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This week we're in historic Aiken, South Carolina, visiting a rare and exotic plant nursery. Bob McCartney is one of the owners of Woodlanders Nursery. Woodlanders is an international mail order plant nursery specializing in rare, hard to find plants, trees, shrubs, vines, perennials, palms and ferns. This is a connoisseurs nursery. They supply plants to novice gardeners, but mostly to sophisticated gardeners, master gardeners, arboretums, botanical gardens, universities, etc., because most of their plants are unknown. They get seeds from arboretums, botanic gardens, foreign countries, from other plants men who travel the world and they travel and collect seeds and plants themselves. These plants are unusual but not necessarily hard to grow. Bob starts by showing us a Neolitsea, Neolitsea Serica, it's a relatively new introduction from thefar east. The growth in spring looks like a suede material, like golden hair. It has a greenish-yellow flower early in the season. It is evergreen, at this point we don't know how big it will get, probably around 25 feet tall. The leaves when crushed are aromatic, almost like a bay leaf and is part of the Laurel family Daphniphyllum Humile is from England. Bob introduced it to this country in 1972. It looks like Rhododendron but is not related. It's more closely related to the Poinsettia. It has little blue berries and a nice coarse texture. Male and female are on separate plants and it is evergreen. Euscaphis Japonica is from Korea. When J.C Rosten at North Carolina State brought this plant into the country he had a contest to find a common name. Don Shadow at Shadow Nurseries in Tennessee suggested Sweetheart Tree and that has stuck. It has clusters of greenish flowers that are followed by splitting pods that have red heart like berries inside. It has seasonal interest two times a year and grows to about 25 feet tall, a good sized residential tree. It doesn't have known insect or disease problems. Rhododendron's don't tolerate heat very well. "Cynthia" is a Rhododendron hybrid. A cross between the European Rhododendron Ponticum and an Asian or Appalachian Rhododendron. It likes a cooler, moist climate but tolerates heat, attracts attention in the spring because of it's showy bloom. It needs good drainage, yet a constant supply of moisture, so it needs irrigation in the summer. Natives refer to a wide range of plants, anything native to North America. Many plants (trees, shrubs, vines) occur in specific habitats. Some are good garden plants and grow under a variety of conditions, but some are site specific. They need a certain kind of soil, a certain exposure, drainage, all kinds of things. Some people when they hear the term "native" assume the plant will do well without any care whatsoever. That is not necessarily true. Some exotic plants like Ligustrum will grow anywhere, others require specific conditions. Chionanthus Virginicus or Fringe Tree or Granddaddy Gray Beard or Gransy Gray Beard is a native plant. It has been split by some botanists into two plants a Northern and Southern form. The southern form has a more narrow, glossy, leathery leaf. There is another, somewhat similar plant, the Chinese species, Chionanthus Retusus. They have a nice fragrance and yellow fall color. They are a durable plant for many parts of the country. Bob has the only yellow flowered Magnolia in the world, although it has been used as a parent to make some yellow flowered hybrids. Magnolia Cordata is primarily native to the Piedmont areas of Georgia, although it does spill into surrounding states. It is a close relative to the Cucumber Magnolia but the Cucumber Magnolia doesn't have the good yellow color in the flowers. Cordata has nice, big leaves, is deciduous, but not evergreen. The flowers bloom before the leaves come out. When the sun is bright, at its peak, during the mid part of the day a good choice for colors are pure hues. The "Purple Wave Petunia" is an example of a strong hue. It works great in full sun, it wouldn't be good in low light nor would a tint work in full sun, they look insipid or weak. For full sun use pure hues. Virginia Sweetspire, Itea Virginicia, is a relatively common plant throughout eastern North America. It is found along streams and has a white flower. Woodlanders introduced a variety called "Henry's Garnet." The typical form is white flowered. Bob has a friend in Florida that found a pink flowering Itea, which no one had seen before, she had a daughter "Sarah" so they have named it "Sarah Eve." It grows typically in a moist, shady stream. But with more sun and open conditions it blooms more. It grows in sun or shade, but needs adequate moisture and good garden soil. Chinese Itea, Itea Chinensis, is a much bigger shrub, is evergreen and not deciduous. This one came from the Arnold Arboretum in Boston. They brought it in from China and it probably wouldn't survive New England winters. It has a nice spire of white flowers. It probably can be pruned to make a tighter plant. As our properties get smaller, we look for two dimensional plants. Vines are such a plant. Wisteria Frutescens is not as invasive and aggressive as the common Asiatic plant. It blooms later, the flower clusters are not as long hanging and it is fragrant. Headly Nursery in South Carolina has introduced a variety called "Amethyst Falls." It grows typically up trees in river edge situations where it gets a fair amount of sun, it is not high climbing, doesn't girdle trees and generally keeps to it's space. "Red Buckeye," Aesculus Pavia, is a native under story tree. An understory tree in the forest is one that grows under the forest canopy, not out in the crown of the forest, but down under other trees. Red Buckeye is related to the Horse Chestnut tree. It grows from Virginia down to Texas, has beautiful red flowers and will grow in full sun. It produces a large seed pod, that is the buckeye. Historically buckeyes were carried in ones pocket for good luck. Bob also has an Ohio Buckeye tree. It has greenish-yellow flowers, a seed husk with little spines which readily separate it from other Buckeye species. During the late part of the day, the sun saturated part of the day, a good choice of color is a shade. A shade is a color or hue where black has been added. Coleus is a good choice for late afternoon or early evening where the sun angle is low, but it is still warm. Ornamental grasses are also a good choice, for the shade and for late parts of the day. Bob has done a lot of work with endangered plant species. Many endangered plants are rare plants that occur in very specific habitats, they are threatened because they were never common in the first place and in other cases their natural habitats are almost gone. The federal government prohibits the interstate commerce of endangered species plants. Bob would like to see the law changed to allow for the sale of endangered species plants that have been artificially propagated, separating them from those that have been dug from the wild, which he doesn't approve of and doesn't do. He feels that by transporting artificially propagated plants the plant will become more common, less rare and endangered. Bob has quite a few of these plants at his nursery.

