to sell off their assets…as I predicted last month. Hines has signed a letter of intent to sell the facilities and lease the land for both it’s 420 acre Texas operation in Fulshear (near Houston) and its 40 acre Arizona operation in Chino Valley to the formerly bankrupt, but now restructured Color Spot Nurseries…sort of incestuous, don’t you think?
I always like to check out other retailers, especially the box stores to see what they are offering. This spring, I visited one box store and found that 50% of their perennial offerings aren’t adapted to our climate. As is usually the case during my current visit last weekend, I found both good and bad. First, delphiniums should not be sold in our part of North Carolina in late May…even as annuals. Ditto for fuchsias…unless they are the heat tolerant types, which these weren’t. In the ornamental grass display, there were some nice selections, but annual varieties were mixed in with the perennial grasses. Only when you read the mice type on the tags do you notice that certain plants cannot drop below 30 degrees. One of my favorites was the nice display of Colocasia ‘Black Magic’, which was a completely different plant, Colocasia ‘Burgundy Stem’ with a leaf that will never turn black. With all the problems, they did have a great selection of vegetables. As always, I can’t stress enough to shop with folks you trust or become a vigilant consumer.
One of my pet peeves is the overuse of growth regulators to make plants in a retail setting look like something they aren’t. While growth regulators certainly have their place as a labor saving tool in ornamental plant production, they are often used to misrepresent how a plant will perform. A key for growers to be able to sell plants to garden centers and box stores, is their ability to keep the plants at a certain height in order to fit them on the shipping racks and make them look nice in the store displays. While most growth regulators will wear off later in the season, it is very important for you to check the tags of the plants you are thinking of purchasing and look at the mature height to see if the plant in question will truly fit your needs. With that said, I’ll share a recent conversation shared by nurseryman Lloyd Traven below.
Conversation at Lilytopia yesterday, among 10,000 STEMS of incredible Oriental lilies, many with 12 flowers each a FOOT across, and 4+ feet tall: “What growth regulator can I use to get these less than 18″ tall, including pot?” Response from bulb breeder—“WHY would you want to do that? The flowers will shrink to 5″, they won’t last, and the customer will think they are short varieties.” Blank stare from box store grower– “I need to fit these on a shipping rack, 3 layers minimum, all the same height and size and bloom stage.” “Maybe you should look for another product to force into a mold. We worked hard to make these magnificent, and you will make them ordinary.”
While I’m sharing funny things, I enjoyed a purported conversation between a yellow pitcher plant (Sarracenia flava) and a white top pitcher plant (Sarracenia leucophylla), overheard recently on a carnivorous plant forum…”Leuc, I am your Flava.”.
If you’re ever put in charge of securing speakers for a gardening event, a new website may help make your job much easier. http://www.GreatGardenSpeakers.com. is a new site assembled by a group of garden speakers to be a complete resource to help folks find, contact, and hire garden speakers. There is even a place on the site where you can rate and comment on your favorite speakers, just like when you buy products from the web. Since the site is fairly new, there isn’t a tremendous number of comments, but you could greatly help others by adding your comments to both your favorite and least favorite speakers.
PDN is unfortunately losing one of our next door neighbors, who are needing to sell their home due to family issues, so if you’d like to live next door to PDN, check out their listing below…we are obviously looking for nice people who like plants! Click to View
One of the biggest gardening curses these days is the overpopulation of deer. While I’ve always advocated a hedge that deer won’t eat (i.e. Nellie Stevens holly) or a black plastic deer fence, some folks just desire a more dramatic solution, and others seem to just need something to complain about. So, for those of you who don’t have enough drama in your lives, check out Team Backyard Bow Pro. Team Backyard Bow Pro is a national organization of ethical, licensed bow hunters that work with landowners (especially farmers) to solve deer damage problems, while feeding the hungry. Trust me…there’s nothing better than hosta-fed venison.
One of the great joys of Facebook is that we can now share favorite garden plants when they are at their peak at PDN. This year, for example, we have five agave (century plants) that will be flowering soon. We’ll post more on Facebook as they open, and times that folks in the area can come by and see them in person. Be sure and check out all the cool things happening in the garden in real time on our Facebook Page!
