By Kay Whatley, Editor
When Garden Treasures nursery opens in April 2019, a ribbon will be cut, a craft show will cascade along the walking paths, educational talks will be offered, and visitors will have the opportunity to view many unique plants that only a few have ever seen.
More on the unique plants later; first, a little about the opening of Garden Treasures.
Open House Celebration
The “Grand Opening and First Annual Open House” for Garden Treasures is scheduled for Saturday, April 20, 2019, 9am-5pm, at their newly-built nursery, located at 3500 Edgemont Road, Wendell, North Carolina.
Pat McCracken, nursery manager, will be on-hand to welcome customers into their network of greenhouses.
Garden Treasures has installed over two acres of greenhouses, plus an acre of outdoor garden, with expansions in the works.
The Grand Opening will kick off at 9am with an official ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Following the ribbon cutting, visitors may peruse the plants available for sale, and check out locally grown, unique plants that they may never have heard about.
During opening day, displays along the greenhouse path will showcase works of approximately 20 juried craftspeople. An artist in his own right, Pat wanted the craft show to be part of their opening day activities so that visitors may enjoy floral beauty alongside works of art. Displays will be up 9am-5pm with items for sale by each craftsperson.
Educational lectures and demonstration on horticulture, by local experts on a wide range of topics, will take place throughout the day. Topics will include how to process green tea — along with a tea tasting, camellia breeding demonstration, how to grow and care for carnivorous plants, selecting and marketing new plants, and how to design a shade garden.
The nursery office, currently under construction, will be open for retail plant sales 9am-5pm. Visitors may purchase shade plants, tropical plants, camellia bushes and trees, a new introduction of magnolia, and groundcovers.
Garden Treasures will be open for retail plant sales throughout the Spring, and then re-open in the Fall. Check garden-treasures.com for hours of operation. The nursery will also be a wholesale resource for those in the horticultural trade.
Unique Plants and A Breeding Program
The two acres of greenhouse space at Garden Treasures provide cover for plants, trees, and shrubs — from tropical plants to shade-growing perennials to camellias and magnolias.
Garden Treasures is home to plants found nowhere else — some produced by the nursery’s breeding program. Creating a new plant variety is painstaking work, taking decades of work before the resulting plant variety is named, and made available to the public.
Why does it take so long? Well, camellias, for example, take a year to make a seed. Then, the seed is planted and, if it germinates, the resulting plant may grow for three to five years before flowering, and then continued plantings and testing will take many more years before a new variety is named and released.
Pat McCracken works with David Parks, of Camellia Forest Nursery in Chapel Hill, on the active breeding program. One of the new breeds, Camellia sasanqua ‘Fall Fantasy’, is the product of more than 30 years of breeding. The Camellia ‘Fall Fantasy’ was first produced by David’s father, Clifford Parks. Clifford started breeding this camellia in the 1980s. David continued his father’s work, and Fall Fantasy PPAF will soon be ready for sale.
Magnolia ‘Stellar Ruby’, a hybrid of what is commonly called a banana shrub, was selected because of several traits: fast growth, narrow pyramidal habit, heavy flowering, cold-hardiness. Add to that the fact that it is evergreen and has a tropical fruit-like fragrance that can be detected from 100 feet away. The plant’s attributes are one result of decades of breeding by Pat. With cuttings currently growing, ‘Stellar Ruby’ will be available through Garden Treasures at a future time.
While sales are beginning for their most-tested varieties of camellias and magnolias, David and Pat continue the breeding program. They are currently working on varieties that may not be fully developed in their lifetimes.
In addition to the camellias created through the breeding program, Garden Treasures offers heritage camellia plants. Camellia varieties that were named 150 years ago (or more) are available at the nursery, grown from heritage plant cuttings.
Breeding can modify different plant attributes:
- petal color or variegation/streaks**
- single or double flowers
- leaf color or shape
- bud density or coloration
- structure (bush, tree, branching, pyramid/cone, etc.)
- length of flowering season (up to seven months)
- disease resistance
Some “failures” in breeding will not be sold, but are kept for future breeding trials.
**Interesting note: variegated or striped flowers may be inherited genetically or by introducing a virus to the plant.
Nursery Sustainable Practices
Part of the on-site nursery garden is designed for water filtration and the health of the property’s ponds. In an environmentally friendly cycle, the computer-controlled watering system and 6,000+ feet of piping and French drains handle rain, pond water, filtration, and removal of sediment.
Plants are watered from above in the greenhouses. Excess water (run-off) collects in greenhouse drains, is routed to a catchment system, then the water flows across the nursery and through an area of water-loving irises.
The irises are the first step in filtering the water. The water then flows through a “wetland” of aquatic plants, before eventually rolling downhill to the pond where the water started its journey.
This natural system will ensure the pond is healthy, even becoming cleaner over time — unlike average farm ponds that are impacted by direct crop run-off and suffer algae overgrowth and contamination.
In addition to the Wendell nursery’s retail location, Garden Treasures operates off-site greenhouses in Zebulon, NC. These greenhouses are not open to the public; they are for propagation and young plant production as well as growing tropical plants.
In their first year of life, plants may live in the off-site greenhouses. When they have grown enough, then they will be moved to Garden Treasures and given more time to grow, or made available for purchase.
The off-site location will only be opened for horticulture classes on specific dates. See the website for dates and topics.
Ed. Note: The nursery’s Garden-Treasures.com website is expected to be completed by early February 2019.