Horticultural Bright Lights Symposium

We hope you’re making plans to attend the upcoming Horticultural Bright Lights Symposium in celebration of the 40th Anniversary of the JC Raulston Arboretum, Raleigh, NC.  The dates are Friday and Saturday, September 23 and 24, 2016…830am – 330pm each day You can register here, but don’t wait, since we expect a sell out!

We’ve already registered, so we’ll hope to see you there!  Did I mention the rare plant auction?  We’re also opening the nursery and gardens at Plant Delights/Juniper Level Botanic Garden on Thursday September 22, 8-5, for symposium attendees.

This very special symposium features 8 of the top young stars of the horticultural world, all of which will boggle your mind with their knowledge and passion for gardening

The incredible speaker lineup includes:

*Matthew Pottage is the Curator of the RHS Wisley Gardens, UK.  It says something to be named the youngest curator ever appointed by the Royal Horticultural Society.  Matthew is a phenomenal plantsman, whose horticultural favorites includes conifers, hardy exotics and variegation.

*Claudia West is the Ecological Sales Manager and Design Consultant for North Creek Nurseries, PA, as well as co-author of the hot new book, Planting in a Post-Wild World: Designing Plant Communities for Resilient Landscapes.  Claudia will make you look at landscape design in a whole new light…did I mention she’s one of the best speakers I’ve heard in the last decade.

*Dr. Jared Barnes is an inspirational horticulture professor at Stephen F. Austin State University, Texas.  Jared is also an NCSU grad, a world traveler, and all around passionate plant nerd.

*Aaron Floden currently works at the University of Tennessee herbarium as a botanist, plant explorer, and virtual walking plant encyclopedia on anything botanical. Aaron is currently finishing his PhD thesis on the taxonomy of the genus, polygonatum.  Aaron has also discovered and published new species of Clematis, monarda, trillium, and polygonatum. When I’m stumped about a plant, Aaron is usually my first call.

*Hans Hansen is a mad plantsman, worldly plant explorer, tissue culture pioneer, amazing gardener, and currently Director of Plant Development at Walters Gardens in Michigan. Hans is unquestionably the top perennial plant breeder in the world today.  His portfolio include 2 hosta of the year winners and much more including some revolutionary bigeneric hybrids.

*Rebecca McMackin is the Horticulture Director of the Brooklyn Bridge Park, as well as an ecological garden designer, instructor at the Brooklyn Botanic and New York Botanic Garden, and obsessed horticulturist. Who needs sleep?

*Tim and Matt Nichols – What’s the chance of having two equally obsessed woody plantsmen from the same family?  Together, the Nichols brothers operate their mail order nurseries, Mr. Maple.com and Mr.Ginkgo.com  Did I mention that they grow over 1000 different maples?  Who knew you could get this crazed growing maples?

 

 
 
 
Register now, spaces are limited for this insider’s glimpse into the newest advances in plant selection and designing for pollinators, wildlife, and sustainability, putting you on the cutting edge in gardening.
Early Bird Registration until September 4, 2016,
Get a Chance to Win a Mr. Maple Japanese Maple.
Cost: $130 for members, $180 for nonmembers
Includes 2 days of speakers, breakfast and lunch each day.
Questions? Contact Chris Glenn at chris_glenn@ncsu.edu or (919) 513-7005

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It’s time for our Spring Open Nursery and Garden Days

It’s finally here…the time we share the gardens and open the nursery to the public. Starting tomorrow (Friday) morning, we welcome visitors to stroll the gardens and shop till you drop for cool perennials. Click here for times and directions.  The gardens here and Juniper Level look absolutely fabulous.  Below are a few images of what you’ll see.

2014 9249 patio toward waterfall

2014 9249 combo on patio with Penstemon digitalis

Plant combinations abound throughout the gardens giving you ideas for your garden spaces at home.

Trichocereus Big Time flowers

Here are a few of the gems you’ll find scattered around the garden.  Many of the cactus are flowering this week including Trichocereus ‘Big Time’

Notocactus apricus in flower

Notocactus apricus is another favorite winter hardy cactus.

Trillium flexicpes A2AL-086

Trilliums are everywhere with over 1000+ selected clones as well as many of our seed-propagated selections for sale.

Sarracenia x moorei PDN002 in flower

Pitcher plants are in full flower throughout the gardens and nursery…a sight not to be missed.

Hosta Autumn Frost3

Of course, who can resist great hostas like Hosta ‘Autumn Frost’

For spring, we’ve added a series of short garden chats in the garden that Tony will lead. There is no charge or pre-registration required…just bring your questions

Friday April 29 @ 9am – Gardening in Sun

Friday April 29 @ 11am – Gardening in Shade

Friday April 29 @ 3pm – Hosta Breeding and Evaluation at PDN/JLBG

Saturday April 30 @ 9am – Soil preparation and planting

Saturday April 30 @ 11am – Growing Agaves in North Carolina

Saturday April 30 @ 3pm – Growing Peonies in the South

Plant Delights February 2016 Newsletter

Greetings from Plant Delights Nursery and Juniper Level Botanic Garden.