It’s been a fun spring in the garden, with so much going on, it’s hard to describe it all. I’m writing more of the e-newsletter on our back patio to be closer to the plants, and of course, for inspiration. One of the down sides in spring, however, is the deafening cacophony of out-of-tune frog species that begin their evening serenade just as dusk settles. Tonight, I was enjoying the first chorus of dueling frogs near my chair, when in the middle of a solo, one voice went suddenly soprano, then silent. I looked up to find our cat Zirconia with a “not me” look on his face, all the while a giant white belly and two narrow legs dangled from his much too small mouth. So, are frogs considered seafood?
We’ve had another amazing year of amorphophallus flowering in the garden, and because of having so many species in flower at once (apologies to the neighbors…please don’t call the Department of Environmental Resources Air Quality Unit) we’ve been busy with our pollinating brushes. Who knows what hardy amorphophallus hybrids might be in your future. Of course, remember that most species don’t flower and produce a leaf stalk in the same year. The amount of energy required to produce the flower stalk is about all the tuber can stand in one season. Visit our Amorphophallus page!
Crinum season is just getting into full swing as more and more selections open daily. This year, we’re keeping a flowering time log, which we will post at seasons end. Crinum ‘Mrs. James Hendry’ opened this week with its tall spikes of amazingly fragrant flowers, and the giant Crinum ‘Super Ellen’ just sent up its first flower scape this week. Nearly all of the wonderful striped-flower Crinum x herbertii flowers are open now, so it’s a virtual kaleidoscope of color in the garden. Remember that many of the crinums are much more winter hardy than you think, with many performing just fine into Zone 5, so be sure check out our extensive offerings of these hard-to-find passalong gems. Visit our Crinum page!
The wonderful hybrid echinaceas are back up and the flowering show is just beginning. The first to open for us is Echinacea ‘Hot Papaya’, followed by Echinacea ‘Maui Sunshine’ and Echinacea ‘Gum Drop’ with Echinacea ‘Tomato Soup’ not far behind. As we’ve mentioned before, the key to being successful with the new echinaceas in the ground is well-drained soils, especially in the winter months. In containers, they are much more iffy, as the potting soils tend to hold too much water. Visit our Echinacea page!
While everyone is enamored with “flowers”, I hope you won’t forget the wonderful textural plants of the garden, such as one of my favorites…the genus carex. Carex, or sedges as they are often referred to, are ornamental grasses primarily for shade. Most sedges are evergreen, and their ability to blend with other woodland plants is legendary. Carex come in an array of textures, from the wide-leaf Carex siderosticta to the narrow-leaf Carex morrowii v. temnolepis. Although many folks don’t notice the flowers, they are quite fascinating. Many species of carex are spring bloomers, and here, they are actually in full flower now with fascinating stalks of tiny tan flowers. Whether your conditions are moist or dry, sun or shade, you can find a carex that fits your spot. Maybe one day, we’ll actually have enough interested folks to start a carex chat group. Visit our Carex page!
There are so many other cool plants that I could go on for pages, but instead, I’ll cover these on Facebook, so be sure to become a fan! We’ve also added a few new plants to the catalog , most in limited supply, so check ‘em out at Added May 26, 2011
Remember that you can now follow the Top 25 Best Sellers live at http://www.plantdelights.com/top25.asp
There’s been a lot going on since we last chatted. Spring has come, gone, and now returned. During that time, I spent a week botanizing my way back from a talk in Mobile, Alabama. I made a number of amazing horticultural discoveries including some fantastic trillium finds and I’m hoping to write up the expedition as time permits. While I was gone, the night temperatures back at PDN unexpectedly dropped to 29 degrees F, sending the garden and research staff scurrying to cover the sensitive plants with frost cloth. Due to their hard work, you won’t notice any substantial plant damage when you visit for our Spring Open House.
