Note: The JCRA launched a new Web site on March 1. Please visit us at http://jcra.ncsu.edu. This site, http://www.ncsu.edu/jcraulstonarboretum/, is no longer being updated.

Lyons' Den 1999

From all of us at the JC Raulston Arboretum.......the happiest of new years and good health ahead! We look great even at this time of the year......come visit us in 2000 and just imagine a new Education Center right around the corner! Our Y2K postcard to you...........

whtgdn.jpg


Date: 17 Dec 1999

From: Bob Lyons

Subject: "Iris" you were here!

What, he's actually back on-line! JCRA to Mission Control, we have pictures! And now you can be here, at least in a virtual sense. The images are not attached to this email but rather "linked" to a website address, embedded within our own, in fact. Some email packages will allow you to click directly into them while others will require that you copy the address and paste into your internet browser. Either way, we are delighted that you may now view the neat plants and projects discussed in my emails rather than leaving that up to your imagination....there's a scary thought! These images are not copyrighted, and they were taken with a digital camera at a reasonable resolution. If you "take" them, would you be so kind as to credit their origins as the "JC Raulston Arboretum?" Thanks! And now back to the entries......

I will have no more comment on the rain lilies this time....promise! However, there is a very neat iris in bloom right now which will likely go into

January....Iris unguicularis, http://arb.ncsu.edu/lyons/irisung.jpg, the Algerian iris. Noted for its winter flowering, yet not often seen in the trade, this iris is rhizomatous but whose flowers lack the beard that the more familiar, rhizomatous and highly hybridized bearded iris have....you know the ones I'm talking about...the ultra gaudy, billowy, ever-so-fleeting flowered types that range from the dwarf to the towering in size. Hey, I like these, too, but I'm happier seeing iris in the winter when color is more scarce! Color junkies unite! You'll find our I. unguicularis in the Winter Garden, near the hellebores and winter annuals....head into the main entrance into the White Garden, turn left and then right, stay to your right and you'll be there.

Not far from the iris is one of the most frightfully dangerous species we've got in our inventory, in a physical sense. Agave parryi huachensis, agave.jpg, issues a stern warning with those needle sharp leaf tips it sports, and sharp they are. This plant is like a landscape arsenal of hypodermic needles, stationary and quite visible with little need to conceal its weapons. Native to the Southwest US and Mexico, this agave presents a stunning and geometric appearance, unfolding each thick and fleshy leaf slowly, deliberately, and with a clear warning to those intending to vandalize, consume, uproot, or abscond with...don't try it! And if the tips weren't enough, we're reminded of the spiny presence by the imprints left on the emerging leaf by the one which preceded it.

A quick investigation into the description of Gardenia augusta, the Cape Jessamine, GardAng.jpg, may yield lots of good information, but I'm struck by the almost exclusive reference to the flowers. Lovely, often white, and intensely fragrant, the flowers are indeed "gardenia-esque" but I'm much more intrigued by the fruits which follow....sometimes equated to the hips of roses, they are swollen, brilliantly reddish-orange, about an inch in length, and quite abundant on our specimen. En masse, they collectively resemble a school of goldfish rushing to ground level amidst the richly glossy evergreen leaves. This is one showy plant whose origins are placed in China and Japan. The best and most heavily fruited plant is located in the raised bed of the Paradise Garden, on the east side. A must see; virtual is fine, in person even better!

And speaking of the Paradise Garden, the group of volunteers led by Frankie Fanelli has been steadily at work in the renovation of this unique garden. A major undertaking has been the replacement of the bamboo elements which anchor this garden space in a visual sense. The panels were created by splitting, soaking, and weaving the bamboo into the criss-cross pattern seen in the photo, Parad1.jpg. Bamboo is hot right now, even finding its way into commercial flooring products....thank God, we've got plenty of it! Who would have believed how trendy it would really become. Frankie and her crew have lots more to do, initiating some work on changing the existing plant palette in this garden and incorporating new hardscaping...stay tuned!

I hope this end of the year finds you all in good health and happy. The JCRA enters the year 2000 in great shape, with even greater plans for the future, I have been pleased to stay in touch with so many of you this way, and the addition of images will enable even more folks to peek into our arboretum, on a variety of levels. I'm still fine-tuning this electronic messaging and look forward to more improvements to come....thanks for you unwavering support!!

Until next time in Y2K from the JCRA!.....Bob Lyons


Date: 26 Oct 1999

Subject: JCRA Weekly......bordering

The past few weeks have indeed been packed at the JCRA....one of the most significant events has been the start of the renovation of the incredible Perennial Border, ably curated by Edith Eddleman and Doug Ruhren. On one Saturday a couple weeks ago, we brought together students from the NCSU Horticulture Club, the NCSU Pi Alpha Xi ornamental horticulture honor fraternity, and our own JCRA volunteers. Within only a few hours we had removed the plants we wished to keep for the future restoration, cleaned the roots, and heeled them into the holding beds. No small project, indeed, as groups dug entire clumps of some of the most tenacious plants as well as the more tame; it was a perennial "divide fest!" What was scheduled to take almost all day was completed in only a few hours, thanks in large part to the cooperative spirit, dedication, and attention to the carefully laid plans of Doug and Edith by everyone. It was only fitting that the remainder of plants in the border be yielded to our "diggers" first, who needed no coaxing to have at it, snarfing up incredible freebies for their own gardens. Even in the driving rain of the following day, several folks braved the weather to continue the "free fest!" Mitzi, Paul, and Bradley subsequently removed the worst of the thick perennials on Monday and plowed through the site......a rare sight seeing the nearly 400 ft. bed in stark emptiness. But we're assured that our wait will not be long until the new plants begin their trek back into the border to visually announce the major change. Watch our progress.

My hiatus of sorts has left me wanting to desperately talk about more plants again, so here goes!

Camellia season is in its early throes, and clearly represents a plant I'm quite unfamiliar with from my own northeast, Midwest, and Blue Ridge mountain roots. One with particular fresh beauty is 'Snow Flurry' located in our Winter Garden at its east end. The clearly double and pristine flowers have begun to appear in large numbers throughout the glossy, green foliage. Lovely!

In the near vicinity of the above, spin around 180 degrees to witness a stunning combination of herbaceous plants, as well, an established planting of the black ophiopogon (Ophiopogon planiscapus 'Nigrescens') in overlapping proximity to the almost chlorotic green of Selaginella kraussiana 'Aurea'. Talk about eye-catching! And talk about textural differences....but hey, we've never had a visit from the "Color Police" so we must be doing something right, or maybe the donuts just taste better than viewing tasteless color combinations!

Late summer and fall is traditional flowering season for many gentians, namely Gentiana saponaria, located in our Lath House. The color is light to medium blue and may prophetically reflect the mood of the plant whose petals are so fused that opening barely half an inch would be a feat. Each flower resembles a ridged tube, accessed ever so discretely by a small aperture rather than fully unfolded petals. These 1-2" flowers occur crowded together on each stem and are well known for their late flowering and natural distribution throughout North America. A quick note about the color blue and flowers....this is one of the least commonly represented of all colors; but where it is found, it tends to permeate entire families. The Gentian family is one such group with an abundance of an otherwise rare color.....the onset of cooler temperatures will only serve to intensify the pigment....and that's OK by me! I was quickly reminded upon my arrival that I might consider switching my spectral allegiance towards the longer wavelengths, given that blue is more the liking of 2 other universities located a bit further west of Raleigh....yikes!

Well, keep watching, and keep visiting, the perennial border work continues and my guess is, you'll see noticeably changes in the Paradise Garden in future weeks....bamboo architects of the world unite!!

Until next time.............Bob Lyons


Date: 6 Oct 1999

Subject: JCRA Weekly....Paradise!

This week I'd like to highlight the work and writings of one of our curators, Ms. Frankie Fanelli, of our Paradise Garden. As many of you know, these volunteer curators are vital to the diversity of the JCRA. They devote their own time and energies to all aspects of garden/collections management, selection, and upkeep, with very close interaction with Mitzi....and we are very grateful for it! Curators also depend on other volunteers, and in the case of the Paradise, I know she has counted on Austin and John greatly, in particular! I hope to provide similar pieces in the future as we go through more changes in other curated areas! Here goes.......

