Friday, September 21, 2018

Fall Plant Sale Preview: Fragrant Tea Olive

Osmanthus fragrans v. aurantiacus 'Beni Kin Mokusei'.
Photo courtesy of Nurseries Caroliniana Inc.
By Katherine Hale

The first sign of fall isn’t shorter days or cooler nights—it’s the apricot-like scent  wafting through the air as the fragrant tea olives bloom. Hailing from China, these evergreen shrubs boast hundreds of tiny flowers that pack a big punch, filling the air with massive quantities of perfume. When the season peaks here at Duke Gardens (it’s starting now!), you can follow your nose to the tea olives lining the paths near the lower parking lot and in the Historic Gardens, long before you see them.

The plant’s official name—Osmanthus fragrans v. aurantiacus—is a lengthy one, but don’t let that intimidate you. The first three words are a fancy way of saying it’s an especially fragrant tea olive with orange flowers in place of the usual white. What makes 'Beni Kin Mokusei' so special is that its blooms are much deeper orange than the garden variety auranticus, so much so that they appear almost red in certain lights.

The late horticulturist J.C. Raulston of N.C. State University once saw a sprig of ‘Beni Kin Mokusei’ in a flower arrangement during a visit to a Korean temple and fell in love; he reportedly claimed he would have been willing to risk jail to acquire a specimen of his own.  Fortunately, you don’t have to go to such lengths—this variety has now been introduced to the United States and will be available for purchase at Duke Gardens’ Fall Plant Sale on Sept. 29.

What to do with ‘Beni Kin Mokusei’ once you’ve purchased it? The possibilities are only limited by your imagination. Take advantage of its heavenly scent and plant it in a sunny place near a porch or patio or anywhere you care to linger on cool autumn evenings. Or use it as a privacy hedge or to line outdoor paths, as we do with the Osmanthus at Duke Gardens. Tea olives are deer- and disease-resistant, and incredibly low-maintenance once established, fading into the background until the fall. You’ll wonder how you ever managed to live without them.

Read more about Osmanthus at Duke Gardens in this 2016 blog post.

FALL PLANT SALE DETAILS:
Date: Saturday, Sept. 29, 2018
Time: 9 a.m.-noon
Member benefits: Duke Gardens members get 10% off all purchases, plus access to the members-only previews sale from 8-9 a.m., and a full list of plants in advance! Join online or on site.
Parking: Free.
Pets not permitted. Please see Duke Gardens' pets policy here.
Wagons + boxes: Our supply is limited; please bring your own if possible, and you'll have more time to spend gathering beautiful plants.
Your support helps Duke Gardens to provide summer internships to aspiring horticulturists from across the nation.
Please see our event page for more information, and we'd love for you to spread the word by sharing the event on Facebook and inviting your friends.
Thank you!

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Fall Plant Sale Preview: Nepeta 'Cat's Meow'

Nepeta 'Cat's Meow'. Photo courtesy of Walters Gardens.
By Katherine Hale

The finest gardens offer more than eye candy—they engage us on multiple levels by offering a feast for all of our senses. With its sweet scent and distinctly textured leaves, ‘Cat’s Meow’ ornamental catmint perfectly fits the bill, packing a strong visual punch unmatched by any other perennial on the market. Honeybees, butterflies and hummingbirds—not to mention your cat and any human visitors—will agree.

Despite the gorgeous blue-purple flowers, this catmint is no shrinking violet. Deer prefer to avoid it, and with decent drainage it’s remarkably disease-resistant. More upright than other varieties of catmint, ‘Cat’s Meow’ stands tall where its competitors flop, and it requires no staking or pruning—though a tidy dead-heading now and then will promote another round of blooms. Vigorous and drought-tolerant once established, ‘Cat’s Meow’ loves heat, but it will also do well in areas with light afternoon shade. Because it’s a sterile hybrid, there’s no need to worry about errant seedlings volunteering where they aren’t wanted or taking over your perennial border.

The dense, compact shape and trouble-free requirements of ‘Cat’s Meow’ make it perfect for edging, containers, rocky patches, herb gardens or any place where a colorful touch is needed. Children will love the fuzzy, aromatic leaves, and its bright flowers liven up any floral  arrangement. Catmint is also a great choice to underplant with roses, as we do here at Duke Gardens, because it offers a delightful contrast that doesn’t interfere or compete with them for space and resources. Unless your backyard is densely shaded or a boggy swamp, you really can’t go wrong with it.

They say you can never have it all, but ‘Cat’s Meow’ catmint comes pretty darn close. Check out this and other amazing perennials at Duke Gardens’ Fall Plant Sale.