Speaking of Open House, we’re only a few days away from the start of our annual Spring Open House…April 29-May 1 and May 6-8 from 8am-5pm on Friday and Saturday and 1pm-5pm on Sunday. On the second Saturday, May 7, we’ll be hosting the WPTF’s Weekend Gardener Radio show from 8-11am. We’ll be joined by NC’s own Rufus Edmisten…former Secretary of State, Attorney General, and assistant to the prosecutors in the 1973 Watergate trial. Rufus is quite the gardener, but I’m sure you can get him to chat about almost anything. We are also pleased to once again have Kona Chameleon here to service your caffeine needs while you shop with a variety of coffees, lattes, espressos, etc.
The PDN display gardens are looking pretty incredible with a wide array of plants in flower. I’m lucky to be able to sit outside while I write this, embracing the spring beauty while trying to ignore the noisy flock of robins that make the televison coverage of the Libyan rebels seem tame, as they fight for the last berries from our Nellie Stevens holly hedge. It’s hard to know what to tell you to look for first when you visit. The first flowers of the incredible double yellow Peony ‘Bartzella’ just opened yesterday, so I’m sure some of the 18 flowers on each clump will still be open…more if the temps cool just a bit. The baptisias should also be at peak…if the weather cooperates.
This is such a great time of year for the coral bells and foamy bells as their new foliage almost glows in the spring garden. Two of my favorites, Heuchera ‘Citronelle’ and Heuchera ‘Tiramisu’ are looking fabulous. Some of these clumps are now five-years-old and getting better each year…a far cry from some of the early coral bell introductions that were far too short-lived for us in the east. Hardy geraniums, bush clematis, and amsonia (blue star) all look great this time of year. These are each tough, long-lived stars of the spring garden that I wouldn’t garden without.
An area of great interest that we’ve been focusing on is rain gardens which catch, manage, and clean water runoff. We’d love to show you how to manage your runoff and select great plants that our research has shown love these conditions. Our rain gardens are particularly showy in spring with an incredible display of Louisiana Iris and sarracenia in full flower.
If you’re into odd, phallic plants, we’ve certainly got you covered. How about palms? Have you ever seen a windmill palm in flower? If not, these aren’t to be believed…although for us with a farming background, the flower spikes look like something that should be hanging from a horse in heat. If you’re really lucky, there will also be sauromatum, helicodiceros, and an amorphophallus or two for you to sniff while you’re here. If you’re one of those folks who thinks snorting white powder gives you a thrill, you haven’t lived until you’ve plunged your sniffer into a recently opened amorphophallus…and it’s still legal.
To top things off, our Agave salmiana ‘Green Goblet’ is in the midst of a phallic moment, having just started producing a flower spike last Saturday. It should be up to about 10-14′ tall by the weekend and could possibly be ready to open by the second Open House weekend.
If you just can’t make it to Open House, we request that you send a signed note from your doctor…unless they work for the Wisconsin teachers union, which renders the excuses useless. If your excuse for not attending the Spring Open House is approved, you can find a list of new plants that are ready just in time for Open House on our website. Please remember that many of these items are available in very limited quantities.
We’ve still got a few openings in our Creative Garden Photography Workshop to be held during our Spring Open House on May 7, so if you’re interested, don’t delay in getting registered. Responses from last years attendees were exceptional!
We found out recently that we have been selected as a workshop site for the upcoming North American Association for Environmental Education convention in Raleigh this fall. The meeting, expected to bring 1000+ people to Raleigh, will be held from October 12-15, 2011 at the Raleigh Civic and Convention Center. The workshop/tour at Plant Delights will be on Wednesday October 12 from 1-4:30pm. You must register to attend, and you can do so without registering for the entire conference. You can find out more and register online at http://www.naaee.net/conference
While we’ve had a Plant Delights Facebook page for more than a year, we haven’t publicized it. During this time, we’ve tried to figure how to beneficially use the page, short of telling you what everyone is eating for lunch. We’ve settled on using our Facebook page to keep you up-to-date on nursery news between our monthly newsletters…for example, letting you know that we were okay after the recent tornado outbreak. We also can let you know which nursery crops are particularly huge or just looking great…as we recently did with some greatly oversized hostas. Lastly, one of the really neat features that Facebook presents is the opportunity for you to connect with other PDN gardening friends. This can be particularly useful to share plant information or to fill a bus or car pool to a PDN Open House…wouldn’t it be neat to find a new friend to share the ride from out of town! If you’d like to become a fan of our page, you can click on the Facebook logo on our homepage or you can find us here:
Visit Us on Facebook!
