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tony avent

Plant of the Day - Mahonia gracilipes

Mahonia gracilipes is a very distinctive species with pure white backs to the leaves. We love all mahonias at the JC Raulston Arboretum but one of our favorites in Mahonia (Berberis) gracilipes.  This species has pinnate leaves with a terminal leaflet much larger than the others.  The foliage is dark, blue-green on top and very white on the back.  The leaves are thick textured but not very spiny.  The summer flowers appear in terminal spikes and are red unlike almost all other species.  It grows in shade to sun.

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The red flowers of Mahonia gracilipes.

Check out all the happenings, see more images, and learn more at the JC Raulston Arboretum where we are Planting a Better World.

Plant of the Day - Aucuba japonica 'Daisuke's Tiger'

'Daisuke's Tiger' is quickly becoming an Arboretum favorite. I must confess that I went through a quite long period where I turned my nose up at Aucuba japonica.  I had seen too many ugly specimens around run-down trailers along country roads.  Over time I have come to admire their tenacity and the beauty of the numerous forms.  Japanese aucuba is also one of the relatively small group of plants that grow well in dry shade once established.  'Daisuke's Tiger' is mostly gold around the margins and tips and spotted with green while the green centers are speckled with gold.  It gives a distinctly different look than the old 'Gold Dust' or 'Crotonifolia' forms.  'Daisuke's Tiger' was introduced to the US from Japan like so many other excellent forms by Asiatica Nursery.  It originated in Japan with Daisuke Muramatsu.

Follow me at @jcramark because life is too short for boring plants.

Check out all the happenings, see more images, and learn more at the JC Raulston Arboretum where we are Planting a Better World.

Plant of the Day - Pteris wallichiana 'Hualien Giant'

The branched fronds of 'Hualien Giant' starting to grow through a blue foliaged Nageia nagi in Asian Valley. Traveling to Taiwan with Tony Avent of Plant Delights Nursery opened my eyes to many of those green things that grow under my beloved trees and shrubs.  After watching him wax poetic over the 400th different fern we passed I began to take a closer look at this group which I had always liked but never really appreciated.  The intricacies of texture, form, growth habit, and color really took me over.  I still can't identify most ferns but a few stand out to me.  Pteris wallichiana was one fern that Tony spotted in Hualien County on Taiwan at almost 8000' elevation.  It made a large clump with slowly spreading rhizomes and fronds to 8 feet tall.  Tony nearly cried tears of joy when he found good spores on the undersides of the fronds and this plant has now settled in happily in the JC Raulston Arboretum's Asian Valley.  So far it is just getting to about 3' tall for us but each frond is reaching a bit higher in a rich soil in part sun.  The fronds are curiously branched, something few ferns manage to do.  Tony dubbed this plant 'Hualien Giant' and it looks to be an outstanding garden plant, perhaps the closest a warm, temperate garden can get to a tree fern.  The genus Pteris is probably most familiar to folks from the species P. vittata, the fern that grows in every crack of every wall along the gulf coast states and up to Savannah, GA or so.

The branched frond of Pteris wallichiana 'Hualien Giant'

Follow me at @jcramark because life is too short for boring plants.

Tony Avent, modestly hiding his tears of joy as he discovers a new (to him) fern with viable spores.

Check out all the happenings, see more images, and learn more at the JC Raulston Arboretum where we are Planting a Better World.

Plant of the Day - Hosta 'Hans'

Plants appear surprisingly vigorous in our Lath House. Since we focus on trees and shrubs at the JC Raulston Arboretum, we have resisted our impulse to go hosta crazy and develop a huge collection.  We do need something to plant in all that shade our trees provide though and so we've been actively increasing our herbaceous collection.  A selection of hostas have recently been added to our existing collection and several of the newer ones have really started to impress us.  In particular, the phenomenal 'Hans' introduced by Tony Avent (Plant Delights Nursery) and named for Hans Hansen the tissue culture guru who has made so many hostas widely available has really caught my eye.  The plant traces its lineage back to 'Blue Mammoth' via a circuitous route.  Check out Plant Delights Nursery's website or catalog for the low-down.  In the garden, this hosta has shown remarkable vigor.  The thick-textured foliage has a blue-green margin surrounding a broad creamy-white center with pale green highlights in between.  As summer progresses, the center develops some green streaks which add to the excellent growth rate for such a heavily variegated plant.  Scapes of lavender, tubular flowers top the clumps of foliage in late spring.

Follow me at @jcramark because life is too short for boring plants.

Green streaking in the white center in summer allows for more photosynthesis and therefore more vigorous growth.

Check out all the happenings at http://www.ncsu.edu/jcraulstonarboretum