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Brotherly Love and Plant Lust

I just realized the date for this blog is 08-08-08. Three 8’s. Eight is one of my favorite numbers. If I could skate it would be great if I could make a figure eight. When I doodle I often make eights. You really needed to know all that didn’t you?

I recently attended the annual Perennial Plant Association Symposium held this year in Philadelphia. The first PPA Symposium I attended 14 years ago was in Philadelphia. And 17 years ago I did a one year internship in Philadelphia at the Morris Arboretum. My advisor at Purdue, Dr. Harrison Flint, said everyone in horticulture should spend some time in the Delaware Valley and since there were no job prospects it was a no-brainer as the young kids say. This is an area rich in horticultural history and filled with public gardens anyone even mildly interested in gardening should visit. Just as importantly, the profession of horticulture is respected in a way still not found in the Midwest. Of course, they have one or two hundred years on us. So it may take a few more months for us to catch up.

We visited four public gardens and several private gardens. As far as the public gardens each had some area of particular expertise. For Mount Cuba it is the native flora of the Piedmont. They have introduced several cultivars of native plants and continue to study more. They are currently running a large trial of Echinacea. I saw a very pretty ginger, Hexastylis minor ‘Dixie Darling’ and a very nice variegated form of the ubiquitous Celadine poppy, Stylophorum diphyllum.

Scott Arboretum at Swarthmore College is a great place to see trees and shrubs. They have an incredible collection and horticulture isn’t even part of their curriculum.

But the two showplaces are Longwood Gardens and Chanticleer. Longwood has long been a major player in public horticulture. Our own Mark Zelonis is a graduate of the Longwood Graduate Program, the partnership of the garden with the University of Delaware. This program leads to a MS degree in Public Horticulture and its graduates can be found at many leading institutions. Longwood is the former estate of Pierre S. du Pont and has been open to the public for decades. It is lavish in its number fountains, in its amount of gardens under glass, in its research, and in its plantings. It remains a must see. But the garden I always want to see is Chanticleer with its over-the-top plants, amazing hardscape, and high quality design work. They do things the way I would if money and history didn’t stand in the way – especially the money part. My favorite areas are the ones around the main buildings. Here is where the Chanticleer staff truly shines in my opinion. Their use of tropicals and annuals is just amazing, simply incredible combinations of color and texture. Here are a few shots from there.

Yes, those are cannas in the hanging baskets. Of course they have a large overwintering greenhouse and a very nice set of cold frames. If any donors out there want to build me an overwintering greenhouse let’s just say I’m willing to talk (please throw in a little extra for maintenance and general operating costs, I’m completely broke). Not that we don’t do alright with what we have. Take a look at Jim’s annual border by the greenhouse.

But with a greenhouse I could save a little room for growing on plants. Then maybe Chad wouldn’t give me THAT look when I say I want to buy 72’s. It’s not the quantity, it’s the fact each plant is growing in a cell just 1.5 x 2.5 inches. A little small to go straight in the ground but you don’t get much growth in a 60 degree basement under fluorescent lights. Believe me, I tried this year.

When we get back from PPA everyone asks what was the best new plant seen. And sometimes that is an easy question and sometimes it is not. For one thing it depends on whom you ask. I go to PPA for the tropicals and annuals as much as the perennials. I usually come back with only one or two perennials but with the others – Katie bar the door. This year I bought very little, one perennial and five annuals/tropicals. It helped we only visited two retail establishments. I am famous for being willing to leave co-workers behind in the interest of buying more plants. Hey, it’s not like the plants can rent a car and still get back to Indy. Since it was a perennial based trip here’s a shot of the Geranium ‘Cheryl’s Shadow’ I bought.

Maybe I like it so much because some sources say it’s a zone 7 plant. The must have perennial next year is Echinacea ‘Hot Papaya’, the first double orange Echinacea.

It was only found in the trade show. Teasing me like some henna-haired wench in stilettos and leather hot-pants on Saturday night (You know who you are!)But two of the plants I saw that I really want are tropical. One is a palm, Latania lontaroides. Here are a couple shots of it at Chanticleer.

Just as a reminder, they have a greenhouse to put it in this winter. The other is an elephant ear, Alocasia macrorrhiza ‘Jungle Gold’. It’s in the middle of this picture.

This one I can overwinter without a greenhouse so look out world.

I have to say that as I visit more and more gardens I remain thoroughly impressed with our own here at the IMA. It’s a shame more have not discovered what a good garden we have right here in the middle of the Midwest. So come on blog readers, stop by and visit a spell. We’ve got almost all the weeds pulled.

Filed under: Horticulture, Travel

4 Responses to “Brotherly Love and Plant Lust”

  • avatar
    Paul Says:


    Maybe it’s good I can’t go to PPA. So many plants, still so little time…

  • avatar
    irvin Says:

    So many plants, so many plants actually Paul. Remember, more is more.

  • avatar
    Terry Says:

    Ohhhh Latania, must have latania. Irvin, you didn’t tell me about this one. Looks like one of the hibiscus will have to be sacrificed to make room for Latania.

  • avatar
    irvin Says:

    I know, I know Terry. Isn’t it just scrumptious? So beautiful yet masculine. My one search came up empty handed but then I really don’t want to have to overwinter one this year. You can definitely sacrifice a hibiscus for this one.

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