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Captivating Carpinus

Maybe you’ve noticed the extreme heat we’ve been dealing with lately. We previously talked about heat-tolerant selections that are capable of thriving even in the hottest of Mid-Atlantic conditions. Still, us lowly humans need to beat the heat somehow, especially if most of our time is spent outdoors whether professionally or recreationally. Where better to find reprieve than under the shelter of a large, shady tree that also has the capacity to house and sustain wildlife? This week, we’re going beneath the cool, shadowy canopies belonging to two members of the Carpinus genus and uncovering some of the lesser-known attributes and interesting facts that make these trees so fascinating.

Out with the Old Classics, in with the New Epics

Pushing the boundaries of garden design with interesting and unique ornamental plants is a foolproof way to not only keep your clients thrilled, but to also keep your own brain from spilling over with images of the same plants time and time again. Surely, there is a place for the Endless Summer® bigleaf hydrangeas and dwarf fountain grasses of the world, but they are certainly not the end-all-be-all of landscape plants. This week, let us take you on a journey of new plant selections that are designed to become the next generation of garden classics.

Landscaping for Lightning Bugs

Fireflies, lightning bugs, whatever you call them, you may have noticed an influx of the glowing evening insects this year. States throughout the Mid-Atlantic are reporting higher quantities of lightning bugs than years past. I, personally, can attest to the silent rave that happens in my yard every evening now, tiny yellow strobes composing a tapestry of starry light throughout the darkness. My childhood, as I’m sure many of yours are, is filled with memories of chasing lightning bugs around the yard, collecting them in my yellow plastic bucket with a red plastic screen top, and shaking them to encourage them to glow (my parents still chuckle about my ignorant brutality to this day).

Who's Afraid of Hemerocallis?

Let’s face it, daylilies have gotten a pretty bad rap in recent years. Hemerocallis fulva is a notorious landscape bully, disregarding smaller, more delicate plants and bulldozing its way from its original location to… well, everywhere else. After all, it’s called ditch lily because of its lack of fussiness regarding where it settles itself, often taking over low-lying roadsides, moist woodland edges, and dry, disturbed soils with ease. Naturally, this known invasion of space has led many to stray away from utilizing daylilies in the landscape, especially native plant enthusiasts who fear complete Hemerocallis havoc amongst endemic species, such as our tender native spring ephemerals.

Heat Tolerant Plants for the Sizzlin' Summer

As we brace for the heatwave that’s about to ring in the summer season and hope that it’s not a dark omen for weather to come, we wanted to take the lighter approach to embracing the oppressive warmth by celebrating some of our favorite heat tolerant selections available here at the nursery.

Magenta Mayhem

Mingling amongst the chartreuses, blue-greens, emeralds and olives, pops of bright magenta tones seem to be the predominant contrasting color throughout the gardens and production houses. Perennials and woody plants alike have begun to appear as reddish-purple beacons, fluorescent in the balmy morning fog and sparkling in the mid-afternoon sunlight. Although “magenta” is actually a term coined from colorists in the mid-19th century, originally called by its chemical name triaminotriphenyl carbonium chloride (try say that 5 times fast), it is very certainly a color that not only exists in the natural world, but is one of the primary floral hues worldwide, especially in tropical and subtropical species. Interestingly, the magnificent red-purple we’ve come to know as magenta received its name from the famously gory 1859 Battle of Magenta fought in Italy between French and Austrian battalions. The pigment, derived from coal-tar, was discovered almost simultaneously, with scientists choosing to name it after the bloody battle in an act of reverence. One’s perception of this special hue may range widely, at once appearing more purple than red, at other times redder than purple, sometimes bright, sometimes dark, but always magenta.

Poetic Poaceae

Now that the magic of May has faded, with much of the springtime color we’ve come to enjoy around the nursery ending while we linger on the cusp of summer blooms, the time to celebrate the variances of green textures, tones, and shapes is upon us. We’ve talked before about the important ecological role that our Midwestern-American grasslands play in maintaining the balance of so many critically endangered mammalian and avian species. This week, we’re getting a little closer to home, talking more about the geographical, ecological, and, of course, ornamental properties of three strappy garden sidekicks (that hopefully after today will become more than just sidekicks in your installations).

For all intents and purposes, when we say “grasses”, this week we really do mean good ole true grasses – those belonging to the family Poaceae. We’ll get to the sedges and rushes of the world at a later date, but today we’re getting into the nodes and culms of it all.

