Another possibly new elephant ear

Here’s another new elephant ear we’re thinking about introducing, but we’d love to hear your thoughts.  Mature height is 3-4′ and it does spread among other plants. We are calling it Colocasia ‘Smiley Face’. This is an unidentified species, probably from North Vietnam, that has been hardy for us for over a decade.  Thoughts?

New Elephant Ear

Here’s a new image of Colocasia ‘Aloha’ growing in our garden.  This 2017 introduction from the breeding work of Dr. John Cho is truly amazing and so unique. This plant is 8 weeks in the ground from a 1 quart pot.

Are There Giants in Your Garden?

Colocasias are a genus that can bring a taste of the tropics to your backyard garden. Colocasia ‘Thailand Giant’ is a huge strain of the giant elephant ear that can reach 9′ tall in the wild, and certainly makes its presence known in the garden. Can you say WOW factor! Each glaucous grey-green leaf is up to 5′ long and 4′ wide. It also produces abundant 8″ flowers with white spathes from summer into fall. Learn how to grow elephant ears here.

So if you’re looking for a tropical escape and want to make a bold statement in your garden, or just want to impress your friends and neighbors, get your very own Giant today!

picture of Colocasia Thailand Giant in the garden

Colocasia Thailand Giant in the Garden

picture of Colocasia Thailand Giant flower

Flowers of Colocasia Thailand Giant

picture of Colocasia Thailand Giant in sales house

Colocasia Thailand Giant in the Sales House

Colocasia ‘White Lava’ – stunning accent in the garden

Colocasia esculenta White Lava leaf (2)Here’s a photo we just took in the garden of the amazing Colocasia ‘White Lava’.  We love this hybrid from the amazing breeding program of Hawaii’s John Cho.  Hardiness outdoors is Zone 7b south. Learn how to grow elephant ears here.

 

Gold-leaf Bletilla and Giant Elephant Ear – New for 2015 Preview

Bletilla striata Ogon (63824).cc

As we continue to preview a few of our new plants for 2015, here is a plant we’ve lusted after for years, and are finally able to share.  Bletilla striata ‘Ogon’ is a very rare, gold-leafed selection of the hardy orchid.  It’s hard to really capture the color well with my photographic skills, but it’s really an amazing plant.

Colocasia gigantea Laosy Giant with Alan Galloway2 (63848).cc

In the world of giant elephant ears, here’s one you don’t want to miss.  Colocasia gigantea ‘Laosy Giant’ is an Alan Galloway selection from where else, Laos.  In our trials, the leaves are about 1/3 larger than Colocasia ‘Thailand Giant’, although the overall clump size is nearly the same.  Thanks to Alan for both posing for this photo and for allowing us to introduce this new giant elephant ear.  Remember that the new plants will go up on the website in 2 days…the countdown begins! Learn how to grow elephant ears here.

Colocasia esculenta White Lava’

Colocasia esculenta White Lava leaf6

I just snapped this photo of the amazing Colocasia esculenta ‘White Lava‘ in the garden…quite a stunner once it fully colors.  It only grows to 3’ tall and clumps unlike its similar patterned parent, Colocasia ‘Nancy’s Revenge’. Learn how to grow elephant ears here.

The greenhouses are full of great plants!

Greenhouse 9 Cannas Bananas Greenhouse 11 agaves Greenhouse 13 colocasias

Many folks don’t realize that we grow our own plants here at Plant Delights.  This allows better control of availability, quality, and trueness to name.  Here are current photos of three of our stock houses where the plants are grown…one with cannas and gingers, another with agaves and yuccas, and one with elephant ears.  Your orders are pulled from stock in these greenhouses.  Whether you order on-line or are able to visit during our final upcoming Open Nursery and Garden weekend, we hope you’ll be very pleased with our plant quality.  Thank you for being a Plant Delights customer.

Remusatia vivipara elephant ear

Remusatia vivipara A1VT-031A leaf back2

Here’s our Vietnamese selection of the elephant ear cousin, Remusatia vivipara.  I found this form with dark black leaf back patterns while sliding down a moist hillside in North Vietnam during monsoon season.  Not only has it survived our very cold winters, but it looks really cool when planted where it can be backlit by the setting sun. Learn how to grow elephant ears here.

