2011 Plant Delights Nursery January Newsletter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-tony

2009 Plant Delights Nursery May Newsletter

Greetings from Juniper Level, NC where the weather has simply been wonderful for gardening this spring. Overall, most of the country has enjoyed a good gardening spring, except for the terrible drought still persisting in southeast Texas. Florida had been suffering the same fate as Texas until the recent multi-day deluge that quickly brought most of the state out of a rainfall deficit. Even most of the Midwest has been calm this spring, leaving the poor caravans of storm chasers from the Vortex2 expedition exasperated…sorry folks…you can stay there permanently if it’ll keep the tornados away.

Our heart goes out to the staff of the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden in California, which suffered extensive damage to both structures and the garden in the recent wind-driven Jesusita Fire. The gardens, which focus on California natives, are outstanding if ever have the chance to visit. We hope they can get reopened soon. You can read more about their damage in this news release.

May was the first month since last September that we have seen near normal sales levels and we can’t thank you enough. It was great to see so many of you here for our Spring Open House including a tour bus of wonderful gardeners from Utah, along with visitors from Germany, Russia, and China. It was also great to meet Keith Ferguson, retired Deputy Keeper of the Kew Herbarium and his wife Lorna, who even dropped by from the UK. The May Open House brought many first time visitors, whom we hope to see again in the future.

It was great to have Sally Walker drop by for a visit recently and to see her in good shape after hip surgery. Sally is co-owner of Southwest Native Seed, a small company based in Tucson that sells seed of plants native to Arizona. Sally has quite a horticultural background, having worked at nurseries such as Jack Drake’s Alpine Nursery in the UK and later for Marshall Olbrich at California’s famed Western Hills Nursery. Sally and her husband Tim have operated their seed business for 30+ years …. sorry no website or telephone.

Spring Open House visitors were treated to an amazing sight as four of our agaves are nearing flowering. These include Agave salmiana v. ferox ‘Logan Calhoun’, Agave lophantha (three spikes), A. striata (many spikes), and Agave parviflora. We’ve already started making crosses, although reaching the top of the 25′ tall A. salmiana spike has proven problematic…i.e., I don’t relish the idea of falling off a ladder and landing on something with that many spines. At least my pole saw allows me to sever flower clusters so they can serve as a pollen donor for the shorter-spiked species. It looks like we’ll also have a flowering overlap with several manfredas, as well as pollen from a xMangave ‘Macho Mocha’ that just couldn’t wait, thanks to magnolia specialist, Pat McCracken.

Congratulations are in order for NCSU Plant Breeder Dr. Tom Ranney for winning the American Horticulture Society’s Marc Cathey Award for ‘outstanding scientific research that has enriched the field of horticulture’. Tom’s released hybrids include Calycanthus ‘Venus’ along with the creations of two new bigeneric genera xSchimlinia floribunda (Schima x Franklinia) and xGordlinia (Gordonia x Franklinia). Many more exciting plants are in the pipeline.

I’m sure many of you know Bob Lyons, either from his days at Virginia Tech, as former JC Raulston Arboretum Director, or now as Graduate Coordinator for the Longwood Gardens program. On May 9, Bob’s home exploded and burned to the ground in a gas-leak fire. Bob was outdoors at the time, while the gas company was searching for the leak. Bob lost all of his possessions including his computer, camera, books, and collection of 15,000 slides. Fortunately, his digital images were saved on an off-site backup (let this be a lesson to us all). Bob tells me that his Plant Delights order was sitting on his deck at the time and the plants were not as heat-tolerant as promised. The plants can be replaced, but thank goodness, no one was injured. Longwood has provided Bob housing until he can recover. Here is a link to a UDaily article with images of the fire.

I mentioned in an earlier newsletter, that Bob Stewart of Arrowhead Alpines had been diagnosed with late-stage colon cancer. Although Bob’s chemo treatments continue, he tells me his tumors have shrunk and his treatments are proving very effective. We are thrilled at the news and wish Bob, Brigitta, and their family the best of luck in his continuing battle.

In another update from the world of horticulture, Fred Case, author of two excellent books, Trilliums, and Orchids of the Western Great Lakes Region is recovering at home after surgery for a severe aortic aneurism. Fred is suffering from limited mobility, but is improving all the time. Fred does still sneak out of the house and drive his golf cart around the garden when medical personnel aren’t around. You can read more about Fred at the Timber Press website and if you’d like to send get well wishes, address them to Fred at 7275 Thornapple La., Saginaw, MI 48609-4259.

Our condolences go out to gardener and author Bob Nold of Colorado in the death of his wife of 27 years, Cindy Nelson-Nold, who passed away suddenly of an apparent heart attack. Bob has two wonderful books to his credit, High and Dry: Gardening With Cold-Hardy Dryland Plants, and Penstemons. Cindy’s photographs and illustrations grace the pages of Bob’s books.

It’s been one of those springs that makes it hard to sit indoors at a desk, but at least I have the excuse of needing to take photos. I could write about something exciting in the garden every day, but due to time constraints, I’m limiting myself to once a month. We’re just wrapping up the early hymenocallis flowering and I sure wish more of you would try these gems. I think most folks get turned off by hymenocallis after trying the hybrids [mostly with the South American H. narcissiflora (aka: Ismene calathina) hybrids] typically sold by the Dutch, which, frankly don’t make great garden specimens. You will be so much more pleased with either the US or Mexican species. For us, the first to flower is H. liriosme, a clumping Gulf Coast species followed by H. traubii, a spreading species from Florida. Next in line is Hymenocallis pygmaea…a dwarf spreading species from here in North Carolina. Hymenocallis can be grown in typical garden soil, but they go really nuts when planted in a very moist site or a boggy situation. The white spidery flowers typically open around 4pm and are deliciously scented to attract pollinators…and gardeners. The next round of hymenocallis, which come later in the season are equally as wonderful. See the hymenocallis listed in our catalog.

One of my favorites that just finished flowering is the wonderful Aruncus ‘Misty Lace’. I’ve always loved the light airy nature of aruncus, but just couldn’t find many that would survive our hot, humid summers. This Allan Armitage introduction performs fabulously and has become a favorite in the late spring garden. See the aruncus catalog page.

Also flowering now are some of the late season Jack-in-the-pulpits. Four of my favorites are the tall stately, Arisaema tortuosum, A. consanguineum and A. heterophyllum along with the shorter, but very cute white-flowered Arisaema saxatile. A. heterophyllum, A. consanguineum and A. saxatile all offset and form nice clumps, while A. tortuosum remains solitary. Each of these species perform better in a light-filtered shade to several hours of full sun and in soils that don’t stay too wet. See the arisaema catalog page.

Arisaemas are members of a group of plants known as aroids, which include common house plants like philodendron and spathiphyllum. Other hardy family members that are outstanding now are the zantedeschias, known by the common name of calla lilies. Zantedeschia aethiopica is actually a winter grower, which in our climate keeps getting killed to the ground during the winter, but quickly regrows once the frosts end and is still in full flower. Z. aethiopica only comes in white (and a faintly pink-tinted selection). It’s hard to beat two giant-spotted leaved selections, Z. ‘Hercules’ and Z. ‘White Giant’. I’ve tried the commonly sold Z. aethiopica ‘Green Goddess’ and ‘Pink Persuasion’ but neither has performed well in our climate. This is the season where the cool winter growing Z. aethiopica overlaps with the warm season species that flower through the summer. My favorite of the summer bloomers has to be Z. ‘Picasso’, whose white-edged purple flowers have just started to open. Visit the calla lilies in our catalog.

