Delightful Plants

Our perennial plant specialist David G drove the sprinter to Pine Knot Farms to pick up a large order of hellebores for our March hellebore festival. I wrote about that trip last week. David is a very serious and enthusiastic hort head – this is just one of many reasons why he is a treasured member of our group. As soon as he knew the plan to go to Pine Knot Farms, he started talking about Plant Delights Nursery.  Not that I wasn’t aware of Tony Avent. He is a highly respected grower who specializes in rare, native and otherwise interesting perennial plants. His catalogue is as readable and entertaining as it is loaded with information about those plants he loves and grows. I have never ordered from him, as the heyday of my perennial gardening was many years ago. David was very keen to go on from Pine Knot to Plant Delights. Why not? It was close by. The drive back to Michigan would be a long one. Once our hellebore order was picked up, he had the rest of the day available. He needed an overnight before the long drive home. He had ordered from them on line before, but what a hort treat it would be to visit in person. How could I not give him the go ahead?

He did pester me regularly before his trip south about whether I was interested in him picking up any plants for me at Plant Delights. I shrugged off his question long enough to see him off.  Once he was on the road, I read the catalogue from start to finish. The idea that he would be able to see the plants in person, and talk to me about them sounded great.  Oh yes, I made a list.  At the top of that list, a Chinese tree peony species, Paeonia Ostii. The catalogue description made it sound irresistible. A tree peony with a mature size of 4′-5′, that would have 100 white blooms or better at maturity-what gardener would not long to have one? Lurking in the background was the memory of the perennial gardens I cultivated in my late 20’s and my early 30’s, and how much I enjoyed them.  As long as I was at it, 3 of these peonies sounded better than one.  As long as I had the idea to dive in, why not dive deep? I was ready when David called. Did I have a mind to buy some plants?  Yes, I did.

Subsequent to making a decision to speak for 3 of these peonies, of course I had to round out and beef up my order.  None of my additional selections relate to each other. I just liked the sounds or the looks of them. Be advised that, unlike many other gardeners, I am not a plant collector. That is, until that moment David called me asking if there was anything else I wanted to add to those 3 peonies. Of course I did. It was a moment that might not come again anytime soon. I put together a collection. In my office now is a small collection of fabulous perennial plants from Plant Delights. Those paeonia ostii flowers that came in to bloom on David’s trip back were incredibly fragrant. My office was suffused with the perfume of this peony. Intoxicating that – the fragrance of that peony, and the arrival of some very special and interesting plants.

Some of the plants I spoke for were still dormant. I have 3 arisaema “Crossing Over” that I potted up that are just about to break ground. This jack in the pulpit will mature at 30″ tall.  Other plants were in full bloom, given a run of warm weather in North Carolina. I knew David would look over every plant before he spoke for it. The two of us were having a really great time. He was shopping too. We shared a moment about plants that I will not soon forget. My stash of plants was not that big, but each and every one would be treasured.  I have been keeping them in my drawing studio, as it has been much too wintry to plant them in the ground at home. To follow are some pictures of my choices.

Epimediums tolerate dry shade. They do not increase in size fast, but each and every one of them is a treasure asking for a special place in a shade garden.  The flowers of Epimedium “Pink Champagne” are extraordinarily beautiful.

stunning, this.

polygonatum odoratum “Angel Wing”.  Solomon’s seal is a favorite shade plant.  The variegation on this cultivar, which will eventually be white, is exceptional.

clematis ochroleuca “Bald Knob”, introduced by Plant Delights, is a shrubby clematis growing 15″ by 15″, and sports nodding white bells.  Sounds good to me.

seed head on this clematis

adonis amurensis “Fukujukai” has gorgeous semi double yellow flowers in very early spring. I hope to have a flower or 2 next year.

David did get me a trillium decipiens from John Lonsdale, who was showing and selling his plants at Pine Knot Farms.  I added a pair of trillium underwoodii from Plant Delights.

I did lose what little control I had when it came to the lady slipper orchids. I spoke for 5 Cypripedium “Phillip”, a hybrid of the native Michigan showy lady slipper orchid, cypepedium reginae. I have a memory of a field of them in bloom in an open sunny cedar bog in the upper peninsula of Michigan in June, some 35 years ago.  A bouquet of them in a restaurant led me to purchase 3 clumps of them from a property owner near by.  I had those plants for many years, and left them in place when I sold the house. To have them again in my garden sounds so good. One of these plants is due to bloom-I cannot wait. And of course there are 3 of the yellow lady slipper orchids-cypripedium parviflorum pubescens.