 

2012 Plant Delights Nursery April Newsletter

I picked a lovely night to write to you from our home patio, where I’m sitting adjacent to the falling water sound of the Mt. Michelle waterfall, punctuated by the intermittent peeps from nearby mating frogs, each in search of a suitable companion. It’s not yet the cacophony that we’ll have in a few more weeks, where up to eight different species of poorly harmonized frogs will be trying to communicate simultaneously like a restaurant full of cell phone users. In the dark of this evening, it’s fascinating to watch the mosquitos continually trying to attack my cursor as it moves around the laptop screen. So, what is the best way to clean blood off laptop screens…inquiring minds want to know?

We’ve just added another three dozen new plants to the website, many available only in very limited quantities. Shop Now!

It’s been quite a start to the year in most parts of the country, with spring arriving far too soon. Many folks had their gardening chores recently interrupted by another round of winter including some major snows in parts of West Virginia, Pennsylvania and surrounding states. We thought we were going to get by without a late frost, but on April 10 temperatures at the nursery dropped to 32 F and later on April 25 we hit a frosty 36 F, with many hostas in full leaf and even elephant ears beginning to grow. Our garden curator, Todd Wiegardt, the garden staff, and our wonderful volunteers spent a day and a half covering the most susceptible plants. So far, most of the plants we covered seem to have fared fine. We don’t bother covering plants like bananas, cannas, and elephant ears for such light frosts since they are engineered to bounce right back despite being rendered a temporary pile of black mush.

For those who follow us on Facebook, we detailed our experiments with the new product, Freeze-Pruf. It was our hope that it would serve as a replacement for the long, drawn-out process of covering plants, but no such luck. We’ve also posted our first video about the process of protecting sensitive plants in the garden from a late spring frost. You can find the video on our website here.

We continue to post an insane number of plant photos from the garden on our Facebook page. This has become an wonderful way for us to share exciting garden plants several times each week. You’re sure to be seeing lots of agave photos, as we have six blessed events that will soon take place on our Southwest-themed patio. Yes, our Agave palmeri ‘Cutty Shark’, Agave protoamericana ‘Blue Steel’, Agave victoriae-reginae, Agave striata, a second Agave protoameriana, and Agave ‘Stormy Seize’ began spiking recently…three on April 10, one on April 17, and two on April 24. Strangely, all started spiking on Tuesdays…hmmm. Based on our past experience, the taller agaves usually take 45-50 days to reach their full size and flower. We’ve got a couple more agaves that are looking sort of pregnant, so there could even be more. Spring is shaping up as quite a year for agave breeding.

We’ve recently added a really neat advanced search feature on the website. You can click boxes like “ferns” and “zone 6″ and get a list of ferns for zone 6, or find all the red-flowering hummingbird-attractive flowers for zone 5. We hope you’ll check it out and let us know what you think. Advanced Search

Especially busy is our shipping/customer service department as we enter what we affectionally call “snowball season”. Snowball season in the mail order business is when, no matter how fast you run, the giant snowball of incoming and pending orders rolling down the hill behind you is getting bigger, faster, and closer each day. The dilemma is that no matter how much staff we hire, customers still outnumber us by 1000:1. To help with the snowball season, we’ve hired lots of new shipping staff and welcome recent NCSU Landscape Architect graduate, Allison Morgan, to our Customer Service staff.

The nature of mail order is that most folks want their plants between late April and late May, which is sort of like squeezing a theater full of people out through one set of double doors during a fire drill. While we try to get orders out the door the week they arrive, this becomes a logistical impossibility for the next four weeks. This rush combines with our other annual nightmare where plants that have been ordered early but not shipped don’t emerge from dormancy in spring. While our growing staff does a great job, some plants simply don’t cooperate with our plans, which creates problem orders on our end and disappointment on your end. In some cases, we will have more of a particular plant ready in a later crop, but in other cases, the production time for a new crop may be several years. We thank for your patience and understanding during the next few weeks and thank you so much for keeping those orders coming. Trust us, there is nothing more anguishing for us that to not be able to supply an ordered plant.

