One final favorite…the very floriferous, but more compact Echinacea ‘Salsa Red‘ in the gardens today!
Here’s another coneflower that’s been a star in our trials…the creamy yellow-flowering Echinacea ‘Aloha’. All of these I’ve shared have shown excellent vigor, good perennialization, and have sturdy stems.
After last years’ performance, Echinacea ‘Secret Glow’ moved into our top tier of favorite coneflowers. Again, this year, it’s a star in the garden as you can see here!
The hybrid coneflowers are making such an amazing show in the garden now, we just had to share. Here is Echinacea ‘Hot Papaya’...part of a stunning 3′ tall, five year old clump. They key to growing echinaceas is to plant them in well-drained soil, and do so before September. It’s also very important to cut the flowers off before they bloom and until they get well established.
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.
Weathering the Winter in JLBG
In 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.
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.
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.
We both love to share our plant passion with you on the PDN blog and our social media sites. We originally posted only on Facebook, then 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!
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 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
Southeast Palm Society at PDN/JLNG on August 9th
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
We’ve just completed our summer inventory and as often seems to happen, some of the coolest plants didn’t sell in the numbers that we’d hoped so we’re left with extra inventory…the nature of offering so many non-mainstream plants. Consequently, and because we need space to propagate and pot new plants for spring, we’re offering those 200+ plants at 20% off. The sale plants must be ordered by midnight July 4, 2013 and scheduled to ship or be picked up no later than July 10, 2013. Quantities are limited on some items, so sale prices are only valid while current stock lasts. Because our cost of doing business is less on the website, this sale is only available for orders placed on the website.
Thanks to everyone who took the time to visit during our recent Spring Open House. In contrast to our Winter Open House, the weather was excellent and the threat of rain never materialized. We were delighted to meet visitors who came from as far away as Canada to the north and Oregon to the west. We’ll do it again in July, so we hope your vacation plans include Plant Delights, where we promise a garden and nursery both filled with amazing plants!
Despite having a very busy spring, many great plants remain, including many full pots of hostas.
If you purchased any of our hardy cypripedium ladyslipper orchids this year, you no doubt noticed the amazing, often multi-crowned plants that we were able to supply. There are still a few varieties that have not sold out.
While lots of other cool plants remain, work has already begun on the fall catalog, as descriptions are now being written on an array of very cool, exciting new plants that we’ve selected and propagated for fall.
In other good news on the plant front, our first crop of Amorphophallus paeoniifolius ‘Thailand Giant’ sold out in record time this spring, but a second crop is now ready and online. Just remember that when these are gone, they’re all gone.
In the “oops” plant category, our production assistant and resident plant nerd, Zac Hill, recently brought to my attention that the plant we originally acquired and now sell as Verbesina microptera is actually Verbesina olsenii. It turns out the true Verbesina microptera is a much smaller plant with white flowers than the massive yellow-flowered giant we grow. Time to change your tags…sorry.
Since our late spring propagation class has filled and has a waiting list, we have added a second section on Saturday August 17, from 10am – 4pm. This class will be led by PDN staff member, Aaron Selby, who is in charge of producing all of the plants sold at Plant Delights. You can sign up online here.
We empathize with those suffering from weather disasters around the country this spring. For many, the annoyance of late spring freezes and even late snows have been the worst in many years…unfortunately these weather events have been enough that we may lose more garden centers that have been hanging on by a financial thread. All this pales, however, to those who suffered the terrible tornadoes this month, especially in Moore, Oklahoma. Our thoughts and prayers go out to all of those affected!
