I just got my order from Plant Delights, which offers a desset cart full of the finest. *
Plant Delights is not your usual type of nursery. Based in the Juniper Level Botanic Gardens in North Carolina, they specialize in the fine and unusual: plants from small breeders, and species or heirloom plants gathered by themselves or horticultural friends and propagated by the nursery.
Since they’re in North Carolina, they also specialize in plants that can take a really hot summer. The fuchsia in the header picture is “Sanihanf’, a heat-tolerant fuchsia from the Suntory breeding program in Japan.
As Tony Avent truly says, the usual version of “heat-tolerant” in catalogues means, “the plant will tolerate more than one day above 90 degrees F (32 degrees C) before croaking.” I love fuchsias, but I’d given up on them; the corpses were piling too high. When I read this, I thought: this is someone who really gardens, someone who knows how I’ve been led on by other catalogues. Maybe I’ll try again.
The true test will come next summer, of course. But meanwhile, my plants arrived in gorgeous shape, a good sign.
Plant Delights plants are bigger than most mail-order nursery plants. They are also more expensive; this is not a commercial nursery, and they don’t deal in the quantities that make plants cheap. Their mission is to get the plants out, so the commercial nurseries will adopt them and make them widely available.
The other plants I got were: Gladiolus dalenii ‘Bolivian Peach‘-found on a roadside near Bolivia, NC.; Lilium brownii ‘Szechuan Splendor’, a species collected at 6700 feet (2042 meters) on sun-baked cliffs in Sichuan Province; Alocasia wentii, a bronze-leaved winter-hardy alocasia from the mountains of New Guinea; and Aloe polyphylla, a spiral-form aloe which is also hardy in our winters (I’ve killed a few aloes, too. Most of them just don’t like frost. This one is from the high mountains of South Africa, and is reputed to take it.).
Plant Delights is in zone 7b, so most of their plants are extra-safe in my zone-8 garden. That’s nice, because most of the exotics I desire and order tend to be just a little bit risky;: zone-9 plants, liable to disappear in the night.
There are much hardier plants in this catalogue, down to at least zone 4; they collect growing information from their friends and customers in much colder places, and encourage experimenting with zones. Many of these plants are so new to horticulture that your own research can expand zone knowledge. A contribution to gardening, and yet another justification for spending money on plants.
In case you’re wondering why I’m ordering plants now, it’s because fall is the best season to plant perennials in hot-summer areas. Our spring lasts either three months (if you start from when the grass gets green and the first wild things start sprouting) or three weeks (if you count from when the weather is that beautiful temperature between chilly and broiling). If you start a plant in fall, it will have several months to build a root system and get strong and acclimated before the brassy blast of heat. They do a lot better than spring-planted plants, which don’t get nearly as long to adjust.
Plant Delights is not the place to shop if economy is your goal. But it’s the kind of place that can make you want to save your pennies for a good splurge. I’m already making my list for next year.
* Just to make this clear: I have no commercial relationship with Plant Delights. They aren’t paying me to say this. Although, just in case Tony Avent is reading–I wouldn’t say no to a couple of free plants…
Plant Delights Nursery catalogue 2008; Plant Delights website