You may have noticed the JCRA horizon is somewhat changed with the removal of the Paradise Garden's bamboo dome. With further exploration you find the bamboo panels are also missing. No, there is not trouble in paradise just a major revitalization in the works. You will see new bamboo panels going up very soon, much of the plant material changed out, and a very special daylily garden added on the west side. The aspects of this project range from bamboo work, garden design, plant selection, irrigation installation, along with all aspects of gardening. The theme of the Paradise Garden focuses on all of the five senses so the plant material will vary from edibles to herbs blended into a pleasing ornamental garden. A team of volunteers is coming together to make this very special garden happen. And if you want to watch their progress, Sundays will often find them there working!

Until next time.....Bob Lyons


Date: 26 Sep 1999

From: Bob Lyons

Subject: JCRA Weekly....first fall

While criss-crossing my way through the minefield of plants being sold by the Pi Alpha Xi students (great sale!) at the JC Raulston Arboretum, I was drawn over to the Mixed Border, winding up at a full-flowered Ceanothus x delilianus 'Gloire de Versailles', a delicate hybrid between that street savvy Eastern US species C. americanus (NJ Tea, ahhh, that sweet elixir of home!) and the more botanically erudite C. coeruleus which hails from Mexico. Having foliage which gives only the illusion of a tanner's livelihood, it appears that this hybrid between the East and the West expresses more of its occidental genetic origins.....blue flowers. Many Ceanothus species/cultivars are called summer or California lilacs along the Pacific Coast, perhaps because they are the best hopes for any semblance of the real lilac (Syringa vulgaris, e.g.) which stands little chance of performing out there! Whew.....our plant is a dense shrub about 6' tall and liberally, but not garishly covered in puffy flower clusters of very light blue and lightly scented for the most inquisitive. It is particularly nice to have new flowers at this time of the year.

A short jaunt to the Rose Garden reveals the fruits of summer's wait, at least for those spared the judicious pruners of Anne and Harvey! Never thought much of rose hips? Well, perhaps you'll change your mind upon seeing those of Rosa 'Altissimo' (perhaps a final "a" would have been better??) located along the east barrier of the garden....and while its cultivar name may portend the intensity of your voice if cast amongst its thorns, it is more likely a reference to the sheer height of this rose.....ours is about 6', at least. The hips themselves are the size of a generous crabapple (also in the same family) and in keeping with the upcoming month, an attractive shade of pumpkin orange. Come soon and you'll see these reservoirs of vitamin C scattered among the scarlet flowers from which they originate.

And to prove that wild color isn't everything (although it counts a great bit!), continue beyond the Rose Garden to the magnolias. Our Magnolia denudata 'Forrests Pink' is hardly bearing open blooms now, but has the protected Y2K buds in full display. Like furry rabbit's feet measuring about 2", next years buds are silvery and soft terminals of most branches, yielding a clue to at least the expected intensity of flowering to come.

Finally, once again to those wacky bulbous species whose strange life cycle has them flowering late and without leaves.....this time it's Lycoris radiata, the red spider lily, and well named! Wonderfully later than its cousin L. squamigera (pink magic lily), this lycoris is a brilliant red and a wonderful companion to the still-flowering and equally red Rhodophiala bifida; the latter's flowers are more trumpet shaped while those of L. radiata resemble a shredded version of the same.....hmmmm, I wonder what that looks like in your mind???

Oh, and have I mentioned those rain lilies???? Superb!

Until next time.......Bob Lyons


Date: 12 Sep 1999

Subject: JCRA Weekly...Trying!

My apologies for the "gap" between my communiques each week, but I'm trying!

Well, here's one for the record books, this may be my first weekly note which specifically addresses our hybrid tea roses in detail! Roses are indeed a group to their own....somewhat disowned by the woodies folks and barely engaged by the herbaceous geeks, but with a solid following nonetheless. It is no doubt their demanding nature which serves to both discourage and challenge their own aficionados, at least if the deer don't do that first! On your next visit, be sure to roam back to the Finley Rose Garden for a look at an intensely red cultivar called 'Europeana' which is planted en masse on both sides of the entry path. Its lovely blood red hue may convert you yet to rosarianship or simply echo the color of your face as you tackle each and every nuance which characterizes successful rose cultivation. Thank you Harvey and Anne for keeping ours look so good!

In front of the lath house grows a most unusual and architecturally attractive conifer....Widdringtonia cuppressoides (W. nodiflora), also known as the Mlanji Cedar. While only a fraction of its potential mature height, our specimen exhibits a somewhat conical shape filled in with dull, green foliage. The branches, however, are most interesting in their droopy, sea fan-like appearance, which behave a bit like rare lawn ornaments, capable of translating the slightest breeze for our eyes to appreciate.

Not far away is Hedychium spicatum v. acuminatum, one of the ginger lilies and truly an unusual gem in our collections. Notably in the mostly tropical Gingerfamily (Zingiberaceae), the plant itself may remind you of a stiff cornstalk topped off with clusters of amber-colored flowers. In flower right now, this plant is a sentry at the entrance to the Lath House as it leans slightly at a height of about 4 feet.

And finally, the Perennial Border beckons with one of the most lovely of all late-season natives....New York Ironweed (Vernonia noveboracencis)...and if you don't manage to get here, you'll no doubt see it in the surrounding landscape. Ironweed adapts nicely to cultivated settings but elects to grow naturally in somewhat wet areas, often clustering in drainage furrows and natural depressions which collect moisture...and don't be surprised if you find it neighboring another favorite....Joe Pye weed. Ironweed's violet purple flowers are exquisite; loosely clustered in reverse-candelabra-like fashion on what can only be described as towering, sturdy stems reaching 4 feet or more.

OH, and did I mention those spectacular rain lilies in past notices....?? EXCELLENT!!!

Until next time......Bob Lyons


Date: 30 Aug 1999 00:08:20 -0400

Subject: JCRA Weekly.....back in town

Sorry, another weekend out of town last week which put the brakes on this issue....but we're back! I would like to say that after this particular walk-through, you've got to find time to visit......without question, all of our areas look great as we head towards the end of the summer. Whether it's color, diversity, maturity, or fruits, now seems to be excellent.

Spare redbud?.....as you know, our plants are also used in several research projects. One of our faculty members has asked if anyone has a "Withers Pink Charm" Cercis canadensis (redbud) to continue some breeding work; we lost ours this year. If so, we'd like to get some propagation wood to replace ours and/or pollen for future crosses.....you could respond to this note. The drought also decimated the seed yield on the Cercis crosses made so diligently by Dr. Dennis Werner....he's not too optimistic, but we'll keep our fingers crossed.

I don't think I've talked about the numerous cultivars of butterfly bushes (Buddleja) here at the JCRA at all....well, one in particular is in dynamite form now: 'Royal Red'. The davidii hybrids are loosely bushy with tail-like spikes of tiny, fragrant flowers. Once in flower, you can count on them until frost if you do some deadheading....not a bad idea since some cultivars can self-sow. Butterflies actually flock to these plants as much as cats are drawn to catnip; and when the monarchs start migrating, grab your camera, have a seat, and watch the show. The mountains may see a complete die-back in winter, making us believe this to be a herbaceous plant, but don't be fooled, warmer climes allow persistent wood and permit many cultivars to reach 6 feet or more, with a spread of about half that. Look to the West for this one.

I've been fascinated lately with those neat bulbs which seem to have a penchant for an unsynchronized pairing of flowers and foliage....well, here's another to put along with the Lycoris spp......Rhodophiala bifida, what I know as the Oxblood lily. Out of the blue, the naked stalks bearing clusters of 2-6 rich, saturated, red flowers seem to appear with all the regularity of cryptic serendipity, but that's half the fun of planting them. Many years ago I saw them in the Tyler, Texas area, but never again until coming here.....isn't it time to see more of these South American amaryllids in the cultivated landscape? Need to see them, go to the Mixed Border.

We are inundated at the moment by the full flowering of the hybrid Lagerstroemia (Crape/Crepe Myrtles) in the West JCRA. One in particular, 'Apalachee', is a vivid lavender and clearly visible from Beryl Rd. Our specimens are tall, mature, and fully flowered.

Another consequence of my move to Raleigh was the welcome hardiness of the dahlia and its myriad of cultivars. The mountains just seemed to be a bit too cold to cut it, although a blessed mild winter might spare them! On a trip to England last year, I was taken by some older types having deep maroon foliage and intense red flowers...'Bishop of Landaff' was the most common, and it was being offered in mail order catalogs with all the hoopla of a brand new breakthrough.....go figure! Almost 5' in height and highly floriferous, this plant could stand alone or set off just about any lighter plant nearby. Well, we're lucky that Doug and Edith have placed two similar-looking cultivars in the area by the Paradise garden: 'David Howard' and 'Bednall Beauty'....both soared to the top of my personal favorites list almost immediately! Tuberous roots are their gig and the road to shorter days only serves to enhance their formation. These are not the hugely flowered cultivars blowing away crowds at state fairs, just uniquely individual accents which won't be forgotten when tried just once!