If you want a herbaceous perennial that is a real show stopper try Baptisia Minor. When Bob started the only Baptisia in the marketplace was Baptisia Australis. It is available in white, yellow and two blues. It's a member of the Pea family as evidenced by the flowers. Pea flowers have pods with peas in them. The Australis has a dark pod that is reasonably ornamental. The Minor has a fairly attractive seed pod and an especially attractive flower. It has silver, blue foliage that provides a cooling effect in the garden. The habitats of the Baptistias provide a wide range of choices, some are the white flowered kind, some very tall ( 6 feet) with a long spike of white flowers. Native in the sand hills is Baptisia Perfoliata, it's stem goes through the middle of the leaf, causing people to call it Eucalyptus. They require little care, are not heavy feeders, but you need to keep them from being overwhelmed by other plants Amsonia is a herbaceous perennial, similar to the Baptisias and has a blue flower. One species was originally known to gardeners, Amsonia Tabernaemontana. Others have recently been introduced, including the now very popular Amsonia Hubrectii, from Arkansas. Amsonia Ludoviciana, which means Louisiana, is a new introduction and one of Bill's favorites. Mountain Laurel is always popular. Bob has some different varieties such as the wild form of Kalmia Latifolia. Kalmia is found from New England down to the Gulf Coast. It's common in the sand hills, it's an evergreen shrub. In Connecticut Dr. Richard James at the University of Connecticut has introduced a lot of very colorful hybrid Kalmia's. Some have a very red bud, some deep pink flowers. One that works in the south is pure white with no other color, it is named "Pristine." It is being reproduced with tissue culture which is the most practical way to reproduce this plant. Another selection has narrow leaves and they're trying to get it into tissue culture, it is named "Willow Wood." The southern Kalmias seem to do much better in the south than the northern selections. They like a sandy, acidic, well drained soil with a constant supply of moisture. They grow where there is kale or in heavy clay underneath the topsoil because it retains moisture. Mulch will help, pine needles are best because they create an acidic environment. They don't like wet feet. Dr. Rick thanks Bob McCartney, he has educated even Rick today.

Link: The Willcox

Link: Woodlanders Inc.

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