Speaking of tornadoes, our section of North Carolina had quite an outbreak on Saturday, April 16 when 28 tornados touched down in our region…a state record. Five of the tornadoes were rated as EF3, with wind speeds of 136 to 165 mph. I was actually driving back home from talks in coastal Virginia as the storms moved closer and had stopped to botanize a section of woods as the storm headed our way. As it turned out, I got out of the woods just in time, as the area near Roanoke Rapids was devastated only minutes after I left…the things we do for plants! It was surreal driving home, listening to the tornado updates on the radio and altering my route to dodge the storms. Casualties from the tornadoes included 24 people with another 133 injured, 21 businesses destroyed, another 92 with significant damage, and 439 homes destroyed with another 6,189 that sustained significant damage. Thanks to customers around the world…as far away as Sumatra and Indonesia, for checking to make sure we were okay. From now on, we’ve made it easier for you to follow us on Facebook! We were very lucky to have been in an unaffected pocket in the middle of the tornado touchdowns, but our thoughts and prayers go out to those who were adversely affected by the storm.
In the past, we’ve had customers who live near the nursery willing to house new employees (either short or long-term), and we are once again looking for housing for a new employee that will be joining us in late May after finishing up at the University of Georgia. If you have a room available and are interested, please let us know so that we can pass your contact information along to our new employee. You can share your interest by email to Krista at
A couple of months back, I mentioned the Chapter 11 bankruptcy auction of Hines Nurseries, formerly the largest nursery in the country. Well, as it turns out, even after the auction, Hines is still in business thanks to some clever legal maneuvering. As you may recall, Hines Nurseries is owned by the hedge fund, Black Diamond Capital Management. For those who don’t know Black Diamond, they also own companies like Sunworld (one of the worlds leading producers of fruit and vegetables) and Werner Ladders (the worlds top producer of ladders).
Black Diamond runs Hines Nurseries through a shell company…a company that exists in name and cash only. Consequently, when Hines Nurseries went bankrupt this past fall, it wasn’t Black Diamond that went bankrupt…only the shell company that operated Hines. Everyone in the industry assumed that Hines would be sold off for the parts…some locations as a nursery, while other locations, like the property in Texas, would become a housing development. Bids were indeed submitted for exactly that, but Black Diamond submitted its own bid by setting up a new shell company. Since Black Diamond submitted the only bid for the entire operation, they won the auction. In doing this, they were able to eliminate the debt from their recent purchase of Bordier’s Nursery of California. Some folks wonder if this wasn’t the plan all along, but I guess we’ll never know. Although many of the other creditors and bidders raised challenges to this legal maneuvering, the judge found that there were no other bids worth considering. The question remains how long Black Diamond will keep Hines operating. As a business, Black Diamond hates the nursery model, which they describe as requiring too much capital and having too much risk. In other words, Black Diamond’s business model of running everything from a complex set of algorithms simply doesn’t work in the nursery business where you have living products which are started, but not sold the same year.
In a spring faux pas, the plants we sold as Iris ‘Oriental Beauty’ were not correct. The plants we shipped were a Dutch Iris, but just not the one we promised. Please email us if you received one of these and we’ll issue a refund or credit…sorry! In other inventory matters, we have also temporarily run out of Colocasia ‘Thailand Giant’ due to some production issues. We should have another crop ready by early to mid June. Thanks for your patience.
In the Top 25 this month, Iris ‘Red Velvet Elvis’ remains at the top of the list with Colocasia ‘Thailand Giant’ close behind, while the great native, Spigelia marilandica has catapulted into the third spot. Gladiolus ‘Purple Prince’ is another surprise visitor to the top 25 in 11th place.
We hope your selections for the Top 25 contest are faring well, and remember you can now monitor their standing.
I’ll end by saying again that we look forward to seeing you at Open House…please say hello, and thanks for your continuing support!