FALL PLANT SALE DETAILS:
Date: Saturday, Sept. 29, 2018
Time: 9 a.m.-noon
Member benefits: Duke Gardens members get 10% off all purchases, plus access to the members-only previews sale from 8-9 a.m., and a full list of plants in advance! Join online or on site.
Parking: Free.
Pets not permitted. Please see Duke Gardens' pets policy here.
Wagons + boxes: Our supply is limited; please bring your own if possible, and you'll have more time to spend gathering beautiful plants.
Your support helps Duke Gardens to provide summer internships to aspiring horticulturists from across the nation.
Please see our event page for more information, and we'd love for you to spread the word by sharing the event on Facebook and inviting your friends.
Thank you!

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Fall Plant Sale Preview: Woodland Phlox

By Rose James
Duke Class of 2020
Phlox divaricata 'Blue Perfume' is similar
to the 'Blue Moon' variety we'll have at
the Fall Plant sale. Photo by Jason Holmes.
Finding the right color of flowers for your garden can be difficult. I am particular to roses myself, but when it comes to purple and blue blooms, I have to turn to other options. Some of the prettiest shades of lavender I have ever found have come from the Phlox divaricata, commonly called the woodland phlox.

Ranging from lavender to blue, the Phlox divaricata is a small, native wildflower with dainty flowers that bloom in  April and May. It grows to be 8 to 12 inches high and equally as wide. It does well in partial shade to full shade gardens.

As an added bonus to its lush color, the woodland phlox is known to attract hummingbirds and butterflies. If left to grow in your garden, the woodland phlox will form large colonies over time, as wildflowers tend to do.

Woodland phlox in the Terrace Gardens. Photo: J. Holmes.




The Duke Gardens Fall Plant sale will feature the 'Blue Moon' Phlox divaricata, known for its deep violet-blue flowers. Its blooms are not only colorful but very fragrant. The 'Blue Moon' is a good complement for gardens with ferns and hellebores and is certain to please gardeners seeking to bring a variety of color into their gardens.


FALL PLANT SALE DETAILS:
Date: Saturday, Sept. 29, 2018
Time: 9 a.m.-noon
Member benefits: Duke Gardens members get 10% off all purchases, plus access to the members-only previews sale from 8-9 a.m., and a full list of plants in advance! Join online or on site.
Parking: Free.
Pets not permitted. Please see Duke Gardens' pets policy here.
Wagons + boxes: Our supply is limited; please bring your own if possible, and you'll have more time to spend gathering beautiful plants.
Your support helps Duke Gardens to provide summer internships to aspiring horticulturists from across the nation.
Please see our event page for more information, and we'd love for you to spread the word by sharing the event on Facebook and inviting your friends.
Thank you!

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Fall Plant Sale Preview: Celebrating Pollinators

Pollinator habitats in the Charlotte Brody Discovery Garden.
Photo by Sue Lannon.
 By Jason Holmes

While visiting Mount Mitchell State Park in western North Carolina over Labor Day weekend in 2016, I witnessed a native bee pressing open the lipped petals of the pink turtlehead (Chelone lyonii).  It made me think of the importance of that moment and yet how that bee had already visited hundreds of flowers that day in order to collect pollen on the side of her legs. I quickly yelled to my son to come get an up-close view. This was a perfect opportunity to show him the importance of that little creature.

Insect pollinators may seem like a small part of our daily lives, but they have an enormous impact on us. Fortunately, gardeners’ interest in pollinators appears to be growing, judging from sales of pollinator plants at our Fall & Spring Plant Sales. That's heartening for horticulturists like me, who are devoted to attracting pollinators to Duke Gardens and teaching visitors about these species’ roles in our lives.

Honey bee (Apis mellifera) on a
rudbeckia flower in the Discovery Garden.
Photo by Kathy Julian.
Most people don’t realize that honeybees are not native to North America and that thousands of other insect species were responsible for pollinating many plant species before their introduction. Bees and wasps, flies, butterflies and moths, and beetles are among the thousands of plant pollinators across North America. These beneficial insects are responsible for all insect-pollinated fruits and vegetables that provide us with most of the nutritious vitamins and minerals that we need daily, and they also broaden our diets beyond just meat and wind-pollinated grain foods.

This act of pollination allows many types of plants to produce fruits and seeds, helping to create vigorous plants over many generations.

Approximately 75 percent of all plants in the world require animals for pollination. These animals are part of many humans’ daily diets, something worth keeping in mind as we seek ways to help the plants around us thrive.