Now hiring shippers!

Now hiring shippers!

We hope you’ve received your 2016 Plant Delights Nursery catalog. If you’re an active customer and haven’t seen yours, drop us an email and we’ll send a catalog. If you’re not an active customer (haven’t purchased recently), you may shop online or order a printed copy. If you’re a garden writer/blogger, garden celebrity, local garden guru, etc., just let us know and we’ll be glad to add you to our complimentary permanent catalog mailing list.

Only a few weeks remain before we begin shipping plants again starting the first week of March. This means we’re beginning to hire seasonal shippers to help during our busy spring season. So, if you’re interested in joining us and are physically fit, please let us hear from you.

Visit Us During Open Nursery and Garden Days

Grading the road near Greenhouse 14

Grading the road near
Greenhouse 14

Our first Open Nursery and Garden days for 2016 are only a short time away. Winter Open Days are actually one of our best attended events, so if you haven’t dropped by, we hope you’ll join us this year. Winter is a great time to see the structure of the garden before the spring flush. In NC, it doesn’t take much gardening prowess to have a nice spring garden, but if your garden looks good in winter, it will be fabulous the rest of the year. You’ll also be amazed how many plants actually flower in the winter season when few people venture out to garden centers. Did we mention our open nursery days also offer the chance to select your own seed-grown flowering hellebores in person?

Renovations are in full swing as we continue with our entrance, exit drive, and parking lot enhancements. You’ll see the progress we’ve made during our upcoming Winter Open Nursery and Garden Days, although neither project will be completed.

2016 Open Nursery and Garden Dates

Winter
February 26 – 28 and March 4 – 6

Spring
April 29 – May 1 and May 6 – May 8

Summer
July 8 – 10 and July 15 – 17

Fall
September 9 – 11 and September 16 – 18

Friday and Saturday 8a-5p
Sunday 1-5p

Rain or Shine!
Free Parking!

Click for more info

Happy Open Nursery Days Shoppers

Happy Open Nursery Days Shoppers

Sign Up for New Classes at PDN/JLBG

We have a super list of classes scheduled for 2016 with topics from soil to propagation, and from botanical illustration to relaxing your body. We hope you’ll join us for some of these educational and stimulating events.

Anita will be leading our expanded series of thought-provoking mindfulness and meditation classes, and botanical artist Preston Montague will be teaching us how to illustrate the natural world.

In the Winter Botanic Garden

Helleborus 'HGC Joker'

Helleborus ‘HGC Joker’

Here in eastern NC, we’ve had a mild winter so far, with only one night below 20 degrees F, compared to 2013/2014 when we had thirteen nights below 20 degrees F during the same period. The January ice/freezing rain storm left quite a few memories by removing a couple of large evergreen specimens (one persea and a magnolia) from the garden, while pruning limbs from several other specimens. No structural damage resulted.

Because the temperatures were so mild early in fall/winter, some plants starting growing much sooner than normal including many of the hellebores. The new growth on a few hellebores was kissed by the cold and is looking a bit black, but the next round of new growth will be fine. A few of our later hellebores are already in flower and, in most cases, the flowers can take quite a bit of freezing since they’ve learned how to lose turgidity during very cold weather and regain it when the temperatures warm.

We prefer to remove the old, tattered hellebore foliage to improve the floral show, but we always wait until the flower buds are showing color and have risen above the old leaves. We do this so the old leaves will keep the developing flower buds in shade and consequently cooler, which in turn delays flowering.

Trillium underwoodii

Trillium underwoodii

Many of the southern trilliums also emerged a bit early this year, although they can tolerate temperatures in the teens F once they’ve emerged…just not too many nights of those temps. This year we saw Trillium foetidissimum, Trillium underwoodii, and Trillium recurvatum up in December.

Bananas, cannas, crinum lilies, podophyllums, and the winter growing Zantedeschia aethiopica (calla) have also tried growing above ground several times this winter, getting nature-slapped repeatedly. Fortunately, these have an abundance of underground dormant eyes that will continue to resprout.

The foliage on our lycoris (surprise lilies) looks the best we can remember for this time of year. The longer the foliage grows undamaged, the more food is going into the bulb. It’s looking like we’ll have an exceptional bloom season this summer. We hope you’re going to try several of the choice new surprise lilies that we’re bringing to market for the first time.

Our Research Programs in the Garden and Nursery

Ensete maurelii

Ensete maurelii

We’re always conducting horticultural research, both in the field and the nursery. One of the most recent mad scientist quests was to see if we could cause a non-offsetting banana to offset. Our subject for the experiment was the lovely Ensete maurelii, which is a genus of solitary-trunked banana relatives. We were curious to learn if ensetes had dormant buds around the base that were simply kept from sprouting by the plant’s auxin hormones.

