Plant Delights Nursery E-Newsletter August 26, 2010

Dear PDN’ers:

Greetings from PDN where fall is finally in the air, after a long, hot summer. We’ve been enjoying a deluge of rain (6.5″ in the last 2 days) after an extended dry spell in midsummer. Along with the cooler temperatures, plants are starting their fall flush and in some cases, rebloom. For those who couldn’t work in the garden during the oppressive heat, now is a great time to get back into the garden and add some new plants…hint, hint. We hope you all have your new fall catalog by now, have visited the new website, and have found some treasures that you just can’t live without.

Remember that only a short time remains before we open for the final time for 2010, September 10-12 and 17-19. The gardens have on their fall coat with an array of foliage and flowers to enjoy. Every Fall Open House we sell off a few of our largest potted variegated agaves that have been restarted, so if these are of interest, drop by to see what is available…many are quite rare but much too large to ship.

We also have a couple of special non-plant treats for Fall Open House. On the first Saturday, September 11 from 9am until noon, we are hosting a “Meet the Cartoonists”…a chance to meet our catalog cover cartoonist in person. Jack Pittman, who has drawn our catalog covers since 1998, is a nationally-renowned cartoonist who has won a number of awards from the National Cartoonist Association. Jack has assembled a group of his professional cartoonist friends, known by the moniker “The Usual Suspects,” who you might also want to meet. Joining Jack are Grey Blackwell and Duane Powell. Grey Blackwell is another award recipient from the National Cartoonists Association, whose clients include ESPN, Fox Sports, Mad Magazine, and our own News & Observer. Duane is the recently retired long-time political cartoonist for the News & Observer in Raleigh. Nick Meglin, who was scheduled to appear, has been called away to New York.

On the second Saturday, September 18, photography instructor Josh Taylor of is teaching a workshop (8am-4pm) at PDN on photographing close-ups of fall garden colors, textures, and patterns where you can learn and apply close-up techniques for creating striking images. The workshop focuses on compositional elements, close-up techniques and lighting, and includes a classroom orientation, an illustrated handout, and shooting sessions with the instructor. Instruction will cover how to do close-ups with a basic lens through advanced techniques using macro lenses and micro/ring lights. Also, some Photoshop™/Photoshop Elements™ techniques will be introduced. Photographers of all levels are welcome. Advance registration ($150) is required and only a few seats remain, so sign up today if you’re interested.

On both weekends, we will be displaying sculpture from NC native Andy Cobb. Andy’s specialty is metal frogs…some of the most enchanting metal frogs that you’ll ever meet. Since this is the last open day for the year, we hope you’ll find time in your schedule to drop by!

I’ve been talking all year about the upcoming IPPS Southern Region meeting in Raleigh, October 10-13, and am glad to report that there is now an Online Registration Form. We have a tremendous program that includes both nursery and garden bus tours, fifteen speakers, a rare plant auction, great networking opportunities for others involved in plant production, and dinners at both the JC Raulston Arboretum and here at Plant Delights. If you’re involved in plant propagation or production don’t miss this great opportunity! You do not have to be a member of IPPS to attend the convention, but we hope you will be impressed enough with the organization to want to join afterwards.

If you live in North Carolina or will be down in this neck of the woods between October 14-24, then you’ll want to know about a great opportunity…our NC State Fair. So, how many of you have ever entered plants in the NC State Fair…or your own State Fair Flower Show? Did you know that there are a number of horticultural exhibits from landscape gardens to pumpkins, to cut flowers, to potted plants, to arrangements and dish gardens? Did you know that you can win cash prizes? When I worked for the fair, I knew several exhibitors who got a significant part of their yearly income from fair premiums…not to mention those colorful ribbons. In this time of economic difficulty, here is a great opportunity to let your plants pay you back…especially if you have one of those spouses who simply doesn’t get the gardening thing and constantly fusses about the money you spend on gardening.

Even if you choose not to enter, be sure to visit the Fair’s Flower and Garden Show. Under the direction of retired NCSU Horticulture Extension Specialist Erv Evans, and with assistance from the Gardeners of Wake County, the flower show has made a dramatic comeback after years of disheartening neglect. Many of the display garden spaces have been redone, the miniature train garden has been expanded, and there is a greatly expanded fair demonstration schedule with some amazing lecturers. Also, be sure to see Barrel Monster creator, Joe Carnevale’s new giant insect creation along with the new scarecrow and carved pumpkin contest.

In more news from the nursery world, one of the largest greenhouse operations in the Midwest, box store grower, Green Circle Growers of Oberlin, Ohio was hit by a freak windstorm that knocked the glass out of 15 acres of their 100 acre greenhouse operation. I can only imagine what it would have been like to be there during the storm. Click Here to see photos.

We wrote recently about the foreclosure sale of the former Western Hills Nursery in Occidental, California and the efforts to preserve their 3 acre garden. Well, there’s good news! Nursery owners Chris and Tim Szybalski of Berkeley’s Westbrae Nursery have purchased Western Hills to preserve the gardens and open them to the public. In a welcome show of good sense, they will not be trying to run Western Hills as a nursery. For those unfamiliar with Western Hills, think the predecessor of Heronswood and you’ll get the idea. Falling land prices in California allowed the new owners to invest $1 million less than the foreclosed-upon previous owner.