That's it for now, until next time.........Bob Lyons


Date: 17 Aug 1999

Subject: JCRA Weekly....A to Q?

Well, I suppose it was bound to happen....a "late edition" of the Weekly! Withthe advent of classes, I rediscovered the usual lack of time for many things,including this newsletter, as I prepped for classes. Since I have been out ofthe traditional classroom for 7 months for the first time in 17 years, guess Igot a bit lax....well, hold tight, we're still going here and there's lots to talk about!

 The mere mention of ajuga sends chills up the spine of many a gardener; even I had it rampantly galavanting throughout my own grass back in Virginia (but when personal turf ranks low on the ladder of home landscape priorities, (sorry turf geeks) indifference was a comfortable recourse). In all likelihood, the species A. reptans was the marauding culprit, so let me turn your attention to a much more tame member of the genus, A. pyrimidalis metallica crispa....whew...wasn't that an 80s band? Guess not! Deeply purple, and quite possibly described as black, this ajuga possesses incredibly dense, shiny clusters (rosettes) of undulated, almost contorted foliage displayed as a tight rosette pressed against the ground, kind of resembling a low grade eruption of the earth's inner core. It'll do best in partial to full shade, and that's where you'll find ours...in the lath house.

I'll bet you're familiar with Liatris, or blazing stars, which inhabit a variety of ecosystems in the U.S.....but most gardeners cultivate the common, but still lovely, L. pycnostachya with its 2-3 foot spires covered in purple flowers. But a walk over to the Mixed Border reveals a miniature cousin of the ubiquitously pedestrian version above.....Liatris microcephala. The literal translation of "tiny head" liatris refers to the diminutive stature of this genus....I've never seen one so small, about 8" tall with small spikes of the familiar purple flowers based in a tuft of grassy foliage; look low for this one and stay on the path, or you'll step on it!

Perhaps it's time to visit the Japanese Garden, adjacent to the Lath House, to view a great collection of ultra dwarf nandinas (Nandina domestica), some not exceeding 12" tall....that common foundation plant these are certainly not! You'll spot these just after stepping down from the zig-zag bridge....evil spirits get confused here and won't be able to follow you, now there's a comforting thought to continue your journey! Why else do you think I brought you via the bridge? 

And how about those New Guinea impatiens (Impatiens hawkeri) under the black shade cloth in the annuals area??? One line, the Celebration series, is most notably kudo-worthy, with some of the best foliage variegation and compact habit in the group....oh, yeah, the flowers are nice, too, but I'm caught up in the leaves.....deep burgundy, light yellow, burnt orange, you get the picture. The naysayers scoff this plant for a wilted, tired look in summer's worst heat, but they do pop back up; you'll be fine! And they are all simple to root from cuttings, but wait, don't take ours!

While I don't like to repeat myself in this column, I can't help but rave about the recent wave of rain lilies at the JCRA! Last weekend's downpour (finally!) jump started the Zephyranthes, these are truly wonderful plants.

In closing, here's a well-deserved and shameless plug for one of our own fans of the JCRA....look for Bobby Ward's new book, "A Contemplation Upon Flowers," published by Timber Press in bookstores soon....check out the Timber Press website, too. 

Well, adios for now, and cut me some slack on timing future issues, it'sgetting busy around here, so why don't YOU visit often!

Until next time......Bob Lyons


Date: 25 Jul 1999

From: Bob Lyons

Subject: JCRA Weekly....hot as h...!

Oh, my, it has been one hot and soggy week! Putting together the notes for this weekly was made even more enjoyable by fighting an endless stream of sweat (while standing still!), breathing in air whose oxygen would have been extracted much easier with the help of gills, and fighting the urge to punt it all! But no, with the exception of one plant for this week, the heat set the tone for the update!

First, an update for last week. My thanks to Tony Avent for his taxonomic insights into the genus Zephyranthes which was highlighted. Seems that Z. 'Valles Yellow' is a cultivar of perpetuated impropriety (= it's wrong!), it is not a cultivar at all but just the species Z. reginae; another cultivar mentioned, 'Capricorn Strain' is really 'Sunset Strain'....thanks for the update!

While taking refuge in the lath house, yeah, a mere 98 in broken shade rather than 102 degrees, brrrrr, I once again returned to a specimen that has often grabbed my attention, Begonia sutherlandii. The begonia family is absolutely huge, and has been exploited in a big way for bedding plant use; I'm sure you've heard of the wax begonia and tuberous begonia...no?....well get out more, would you?! B. sutherlandii comes from a tuber, one of those special underground stems where new stems originate. And when they emerge, they form a lovely, symmetric, mounded circle of deeply incised leaves, not so unusual by begonia standards, actually. Foliage margins and veins are wine red, as are the slender petioles which elevate the leaves only a bit, creating more of a trailing rather than erect appearance. Yet what always catches my eyes are the striking orange flowers which cascade onto the deep green leaves by virtue of their own weak flower stalks. I've been watching this plant for months, and for months it has been in flower, draped in a background of dense foliage forming a graceful mound. Curiously, RHS lists this species as zone 9 hardy but ours has successfully survived 2 winters. Check this out, it is languishing in the lath house.

And speaking of languishing, these following species relish the hot and parched, and you may be surprised to find them as perennial members of the Raleigh landscape. Yucca rostrata, a native of the US southwest, is exceptionally statuesque, and please don't think it equivalent to the ubiquitous Yucca filamentosa! Surely not. Y.r. is tall and straight, and in typical yucca fashion, has dozens of leaves jammed tightly along its linear stem. These leaves measure about 2' and could easily be mistaken for a one-stop shop for silver daggers. Silver and ensiform (love that word....sword-like and pointed), these leaves mean business! Sources also describe them as rigidly flexible but that's just a bit too oxymoronic for my literary taste! I'd stick to rigid. Watch for flowering in fall, if all goes well. They're back in the West JCRA.

While there, take in some neighbors....the agaves. One in particular, Agave parryi v. huachucensis, makes Y. rostrata look like the poster child for a botanical beenie baby.....A. parryi v. h. grows in a thick, large rosette, due in large part to the meniacal leaves, rigidly stiff and deviously curved, which, if carefully traced from bottom to top (and I do mean carefully, kind of in the sense of "don't try this at home"), terminate in stiff brown spine, an inch or more long, with all the sharpness of a needle. OUCH! Don't lose your balance around this one or those brown spines will be turning red, as will the appendage that got in its way! Oh, and did I mention the lovely flowers and southwest origins of this plant...maybe not, I was too busy watching my step!

The "JCRA Weekly" may take a break next week while its author goes out of town, so until next time.............Bob Lyons


Date: 18 Jul 1999

From: Bob Lyons

Subject: JCRA Weekly...back on track

Background Noise: "Music to Disappear In - II" by Raphael, you guessed it, the antithesis of REO Speedwagon and Rush but a whole lot more soothing to think with.

A single genus has made a striking floral display at the JCRA soon after the rains I reported last week....the Zephyranthes, or rain lilies, derived from the Greek meaning "west wind flower".....whenever you see the root "anthes" or something similar, it is a floral reference. This short, bulbous plant is an often-predictable post-harbinger of precipitation, appearing fairly non-descript while not in flower with narrow, strappy leaves, and perhaps easily mistaken for a clump of liriope. The flowers may resemble a crocus, but the rain lilies are in the amaryllis family and not kin to the iridaceous crocus....what a difference 3 stamens can make! Look for the lovely pink 'Grand Jax', the 'Valles Yellow', and bronzy 'Capricorn Strain'...better hurry, these won't last long! By the way, all Zephyranthes originate in the Americas....North, Central, and South.