To answer the question, we severed the auxin translocation system by slicing through the stalk about one inch above the soil level. Once the knife came out the other side of the stalk, we applied down pressure until the knife emerged through the root. Next, we rotated the stalk 90 degrees and repeated the process. To our surprise, after eight weeks, the crown began to sprout pups…up to fifteen per plant. This practice, called crown cutting or rossisizing, has long been used on hostas, but now we can use it to multiply some of the rarer bananas and their relatives.

Kudos…

Congratulations to Florida plantsman Adam Black who was named the new Director of Horticulture at Peckerwood Gardens in Texas. We look forward to watching Adam put his stamp on this already amazing garden.

Passages

We were saddened to lose plantsman and garden writer Allen Lacy, 80, in December. The former NY Times/Wall Street Journal garden columnist and philosophy professor was given a second lease on life after defying death and giving up his former hard-living lifestyle. He subsequently established the Linwood Arboretum in his home state of New Jersey, all while receiving dialysis. Our thoughts are with his widow, Hella, and their children.

This Christmas season also marked the passing of our friend Rene Duval who, along with his surviving partner of 43 years, Dick Weaver, started the well-known North Carolina mail order nursery, We-Du. In the 1980s, the Polly Spout (near Marion, NC) based We-Du Nursery was one of the most important sources of new and unusual perennials in the country. The opportunity to visit and chat with Dick and Rene was always special, as was the chance to buy plants that were unknown and unavailable elsewhere. After retirement, Dick and Rene moved first to Puerto Rico, then to North Central Florida. Dick, who originally worked at Arnold Arboretum, plans to move north to Pennsylvania to be closer to family. Our thoughts are with him.

Connect with Us!

Until next month, connect and follow us and the cats on FacebookPinterest, Tony’s blog and Anita’s blog. We encourage you to sign up to follow our regular posts.

Happy Gardening!

tony and anita

Plant Delights April 2015 Newsletter

Greetings PDNers!

Nursery Update—Made it through Winter

It’s been quite a late winter at Juniper Level/Plant Delights, with the latest-occurring single digit temperature we’ve seen since our records began in the 1970s. Plants like hellebores in bloom when the cold snap hit have recovered, although flowers that were fully open or nearly so were slightly damaged. Hellebores are really tough and, after removing a few damaged flowers, they look great.

Helleborus x hybridus PDN Double Pink w/Spots

Helleborus x hybridus PDN Double Pink w/Spots

Plants and More Plants

Trillium vaseyi

Trillium vaseyi

Some of the very early trilliums, like the Florida forms of Trillium underwoodii, were also damaged. On a few of these, the entire stem collapsed back to the rhizome. When this happens, these trilliums will not return until next year. All of the other trillium species had the good sense to wait until later to emerge and are unscathed.

One of the benefits of cold winters is a good chilling period for most perennials. Like a bear needs to hibernate, the same is true for most perennials and the longer rest and deeper chill they receive, the better they return for the upcoming season. Consequently, we expect a stunning spring display.

Paeonia 'Bartzella'

Paeonia ‘Bartzella’

The fat peony buds have already poked through the ground and started to expand. We moved quite a few of our peonies last year into sunnier areas, so we have really high expectations for 2015. We continue to expand our peony offerings based on the results of our trials where we evaluate for good flowering and good stem sturdiness. It’s a shame that many of the best-selling peonies often don’t meet that criteria.

One of the first plants to sell out this spring was the amazing mayapple, Podophyllum ‘Galaxy’. We have another crop in the production pipeline but they aren’t ready yet…hopefully in the next few months. Thanks for your patience since there was obviously pent up demand.

Phlox 'Pink Profusion'

Phlox ‘Pink Profusion’

The early spring phlox are just coming into their glory here at Juniper Level. Two new offerings from our friend Jim Ault are just superb. If you have a sunny garden, don’t miss trying Phlox ‘Forever Pink’ and Phlox ‘Pink Profusion’.

The flower buds have also begun on the sarracenias (pitcher plants) in the garden. Not only is pitcher plant foliage unique in appearance and its ability to attract and digest insects, but the flowers are also amazing. Each flower arises before the foliage, atop a 6-18” tall stalk (depending on the species). The flowers, which resemble flying saucers, come in red, yellow, and bicolor.

Sarracenia flava

Sarracenia flava

Pitcher plants are very easy to grow in a container of straight peat moss, and kept sitting in a tray of water. In the garden, sandy soils or a combination of peat and sand work great. Just remember…no chemical fertilizers or lime nearby…they need a pH below 5.0. Pitcher plants also like damp feet but dry ankles, so growing them in a swamp is a no-no. We hope you’ll find something you like from our selection of ten different offerings.

In case you missed it, we recently added a number of new hellebores to the website, many of which are available in large enough quantities that we can offer quantity discounts. Of course, this will be the last of our hellebore crop for 2015, so when they’re gone, they’re gone for the entire year.