In the “I’m from the Government and I’m here to help” section this month, comes NC House Bill 476, designed to protect underground cables. Instead, the bill makes many home gardening chores a criminal offense. The bill will ban all homeowners from digging at a depth greater than 10”, all trenching for water lines, etc, and all farm plowing greater than 12”…without first calling 811 underground utility locators and then waiting two business days which, including weekends, adds up to 4 days. The new proposed law even makes these acts illegal on your own property! Now, you may not be aware that Chapter 785 of the North Carolina Damage Prevention Act currently exempts homeowners from these requirements, except when digging in the utility easement right-of-ways. Not only is this proposed new law a further intrusion into personal property rights (don’t worry…the fine can’t exceed $2500 each time you dig), it eliminates the spontaneity that is a backbone of gardening. Let’s say you just watched a HGTV show on goldfish ponds and want to add a wildlife habitat to your back yard…sorry, a 2 day wait. How about planting that large tree you just purchased at your neighborhood garden center…a 2 day wait. That farm field or vegetable garden that finally dried out enough for some deep cultivation on Saturday…sorry, a 2 business day wait. How about your mailbox smashed by drunken teenagers on Saturday night…sorry a 2 business day wait. You all could really help us send a message that this is a bad idea, by emailing your legislator…or if you’re from out of town, just pick a name from the list that sounds interesting and sound off. To borrow the old Bartles and James line, we thank you for your support!
The garden world was shaken to its core this month with the announcement that England’s Chelsea Flower Show had agreed to temporarily rescind its long-time ban on garden gnomes for its 100 anniversary. This is the equivalent of US Open golfers being allowed to compete in Speedos and flip flops…it just doesn’t happen. Until now, gnomophobia ran rampant at Chelsea, where the only thing at Chelsea that was allowed to get in the way of the plants were the upturned noses of the UK’s gardening elite. Garden gnomes, as you may be aware, are the antithesis of everything Chelsea, since they are associated with the less tasteful gardens of the great unwashed lower class. Reportedly, many exhibitors enjoyed the relaxation of the gnome ban for a year, while others stayed as far away from the gnomes as possible. Even singer Elton John donated his famous pink rhinestone-studded sunglasses to adorn one of the gnomes auctioned for a garden education charity.
Speaking of gnomes, you may not be aware that some experts on the subject think gnomes aren’t as meek and mild as they are often portrayed in the press. Author Chuck Sambuchino has actually written a book, How to Survive a Garden Gnome Attack…I’m not making this up. If you start feeling a soft spot for gnomes and are thinking of including them in your garden, read this book first. Then, of course, there is the wonderfully educational Gnome Management in the Garden video that’s also a must see from researchers at Utah State.
Over the last hundred years, many insect plant pests have entered the country and have become major problems for gardeners and nurserymen. I’m glad to report success on one front…the Asian longhorned beetle. New Jersey is the second state to report complete eradication after an eleven-year battle…the other being Illinois in 2008. This is great news, since the Asian longhorned beetle has been reported to have eliminated 70% of the tree canopy in an infected area. So far, Asian longhorned beetle has been responsible for the death of over 80,000 trees in the US. The key is early detection and the US Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is asking for your help in watching out for and reporting sightings of this pest. You can find out more at www.HungryPests.com.
Nursery News and Happenin’s
One of the business casualties of the recession was one of the older professional nursery associations, SNA…the Southern Nursery Association. Like so many nursery businesses, SNA was slow to adjust to changing times and didn’t reduce its expenses to match its declining income. SNA was a wonderful organization, but the aspect that many of us missed the most was their event, the Southern Plant Conference. The late JC Raulston was one of the key players in getting this started as an event where plant nerds in the nursery business could get together and talk about all their new plant favorites. Finally, this year, SNA is trying the Freddie Kruger thing and resurrecting itself with a new edition of the Southern Plant Conference as the centerpiece of its new multi-day event. The new SNA Southern Plant Conference, sandwiched between the trade show and other educational sessions, will be held on August 5 at the Georgia International Conference Center across from Hartsfield Airport in Atlanta. The incredible speaker list includes: Allen Armitage, Paul Capiello, Steve Castorani, Rick Crowder, Mike Dirr, John Elsley, Joseph Hillenmeyer, John Hoffman, Richard Olsen, Tom Ranney, James Owen Reich, Ted Stephens, Brian Upchurch, Takay Uki Kobayashi of Japan, and yours truly. I sure hope to see you there. You can find out more here.
