October is a transitional month in the garden, as the plants of summer begin to fade and the stars of the autumn garden begin to shine. Join us Saturday October 8 from 10am – noon for a two-hour class…an interactive outdoor walk through our extensive botanical gardens, discussing the plants in the garden, and how and why they grow.
Come see our 30 foot flowering agave at our final Summer Open Nursery and Garden Days this weekend. Visitors from around the country have been showing up to see our giant agave in flower, a 16-year-old specimen of Agave salmiana x Agave asperrima, with the first flowers opening right on cue for our summer open days. This is the tallest century plant we’ve ever flowered, with the tip of the spike topping out just a few inches below the 30′ tall mark. We’ve got our giant ladder perched nearby so Jeremy can make his daily pollinations, all while fighting off attacking hummingbirds.
We hope you’ll have time to walk around the garden while you’re here. The newly-opened, full sun Souto garden is looking fabulous, with so much color it’s almost overwhelming. Changes also abound throughout the older sections of the garden. Anita has suggested the removal of several formerly fenced and hedged areas to create more openness…we think you’ll enjoy these changes as much as we do.
Daylilies You’ll Notice — Royalty in the Summer Garden
If you visit during the summer, you’ll notice some rather impressive daylilies in the sunny areas. We’ve long enjoyed daylilies for their ability to add color to the summer garden and now have them showcased better than ever.
The prevailing daylily breeding trend since the 1970s has been to shrink the height of daylilies to appeal the masses. Obviously, this worked, since Hemerocallis ‘Stella D’Oro’ can be seen lining highway medians across the country. As horticultural contrarians, however, we enjoy taller daylilies, which we feel add much more visual interest to the garden. We don’t object to a few daylilies in the 3′ range, but rarely find the shorter varieties at the top of our favorites list, although some true dwarf rock garden daylilies would be fascinating.
Hemerocallis ‘Autumn Minaret’ is certainly the best known of the taller cultivars, topping out in our garden now at 6.5′ tall…yes, you read that correctly. This 1951 late season introduction was hybridized from one of the taller natural species, Hemerocallis altissima, which is actually a very small-growing plant that just happens to have a 5′ tall flower spike.
Hemerocallis ‘Black Eyed Susan’
Hemerocallis ‘Purity’ is another summer-flowering favorite. The well-branched 5′ tall flower spikes hold hundreds of yellow-orange flowers over a very long time. We can’t imagine a summer garden without this gem. While we typically don’t rave about many daylilies that flower below 3′, there are a few noticeable exceptions. One that we continually tout as one of the best is Hemerocallis ‘Black Eyed Susan’. Without question, this amazing plant is one of the most floriferous and stunning daylilies we grow. Although it only manages 32″ in height, its show power in the garden is truly hard to match.
We’ve got many more of the taller daylilies in our trials, and have even moved a bit of pollen around this summer between some of the taller varieties, so we hope you find these “off the bell curve” daylilies worth including in your own garden.
Black Bamboo Death – The End is Nigh
Phyllostachys nigra (courtesy Georges Seguin via Wikipedia)
The bamboo world has been rocked over the last few years as most of the black bamboo has begun its flowering cycle. While flowering is good in most plants, such is not the case with bamboo since, like agaves, it dies after flowering. Like century plants, a bamboo plant also takes about 100 years to flower but unlike agaves, bamboo offsets don’t survive. Since most bamboo is grown from divisions, when a particular clone flowers, it flowers everywhere around the world within a certain time window, influenced slightly by growing conditions.
Black bamboo began flowering worldwide in 2008, with many in the US starting only in the last year. Bamboo flowers are brown and insignificant, so most folks won’t even notice until the plant begins a steady decline. The sad part is that everyone’s black bamboo will die, but the up side is that more plants will be grown from seed and the new generation crop will have another 100-year lifespan. Also, all those folks who were lied to by retailers who told them black bamboo clumped will have their problem resolved. The take home lesson is that if you’re buying the running black bamboo (Phyllostachys nigra), be sure to ask if it’s a new generation plant from seed or the clone which is currently flowering.