Greenhouse Filled with Hellebores

Greenhouse Filled with Hellebores

Plant Cartoon

I hope all the aroid collectors saw this wonderful cartoon. If not, check out the link below. We’re not sure what that says about us, but it’s probably true. http://www.foxtrot.com/2015/02/08/calling-all-florists

Open Nursery and Garden

Thanks to everyone who visited during our winter open nursery and garden days…many braving some unseasonably cold weather. Remember that we will open again the first two weekends of May, and we expect much nicer weather for you to shop and enjoy the spring garden.

2015 Spring Open Nursery & Garden Days

May 1 – 3
May 8 – 10

Fridays/Saturdays 8a-5p
Sundays 1-5p

Rain or Shine!
Free Parking!

Click for more info

Happy Open Nursery Days Shoppers

Happy Open Nursery Days Shoppers

Fern Conference

Pyrrosia polydactyla

Pyrrosia polydactyla

Whether you’re a ferner or a native, you may be interested in the upcoming fern meeting….aka the Next Generation Pteridological Conference, scheduled to start at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington DC on June 1. If you’ve got a fern “jones,” consider joining us for the Smithsonian’s fern conference. Not only will you enjoy fern presentations, but you’ll be able to talk spores, stipes, and croziers while enjoying cocktails in the nation’s capital. For more information visit http://botany.si.edu/sbs/.

Invasive Species

A hot-button topic is invasive exotics and, like with any scientific topic, the best thing we can have is dissenting opinions. Those with an open mind will enjoy these recent eye-opening publications:

Sign Up for Close-Up Photography Workshop and Garden Walks

Josh Taylor Photography Class at PDNWe have a number of educational events scheduled at Plant Delights this spring from classes to conventions and we’d love for you to join us. You’ll find our list of classes here, starting with our Close-Up Garden Photography workshop on Saturday May 2.

American Hosta Society National Convention in Raleigh June 18-20

Hosta 'Showbiz'

Hosta ‘Showbiz’

In June, we welcome the American Hosta Society, as hosta lovers from around the world descend on the Raleigh area to share and learn about their favorite genus of plants.Plant Delights Nursery/Juniper Level Botanic Garden will welcome the group to dinner, tours, and shopping on June 18. We really hope you’ll be able to join us. Register to attend the events at americanhostasociety.org.

Let’s Stay Connected!

Until next month, connect and follow us and the cats on FacebookPinterest, and our blog, where you may sign up and follow our regular posts from the nursery and the botanic garden.

Happy Gardening!

-tony and anita

Trillium viridescens

Trillium viridescens in bud at stop 11 AR

It was great to finally see Trillium viridescens in the wild, although due to the cold spring, only a couple of plants were beginning to flower.  These also grew in floodplains, where they were unfortunately being devastated by the excessive deer populations…a problems that must be addressed before we loose more valuable plant populations.  I hope you’ve enjoyed the quick adventure recap.

Trillium sessile dwarfs

Trillium sessile at stop 13 AR

Another plant that really threw us for a loop were the populations of dwarf Trillium sessile.  These plants all topped out between 2″ and 3″ tall…totally unlike any of the other Trillium sessile that we’ve ever seen.  Very cute!

2013 Plant Delights Nursery May Newsletter

PDN patio garden

PDN patio garden

Dear PDN’ers

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!

Hosta greenhouse

One of our two hosta greenhouses

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!

Echinacea 'Evan Saul'

Echinacea ‘Evan Saul’

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!

Interesting Stuff

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.

Hibiscus 'Summer Storm'

Hibiscus ‘Summer Storm’

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: info@peckerwoodgarden.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.

Enjoy

-tony

2013 Plant Delights Nursery April Newsletter

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Stone wall in the spring woodland garden

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dear PDN’ers

It’s been quite a spring so far…very cool for much longer than usual…at least until early April.  Plant emergence was far behind recent springs when, out of nowhere, temperatures rose in the 80s for ten days and the garden sprung to life.  The subsequent late April temperature cool down, however, kept plant development about 1-2 weeks behind recent springs.  Because of the sudden warm-up we experienced in early April, many smaller perennials will wilt despite the soil still being moist.  As a gardener, this drives me a bit mad, but you have to realize the plants will adjust their stomatal openings (breathing holes) and be fine once they acclimate to the new temperature regimen, which usually only takes a couple of days.

One of the garden tasks that need attention in spring is assessing the amount of shade in your woodland garden.  Spring is a great time to take stock of your woodland perennials, who will tell you if they are unhappy with the amount of light they are receiving.  They won’t tell you via email or through their union reps, so you have to tune in and observe.  If your plants seem to be going backwards in vigor or size…they used to flower but they no longer do so, you need to stop and figure out why.  In almost all cases, spring ephemerals suffer a gradual decline in the woodland garden. Hostas that get smaller, trilliums that no longer flower and other woodland perennials that simply aren’t as vigorous as they once were are a sign of trouble.  There are a number of potential culprits, from voles to a lack of summer moisture, but the cause that I see more than any other is an increase in the amount of shade.

