2011 Plant Delights Nursery November Newsletter

Our 2011 shipping season is winding down and officially ends next Monday, December 5th. If you’ve been putting off ordering those last plants for fall planting, please don’t delay. Any orders received after December 5th will be shipped when we resume shipping on February 13th, 2012. That being said, we always try to work with folks who encounter horticulture emergencies between December and February as winter weather allows.

After years of searching, we are now working with a new experimental “green wrap” 100% recyclable packing, that will allow us to move away from more conventional packaging materials to a paper-based product. While these products have a higher cost than the packing we have used in the past, initial reports indicate good results in keeping plants safe during transit. Additionally, these packing materials have received a certification from the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI). This SFI certification assures that the fibers used to make GreenWrap Packaging materials are derived solely from sustainably managed forests. Find out more at http://www.sfiprogram.org/. If you’ve received a shipment of plants this fall, we’d welcome your comments at office@plantdelights.com.

After the media-hyped Black Friday, I celebrated Green-Thumb Saturday out in the garden. We were fortunate to have great weather, which allowed me to get up close with all the wonderful plants that look great in fall. I’ll be posting more fall images from the garden to our Facebook page.

If you garden from Zone 7 south, I hope you are growing the wonderful ruscus and danae. These strange evergreen plants, which hail from woodlands in England southeast to the Mediterranean, are truly stars of the fall garden. Ruscus and danae are both members of the lowly Ruscaceae family…a family trying to find hold onto its identity, despite a horticultural tug of war that has taxonomists making a grab for both genera. Depending on who you believe, danae and ruscus should be included in Convallariaceae, Nolinaceae, Asparagaceae and Dracaenaceae. Geez…can we just not leave well enough alone?

If you’ve ever grown either of these great plants, you’ll know they aren’t like anything else. First, they don’t have leaves…only cladodes (leaf wannabes) attached to the upright green stems. Their flowers are insignificant, but both genera are adorned now with lovely reddish/orange fruit. Ruscus has sharp cladodes, while the cladodes of danae are soft and unarmed. Both genera have tremendous potential as cut specimens in arrangements, although you’ll need welding gloves to handle the ruscus. Danae on the other hand, which is usually imported from Italy for the cut flower market, can fetch up to $5 per stem for florists.

The genus ruscus consists of only a few species, but in cultivation, it is Ruscus aculeatus that dominates the market. In the wild, Ruscus aculeatus can reach 4-5′ tall and is typically a monecious plant…one plant is male, while another is female. Over the years, a few selections have been made for their gardening prowess. Ruscus aculeatus ‘Wheelers’ is a 4-5′ tall hermaphroditic form, meaning that it produces both male and female flowers and consequently produces fruit without a partner. Ruscus ‘Elizabeth Lawrence’ and Ruscus ‘Christmas Berry’ are very similar forms, both maturing around 18″ tall. These are also hermaphroditic forms and are truly stunning this time of year.

For us, ruscus has proven to be one of the best plants we grow for dry shade, tolerating insanely bad conditions. In our trials, we also have ruscus surviving in our full sun rock garden, but it isn’t extraordinarily happy there. The commercial downside to ruscus and danae is that they take 6-7 years to produce a saleable size plant, including 2 years to produce their first leaf. Consequently, no sane nurseryman would ever think about producing them.

We’ve recently caught a typo in our on-line catalog that lists Agave parryi v. truncata as Zone 3-9. The correct zone should be Zone 7-9. We apologize for the error and if you purchased this based on this error, please contact us for a credit at office@plantdelights.com.

The weather this fall has played havoc with gardeners in the Northeast US during an early season snowstorm on October 30. Because leaves had not yet fallen from deciduous trees, the damage was exacerbated as trees collapsed under the weight, wiping out power lines on their way down. The NY Botanic Garden was one of many horticultural treasures devastated by the loss of over 2,200 trees including many of the historic magnolias. Our thoughts go out to many nurseries and greenhouses in the region who were also devastated by losing power for 7-10 days.

Around the same time, many of our gardening friends in Thailand were being devastated by the unprecedented flooding around Bangkok. The media coverage in the US was scant for the level of destruction that occurred. Not only are some of the worlds most famous plant collectors in this part of Thailand, but an amazing amount of US plant production depends on liners from Thailand. For example one of the new introductions for 2011 was Ophiopogon ‘Black Beard’, a plant where virtually all of the stock is started in labs in Thailand. So the flooding has obviously caused a huge interruption in the worlds supply of each plant so affected. On November 3rd, we posted some truly amazing photos of the flood on our facebook page in the Wall Photos Album.

