Winter-blooming clematis, Clematis cirrhosa

Clematis cirrhosa in flower4 Clematis cirrhosa in flower5

One of the real joys of the winter gardening season is the Mediterranean native Clematis cirrhosa.  Here is how it looks today, draped across the railing on our house deck.  Clematis cirrhosa blooms from now until early spring, so you will often find the flowers completely encased in snow or ice…pretty amazing!  Did you know that clematis and hellebores are first cousins?  They are both members of the Ranunculus (buttercup) family Can you see the resemblance in the flowers?  I can’t imagine anyone in Zone 7 and south who doesn’t grow this in their garden.

Clematis ‘Sapphire Indigo’

Clematis Sapphire Indigo5

Looking really good in the gardens now is Clematis ‘Sapphire Indigo’.  This unique hybrid between the vining mailbox clematis and the small-flowered bush clematis has been superb in our trials, flowering virtually non-stop all summer.  Instead of making a vine, Clematis ‘Sapphire Indigo’ sprawls to 2′ wide, creating incredible color combinations with neighboring perennials…a designers dream!

Plant Delights Nursery May 2014 Newsletter

Dear PDN’ers!

Greetings and Happy Spring!

The Perfect Storm

As we mentioned in an earlier email, we experienced the perfect storm of events which impacted our order processing and shipping operations this spring. The combination of delayed ordering due to the long winter, a nearly universal demand for plants to be shipped in May, and the poorly-designed e-commerce system we purchased in December have created an operational and shipping nightmare. The entire company is working in crisis mode and we are burning the midnight oil to fulfill orders and work through the issues.

We know these delays are unacceptable to you and they are unacceptable to us as business owners. We appreciate your patience and your notes of support as we work to ship the orders that were delayed.

Despite seeming like spring has only just begun, we’re actually only a few weeks from the official start of summer. Rains have been steady so far this year, although our recent May rain of 5.17 inches was a bit more than we would have preferred for a single weather event. Fingers crossed for a great gardening summer in most parts of the country, although our thoughts are with those in the already drought stricken areas like California, Texas, and Oklahoma.

Spring open garden and nursery days were well attended and it was wonderful meeting so many folks, including visitors from as far away as California. It’s always great to put faces with the names that we’ve previously met only on social media. Because our growing season was two weeks later than normal, visitors were able to see different plants than they normally see in spring, including peak bloom on many of the early peonies. At least it was dry during open garden and nursery, which is always a relief.

Cattail Bridge at Mystic Creek

Cattail Bridge at Mystic Creek

Weathering the Winter in JLBG

Juniper Level Botanic GardenIn the last couple of weeks, the agaves here at Juniper Level B.G. have awoken from their winter slumber with seven species so far sending up flower spikes. It looks like we’ll be breaking out the tall ladders for some high-wire sexual liaisons before long. We didn’t get great seed set on last year’s century plant breeding, but the highlights of the successful crosses were hybrids of Agave victoriae-reginae and Agave americana ssp. protamericana which we expect will turn out to be quite interesting. Although only six months old, we can already tell they’re truly unique.

We continue to watch as plants in the garden recover from the severe winter. Most of the cycads (sago palms) we cut back have resprouted, with a few still to begin. So far, the only sure loss from that group was a several year old Dioon merolae. Most of our palms came through the winter okay, except for those in an out-lying low part of the garden, where damage to windmill palms was quite severe.

Cycas panzhihuaensis

Cycas panzhihuaensis

Many of the butia, or jelly palms, we thought survived have now declined to a brown pile of branches. We’re not giving up quite yet, as one Butia x Jubaea that we thought was a goner when the spear pulled (a term for the newly emerging leaves rotting so that they easily pull out of the top) has just begun to reflush.

Bananas have been slow to return for many customers, including the very hardy Musa basjoo. It seems that gardeners in colder zones who mulched their bananas have plants which are growing now. Perhaps this past winter will put a damper on the mail order nurseries who continue to list plants like Musa basjoo as hardy to Zone 4 and 5, (-20 to -30 degrees F), which is pure insanity.

Tony’s Travels

 

Hans and Tony courtesy of C. C. Burrell

Hans and Tony
courtesy of C. C. Burrell

We are grateful Tony had the opportunity to speak recently at the relatively new Paul J. Ciener Botanic Garden in Kernersville, NC. This small botanic garden is truly delightful, and the staff, including former JLBG curator Adrienne Roethling, have done a great job in the first phase of their development. We hope you’ll drop by if you’re heading through NC on Interstate 40.