If you’re looking to manage a garden and can deal with the climate of Texas, then Peckerwood Gardens may be looking for you. The Garden Conservancy along with garden creator, John Fairey, are looking to hire a Garden Manager for their extensive property in Hempstead, Texas (outside of Houston). Since John has recently turned 80, it’s time to transfer more of the operations of the garden over to this position. You can find more about the position on their website and if interested, email a cover letter expressing interest and a resume to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Congratulations are in order to our friend, landscape artist Pearl Fryar, who on May 2, received the prestigious Verner Award from the South Carolina Arts Commission. If you’ve never been to Pearl’s topiary extravaganza in Bishopville, SC, don’t miss it while Pearl’s still around. Of all the people I’ve met in my life, I can think of no one that better embodies all that’s wonderful about our great country.
In news from the nursery world, Bob Hoffman, owner of NJ’s Fairweather Gardens mail order nursery is suspending all operations for the next year. As you may recall, Bob lost his partner Bob Popham suddenly three years ago and has been running the nursery alone since then, so a respite is sorely needed. Bob’s current plans are to rest, regroup, and re-open in a year. Enjoy the time off!
In sad news, one of the best known names in plant nerd circles passed away on May 14. Plantsman Don Jacobs, 93, had been in declining health for the last two years, battling cancer, heart failure, and a series of strokes. I always enjoyed stopping at Don’s backyard nursery in the suburbs of Atlanta and was fortunate to make a final stop in 2010, just prior to Don becoming ill. To say Don was a quirky nurseryman would be the understatement of the century, but Don’s impact on the number of rare and unusual plants available to gardeners was huge. Don ran a small mail order nursery that never published a catalog…just a single page typed list that you could only get if you requested it each year. When you ordered, Don would then propagate or divide your plant which you would receive…usually within a year or two. Don’s nursery wasn’t for gardeners without patience, but was instead for serious plantsmen who realized that rare plants were worth the wait. I always enjoyed following Don around the garden, shadowed by his pet parrot who oversaw our every step from the tree limbs above.
Few people ever took the time to chat with Don about his life, which included a PhD in Ecology from the University of Minnesota in 1944. Don taught ecology for nine years at the University of Georgia, before becoming frustrated with the university system and starting a wholesale tropical fish and pet store.The store became the largest of its kind in the Southeast US and during the 24 years he ran it he also developed and patented seven water treatment systems for aquariums, which are still used today. In 1979, Don sold his business and started a mail-order plant hobby business that he named Eco Gardens. You’ll find Don’s plants grown worldwide, most named with the cultivar prefix “Eco”, such as Viola pedata ‘Eco Artist Palette’. There was rarely a time when I visited and didn’t find other nurserymen and plant collectors from overseas that had flown to the US just to visit Don and purchase plants. Don also authored 2 books, “Know Your Aquarium Plants” (1971), and “Trilliums in Woodland and Garden; American Treasures” with his son, Rob (1997). Don is survived by his three children and their families. Those who want to honor his memory, please make donations in his name to The American Cancer Society, The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society or the American Heart Association.
Also, from the botanical world, those of us who love ferns suffered a huge loss on May 14 with the death of South Africa’s Koos Roux. Koos, 59, was the fern taxonomist at the Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden’s Compton Herbarium. Koos, an avid bicyclist and South African national cycling champion was out riding with his son, Kobus 19, when he was hit and killed in a hit and run accident. Our thoughts go out to his surviving family.
Until next month…happy gardening.
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
Greetings from PDN! Thanks to everyone who visited our Summer Open House, especially those from the distant locales of New York, Michigan, Florida, Brazil, and even Algeria. It was very cool to chat with one of our brave soldiers, who was home on break from Afghanistan’s Bagram Air Force Base. He was particularly interested to learn that we grow a couple of Afghan native plants, including the bizarre Ficus afghanistanica.
There are probably quite a few other plants that we could grow from Afghanistan, although the prospects of botanizing there look grim for the foreseeable future. Interestingly, Bagram Air Force Base sits just below 5,000′ elevation, and is the same latitude as Greenville, South Carolina, so the prospects of a climate match is quite good.