Continuing with the bankruptcy theme, we wrote a few months ago about the financial demise of the Park Seed/Wayside Gardens/Jackson and Perkins conglomerate, when it declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy. By moving operating funds back and forth between companies, the owners had made it so difficult to figure out which company owned which assets, that after spending $1,000,000 to sort out the finances, the bankruptcy attorney gave up and a judge allowed the consolidation to continue in order for the entire group to be able to come up with enough funds to print a fall Jackson and Perkins catalog. The entire group of companies currently has assets of $8.33 million and liabilities of $44.79 million. This also meant that the three companies had to be sold as one. The August 23 bidding war for the companies was between 3 firms: Verdero Capital, Blackstreet Capital (both venture capital firms), and Gardens Alive Corp (which owns the most mail order nurseries in the US). Although the bids at the start of the day were between $7 and $9 million, when the dust settled it was Blackstreet Capital coming out on top with a bid of $12.8 million, along with a promise to keep the company in Greenwood, SC for at least 3 years. Although Blackstreet Capital has a history with underperforming business turnarounds, venture capital firms and horticulture businesses have had a relationship track record as successful as Tiger Wood’s first marriage. Could this be the one success story? I surely wouldn’t take that bet, but I certainly wish them well.

From the “I’m from the government and I’m here to help” file this month, I couldn’t pass up sharing the ultimate paradox below from the USDA Invasive Species website. “The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) prohibits discrimination in all its programs and activities on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, disability, and where applicable, sex, marital status, familial status, parental status, religion, sexual orientation, genetic information, political beliefs, reprisal, or because all or a part of an individual’s income is derived from any public assistance program.” To file a complaint of discrimination write to USDA, Director, Office of Civil Rights, 1400 Independence Avenue, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20250-9410 or call (800) 795-3272 (voice) or (202) 720-6382 (TDD). USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.

Perhaps we should take up a collection and purchase them a dictionary, since discrimination is the foundation of the entire Invasive Species program. If they couldn’t discriminate based on national origin, race, parental status, and genetic information, their program wouldn’t exist. Heck, Arizona is getting condemned for far less than what the Eco-Nazi’s in charge of the invasive species movement are advocating. Of course, now these same folks are changing the plant import laws to “guilty until proven innocent.” If this idiocy wasn’t so serious, I’d be laughing.

Also, in the “In Case You Missed it” file, the worldwide average land surface temperature for June was the hottest on record since 1880 (1880 is 50 years after the end of the Little Ice Age). Not to be outdone, Mars is heating up faster than Earth! It seems that NASA scientists have discovered a 1.17 degree Fahrenheit rise in the Martian surface temperature between 1975 and 1995…OMG…Cosmic Warming! Dry ice at Mars’ southern poles is melting at an alarming rate. Of course, the study goes on to suggest that wind and dust storms may have caused the Mars temperature rise. Well, maybe not. I’ll bet they don’t know about the thousands of vanished Hummers from dealerships around Roswell, NM.

In sad news, the horticulture world lost a huge stalwart on August 9, with the untimely passing of the UK’s Jim Archibald, age 68. Jim is survived by his wife, Jenny, a son, and daughter. Jim and Jenny ran Archibald Seed, making available seed from their wild collections from around the world. For several years, Jim had been receiving treatments for skin cancer, but his condition had recently deteriorated. For those unfamiliar with Archibald Seed, this was the list to acquire the newest and rarest perennials, bulbs, and rock garden plants. There are few top-level gardeners worldwide who don’t grow plants from Archibald Seed. We were fortunate to have Jim and Jenny visit the nursery in 2006. The Archibald’s were also featured in Bobby Ward’s book The Plant Hunter’s Garden: The New Explorers and Their Discoveries.

We’ve also lost another familiar name and smile this month, as Jim Wilson, 85, passed away due to congestive heart failure and pulmonary fibrosis at his new hometown of Columbia, Missouri. I’m sure many folks will remember Jim from his decade as host of the PBS show, “The Victory Garden”, as co-host of the HGTV show “Great Gardeners”, as Executive Secretary of the All American Selections Program, from his 13 gardening books, or his numerous lectures across the country. I first met Jim in the late 1980s when I invited him to be a garden judge for our NC State Fair Flower and Garden Show. At the time, he and his wife Jane were running a herb farm in South Carolina, which provided fresh herbs to restaurants in the region. Throughout the years, we would cross paths at meetings and talks…most recently when Jim attended the Garden Writers Convention in Raleigh last October. Because of his immeasurable contributions to garden communication during his 56 year career in horticulture, Jim was a 1995 inductee into the Garden Writers Hall of Fame. This was only one of many honors that Jim received during his lifetime. Even last fall when we chatted, Jim was all excited about his new book, a collaboration with photographer Walter Chandoha titled Homegrown Vegetables, Fruits and Herbs: A Bountiful, Healthful Garden for Lean Times. Jim was an absolute delight as a person and he will be sorely missed.

On a regional note, Nell Lewis of Greensboro, NC passed away on August 13, at the ripe old age of 92. Nell was best know for her garden column that ran in the Greensboro News and Record from 1965-2004. Nell was a proverbial mover and shaker in the garden world, having played a major role in designing and planting the wildflower trails at the Greensboro Arboretum and Bicentennial Garden. Some of Nell’s favorite plants in her wonderful woodland garden were hellebores, and a selection of H. niger with particularly large flowers that originated there now carries her name. What many folks don’t know is that Nell was a nationally-renowned Graphoanalyst (handwriting specialist), who traveled the country testifying at criminal trials. Nell is survived by a sister, two daughters, numerous grandchildren, and a ton of hellebores.

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