Tony also spoke in Memphis last month, and then he headed into the Ozarks for some botanizing in northwest Arkansas. He had an amazing several days that resulted in finds like a stoloniferous form of Viola pedata, several trilliums he’d never seen before, and a new clematis species that’s still waiting to be named. We’ve posted some photos from the trip on our blog.

Connecting Socially

Zircon says "Don't mess with my social media links!"

Zircon says
“Don’t mess with my
social media links!”

We both love to share our plant passion with you on the PDN blog and our social media sites. We originally posted only on Facebookthen Google+, Twitter,  Pinterest  and LinkedIn, so we created a PDN Blog as our main social media platform. Tony uses the blog to share his perspectives with you about the plant and gardening world as he sees it. The PDN blog, in turn, propagates his posts to Facebook, Google+, and Twitter and allows him to get back out in the garden and greenhouses where he finds meaningful content to share with you!

Anita manages the Juniper Level Botanic Garden  website and the JLBG page at Facebook, along with the PDN and JLBG pages at Pinterest and LinkedIn. Thus far, the only issue we seem to have with social media is when the blog sends our posts to other social media sites, FB and Google+ remove the links to the plants, as well as some of the post. We have no ability to control or change this, and FB’s customer service is as responsive as asking a flat tire to change itself. Hopefully, one day we’ll discover a way to work around this challenge.

Suspending Web Ordering for Inventory June 17-18

Please note we will be closed to take plant inventory in the greenhouses on the above dates. This will require us to empty all shopping carts and suspend website ordering from 12:01am EDT on June 17 through 6:00pm EDT on June 18 in order to obtain accurate inventory numbers. We apologize for any inconvenience during inventory in June and October each year.

Taxonomy and Nomenclature

Longtime readers know Tony’s fascination with plant taxonomy and nomenclature. He always assumed plant naming and renaming had to do with science and taxonomy, but it seems that politics and nationalism are also at play. A recent example is the genus acacia, a member of the Mimosa family. It was determined in 2005 from DNA analysis that acacias from Africa and acacias from Australia were genetically different enough that they were not actually the same genus. Since the original type specimen, named by Linnaeus in 1773, was from Africa, the acacias in Australia were changed to racosperma.

What should have been cut and dried got hijacked when Australia protested, arguing that since they had so many more acacias than Africa (960 vs. 160), it would be too disruptive to change the Australian plants so Australia should get to keep the genus acacia, and a new type specimen (a replacement for the original African standard) should be declared as being from Australia. Follow me here…this would require the original African acacias to be renamed.

As it turned out, even the African acacias weren’t really all the same genus either, so they would then need to be divided anyway. This probably wouldn’t have garnered much in the way of horticultural headlines were it not for the fact that acacias are iconic cultural trees for both cultures. The result was a six-year heavyweight taxonomic and political rumble, the likes of which had never been seen before in the botanical world.

In 2005, the International Botanical Congress voted to officially give the name acacia to Australia. Africa vehemently protested, and accused the committee of stealing African Intellectual Property rights. In 2011, the International Botanical Congress, in a split decision, re-affirmed leaving Australia with the rights to acacia, and handing a still-steaming African delegation two new genera, vachellia (69 species) and senegalia (73 species), which taxonomist are still sorting out to this day. And you though taxonomy was boring!

A dramatic re-enactment by Jasper and Henry

A dramatic re-enactment by Jasper and Henry

Sticky Bees

Phlox paniculata 'Purple Eyes' with bees

Phlox paniculata ‘Purple Eyes’ with bees

In a recent discovery, scientists found bumblebees use electrical signals to determine which flowers have more nectar, allowing them to forage for pollen more efficiently. Bees build up positive electrical charges as they fly, which helps the pollen stick to them as they land on the flowers. Scientist found that this electrical charge is transferred to the flowers when they land to feed. Subsequent bees pick up on this electrical charge, telling the bee which flowers have already been foraged so they don’t waste their energy where little pollen will likely remain. This use of electrical signals had previously been documented in sharks, but not in insects. This fascinating research was first published in the February 21, 2013 issue of Nature magazine.