Another superb plant in the garden now are the early- to mid-season daylilies. One of my personal favorites that we just added to the catalog is Hemerocallis ‘FreeWheelin’. In daylily circles, these types are known as spider flowers for their very long petals. I’m always amazed at the number of folks that don’t realize daylilies make great plants for wet soils. We have long been growing them as pond marginals alongside Louisiana and Japanese iris where they prosper in boggy conditions. If you have such conditions, give daylilies a try there. See more daylilies in our catalog.

For those who entered our Top 25 contest to compete for the $250 worth of plants, here are the results though late May 2009. The list changes each month, so if your picks don’t show up near the top yet, don’t despair. The Top 25 has been shuffled a bit since last month as Colocasia ‘Thailand Giant’ retook the top spot in a throw down tussle with Echinacea ‘Tomato Soup’, while Colocasia ‘Mojito’ edged ahead of Syneilesis into 3rd place. Big movers for the month include Dianthus ‘Heart Attack’ which leapt from 15th to 8th place, Salvia chamaedryoides moved from 18th to 14th, and Euphorbia ‘Nothowlee’ from 26th to 16th. Rohdea japonica and Tiarella ‘Pink Skyrocket’ both appeared out of nowhere to jump to 17th place and 20th respectively. We hope your choices are faring well as we countdown to the contest winner in December.

As always, thanks for taking time to read our rants and most of all, thank you so much for your support and orders this year!

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

Thanks and enjoy

-tony

2009 Plant Delights Nursery February Newsletter

Greetings from Plant Delights! We hope everyone is coping well with a winter that, at best, brings back memories of winters past. Parts of central and southern Florida have endured abnormal freezes, while much of the Midwest was hit with a devastating ice storm leaving them without power for up to a week. Here in Juniper Level, we saw a low of 9 degrees F on January 16 … the lowest temperature in 5 years. Some of our test agaves bit the dust, but all of the plants that have been out in the gardens for years made it through fine. We’ll report later on the freeze damage as it continues to show. Don.t be fooled into thinking plants which look great the day after a freeze are all fine, since damage often takes a month or more to show up.

One of the most intriguing physiological reactions to cold weather is how evergreen plants change the pressure in their cell walls to cope with low temperatures. It’s interesting to venture out on very cold mornings to see plants such as aspidistra, trillium, and rohdea appear as small piles of melted blackened mush. Once the temperature rises, however, the cells return to normal, the stomata (leaf breathing apparatus) reopen, and the plant miraculously bounces back. Gardeners in colder climates have no doubt noticed this on rhododendrons, which similarly curl their leaves on cold nights to reduce water loss.

For those who have pushed palms past their recommended zones, you may be seeing some damage now in regions which have experienced near normal winter temperatures for the first time in many years. Three types of palm damage occurs … foliar burn, spear pull, and the call of the grim reaper.

Foliar burn occurs when the foliage turns a sickly pale grey green … usually about 3-4 weeks after the freeze event. Some very tender palm foliage will turn brown the morning after the freeze, but this is much less common. Trachycarpus latisectus and T. martianus are good examples of palms that we grow as dieback perennials. These damaged leaves will not recover, but the plant should resume growing normally in spring. I would not cut the damage leaves until the growth resumes vigorously during spring. In our experience, spear pull usually occurs without widespread leaf burn. In this case, a slight tug on the new growth results in the top few developing leaves coming out in your hand. In most cases, the plant will survive. I prefer to leave the damaged spear leaves intact until spring, when they can be removed to allow air to reach the damaged tissue and prevent rot. Some growers find a fungicide helpful, although I have never resorted to this. To prevent damage, some palm growers like to clothespin the new leaves together which seems to help. The older a palm gets, the less likely it is to have spear pull damage, which is why some palm growers prefer to grow them indoors until they reach a 3-5 gallon size. Since we grow only small-sized palms, we plant ours at a smaller size and consequently experience more spear pull until the plants gain some age. Palm death is pretty easy to recognize as a complete tissue meltdown, resulting in a pile of mush and the accompanying smell of rotting plant flesh. That being said, if there is any doubt, leave it alone … it doesn’t cost anything to wait until spring and see.

We have spent much of the last decade assembling an excellent array of hellebores and in 2006, we added a Winter Open House to showcase these and other wonderful plants that strut their stuff in the winter garden. Instead of starting our own breeding program, we relied on the work of others including John Elsley of SC, Dick and Judith Tyler of VA, Dan Hinkley of WA, Ernie and Marietta O’Byrne of OR, and John Massey of Ashwood Nursery in the UK. We pick outstanding selections from these breeders work, and plant them together in the garden. We find by planting color forms about 20′ from each other, we can lessen (not eliminate) cross pollination between colors.

After flowering, hellebore seed is gathered in June and July and sown immediately in containers of potting soil … fresh sowing is very important for good germination. Unlike many other seed, hellebore seed will not germinate until it has been subjected to cold temperatures (stratification). We leave hellebore seed pots outdoors until they begin to germinate … usually early-mid January for H. x hybridus. These seedlings are then transplanted at the two leaf stage into cell packs where they remain for a couple of months, at which time they are shifted up into 1 qt pots. The key is to push the hellebores at this early stage to get as much growth as possible while the weather is cool, since hellebores go into a semi-dormant state in summer. The more growth you get in early spring, the better the chance of them flowering the following spring. Because of the cool temperatures in the Pacific Northwest, they are able to get a much higher percentage of plants to flower during the first season than here in the Southeast.

In summer, it’s just a matter of keeping the hellebores alive in containers … a real chore in the Southeast. One secret we discovered is to switch to an aluminized shade cloth compared to the typical black shade cloth. Even with the same percentage of shade, the aluminized cloth keeps the greenhouse nearly 10 degrees cooler, so the plants actually survive the summer. Before we switched shade cloth types, we would loose between 90 and 100% of our entire hellebore crop during the summer. Regardless of your economics, it’s hard to make money that way. We lost so many hellebores before we switched, we probably still haven’t broken even on them.

In late fall, the hellebores begin growing again and we typically expect to get 10% to flower the first season and the remainder in season two. Starting a couple of years ago, we switched our emphasis to grow plants that have flowered before we sell them. As I mentioned, this usually requires keeping the plants for an extra season and also includes the time required to sort through all the hellebores on a weekly basis during the flowering season and group them by flower color. Granted, the economics are probably better to sell the plants before flowering, but we hope the added value is worthwhile to you as a gardener.

As a homeowner, you can certainly allow the seed to fall from your hellebores and sprout in the garden, but keep mind it will generally take 3 to 4 years for these plants to flower and if you’re looking for a particular color pattern in your planting scheme, this may not be the best idea. We hope you will enjoy our amazing selections. As a reminder, our Winter Open House this year is Friday and Saturday from 8 am to 5 pm on February 27 and 28 and March 6 and 7. Click here to find out more about visiting.