We’re still experiencing some shipping delays due to seemingly incessant heat, so we thank you for your patience. Since we are dealing with live plants and we want them to arrive at your garden that way, we are simply unable to ship when the temperatures exceed much more than 90 degrees F. If our yearly averages hold, we are overdue for some cooler days soon.
We’ve spent much of the last month working on our fall catalog, deciding which plants to offer and which plants didn’t make the cut. We are very excited with our new offerings which you will see when our catalog goes in the mail in another week. Among our many exciting new introductions are five new rain lilies from Indonesia breeder Fadjar Marta. Fadjar continues to expand what we thought was impossible in the genus zephyranthes with these first new releases since 2007. You can see images of our entire rain lily collection including those slated for Fall 2010 and Spring 2011 introduction by clicking here.
In other plant news, let’s talk about Echinacea ‘Pink Poodle’, which we first listed in 2009. Well, as we say in the nursery business…woof, woof, woof. Yes, the name “Poodle” should have clued us in, but indeed, it turned out to be a real dog. While we first trial almost all of the new plants that we offer, there are a small number that we will occasionally list from trusted breeders, or from where we regularly monitor certain breeding programs. On a very rare occasion we find that a stray dog has made it into the nursery and such was the case with Echinacea ‘Pink Poodle’. After two years in our garden, only one flower out of several hundred turned out to be the nice double that was pictured by the breeder. The rest resembled the insanely ugly Echinacea ‘Doppelganger’, which must be in its parentage. Anyway, we have discarded our remaining stock and are offering credits to anyone who purchased this from us…just contact our office at email@example.com. We apologize for letting this one get past us.
Here at PDN, we’ve celebrated a milestone recently, as our database indicates that we have now passed the 20,000 mark for killing plants. 20,194 dead accessions (different plants) is actually our current total, so don’t even think about complaining that you have a brown thumb. Our dead/alive plant rate now stands around 50%, but since our goal is trialing, experimenting, and learning the possible parameters under which each plant will grow, these numbers are actually a good thing. Granted, if you look at the numbers from our cost for purchasing all of those plants, perhaps one might not consider this a success, but this is what allows us to offer better and often different cultural information than what you might normally read. I’m constantly reminded of the late Dr. J.C. Raulston’s quote, “If you’re not killing plants, you’re not growing as a gardener.” No truer words were ever spoken. I wonder if the Guinness Book of World Records has a category that we fit into?
So, why do plants die? Obviously, there are many causes, and sometimes isolating the specific reason isn’t as easy as we would like. When confronted with a dead plant, especially one planted within the last couple of years, the first step is to inspect the root system. Just like humans, plant autopsies must be done as soon as possible after death to get meaningful results. If you tug on the dead stem, you will find one of three things…no root system remaining, a root system that has never emerged from the original root ball/container shape, or roots which have spread nicely into the surrounding soil.
If you encounter no roots, then the roots were probably either eaten by a vole (thumb sized tunnel will be found nearby) or the roots rotted, which often indicates a poorly drained soil or soil borne disease. If the roots are still in the form of the original container, your plant dried up and died due to poor planting practices. Plants in containers are grown primarily in pine bark, and during the growing season in a nursery they are typically watered at least twice every day…anything less and the plant dies. By not breaking up the root ball and removing most of the potting soil, the roots assume they are still in the pot. It is virtually impossible to apply enough water to keep the root ball moist once it has been planted. If you are able to water enough to keep the root ball moist, the surrounding ground will most likely then be too wet.
When the roots on dead plants have grown out into the surrounding soil, it is more difficult to diagnose the cause, due to the large number of potential problems. These include adaptability in your climate, improper growing conditions, toxins in the surrounding soil, diseases, and propagation issues (i.e. on cutting propagated perennials, not having a growth bud below the soil surface).
