Debra Prinzing

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More gardens, even more plants

Wednesday, 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.