Most shade plants need some light.  In the case of spring ephemerals (plants that go through their entire life cycle in late winter/early spring), they need light during the short window of time before the trees develop their leaves.  If you try growing spring ephemerals under evergreens, the results are usually not good.  If all you have are evergreen trees and shrubs as an overstory, you can still help the situation by thinning out or removing selected limbs until you see rays of light reaching the plants below.  Even plantings under deciduous trees can decline if the overstory isn’t selectively thinned on at least an annual basis.  Now is a great time to monitor the perennials in your shade garden and determine which limbs need to be either removed or thinned, so get the hand pruners and pole saw ready.  If you do this early enough in the year, plants can recover in only one season.

Interesting Stuff

Athyrium (Lady Fern, Japanese Painted Fern) and Azalea 'Redwing'

Athyrium (Lady Fern, Japanese Painted Fern) and Azalea ‘Redwing’

As most of you know, we are rapidly approaching our Spring Open House, May 3-5 and May 10-12.  This a very special open house for us as it marks our 25th year in existence.  Plant Delights and the gardens here at Juniper Level have come a long way since 1988, and we hope you will join us to celebrate this very special occasion.  All of this would never have been possible without your tremendous support and for that, we can’t thank you enough.  The dates for this and future open nursery and garden dates can be found at here.

The gardens here at Juniper Level look amazing thanks to garden curator, Todd Wiegardt, and his amazing staff and volunteers.  I’m writing this from the garden patio where the evening aromas are in stronger than a Willie Nelson tour bus…from phlox to michellias (banana shrubs), to chionanthus and amorphophallus…there’s an aroma for everyone.  Although the garden is perfumed all day, many of the best fragrances occur in late afternoon, so schedule your visit accordingly.  If you’re attending open house for the first time, plan to be a bit overwhelmed.  With over 20,000 different plants in the garden, it’s impossible to even begin to see everything in one trip.  Heck, even I find new plants every day that I’ve forgotten.  Our horticulture staff is stationed throughout the garden and nursery to answer any of your gardening questions, so don’t hesitate to ask anything that comes to mind as you stroll through the acres of gardens.

Cypripedium 'Paul'

Cypripedium ‘Paul’

We also still have some room in our close-up photography class which takes place during the first Saturday of our open house.  We are fortunate to have Josh Taylor, of Maryland, who also teaches photography at the Smithsonian, here to lead the class.  You can sign up online here.

Strangely, we also have room remaining in our June propagation class for the first time in over 20 years.  Again, don’t hesitate if you’d like one of the last spots.

Spring has been too busy for much traveling, but a recent 4-talk speaking trip through Tennessee, Virginia, and North Carolina did provide a bit of time for some spring botanizing.  The highlight of the trip was the chance to see the recently discovered and soon-to-be named Trillium tennesseense….see the image we posted on the Trillium facebook page.  Lots of other gems along the way, too numerous to mention here.

In the “in case you missed it file” this month, scientists have discovered that some plant nectar comes laced with caffeine, which enhances the Pavlovian response of garden pollinators.  A bevy of bees in your garden may be, in fact, more like a line of latte-lovers standing in line at Starbucks than we ever realized. This adds to the stack of mounting evidence of how plants manipulate animals for mutual benefit.  Although this relationship has been know for years using nectar sugars, this is a first for plants resorting to psychoactive drugs to lure suitors.  These results come from honeybee expert, Geraldine Wright, of England’s Newcastle University, as an offshoot of her research to study human abused drugs.

Under the arching oak in the woodland garden

Under the arching oak in the woodland garden

Nursery News and Happenin’s

A recent shocker in the horticulture world was the fatal heart attack of Glasshouse Works co-founder, Tom Winn, age 67, on March 8.  Tom is survived by his long-time partner, Ken Frieling.  In 1985, Tom and Ken created one of the world’s finest sources of rare plants…primarily tropicals.  Around 1990, when we were getting Plant Delights started, Glasshouse Works was one of my favorite places to visit, both to acquire plants, and also to learn about the mail order nursery business.  Their display gardens were small, but packed with an incredible array of rare plants which served as an inspiration for our own gardens at Plant Delights.  Tom was the front man for the nursery while Ken worked behind the scenes, so I know his life will be completely turned upside down.  Our thoughts are with Ken and he continues to manage the nursery and deal with his loss.  You can share a memory, a note of condolence or sign the online register book.

