Mt. Michelle Mystic Falls waterfall photo

Michelle’s Garden

Michelle’s Garden is named after PDN/JLBG co-founder, Michelle Avent, who at age 57, passed away in 2012 after a five year battle with an aggressive form of breast cancer. This was the second developed garden section at JLBG, an area twice as large as the Founder’s Garden.

Michelle’s Garden is a part sun/part shade garden, with a house in the middle. The house is now used by the Plant Delights Nursery staff as well as the JLBG Garden staff. This garden section currently contains over 9000 different plant taxa.

The sunny parts of the garden consist of the house patio garden, where the potted variegated agave collection goes on display from May – October. During this time, you can see what is almost certainly the worlds largest collection. Adjacent to that is our first Alpine rock garden berm, complete with 550 plant taxa. Winter hardy agaves take up the majority of the space in this section, with plenty of other dryland, heat and sun loving specimens mixed in.

Michelle Avent

Michelle Avent has brightened many hearts with her smile and left precious legacy at JLBG.

Michelle Mystic Falls waterfall photo
Southwest patio garden

Beauty and innovation

To the north of the Alpine berm is the dryland welcome berm, a solitary, six-foot tall berm for large agaves and other companion plants. This section serves as a backdrop for our Open House visitor welcome tent. This rock garden space was constructed with a number of rock overhangs, where we grow succulents like lithops that can’t tolerate winter moisture.

Dividing the parking lot and Michelle’s Garden is a 300’ long border of more dryland plants, all grown in un-irrigated beds. These beds are composed of a 50/25/25 PermaTill blend with our native sandy loam and compost. Here, visitors will enjoy a wide array of agaves and yuccas, most from our JLBG breeding programs. These beds also contain an array of our baptisia hybrids, along with other incredible dryland lovers. On a smaller scale, if you’re visiting in early spring, you’ll be sure to notice the over 300 different taxa of hardy cactus that are tucked around.

Sunken pond rain garden

The final section of sun plants in Michelle’s garden are on the far south end of the property around the retention pond. Here, the moist part of the garden transitions from Iris x louisiana (Louisiana iris) in early spring to Iris ensata (Japanese iris) in late spring, followed by hardy hibiscus during the heat of summer. There is also a nice array of heat-adapted peonies in this section.

Mt. Michelle

The remaining part of Michelle’s Garden is now shaded. Much of the shade comes from the Metasequoia glyptostroboides ‘Golden Ogi’ (Golden Dawn Redwood) allee and an adjacent grove of our native Pinus taeda (Loblolly pine). These border Michelle’s namesake, Mt. Michelle, whose winding path to 330’ elevation tops out at Mystic Falls – the magical 20’ falls named after our late cat Mystic. The steep slope of Mt. Michelle allows us to grow some normally difficult plants such as Picea rubens (red spruce), and Ben Franklin’s tree, (Franklinia altamaha).

Just across from the large Celtis sinensis ‘Green Cascade’ (weeping Chinese hackberry) on the west side of Mt. Michelle is an amazing highly sloped rock garden. This area was reworked in 2022 by Jeremy Schmidt as one of his last projects, creating an amazing, multi-level woodland space filled with hundreds of plant pockets into which rare horticultural treasures like an amazing collection of hardy gesneriads have been tucked.

Rare trees and giant shrubs

Other outstanding trees in Michelle’s garden include our huge Elaeocarpus sylvestris ‘Hardy Enough’ (Woodland Elaeocarpus), a 40’ tall Exbucklandia tonkinensis (Tonkin Exbucklandia), which is perhaps the largest in the US, a massive Syringa reticulata ssp. pekinensis (Peking Lilac). The 25 year-old Lagerstroemia limii (Lim’s Crape Myrtle) is also one of the largest in the country.

Some of the most amazing large shrubs include a large freckled leaf loquat, Eriobotrya japonica, a huge Ilex ‘Cherry Bomb’, and Ilex chinensis ‘National Treasure’ – both renegade holly introductions from the US National Arboretum. Michelle’s gardens contains some large specimen evergreen magnolias including Magnolia platypetala, Magnolia lotungensis, Magnolia floribunda ‘Bridal Veil’, and Magnolia macclurei. It also contains one of the largest specimens of the Taiwanese Viburnum arboricola in the country.

If you look down, you can’t miss the 600+ taxa of hardy ferns, 600+ taxa of trilliums, over 125 different amorophophallus selections, 125 different arisaema, 300 different asarums, 75 different arums, and so much more. You’re sure to still feel Michelle’s amazing energy as you wander through her garden.

Next up – Souto Garden

A land of giant sun loving plants, salvias, cacti, chrysanthemums, ornamental grasses, and a large bog garden.

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