Magical May Medicinals

Maybe I’m biased as a late-May baby (the 23rd, if you’re wondering), but the middle to end of the month of May is quite possibly one of the most magic-filled moments in the natural world. At this point, irises of all colors have made themselves known, trees are pretty much completely leafed out and full of color, and tentative summer flower buds are beginning to emerge above lush, green basal foliage. The birdsong is plentiful, bees are back to buzzing about, and tiny discoveries await hidden amongst the foliage and flowers of Pleasant Run and beyond.

Count on Clematis

Recently, my best friend and her husband moved into a charming suburban townhome that had previously been owned by an elderly woman with a penchant for perennials, having adorned her garden beds with black and brown-eyed Susans, various mints, a healthy Amsonia hubrichtii specimen in the middle of the yard that I (somewhat obnoxiously) begged and pleaded my friend’s husband not to remove (with the help of Mt. Cuba’s recent trials, they’re now both fully on board with its presence), and even poke weed as a fruiting ornamental for the birds.

May the Fourth be With You

For all you Star Wars fanatics and sci-fi nerds, May 4th is a great day to make one of the oldest calendar-appropriate dad jokes as relentlessly as you can while annoying friends, colleagues, and loved ones all at once. Perhaps you’d like to take it one step further and cultivate a space-themed garden or outdoor space that subtly encompasses the otherworldliness and ethereal qualities of the great unknown beyond our atmosphere. Here are some out-of-this-world plant selections that not only shoot for the stars, but go to infinity and beyond with their landscape performance and beauty.

Arbor Day

Happy Belated Arbor Day! Really, who says you can’t celebrate all weekend long? We hope you’re getting up to some serious tree planting and gardening this weekend, with some time set aside to admire your local sun-dappled canopies that are coming alive with greenery. Arbor Day is celebrated across multiple continents after being conceived in the 1870’s by a hopeful journalist named Julius Sterling Morton, who managed to successfully inspire the citizens of Nebraska City enough that they planted approximately one million trees around the city. It wasn’t until nearly 100 years later that President Nixon would proclaim Arbor Day a National Holiday, after which it would claim its place on the calendar, falling on the last Friday of April. In honor of the traditions and legacy of Arbor Day, we’re highlighting some of our favorite tree selections that we have breaking dormancy around the nursery.

All Roads Lead to Rhododendron

We’ve made it to azalea season! With spring fully underway, the nursery is bustling with pops of color appearing everywhere from the canopies to the understories, killdeer frantically attempting to make gravel nests along the edges of the newly plastic-less production houses, and the fluctuating warm and cold weather that seems to be keeping us on our toes constantly. As deciduous trees and shrubs unfurl leaf buds and evergreen plants start to push new growth, amongst them are some of the most notorious and recognizable species to even the greenest of plant novices. The Rhododendron genus is comprised of true rhododendrons, or “rhodies” as we’ll affectionately call them going forward, as well as the azalea group which share a genera name and some physiological attributes with true rhodies but for all intents and purposes are completely different plants. In fact, deciduous azaleas are actually a subgenus of rhododendron, which means that all azaleas are rhododendrons, but all rhododendrons are not azaleas – kind of like how a square is a type of rectangle, but rectangles are not considered squares. You get it.

All-American Asimina triloba

We’re giddy with excitement about our containerized pawpaw patch that’s full of mature, fruit-bearing-aged trees looking for their forever homes. These mature specimens are loaded with the odd-looking bronze-purple flowers that are, apparently, being actively pollinated when our backs are turned. Night-pollinating beetles and daytime flies, most likely, are the culprit for the tandem emergence of the tiny, fingerlike baby fruits that likely give this native tree several of its other common names: dog banana, Indian banana, and false-banana, to name a few. The immature fruits do, in fact, resemble tiny bananas, while the mature fruits have a texturally similar pulp that could be likened to the soft innards of an overly ripened banana. Exotic looking, large, edible fruits grow in clusters of 4-5, and are an important nutrient-and-fat-dense food source for various mammals such as squirrels, black bears, raccoons, and opossums. Or, if you’re lucky, you’ll get to harvest some of the fruits for yourself to enjoy in baked goods, ice cream, and even summery mixed cocktails.

April Brilliance

To celebrate the arrival of April, we’re taking a deep dive into a spring-blooming favorite, Amelanchier x grandiflora ‘Autumn Brilliance’ – but don’t let the name fool you. This versatile multi-stemmed shrub (or tree form, if you so desire) is so much more than just a flowering, fruiting, bird-beloved ornamental specimen. As the offspring resulting from the cross of its North American native parents, Amelanchier laevis and A. arborea, ‘Autumn Brilliance’ apple serviceberry seems to inherit the best of both worlds.