Another winter grower we got into in a big way about a decade ago are trillium. As we studied the genus, we realized two things … first, most of the plants sold in the US were collected from the wild for sale and secondly, no one was focusing on the Southeastern species.

When outcry arose in the US about wild collecting trillium for sale, many of the commercial harvesters went underground and so, soon began a large business in trillium laundering. Plants were dug in the wild (usually Tennessee and Arkansas), then sold to large wholesale growers and brokers in Europe. The European growers operate on the military policy of ‘Don’t ask, Don’t tell.’ The trillium are then being re-exported back into the US, where there is plausible deniability and the trail of these wild collections have gone cold. I should add, however, that in most cases, trillium are anything but rare in the wild, and where land is being cleared or sustainably harvested, I see no reason why trillium could not be harvested and sold … although that is not the direction we decided to head into.

As I mentioned, most of the collectors were only selling the ‘northern’ species including T. grandiflorum, T. luteum, T. erectum, T. vaseyi, and a few others. As we began to study trillium, we realized there were a number of species that were completely ignored. As a rule, most of these are the sessile type, which means the flower sits directly atop the leaf, as compared the pedicellate trillium, where a short stem (pedicel) attaches the flower to the leaf.

We began a series of treks through the southern states studying trillium and bringing back individual samples to grow and propagate. As you can imagine, this is a slow process since all trillium in our climate take 4 to 5 years to grow from seed. Each plant is hand-pollinated and then the seeds are sown directly in the ground after harvest. Like hellebores, the seed must be sown fresh. Four years later, seed from those plants are harvested and sown and four years later, we finally have enough to sell. We have even found that the rare solid-silver leaved variants, which we have found in almost all of the southern species, come amazingly true from seed. It is our belief that we now have the largest seed-grown commercial trillium production in the country. One of the advantages of growing tens of thousands of trillium is we are able to select some amazing seedlings which will then be propagated for introduction in the future. We hope you appreciate the time and energy involved in making these special plants available.

Of these southern trillium, the first to emerge in winter is Trillium underwoodii from the Florida Panhandle. For us this form of T. underwoodii emerges often in early January, and is amazingly resilient after cold snaps, including our recent 9 degree F freeze which found a few clones in full flower. Too many freezes when the plant is fully expanded will result in the foliage becoming tattered while also eliminating the possibility of seed. The second to emerge is T. foetidissimum, followed by T. ludovicianum in mid- to late-January. Next in line in late January is T. maculatum, the Florida Panhandle forms of T. lancifolium, and then the Gulf Coast forms of T. gracile in early February. The same species originating in a more northern locale maintains its genetics for later emergence even when moved. A classic example is the Alabama form of T. underwoodii, which emerges 2 to 3 months after the Florida form when grown side by side. Finally, Trillium decumbens, T. cuneatum, T. ooestingii break the ground in March, followed by the northerly forms of T. lancifolium and T. recurvatum in late March. Most of the early sessile trillium have emerged, before being joined by the first of the southeastern pedicellate species including T. pusillum in late March and T. catesbiae in early April. I know some of you wonder why we bother to put origin information on many of our offerings, but this often makes the difference between success and failure with these southeastern natives in some of the more northern climates. Over the years, we will continue to add a tremendous array of different species from different populations. If you would like to learn more about trillium, there are two great books on the subject. Trillums by Fred and Roberta Case, and Trilliums in Woodland and Garden: American Treasures by Don and Rob Jacobs.

If you’re like me, you’ve recently sworn off news shows, since watching too much of the incessant gloom and doom serves as a self-fulfilling prophecy. In some good news, however, a recent study reported in the UK Daily Telegraph, documented that: ‘As little as 30 minutes a week tending the garden or allotment can dramatically improve men’s performance in bed, according to the experts in the field. Digging, weeding or mowing the lawn for half an hour reduced men’s risk of failing to live up to expectations in bed by more than a third, the survey found. Men who spend even more time in the vegetable patch can more than halve their risk of impotence, researchers at the Medical University of Vienna found in their study…Erectile function can be maintained even by low, regular physical activity, concludes the report. Energy expenditure of as little as 1,000 calories a week reduces the risk. Doctors should use these findings to encourage their patients to do more physical training and adopt a healthier lifestyle…The latest study, published in the journal European Urology, shows men do not have to be keep-fit fanatics to reap the benefits and need to burn just 1,000 calories a week. This reduced impotence by around 38 per cent, the research showed… Men who burned off up to 4,000 kilocalories a week saw their impotence risk drop almost 52 per cent.

You can read the entire article by clicking this link … then get off the couch and get back in the garden!

In upcoming events (the same weekend as our 2nd Spring Open House), the Middle Atlantic Chapter of the American Rhododendron Society would like to invite you to ‘Gardening at the Peaks’ from May 8-10 at the Holiday Inn Tanglewood in Roanoke, Virginia. The meeting will feature tours of two amazing gardens, Paul James mountain garden just south of Ronoake along with the Glebe Hill garden of Gary and Carol Osbourne. If you haven’t visited either of these gardens, you’re in for a real treat. Paul keeps hinting about restricting tours of his world class plant collection (6000+ species), so this may be one of the last chances to see this amazing gardening treasure. In addition, the two speakers include Kristine Johnson of the Great Smokey Mountains National Park and Virginia’s own garden writer and photographer extraordinaire Pamela Harper. To register for the meeting, contact Sharon Horn at oldturnpikefarm@gmail.com or by phone at 540.350.2666.

Those involved in wholesaling or retailing perennials, no doubt know the name Dale Hendricks. Dale and his business partner Steve Castorani started Pennsylvania’s North Creek Nurseries in 1988 (the same year PDN started) as a wholesale source of perennials, with a focus on US natives. As of December 30, Dale has retired from the business and sold his ownership stake to his business partner, Steve. As part of Dale’s mid-life crisis, Dale tells me he realized that he enjoyed the plants rather than running a business that had become very large and extremely successful … a common problem among ex-hippies. Along with spending more time with his family, Dale has already started a small backyard business called Green Light Plants to organically grow a few special plants for his former business. Dale will also be spending time on the board of the Community Gardens of Chester County, and in his spare time will continue speaking and doing nursery consulting. Even if you’ve never heard of Dale before, you have no doubt grown some of his plants or felt his considerable influence on the horticultural world. If you see a display that says ‘American Beauties’ at your local garden center, that’s all thanks to Dale. From all of us at PDN, we’d like to salute Dale and wish him the best of luck in his new life.

While we’re giving out pats on the back, we’d like to also congratulate plantsman Hans Hansen of Minnesota for winning the first Todd Bachman Award, (named after the nursery CEO killed at the 2008 Beijing Olympics), given by the Minnesota Landscape Association to someone under 40 years old who has demonstrated innovation in business, marketing, horticultural production, floral, or landscape practices in the horticulture industry. Hans has spent the last 17 years as manager of the tissue culture lab of Shady Oaks Nursery in Minnesota. Hans is a pioneer in working with many tissue cultured plants, being the first to successfully culture variegated agaves, arisaemas, and a number of other plants as well as being the first to tetraploid hosta in vitro. His hosta introduction are consistently ranked among the top in the field. He has also participated in a number of plant exploration trips, resulting in many of the plants you find in the pages of our catalog. Embarking on a new phase of his career, Hans departed Shady Oaks in fall and will be joining another firm by spring. We offer our heartfelt thanks for all of Hans’s work and wish him best of luck in his new venture.