At Plant Delights we try to determine the hardiness zone limits, so we kill quite a few plants simply because they aren’t winter or heat hardy in our climate. That being said, you can’t automatically assume that a plant isn’t hardy in a particular climate just because it dies once or even twice. Often, we kill the same plant several times until we get it in exactly the right location. Sometimes it’s just a matter of moving the plant a few feet away for it to be successful. Dr. Raulston once mentioned in a lecture that it was impossible to grow Romneya coulteri (California Poppy) in our climate. We took up the challenge and killed 15 plants over a 20 year period before we succeeded in getting it established. We could have easily given up after the first couple of times and assumed like everyone else that it simply didn’t like our climate.
Many plants were very late to emerge this summer, including many of our curcumas, bananas, and elephant ears. Our Colocasia ‘Illustris’ didn’t emerge until late July and some of our bananas didn’t resprout until mid-July. Obviously, the length of time the ground was frozen this winter had a great effect on many of our “hardy tropicals”. I was recently comparing colocasia survival notes with our neighbor and noted aroid expert Alan Galloway, bemoaning the fact that several of our colocasia, most notably Colocasia ‘Mojito’ and Colocasia ‘Diamond Head’, had died in what was a relatively mild winter…except for the long duration of frozen ground. Alan, who lives less than a mile away, had good survival on all of the plants we lost. He explained that the had noticed for years that elephant ear tubers work their way up through the soil, and after three years the tubers rise to the soil surface where they are most likely to be killed. He plants all his elephant ears 6-8″ deep, and in the fall re-checks the tubers after the first frost, replanting any shallow tubers. This is the obvious explanation why we would sometimes lose well-established colocasias during a seemingly mild winter. We are therefore changing our planting recommendations for elephant ears.
As a nursery, dying plants also create a problem when dealing with narcissistic gardeners, who by their nature, must blame their lack of success on someone else. We dealt with a particularly unintelligent gardener last year who, between constantly repeating his gardening credentials, insisted that it was our fault that several of his plants which came from us died…all after growing fine for an entire season. This lack of common sense kept the gardener from looking for what might have actually gone wrong. Several years ago we had another gardener who purchased plants at an Open House day and proceeded to leave them in her closed car while she stopped to shop on the way home…on a day when the temperature topped 100 degrees F. Sadly, this customer was also unwilling to take any responsibility for her lack of common sense and demanded that it was our fault. Thank goodness it wasn’t children that she left in the car.
While plants may not always die immediately, they often grow for a few years and then decline in health. Evaluating your garden conditions is the best place to start when your plants fail to thrive. Factors in their decline include changes in root competition, the amount of overhead light, soil nutrient balance, soil moisture, and the balance of fungi/bacteria in the soil. Many gardeners miss subtle changes such as these, which happen slowly over time. I recommend testing your soil every 2-3 years to keep an eye on soil nutrition. Remember that some short-lived plants prefer a soil that has a higher bacterial/fungal content. When soil is disturbed/tilled, the balance of bacteria as compared to fungi increases, since fungi resent soil disturbance. Conversely, the longer a soil stays undisturbed, the higher the fungi content becomes as compared to the bacterial population which favors longer lived plants. Other plants simply like to be divided every few years…great examples are farfugiums, daylilies, and Japanese iris. Because of these factors, we’ve been spending quite a bit of time this summer moving plants that were no longer performing as they should.
When moving plants in the summer, the key to success is good irrigation after the plants are transplanted. Obviously, soil moisture is important, but equally so is keeping some moisture on the foliage until the plants are re-established. For this purpose, I like to use sprinkler hoses. Compared to a drip hose, which leaks water under low pressure, sprinkler hoses spray tiny, short, fine streams of water at a slightly higher pressure, creating a modified misting effect. Sprinkler hoses can be used right side up or upside down, depending on the desired effect. Unfortunately, most of the sprinkler hoses available are cheap, very poor quality hoses such as what you will often find at the big box stores, where the price point is far more important than quality. My experience echoed the online reviews I found, describing cheap hoses which rarely lasted more than 1-2 waterings before becoming worthless when the holes blew out, resulting in no watering at the far end of the hose and a flood at the front end. My search led me to Flexon™ brand sprinkler hoses, which have performed wonderfully.