At the same time, we’re excitedly gearing up for our Spring Open Nursery and Garden event, May 4-6 and May 11-13. Hours are 8am-5pm on Friday and Saturday and 1-5pm on Sundays. The gardens are looking particularly amazing, so we hope you can visit. On Open House days visitors are allowed to purchase plants on site, walk through the gardens, and have their gardening questions answered by our staff. The gardens have several areas to picnic, so we’d love to have you bring your lunch to enjoy in the gardens. If you are visiting from outside the local area and would like to car pool with others from your region, please use our Facebook page to connect. If you don’t have a GPS/navigation device, you can get printed directions, at http://www.plantdelights.com/Visiting.asp

We are holding our Plant and Garden Photography class during the second Saturday of our Open House on May 12 from 8am-4pm and have only a few spots remaining. If you’re interested in joining us, you can find out more online

Plant Delights was very blessed to have been featured in the March/April issue of “American Gardener” Magazine. If you aren’t a subscriber, we will have extra copies at Open House. You can also find a condensed version online

For a while, I’ve been following the recession-era demise of one of America’s top destination garden centers, Matterhorn Nursery of Spring Valley, New York, whose business is up for auction this weekend. It’s a very sad fall for Matt Horn and his wife Ronnie, who have operated the 36 acre garden center and display garden for over 31 years. Matterhorn filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in fall 2010 after the recession cut their sales by over 50% and a deal to raise money by selling off 15 acres of the property to a nearby municipality fell through. At the time, Matterhorn said they were in the midst of their “sustainable” renovations including installing solar panels, biomass boilers, green roofs, and other “feel-good”, but poor ROI’s (return on investments). After over a year in Chapter 11, it was unfeasible for the company to remain viable with such a high debt load so the property will be auctioned. If you have a desire to instantly own one of the country’s top garden centers, you can find the auction information here.

For the last couple of decades Matt was the poster boy, out-of-the-box thinker for everything a garden center could and should be. In short, Matterhorn was everything to everyone…if you could dream it, Matt had probably already done it. Matterhorn was set up like a European village with mini-shops throughout the property selling everything from outdoor furnishings to food and drinks.

I always enjoyed hearing Matt speak at trade meetings, but always marveled how they managed cash flow and debt load. Unfortunately, Matterhorn now joins an all-too-long line of nursery businesses to have finance issues collide head on with the economic slowdown. Matt and Ronnie will continue to run their landscape design and maintenance business, and knowing them, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them back in the retail business in the future…best of luck, my friends.

Calls are coming in from around the Southeast US about the latest horticultural scourge…kudzu bugs. These beetles are voracious, going through kudzu faster than Newt Gingrich does cash. Not only do kudzu bugs eat kudzu, but they also eat crops like soybeans and related ornamental legumes. When kudzu is dormant, these ugly light brown beetles, which are attracted to bright colors and heights can actually loiter on cars and homes, waiting until kudzu begins growing again. Research has shown that these tough critters can even hold onto a car going 80 miles per hour..now that’s a video I want to see. The kudzu bug infestation began in the Atlanta, Georgia area and has now spread from Alabama to the edges of southern Virginia. There really isn’t much to do to keep them out of your home other than to carefully caulk the cracks in your house. As far as damaging the ornamental legumes in your garden, we’re just going to have to see what they attack, but prime candidates are close relatives like lupinus (lupines), baptisia, indigofera, erythrina (coral been), amorpha (lead plant), and cytisus (scotch broom). Here’s a video of the critters. Finally, if you or your spouse are having trouble sleeping, especially after a hard day in the garden, your prayers have been answered. Move over Ambien, the long-awaited three volume set, Algae of the Ukraine is now available. This riveting 1639 page hardcover set, sure to make the NY Times best seller list, includes nomenclature, taxonomy, ecology, and geography of all the greats: Cyanoprocaroya, Euglenophyta, Chlorophyta and many more. You’ll be the life of the party when you whip out volume one and begin extolling the virtues of the Ukranian Dinophyta. If you hurry, the English language edition can be yours for the bargain price of only $235 as long as supplies last. www.koeltz.com Be sure to let me know if that doesn’t put you to sleep.

Enjoy, and until the next newsletter, we’ll see you on Facebook!

-tony

2010 Plant Delights Nursery July Newsletter

Dear PDN’ers:

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 office@plantdelights.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 amc@wsj.com

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.