If you’ve created or discovered the next million dollar plant and don’t know where to turn to get started, one of the important steps, once you determine that your plant is a good candidate for the market, is to obtain a plant patent. There are a number of avenues from using a patent lawyer to using a patent agent with a wide range of prices. A large number of the new perennials hitting the market are being patented by a small firm in Minnesota, run by a friend and former Minnesota nurserywoman and now patent agent, Penny Aguirre of Biological Patent Services. There are quite a few plants we offer whose patents have been handled by Penny, so if you find yourself in need of such services, you can contact Penny at pennyag@earthlink.net. We don’t get any kickback from this, but are only providing this as one option with which we are very familiar.

Chances are you’ve never heard of the Keith Arboretum, but if you like woody plants, I’d recommend you fix that deficiency. I remember back in the 1980s when the late JC Raulston first led me to Charlie Keith’s garden in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. JC was fascinated with the tree collection Charlie had assembled. Fast forward 20+ years when Mike Dirr finally made the pilgrimage, only to be equally as blown away by Charlie’s collection. In fact, it was Mike who encouraged Charlie to preserve the garden for future generations, resulting in the establishment of The Keith Arboretum. If you’re in the area, Charlie is looking for volunteers to help with labeling. You can find out more at www.keitharboretum.org. I hope you’ll take the opportunity to learn more about this incredibly special world-class collection of trees.

If you keep up with national news, you may remember the December 19, 2008 construction accident at the Atlanta Botanical Garden. While under construction, a temporarily-elevated walk linking the garden to the adjacent Piedmont Park collapsed, killing one construction worker and injuring 18 others. An investigation is continuing, but the garden tells us the construction work will continue. As of mid-January, all of the injured men were out of the hospital and able to walk, with none suffering permanent brain damage. The garden in conjunction with the contractor, Hardin Construction Company has set up the Jonquil Fund to help the workers and their families. So far, over $70,000 has been raised. If you’d like to contribute to this fund, visit the gardens website at www.atlantabotanicalgarden.org.

Our condolences also go out to Lori Kordner and her family, in the death of her husband, Tim (age 49), who took his life on Jan. 21. Tim was a local radio and television gardening personality who ran a garden center known as Brewery Creek in Belle Plaine, MN for 30+ years and who regularly sold produce at the Minneapolis and St. Paul farmers markets. In addition, Tim had recently increased his focus on peonies when he purchased the entire breeding collection of intersectional peonies from retired peony breeder, Roger Anderson (P. ‘Bartzella’). Tim’s peony nursery, Century Oaks Peonies, was just on tour last summer with the American Peony Society.

Last month, I mentioned the death of Eddie McRae and that his wife Judith, ran her own lily nursery, but I got the name wrong. Her nursery is The Lily Garden and not The Lily Nook, which is a Canadian firm…sorry.

While I’m correcting errors, crinum expert Jay Yourch noticed we had mistakenly used the wrong image for Crinum ‘Summer Nocturne’ in our spring catalog. The correct image is now on-line, but unfortunately, we can’t change the printed catalog … those darn gremlins.

Before I close, I’d like to remind everyone that February 15 is the deadline for entering our Top 25 contest for 2009. It doesn’t cost anything to enter and you’ve got a chance to win our $250 gift certificate. Follow this link to the contest rules and entry form.

As with all businesses, 2009 is not getting off to a banner start for many of us in the nursery business as we brace ourselves for making for many sleepless nights and difficult decisions. Once again, we would like to sincerely thank those of you who have placed orders and plan to do so this year. We’re working on writing descriptions for some new plants that will make their way onto the website shortly … we’ll send you an email when they’re posted. Many nurseries are hanging on by a thread and unless business picks up soon, many of your favorites may not be around for future seasons.

Again, we thank you for your support!

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

Thanks and enjoy

-tony

2008 Plant Delights Nursery July Newsletter

We hope everyone is having a great summer and preparing for your visit to PDN for our Summer Open House, July 11-13 and 18-20. The gardens look fabulous and I’m sure you’re likely to see a few things that will strike your fancy. It got a little warm after our last email with four straight days in the 100’s … a record for June in our part of NC. Those in the Pacific Northwest are enduring the opposite problems … daytime highs in some regions hadn’t risen out of the 50’s by the end of June. At that rate, their tomatoes won’t ripen until 2010. Our thoughts and prayers are with those who live along the Mississippi River and watched their homes and livelihoods swept away or buried under the swollen waters. We’ve had a good year from a rainfall perspective and are actually finally running slightly ahead of normal for the year … a far cry from 2007. I wish we could share more rain with our friends in Atlanta, whose main supply, Lake Lanier, is still 15′ below normal. I spoke with folks from the Georgia Green Industry last week who told me that 20% of the nurseries in Georgia went out of business in 2007, and they anticipate some larger nurseries may bite the dust this year … a sad fate for a once vibrant industry.

In other items of interest, if you didn’t see it this spring, we wrote an article in the News and Observer newspaper about the senseless annual butchering of trees, especially crape myrtles.

In other cool stuff … if you live in or near the Triangle region of NC, check out Larry Hatch’s Google Map of Great Trees of the Triangle, which locates significant specimens of cool trees. This would be a great project for neighborhoods around the country.

If you haven’t checked out our shipping cam in a while, we have upgraded our camera to give you a much better view of your plants being shipped. We hope you will take a peek as time permits. Most of our shipping and packing takes place Monday-Thursday, 8am-4:30pm EST and in summer, mostly Monday and Tuesday.

Many of you have heard of our collaboration with elephant ear breeder, Dr. John Cho of Hawaii, to bring new unique elephant ears to gardeners around the world. John’s real job is working as a plant pathologist for the University of Hawaii and developing disease resistant varieties for commercial taro production. I thought I’d share a note from John about a recent non-gardening project.

Letter from Dr. Cho:

Just returned from a successful mission to the Dominican Republic (DR). I have been working with the IDIAF (DR’s counterpart to our USDA) to develop strategies to return the country’s taro (they call yautia coco) production back to what it was before taro leaf blight was introduced into the country in 2004 and essentially eliminated taro production since 2004.

My first visit was in October 2006, where I developed short term and long term strategies using cultural and breeding tactics to return their production to what was a $10 (with potential for $25) million industry where taro was grown on about 4,000 acres.

As a result of my recommendations, IDIAF research and extension scientists have initiated a breeding program using my elite taro hybrids as parents to use in crosses with their local taro variety. Because the breeding program would probably take at least 2 to 3 years, I recommended to jump start their taro production and that they identify cooperator-growers located in drier parts of the Dominican and away from the affected taro growing areas to grow taro using only clean tissue cultured plant materials under drip irrigation.

In September 2007, IDIAF identified one grower in a distal, dry part of the island and helped plant 4,000 tissue cultured plantlets generated from their laboratory. When I returned to the Dominican last week, IDIAF scientists and I visited this farmer. The grower since September had aggressively taken also very lateral shoots from the 4,000 tc plants and their progeny and we found that he had over 2.3 million plants in the ground, was planting 300,000 plants (lateral shoots) every month, would be harvesting his first crop of about 300,000 plants in June 2008. This grower from our estimates stands to make over $3 million this year with the potential of over $7 million in two years.