After transplanting a bed of plants, which we did in 100 degree F temperatures, we hooked a battery-powered timer to the faucet along with a string of sprinkler hoses. Most waterings are only 1-2 minutes long, but are repeated several times per day to keep the foliage moist while the plants re-root. Longer waterings to keep the soil from drying might be needed only once or twice per week.
We recently got a note from Wall Street Journal garden writer Anne Marie Chaker, who is working on a story about zone-denial gardening. She’s looking for hard-core gardeners who love to push the limits on what is possible in their zones. If you fit the bill and would like to be part of the story, please contact Anne Marie at firstname.lastname@example.org
In yet another massive collapse in the horticultural industry, Skinner Nursery has now joined the all-to-long list of nurseries taken down by the recent faltering economy. Skinner Nurseries began its life in 1973 as a wholesale nursery in Jacksonville, Florida started by real estate developer Byrant B. Skinner Sr. In the late 1990s the company began expanding as a plant distribution center, quickly becoming one of the largest in the country, with 22 locations (2007) in seven southeast states. The original wholesale division, now encompassing 1300 acres in Florida, was renamed Flagler Wholesale Nursery and was run by brothers Russell and Bryant Skinner.
In 2005, Skinner Nurseries ranked No. 4 on The Jacksonville Business Journal’s Fastest-Growing Private Companies list. Company revenues increased from $12.4 million in 2000 to $110 million by 2007. Prestigious landscape projects included the J.C. Penney headquarters in Texas, the Merrill Lynch Southeast headquarters in Florida, the Jacksonville, Florida Municipal Stadium; the PGA World Golf Village and Hall of Fame in Florida, and the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta. The company had done so well financially that they even got into stock car racing sponsorship (FASCAR) in 2007. Despite the slowing economy, Skinner was determined (obviously too much so) to expand and open new distribution centers until 2008, when the “nursery-friendly” folks at Wachovia slashed their line of credit. While a few of the Skinner Nursery sites were sold to other nurseries, most were just shuttered. As is usual in these cases, there is a ripple down effect to suppliers who never got paid. Since Skinner Nurseries never filed for bankruptcy protection, it is unclear if enough funds remain to pay all of the vendors…we certainly hope so. As of press time, it appears that the stock at Flagler Wholesale Nursery could also be headed for auction. Surely the bankers learned something after the Carolina Nurseries auction debacle…you can’t auction plants into an already saturated market at anything but giveaway prices.
In other sad gardening news, Diana Nicholls, 65, longtime owner of Nicholls Gardens in Gainesville, Virginia, (not to be confused with Nichols Garden Nursery), passed away suddenly on June 1, due to anaphylactic shock caused by an insect sting. Nicholls Gardens was a mail-order nursery specializing in iris, peony, and hosta. Our condolences go out to Diana’s extended family.
Who turned on the heat? While we’ve had really good rains in June, they have been accompanied by abnormally high temperatures which arrived much too early in the season. Because of the hot weather, we have put all plant shipping on hold until temps drop back to the upper 80’s/low 90’s. As much as we are told that we can control the climate, we can’t get our operator manual to work correctly, so we will therefore resume shipping as soon as Momma Nature allows.
We’ve just finished our late spring inventory: the kick-off event for our fall catalog production season which is now underway. Catalog descriptions are nearly finished, as we now make sure we have good photos to go with each new introduction. In evaluating the spring season, sales were not quite what we had hoped for, so once again we have an excess of several items and unfortunately for us (fortunately for you,) we need the space for summer production. Consequently, it’s time for our summer overstock sale. This year, we’re dubbing it our “World Cup, Kick’em Out, 20% Off Sale”. Click here to find out what’s on sale.
We’ve also added several new plants to the web since last month, many of which are available in limited quantities.