I also just heard from Jacque Wrinkle, that her husband, Guy Wrinkle, passed away April 20.  Almost all collectors of cycads, caudiciforms (plants with swollen bases), or unusual bulbs have heard of or dealt with Guy and his mail order nursery, Guy Wrinkle’s Rare Exotics in Vista, California.  I purchased my Trachycarpus takil from Guy in the mid-1990s and recently found it to be one of the few true Trachycarpus takil on the entire East Coast.  We would later trade variegated agaves even before we finally met in person at the fall 2009 Agave summit in California.  Guy retired from his career a biology professor in fall 2007 to devote more time to his love of plants.Unfortunately, he was diagnosed in 2009 with brain cancer, a condition he battled successfully until a new, more aggressive cancer recently proved too much to overcome.  You can find one of Guy’s many articles online at Rare Exotics.  Our thoughts are with his wife Jacque during this difficult time.

We recently also mourned the death of NC Botanical Garden founding director (1961-1986), Dr. Ritchie Bell, at the ripe age of 91.  I was fortunate to have known Ritchie since the mid-1970s when he was a lone voice for the growing and propagating of native plants.  I was greatly influenced by Ritchie’s philosophy of “Conservation through Propagation” which, unfortunately has now been largely abandoned by the garden he founded.  Ritchie was also known as the author of several fabulous books; “Manual of the Vascular Flora of the Carolinas” (1968, co-authored with Albert Radford and Harry Ahles), “Wildflowers of North Carolina”  (1968, co-authored with William Justice), “Florida Wild Flowers and Roadside Plants” (1980, co-authored with Bryan Taylor), “Fall Color and Woodland Harvests of the Eastern Forests” (1990, co-authored with his wife Anne Lindsey Bell) and “Fall Color Finder” (1991, co-authored with Anne Lindsey Bell).  Ritchie was honored with a number of awards including the Silver Seal Award from the National Council of Garden Clubs and the Distinguished Alumnus Award from the University of North Carolina.  Job well done, my friend!

I inexplicably missed the passing of our fern friend, Barbara Joe Hoshizaki, who passed away last June 24 at the age of 83.  Barbara retired from the fern world a few years ago, due to aging and cognitive issues.Barbara Joe spent 28 years teaching biology at California City College when she wasn’t working in her wonderful home garden.  She was a tireless promoter of ferns and served as President of the American Fern Society, President of the Southern California Horticultural Institute, and was a member of a number of other organizations.  Barbara is best known for her book, “The Fern Grower’s Manual” (1975), and an expanded 2 edition with Robbin Moran (2001).  Barbara was extremely helpful in identifying many of our ferns from our overseas expeditions, and we owe her a huge dept of gratitude.  Barbara is survived by her husband, Takashi; two children, Carol (George Brooks) and Jon (Madeleine Takii), and other family members.  The family requests that donations be made to the Organization for Tropical Studies, Box 90630, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708‑0630, “OTS in Memory of Barbara Hoshizaki.”

My final farewell today is to a group…the International Bulb Society.  The 80-year-old International Bulb Society, which has long been an incredible resource to bulb lovers around the world, has decided to fold at the end of 2013.  The society’s problems began over a decade earlier, when a series of ego-driven personality conflicts caused many of the members to drop out and join the recently-formed Pacific Bulb Society.  Despite the fact that most new members didn’t live anywhere near the Pacific Ocean, the new group offered a more user-friendly format with far less drama while making sharing rare plants at low cost a key principle…the antithesis of IBS.  I am truly sad to see IBS go as it brought together so many wonderful experts from around the world, and if you could afford the plant prices, it was a place to acquire the rarest of the rare bulbs.  Who knows…if you believe in the afterlife, perhaps there will one day be a reincarnation of this wonderful group.

Until next month, we’ll keep posting plant photos from the garden and sharing all sorts of cool things from the world of horticulture on our Facebook Page.

We’ll see you there!

Enjoy

-tony

2013 Plant Delights Nursery February Newsletter

February 2013

Dear PDN’ers,

I don’t know about you, but I’ve about enjoyed this winter long enough…and winter megastorm Nemo missed us.  While we’ve only had a low temperature of 18 degrees F in Raleigh, very mild by our norms, it has been consistently cool, which is great for the plants but not so much for those of us with thin blood…I mean chlorophyll.

Out in the garden, our early trilliums are about 2-3 weeks behind normal, which is actually a good thing when it comes to avoiding those pesky late spring frosts.  Despite the cool, some plants just can’t wait.  Our silly clumps of Arisaema ringens are already trying to poke their heads through the soil far too early. When this happens, adding a few inches of mulch to help keep the soil cool will help delay their emergence.  Podophyllum pleianthum, a Chinese mayapple, also always emerges too early.  Fortunately, it seems to be quite tolerant of getting burned back to the ground time after time.