We had to conclude that this was a success story in the making and that the Dominican Republic would be back to their 2003 production levels before taro blight was introduced into the country within two years. At the present time another grower has been identified by IDIAF and planting will be initiated some time this year.

I feel good about helping the Dominican Republic and I have a clear conscious about Hawaii’s taro growers because the Dominican production will not compete with Hawaii in any way since their taro is produced for a different food use, different market, and uses a different type of taro.

In sad news, we regret to report children’s book illustrator Tasha Tudor of Vermont passed away at the spry age of 92. Fans of the book, The Secret Garden are familiar with her work, which graced nearly 100 books including non-garden favorites like Little Women and The Night Before Christmas. You can leave messages for the family at www.tashatudorandfamily.com.

If you have an interest in ferns, you most likely encountered the dynamic Richmond, VA fern guru, Nancy Swell. I’m saddened to report we lost Nancy last week after a long illness. If you’d like to send your condolences or have questions, you can contact Gina McMillan at (804) 245-0518 for more info.

On a happier note, we’d like to wish a Happy 100th Birthday to the delightful Ruth Bancroft. If you don’t know Ruth, her garden was the first in the country selected for preservation by the Garden Conservancy. I’ve had the pleasure of several visits to Ruth’s Walnut Creek, California garden and Ruth has generously shared many plants that now grow here at PDN. There will be a big bash/symposium on July 18 and 19 to celebrate. To find out more, go to www.ruthbancroftgarden.org/. I hope you will all have the opportunity to visit the garden and meet this special lady.

For those who are worried about having enough water for your garden, you may want to consider growing more geophytes. Geophyte is a fancy word for herbaceous plants with underground storage organisms which include bulbs, tubers, tuberous roots, rhizomes, and corms. Plants developed these underground storage organs to assist in surviving adverse conditions such as extended droughts.

Last month I wrote about the wonderful spring-flowering martagon lilies, but now I’d like to focus on more of the wonderful species lilies that pick summer to flower. If you’ve purchased dried up, virused bulbs often shipped in from overseas, you’ll have a surprise when you purchase one of our vigorous specimens, many of which are seed-grown. In addition to their beauty, another of the great characteristics of lilies is they are very drought tolerant. Consistently, one of our top sellers is Lilium formosanum. This native to Taiwan not only flowers the first year from seed, but reaches an amazing height of 7′ tall when grown in full sun and decent soil. It’s one of the latest flowering of the lily species, starting for us around August 1. Lilium rosthornii, a close relative of the Chinese L. henryi, is another favorite. These lilies will be opening any day now and have large clusters of orange flowers on arching stems. You shouldn’t have to stake a Lilium rosthornii if it is grown in full sun, but it will arch, so plant accordingly.

Lilium brownii ‘Sichuan Splendor’ is another superb species that will be opening shortly. The sturdy upright stems are topped in early summer with huge clusters of white flowers with a dusty purple back. Another recent Chinese species to be re-collected is Lilium sargentiae. This 5′ tall specimen is topped right now with large white trumpets. While this species does produce a few axillary bulbils to aid in reproduction, its numbers are tiny compared with the vigorous bulbil-producing species like Lilium lancifolium.

While I’ve started with the Asian species, let’s not forget some of our great natives, starting with Lilium michiganense. This 6′ tall lily spreads by horizontally-growing rhizomes, and is topped now with pendent orange flowers. This species prefers a moist, rich soil to perform its best. Another native lily with the same preference is the new species, Lilium pyrophilum, which was discovered growing with pitcher plants in NC. Although it adapts well to drier soils, this lily is stunning when well-grown and it bursts into flower with large clusters of bright orange in July.

Another bulbous star of the summer garden is the summer-flowering hymenocallis. Hymenocallis are members of the amaryllis family numbering around 50 species which occur from North American south through Mexico and into South America. A few of the species flower in early spring but most are summer flowering and in bloom now. Most hymenocallis prefer moist soils and are right at home in a bog. That being said, they are amazingly tolerant of dry soils, although flowers will not be as prolific. All hymenocallis have similar white flowers with long white tepals at the base of a white cup (corona), held in multi-flowering umbels at the end of tall stalks. We are pleased to offer 7 different hymenocallis with many more in the pipeline.

One of the smallest of the summer-flowering species is the NC native Hymenocallis pumila, which is found in scattered ditches along the coastal plain. In the ground, it makes a nice sized patch of 8″ tall rosettes that spread by underground rhizomes.

H. maximiliani is a Mexican species and has been tremendously vigorous and floriferous in our trials. The narrow, dark green glossy leaves are topped with a cloud of 30″ tall flowers for much of the summer … a clump is simply amazing.

Hymenocallis ‘Tropical Giant’ is the largest of the hymenocallis we currently offer. Most folks consider this to be a selection of H. caribaea, but that species is completely confused in the trade with the tropical H. littoralis. Compared to H. maximiliani, the leaves are much wider and lighter green. The flowers, which are also in full bloom now, are much larger in all parts than H. maximiliani, but like the aforementioned, have a long flowering period in summer.

Crinums are another member of the Amaryllid family that are superb at withstanding drought. Many of the species hail from the deserts of Africa, where they form huge underground bulbs able to withstand months and even years with little moisture. A mature crinum bulb can easily exceed the size of a large softball. Some crinum species such as C. bulbispermum start flowering in May, but July is without question one of the peak flowering months. You’ll find some crinum bulbs offset quickly, while others grow solitary for years … hence the variability in price. We have been successful with multiplying some in tissue culture, which allows for a much lower price than would be otherwise possible. We have also had very good success with others by slicing the basal plate … basically cutting the bulb into four pieces. We hope you will enjoy our extraordinarily large offering of these amazing bulbs.

Many of you have been kind enough to purchase our nursery-propagated trillium, which also have an underground storage organ … in this case, a rhizome. If you’ve never tried growing trilliums from seed, you can’t imagine what is involved. First, the trillium flowers need to be hand pollinated to get maximum seed set. Sure, you’ll get a few if you don’t, but recent research shows 40% more seed will be produced if you hand pollinate. Then you wait until they are almost ripe before they are gathered. I say almost ripe, because ripe trillium seed are covered with a sweet substance, known as an eliasome. Eliasome makes the seeds attractive to pollinators, which in turn help with distribution. In doing so, the eliasome create headaches for nursery folks trying to gather and plant the seeds as ants usually commandeer the seed capsules a day before you are ready to harvest them.

When we were planting the seed this week, PDN Research Horticulturist Jeremy noticed insects were stealing the seed in the rows as fast as we could plant them. According to Jeremy, 1 large ant or 1 wasp could handle a seed each, while it required 5 smaller ants to work together to haul a single seed. I should mention trillium seed are about the size of an okra seed. These eliasomes have been called Ant Nip by Alabama trillium guru Harold Holmes, but we think it’s more like Insect Crack. If you’ve got some extra ripe trillium seed nearby, spread them on the ground, grab your camera, and get ready for some great photos. Did I mention … from seed, it takes 4-5 years to produce a flowering-size plant?

As always, we thank you for your continued support and patronage.

