2009 Plant Delights Nursery September Newsletter

Greetings from PDN and we hope you’ve all had a great gardening summer. Folks in much of the Northeast and Midwest still haven’t had much of a summer, many experiencing the coldest summer temperatures in recorded history. Many of you in this wet, cool corridor have seen an array of diseases along with heat-loving plants that just haven’t grown very quickly. In years like this, good soil preparation really pays off since good drainage is so important when the rains just won’t stop. Over the years, I’ve also found organically gardened soils that haven’t been “chemicalled” to death tend to fare better since they still have plenty of good microbes to fight off the damaging ones.

There are also going to be more foliar diseases in years like this, but be sure to determine what pathogen is causing the symptoms before embarking on a course of action. Some plants with foliar damage may simply go dormant early and be fine next season, while other may need more air movement to keep diseases at bay. Consequently, some perennials may fare better if they are cut back or thinned to allow more air to penetrate the constantly damp foliage. I find most foliar problems can be solved with improving the cultural conditions, so please don’t adopt the philosophy of “spray first and ask questions later.” Given the choice, I’ll always take a drought instead of a monsoon since you can always add water, but it’s so hard to remove it. Years like this may be a good time to re-examine our planting schemes, opting more for plants like hibiscus that will take both wet and dry conditions.

We’re almost ready for our Fall Open House that begins soon and we hope to see both many of our regular gardening friends, as well as many out-of-towners that haven’t visited in a while. The greenhouses are chocked full of great looking plants, just waiting for you to select your favorites. We’ve got a special guest this year who will be here to greet Open House visitors…yes, it’s the barrel monster. Unless you were hiding under a rock or in Iraq for the last few months, you’ve heard the story of a NC State student who creatively rearranged traffic barrels at a road construction site into the now world famous barrel monster. If you did miss it, you can find out more at www.thebarrelmonster.com.

Our staff is also busy potting many new plants for the spring catalog. Unlike many mail-order nurseries who don’t actually grow their own plants, such is not the case at PDN. Growing our own plants allows us more control over timing, quality, and trueness to name. There are only a few plants we aren’t able to produce in our climate and some others where the patent owners limit the production of liners. We’ll spend the next month analyzing sales figures from this year to determine which plants have earned their way back into the catalog and which will be relegated to an on-line offering only. Then, we’ll look at the pool of new plants we have selected and try to guess which ones will generate enough income to also make it into the print catalog. We’re getting our crystal ball professionally cleaned before the process moves into high gear.

We hope you’re enjoying our fall catalog supplement and finding some cool new plants that you can’t live without. A couple of errors crept into the catalog for which we’d like to apologize. First, Phlox ‘Triple Play’ actually is from iris breeders Jan Sacks and Marty Schafer of Joe Pye Weed Gardens and not from Darrell Probst (they’re all friends and neighbors). We apologize for the incorrect information. Also, the liners we purchased of Crocosmia ‘Walcroy’ turned out to be another cultivar, so we have pulled them from the sales area until we get the correct plant re-propagated. If you are one of the eight folks that purchased this during our July open house, give us a holler so we can get the error corrected.

One of the many cool plants from our fall catalog is the breeding breakthrough, Tom Ranney’s Hydrangea arborescens ‘Spirit’. I had the fortune of spending a couple of days with Tom Ranney recently, looking through his amazing breeding creations. Tom is getting closer to a release time for his hybrid x Gordlinia grandiflora (gordonia x schima). Meanwhile, his work continues on sterile miscanthus and even hybrids between miscanthus and sugar cane (saccharum/erianthus)…who knew? There are a number of other amazing plants including some wild mahonia hybrids, but I don’t want to get you too excited too early. If you have the opportunity to hear Tom speak about his amazing breeding work, don’t miss the chance.

Another interesting trip this month was to the home of the late rain lily guru, John Fellers. I was presented with the opportunity to help salvage some of John’s breeding work. I wasn’t quite prepared for what I found when I arrived…a greenhouse with nearly 10,000 pots of rain lilies, each labeled with a nonsensical code. John was a code breaker in WWII and obviously truly loved his craft and consequently, managed to leave us with a puzzle that will take months…maybe years to solve. Due to John’s declining health, his rain lily collection had declined dramatically in vigor, so it will take a couple of years to regrow the plants to flowering size so we can figure out what we have. Our goal is to share John’s breeding stock with other rain lily breeders, which will hopefully lead to more new rain lilies for our gardens.

For those who haven’t heard, Mike Dirr’s new Manual of Woody Landscape Plants (2009) has just been published by Stipes Press, replacing the 1998 version. I’ll direct you to Stipes website www.stipes.com – but be warned, their website is so old and outdated it doesn’t even have a shopping cart. One thing is for sure…they don’t believe in spending a lot of money on marketing. While you’re ordering, you’ll also want to pick up the most recent edition of Allan Armitage’s Herbaceous Perennials, also revised and released last year.