And here's a strange botanical concoction: take a bulb, figure its leaves to come up in spring along with daffodils (and looking pretty darn close, too!), then disappearing with spring's waning, reappearing as a leafless flower stalk in mid-summer with a terminal cluster of pink amaryllis-like flowers (with some blush of blue if you're lucky!) which last only a few days in our heat...have I got your attention? These are Lycoris (the bride of Apollo? I'm sure someone will correct me if I'm wrong?!) with this pink one being Lycoris squamigera: the resurrection lily, magic lily, or even naked ladies in some geographic regions! Whatever, I've always enjoyed these species for their spontaneity of appearance and sheer transience. They are not exactly new to cultivation but seem to have fallen out of favor in the last couple of decades. Once planted, they may take a few years to flower for you but, like every good writer will tell you, they will be worth it, as is every penny you spend to get them!

The last plant on this week's list is a tender perennial/perennial found in several beds in the JCRA but most conveniently in the front Entry Bed by our sign. Centaurea gymnocarpa 'Colchester White' (= C. cineraria) seems to get more striking each week, eliminating any semblance of ambivalence in the garden when paired with just about anything else. In a strange sort of analogy (Oh, I'm sure I'll hear back on this one!), I would liken the use of this plant to eating grits, not much alone, but in combination, there ain't nothin' better! And, yes, 17 years in the south and I've had a few grits! ANYWAY, 'Colchester White' has dense rosettes of VERY silvery leaves, each deeply lobed and measuring about 6", producing a rough, lacy effect. Pair up a coleus, colorful sweet potato vine, dahlia, or verbena, and you've just magnified their identity....try it, or better yet, come see ours!

Oh, maybe just one more.....walk to the annual beds to the rear, at the end of one of the shaded beds, and find the annual Tithonia rotundifolia 'Fiesta del Sol'(it won't be under the shade). This is a brand new Mexican daisy, and a welcome breeding improvement for this species which is typically 5-6 feet tall and 3-4 feet wide.....Fiesta del Sol is a dwarf, compact version of the favorite heirloom which reaches about 1-2 feet, maybe! It is now covered in the expected orange, 2" diameter, daisy-like flowers and does a great job of attracting butterflies. One of my favorite photos taken almost 20 years ago has a swarm of Monarchs around this plant, each butterfly ever so politely competing for a floral platform and ignoring my paparazzi presence! This one grows from seeds....but don't collect your own, no telling what you'll get....well, maybe you'd like that. I'll sign off before I ramble to much more!

Until next time......Bob Lyons


Date: 15 Jul 1999

From: Bob Lyons

Subject: JCRA Weekly....late!

I guess it was bound to happen, I've been out more than in during the past week (mentally and physically!) and just couldn't put together my weekly posting on time....I'll get back on track!

I've got a few interesting bullets this time, and once again I find myself fascinated by the genus Liquidambar, the sweetgums. I know I've mentioned this one before, the fruitless round-leaf type (L. styraciflua 'Rotundiloba'), and we've got a great specimen in our mixed border that is actually cited in Michael Dirr's text!!??? Despite its relatively newness to the masses, it was discovered in the wild in North Carolina in 1930! Chalk up another! Over 60 years and just being "discovered," its time has come! But take a walk to the east JCRA along the Beryl Rd. side and check out 2 more cultivars: L.s. 'Burgundy', noted for a rich, wine-red hue to the new foliage which should echo this color come fall, but the tree's habit is also a bit loose and outstretched. And don't be heartbroken, but its leaves have only 3 points instead of the typical (and preferred by me) 5. L.s. 'Variegata' may very well be the most unpredictable in this gummy triptych,; while the name implies variegation, what you'll find is a sketchy appearance of heavily marked leaves mixed in with those of solid green....still has 5 points but the habit is more columnar in shape.

I haven't given you a good "drive by" in a long time, so here's one for your next race down Beryl......look into the East (with one eye, keep the other one straight ahead, both hands on the wheel, please!) and watch for those flashes of red. Our Hibiscus mosheutos and hybrids are striking, and here's where exaggeration is permissible! Each flower measures in excess of 6", and to say they are focal points would be an understatement. These N.A. natives thrive in swampy areas, often called swamp hibiscus to the locals, but will adapt to most prepared gardens....might be a bit floppy, though. This species is also quite easy to grow from seed....you've got to see these, I guarantee you'll make plans to return with designs to covet ours (not that I'm concerned about a certain Bill in PA!)! Remember, our surveillance cameras will be roving!

By the way, our recent rains, cool weather and extended overcast skies were incredibly welcome....just under a week's worth and we'd take more if we could! I was delighted to make my notes for this posting while smearing my ink, clearing my throat, and dabbing my nose....have I set the scene for you???.....well, the plants are much better to visualize, come by and make them real!

Until next time.....Bob Lyons


Date: 4 Jul 1999

From: Bob Lyons

Subject: JCRA Weekly....Terminally V

This will truly be a first for the JCRA Weekly. You see, I've been out of town for several days and figured I'd attempt to do a lot of writing on the road (well, not ON the road, wouldn't that be awkward!). Believe me, aside from analyzing the phenotypic variation of airport pedestrians as only a plethora of terminal gates can allow, one's time can be better spent! And, my, paying $4 for a bagel sure makes it taste so much better, especially when accompanied by that famous oh-so-friendly service....is there a school for airport concession help? On to the plants!

Recollections from a Nashville gate: Another select vine has begun to flower in the Mixed Border, on the arbor which was so adeptly designed by Suzanne Edney and built by Amelia Lane and her associates! It's Campsis grandiflora 'Morning Calm', and while the foliage has a visual similarity to wisteria, compound and fern-like, it shares no close botanical relationship. Instead, this trumpet vine is more aligned with another plant reviled by the clean turf club and revered by "los pescadores".....the catalpa! And if you don't understand that, just review one of my previous JCRA notes. Yes, the Bignoniaceae claims the genus Campsis as its own. Lovely orange, tubular flowers with a distinctive and decidedly flared style measure a couple of inches long and appear in random clusters. Each picks up whatever breeze might chance by, and be thankful for that because at 98F lately, you'll settle for even the slightest reminder that air actually moves! Astute readers will recall a similar vine discussed many weeks ago, the cross vine (Bignonia capreolata....you guessed it, the same family!); now start to think bloom sequence as all great designers do. Pairing these two plants together would give 2 bursts of color weeks apart, and to the untrained eye, the illusion that the same plant is flowering repeatedly.....bloom sequence, it could drive you nuts but win you clients!

Recollections from a Kansas City landing: You know, the world of petunias used to be so uncomplicated, so predictable.....oh look, another white one....what's that, the 15th white cultivar??? Hey, I like them, it was said quite respectfully. It's just that in the old days there were grandifloras (BIG flowers.....no brainer) and multifloras (______flowers, you fill in the blank, I'm too embarrassed! This is not a contest, don't send in your answer). Yet one look over the incredible array in our plantings will reveal the new forms rapidly hitting the marketplace. In addition to the 2 above, there are the "Waves", known for their rapid ground cover habits.....'Purple Wave' has all but become a household name, and the "calibrocoas" (or liricashowers) whose actual scientific name remains a mystery to me since I cannot track down an authoritative reference on it....these guys have literally dozens of tiny flowers on tight, ground cover habits. What was once the requisite cookie cutter plant for suburban foundations, has resurrected itself as one of the "color darlings" for residential and commercial landscape purposes. And here's another twist, are you used to growing petunias from seed? Well, more and more they are becoming available as rooted cuttings.....like several "waves" and the "calibrocoas." And are you used to planting them only once in the spring.....well, now they are being ripped out midseason and replaced ....in flower, of course!

Recollections from Seattle: after a drawn out flight almost a full 8 hours in duration, the possibility of getting out of the seat can't come soon enough.....I guess that's why I thought of mentioning the Japanese Garden. Located behind the Lath House, this area has relaxing qualities, and is ably curated by Dan Howe. Have a seat, touch the sinuous Lagerstroemia bark, ponder the raked gravel, and study the dwarf nandinas, but be sure to visit this tranquil area. A bit esoteric in nature, perhaps, but only as much as you want it to be.

On a final note, it is getting very hot out there so please offer Mitzi, Sarah, Diane, and Shep a creamsicle when you next see them! Bring your water bottles and seek out our shade, there's lots to be found....better yet, visit after work, but please visit and pass the word along about how wonderful this place is, the JC Raulston Arboretum!

Until next time...........Bob Lyons


Date: 20 Jun 1999

From: Bob Lyons

Subject: JCRA Weekly

Thank you,it worked! We've had a few days of rainfall since my last update (plea!) so whatever techniques you used, keep 'em coming; we could use more, but what a relief! Kind of dampened the spirits down in Pinehurst (the U.S. Open) but I suspect the groundspeople breathed a sigh when the skies opened up, too! To mark this welcome event, I hope you like the attached photo of water lilies (Nymphaea hybrids) from one of our water gardens, courtesy of Adonna Mann, our student photographer for the summer.