At Duke Gardens, we celebrate and promote all types of pollinators.  In the Charlotte Brody Discovery Garden, a sustainable organic food garden, we donate over a ton of fruits and vegetables every year to local food relief organizations.  This is an amazing total, considering that we only garden on 2/10 of an acre.  We could never produce this incredible amount without assistance from the thousands of pollinators we see daily buzzing around the garden. In the Brody Garden, and in the Blomquist Garden of Native Plants, we have gardens designed specifically to attract these fascinating little pollinators.  We have nine honeybee hives in the Brody Garden. And with the help of dedicated volunteers, we have been building pollinator houses that we’re pleased to see attract many different beneficial species.

If you’re excited about helping pollinators, try planting species that will bring them to your garden. “Attracting Native Pollinators,” by The Xerces Society, is a great resource to learn more. If you already have these plants, consider leaving perennials longer through the fall and winter for habitat. Many of these species will create nests within the dead stems of perennial species.  Get creative and build pollinator houses or insect hotels. They’re similar to bird houses, but you leave off the front wall and pack it with small stems of bamboo so that solitary insect species can build nests inside.  Remember, if you build it, they will come!

FALL PLANT SALE INFO:
Date: Saturday, Sept. 29, 2018
Time: 9 a.m.-noon
Member benefits: Duke Gardens members get 10% off all purchases, plus access to the members-only previews sale from 8-9 a.m., and a full list of plants in advance! Join online or on site.
Parking: Free.
Pets not permitted. Please see Duke Gardens' pets policy here.
Wagons + boxes: Our supply is limited; please bring your own if possible, and you'll have more time to spend gathering beautiful plants.
Your support helps Duke Gardens to provide summer internships to aspiring horticulturists from across the nation.
Please see our event page for more information, and we'd love for you to spread the word by sharing the event on Facebook and inviting your friends.
Thank you!

Jason Holmes is curator of the Doris Duke Center Gardens at Duke Gardens. This article is adapted from a previous post in Sept. 2016.

Friday, August 24, 2018

"The Big Easy" lives on


We were all sad to say a sudden farewell to "The Big Easy," Patrick Dougherty's beloved sculpture on the South Lawn. Alas, storms and flooding in spring and summer took too great a toll on this intriguing art installation, and it became unstable.

But we have some good news! Most of the finials held their shape beautifully when removed from the main sculpture, so—with  Dougherty's blessing—our curators and horticulturists found perfect locations throughout Duke Gardens for the finials to enhance the landscape design and stay with us  awhile longer.

We hope visitors will enjoy encountering these small echoes of a big attraction. If you take photos of them and post online, please tag #dukebigeasy. We'd love to see them!

The dismantling begins. Photo by Clarence Burke.

A beautiful view of a bittersweet moment. Photo by Lori Sullivan.

And here are the finials....can you guess where?










Finial photos by Bill LeFevre and Laura Daly.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Japanese Maples at the Terrace Shop

Acer palmatum 'Peaches and Cream'
By Annie Yang
Duke Class of 2020
Photos by Annie Yang

If you missed this month’s Spring Plant Sale (our most successful ever -- thank you!) or if your garden is calling out for more, there are still plants available in Duke Gardens' Terrace Shop, including many cultivars of Japanese maples (Acer palmatum).

Native to Japan, China, Korea, eastern Mongolia, and southeast Russia, these plants are super versatile and come in all sorts of shapes, sizes and colors. Some varieties are naturally smaller and shorter and can grow in containers. Other cultivars can serve as understory plants grouped together in shady woodland areas of a garden.

Japanese maples usually run relatively small for trees, but some of them can stand out even when planted alone. Their leaves run a whole spectrum of colors: red, orange, yellow, green, purple. In general, they prefer some afternoon shade but also a good deal of sunlight to showcase their colorful foliage.

Japanese maples require well-drained and consistently moist soil, as well as protection from strong winds. Watch out for late spring frosts, which they are especially vulnerable to when young. Despite this, many cultivars are relatively easy to grow and are long-lived. Below are a few of the Japanese maple cultivars available at the Terrace Shop. We recommend that you call in advance (919-684-9037) if there is a particular cultivar you are seeking.
Acer palmatum 'Summer Gold'


‘Summer Gold’

True to its name, ‘Summer Gold’ maintains an energetic yellow color throughout the summer, as well as the fall. Its foliage starts off light green in the summer and deepens into the fall, retaining wonderful shades for months.

Standing at 10 to 12 feet at maturity, ‘Summer Gold’ is a somewhat taller tree compared to its Japanese maple relatives. This tree thrives in well-drained soil and has average water needs. It is also resistant to deer and insects, and it is drought tolerant. ‘Summer Gold’ distinguishes itself from other Japanese maples not only with its color but also with its ability to withstand full sun without burning. This is a tree that is well adapted to the summer and isn’t afraid of full sun, heat or humidity.