Industry Updates

Industry mergers are back in the news this month as the 1,000,000 square foot Kentucky wholesaler Color Point (74th largest in the US) has signed a letter of intent to purchase the 3,500,000 million square foot Mid-American Growers of Illinois, which ranks number 13. Interestingly, both nurseries are owned by siblings…the two youngest sons of the famed Van Wingerden greenhouse family, who made their fortunes supplying plants to the mass market box stores.

In sad news from the gardening world, UK plantsman Adrian Bloom of Blooms of Bressingham shared the news that his wife of 48 years, Rosemary, has been diagnosed with advanced terminal cancer, falling ill after returning from a Swiss skiing trip in March. Adrian underwent prostate cancer treatment back in 2011. Please join us in sending thoughts and prayers to the Bloom family.

2014 Summer Open Nursery and Garden Days

Mark your calendar for July Summer Open Nursery and Garden Days. We’ll have the cooling mister running full blast to keep you cool while you shop for colorful and fragrant perennials for your summer garden. And of course, the greenhouses will be full of many cool plants, including echinaceas, salvias, phlox, cannas, dahlias, crinum lilies, and lots of unique ferns. JLBG is especially lush and green during the summer so come and walk the shady paths of the Woodland Garden, or cool off at the Grotto Waterfall Garden and Mystic Falls Garden. It’s always great to see you and meet you in person and to reunite with our long-time customers and friends.

Days: July 11-13 and July 18-20 Rain or Shine!
Times: Fridays and Saturdays 8a-5p, Sundays 1-5p

Woodland Garden Paths near the Water Oak Garden

Woodland Garden Paths near the Water Oak Garden

Southeast Palm Society at PDN/JLNG on August 9th

 

 Sabal uresana

Sabal uresana

Just a reminder that we will be hosting the summer meeting of the Southeast Palm Society at Plant Delights Nursery/Juniper Level Botanic Garden on Saturday August 9, 2014. You are welcome to attend but you will need to register in advance by July 1, 2014. You will find the details here.

Soothing Stress in the Garden

As crazy as things have been in the nursery, the botanic garden here at Juniper Level provides a paradoxically exciting calmness. As a stress reliever, as well as a passion, we spend as much evening and weekend time as possible in the gardens viewing the amazing plants and plant combinations through the lens of our cameras. We each see the garden differently, so Anita shares her photos on the JLBG Facebook page and her Google+ profile, and Tony shares his photos on the PDN blog.

In addition to the sensory beauty and serenity of gardens large or small, researchers worldwide have documented the positive and calming benefits to the human nervous system of spending time in the garden. So relax, refresh, and restore your natural state of balance and calm by spending time in your favorite garden spot.

Until next time, happy gardening!

-tony and anita

Henry in the Grotto Garden at dusk

Henry in the Grotto Garden at dusk

Featured Plants

Crinum 'Lorraine Clark'

Crinum ‘Lorraine Clark’

Curcuma longa 'Snowdrift'

Curcuma longa ‘Snowdrift’

Canna 'Lemon Punch'

Canna ‘Lemon Punch’

Echinacea 'Secret Glow' PPAF

Echinacea ‘Secret Glow’ PPAF

Kniphofia 'Redhot Popsicle' PPAF

Kniphofia ‘Redhot Popsicle’ PPAF

Salvia 'Amistad' PP# 23,578

Salvia ‘Amistad’ PP# 23,578

Saururus cernuus 'Hertford Streaker'

Saururus cernuus ‘Hertford Streaker’

Clematis integrifolia ‘Rose Colored Glasses’

Clematis integrifolia Rose Colored Glasses

I hope you’ve grown some of the amazing bush clematis, including Clematis integrifolia ‘Rose Colored Glasses’ from the gardens here at Juniper Level.  I love this plant which continues to flower sporadically through the summer.  Mature height is 20″ to 24″ tall with good sun and good drainage.

PDN Spring 2014 Open Nursery Days May 2-4 and May 9-11

We’re really excited to show you our new plant offerings at the 2014 Spring Open Nursery and Garden! The lineup includes stars like our amazing Baptisias ‘Blue Towers’ and  ‘Blonde Bombshell’ which are nearing full flower now as are the peonies including the wonderful Paeonia ‘Cora Stubbs’. And you’ll also want to see starlets Iris cristata ‘Vein Mountain’Amsonia rigida, and Clematis ochroleuca ‘Bald Knob’. The hardy ladyslipper orchids are in full flower, so come ready to drool. The hostas look in insanely good, from the dwarf Hosta ‘Mini Skirt’ to the giant Hosta ‘Empress Wu’. We get excited just typing the names of these garden gems!

