Friday, September 25, 2009

Mr. Hawthorne, Rosie, and Marion Visit Plant Delights Nursery In Raleigh, NC.

Last Saturday, Mr. Hawthorne and I, along with dear friend, Marion, visited the open house at Plant Delights Nursery in Raleigh, North Carolina. You gardeners out there should check out their catalog. It is amazing. The gardens and nursery are open only 4 times each year, two weekends each in fall, winter, spring, and summer. First, a bit of history. Juniper Level Botanic Gardens began in August 1988, by Tony and Michelle Avent, when they purchased a 2.2 acre sandy loam tobacco field, 18 minutes due south of the State Capitol in Raleigh. The name, Juniper Level refers to an old black community in the area. Their self-professed goal is to "change the way America gardens by offering the best, the newest, and the strangest fun, garden-worthy perennials to gardeners around the world." The gardens were designed informally, since Mr. Avent felt that formal planting plans limit creativity and can leave a garden without an essence, its soul. They were designed for year-round interest with peak season from late April through mid October. The basic tenets of their gardening philosophy are: "a liberal use of compost and careful monitoring of soil nutrition; no chemical spraying for pests on plants; allowing plants to grow in the natural form without shearing; planting the right plant in the right place; and having fun in the garden. As a matter of principle, we consider every plant hardy until we have killed it ourselves ... at least three times." The initial construction project began in 1989 with an underground irrigation system, the construction of numerous raised beds, and the first plantings. The grotto construction began in 1989 (all hand dug) and was completed in 1994. Plant Delights Nursery began in 1988. From 1988 through 1994, 6 greenhouses were built. In subsequent years, many new features were added - a woodland garden, a bog garden, several rock gardens, a southwest garden, a hardy tropical garden, a sunken garden, several perennial and mixed borders, a 4-5 foot tall alpine scree bed, expanded shade gardens, and in-ground evaluation beds for both new shade and sun plants. In 1996, the Avents purchased 5.25 acres of adjoining property, which allowed for the expansion of the nursery production area, two more wells, and the construction of an expanded display garden. 600 dump truck loads of soil were relocated to create planting berms on the new property, and a 200 foot perennial border and a 10,000 square foot sun trial area were installed In 2001, 11 additional acres were acquired, allowing for expanded parking on open house days as well as more production, research, and gardening capabilities. In 2004, 10,000 square feet were allocated to Trillium trials and production and construction began on a new water/bog garden bioretention area, featuring paved patio, walled rock garden, winding steps, and an ornamental pond. There are two display gardens encompassing over 5 acres, divided into the newer East section and the older West section, containing over 17,000 different plant specimens. Planting in the gardens continues nearly every week at the rate of 1000-2000 new plants a year. The greenhouses and plant sales are located between these two gardens and at any one time will offer approximately 1600 plants for sale.
We began our tour by walking through the Juniper Level Botanic Gardens. These gardens function not only as a display area, but also as a research and development facility. New plants from seed exchanges, from their breeding program, and from their travels are evaluated for their garden "worthiness," their ability to adapt to the Southeastern climate, and their ability to co-exist with native plants. Plant Delights Nursery offers specialty collections, or plant groups to which they have devoted extraordinary time, effort, and resources: Hosta (hostaceae) (As Mr. Avent writes in his catalog, "Our specialty is hostas ... you know, I've got both, the green and the variegated one.") Agapanthus Agave (Agavaceae) Amorphophallus (Araceae) Arisaema (Araceae) Aspidistra (Liliaceae)/(Ruscaceae) Crinum (Amaryllidaceae) Elephant Ear, hardy (Araceae) Epimedium (Berberidaceae) Ferns Kniphofia (Asphodelaceae) Rain Lilies (Amaryllidaceae) Solomon's Seal (Liliaceae/Ruscaceae) Trillium (Trilliaceae) They also have a secondary emphasis collection of: Cacti (winter hardy) Conifers Grasses (ornamental) And here is their Mission Statement: "The mission of Juniper Level Botanic Gardens is one of aesthetic display of ornamental plants, ex-situ plant conservation, plant evaluation, plant identification, plant exploration, plant propagation, and education about the diversity of ornamental plants from around the world. Our emphasis is southeast US natives, especially those of conservation concern and those whose horticultural desirability make them targets of unscrupulous collectors who decimate wild populations by selling wild collected plants." I'll shut up now. Enjoy the gardens.
A bit of garden whimsy.
Now for the greenhouses. Check here for what all was available at the Open House. The word "overwhelming" comes to mind.
This is Greenhouse #4 - Sun Perennials including Adult Ivy, Alstroemeria Amsonia, Asparagus, Bamboo, Baptisia, Butterfly Bush, Conifers, Daylily, Eucomis, Eupatorium, Grasses, Hibiscus, Iris, Kniphofia, Lantana, Lespedeza, Lily, Peony, Phlox, Sarracenia, Salvia, and Solidago.
One of the testing grounds for hostas.
I bought a bamboo - Bambusa mutiplex 'Riviereorum.'
I also bought a Cimicifuga racemosa and I'm looking forward to it getting 7 feet tall. Wishful thinking.
Here's a little fern I bought - Thelypteris kunthii and I'm looking forward to it growing to 4 feet tall with foot wide fronds. This was in Greenhouse #6 with Shade Perennials: Asarum, Aspidistra, Carex, Coral Bells, Epimedium, Farfugium, Ferns, Hellebores, Mondo Grass and Liriope, Orchids, Rohdea, and Solomon's Seal.
This is Greenhouse #8 - home to Hardy Tropicals and Desert Plants including Abutilon, Agave, Bananas, Brugmansia, Cacti, Dahlia, Elephant Ears, Gingers, Palms, Verbena, and Yucca.
This pretty little Elephant Ear caught my eye. It's Colocasia esculenta 'Black Runner.' And yes, I'm anticipating it growing to 7 feet tall and spreading.
Greenhouse #10 has Sun Perennials including Clematis, Dianthus, Echinacea, Euphorbia, Geophytes, Geraniums, Gesneriads, Salvia, Sedum, and Succulents.
Greenhouse 12 has Shade Perennials, including Amorphophallus, Arisaema, Arum, Orchids, Tricyrtis, and Trillium. I dropped some cash in here.
I picked out 2 purple shamrocks. The first is Oxalis regnellii 'Francis.'
The second is Oxalis regnellii 'Triangularis'. I love the lighter purple shading on the leaves.
I also picked out Oxalis regnellii 'Silverado.'
I also selected Amorphophallus dunnii, or Voodoo Lily.
And finally amorphophallus ochroleucus. Suddenly, I'm thinking of Donna, of My Tasty Treasures blogdom, although I'm not sure why. Are we sensing a pattern here? A theme?
Here's Mr. Hawthorne heading back to the truck with all my goodies.
Many of the greenhouses were cordoned off to the public.
After putting away my purchases, we toured the rest of the gardens.
More garden whimsy.
There are even plants growing on a ledge inside the grotto.
I need my own grotto.
I was pretty much fascinated by and in awe of these gardens and nursery. And I'm looking forward to more open houses for each season. Raleigh is only about 3 1/2 hours away and this made for quite a nice day trip, plus I had the added bonus of being able to bitch about yet another restaurant and I got to see Marion again. For anyone who's interested, here are the next open house dates: 2010 Winter Open House Fri, Feb 26 8am - 5pm Fri, Mar. 5 8am - 5pm Sat, Feb 27 8am - 5pm Sat, Mar. 6 8am - 5 pm Juniper Level Botanic Gardens at Plant Delights Nursery, Inc. 9241 Saul's Road Raleigh, NC 27603 919-772-4794


Anonymous said...

Great post, thanks for sharing, wish I could have joined you! Loved this: "...until we have killed it ourselves ... at least three times."
Also, did Mr. H really only have 1 handful of goodies to carry back to the truck for you??

Rosie Hawthorne said...

Only the one.

But I dropped $156 in a heartbeat. Could have been so much worse.

I've never been able to grow shamrocks inside. I'm putting them outside now. Mama has a huge shamrock plant in my old bedroom and it's thriving and flourishing. Both Montrose and Juniper Level Gardens had all sorts of shamrocks outside.

Marilyn said...

Gorgeous. I definitely have to add this place to my list of gardens I have to visit.