While this communique primarily focuses on specific plants, don't forget that you can also search our on-line inventory database to see if we've got a particular plant of interest to YOU. So try the Web address below and simultaneously thank Val Tyson, the mapping/labeling volunteers, and Art Kelley and his student team when it all works for you!

http://arb.ncsu.edu/Plants/search_new.html

This is particularly helpful when I forget to mention a location for some plants I'm talking about each week.....solution: you can go find them yourself!

The three cultivars of Japanese ternstroemia (Ternstroemia gymnanthera = T. japonica) found in Bed E40 are intriguing; they are located next to our roses over in the east JCRA and are best described as evergreen shrubs which prefer some protection/shade. This is likely NOT the best choice for North Carolina or Virginia mountain landscapes since zone 7 seems to be pushing its hardiness already.

Our 3 cultivars are all adjacent to one another and make for an instant comparison, all sharing handsome, somewhat oblong and leathery leaves which appear clustered or whorled near the end of the stems. And it is the foliage which most obviously discriminates the 'Burnished Gold', 'Variegata' and purple form specimens that we have. From last to first, the purple form is deeply hued as such, mixed with some green, which continues onto the stems; 'Variegata' possesses creamy margins encircling a marbled gray inner blade; and 'Burnished Gold' is more extensively colored with yellow-gold pigmentation into most of the leaf blade. These were new to me and I enjoyed taking a moment to sit nearby the Lace Parasol Elm to look across and ponder the ternstroemian triplet!

Since you'll eventually have to leave (hey, our gates closes automatically and unlike Tom Bodett, we WON'T leave the light on for you!), try exiting back through the rose & sculpture gardens aisle, turn right through the model gardens corridor, left at the perennial border (stop and stare a bit there, first!), then straight ahead. Look to the left and at the end of one of the annual beds you'll see a very deep purple ornamental grass. To some, it resembles purple corn, to others an odd sorghum variety, but while related to both, it is in the genus Pennisetum. Annual purple pennisetums are no strangers to today's gardens, available already in narrow leaf, dwarf, and wide leaf types, but this one has the most erect, thick and stunning inflorescence I've seen on any. Standing only 2-3' tall and showing greatpromise for a vigorous, clump forming habit, it simply looks like a purple cat tail attached to familiar field corn (but purple!) leaves! We'll be watching this one...and oh, by the way, it happens to be planted right next to the purple okra, with fruits, pretty festive!!! Proof that, indeed, anything can be considered ornamental.....I guess..... ARGHHH! Please, DON'T send those gumbo recipes! 17 years in the South and I've still not acquired that special taste for those charming fruits....but, bring on the grits and BBQ! My Northern friends remain shocked, stunned, and completely unconvinced.....enough!

Until next time.......Bob Lyons


Date: 14 Jun 1999

From: Bob Lyons

Subject: JCRA Weekly....seeing red?

I know that this email is now going out to all corners but wherever you may be....think rain for us! Extraordinarily hot days, a couple near 100F, and one of the driest Mays on record have made for rough growing conditions. So do me a favor and meditate about precipitation, and you might just want to use our Labyrinth garden to help you out!

A walk to the West JCRA brought to light a lovely, if not understated, hybrid in the Catalpa family (Bignoniaceae), yes the one and the same family that harbors that familiar and often shunned Catalpa bignonioides, you know, the one that produces large, slipper-like flowers followed by those long, annoying seed capsules that invariably mess up pristine lawns (I may be one of the few who actually enjoy those "tree worms!"). Well, consider this. Hybridizing this species with a close relative, Chilopsis linearis (Desert Willow) produced what you can now see at the JCRA: X Chitalpa tashkentensis. It appears NOT to have been a natural hybrid and reportedly does not produce those pesky capsules, or any seeds for that matter. Chitalpa's flowers are a very soft pink, and very "Catalpa-esque" in appearance, which is what drew my attention in the first place. This inter-generic hybrid (you know that by the "X" that precedes a name which is an obvious amalgam of the parents') maxx-es out at about one-third the size of its Catalpa parent and presents a spreading habit; it can be cultivated in denser clay soils, however, a quality it received from the "tree worm" species parentage! Our specimen is located at the far west end of the second or third elongated bed to your right upon entering the area. Check this one out soon, flowers may be gone, I think you'll be as intrigued as I was!

Well, as usual, I've spent way too much time and space on one specimen. Allow me to rapid-fire off some other plants worthy of your attention during your weekly visit, and I know you're making those visits! Did you realize that over 164,000 visitors walk through our gates each year?? Jimmy Buffet, watch out!

I remember noting the purple grape (Vitis vinifera 'Purpurea') on an earlier visit, attracted by its dusty purple, foliar ambiance. Well, now there are bona fide clusters of grapes with a deep purple intensity and the same baby powder-like aura to the individual fruits. This plant, too, can be found in the West JCRA by walking down the first path on your right. Watch for a deepening of the leaf pigmentation in fall and...by the way, the fruits are very acid on this European/Asian native. Do us and all of our visitors a favor, let fermentation occur in situ.....meaning....DON'T PICK OUR GRAPES!

Several weeks ago I wrote about the features of the northeastern native American wisteria, Wisteria frutescens 'Amethyst Falls', and how it has a tame growth habit.....that aside, it is still producing lovely flower clusters and well worth another look. Interestingly and perhaps by more than coincidence, it is almost directly across from the purple grape above, sharing great visual similarity with the fruit clusters....but don't be confused, both of these species claim very different botanical families....wisteria is a legume and the grape in its own family. Chalk this up to the "go figure file" and you'll suffer no great loss in your life in doing so, or grab a book on plant taxonomy for the real reasons!

My final installment goes to a neat cultivar of one of the maples with some DAR-like heritage in the US: Acer campestre 'Royal Ruby' (the straight species was reportedly on board with colonial settlers). The cultivar refers to the deeply hued new stems and leaves elongating at this time of the year. Our specimen is a young and small one, no greater than 4-6 feet, and you'll find it in the West JCRA, third row down, walk to the west further.....neat leaf shapes, too!

Well, I know it's getting hot out there, but don't let that send you into a visitation dormancy; mornings and evenings are delightful! So, until next time......

Bob Lyons


Date: 8 Jun 1999

From: Bob Lyons

Subject: JCRA Weekly.....big picture

For weeks now, I've been bringing you snapshots of just some of the plants you'd be privileged to see upon visiting the JC Raulston Arboretum....well, I think what I'll do this week is broaden the perspective, give you more than a glimpse, and hopefully entice you out to the "Oasis on Beryl" real soon with some descriptions of the larger picture found on our 8 acres.

Our renown perennial border is well into its finest period of display; the colors, textures, habits, and flowering periods make this one of the most dynamic hot spots in the JCRA from now on. I can assure you that a visit each week will not be disappointing. And here's a challenge, see how long it takes you to walk down the border each week.....I suspect it will take longer and longer as you linger alongside more and more species each visit!

The White Garden is the first eyeful most visitors get upon walking through the main entrance from the parking lot...and its a good one! A sweeping composite of delicate flowers, bold leaves, lovely hardscapes, and the famous gazebo (OK, I can't tell you why it's famous, it just is!) will often freeze our guests in their tracks, no matter how hot it is outside. At this time of the year, you'll see a fabulous oak leaf hydrangea complete with arching stems of white flowers (Hydrangea quercifolia) off to the right, a bit behind the water garden where its rumored the sharks swim freely! Really, I heard from a reliable source!

The annual testing area, centrally located in the JCRA, has come to colorful life in the past couple of weeks; the heat may bother us, but these plants flourish under these conditions, with irrigation, please! Note the 2 mulches being used, what's your preference? You'll find better developments in the standard fare of marigolds, petunias and impatiens (yikes, these are spectacular this year!) concentrated in these linearly arranged beds. And why linear? Well, it sure makes performance data collection more logical....watch the angelonias, sunflowers, and a snazzy, red, wide-leaf ornamental grass while you're browsing.

Head out of the sun for the lathouse for a respite from Raleigh's redhot rays. Walk the zig-zag pathway and view the more sensitive species that might otherwise burn up without the slatted protection overhead. I'm pretty partial to the Tiarellas and Heucheras.....and I wouldn't turn away that pretty neat Tricyrtis hirta 'Golden Gleam', either, a beacon on the south side. And our hosta remain unscathed by browsing deer, sparing us the headaches of pondering the myriad of remedies with little to no effectiveness!