‘Autumn Fire’

The leaves on this deciduous tree start off typically green like any other tree you might encounter in the early spring. But as spring transitions into summer and then into fall, ‘Autumn Fire’ begins to show its true colors. The edges of its unique, narrow leaves are first tinged with red, and eventually a fiery red engulfs the entire leaf. In the fall, ‘Autumn Fire’ is alight with its stunning scarlet hues, standing out even in a season packed with attractive foliage colors.
Acer palmatum 'Autumn Fire'

‘Autumn Fire’ grows to be about 6 to 8 feet tall and requires well-drained, rich soil and regular watering. As a bonus, ‘Autumn Fire’ can also tolerate humidity. Like many Japanese maples, this tree prefers full to partial sun. But be careful exposing ‘Autumn Fire’ to too much full sun or else it will really burn!

‘Peaches and Cream’

When I first encountered this tree, I wasn’t sure what was so “creamy” about ‘Peaches and Cream’. There seemed to be a lot more peaches implied by the red than any cream or white! But to truly appreciate ‘Peaches and Cream’ you really have to follow it through the seasons. In the early spring, the leaves on this deciduous tree actually take on a pale green, almost white color, accentuating its veins, which are still dark green. As the weather gets colder, the cream is replaced by an orange-yellow color reminiscent of sweet summer peaches.

As with other Japanese Maples, ‘Peaches and Cream’ is on the shorter side, from 6 to 12 feet tall, but it certainly makes up in personality and vibrancy what it lacks in stature. ‘Peaches and Cream’ thrives in acidic, well-drained and rich soil, and it is also drought and humidity resistant. This tree can grow under mostly sun to mostly shade, but it prefers the shade. Imagine enjoying a bowl of peaches and cream under the cool canopy of a tree during the summer!

The following cultivars may also still be available through the Terrace Shop: Vitifolium, Taki no Gawa, Green Mist, Skeeter’s Broom, Crimson Princess, Katsura, Alan’s Gold, Calico, Meigetsu, Little Cindy, Emerald Lace and Tamukeyama.

Thank you again to all shoppers for making the 2018 Spring Plant Sale our most successful ever! If you love gardening, remember that Duke Gardens members get 10% off all plant purchases at the spring and fall sales, and first dibs at the members-only preview sale in spring. Please see our website to learn more about becoming a member of Duke Gardens.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Spring Plant Sale Preview: Sedum + Sempervivum

Sedum 'Lemon Ball'
By Annie Yang
Duke Class of 2020

The bright yellow-green foliage of Sedum ‘Lemon Ball’ bursts out like fireworks and radiates excitement and freshness. It’s one of six Sedum varieties we will have at our Spring Plant Sale on Saturday and members-only preview sale this evening (see event details below). ‘Lemon Ball’ is a close cousin of ‘Angelina’, another Sedum variety, but it retains its vibrant color all year.

‘Lemon Ball’ requires full sun (you wouldn’t want to hide this plant in the shade!), and it grows in dry soil with average watering. It is also sturdier than ‘Angelina’ and is drought tolerant as well as rabbit and deer resistant. Fittingly, ‘Lemon Ball’ blooms in the summer and fits right in with the other bright, exciting colors of the season.

This plant works well as a border plant, lighting up any walkway or garden path. ‘Lemon Ball’ can also pop out in rock gardens without distracting from the beauty of the stones. You can even bring them indoors and place them in a hanging planter. ‘Lemon Ball’ will certainly stand out in any niche you find for it.

Scroll down to see more Sedum from our plant sale collection, as well as the popular Sempervivum 'Carmen' (hens and chicks).


SPRING PLANT SALE INFO:
Date: Saturday, April 7, 2018
Time: 8 a.m.-noon
Preview sale for members only: Friday, April 6, 4-6 pm. Duke Gardens members get 10% off at the preview sale and public sale, as well as a full list of plants in advance! Join online or on site.
Parking: Free.
Pets not permitted
Wagons + boxes: Our supply is limited; please bring your own if possible, and you'll have more time to spend gathering beautiful plants.
Your support helps Duke Gardens to provide summer internships to aspiring horticulturists from across the nation.
Please see our event page for more information, and we'd love for you to spread the word by sharing the event on Facebook and inviting your friends.
Thank you!
Sedum 'Mahogany Red'

Sedum Sunsparkler 'Dazzleberry'

Sempervivum 'Carmen'