Debra Prinzing

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More gardens, even more plants

October 7th, 2009

Shopping and playing at Plant Delights Nursery

Shopping and playing at Plant Delights Nursery

“All the world’s a nursery. And all the men and women merely gardeners.”

— William Shakeshovel (aka Tony Avent)

Garden Writers Annual symposium, Part IV

On Friday, Sept. 26th, the climate started cooling off, but with that came some lightish showers. Luckily, the rain held off until later in the morning, but we started out boarding buses at 7 a.m. (!) to visit to the famous Juniper Level Botanic Gardens at Plant Delights Nursery – a gardener’s mecca, nursery and botanical garden all in one.
Consider: A five-acre display garden that contains 17,000 different plant specimens. The nursery has 1,600 different plants available at any given time. Talk about over-stim!  
Wow - a chance to meet Tony Avent, genius plantsman

Wow - a chance to meet Tony Avent, genius plantsman

I have been a fan of plantsman Tony Avent ever since I inherited the late Stephanie Feeney’s working files from her book, The Northwest Gardener’s Resource Directory. I picked up where Stephanie left off to edit the 9th edition in 2002. That was when Internet plant-ordering was in its infancy and thousands of plant fanatics on both coasts looked forward to receiving the entertaining Plant Delights catalog from this Raleigh nursery. I got a kick out of the “price” that Tony printed on the front cover. It hasn’t changed in the ensuing years: “10 stamps or a box of chocolates.”  

Here’s what I wrote about Plant Delights Nursery in 2002 (of course, never having been there, this was based on the catalog and web site):

 Among the Plant Delights here is an engagingly humorous catalog, its gentle joshing bordering occasionally on the sarcastic. Earlier issues have been subtitled along the lines of “Raiders of the Lost Park” and “It’s not easy being variegated,” as this nursery boldly announces its mission to sell unusual perennials. You’ll find an online catalog of 1,000-plus offerings, including arisaema, asarum, cannas, crinum lilies, epimediums, ferns, hardy palms, hardy ginger lilies, hellebores, heuchera, hosta, lobelia, ornamental grasses, pulmonaria, Solomon’s seal, tiarella, verbena . . . and more.

When we arrived Friday morning, Plant Delights was everything I hoped it would be – and more. The crew at Plant Delights were all-hands-on-deck. Hundreds of garden writers wandered (raced?) around the property, little red or green wagons in tow, seeking unusual must-have plants in the hoop houses and absorbing design ideas in the display gardens that surround Tony and Michelle Avent’s home. The mood was at first festive, followed by a quiet sense of awe. After meeting Tony in person, I actually limited my purchase to four plants, which were shipped to me late last week, creating verdant memories that I can plant in the garden.


Here’s what arrived – healthy and undamaged – last Friday:
  • Solidago Stricta (Wand Goldenrod) ~ no matter that this very slender, upright form of goldenrod had to be bent, J-shaped, into a long, narrow shipping box. It is gorgeous and will be a fab-u addition to my cutting garden..
  • Nicotiana glauca ‘Salta Blues’ ~ oh I don’t know why I loved this perennial, but I think it’s because of the delicious tubular flowers and the blue-tinged oval foliage. I’ll post photos once it blooms.
  • Agave garciae-mendozae ~This is a “tailored” agave, with a fine white outline to its slender, dark-green blades and totally symmetrical form. What business it has growing in North Carolina, I do not know. I think it belongs in my SoCal garden, planted in the gravel so it can bake.
  • Crocosmia ‘Walbreyes’ ~ Crocosmia brings me good memories of two Seattle gardens in my past (Madison Park and Seward Park). Hoping it is happy here in LA. (Plant Delights catalog copy: “Rotten Name, Stunning Plant.” Okay, I’m sold)!

En route back to the symposium hotel (for more lectures and panels), we stopped at the enormous Raleigh Farmer’s Market. I found two local flower farmers selling mostly zinnias, but also mixed bouquets. What charmed me most: the use of flowering purple basil as a foliage accent paired with zinnias! Local, seasonal and sustainable – you can’t get much better than that. 

Friday evening delivered us to the famed J.C. Raulston Arboretum at NC State University. The eight-acre arboretum and botanical garden has the most diverse collection of cold-hardy, temperate-zone plants in the southeastern US. I was torn between meeting new plants and meeting new friends, as I wandered the garden with writers, photographers and brilliant communicators. A traditional Southern dinner fed us well. Like all the public gardens we visited, I yearned for more time. Here are some impressions that caught my eyes:   








6 Responses to “More gardens, even more plants”

  1. Christina Salwitz Says:

    I’ve been following your writing for years. Thanks so much for this lovely post on the GWA Symposium. I wish I could have been there with all of you, but I will make the Dallas event next time.
    Your mention of Stefanie Feeney really took me back. I was one of her original devotees and gladly keep an early copy of her book in my Garden Library. She was a great inspiration to me as a Junior gardener. And I credit her for leading me to Heronswood and Dan Hinkley.
    Thanks again!
    Christina Salwitz
    The Personal Garden Coach
    .-= Christina Salwitz´s last blog ..One Shovel-Full Away From Bliss =-.

  2. Helen @ Gardening With Confidence Says:

    That’s for the JCRA mention. We are proud of who we are!

    Glad you enjoyed out Farmer’s Market…was just there today. Borrowed a Praying Mantis for a photoshoot from Bill at Urban Oasis, but, alas, the Mantis escaped. Had to apologize profusely. I was forgiven.

    And there is no question Tony Avent’s Plant Delight’s Nursery is simply the best.

    Helen Yoest

  3. Pam/Digging Says:

    Great post, Debra. This is the best look yet at Plant Delights that I’ve seen on a GWA-attendee’s blog. Delightful!
    .-= Pam/Digging´s last blog ..Celebrating Mother Nature’s garden, the National Parks =-.

  4. Cameron (Defining Your Home Garden) Says:

    So glad to hear that you enjoyed your visit to our wonderful state and gardens! Juniper Level and JCRA are both incredible places to visit!

    .-= Cameron (Defining Your Home Garden)´s last blog ..Garden Overview (As Seen From Above) =-.

    Thank you for sharing it, Cameron!

  5. Dee/reddirtramblings Says:

    Wasn’t Plant Delights the most wonderful place? I loved running from house to house excited about everything I saw. My plants came and are all in the ground happy. Well, except the Agaves, which are pouting in their gravel, but I think they will be o.k. too. Loved being there with you. Thank you for the photo.~~Dee
    .-= Dee/reddirtramblings´s last blog ..Do you know what day this is? (Hint: gifts are involved!) =-.

  6. Van Schilperoort Says:

    Wow! Love all of your Garden Writers Symposium pieces. What great fun! All the people, the lectures, the adventures. Oh, and the plants. What wonderful writing and pictures.

    Color me Zinnia Green Envy.


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