One of the world’s top variegated plant collectors is a Bangkok nurseryman named Pramote Rojruangsang…aka. Mr. Jiew. During the worst of the flooding in mid November, Mr. Jiew’s entire nursery was under 6′ of water and he estimates that he has lost 95% of his plants, including a lifetime of plant breeding work. I wrote about Mr. Jiew and his amazing collection of plants after my Thailand visit in 2005. Photos from that visit are posted on our Thailand/ North Vietnam Plant Exploration.

Another Thailand plant-friend of ours, Annop Ongsakul, lives further south in Thailand and avoided the flooding. Annop is a plant breeder (we carry one of his curcuma hybrids) and plant explorer who we also met during our 2005 trip to Thailand. Annop is also the namesake of the Amorphophallus ongsakulii that he discovered in Thailand along with our friend and Raleigh, NC plantsman Alan Galloway. Annop was recently featured in a recent Bangkok Post article…congratulations!

Congratulations are also in order to our friend Bill Cullina, who was just appointed Executive Director of the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens on November 10th. Bill first joined the garden as Director of Horticulture in 2008 after a decade at the New England Wildflower Society. If you haven’t had the chance to hear one of Bill’s wonderful talks, I hope you’ve at least enjoyed reading one of his excellent books. Bill has had quite a month as he was also selected as the winner of the prestigious 2012 Scott Medal…one of the country’s top horticulture awards. Well deserved…Congratulations!

In other horticultural world changes, another friend, Ellen Hornig of the former Seneca Hill Nursery is packing up and moving. Ellen closed her nursery last year after a wonderful run, and due to family illness is packing up and moving from upstate Oswego, New York to Shrewsbury, Massachusetts. Consequently, you’ve got a chance to buy Ellen’s former home and garden. Below is Ellen’s description of the property:

The property consists of a 4 BR, 2.5 bath 1914 American foursquare on 8+ acres. Included are the one remaining greenhouse (28′ x 48′) roughly 2 acres of gardens, a row of mature blueberry bushes, lots of rare and beautiful trees and plants, a large dug pond with koi, goldfish, bullfrogs, green frogs, and breeding toads in season, an old garage for storage, a newer 2.5 car garage with heat, insulation and a finished interior. We have city utilities (natural gas and water) and a septic system. The price ($169,900) reflects the value of the buildings and land on the local market. You get roughly $100K worth of gardens, plus the greenhouse, at no additional cost (the rest of the greenhouses have been removed). Click here for more information.

The gardening world lost a huge figure recently with the passing of Frank Cabot (age 86) from idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis on November 19th. It’s hard to know where to begin when talking about Franks contributions. Frank was a Harvard graduate, who after serving in the military during WWII, spent his first career as a New York City venture capitalist. However, his love of gardening consumed the remainder of his life. He became active in a number of gardening groups including the New York Botanical Garden, Wave Hill, and the North American Rock Garden Society. Frank created his own world class garden named Stonecrop in nearby Cold Spring, New York. In 1989, Frank founded the Garden Conservancy, a group dedicated to the preservation of exceptional gardens. Frank’s later years were spent renovating his parents garden Quatre Vents in Quebec. Franks’ book, The Greater Perfection, received the Council of Botanical and Horticultural Libraries 2003 Literature Award. Frank was also the recipient of many horticulture awards including the prestigious Veitch Medal from the Royal Horticulture Society. Frank is survived by his wife of 62 years, Ann and three children, Colin of New Hampshire, Currie of Colorado, and Marianne of Kentucky. Contributions may be made to The Garden Conservancy, PO Box 219 or the Quatre Vents Foundation, PO Box 222, both at Cold Spring, New York 10516, or to the charity of your choice.

Time to get back to writing catalog descriptions for all the great new plants for 2012. We’ll continue to post a few teaser pictures on our facebook page until the new plants go live on the website December 31st. Don’t forgot to check out these new plant photos and gardening tidbits on Facebook.

Thanks again for your continued support and happy holidays from all of us at Plant Delights Nursery and we wish you a great fall gardening season!

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