In plant news, it was great to hear from plantsman Jim Waddick of Kansas City, who shared with us that his Helicodiceros muscivorus has been hardy outdoors and actually flowered this year. Since there are so few of these grown, there haven’t been many folks testing it for winter hardiness. We’ll get our Zone 7 rating changed to a Zone 5b … thanks, Jim.
Gladiolus ‘Atom’ was one of the few plants that we offered this year that we didn’t grow ourselves, and guess what … we received and sold the wrong plant! Once they flowered, we were greeted with nice pink flowers … not the brilliant red with a white picotee edge we expected. Therefore, if you got one of these before we saw them flower, please contact our customer service department for a refund or credit. Although we’ve discarded the off-type stock, we would like to know the identity of the plant we sold, so if you recognize this cultivar, please let us know.
In the latest news from the nursery industry, CEO Steve Hutton announced the closure of the Conard Pyle Wholesale Nursery in West Grove, PA, which is shutting down its 32 year old wholesale division. What will remain of the scaled back 113-year old company is only their rose and liner division. For those of you who don’t know the name Conard Pyle, these are the folks who market and license Mediland-Star Roses and Knockout Roses.
Another sad development is the liquidation plant auction this week of 5,000,000 container plants at Carolina Nurseries in South Carolina. Not only was Carolina Nurseries the largest nursery in South Carolina (700 acres), but president J. Guy was the founder of the Novalis program, which currently serves as a nationwide conduit and marketing program to get new plants from breeders to independent garden centers.
Carolina Nurseries was hit hard like everyone else during the economic downturn, but the nail in the proverbial coffin was their inability to maintain their financing due to the tightening credit market. Carolina Nursery had been a long-time customer of Wachovia, which as we know, went belly-up in the mortgage crisis meltdown due to risky loans. Although Carolina Nursery president J. Guy had actually been a long-term Wachovia board member, the “new” Wachovia (aka Wells Fargo) found that Carolina’s square peg no longer fit into Wells Fargo’s new round hole. I can relate, since we had the same experience with the original Wachovia when they merged with First Union in 2001. Fortunately, we were small enough to fire Wachovia and find a small town bank who understood and appreciated our business. As a friend reminded me, the Wachovia of the last decade wasn’t really Wachovia, but actually First Union in drag. It is unclear at this time what will happen after the plant auction at Carolina Nurseries this week, but if I were a betting man, I wouldn’t count J. Guy out after only one knockout. We’ve got our fingers crossed for a Freddy-Krueger like reappearance.
In related news, financial issues have put several botanic gardens and private gardens on the market this month including The Berry Botanic Garden in Portland, Oregon, the Harland Hand Garden in El Cerrito, California, and the 3 acre Western Hills Nursery and Garden in Occidental, California. I never made it to The Berry Botanical Garden, but have visited the other two and can’t say enough good things about them. Harland Hand was an amazing plantsman and designer, and the garden sits high atop a hill that overlooks the San Francisco Bay. You can find out more at www.harlandhandgarden.com. I have written in the past about Western Hills, which we thought was safe after a couple purchased it in 2007, but that didn’t work out since the garden and nursery went into foreclosure early this year. You can find out more at www.westernhillsnursery.com. If you know of anyone who might be interested in either of these properties, contact the Garden Conservancy at email@example.com.
I had mentioned in an earlier newsletter about the excellent bloom on many of the perennials this year due to the abnormally large number of chilling hours this winter. One benefit that I didn’t realize until recently was the increased height of our lilies. I have never been able to get many of our lilies to reach their “advertised” heights … until this year. Lilies that normally only reached 3-4′ are now 6-7′ tall with amazing flower heads.
On the opposite end of the winter spectrum were unexpected losses of some colocasias and bananas. Although our winter temperatures in 2008 (7-9° F) were much colder than 2009 temperatures (16° F), the ground was frozen for 6+ weeks this winter as we stayed below freezing for more than a week at a time. Despite mulching the colocasia clumps with small shredded leaf mulch “volcanos”, we still lost elephant ears that we shouldn”t have, including Colocasia ‘Mojito’, C. ‘Diamond Head’, and C. gigantea ‘Thailand Giant’ (which we view as marginal in our zone). Even hardy bananas such as Musa velutina didn’t re-emerge until mid-June. I’m betting that without the excess winter moisture, we wouldn’t have seen as many winter losses, so I’m considering covering the leaves with a fabric in the future to reduce the winter moisture from reaching the dormant corms.