More giant views to come later, and don't forget your camera, you'll never remember everything you see....if you think you can, consider that you look in the mirror at least once everyday, but could you render a self-portrait??? Doubt it...pack your film already!

Until next time...........Bob Lyons


Date: 1 Jun 1999

From: Bob Lyons

Subject: JCRA Weekly.....the here and

Lots of new subscribers to this electronic briefing from the JC Raulston Arboretum, but I say that every week, how many hundreds now???

This week follows the unusual melange of species you've become used to reading about these past few months but adds a new twist.....read on.

Let's begin with a couple of native wildflowers, one in full and striking display at the JCRA, the other having completed its reproductive life cycle and waning into what plants flower for anyway....seed production! For pure beauty and breathless abandon, wildlife interest, as well as unadulterated proof that native species can be "garden worthy" (do you think I could put in just one more modifier for a plant you're still unsure of... hey, I plant in 3's, I may as well write adjectivally that way too!), the time is right to see the butterflyweed (Asclepias tuberosa) as it opens its botanically complicated and architecturally clever flowers, richly orange-red in color and displayed in sporadic interruptions along an arched scape. Visit the south JCRA in the mixed border, just north of the trellis. True, cultivar forms come in buttery yellow and deeply orange red, but whichever you choose, this plant should hardly disappoint in well drained, full sun locations. Drought tolerance is its forte, just see how easy it is to spot it in open fields amidst browned out grasses and other wimpy companions during a hot summer....thanks to a deep taproot. In its own family, the Asclepiadaceae, butterflyweed is quite advanced as evidenced by its pollen shedding as one large mass (the pollinia) rather than the all too annoying powdery mechanism some of us hate each year! More bees than butterflies visit the flowers, tripping and stumbling across the "very 3-dimensional" flowers in pursuit of nectar, getting pollinia caught on their legs. Well, you know the rest of the story as the bees (as in the "birds and the BEES!") continue their visitation to other butterflyweed flowers. This species is also an alternate host for the monarch butterfly caterpillar, easily identified by its tiger striped appearance, which miraculously and marvelously becomes one of the most intriguing and lovely of all butterflies. Metamorphosis of this type may as well be happening for the first time for me, each and every time, I absolutely never tire of being amazed! And do us all a favor, BUY yours, don't collect it from the wild...remember that taproot? You'll probably break it during your aimless shoveling, killing it in the process. Now, as for that plant in the seed production stage, right nearby the milkweed, you'll find our native columbine

(Aquilegia canadensis)....and speak about contrasts, whereas the Asclepias represented one of the most advanced flowering plants, columbine is one of the more primitive ones.....don't know why, take Paul Fantz's class! Anyway, columbine couldn't be easier to start from seed, which appear as shiny black specks when shaken from the jester cap-like seed capsules. Flowers are primarily pinkish-red and spurred, nodding in early spring on wiry, dangly stems. I like a little protection for them in the garden, and while they've been known to grow in thimble-sized portions of organic matter clinging to rocks, they will flourish in cultivation! So much for here today, gone tomorrow!

Whew, after that long-winded treatment of a couple of herbaceous natives, finish your lunch hour with a quick run over to the West JCRA.....walk straight ahead about halfway down the grass path and turn to your right. You should see a puffy, wispy, kind of free-form shrub with irregular patches of pink plumes amidst thread-like foliage on haphazard, woody branches. This plant, Tamarix ramosissima 'Summer Glow', is aptly named as "ramos" means "branched" and the ending is simply a handy built-in exaggeration meaning "VERY" without using ordinary extra-word adjectives to do the same thing.....at first glance,'Summer Glow' is bellissima with a visually display decidedly fortissima! Tamarisks usually inhabit coastal habitats of the Mediterranean, often on salty soils; functionally, T.r. has been an important erosion control species in beach areas of the same geographic region. From the looks of our specimen, heavy pruning of individual canes seems to keep it filled out and full looking.....this is really a neat plant worth a look, a bit unkempt but in a way that precludes acerbic indignation.

As usual, I didn't plow through all I wanted to, but, hey, its a weekly journal, not an autobiography....come visit and see these wonderful plants for yourself, and until next time......

Bob Lyons


Date: 24 May 1999

From: Bob Lyons

Subject: JCRA Weekly.....Jumpin' Jun

Welcome to our new subscribers. One thing's for sure, this list is not holding still, thanks in no small part to being able to "tag on" from our Web site (http://www.ncsu.edu/jcraulstonarboretum), I know we are reaching hundreds!

You know, sometimes plants get common or cultivar names that just don't fit, or they're so embarrassingly silly that you can't bring yourself to repeat them even when you want to buy them in the worst way (e.g. Hemerocallis 'Eenie Weenie',,,,,really, I'm not lying, there is such a daylily!). Fortunately, that is not the case for Juniperus virginiana 'Grey Owl', a neat selection of our native eastern red cedar with a fine cultivar name. Indeed grey-blue in color, its branches are somewhat pointed, upright and spreading and, if you use a little imagination, look like owl's ears with that extra tuft of feathers at the tips. Keep it in full sun, however, or you risk losing this plant's identity and perhaps the plant itself! You need to check out its cones now, although that won't be hard as long as you know what to look for. If you're thinking big, brown, scaly structures, forget it. While coniferous and assuredly related to the more familiar cone-bearing trees like pines, this juniper possesses pea-sized cones that resemble bluish-grey beads pasted up and down the branches, giving a decidedly ornamented display. It's definitely a candidate for the "reach out and touch someone" set since rubbing these cones will eradicate the bluish coating....also called the bloom....not to be confused with flowers....but you knew that! Look for this specimen in bed E-25 (that's in the EAST section, bed 25....note the brown markers at the edges of all our beds).

Nearly opposite the 'Grey Owl' you'll find a very unusual coniferous relative, Platycladus orientalis, certainly not a species overflowing strip mall inventories of bargain plants! Sometimes called the Oriental Thuja (PLEASE don't invite weird looks and arms akimbo with a hard "j", pronounce it like a "y"!), focus again on the cones which project the same eerie, ghostly, moonlit- cast blue also characteristic of 'Grey Owl'. However, rather than a pea analogy, I'd compare these cones to horned marbles....horned what??? Imagine a thin coating of rubber cement on a marble's surface allowed to dry ever so slightly, then picked up between the thumb and 2 fingers and shaken loose quickly.....what's left are several drawn out points of glue firmly solidified into static projections....have I got your attention? In any event, take off your 3-D glasses now and concentrate on coming by to see this interesting specimen. This species flourishes on well-drained, often alkaline soils, preferring gravely, coarse sites to heavy clays and muck. They are usually found along rough slopes and steep, rocky cliffs in Western China....for the water garden these are not, but winter hardy, oh yes! Bed E-47 harbors this specimen.

The third plant in this week's spotlight is Sambucus nigra 'Laciniata', the lace-leaf black elderberry in bed E-32. Not a US native but still related to the American elderberry (S. canadensis), the lace-leaf black elderberry can be of great confusion to those knowing just enough about plants to be dangerous. Its white flowers, clearly evident right now, have a superficial appearance of large clusters of queen anne's lace, but don't think for a minute there's a close botanical relationship, that answer will not get you into Final Jeopardy nor win you Ben Stein's Money! Its foliage (even the lacy type) may pass as a close double for sumacs, but wrong again. This small tree may potentially reach 30 ft., ours is perhaps half that height, and has a fissured, corky trunk. This elderberry is planted in mixed hedges and may be valued in some circles for the more connoisseur interests of wine making from its berries and flowers (!), as well as jelly production from the same plant parts. People will just consume anything, won't they?....who would have ever guessed that the floral corollas of S. niger, in addition to the berries, concoct a snappy beverage, sparkling or still, chilled, of course! Salud!

Until next time...........Bob Lyons


Date: 17 May 1999

From: Bob Lyons

Subject: JCRA....eclectic mix

Greetings to our new subscribers, especially those who signed up via the new option on our web page (http://arb.ncsu.edu)!

