Friday, June 16, 2017

2017 American Peony Society Convention Tour of Plant Delights Nursery & Juniper Level Botanic Garden

Tony Avent Leading the American Peony Society Tour
of Plant Delights Nursery

Everyone seemed to enjoy the witty antics and educational tour given by Plant Delights Nursery owner, Tony Avent. He showed off all kinds of rare plant hardier than their "normal" growing zones and told us about his current mission - to continue to find and spread rare plants far and wide for the people for prosperity for the earth's own genetic biodiversity. He also shared with us about his plans to end his nursery business within 10 years, while he's set up a fund that he would like to build up between now and then so that the Juniper Level Botanic Garden will be fully self funded and continue into perpetuity for all future generations to enjoy, share in, and learn from.

Canna Lilies at Plant Delights Nursery

Purple Flower at Plant Delights Nursery

Century Plant at Plant Delights Nursery

Tony also shared with us about his mission of busting gardening myths. Growing daylilies beside hostas (sun and shade) and acidic plants near basic ones. He likes to try to grow plants outside of their normal USDA growing zones. He shared with us that the Juniper Level Botanic Garden does not use any fertilizers whatsoever - that their focus is on the preparation of the soil, which is 50% local dirt (mostly sand where he lives) and 50% compost that is made on site.

Tony Concludes the American Peony Society Tour
of Juniper Level Botanic Garden

Tony also boasted that Juniper Level Botanic Garden is in the top %5 of gardens worldwide in terms of biodiversity, which is really impressive. (However I think he really want to be #1). :-) The garden includes over 22,000 taxa of plant life. After our tour, we all took a break in the shade and enjoyed our local NC Barbeque lunch with vinegar-based pulled pork barbeque, fried chicken, cole slaw, potato salad, and hush puppies. All in all, I think this might have been our best garden tour this year.
Daniel, Sheryl, Anna, Richard, John, & Adrienne
Me & Tony Avent
Nate, David, & Jim
Joyce, Jennifer, & Jeff
Eileen & Don
Louise, Kathleen, & Marie
Piet, Vriends, Lia, & Dick
Carolyn (My Grandma) & Me

Thursday, June 8, 2017

2017 American Peony Society Convention Tour of JC Raulston Arboretum

Our tour bus dropped us off right at the new archway entrance for the JC Raulston Arboretum, a stainless steel archway with Japanese Maple leaves scattered throughout, giving it the effect of a sky of silver stars. Mark Weathington, Director of the JC Raulston Arboretum greeted our group at their Visitors Center, not far from the arched entrance. We toured their Scree and Xeric Gardens, Asian Valley - which did include some tree peonies, traditional Japanese Gardens - one of my favorites, Lath House, Plantsmen's Woods - which contained the bulk of the peonies donated by the American Peony Society. We also toured their Rose Garden which is now mixed with other perennials and their White Garden. Mark mentioned that they have over 6000 species of plants on just 10 acres. So if you'd like to see all kinds of plants in a more condensed setting, JC Raulston Arboretum is the place to find them all!

Mark Weathington, Director of JC Raulston Arboretum,
Greets us at their Visitor Center

2017 American Peony Society Convention Tour of Duke Chapel

Duke Chapel on Duke University Campus

I had been to Duke Chapel before, but I had never learned as much as I did when I toured it with the American Peony Society. When we first arrived, we had a bit of free time where we were allowed to walk freely around the chapel. People admired the architecture, the stained glass windows, and the fresh flowers. Eventually people started settling into the pews at the front of the chapel, and our tour guide, a current member of the chapel's choir, met us there and gave us a great talk. We learned about the 4 organs in the chapel, how they were cleaned and restored, the chapel building and its architecture and materials (stone at the bottom and a terra cotta like tile at the top), what the chapel is used for today - a interdenominational Christian church. There are no members, just participants, and although it looks like a Cathedral, it cannot be called one since it is not affiliated with the Catholic church and uses no religious hierarchy.

APS Members Listening to Tour Guide's Talk

We also learned about the gorgeous stained glass windows in the chapel, how the windows' color is not painted but infused into the glass, giving it its richness. Each window is unique, and the larger windows placed higher in the chapel have figures from the Old Testament of the Bible, while the smaller windows placed nearer to the ground level have scenes from the New Testament of the Bible. He also mentioned that the original window drawings and plans were burned when the artists attempted to put their own initials into some of the windows. However in the 1980s a grad student of the University was granted permission to install temporary scaffolding to document each window photographically and created a book about the windows.

Stained Glass Windows in Duke Chapel

2017 American Peony Society Convention Tour of Duke Gardens

American Peony Society Group Photo at Duke Gardens

The next morning of the APS Convention Tour, we boarded the bus at 8am for our first day of garden tours. When we arrived at Duke Gardens, we were met and greeted by the Director of Horticulture for Duke Gardens, Bobby Mottern. He spoke to us in their Angle Amphitheater overlooking their Peace Pond. Then our group was divided into four smaller groups each with a guide to take us through the gardens. Our group visited the White Garden, Fern Grotto, Learning Center, Moss Garden, Peony Collection, Arched Bridge, Japanese Garden, and finally the Terrace Overlook. The view was amazing!

Our Tour Group Visiting the Doris Duke Gardens

Linette Photographing the Japanese Iris

After our tour we met the rest of our American Peony Society group on South Lawn for lunch. We enjoyed delicious boxed lunches with turkey, ham, or roast beef sandwhiches with chips, pasta salad, a pickle, and of course a chocolate chip cookie! During our lunch break I had an opportunity to look at and walk inside of the Patrick Dougherty sculpture on the South Lawn. This art installation was made with natural materials, mostly wood branches that had been shaped and formed into this huge group of sculptures, which resembled a wooden Stonehenge. Overall it was a nice tour, with good (although a bit warm) weather!

Don Hollingsworth and Piet Enjoying their Lunch Break

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

2017 American Peony Society Convention Picnic at Pullen Park

American Peony Society Picnic at Pullen Park

The welcome picnic for the American Peony Society's 2017 Convention was held at North Carolina's first (and best) public park, Pullen Park. Peony friends met in the Round Pavilion Picnic Shelter for a nice spaghetti dinner with salad, garlic bread, and iced tea. It was nice to see old peony friends and meet some new ones. It was also nice to have Virginia Tech students and staff represented there who are researching successfully storing and extending the life of peony cut flowers. Convention attendees were able to pick up their convention registration materials in their APS bags. All in all the picnic was a nice start to the 2017 American Peony Society Convention!

Mike & Becky
American Peony Society Picnic at Pullen Park

Lia & Dick
Jim & Robert
Virginia Techies
Daniel, Joyce, & Rachel
Isabella, Maddox, & Adriana