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

Thanks and enjoy

-tony

2008 Plant Delights Nursery February Newsletter

Dear PDN’ers:

Greetings from Plant Delights and we hope you’re having a good winter season wherever you garden. Here in Raleigh, we’ve had several nights in the mid-teens, with a low at the nursery of 14.7 degrees F, which equates to a consistent cold (until last week), with fairly mild minimum temperatures.

We have actually had good rains since fall and the winter garden looks great. Helleborus niger has been superb this year, especially our long-lived clumps of the heat-tolerant H. niger var. macranthus. If you like hellebores for color in the winter garden, don’t miss our Winter Open House on Friday/Saturday Feb. 22, 23 and Feb. 29, March 1. We should have over 1000 double hellebores in full flower for sale …a site you’re not likely to find anywhere else.

Many folks still ask us about the name Juniper Level Botanic Gardens, and as we have mentioned in the past, we are adjacent to the Juniper Level Baptist Church. You can read more about the church and the history of the area at www.juniperlevelmbc.org.

I don’t think we appreciate the array of cool plants that strut their stuff in the late winter months. One of my favorite bulbs is Nothoscordum sellowianum. This amazing rock garden bulb has already begun to flower with small yellow ground-hugging flowers that will continue for the next few months. The yellow flowers contrast nicely with the blue-lavender flowers of the winter-blooming Iris unguicularis that is also in full flower now.

You don’t normally think of trilliums as winter plants, but that’s only because few gardeners are familiar with the southern US species. Both Trillium underwoodii and T. maculatum are in full leaf and in bud now, surviving temperature drops into the mid-teens with no problem. They are closely followed by Trillium foetidissimum which has just popped through the ground. These winter trilliums have developed a survival mechanism similar to rhododendrons, whose leaves become flaccid and curled on cold mornings, only to recover as the day warms. If you grow these species, the pile of limp foliage on a cold morning would cause you to give up on the plant, only to find it looking fine again by late afternoon. There’s plenty more cool winter interest plants that you’ll see when you visit the winter open house.

Now that we’re in February, let me remind you our shipping season begins in a few more weeks…for those of you in the southern zones. Also remember the deadline of February 15 is drawing near to enter our 2008 Pick the Top 25 Sellers Contest. Okay, it’s not the Powerball Lottery, but you’ve got nothing to lose and the chance to win a $250 PDN gift certificate.

There’s lot of news from the gardening community this month, so I’ll start with the bad news first. Our condolences go out to woody plant guru Mike Dirr and his wife Bonnie, whose 31-year old daughter Suzy passed away on January 24, after a lifetime bout with Cystic Fibrosis, including two lung transplants. You can read the heartwarming story of Suzy’s battle at www.uga.edu/gm/604/FeatDirr.html

Condolences also go to Horticulture Magazine Science editor Roger Swain, whose wife Elisabeth passed away on February 7, after a battle with liver cancer. I had the pleasure of dining at Roger and Elisabeth’s home several years ago…both were very sweet people and it is a memory I will always treasure. Our thoughts are with both the Dirr and Swain family during this difficult time.

Plantsman and designer Doug Ruhren has departed North Carolina to take over as head horticulturist for the American Camellia Society at the 150 acre Massee Lane Garden in Fort Valley, Georgia. For those who have never met Doug, he first put his stamp on the Watkins Rose Garden, then Montrose Gardens, followed by the JC Raulston Arboretum, and most recently the Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden. We hate to lose Doug from our state, but look forward to watching him transform the Massee Lane Gardens.

In Charlotte, NC The Wing Haven Foundation has agree to purchase and preserve the Elizabeth Lawrence garden (NC’s most famous garden writer), located just near Winghaven from its current owner Lindie Wilson. The next step is to set up a $50,000 stewardship fund with the Garden Conservancy to insure the ‘perpetual monitoring of the property.’ You can find out more about how to help preserve the garden by visiting the Lawrence Garden website at www.elizabethlawrence.org/friends.html

Other cool events around the country include The Lone Star Regional Native Plant Conference, held May 28-31 in Texas. This conference which is held every other year features an incredible array of native plant speakers and habitat tours. To find out more, go to http://pnpc.sfasu.edu.

Back in the Raleigh area, City leaders have made an unfortunate and less than intelligent decision to ban hand watering of plants due to the current water shortage. Below, is a letter I have sent to both the Raleigh City Council and the local media outlets. Please feel free to share this with any interested party and if you live in the effected area, you may want to contact the City Council and express your displeasure with their recent actions.

Open Letter to the City of Raleigh:

I continue to await an article that correctly shows who is responsible for the current water shortage, but alas, no luck. Let’s look at the facts. Raleigh was 7.24″ (17%) below normal for its annual rainfall in 2007. In 2006, Raleigh was 10.64″ (25%) above normal in rainfall. For a two-year period, that put us well above average. Is this the first time we’ve had well below normal annual rainfall? Of course not. 2005, was nearly as dry as we ended that year 5.5″ below normal. What did city officials do after that dry year? They continued to encourage growth, sell more water, and did nothing to increase future water supply. If you look at area lake levels, you will notice Gaston Lake and Kerr Lake are full. Jordan Lake is only down 8″, while Falls Lake is 8.4′ below normal and Lake Michie is 7.3′ below normal. Why are the differences so dramatic…poor planning! Being a Raleigh native, I remember in 1981 when Falls and Jordan Lakes were completed and City officials assured us Raleigh and surrounding towns would never again face a water shortage or water restrictions. Fast forward 27+ years and residents are now being blamed for the current water shortage, and are being asked to change their lifestyle because City leaders didn’t properly do their job. Raleigh officials have oversold their supply of water while encouraging growth beyond their ability to supply water. Planning based on average rainfall forgets to take into account that averages are just that…averages of two extremes…below normal years and above normal years. Imagine a business the size of Raleigh or Durham making such an egregious error in planning. Such a lack of foresight and poor management would most certainly result in immediate dismissal of officers and board members, as it should.

Any farmer will tell you the first thing to do in a drought is to clean the silt from your pond or lake, greatly enlarging your pool of available water. Since the 2002 drought, I have watched and waited for Raleigh and Durham to clean the silt from their water supplies, yet from driving by the lakes, this has still not been done. Without a doubt, it’s more difficult for a municipality, since they must work through the Army Corp of Engineers, and have the silt tested for contaminants, but surely this should have been put on the fast track after 2002. I’ve heard cost mentioned as a reason this didn’t occur, but that doesn’t pass the laugh test. Compared to the loss of revenue from water sales and the tax revenue being lost by affected businesses, this is false economics. Having driven by area lakes, the amount of silt…i.e. rich topsoil, in both lakes is huge, with its removal nearly doubling the water storage capacity. The financial investment of cleaning the lakes could be easily offset by selling the dredged topsoil to homeowners, landscapers, and developers.

Instead, Raleigh leaders have opted to further punish homeowners and the green industry (nurseries, landscapers) businesses by outlawing hand watering. I keep waiting for these same leaders to require all restaurants to close or only use paper plates and cups. How about that long-awaited ban of drinking Aquifina water, which is pumped from Falls Lake? Yes, if the spigot to the Pepsi-Cola plant (Raleigh’s largest municipal customer) was shut off, the water savings would be tremendous. Instead, city leaders have chosen the easy path of punishing only the green industry…and now the power washing industry. All other industries are only asked to follow best management practices.