OK, all you northern transplants to the Raleigh area, listen up, then rush out to the JCRA if you thought that all an amaryllis bulb (Hippeastrum x hybridum) was good for after flowering was the compost pile. I KNOW you know what these plants look like, they are staples during the holiday season with long, leafless stalks topped by a cluster of 2 or more flowers often in multiples of 2. You've likely purchased them as bulbs, placed them into pots, added water, provided light and.....voila! The pet rock never had a chance! Anyway, we've got literally dozens, maybe hundreds of amaryllis IN THE GROUND and IN FLOWER right now, and they are spectacular in shades of reds, whites and bicolors....in fact, our red cultivar literally defines the familiar NCSU hue so I'm wondering if the wolf's days are numbered; gulp, did I say that??? Perhaps not! These bulbs survive the Raleigh winter and are flowering flamboyantly and profusely throughout our Southall, east and west areas. I doubt you'll have trouble spotting them. Amaryllis are indeed true bulbs, unlike so many other species which must live unfairly maligned by the "bulb" misnomer when they are actually corms, tubers, or rhizomes....victims of the perpetual errors of the casual or "wannabee" horticulturist. When's the last time you asked for gladiolus or bearded iris "bulbs".......gotcha! What you really meant was "corms" and "rhizomes," respectively. In any event, the secret to bulbs is below ground; they are a perfect example of that "good things come in small packages" gig. Amaryllis bulbs are actually composed of specialized, compressed leaf bases, not roots, which continually add to the bulb's diameter as new leaves are produced and old ones die. Slicing the bulb open from top to bottom would reveal additional, partially developed flowers and leaves alternating along a crooked axis inside the bulb. Unlike tulips and daffodils, these bulbs require no chilling to release the embryonic flowers from dormancy (that's a whole other email!); they just keep tabs on the prevailing environment and grow out on cue. Did I mention that each flower averages 6 or more inches across, enough to cast shade (but not aspersions) on any generic groundcover!

In light of that long (winded) discourse above, let me quickly highlight a few other reasons to visit this week. You MUST come see the Finley-Rice Rose Garden; why you'd think you got sucked into a vortex of confetti, courtesy of the Crayola 64-pack! The first flush of flowers is incredible and the cooler temperatures have kept the colors deep, saturated, and long-lasting. Watch out for those thorns, however, but you'd only have to worry if you had designs of absconding with some for yourself.....hey, that's what florists are for! And finally, here's another plant to flatter your olfactory sense, Trachelospermum jasminoides, certainly a reason to release that "scratch and sniff" computer screen we're all waiting for; we've got touch sensitive screens, so why not this? Trachelospermum's sweet fragrance originates from creamy white flowers which are based right outside the JCRA staff office, but you'll detect it anywhere downwind, just follow your nose! And don't forget to follow Beryl Rd.to the JCRA, we think you'll enjoy every minute!

Until next time.......Bob Lyons


Date: 10 May 1999

From: Bob Lyons

Subject: JCRA.......boxed in!

Greetings to our new subscribers! I've been surprised by the responses I've received to this weekly edition from the JC Raulston Arboretum. Although I know of several hundred on our recipient list, we must get "forwarded" from the looks of return comments....that's OK, we're completely "plagiarizable!"

To better set the tone for this week, may I suggest the addition of some ambience tunes in the background, say, perhaps, the "Florida Suite" by Frederick Delius. His style is remarkably romantic for a composer bridging the 20th century where his peers took dissonance and cacophony to surprisingly new heights....!!!

Let's venture into the JCRA where I've not yet highlighted in the past...the Southall Garden. Its the area surrounding the small brick house that greets you on the right coming up the driveway. Walk to the west side where a huge white oak (Quercus alba....why isn't that "albus?") looms overhead, dangles a welcome swing, and protects our collection of boxwoods (Buxus spp.). The undeniable popularity of the genus Buxus has always intrigued me. It is revered by both the British and US gardeners in the southern states of the "original 13." Perhaps it's their stiff stems, lustrous green/glaucus foliage, and a temperment to be manicured with scissors better suited to a pedicurist that create their appeal. And they are not to be spoken of in ill terms, for their afficionados are many and will rush to their defense. Diversity defines even the most common of species, Buxus sempervirens. Our cultivar, Pyrimidalis, echoes its apt namesake, being much more narrow at its high point than at ground level; then there's 'Vardar Valley' which is globose in habit with new foliage emerging bluish green and soft in texture; 'Salicifolia elata' sports droopy, loose, and almost pendulous branches, but not quite as pendulous as those I saw for a boxwood in the garden of John Fairey near Houston, Texas recently! Do you see the genus for "willow"(Salix) in that cultivar name, attesting to the foliar similarity between the plants.....imagination has always been the strong suit for horticulturists! And lest you think that green reigns king, the cultivar Elegantissima is beautifully, if not irregularly, variegated with creamy margins and unpredictable green centers to its tiny foliage. While the "box," as they are often called (as if we really needed to shorten the word "boxwood!") make attractive landscape specimens, they are also the favorites of wreath artists around the holidays. These are evergreens, so viewing is 12/365! And as for flowers,

Another woody plant worth mentioning, and nearby the boxwoods, is the Illicium floridulanum alba,the anise shrub. Located in the Klein-Pringle white garden, right inside the main entry, this lovely southeast US native Illicium has white (creamy) flowers that resemble a cluster of dangling, poached starfish teathered to leathery, evergreen leaves about 3" long. There's a fragrance, kind of, although I had to get up close and personal, and it was more fresh smelling than anise-like in nature but, really, isn't odor really in the nose of the beholder??? Honestly, how many of you can really discriminate among all those scented geraniums?? Enough said.

Until next time........Bob Lyons


Date: 26 Apr 1999

From: Bob Lyons

Subject: JCRA.....unpronouncable!

First, welcome to the newcomers receiving this update! On my recent trip of discovery through the JCRA, I unintentionally gravitated towards a few plants whose names were never meant to be spoken, and for those of us who remember plants after endless mental repetition, there could be trouble. Go ahead, say these out loud!

1. Located about midway down the mixed shrub border along the south side of the JCRA, its a lot easier to spot Beschorneria septemtrichonalis than recite its name. B.s., let's call it that for brevity sake, is a most unusual member of the Agave family and it's in flower right now. Don't look for flamboyance, its allotment has been all but exhausted in its scientific name; instead, check out the rosette of strappy, 2 foot green leaves from which several 2.5', rigidly-branched, wine red scapes originate (do you think I could add just one more adjective?). Flowers are stiff and pendulous, with a curious resemblance to an inverted tulip in shades of red and green. Grow it on the dry side or risk its disappearance from the landscape.

2. Pyracomeles vilmorinii may not seem too difficult to say, and to some unworthy of any tongue-twister status, but when you consider that it is actually an intergeneric hybrid between Osteomeles subrotunda and Pyracantha crenatoserrata.....well, I rest my case! Our shrubby specimen is in full flower and passes pretty well for a lone bank of snow in the West JCRA. Later this fall it will have masses of coral-red fruits covering its thornless branches, yes thornless! Quite a contrast to last week's Poncirus. This hybrid was reportedly introduced in 1922 and is cultivated much like the Pyracantha, what you may know better as firethorn.

3. OK, so Bignonia capreolata should be about as easy as saying "dog" or "cat" compared to the previous plants, but our viny specimens are so spectacular I couldn't omit them today! And I can think of a particular secretary in Kilgore Hall who has become especially smitten with their allure so as to threaten to take ours while we're not looking! We have 3 cultivars of these, the cross vines: 'Jekyll' being orange in color, 'Tangerine Beauty', and 'Atrosanguinea' which, as this name implies, is "especially red." There are so many trumpet-shaped flowers/plant that seeing the foliage may indeed be challenging. Look for ours along the JCRA's east border chain link fence, at the entrance to the Lath house, nearby the JCRA office, and climbing a pole in the east/Beryl Rd. area of the JCRA. And do you now what's especially cool, it's in the same family (Bignoniaceae) as the Catalpa tree; remember, relatively speaking, its all in the flowers! And why call it a "cross vine?" Cutting the stem of this North American native reveals a "cross" pattern; OK, what else do you need to want this plant?

Until next time......Bob Lyons

Robert E. Lyons

Professor of Horticultural Science
Director, JC Raulston Arboretum


Date: 20 Apr 1999

From: Bob Lyons

Subject: JCRA Weekly

Welcome to the 19 April edition from the JC Raulston Arboretum! On a quick note, those upside down soda bottles attached to stakes are part of a study monitoring Asian ambrosia beetles, a pest of woody ornamentals; the inter-departmental study is headed up by Drs. Baker, Ranney, and Schal, and Mr. Bambara. They are NOT water coolers!

