Published September 12, 2012 | By Robert LaHoff
Daryl Kobesky, a friend and colleague in the industry, greeted me a few weeks ago on a nursery tour with this witty title. His spontaneous and clever word, Plantgasm, was used in reference to our enjoyment of his well-tended plants. Along side me that day was my friend, wingman and horticultural demigod, John Stella, who equally enjoyed Daryl’s horticultural humor. Driving around on golf carts, really the best way to tour this nursery, we rekindled relationships with plants we knew and caught up with some old friends.
The first noteworthy plant that stood out that day was Regal Prince Oak, Quercus x Regal Prince (‘Long’). A patented, columnar-oval oak, ‘Regal Prince’ is a result of a cross between Quercus robur ‘Fastigiata’ and Q. bicolor. The foliage on this tree was striking from over 100 yards away. “Glossy, dark green on the upper surface and a glaucous silver on the lower surface” (thank you Richard and Heidi) help make this one of my favorite trees. Highly resistant to powdery mildew and borers, I envision a screen of these someday… somewhere, where I can appreciate their rusty-orange fall color.
Hemerocallis ‘Jungle Beauty’ was a daylily that just captivated me. Dramatic black-red flowers with a narrow black band and a bright yellow-green throat looked exceptional baking in the hot summer sun. In addition, its foliage remains attractive until the first frost arrives. This plant has been around awhile, receiving Honorable Mention in 1996. Daylilies can tolerate many harsh conditions and this one is no exception. Expect a footprint in your garden of about 30 inches tall and 24 inches wide with ‘Jungle Beauty’.
A new, improved Sweetshrub is Calycanthus x ‘Aphrodite’. Large, beautiful red flowers with an intoxicating fragrance, this plant reblooms sporadically throughout the summer. This deciduous beauty has glossy green foliage and prefers full sun to part shade. Save some room for this one as it grows about 6 feet tall and equally as wide. Oh yeah, it’s deer resistant too!
Venus Hybrid Dogwood, Cornus x Venus, has long been my favorite dogwood. Resistant to anthracnose and powdery mildew, Venus explodes in the spring with huge, 6 inch, pure white blooms that are sterile with a green center. Perhaps I’m a bit biased as a Rutgers University graduate, Dr. Elwin Orton outdid himself with this one. A result from Cornus kousa x nuttalli (Pacific Dogwood) and C. kousa, Venus is very cold-hardy and fast growing. Not to mention, it won The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society gold medal in 2007.
Hydrangeas are everywhere and because of the strides that have been made, there are more than ever to choose from. Well, here’s one more to add to the mix. Hydrangea paniculata Vanilla Strawberry will be around for a while. A French introduction brought to us by Bailey Nurseries, Inc., this member of the PeeGee Hydrangea family has intense color markings. Huge cone-shaped flowerheads begin green; quickly turn creamy shades of white and soon after turn a blushing pink, eventually ending with deep rose markings. Aptly named, Vanilla Strawberry grows big! Some 6-8 feet tall and 4-6 feet wide, this hydrangea is hardy to zone 4. An easy care plant that is fast growing and attracts butterflies. You will love this flower in any fresh or dried arrangement too.
Finally, a plant Daryl pointed out… Blue Grama, Bouteloua gracilis ‘Blonde Ambition’. “Airy, chartreuse flowers float horizontally amidst blue-green foliage mid summer into fall” (North Creek Nurseries). This ornamental grass grabbed my attention immediately as I don’t recall seeing many flowers at a 90 degree angle to a stem, reminiscent to a flag on a pole. Extremely cold hardy and adaptable to a wide range of soil types, I believe this plant will look its best in huge drifts. “Unlike any other grass in cultivation” (North Creek Nurseries).
Once a year I have this great experience of visiting this nursery. My industry is filled with great, hard working, honest people who enjoy their careers as much as I enjoy mine. Special experiences like pulling the golf cart over and eating the flowers of a daylily, in this case it was Hemerocallis ‘Buttered Popcorn’ and it tasted like sweet lettuce, reaffirmed my love for the industry that I share with friends. For those of you in the industry or Gardenmaniacs (I thought this would be my word, but it already exists on twitter), Plantgasm should, in my opinion, be a word in Webster’s Dictionary. Alas, sorry Daryl, it appears a gentleman named Derek Powazek has already claimed Plantgasm.com as his own. Derek, it appears, is a person who “loves plants too much”. I completely get that!
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