It seems we need to clue the Council in that the green industry produces and sells a living product that cannot be installed without water. These are the same city leaders that require our plants to be used in the form of a mandatory landscape ordinance. Imagine the outrage if our esteemed leaders did something equally as bizarre and banned pet watering and bathing. To not allow any hand watering for the green industry is the same as forcing a non-water dependant business to close. Where’s the common sense? We’re all willing to do our part, but we are not willing to shoulder the entire burden for the city’s lack of planning. Let’s start by cutting off the water to these same city leaders that got us into this situation. Then, let’s rescind the hand-watering ban and please, let’s think before passing any more ridiculous regulations that put so many people out of business and residents out of work…shame, shame, shame!

-Tony Avent

As always, we thank you for your continued support and patronage.

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

Thanks and enjoy

-tony

2007 Plant Delights Nursery March Newsletter

It’s hard to believe that March is already here as we move nearer to the long-awaited spring season. The Winter Open House is behind us, and the response was tremendous. We’ve never been able to offer such a stupendous selection of flowering hellebores, and the response reflected that. There are still plenty of great selections remaining, which have been added to the website at Website-Only Plants – click on March 2007 additions. I can tell you that the yellow, double white, double purple, and single black-purple flowered hellebores are stunning.

The first top 25 list of the year is filled with surprises. The biggest is that only 6 plants from the final 2006 list are currently among the top 25. It’s almost unheard of for a hosta, a trillium, a zephyranthes, and a hellebore to make the list, but there they are. Of the top 25, there are 11 plants that we’ve never offered before, so we thank you for your confidence and for giving them a try. I’m sure that the list will change dramatically over the rest of the year, but what an unusual start to the new year.

As always, we thank you for your continued support and patronage.

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

Thanks and enjoy

-tony

2006 Plant Delights Nursery December Newsletter

The 2007 Plant Delights Nursery catalog is in the mail! If you just can’t wait, the Plant Delights Nursery website has already been updated to the new catalog, so click away at www.plantdelights.com. With 160 new offerings as well as quite a few returning favorites, we hope you will find an array of plants that you can’t live without.

We’d like to thank each and everyone of you for helping to make 2006 our best year in business. As we launch into our 17th year of mail order, we are well aware that we have already exceeded the typical 15-year life expectancy of a mail order nursery. That being said, we continue full-speed ahead, while watching out for the inevitable road bumps along the way. We’d like to thank those of you who have taken time to write kind notes and especially to those who have taken time to post comments on the Garden Watchdog website. We are honored to be ranked as one of the top 30, out of 5498 garden-related mail order companies in the US.

I always look forward to meeting many of you in person as I crisscross the country on the speaking circuit. To see when I’m going to be in your area, check the upcoming “on the road” schedule at www.plantdelights.com.

I’d also like to publicly thank our wonderful staff, without whose dedication and hard work, the success that Plant Delights has enjoyed would not have been possible.

We’ve closed out our 2006 shipping season and will start up again in mid-February. However, if you have a horticultural emergency arise before then, we might be able to help, so don’t hesitate to give us a call. In the meantime, the rest of our staff are keeping the plants healthy and getting the gardens in shape for our next open house.

I hope you have already made plans to attend our 2007 Winter Open House, February 23 & 24 and March 2 & 3, 2007. We’ve got some very special hellebores for you to pick from along with quite a few other winter goodies. Once again, we are coordinating open house days with our friends at Pine Knot Farms of Virginia (about 1hr 15 minutes north of PDN), who hold their winter open house at the same time.

If you live in a large part of the US (except Colorado), you have enjoyed a warmer than normal fall. After a December cold spell, where we dropped to 15 degrees, we have rebounded nicely and have certainly enjoyed the opportunity to continue planting as we re-work older sections of the garden. Continuing the work we started two years ago, older beds are dug and raised using a sandy-clay-compost mix that we blend from on-site materials. We’re now able to add more height and contouring than was possible when many of the beds were initially planted, and the array of new plants is truly exciting.

There is quite a bit of flowering in the garden now, starting with the wonderful winter-blooming Iris unguicularis and the always welcome Helleborus niger. While they aren’t flowering now, arums always provide winter interest in the garden. We continue to expand our arum offerings each year, although many are still available in limited quantities. Although you don’t think of trillium as a winter-interest plant, T. underwoodii emerges every year in December and amazingly endures the cold that follows…. at least in our zone.

Although they don’t flower in the biblical sense, conifers are also a favorite part of the winter garden. Although we don’t offer them through the printed catalog, we are always propagating a few of our favorites for on-line and open-house shoppers. We are continually trying new plants in the garden and are thrilled to have planted our first Wollemia nobilis (Wollemia Pine). This amazing conifer, related to Araucaria was only discovered about ten years ago near Sydney, Australia. Initial reports indicate that it may survive at least 10 degrees F, so we’ve got our fingers crossed. If you’d like to see the plant in person, be sure to ask when you visit during open house.

Since our planting season began in earnest last March, we have added 2000 new plants to the garden. This will be our first winter to test out quite a few of those, including many new plants from Northern Vietnam, Northern Thailand, and many of the South African ferns. So far, it’s been a pleasant surprise to see how many of our new agaves have fared. Agave difformis and many others still look great, while 15 degrees F turned Agave chiapensis into a pile of green slime. Oh well, that’s why we try ’em.

We are pleased to announce the winner of our Top 25 Contest for 2006. Congratulations to Jeanne McClay of Virginia who wins the $250 PDN gift certificate. We’d also like to recognize the rest of the top 5, who were only separated by a scant 356 points… congratulations and thanks for participating.

1. Jeanne McClay of VA 2. Matthew Garrett of NC 3. Bobbie Wright of NC 4. Jacob Toth of Canada 5. Nick Yuro of TX

To enter the Top 25 Contest for 2007 and the chance to win a $250 gift certificate, simply go to www.plantdelights.com, read the instructions and fill in the on-line form or if you would prefer, print it out and fax or send it along. Unlike many contests, there are no strings attached, no costs, and your name doesn’t get passed along to other mailers. The final Top 25 list for 2006 is below:

Final Top 25 Best Sellers for 2006 as of December 29, 2006

1. 5869 Colocasia gigantea Thailand Giant 2. 3695 Zantedeschia aethiopica ‘White Giant’ 3. 6644 Echinacea ‘Evan Saul’ 4. 5660 Nierembergia gracilis ‘Starry Eyes’ 5. 6177 Coreopsis ‘Heaven’s Gate’ 6. 127 Yucca rostrata 7. 5106 Tiarella ‘Pink Skyrocket’ 8. 6698 Heucherella ‘Stoplight’ 9. 4368 Dianthus barbatus ‘Heart Attack’ 10. 1285 Dicliptera suberecta 11. 6128 Canna ‘Phaison’ 12. 4905 Aloe polyphylla 13. 1796 Eucomis ‘Sparkling Burgundy’ 14. 3096 Liriope muscari ‘Peedee Ingot’ 15. 4995 Heuchera ‘Frosted Violet’ 16. 6645 Echinacea ‘Sunset’ 17. 1148 Verbena Snowflurry’ 18. 5247 Agave parryi var. truncata 19. 5566 Gaillardia ‘Fanfare’ 20. 5778 Arisaema triphyllum ‘Black Jack’ 21. 688 Salvia chamaedryoides 22. 3654 Alocasia ‘Portodora’ 23. 4820 Begonia grandis ‘Heron’s Pirouette’ 24. 3880 Trachycarpus fortunei ‘Taylor Form 25. 2317 Muhlenbergia capillaris 26. 5414 Baptisia minor ‘Blue Pearls’ 27. 5341 Sedum telephium ssp. ruprechtii ‘Hab Gray’ 28. 2526 Acanthus ‘Summer Beauty’ 29. 1506 Selaginella braunii 30. 6541 Tricyrtis ‘Lemon Twist’

In other area gardening news, the JC Raulston Arboretum is looking to fill its Assistant Director position. This is a wonderfully exciting position for the right person (PhD or Masters level).

