2013 Plant Delights Nursery August Newsletter

Dear PDN’ers

We’re fast approaching our final Open Nursery and Garden dates for 2013 and, to put a fitting exclamation point on our 25th anniversary year, we’ve invited one of the country’s TheEmbersmost famous beach music bands, The Embers, to perform in the gardens on Sunday, September 8, from 1:30-4:30pm.  Our Fall Open Nursery and Gardens will be held from Friday, September 6 through Sunday, September 8 and from Friday, September 13 through Sunday, September 15.  Hours are 8:00am-5:00pm on Fridays and Saturdays and from 1:00-5:00pm on Sundays.  We hope you’ll join us to enjoy and learn about great plants as you shag through the gardens…and take plants as well as design ideas home with you.

We hope you’ve received the fall catalog by now and found some gems you can’t live without…if not, give us a holler at office@plantdelights.com and we’ll fix that.  In the meantime, you can find the new fall catalog plants online here.

1308_Tony&AnitaAvent_254C copykkFor those who missed our announcement on Facebook a few weeks ago, I am blessed to have found a new soul mate, Anita, and the two of us began our married life together on August 3 with a private ceremony here in the gardens.  Anita and I were born the same year at the same Raleigh hospital and she grew up just around the corner from the nursery.  We actually knew each other growing up in the 1960s, but both went our separate ways…she to become an insurance administrator and mother of three adult children and I to start a plant business.  Although we hadn’t seen each other in 40 years until this spring, we knew immediately when we re-connected that we were destined to spend the rest of our lives together.  Anita looks forward to meeting all of my unique plant friends, both at nursery open house days as well as traveling with me to speak around the country.  At the nursery, Anita will be working as our Vice President of Planning and Development, which will include getting our foundation for the preservation of the gardens at Juniper Level established.  Please join me in welcoming Anita into the Plant Delights family!


We’ve been enjoying an incredible year for summer-flowering bulbs, especially lycoris.  Lycoris are often better known by their common names; surprise lilies, hurricane lilies or, my favorite…naked ladies.  While most people only grow one or two clones, we have been collecting surprise lilies for years and currently grow 435 lycoris clones…you’ve gotta love obsessive compulsions. The common name comes from their trait of flowering in the summer before the foliage emerges.

Lycoris are divided into two basic groups; those that produce leaves in early fall and those that produce leaves in late winter.  As a rule, those that produce leaves in early fall are winter hardy from Zone 6b-7b and south, while those that produce late winter foliage are hardy as far north as Zones 3-4.

Under proper garden conditions, lycoris should be reliable bloomers but the lack of regular annual flowering is usually weather related.  For instance, Lycoris x squamigera must have a cold winter to flower.  When we experience mild winters that don’t drop below 15 degrees F, we rarely see flowers on Lycoris x squamigera. The opposite is true for Lycoris aurea…a cold winter will kill off the foliage before it produces enough food to support next year’s crop of flowers.  Most lycoris also need occasional summer moisture to flower well.  Although lycoris are amazingly drought tolerant, they rarely flower well without a few summer showers…the exception being the drought-loving Lycoris incarnata.


Also remember that to flower well, lycoris need sunlight when their foliage is out.  Most lycoris grow fine in either full sun or light deciduous shade.  Since tree leaves drop in fall when the lycoris foliage is above ground, the plants actually get plenty of light during the winter months despite growing in what is light shade in summer.  Evergreen shade, however, is a no-no for lycoris.  Although we already offer a nice selection of lycoris, our field production is such that our offerings will be increasing dramatically over the next few years. You can view our current lycoris selections here.

We are looking to fill the position of Administrative Horticulturist. Qualified individuals must have advanced MS Office Suite skills, be proficient using and maintaining relational databases, websites and, preferably, Adobe Photoshop. The ideal candidate will possess strong communication skills, a positive attitude and be detailed oriented. This position is responsible for plant inventory management, including plant purchasing, support work on the print and online catalog production/website and other related duties as needed,. We are seeking a team player who enjoys working in a friendly and fast-paced environment. Understanding plant nomenclature is preferred. Send resumes with cover letters of interest to Heather@plantdelights.com   You can find out more here.

Nursery News and Happenin’s

Our friends at the South Carolina Botanical Garden are recovering from a massive rainstorm on July 12 and 13 that dumped 8 inches of rain on the garden in a matter of hours, completely overwhelming their inadequate storm water management system.  The damage was exacerbated by 20 inches of rain that had fallen in the previous 10 days.  For those who are familiar with the SC Botanical Garden, the duck pond flooded, overtopping and undermining the dam and scouring the mountain meadow and the new Natural Heritage Garden trail.  Small trees, shrubs, and several bridges were lost along with large numbers of incredibly rare and endangered perennials.  Other planted areas of the garden are now covered with deep layers of silt and gravel.  Costs to restore the infrastructure alone will be $200,000, which is not covered by insurance.  You can donate to their recovery effort at http://www.clemson.edu/public/scbg/  Let’s all help get this great garden back on its feet!

In the nursery industry, consolidation continues this month with the recent engagement of two of the country’s largest wholesale nurseries.  Monrovia Nursery, which has been hanging on by a financial thread for the last few years, has agreed to purchase another of the country’s largest wholesale nurseries, Imperial Nurseries of Connecticut, from owner Griffin Land and Nurseries Inc.  Imperial Nurseries is a 450-acre wholesale ornamentals nursery, started in 1955 as part of the American Sumatra Tobacco Company.  Negotiations aren’t complete, but it is planned that when the deal concludes this fall, Imperial may continue to operate under their current name.  This is all quite fascinating since Monrovia has been struggling with its own severe financial issues and only recently closed its entire NC operation.  This reminds me of 2004, when the bankrupt K-Mart purchased Sears.  I’m obviously not smart enough to figure out how debt-ridden, nearly bankrupt companies can buy other companies.  Sounds like fuzzy math to me, so it’s probably good that I only have to worry about growing plants.