We’ve had a great hellebore show in the garden this winter which, thanks to the cool weather, will continue for a while.  Since most hybrid hellebores seed around the parent clump, you’ll need to consciously decide when you have enough seedlings.  When that point arises, the spent flowers can be circumcised as an effective means of population control.  Six to sixteen weeks (depending on the temperature) is the typical gestation period for hellebores, so mark your calendar so you don’t forget when snipping time arrives.  As we’ve discussed on Facebook, we’ve found that when you plant hellebores about 15′ apart in the garden, they come relatively true to type…double whites produce more double whites, etc.  Anything closer than that produces a combination of the parental colors and forms, which can be both good and bad depending on the traits of each neighbor.  If you are looking for hellebores that don’t seed in the garden, you should explore the Helleborus niger hybrids: Helleborus x ballardiae, Helleborus x ericsmithii, and Helleborus x nigercors (nigersmithii).  These are all sterile moms and will not produce viable seed.  Check out our full selection of Hellebores here.

Speaking of hellebores, this is our final Winter Open House weekend for 2013 with lots of great hellebores remaining.  I just counted, and we still have over 300 doubles in flower along with over 160 incredible single yellows.  These are some of the finest hellebores we’ve ever had for Open House, so drop by if you can.  Anything that doesn’t go out the door this weekend will go on the web next week.  We’ve posted some killer hellebore photos on our Facebook page, so check ’em out.  Please remember you DO NOT have to join or register with Facebook to visit our Facebook page or see the photos…only if you want an email to know when we post more.  We think you’ll find our Facebook page worthwhile if you like plants.

While there are many things to love about the end of winter, the one thing I don’t look forward to is the annual rite of tree-topping…the only fad that’s spreading around the country faster than body art.  Tree topping, aka butchering, especially of crape myrtles, is truly one of the most bizarre rituals to ever affect the gardening community.  I’ve almost concluded that alien mind control must be at work here, causing Homo sapiens males with power tools and no critical thinking skills to bizarrely butcher any tree in their yard they think might possibly look like a crape myrtle.  Other than releasing extra testosterone and making your carbon footprint the size of Sasquatch, there is absolutely no logical reason to top trees.  Tree topping does not keep the tree shorter and it does not make it flower better. It does, however, make your tree decrepitly ugly, weak-branched, and more susceptible to disease while putting on display your low gardening IQ to all your neighbors.  Please, mow your grass an extra time or two, but leave the trees alone.

An interesting new trend is emerging in botanical circles that has already caused a divisive fracture in the taxonomic community.  The trend is one of naming new plants after the highest bidder, as has been done for years with buildings and sporting events.  One taxonomy camp argues that the money is needed to support their work, while the other camp wants genus and species names reserved for locations where the plants were found, people who were associated with finding the plants, or to simply name the plants after things they resemble.

Most recently, a worldwide naming auction was held for a new species of Hesperantha (iris family) that was discovered in 2011 by Odette Curtis in the Lowland Renosterveld management region of South Africa.  The auction for the Overberg Lowlands Conservation Trust was managed by Fauna & Flora International on the Giving Lots on-line auction site.  The winning bid was $47,000 USD, although the winner has not been publicly identified.  Not only will the winner get to name the species, but they will receive a painting and bronze cast of their new namesake…no mention of a herbarium sheet.

In other interesting news from the science community, Indian researchers have discovered an additional way in which carnivorous plants attract their insect prey…they glow.  Yes, in addition to fragrance, color, and nectar, Dionaea (Venus fly-traps), Sarracenia, and Nepenthes (tropical pitcher plants) actually emit a UV spectrum blue glow in and around the entrance to the pitchers that resembles airport landing lights.  The blue glow evidently attracts insects out trolling for a good time in the same way blue Christmas lights attract rednecks.

In a related note, have you heard of plant neurobiology?  My spell checker certainly hasn’t.  Plant neurobiology is the study of how plants communicate, feel, and react.  Those of a certain age may remember the 1973 book, The Secret Life of Plants, which got many folks of our generation thinking about a rarely discussed subject.  Well, now folks interested in the subject will have a place to congregate at the first ever plant neurobiology convention this summer.  If this floats your proverbial boat, check out the agenda here.

Another great event is coming up next week…the 2013 Salvia Summit to be held at the Huntington Botanical Gardens in California.  Although I had the Salvia Summit on my schedule for over a year, I’ll regretfully have to miss the summit due to unforeseen circumstances at the nursery.  I truly hope many of you who love salvias will be able to attend and hear the incredible list of great speakers.

Closer to Plant Delights, we are pleased to welcome England’s famed garden writer, Dr.Noel Kingsbury to Raleigh next week.  This will mark Noel’s first visit to the region, where he will be speaking to the Friends of the JC Raulston Arboretum on Thursday, March 7, at 7:30pm on The Politics of the Garden.  Noel will follow this up with an all day workshop discussing long term plant performance on Saturday, March 9, from 9:00am to 3:00pm, at the Brickhaven building adjacent to the JC Raulston Arboretum.  The workshop will teach gardeners how to look at the garden from a long-term perspective in terms of sustainability as well as aesthetics.