We’ve been busy propagating, growing, and filling our sale greenhouses with over 1,700 different types of perennials for your spring shopping pleasure. And as always, we add new plants to the sales area right before Open Nursery and Garden… with many only available in small numbers, so plan to visit in person, if you are able, to claim your garden treasures!


May 2, 3, 4 and May 9, 10, 11
Fridays and Saturdays 8a – 5p
Sundays from 1-5p
Rain or Shine


Of course, the nursery and garden will be staffed with our expert horticultural plant-loving staff to talk with you about our gorgeous and colorful spring perennial plant treats which will also be for sale when you visit. Come see us to visit, shop and stroll through Juniper Level Botanic Garden.

Campanula 'Sarastro'

Campanula ‘Sarastro’

2011 Plant Delights Nursery April Newsletter

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

krista@plantdelights.com
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!

-tony

2011 Plant Delights Nursery January Newsletter

We hope you’ve all received your 2011 catalogs by now. If not, it’s probably been confiscated by a postal carrier who also has a penchant for gardening, so give us a holler and we’ll send another. We were very honored to be named one of the seven “Best Mail-Order Plant Sources” by Garden Design Magazine in their December 2010 issue.

We hope you’ve also had time to check out the new version of our Plant Delights website, which includes a number of new items and features. Until you’ve worked on a website this large (27,000 pages indexed by Google), you can’t imagine the time involved. We mentioned last August that we had switched websites, but the new site didn’t live up to our expectations, so for the new year we switched out both our entire nursery database and website systems.

I’m not going to begin to tell you that we’ve worked out all the bugs, so please bear with us as we solve problems that we don’t yet realize are problems. What the new website will allow is faster turnaround of changes and hopefully better Search Engine Optimization (SEO), so more folks in cyberspace can find us.

Because we also have more in-house control of the site, we’ve been able to add several new features. One of these is a “wish list”, where you can tell us which and how many you want of sold out items. If your wish list includes plants that we can produce quickly, then we will. We’ve also added the capability to find plants by categories on the homepage, such as Deer Resistant Plants, Hummingbird Favorites, or Ornamental Grasses.

We’ve recently added several new plant articles including ones on arisaema, curcuma, cyclamen, hedychium, and tricyrtis.

In the plant exploration section, we’ve added images to several of our older expeditions for the first time, including China, Korea, Mexico, and Argentina. We’ve also changed the images in the later galleries to hot links, which should make it easier to follow and know which photos belong where.

We continue to add new plants to the on-line catalog as they become ready including some new ones this week. Most of these plants are available in very limited supply, so if you see something that strikes your fancy, don’t delay. Some of these plants are first time offerings including the hard-to-find Arisaema dahaiense. New plants are listed here.

If you’d like to enter our Top 25 contest for the $250 gift certificate, remember that only 3 weeks remain before our entry deadline of February 15.

I’m traveling around the country this spring and this week I’m in the Big Apple to speak at the Metro Hort’s Plant-O-Rama series for horticultural professionals at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. The details are below, so if you’re in the area, be sure to drop by.

While I’m in NY, I’ll also be appearing on another segment of the Martha Stewart Show, which will air live at 10am on Wednesday January 26 on the Hallmark Channel. If you’re so inclined, be sure to tune in and watch our segment on ferns.

If you enjoy traveling to visit great gardens, there are a few spaces remaining for the upcoming JC Raulston Arboretum’s tour to England from June 11-20. The tour, led by Assistant Director Mark Weathington, includes Kew Gardens, RHS Garden Wisley, the Chelsea Physic Garden, Beth Chatto’s Garden, Roy Lancaster’s home garden and The Sir Harold Hillier Arboretum (led by Roy Lancaster). The tour will also include some special private gardens and nurseries, so don’t miss this incredible opportunity. For more information go to the JCRA website or email Mark directly at mark_weathington@ncsu.edu

Speaking of tours, we have a number of bus groups who visit PDN every year, while we hear from others who would like to join a bus tour, but don’t have enough folks to fill the bus. If this is the case, let us know once you have finalized your dates and we’ll help publicize your tour here in our monthly e-newsletter.