Yucca Birth Records Confusion — Who’s Your Daddy?
For many years we’ve had a fascination with yuccas and have long been convinced that the taxonomy of the Southeast native species was a mess. Reading several recent DNA papers along with some older works from the early 1900s, we realized that most of what is labeled Yucca filamentosa is actually Yucca flaccida…a completely different species.
We’re in the process of updating all of our names on the website and apologize in advance for the confusion. All of the variegated cultivars of Yucca filamentosa, except for the cultivar ‘Variegata’, are actually selections of Yucca flaccida.
Yucca gloriosa ‘Tiny Star’
Yucca filamentosa, however, is a real plant. The real plant is what is known in the trade as the coastal boat-tipped yucca. We are currently propagating some true Yucca filamentosa for inclusion in a future catalog. If you vacation along the East Coast from NC south to Florida, the small yucca you see on the dunes is Yucca filamentosa.
Also growing on the southeast coastal dunes are two other species, Yucca aloifolia and Yucca gloriosa. It has long been theorized that Yucca gloriosa might represent a natural hybrid between Yucca aloifolia and Yucca filamentosa and, sure enough, the new DNA work confirms that theory. Consequently, the name should be written correctly as Yucca x gloriosa. Now it makes sense that when we were studying yuccas last year on the NC dunes, many plants seemed to be intermediates between the three parent species. We guess our eyes were not deceiving us after all. Two papers on the subject were shared by Larry Hatch of Cultivar.org and are found below if you are scientifically nerdy enough to care.
On our many Southeast US botanizing trips we discovered other natural hybrids along with another new southeastern native yucca species that seems to have never been named. We will be working to get it described and published in the near future…an exciting time for those of us who love yuccas.
Perennial Plant Registrations
Our friend Larry Hatch is looking to fill a gap in the registration of new perennial varieties. There is supposed to be a system in place for anyone who wants to officially register, for posterity purposes, any new perennial that they name and introduce. While some genera of plants like iris, daylilies, and hostas have a dedicated registrar and a functioning system, most genera of plants either don’t have a registrar or the system is too cumbersome. The New Ornamentals Society is working to streamline the process with a new no-cost registration system. We encourage you to give it a try here.
Fern Hardiness Oops
Dryopteris labordei ‘Golden Mist’
In our trials from this winter, it has become obvious that one of the ferns we offer isn’t nearly as hardy as our liner supplier had indicated. We lost all plantings of Dryopteris labordei ‘Golden Mist’ at 9 degrees F this winter, which is a far cry from its purported Zone 5 hardiness. The problem stems from a taxonomic confusion. Dryopteris labordei is considered a synonym of Dryopteris indusiata, the latter of which is a Zone 5 plant. Obviously, the two plants are not the same. While it’s still a great fern, we are shifting its winter hardiness to Zone 8a-9b. If you purchased this based on our previous hardiness listing, just drop us a note and we’ll add a credit to your account or issue a refund. Please accept our apologies for this incorrect information.
Last month saw the passing of one of the giants of the waterlily world, Patrick Nutt, 85, longtime curator of Aquatic Plants at Longwood Gardens. Pat was revered throughout the water lily world for his encyclopedic knowledge and as a water lily breeder, promoter, and educator. Pat will be best remembered as the breeder of the internationally-renowned giant water lily Longwood Victoria, which most summer visitors to Longwood have no doubt gazed on in amazement. Pat began his career at Longwood Gardens in 1957 and remained there for the next 38 years, until his retirement in 1995. Even after his retirement, he continued to be a regular at Longwood Gardens while also traveling around the world, collecting and researching water lilies. Our condolences go out to Pat’s family and friends…life well lived!
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Here’s one of our weird hybrids that just finished flowering…a cross of Yucca cernua x Yucca recurvifolia, that has a pendulous inflorescence. We think it’s pretty cool, but would anyone actually buy it?