Greetings from Plant Delights. We hope all is well in your hometown. It’s that time of year and the fall catalog will be on the way on Friday, August 11. If you want to get a head start on your friends, you can find the new catalog on-line at www.plantdelights.com.
We hope you are making your plans to visit PDN this fall, either for the PDN fall open house or for the JCRA 30th Anniversary Symposium.
Even though we may cringe at the idea of summer gardens, there are quite a few plants that relish the idea. The gingers and the colocasias are loving the summer heat, and I can’t think of a plant that more represents summer than the wonderful hardy hibiscus, which are in full flower as we speak. August is a fun month, since this is when many of the wonderful lycoris (surprise lilies) flower. I usually don’t like surprises, but I always break my rule when it’s lycoris time. Another bulb that just loves summer weather is the crinum lilies with their amazing stalks of pink, red, striped, or white flowers.
There are so many summer butterfly-attracting plants flowering now, from the long-flowering verbenas to the stunning eupatoriums (joe-pye-weed), to the well known buddleia (butterfly bushes). Since butterfly attracting plants are designed to flower when butterflies are in season, most of the summer flowering plants are probably good nectar sources. We hope you’ll take time to journey through the pages of the new on-line catalog and see what fun plants you can’t live without. (Read more about Buddleia here) (See the top 25 flowers that attract butterflies here)
On a sad note, we have lost one of our wonderful NC plantsman, Rob Gardener, to cancer. Rob retired from the NC Botanical Garden in Chapel Hill a few years earlier, after devoting his life to gardening and in particular to the genus Sarracenia. Other than many of the sarracenia hybrids we carry, Rob will also be remembered for two of his other introductions, Baptisia ‘Carolina Moonlight’ and Baptisia ‘Purple Smoke’. We’ll certainly miss a good friend and fine plantsman.
For those who entered our Top 25 Contest, be sure to check how your favorite plants are selling. -tony
June started with a bang as we welcomed Horticulture Magazine’s Great Plants, Great Plantsman Symposium to Raleigh. After a wonderful series of talks by speakers such as Tom Fischer (Editor, Horticulture Magazine), Helen Dillon (Ireland), Bob Lyons and Todd Lasseigne (JC Raulston Arboretum), and yours truly, Plant Delights welcomed 180 wonderful gardeners from around the country for a lunch and afternoon of looking and shopping.
Late spring also provided some time in the field. I was fortunate to make another incredible field trip to the Green Swamp, home to pitcher plants and Venus fly-traps. While I have been to the Green Swamp many times in recent years, a recent controlled burn in one area yielded some amazing treasures. Calopogon tuberosus was abundant in flower….both purple and white flowered forms. Growing alongside was C. pallidus, a diminutive relative. Also growing side by side was another striking orchid, Cleistes bifaria. Growing alongside the orchids was an abundance of sarracenias. In all, we saw Sarracenia flava in its many forms and colors, S. rubra, S. purpurea, S. minor and plenty of natural hybrids with each of these species. It was great to see how well the Venus fly-traps had responded to the burn. With the good flowering this year, we can hope for a good seed crop to ensure future generations…provided the habitat can be preserved.
While we only botanized a small region, we were also able to see the Federally Endangered Lysimachia asperulifolia and the rare L. loomsii both in flower. This was my first time to see Rhexia lutea in the wild. It’s hard to imagine a rhexia with anything but purple or white flowers, but there it was. If this plant is propagatable, it has a great future as a garden ornamental. Special thanks to plantsman Frank Galloway for being our tour guide. Frank is a true advocate for finding and preserving rare native plants.
For the last few weeks, I’ve been chained to my desk writing our 2004 fall catalog. Most of the printed matter has now headed for graphic layout and then off to the printer. We hope to have the catalogs in the mail around the first of August. It’s time to take off the shackles now and head out and meet open house visitors. Our summer open house runs from July 9-11 and 16-18…hope you can drop by for a visit.
By the way, we have some administrative/office positions available if you or anyone that you know is interested. We are looking for the right person to become a part of our PDN team. -tony