In the garden this month, we’re starting to see signs of life despite still being in the midst of a winter that has included a number of healthy winter storms. The flower buds on Helleborus x hybridus are beginning to swell, but no color is showing quite yet. Many folks like to cut the old foliage from their lenten roses, but the key is good timing. If you cut the foliage too early, you lose the protection that the foliage provides for the developing flower buds while exposing the plants to more sun, which speeds up flowering…not always a good thing in midwinter. Our rule of thumb is that we remove all of the previous year’s foliage only when we see the first sign of color in the flower buds. This year, it looks like that’s going to be in mid-February.

Unlike Helleborus x hybrids, Helleborus niger is already in flower and its hybrids, including H. x ericsmithii, H. x ballardiae, and H. x nigercors, are showing flower color and can be cleaned up now. While these hellebore hybrids were once quite rare, recent breeding breakthroughs and tissue culture advances have made these wonderful plants much more readily available.

There has recently been a big uproar in the nation’s capital over a plan by the US National Arboretum to remove a section of the Glen Dale azalea display. Azaleas lovers across the country have launched an email campaign to prevent the arboretum staff from removing the azaleas. While I like azaleas as much as anyone, I have a different take on the issue. The azaleas in question are breeding rejects from the USDA program which produced the Glen Dale Series. The breeding work of the late Arboretum director, Ben Morrison, produced the release of 454 azalea cultivars. Do we really need more azaleas from a program that has yielded 454 named varieties? When most breeding programs are concluded, the culls (rejects) are typically discarded. For some reason, these culls were never discarded, and over the years folks have become emotionally attached to these plants and consequently are now protesting the plan to discard them. The land at the US National Arboretum is some of the most expensive land in the country and is not the place to maintain a collection of cull azaleas…no matter how nice they look for a couple of weeks in spring. My suggestion to concerned members of the Rhododendron Society and the general public is that they raise private money and pay for the plants to be moved to a nearby park, which has more space and is in an area which is not focused on genetically important collections. Perhaps then, the USNA can replant a complete, labeled collection of the named Glen Dale hybrids along with other important hybrids that can serve as a real reference collection instead of the mass of unlabeled, unnamed plants that exist there now.

Congratulations are in order to Dr. Harold Pellett, the retired University of Minnesota professor and executive director of the Landscape Plant Development Center (LPDC) in Minnesota. Harold is the 2011 recipient of the prestigious Scott Medal, awarded by Pennsylvania’s Scott Arboretum at Swarthmore College. Harold’s work is responsible for several plant introductions for the northern and midwest regions including Physocarpus ‘Center Glow’, Pyrus ‘Silver Ball’, Diervilla ‘Cool Splash’, and Clematis ‘Center Star’ (we’re ignoring those illegal trademark names that LPDC uses).

We are saddened this month to report the death of a couple of horticultural stalwarts. On January 9, we lost our good friend Clif Russell, 79, of Churchville, PA. Clif and his wife Norma spent much of their life as missionaries in Peru, but returned to the US in the mid 1970s, and in 1981 started a wholesale perennial nursery, Russell Gardens Wholesale. For those who had the good fortune to visit, Clif’s nursery was a treasure trove of rare and unusual plants. Like many of us, his passion for plants and obsessive nature often overrode his business decisions. Many of the cool plants found in nurseries and gardens throughout the Northeast started their lives at Russell’s. Clif is survived by his wife, Norma, and five children: Clifton Jr., Jay Timothy, Andrew, Alan, and Kent.

January 12 saw the passing of horticultural icon, Fred Case, 83, of Saginaw, Michigan. Fred was a high school science teacher who retired from the classroom but never stopped teaching. Fred was an active conservationist known worldwide for his books, including “Orchids of the Western Great Lakes Region” (1964), “Wildflowers of the Northeastern States” (1978), “Wildflowers of the Western Great Lakes Region” (1999), and “Trilliums” (1997). Even in his twilight years, Fred continued to tromp through the woods, studying the native flora. Fred was awarded the Edgar Wherryi Award from the North American Rock Garden Society in 1974 and the Scott Medal in 2004. Fred was preceded in death by his wife Roberta (Boots) Case in 1998, but survived by a son and daughter-in-law, David B. and Sheri Leaman Case. We were fortunate to have visited the nursery a couple of times and always found it an incredible learning experience.