Today's journey will focus entirely in the West JCRA and most of the highlighted species are woody; uh oh, could the assimilation be in full swing?

Drawn by a familiar fragrance, I trekked back to the Western edge of the chain link fence to what I thought was the empress tree (Paulownia tomentosa) from a distance: cordate (heart-shaped) leaves and long, upright panicles of flowers positioned amongst last year's reproductive remnants. However, this species, P. fortunei, differs visually from its cousin by having noticeably larger, creamy white flowers (not purple), each with a dense airbrushing of dark speckling in the flattened floral throat. Now, push your nose into the flowers (when no one is looking, of course!) and if you don't walk away with a distinct urge to order a cream soda, then a quick trip up to New York City is in order!

Right nearby is Platanus occidentalis 'Howard' (golden sycamore), a stately and stunning tree whose new leaves seem to be screaming for nitrogen. Not so, however, as each leaf expands to paste its pale green blade against the blue sky....this combination is quite a contrast either up close and personal or from a distance. And our specimen is very mature, as evidenced by its stature and the dangling "sputniks" of spent flower clusters. Not convinced? Then I suspect the exfoliating bark will win you over!

Right around the bend, almost directly behind bed marker "W40" sits Opuntia 'True Burbank Thornless' in the Southwest garden. And while there are no flowers to steal the show yet, this prickly pear is anything but! Opuntias are often annoying, troublesome and painful to passers-by who inadvertently brush against the clusters of detachable spines. This writer knows this for a fact! A few lodged in the skin may take days to work themselves out. This cultivar, however, is completely spineless; no slight on its character, just its morphology.

A bit further east and opposite the opuntia, lies the Flying Dragon hardy orange (Poncirus trifoliata 'Flying Dragon'). Contorted and twisted by design, one might think this to be Harry Lauter's revenge, with one dangerous exception....those thorns. Measuring more than an inch long and aptly pointed, this plant is a formidable weapon in progress. I've often wondered why folks spend a lot of money on those invisible pet fences when this plant might accomplish the same end. And as for the oranges, they follow the ordinary white flowers and measure about he size of a pea right now....they will mature to be VERY tart and pungent....Minute Maid will waste no time with them!

Until next time..........Bob


Date: 5 Apr 1999

From: Bob Lyons

Subject: JCRA.....late night impressions

This virtual visit will take you throughout the 8 acres of the JCRA....don't forget your Birkenstocks!

The secret's out, I've discovered one of the clandestine meanings for the look, shape, and position of The Necessary (our restroom!) in the JCRA, at least from my perspective. In the short time I've been here, I've heard more comments about this facilty than most anything else (I like it!). While crouching down with my camera along the east path that separates the magnolias from The Necessary area, my peripheral vision caught a magnificent specimen of Chamaecyparis pisifera 'Filifera Aurea'. This golden form of the Sawara Cypress is tall and conical, and when visually aligned with the roof of The Necessary to its rear, a geometric echo resounds between the inanimate and the living.....you gotta see this for yourself!

Way out in the West JCRA, you know, that area you often neglect because you spent too much time in the rest of the Arboretum, you'll find a lovely, fragrant wisteria beginning to flower: Wisteria venusta (silky wisteria) is trained to one of the cross-like supports at the distant west end of the row. It's white, too, adding a dimension of uniqueness to your personal inventory of the genus if all you're used to is the color purple. And if you live for wisteria, you must check out our collection which has been trained to tree forms, directly across from the rose garden in the east, they're in flower too!

On the smaller side, return to the lath house area where you viewed last week's creeping phlox. A quick turn of the head to the left will reveal the emerging flowers of one of the blue-eyed grasses (Sisyrinchium idahoense). These are wonderful perennials with starry, blue-purple blooms borne on wiry stems amidst grassy foliage.....its a western North American species, but I bet you guessed that from the species name, however you might be surprised to know that it is also in the iris family.....that tell-tale inferior ovary...go figure! Its flowers are fleeting.....go now!

Back in the Almanac Garden across from the Paradise Garden you'll find the lesser known Syringa laciniata (syn: S. protolaciniata), the cutleaf lilac. No overwhelming fragrance here, just a delicate presentation of numerous flowers well-spaced along an extended branch....light purple to be sure. This writer hears that Raleigh winters may not satisfy the needs of the common French lilac (S. vulgaris), so here's a reasonable option for syringa addicts!

Finally, the mixed border which parallels the Certified Nurserymen Plant Collection to the south, is coming alive! Amelia Lane and her co-volunteers do amazing things here, and that alone is worth a visit, but this area also harbors our ornamental strawberry: Fragaria indica 'Pink Panda'. Find it towards the west end of the border, creeping delicately (that won't last long!) and displaying richly pink, typical strawberry-like flowers. Remember, we consider these ornamental, so to all the small fruits types out there, we're watching you!


Date: 29 Mar 1999

From: Bob Lyons

Subject: JCRA.....awakening!

I made the following notes after taking a tour of students through on Sunday morning....lovely sunny day, a bit cool. With the weather warming up, you know it will be pleasant at the JCRA this week:

The Corinthian ornamental peaches are in full flower! Developed by Horticulture's own Dr. Dennis Werner, these small trees are easily seen along the fence facing Beryl Rd. Trees are columnar, as their name would imply (could the Doric and Ionic series be far behind, Denny???), and individual flowers are large, double, and produced abundantly. Look for cultivars in white, mauve, pink, and rose, with the latter two accompanied by red leaves....very cool!

From the pedestrian ranks of herbaceous perennials, Phlox subulata (creeping phlox) is infrequently included in elite collections. After all, how special can a plant be that freely and tamely naturalizes in forgotten turf, often surviving well past the life of the house that used to stand on the lot.....however, don't count out the cultivar Laurel Beth. Truly a standout, look for intensely pink flowers barely elevated above unique, rosy cream colored-variegated foliage. You'll find ours cascading over the railroad tie edge outside the lath house along the driveway.....unlike shooting deer from your car, shooting pictures from the passenger's seat is perfectly legal! Pack your cameras!

I've often thought that foliage is best appreciated just as it appears. With intense colors, unblemished surfaces, and intact shapes, the absence of flaws heighten their beauty, at least until the late freeze or spring hail storm hits. Walk back to the Paradise Garden; you know, the bamboo palace, and look for Acer palmatum 'Kiyohuma Yatusubusa' (Japanese maple) in one of the raised beds. The low, arching branches are covered in a dense display of rich green leaves, each outlined with a thin red line. Exquisite!

Finally, check out the pansies smack in the center of the JCRA. The commercial demand for winter color has launched the popularity of these plants to new heights in a relatively short time. This winter has been kind to the array of cultivars on display this year....like a Raleigh winter could really be rough? (no letters, please!) You'll be able to compare the performance of the smallest flowered Viola williamsii and the larger flowered V. x wittrockiana....and you thought all pansies were the same!

Until next week............!


Date: 22 Mar 1999

From: Bob Lyons

Subject: The JCRA...visit us!

With spring officially here, take a break and trek to the JC Raulston Arboretum. Here is just a fraction of what you'll see:

Cercis, Cercis, Cercis, have we got Cercis (redbuds)! Of particular interest now is C. chingii and C. vunnanensis which are loaded with flowers on leafless branches.....look for these in the West JCRA.

In the lath house you can see one of the few herbaceous plants capable of giving hosta a run for its money.....Pulmonarias (lungworts). In full flower right now are Pulmonaria 'White Wings', 'Highdown', and the uniquely variegated 'David Ward'. These early blooming members of the Boraginaceae share taxonomic company with the familiar Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia) and Forget-me-nots (Myosotis) but they may be more important in landscape terms for the flush of new foliage that follows the flowers, forming a clumping mound of mottled, silvery, striped or light green variegated foliage.....sound familiar? Look out hosta!

A older specimen of Prunus persica labeled "NCSU dwarf double red" should be stunning any day now as its large, reddish flower clusters open.....it will likely be visible very soon from Beryl Road through the chainlink fence before you get to our entrance.

In the Garden of Winter Delights you'll find a very noticeable member of the Euphorbiaceae, one of the hottest plant families with plant geeks these days, and I'm not talking poinsettias....Euphorbia amagdaloides is a deep reddish-purple throughout and its classic, bract-based flowers are just unfurling. It's not even a foot tall and it will be on your right as you walk along the path.

Remember, if you miss a week, you'll miss a plant!

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