Bloomin' Blues to Buzz About!

Usually, various hues of green represent the true arrival of spring – from the budding of deciduous trees, shrubs, and vines, to the emergent basal foliage of many perennials, the livening of semi-evergreen grasses, and the fresh flush of new growth on broadleaf evergreens. Mingled amongst the emerald, chartreuse, Kelly, forest and hunter greens, rare jewel tones of sapphire, indigo, cobalt, lapis and azure bring an unexpected curiosity to the garden. Typically, it is our native Mertensia virginica, Virginia bluebells, and even blue-flowering Aquilegia canadensis selections that come to mind for this specific and rather scrupulous palette.

Primavera de Pieris!

Viva la Spring! We made it, folks. It might not feel like it, what with the evening and early morning temperatures dipping into the 20’s and 30’s, but before we know it our long-johns and insulated jackets will be replaced with loose, breathable linens and our skin will be kissed (or burnt to a spectacular crimson if you’re like me) by the summer sun. One of the first indications that spring is in fact underway is the emergence of the pendulous, tiny bell-shaped flowers that decorate the apexes of Pieris japonica’s evergreen branches, emitting a delicate and pleasant fragrance as they waver gently in chilly early spring breezes. Sure, most of the time Japanese andromedas are the functional evergreen shrub that works as a hedge, specimen, foundation planting – you name it. But it’s only for several weeks of the year that we get to enjoy its lovely, lethal little blooms. So, this week, we’re plunging into Pieris.

New Website Launch

Right in time for spring, we bring you the brand spankin’ new Pleasant Run Nursery website! We know how many of you love and utilize the classic layout and helpful plant descriptions, resources, and availability updates that you’ve relied on for many years since our first launch. All of the same features you know and love are now amplified in a visually engaging format, including more interactive features that allow you to curate your plant lists and orders as you see fit.

Just Juniper Things

How could we try to get through the rest of the winter without having at least one week dedicated to an all-time-classic conifer? The humble juniper, a staple in gardens and landscapes throughout the world, is no stranger to even the least knowledgeable plant people. The aromatic, evergreen needles, similarly fragrant, glaucous blue berrylike cones, and universally widespread range makes Juniperus perhaps one of the most recognizable genera in the plant kingdom. Why are junipers so special, though? It’s just a coniferous evergreen, after all – why and how have they developed such a loyal fanbase throughout horticultural history to become not only a landscape standard, but a collector’s item? Surely, there must be something beyond the branches that has enchanted and bewitched folks for centuries. Well, buckle up, buckaroos, because this week we’re going on a Juniperus deep dive.

Flowers & Fragrances of February

Believe it or not, there’s quite a bit to see around the Nursery right now – we have perennials gently emerging from their winter slumbers, pushing tentative basal foliage above the soil line, and winter-blooming shrubs performing their annual routine. If you know where to look, there are wintry happenings subtly making themselves known in preparation for what we are anticipating to be a very busy spring season. While the weather is still (kinda) cold and the trees remain bare, let’s take a look at some of the fun findings from this week in production.

Presidential Plantings

In probably what will become the longest-winded way of saying “we’re closed on Monday, February 19th”, we thought, what better way to celebrate our founding fathers than by delving into some of the plants that define the gardens surrounding the White House. A continual, communal project amongst almost each of the 46 presidents in office, it can be said that plants and gardening are non-partisan activities with a shared enthusiasm nationwide, regardless of political affiliation.

Edgy Edgeworthia chrysantha

With so many of our plants currently working up their energy below the soil level, it might seem like there isn’t a whole lot to look at – unless you know exactly where to look, or you happen to be a big fan of winter garden specimens. One such specimen, Edgeworthia chrysantha, with its unique, delicately fragranced flowers coming into bloom, is quite the spectacle. Paperbush, as it’s commonly known, always seems to be a huge hit when it goes on the road with us to trade shows, attracting the attention of seasoned horticulturists and young, eager landscape architects alike.

Growing for Groundhogs

Hopefully you’re not waking up today in a Bill-Murray-style cyclical nightmare of the day before, but if you are, then you’ll be happy to know that this week, we’re helping you to kick the groundhog blues. With Punxsutawney Phil acting as the commanding officer of our Solstice/Equinox crossover, farmers, gardeners, horticulturists, and the seasonally-depressed alike, all eagerly await the emergence of the chunky brown mammal and his lack of a shadow signifying the early arrival of spring. Unfortunately, groundhogs tend to get a bad wrap in our industry, known for destroying carefully planned installations and decimating a plethora of plant material. In an effort to boost your knowledge, and dare we say, appreciation, of groundhogs, this week we’ll be exploring the tunnels and burrows of these sordid critters.