Thanks for taking time to read our newsletter and we hope you will enjoy the new catalog and website.

-tony

2009 Plant Delights Nursery November Newsletter

If you’ve been delaying placing your final order for 2009, our shipping season is drawing to a close. The week of Nov 30-Dec 4 represents your last chance to have an order shipped until we start up again in mid-February. That being said, we will do what we can to accommodate horticultural emergencies that crop up in the interim time. With the holidays rapidly approaching, we can help your shopping chores with a Plant Delights Nursery gift certificate for those plant lovers in your family. You can order by phone, mail, or on-line 24 hours a day at www.plantdelights.com

We are thrilled to have been featured in the current issue of Total Landscape Care magazine. If you’re into that sort of thing, you can read the on-line version at www.totallandscapecare.net and click on “View the Current Digital Version”.

It’s been a relatively calm weather year in the Southeast, despite hurricane models and global warming alarmists predicting the opposite. We were actually blessed to have the remnants of Hurricane Ida pass through the area last week and leave us with nearly 5 inches of rain … our recently installed drainage system in the new garden section got a great test. While we were starting to get a bit dry before the rain, folks to the south and just west of us had the opposite problem this year.

Our friends in the Atlanta area had endured four years of drought, but on Thursday October 15, Georgia’s Lake Lanier, which provides water to Atlanta, finally rose above the full mark for the first time since September 2005. The recent record droughts had dropped the lake level down to its historical lows of 18.9′ below full on December 28, 2007. Many residents of Atlanta had given up hope that the lake would ever refill completely, but finally, gardeners and nurseries in the area can breathe a sigh of relief as the lake is now 2′ above normal.

Denver also got their share of moisture this fall, only in the frozen form. On October 29, a massive front dropped 18″-24″ (more in surrounding areas) of snow on the Denver Colorado and adjacent areas. That would put a serious dent in your fall gardening. This is the most snow ever recorded for October in Denver … I’m sure manmade global warming must have caused it.

As I’ve mentioned in the past, this is the season we spend nearly every waking minute working on the new catalog. We just passed the three-week period we refer to as “hell weeks,” where life as we know it ceases to exist; due in large part to a series of rapid-fire catalog deadlines. The text is now completed, the photographs are all selected, and the catalog is in the midst of design layout. If all goes well from here, catalogs will go in the mail on January 1.

Because of the catalog, I haven’t had much time recently to spend in the garden, which is a shame because we’ve had a wonderful fall and only a tiny corner of the garden has been frosted. This means we are enjoying the flowers on both the giant tree dahlia, as well as the giant Hibiscus mutabilis. We love both plants because of their wonderful structure and height in the garden, despite not getting flowers every year due to early frosts.

Dahlia Hibiscus

Another perennial that isn’t recognized enough for fall flowers are the wonderful farfugiums (leopard plant). Although they are normally grown for their unusual foliage, there are few plants better for a fall floral show. Many folks may only get a few flowers, and this is due to growing them in too much shade. To get the best floral display, site your plants where they get a couple of hours of sun during the day and grow them in soil that stays reasonably moist. If you do, you’ll be rewarded with a stunning fall array of 3′ tall spikes of attractive yellow daisies that rival any garden mum.

Farfugium – Leopard Plant

If you hadn’t noticed, we’re pretty particular about nomenclature, and to that end, we’d like to pass along a few discoveries this fall that will change a couple of currently used cultivar names. First, Farfugium ‘Jitsuko’s Star’ turned out to be an old Japanese cultivar, F. ‘Yaezaki’ and similarly, Ophiopogon ‘Little Tabby’, was discovered to be a Japanese cultivar, O. ‘Haku ryu Ko’. We apologize for the incorrect listings, but planting plants isn’t the only thing that requires lots of digging.

