Plant articles


Native Plants – Myths and Realities

The exclusive use of native plants has become the mantra of the ecological purists, but the entire concept of native plants starts with a flawed premise. 

Ex-situ conservation thumbnail

Ex-situ Plant Conservation

In the face of climate change, the best chance to actually save and multiply endangered and threatened plant species is not by leaving them alone in areas where they evolved some 10,000 to 100,000 years earlier, and hoping for the best.

Amorphophallus titanum

Amorphophallus titanum has a larger than life reputation because of its enormous floral show…the largest unbranched inflorescence in the plant kingdom, ranging from 3′ to 12′ tall. The inflorescence, which is often called a “flower”, remains open for only 24-48 hours with a legendary fragrance for the first 6-12 hours.

Plant spotlights

Asarum speciosum

Asarum speciosum

In the woodland garden, Asarum speciosum is quite easy to grow.  Although slightly drought tolerant, the large leaves will temporarily wilt during the heat of the day if the soils get too dry, so a site with regular moisture and plenty of organic matter in the soil is best. 

Gladiolus 'Purple Prince'

Gladiolus ‘Purple Prince’

Growing up in North Carolina, it’s not uncommon to see gladiolus growing along country roads as you drive through older rural communities. For that reason, I could never reconcile why all the Gladiolus I ordered from mail order catalogs never overwintered. Was my thumb really that black?

Pulmonaria 'Silver Bouquet'

Pulmonaria ‘Silver Bouquet’

Pulmonaria, or lungworts as they are commonly called, are bold-textured clumping woodland perennials, prized for their unique silver-spotted deer-resistant foliage.  

Cyclamen hederifolium

Cyclamen hederifolium

The genus Cyclamen has long fascinated me…perhaps for the unusual, almost magical looking flowers as well as the enchanting silver-patterned leaves. I first encountered Cyclamen in the flesh in the early 1970s when garden-shopping at the old Western Boulevard K-Mart.

Epimedium x versicolor 'Sulphureum'

Epimedium x versicolor ‘Sulphureum’

It was only when the larger-flowered species and hybrids became available that epimediums began to take off with mainstream gardeners. 

Schefflera delavayi

Schefflera delavayi

I’ve made several trips to Asia in search of new scheffleras, while other plant explorer friends have done the same.  Finally, in 2003, I was able to acquire my first new schefflera, Schefflera delavayi. In the years since, I’ve acquired twelve other schefflera species, all of which I’m sad to say, made great compost. 

Adiantum capillus-veneris

Adiantum capillus-veneris

I’m not sure why gardeners are so attracted to maidenhair ferns, but odds are the romantic common name which aptly describes the dainty foliage has something to do with it. 

Aralia cordata Sun King

Aralia cordata ‘Sun King’

I met many aralias in the wild, most notably, Aralia nudicaulis in the Adirondack mountains, Aralia continentalis in Korea, and Aralia bipinnata in Taiwan.  Others came via plant explorer friends with similar fascinations with the genus aralia.

Aster Fanny

Symphyotrichum oblongifolium ‘Fanny’

Symphyotrichum oblongifolium ‘Fanny’ and I go way back…back to 1992, when I was given my first start by our customer, Ruth Knopf…the antique rose expert at South Carolina’s Boone Hall Plantation near Charleston.

Canna Phasion

Canna ‘Phasion’

I’ll never forget the day in June 1997 when I first met Canna ‘Phasion’ in person. For normal people, it would be like meeting Elvis or Barbara Streisand. I had long been a fan of canna lilies, having promoted them for years including something I rarely admit in public…introducing them to the NC Department of Transportation back in 1986.

Chloranthus japonicus

Chloranthus have Chlorophyll

Chloranthus, a genus of 17 species of easy-to-grow Asian perennials, are among the most esoteric perennials you’ll find. These deciduous (in our climate) perennials are prized for their elegant, bold texture in the woodland garden and rather prehistoric flowers in late spring.

Crinum Ellen Bosanquet

Crinum ‘Ellen Bosanquet’

Since just prior to the War Between the States, crinum lilies have been a popular staple in rural gardens throughout the deep Southeast…a far distance from their mostly native African origins. Crinum lilies first made their way into cultivation in the 1600s in the UK.


Amorphophallus cuttings

Propagation of Amorphophallus by Leaf Petiole Cuttings

It is our hope to expand the available information with regards to amorphophallus propagation by leaf petiole cuttings based on our experiments between 2004 and 2006. 

Baptisia 'Lightning Rods'

Baptisia – a good pea in the garden

My love for baptisias began many years ago, but it was in 1994 that I went off the proverbial deep end for this herbaceous genus of glorified peas in the family Leguminosae (Fabaceae).

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Winter Hardy Agave Hybridization

Growing agave in a high-rainfall, cold winter climate has its challenges. We have been growing hardy agaves in our wet, Zone 7b garden since the early 1980s. In that time, we’ve grown quite a few agaves in the ground (2180 taxa) and killed quite a few agaves (1528 taxa).

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