Petal Power: Peace, Love, & Peonies

As we get a handle on what we’re growing in 2024, amongst the new selections we’re offering, we also have some oldies-but-goodies in our midst. With Phlox paniculata ‘Jeana’ named the 2024 Perennial Plant of the Year, “peach-fuzz” (PANTONE 13-1023) dubbed Pantone’s 2024 Color of the Year, it almost seems fitting that 1-800-FLOWERS would follow up with the “P” theme and hail Philodendron and Peony as their 2024 Plant and Flower of the Year. Lucky for us, we’ve been on the peony train for a while. This week, ahead of the looming spring and the time-of-the-peony, we’re gonna do a deep dive into the history, cultural uses, and landscape needs of our petally pals.

Wild and Wonderful Winter

It may be hard to look past the bare branches and brown seedheads as anything other than mundane landmarks of the winter hellscape. 

Very Berry Verticillata

If you know us at all, you were probably expecting a showcase on Ilex verticillata, winterberry holly, at some point this season. Well, here it is! Without fail, our winterberry hollies are in full fruit around the Nursery – our stock crops are still a little young, and thus light on fruit, but we’ll get into that shortly. In the meantime, let’s check out some little-known Ilex verticillata facts along with pictures of some specimens that have either been intentionally planted, or volunteered themselves, around the Pleasant Run property.

Steadfast & Stalwart Semi-evergreens

Happy December! Wow, what a year it’s been! It’s hard to believe we’ve rotated through the seasons and we are once again at the cusp of an entirely new calendar cycle. Despite many of the festivities that we all have to look forward to this month, it’s right about the time of year where things start to look a little bleak and everything begins to turn inward. People are busy gathering tinsel, poinsettias and evergreen trees to decorate their homes. Obviously, evergreen conifers and even broadleaf plants like hollies have quite a presence this time of the year, and that’s not just because they smell and look nice. 

Beyond the Garden Gate

…Step by step from town to town, sweet like justice: gardens are a queen, gardens take all my friends to the summit, gardens are the plot on the green, blooming straight home to me…

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last couple of months, and more specifically the last week, then Taylor & Travis have probably been monopolizing your screen time. You probably thought you were safe here, in the comfort of the weekly Pleasant Run email. “Surely, the crossover between horticulture and Taylor Swift has to be minimal,” you think to yourself wearily, eyes heavy from scrolling through endless feel-good videos of a pop icon finally living out her fairy tale dreams. Guess again!

Brawn & Beauty: Plants of the Badlands

In honor of the brave folks who put their lives on the line to protect our vast and beautiful country, from the amber waves of grain to the purple mountain majesties, this week we’re doing something a little bit differently. Without the unwavering fortitude and valor of our Veterans, American citizens might not be able to enjoy some of their country’s most spectacular natural parks and landscapes, amongst other things. There’s a lot to celebrate this weekend - with November 10th marking the 45th anniversary of Badlands National Park’s official designation as a national park, we’re praising some of the special species that make up this diverse and ecologically critical habitat. Let’s start with some quick facts about the Badlands and what makes them so special.

Flowers of the First Frost

The precipice of winter is upon us: this week, we saw our first hard frosts of the season, greeting us each morning as a shimmering blanket of delicate ice crystals clinging to any greenery that remains. The sun seems to be scarcer and scarcer by the day, barely peaking above the treetops as the first vehicles begin rolling down the driveway and already threatening to set by the time our doors close for the evening. The inevitable truth is that winter is coming, and it’s predicted to actually, maybe, be a REAL winter, snow and all. From the day of this email being written, there are exactly 48 calendar days left before winter’s arrival. But before that happens, let’s bask in the remaining days of autumn for a little while longer: starting with our first inaugural Pleasant Run Pumpkin Carving Contest, which kicked off Halloween a little bit differently this year.

Fall Planting Facts & Fiction

Last week, we discussed the science behind the rainbow of colors that adorn our trees, shrubs, and some of our perennials this time of year. Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, many people don’t know that autumn is a fantastic time to get things planted. In our mild winters here in the Mid-Atlantic, it’s not uncommon to be popping plants into the ground all the way up until the first frost – and these days, we’re sometimes able to extend that timeframe even further. So, this week, we’re bringing you a boatload of invaluable information about the dos and don’ts of fall planting (plus, of course, some pertinent and timely pictures to get your brain noodling about some potential candidates for your next project).