Plants that have really impressed me this year are some of the new echinaceas, which just get better with age. The one that truly boggles my mind so far is Echinacea ‘Hot Papaya’. The flowers emerge orange and initially appear ho-hum, but then they quickly “fill out” while morphing into a dark scarlet red that is simply unreal. I have them planted alongside my driveway, and everyday I pass them, I can’t help but say “wow” … what an amazing breakthrough. Echinacea ‘Tomato Soup’ has also developed into an amazingly large clump, but the habit is much more open, making it better to blend into a perennial border with complementing colors and contrasting forms. Echinacea ‘Milkshake’ is another cultivar that never ceases to amaze me with its huge cones of double white … again, a clump that keeps getting better each year. If you haven’t tried some of these amazing new echinaceas, what are you waiting for?
The key to establishing echinaceas is to plant them before fall and be sure the planting bed is well-drained in the winter. I also recommend that you remove the flowers until the plant is well established. Tissue cultured clonal echinaceas tend to go to flower much more quickly than they should, often before developing a dense crown. By removing the developing flowers, the energy is sent back into crown development, which results in better survivability and a sturdier plant. I know removing the first flowers is tough, but get the bud vases ready.
Another plant that I gain a new respect for every year is the hardy gladiolus. I will admit to having never grown a gladiolus a decade ago, not caring much for the over-the-top annual funeral-spray glads. Fast forward a decade, and a trip to South Africa to see them in the wild, and I have a whole new respect for the genus. Despite the fact that all Holland-produced glads are now bred against being winter hardy, many of the old hybrids and species selections remain.
Having now grown a number of gladiolus species, I am particularly impressed with selections and hybrids of Gladiolus dalenii. G. dalenii seems to impart the best traits of spike form and hardiness into its offspring. Some selections such as G. ‘Boone’, which we hope to offer in spring, are reportedly hardy to Zone 5. While we list most of our gladiolus offerings as Zone 7b, that’s only because we don’t know how much winter cold they will tolerate. In a baptisia that we dug and sent to a friend in Minnesota, there were a few hiding corms of Gladiolus papilio. We were all surprised when they not only returned, but naturalized there at temperatures near -30° F, without the benefit of snow. Unfortunately, this was not an attractive form of the species, but it does show the incredible hardiness potential of the genus. A few years ago, some of our gladiolus clumps got so large that they finally produced enough stems for me to cut for indoor arrangements. Again, I was impressed at how nice they were as cut flowers, so if you’re looking for a few brownie points, especially if your spouse thinks you spend too much on plants, gladiolus are your answer.
We’ve spent the last few years bulking up some exceptional selections that will start appearing next year, along with raising some of our own gladiolus from seed. We discovered that if you grow gladiolus cultivars near each other, they are quite promiscuous and will cross pollinate. We’re in the process of making final selections, but there are some real gems in the pipeline. I hope you will give the hardy glads a try in your garden and, please, let us know your results if you are in an area that drops below 0° F in the winter.
In the Top 25 contest this month there weren’t many major moves. Canna ‘Phaison’ moves from 10th to 7th place while Begonia ‘Heron’s Pirouette’ moved from 16th to 13th, and Colocasia ‘Mojito’ jumped from 26th to 20th. Salvia chamaedryoides moved into 26th place from just outside the top 30. Echinacea ‘Tomato Soup’ slid up from 8th to 5th place, Echinacea ‘Green Envy’ moved from 20th to 14th, but the biggest movers were Dianthus ‘Heart Attack’, Agastache ‘Cotton Candy’, Adiantum venustum, and Geranium ‘Anne Thomson’ all of which moved from outside the top 30 to 7th, 15th, 21st, and 22nd place respectively.
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