Now that I have these plants, where will I plant them? I have plans to change some areas in my landscape –  not just for this group of perennial plants, but for these and more. We’ll see where this small foray into buying plants goes.

Plant Delights   Plan to be delighted.






  1. Lori brasier says

    What a wonderful post to read on this early Spring day! Makes me want to go out and dig about in my gardens just to smell that wonderful scent of newly warmed soil.

  2. can’t wait….love the excitement in your writing! The varieties you speak about our very enticing!

  3. Mariana Greene says

    I have been to Plant Delights three times. I spend hours perusing every species available. It is a wonderful and painful experience at the same time. I have not been successful in Dallas growing trilliums and lady slipper orchids. But I recognized your epimediums and Solomon’s seal instantly. They do well here in dry shade — if the city chickens do not get to them while my back is turned.

    I found it curious you said you had not had a perennial garden in a long time. Because you cannot devote the time and care they need? I think I am happy for you that the barrier broke down.

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Mariana, my landscape is very simple and restful. mostly evergreen, actually. I had a rose garden that was destroyed by two severe winters, which I replanted last year. It just seems like a little change would be interesting. best, Deborah

  4. During my perennial garden glory days, decades ago, Tony Avent came to Atlanta to give a lecture. Wow.

    He has only grown more wooooooooooow.

    We drive north to him.

    Facebook is full of hellebore porn. Keep me away !

    Did a perennial garden 2 years ago for client in Jackson, GA. Whoa, gorgeous. Owner is 70+ and obviously now a rare type of gardener. That’s how few I’m asked for, I remember details.

    Deer are a huge reason, along with little DIY anymore, and people having less time, aka on-line all the time, imho.

    Oh my weren’t you a bad girl with that plant order !!

    Garden & Be Well, XOT

  5. Cheryl Ellenburg says

    Is the top photo a hellebores? If so, what is the name of it and how can I order it?

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Cheryl, the first picture is of 3 paeonia Ostii. This plant, and all of the rest of the plants in the post came from Plant Delights. There is a link to their on line website at the bottom of the post. Just click on Plant Delights. best, Deborah

  6. Warm temperatures have come much too soon to our desert town, so it’s been depressing to think about going outside and planting when it’s been in the 90s. But not now. Those Chinese tree peonies are beyond glorious.
    Off to the plant nursery!

  7. AnnaMae Miller says

    Love the tree peony you got at Plant Delights which I had the pleasure of visiting 15-20 years ago, yes I am a perennial garden lover and have been interested in Irises since 1960, both Tbs, but especially Siberians which I have registered 19 and keep up on our outstanding hybridizer’s wonderfull yellows of who have created colors you will not believe we have yellows, several good pinks, roses, wine shades. The Dykes was awarded to a wonderful white “Swans in Flight”, Bob Hollingworth carried by Ensata Gardens and Marty and Jan Sacks of JoePye Weed who have many of the colors I mentioned. Garden Centers have Kept their heads in a bushel of sand. P. Itoh “Love Affair “tugged at my heart 3 years ago at Adelman’s Peonies and the wonderful yellows of Don Hollingsworth of MO. Love this blog. Good to be following you after such a long recess.

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear AnnaMae, our history goes back 40 years, doesn’t it? Of course I bought Siberian and Japanese irises from you. What a pleasure it was to visit your iris fields-I remember the visits vividly. Garden Centers do have their audience, but lovers of fine perennial cultivars and plants have had plenty of places like yours where they can buy. The internet has made access to specialty growers and their cultivars so much easier. How pleased I am to hear from you! best regards, Deborah

  8. Can’t wait to see the pics of your garden after planting!
    And thank you for the education on the small clematis — who knew!

  9. Libby Wilkie says

    I am very fortunate indeed to live within an hour of Plant Delights! Except that it is hard on the pocketbook!! I have some Canna Lilies that are outstanding, and my Crinums…well, what can I say. We try to go to the open house at least once a year: just the trip there and walking around is a treat.

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