If you’re planning to attend the Garden Writers Association meeting here in Raleigh in September, we are pleased to announce that Hawaiian elephant ear breeder, Dr. John Cho will be at the PDN morning tour to talk to attendees about his breeding work and show you around the colocasia trials here at Plant Delights. We’ve spent this week together deciding which selections make the final cut, so don’t miss this great opportunity.

Another local event not to be missed is the JC Raulston Arboretum Green Industry Reunion. JCRA Director, Ted Bilderback has invited all past students of the NCSU Horticulture Department along with anyone who was involved with the arboretum to attend a party on Friday October 9, from 5-9 pm. Ted promises a barbeque dinner and fun for all, while reconnecting with folks you may not have seen for a while. For more information or to register ($50 each), call or e-mail Anne Porter at (919) 513-3826 or anne_porter@ncsu.edu.

On a sad note, another retired Director of the US National Arboretum has passed away…also in North Carolina. Dr. John Creech, 89, of Columbus, NC passed away after a period of declining health. Dr. Creech retired from the Arboretum in 1980, and moved back to the mountains of NC. His legacy includes a number of plants he introduced to the trade including a sedum bearing his name and the well-known southern staple, Lagerstroemia fauriei that he collected on one of his early plant expeditions. Memorials can be made to the Western North Carolina Arboretum, 100 Frederick Law Olmsted Way, Asheville, NC 28806-9315 or Hospice of the Carolina Foothills, 130 Forest Glen Drive, Columbus, NC 28722.

There continue to be a number of changes in the world of horticulture…many the result of the economic downturn. Northwest Bulb and Perennial of Oregon, one of a handful of wholesale producers and distributors of perennials has been sold to a competitor, DeVroomen of Holland. DeVroomen has their US headquarters in Illinois and will use the Oregon operation to grow domestic perennials. Former Northwest Bulb owner, Rene Heuermann is now a DeVroomen employee.

In other plant people news, plantsman John Elsley has departed as Director of Horticulture for Klehm’s Song Sparrow mail order nursery in Wisconsin. John tells me he doesn’t have any specific new projects in mind, but is open to offers. If you’re interested in John’s services, just drop us a note and we’ll put you in touch.

Also in the mail order world, Carroll Gardens of Westminster, Maryland has closed their doors according to President Alan Summers (son of the recently deceased American Hosta Society founder, Alex Summers). Carroll Gardens always had an amazing listing, although on line chat groups didn’t always find the customer service to match their amazing offerings. Another small, but delightful nursery, Canyon Creek has also closed their doors to mail order.

While many nurseries are struggling to keep their financing in place, this will not be a problem for Monrovia Nurseries based in California, who secured $100 million in working capital from GE Capital Markets. Do you ever wonder what the interest payments would be on $100 million dollars?…it’s certainly beyond my comprehension.

In other some good news, The Northwest Flower and Garden Show has been purchased by O’Loughlin Trade Shows, who will continue to operate the show. O’Loughlin Trade Shows is a producer of consumer shows that already operates the Portland and Tacoma Home and Garden Show. The San Francisco Flower & Garden Show was also sold, but to a different group of business investors from the Bay Area.

The Southeastern Flower Show is also back in action for 2010 after taking a sabbatical in 2009. The 23rd annual show is scheduled for the Cobb Galleria Centre in Atlanta, GA from February 4-6, 2010.


The sponsoring organization, the Southeastern Horticultural Society is also holding a fund-raiser next month at the garden of Vince and Barbara Dooley. Known as “Coach” to his friends, Vince became enamored with plants, thanks in large part to Dr. Mike Dirr, who became a close friend during his tenure at the University of Georgia. Vince was the football Coach at the University of Georgia for 25 years before becoming Athletic Director. The event will be held on Sunday, September 13 from 5-8 pm at the Dooley home in Athens, GA. You can find out more about tickets at www.sehort.org.

Many of you may be familiar with the late NC garden writer Elizabeth Lawrence, who was a true horticultural pioneer/plant nerd in the Southeast US. Alan Bush, founder of the former Holbrook Nursery in NC, wrote a wonderful piece about visiting Elizabeth that you can find by clicking here.

And in case you missed it, there have been increasing incidents of the use of manure causing toxic effects on plants, even after the manure has been composted. The common thread seems to be if the animals have eaten hay treated with the herbicides Milestone, Forefront, or Grazon. Typically, the active ingredients from most herbicides are either broken down by the animals’ digestive system or during the composting process, but this is not the case with this group of chemicals. As it turns out, these chemicals degrade best with exposure to light, but in the meantime, their use may kill valuable ornamentals. Obviously, we all need to perform due diligence to track down the source of our composts.

As always, thanks for taking time to read our rants and most of all, thank you so much for your support and orders this year!

Please direct all replies and questions to office@plantdelights.com. To Subscribe, Unsubscribe, or change your email click on www.plantdelights.com/mailinglist.html. Thanks and enjoy


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