The gardens at the JC Raulston Arboretum are in the midst of a major renovation under the direction of Director Dr. Dennis Werner, who took over the reins a year ago, so drop by if you are in the area and watch the changes progress.

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

Thanks and enjoy -tony

2004 Plant Delights Nursery December Newsletter

2004 is nearly history as we prepare for the upcoming new year. The 2005 catalog has finally gone to the printer and will be mailed at the end of December. The catalog preparatory process, which starts in earnest in late September, takes about 2 ” months from start to finish. It would be fun to share the intricacies of catalog prep…perhaps a new web project…stay tuned.

We’ve recently installed the Plant Delights Shipping Cam, which will now allow you to watch your order being boxed live from your home computer. The link automatically refreshes every 15 seconds. For now, the link to shipping cam is on the homepage, but it will be moved to the Shipping Division section when that section is complete this fall.

We have also recently posted several new Plant Delights job openings, so if you are anyone you know is interested, please pass along our vacancies. We always hate to lose key employees, but we can soften the blow by bringing in equally qualified candidates. Your help would be most appreciated in spreading the word. Thanks.

We’d like to welcome two new staff members that have recently joined our ranks. June Brotherton has joined us as our Administrative Assistant for Horticulture. June coordinates anything horticultural, from inventory control, to tours, to catalog production. Becky Skinner joins our customer service staff after having spent the spring season with our shipping division. Be sure to give ’em both a phone welcome when you call.

We are also saddened to announce that Dr. Bob Lyons of the JC Raulston Arboretum is leaving this month to become the Graduate Coordinator for the Longwood Gardens program. Bob has been great to work with during his tenure at the JCRA, and we wish him the best of luck in his new career. Of course, this means that we are now looking for a replacement for Bob. This is a PhD faculty position at NCSU and obviously a very influential position in the NC gardening community. The position will be advertised shortly, so if you know anyone who might be interested, please encourage them to contact the NCSU Horticulture Department at 919.515.3132.

Get well soon wishes to another NC horticultural stalwart, Dick Bir, who recently underwent a 7-bypass heart surgery…guess that’s possible with a really big heart. Dick promises to be back on the speaking circuit by spring.

Back at PDN, work is continuing in the display gardens as we finish renovating the section as you enter the main driveway to the left. What was certainly the most boring section in the garden went from being a flat area with primarily older woody plantings to a 2-3′ deep sunken rock garden. Planting is nearly 80% complete, and this area should be a real showplace for many new treasures by the time of spring open house.

Our research staff has also been quite busy as we expand our trial beds which we also use for field productions. Fall projects include expanding our area for fern and epimedium trials, and trillium, Solomon’s seal, and miscellaneous bulb production. -tony

2004 Plant Delights Nursery April Newsletter

It’s been quite a good spring so far at Plant Delights…better if we could quit having late spring frosts. We covered plants in the garden for the nights of April 4 and 5 when temperatures were predicted to drop into the mid-20s, but we stayed just above freezing for the night. We are hopeful that this is the last frost until fall.

So far, shipping has gone very smoothly and we finally have a good handle on our computer program, which drove us completely nuts last year. We’ve got some very big shipping weeks between now and open house on April 30-May 2 and May 7-9, so many of you will have plants on the way shortly. We’ve been adding more plants to the website and expect even more to be added in early April. As I mentioned earlier, the new website feature allows you to print out these addition lists for study away from your computer. These additions are often plants that are available only in small quantities, so don’t delay if any of these excites you.

Adrienne and her garden staff are quickly getting the garden ready for open house with mulching and other spring spruce-up chores. The new waterfall from Mt. Michelle is complete except for some final touches and will be unveiled at the spring open house. We’ll also welcome the waterfall artists Roger Halligan and Jan Chenoweth of Two Oaks Studio on Saturday, May 1, from 9-1.

Spring travel has been filled with new plant discoveries. A week long botanical expedition in March covered the area between western Louisiana and East Texas. Not only did we find large populations of all five trillium species (T. pusillum var. texanum, T. gracile, T. ludovicianum, T. recurvatum, and T. viridescens) in the area, but we found some amazing narcissus. Narcissus from old homesites have naturalized throughout this region and are now hybridizing along the roadsides. Each stop yields an amazing array of new selections. We kept our eyes open for space shuttle debris, but couldn’t tell the difference between that and old Chevy parts. I’ve said it before, but Texas is one of my favorite areas for botanizing.

March took me back to Tampa, Florida for the Greenfest Celebration to raise money for H.B. Plant Park. It also provided time to again visit plant breeder Roy Works and his amazing collection of plants. Roy not only breeds rainlilies, and crinums, but coleus and cycads. Cycads! Think of what it takes to hybridize a cycad…a truly amazing experience.

March also sent me to South Carolina, where I stopped in to Nurseries Caroliniana for the first time in several years. Plantsman Ted Stephens has both a retail and wholesale nursery in North Augusta. Ted’s nursery is filled with rare horticultural treasures, many from his regular visits to Japan. As always, it’s easy to come back with more plants than you have room to plant.

The Great Plants, Great Plantspeople Symposium, celebrating Horticulture Magazine’s 100th anniversary is coming up at Plant Delights on June 4 and 5. -tony

2001 Plant Delights Nursery February Newsletter

As I look out the window through the cold, ice filled screen, I quickly turn to pages 24 and 25 of our printed catalog. There I find Cannas. Lots of vibrant, alive and colorful flowers that scream at me by saying “SPRING IS COMING – REALLY!”

Spring was here, if only briefly, and we enjoyed the heck out of it. Kind of like when you’re at a restaurant and they bring out a tray full of tasty food – to the guy in the next booth. We think that this ice-encrusted day is an anomaly, and spring will wrap its warm arms around us again tomorrow.

We’ve already started shipping to southern locations on February 12, and the pace is certainly picking up. We’ve had many people place orders so far, and ordering early definitely improves your chances of getting everything you want.

Right now, there are several plants that look especially good, including Tiarella ‘Jeepers Creepers’, Sisyrinchium sp. ‘Puerto Yellow’, Pulmonaria ‘Dark Vader’, Euphorbia robbiae and Trillium underwoodii.

One last thought. We couldn’t do without our favorite people in the world – you! Thanks for taking a few moments to take a look around our site. We hope you find something you like, and remember, ice is for hockey and cold drinks.

David Lee Customer Service and Shipping Manager