The workshop cost is $80.00 for JCRA members and $95.00 for nonmembers.  Space is limited to the first 25 participants.  To register, contact Chris Glenn at (919) 513‑7005 or chris_glenn@ncsu.edu

On the heels of Noel’s talk comes Magnolia Mayhem, a mini-symposium also at the JC Raulston Arboretum on Saturday, March 23, from 8:00am until 2:00pm.  Speakers include Kevin Parris, magnolia breeder extraordinaire and director of the Spartanburg Community College Arboretum, and Aaron Schettler, magnolia collector and director of grounds at Raleigh’s Meredith College.  The talks will be followed by a Mark Weatherington tour of the JC Raulston Arboretum magnolia collection, then a tour of the adjacent magnolia collection.  If that’s not enough, a pre-convention tour on Friday, March 22, will include Camellia Forest Nursery, the Charles R. Keith Arboretum, and plantsman Tom Krenitsky’s private garden.  Details are available here.

If you’re in town for the event and have time, we’d be delighted to have you visit us as well…just call (919)772-4794 and set up an appointment (weekends not available).

Last month, I mentioned the demise of the well-respected mail order firm, High Country Gardens, in New Mexico.  Well, in late February, a white knight rode into town and swooped them up, and last week reopened their website for business.  It seems that American Meadows of Vermont has a friendly financier who thought this was a good investment, so as of last week, HCG is back in business under the leadership of its founder, David Salman.  We wish HCG the best in ramping back up production of the plants that made HCG a favorite of gardeners in the high desert.  In 2008, American Meadows itself was sold by founders Ray and Chy Allen to long-time employee Mike Lizotte and his business partner, Ethan Platt (formerly of Green Mountain Coffee Roasters).  We wish Mike and Ethan good luck with their new long-distance venture.

Other horticulture stalwarts continue to struggle with the latest bad news coming from the 100-year-old, 400-acre, Briggs Nursery of Elma, Washington.  Briggs has been struggling for years due to a combination of original family members cashing out, a move to a new location, a very high debt load ($5 million), and a failure to modernize their plant offerings.  Most homeowners have probably never heard of Briggs, but their state-of-the-art tissue culture lab produces the lion’s share of the rhododendrons and blueberries produced in the US.  Did I mention that Briggs propagated and sold huge numbers of the Pink Champagne Blueberry (not to be confused with Pink Lemonade, which is fine) last year, only to then receive a “oops, we sent you the wrong plant” notice from the US government?

Briggs has been sold several times in recent years, most notably to the abysmal failure, International Garden Products.  A year ago, J. Guy of the defunct Carolina Nurseries was brought in to try and modernize the nursery in hopes of saving what was left of Briggs.  Unfortunately, the lack of capital and the unwillingness of Briggs’ bank to take any further risks resulted in the bank asking for the nursery to be placed in court receivership, which occurred in late January.  The courts will now determine the best way to proceed with Briggs, whether that be new financing, selling the nursery, or closing the business.  As you can imagine, several suitors from a variety of industries are already in the hunt.  Unfortunately, as one prospective purchaser described to me, the spate of past sales has left the assets of Briggs in quite disarray.  Fingers crossed we don’t lose this valuable resource.

Another name I never expected to hear in the same sentence with foreclosure is Kerry Herndon of Kerry’s Nursery in Florida…formerly Kerry’s Bromeliads.  Kerry’s, founded in 1970, has expanded enormously both via growth and acquisition, and is now one of the largest growers in the country (ranked #21) with 2.8 million square feet of production.  Kerry is a rock star of the horticulture world, with people following his every word as it relates to business management both in his “no limits” talks and trade magazine columns.

Kerry’s specializes in orchids and bromeliads (over 7 million plants in production) which are sold primarily through the big box stores like Home Depot, Publix, Kroger, Safeway, and Trader Joe’s.  Florida Federal Land Bank Association recently filed a foreclosure lawsuit over the nursery’s $12 million debt, although Kerry remains optimistic a settlement can be reached that allows them to remain open.  The supply of orchids and bromeliads available to home gardeners would take a huge hit if Kerry’s closes, so fingers crossed for a good resolution in the courts.

In still more disappointing news, the 185,000 subscriber strong, Garden Design Magazine has reached the end of the road. The stunning, high quality idea magazine for designers got the axe after the previous publisher, World Publications, sold out to Bonnier Corporation who found the magazine too small for their market.

Finally, the horticulture book world lost a giant recently with the passing of 86-year-old author, Jack Kramer.  Jack will go down as the most prolific gardening writer of our time, authoring a staggering 161 gardening books…mostly about houseplants. A few of Jack’s many titles include; Bromeliads for Home and Garden (2011), The Art of Flowers (2002), Women of Flowers (1996), Sunset’s How to Grow African Violets (1977), and Underwater Gardens (1974).   Jack was also a former syndicated columnist for the Los Angeles Times before retiring to Naples, Florida in 1987.  Here is a nice article about Jack.

Until next month, I’ll see you on Facebook where we learn and share together.

-tony

 

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