When I first got hooked (not literally) on agaves, I was frustrated at the amount of good information about the genus, so in 2004, we invited 10 others with similar interest to rendevous in California for what we dubbed, “Agave Summit I.” Since that time, the interest in agaves has risen dramatically and last month, a group of 30 of us met again for “Agave Summit II,” this time outside San Diego. The purpose of our meetings is to present differing views on agave nomenclature, discuss the newest discoveries, share techniques of agave culture, and trade plants. It is through this amazing underground network that many new agaves make it into the pipeline toward commercial production. It is our hope to continue with these meetings every 4 years as the interest in agaves continues to grow.

If you happen to be reading this near the Raleigh area, we are lucky to welcome, Dr. Nick Turland of the Missouri Botanical Garden to the JC Raulston Arboretum to speak on Thursday, November 19 at 7:30pm. Nick is the co-director of the massive 50-volume Flora of China Project and will be speaking about his efforts in putting together such an epic work. I’m sure anyone interested in the Flora of China Project will find this program fascinating. To find out more, visit the JC Raulston Arboretum website.

If you’re in the Minnesota area and looking to purchase a ready made woodland garden … in Minnesota, you are in luck. Hosta breeder and plantsman, Hans Hansen, who moved to Michigan earlier this year has put his Minnesota house and 5-acre garden on the market. I had the pleasure of visiting many times, what I think is one of the finest private plant collections in the country, and I truly hope a plant person can call this garden home. Hans’ collection of nearly 2,000+ hosta varieties including lots of seedlings, 200+ different peonies, 100+ daylilies, a huge Martagon lily collection, a wonderful collection of clematis and other rock garden plants, and a spring carpet of trout lilies is just the beginning. It’s not even possible to list the extensive collection of plants you’ll find when spring arrives. Visit our gallery where I have posted a few photos I took this summer. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity that is not to be missed. To find out more, go to www.erahome.com and search for 15605 Snake Trail, Waseca, MN 56093.

The horticulture world was saddened recently as we learned of the passing of Rarefind Nursery owner and founder, Henry ‘Hank’ Schannen, 71, on Wednesday, September 16. Hank is survived by his wife, Virginia, and three daughters, Karen Schannen, Lisa Schannen and husband Howard Kohler, Dawn Schannen and husband Darren Kindred. Hank had been feeling poorly for a few weeks and actually died in the hospital parking lot where he was being taken for more tests. Hank, with the help of a great staff, created an amazing nursery, with a primary focus on Rhododendron and companion plants. Hank has been active in the Rhododendron Society for 40+ years and had introduced a number of his own hybrids, such as R. ‘Solidarity’, R. ‘Hank’s Mellow Yellow’, R. ‘Golden Globe’, and R. ‘Purple Elf’. The staff has committed to carrying on Hank’s vision by continuing the nursery. We send them our condolences in Hank’s passing and good luck with the future of the nursery.

We were also saddened to hear of the passing of Texas horticultural legend, Madeline Hill, at the ripe young age of 95. Madeline was the author of, Southern Herb Growing, and past president of the Herb Society of America. Madeline was a tireless promoter of herbs, traveling the country as one of their top ambassadors and to that end, she received a wealth of honor including having the US National Arboretum Knot Garden dedicated in her honor in the 1980s. I’ll remember Madeline for two of her great rosemary introductions, R. ‘Hill’s Hardy’ and R. ‘Arp’. Although we never met in person, I always valued our fascinating and informative phone conversations.

To follow up on my diatribe from last month about native plants being better adapted than non-natives, I’m posting research from Ed Gilman, Professor of environmental horticulture at the University of Florida. One of Ed’s research conclusions is, “One of the results that we noted was that there are no differences between native and non-native species for amount of water required for establishment,” Gilman said. “This often surprises people, but it emphasizes that the Florida-friendly principle — right plant, right place — is worth following.” To read the entire research write-up, go to hort.ifas.ufl.edu/irrigation.

We’re nearing the end of the 2009 Top 25 contest to compete for the $250 worth of plants, here are the results though mid-November. It looks like Echinacea ‘Tomato Soup’ has knocked Colocasia Thailand Giant out of the number 1 position for the first time in 5 years … without a great comeback in the last couple of weeks. The only other big movers are two plants from the fall catalog, Hydrangea .Spirit. at 14th place, and Agave bracteosa ‘Monterrey Frost’ at 18th. It’s truly amazing to have two plants from the fall catalog crack this year.s Top 25, although they will not count as we tally contest votes.

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

-tony

2008 Plant Delights Nursery October Newsletter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks and enjoy

-tony