A visit to Plant Delights, pt. 1

Before we headed to Asheville for the Garden Bloggers Fling, we took a detour and headed first to Raleigh, North Carolina, where we visited the Plant Delights nursery and display gardens. If you are a serious gardener, you are probably familiar with Plant Delights, a unique nursery which specializes in rare plants and especially noted for those that push the zone limits for southeastern gardens. The nursery is primarily mail-order but they do open their doors to the public on selected weekends during the year.

Frankly, I was unprepared for the wonders that awaited us here. The website says that the display gardens comprise 5 acres filled with over 18,000 varieties of plants. I believe it! There were two major gardens - a semi-sunny one near the home where owner Tony Avent lives, and a heavily shaded garden at the entrance to the nursery. Both gardens were jam-packed with plants, arranged in surprising combinations. It didn't occur to me at the time but later, at the bloggers fling, a lady made the comment that the garden is proof that you don't have to necessarily plant 3 of everything to have an effective display. 

Agave and roses - why not?
The courtyard of owner Tony Avent's home (that is him in the white shorts). Notice all the agaves in pots!
Plant Delights carries all types of plants but they have large inventories of hosta, ferns, agaves and evergreens.
A sedum that I did not get the name of

These steps led to a sunken rain garden (below)
The Rain garden where runoff water is recaptured and the impurities are filtered by the Louisiana iris.  The beautiful tree in the back is a golden wax myrtle called "Myrica Soleil" (the nursery doesn't offer it at the moment)
The rain garden, from the opposite side
A beautiful iris
They offer a huge selection of hostas. This one is called "Cathedral Windows".
I have the name of this agave jotted down somewhere. I talked to Mr. Avent and he suggested that I feature this one in a "Hot Plants" article for Alabama Gardener. Noted!
By the time I had toured the first section of the garden, I made it to the nursery where I had to contain myself. I did bring home around 7 or 8 plants. Here are a few that I bought:

Sinningia 'Scarlet O'Hara'
Liriope "Peedee Ingot" - a golden monkey grass that was just too hard to resist
Hydrangea "Lemon Daddy" - Mr. Avent highly praised this hydrangea and it glowed on the patio. I had to have it!

I also came home with:

Buddleia "Miss Molly"
Cestrum "Orange Peel"
Anomatheca laxa
Heuchera "Southern Comfort"
Abutilon megapotamicum
Leucosceptrum stellipllum "October Moon"
Canna "Panache"

In Part 2, I'll show the shade garden!

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy


  1. Oh my god, I've got instant garden envy. The front of that house is gorgeous, as are many of the sites....like the "grotto waterfall".

  2. My goodness Philip.... this place is great! I'm so glad to have seen this post and will keep an eye out for your next one! Larry

  3. Tony's garden is so great, I always have trouble staying away from his open houses. I'm lucky they are so close by to where I live.

  4. The only time I have ever been was in the middle of a severe drought, yet it was still lush and full. It's like Disney World for plant geeks.

  5. Tony's garden is wonderful, isn't it? I didn't make it to his spring open house weekends this year. I'm so glad that you got to go there.

    I couldn't get cestrum 'Orange Peel' to survive here, but I got it at a July open house and shouldn't have planted it in summer.

    My husband and I talked to Tony about his agaves last year. I'm hoping to incorporate a few in another gravel garden area that is under construction. Next year!

  6. Love the hydrangea. I really like the agave, but I'm afraid the first time I backed into it, it's a goner. The waterfall is to die for.

  7. Phillip,

    Been years since I visited there. Bet you dropped a few hundred bucks on those plants. We have at least 3 plants we got there that are thriving, the rest failed.

  8. Quite a place!

    Agave and roses - I came across this a lot in Provence a few years ago.

    I love the hydrangea. Very zesty and I bet it lights a darker corner perfectly.

  9. Oh, your pictures are wonderful! I haven't been to Plant Delights but I sure want to go. I love the golden monkey grass too.

  10. Phillip, I want to visit there, too. It looks marvelous. One question:How ever did you find room in the car for all those plants and the ones you got at BBBarns! gail

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  12. I've just added Plant Delights to my BUCKET LIST. I love their catalog and some of my plants came from there. Thanks for the great photos!

  13. Gail, it was hard finding room but we managed to squeeze them in (I also got plants from the big nursery they took us too during the Fling!).

  14. An amazing garden for an amazing plantsman. You're gonna need a bigger garden,Phillip :-)

  15. Philip - I so enjoyed your presentation on your old roses last night in Huntsville. Everything was great, and I especially loved your matter-of-fact way of telling it "like it is and how things go" when it comes to gardening in the south. All the best.

  16. Just got a chance to look on your blog...what fabulous pics...say hi to Michael...take care Ani

  17. You did well to get out the gates with only a few plants. I say few as I could see how this place would have me piling up the bed of the truck with goodies...

    With all that agave, I kept waiting to see how they make Tequila... hee hee...

  18. Your trip took about the same course as ours. I love that Hydrangea. I now want it! I can say without qualification that Heuchera 'Southern Comfort' is a total standout. It's wonderful and can take some sun. Much more than others. The leaves get huge. I grow it in several places in the garden.~~Dee


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