Gardeners in the Deep South are mourning the loss of Marion Drummond, who passed away on August 24, at age 83, from melanoma cancer.  The tenacious Drummond got her first full-time job in 1992 at age 62, when she was named as the first site director of LSU’s Hilltop Arboretum, shortly after finishing her Landscape Architecture studies.  During her tenure, she coordinated plantings as well as starting a gardening symposium and the now well-known plant sale.  Throughout her career, Marion was honored with a number of awards including the Southern Garden History Society’s Certificate of Merit and the Robert Reich Service Award from the Louisiana Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects. Marion is survived by a daughter, Laurie Lynn, and sons Findlay and Carter.  Donations can be made to Marion’s Greenhouse Project at Hilltop Arboretum.

The tropical plant world lost a gentle giant when noted plantsman John Lucas of Tradewinds Signature Botanicals in LaBelle, Florida recently passed away due to complications from an automobile accident.  We offer one of John’s introductions, Agave ‘Tradewinds’, but he was much better known for his work with bougainvillea, serving as founder and current president of the Bougainvillea Society of America.  John was recognized as having introduced every new bougainvillea cultivar to the US since the 1920s and at the time of his death had 125 cultivars in his nursery.  John traveled extensively around the world and was responsible for helping assemble the bougainvillea collections at the famed Nong Nooch Tropical Gardens in Thailand.  John was born in southeast Pennsylvania and later attended Oberlin College in Ohio before serving in the Air Force in Homestead, Florida and falling in love with the tropical climate, subsequently founding his nursery in Florida in 1969.

Tropical garden pathway
PDN Tropical garden pathway

In the not-so-tropical plant world, we lost another horticultural giant with the passing of Dr. William Ackerman, 89, on July 6, as a result of complications from a recent fall.  Anyone interested in camellias will recognize his name as the man who started the winter hardy camellia breeding program at the US National Arboretum.  After the great freezes of 1978 and 1981 at the US National Arboretum in Washington DC killed virtually all of the 956 camellia in the collection, Ackerman took note of fifteen survivors including two unfazed camellias, Camellia oleifera (later named Camellia ‘Lu Shan Snow’), and Camellia ‘Plain Jane’.  He used these two parents, adding Camellia hiemalis to the mix, to create over 50 cold hardy camellia hybrids.  Even after retiring from the US National Arboretum in the early 1980s, Ackerman continued his cold hardy camellia breeding program at his 7-acre farm in Montgomery County, Maryland.  Most of Ackerman’s camellias are fall/winter flowering types that belong to either the Winter series or the Ashton series.  Bill’s 2007 book, “Beyond the Camellia Belt,” details his life’s work with camellias.  Job well done!

We lost another friend this month when Woodlanders Nursery co-founder, Julia Mackintosh, passed away on August 24 at the age of 88.  Julia was born in England, but received her Master’s degree in Architecture from Harvard.  Julia and her husband, Robert, headed to Grenada, where Julia taught at the newly-founded Westmoreland School.  In 1975, they moved to Aiken, SC, and started the well-known mail order nursery, Woodlanders.  Julia and Robert finally retired and moved to Raleigh in 1997, where they managed the conserved Margaret Reid Wildflower Garden until her death.  Julia is survived by her husband of 60 years, Robert, brother Michael, and three daughters, Amy, Louisa, and Susan.  Julia will be remembered both by the people whose lives she touched and those who grow the plants she helped make available.

Speaking of Woodlanders Nursery, July 14, 2013 was declared “Bob McCartney Day” in Aiken, SC, by Aiken mayor, Fred Cavanaugh.  McCartney, 76, is co-owner of Woodlanders Nursery in Aiken and has spent the last few decades turning Aiken into a citywide arboretum of rare trees.  Bob grew up in Virginia then went off to school, receiving a BS from Utah State followed by a Masters in Wildlife Management from LSU.  After a 4-year stint in the Coast Guard and a horticultural career at Colonial Williamsburg, Bob moved to Aiken in 1980 to become a partner in Woodlanders Nursery, where he remains today.  A big PDN salute for a job well done!

Yours truly was very humbled last month to receive the Perennial Plant Association’s Award of Merit.  Unfortunately, I was on the road to several speaking engagements during the July 23 ceremony in British Columbia and was unable to accept in person, but many thanks to all who made this possible.

Congratulations go out to two botanical garden giants who have recently landed new positions.Plantsman and showman, Jimmy Turner, who has been the public face of the Dallas Arboretum for the last decade, will be heading around the world to Australia, having been named the Director of Horticulture Operations for the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney, Blue Mountain Botanic Garden Mt. Tomah, and the Australian Botanic Garden Mt. Annan. Jimmy has been one of the true rock stars in the world of American horticulture, establishing and promoting great heat tolerant plants from his trials at the Dallas Arboretum. You can read more about Jimmy’s great work in Dallas at www.dallasplanttrials.org/jimmy_turner   Good luck, my friend…a huge loss for American horticulture.

Additionally, plantsman Rick Lewandowski, formerly the Director of Mt. Cuba Center in Delaware, has been named the new Managing Director of the 252-acre Shangri La Botanical Gardens and Nature Center in coastal Orange, Texas. Congratulations to Rick, and we look forward to watching as he puts his stamp on the gardens.

Until next month…happy gardening



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