JC Raulston Arboretum 35th Anniversary Symposium

"Horticultural Madness"

  • Friday, September 23, 2011 – 5:30 pm10:00 pm
  • Saturday, September 24, 2011 – 8:00 am5:00 pm

From the founding of the JC Raulston Arboretum as the NCSU Arboretum in 1976, lectures by renowned speakers have been a major part of the Arboretum's focus. And symposia, sponsored from time to time, have been an additional opportunity for in depth study. "Horticultural Madness" brings to life the amazing and bizarre world of horticulture. In this two-day symposium, prominent speakers from the United States and Wales will enlighten us with lectures on an amazing year of living botanically; eccentric to insanely driven people and their plants; bizarre botanicals; attention grabbing plants and innovative combinations; favorites from an obsessive plant collector; extreme gardening experiences and plants; and a story by a traveler to the botanically rich area of northern Vietnam.

This is a unique opportunity to further the Arboretum's mission and your own personal horticultural obsessions.


September 23, 2011 (Friday)

8:00 AM   Nursery tour (The Unique Plant, Camellia Forest, Plant Delights Nursery, and The Little Herb House – ends 4:30 PM)
12:30 PM   Lunch at Plant Delights Nursery at Juniper Level Botanic Gardens (open to all symposium participants – travel only included for those participating in the nursery tour)
5:30 PM   Registration and reception
6:30 PM   Dinner
8:00 PM   Keynote – Jim Dodson, Beautiful Madness: One Man's Journey Through Other People's Gardens Author and PineStraw Magazine Editor
"Beautiful Madness"
9:00 PM   Live auction (Tony Avent, auctioneer)

September 24, 2011 (Saturday)

8:00 AM   Registration, continental breakfast, silent action, and Pi Alpha Xi Plant Sale (ends 6:00 PM – cash and checks only) begins
8:30 AM   Tony Avent, Plant Delights Nursery at Juniper Level Botanic Gardens
"A Celebration of Eccentricities … the Plants and Their People"
9:30 AM   Break
9:45 AM   Larry Mellichamp, University of North Carolina Charlotte Botanical Gardens
"Bizarre Botanicals"
10:45 AM   Break
11:00 AM   Janet Draper, Horticulturist, Mary Livingston Ripley Garden, Smithsonian
"Spreading the Gospel of All Things Green"
12:00 PM   Lunch
1:30 PM   Hayes Jackson, Alabama Cooperative Extension Service
"Confessions of a Plantaholic: A Case Study of the Events and the Outcomes of a Southern Gardener with Blatant Horticultural Attention Deficit Disorder"
2:30 PM   Break
2:45 PM   Panayoti Kelaidis, Senior Curator Director of Outreach, Denver Botanic Gardens
"Extreme Gardening"
3:45 PM   Break
3:50 PM   Silent auction closes
4:00 PM   Bleddyn Wynn-Jones, Crûg Farms
"Exploring the Mountains of Northern Vietnam for Hardy Plants … You Don’t Necessarily Have to Be Mad, but It Helps"
5:00 PM   Auction pickup


"A Celebration of Eccentricities…the Plants and Their People"
Tony Avent, Plant Delights Nursery at Juniper Level Botanic Gardens

Tony will introduce you to some of the people, from eccentric to insanely driven, who are responsible for many of the great plants that have entered the market and share some of the stories behind their introduction.

"Beautiful Madness"
Jim Dodson, Beautiful Madness: One Man's Journey Through Other People's Gardens Author and PineStraw Magazine Editor

During an amazing year of living botanically, in quest of deepening his own ever-consuming knowledge and interest in gardening, James Dodson went behind the scenes of the world's two most important garden shows; spent time with a man nicknamed Botticelli of Bulbs; attended a rare plant auction of high rollers; got adopted as a personal project by a famous garden club of colonial dames; sneaked into a hosta convention; communed with kindred spirits of Thomas Jefferson and John Bartram; met a man smuggling exotic day lilies in the trunk of his car; spent a weekend on the Isle of Wight with Madman of Kew and his gardening wife; uncovered the secretes of ten or twelve of the Western world's most influential gardens; swiped cuttings from a Founding Father's shrubbery; hung out with some of the most accomplished gardening fanatics on earth; built three new gardens of his own; and wound up hanging perilously from a limb on the side of a cliff in South Africa, where he capped off his year of discovery by tagging along with four American leading plant hunters on an expedition into the rugged jungles to find the exotic new species of tomorrow. This presentation of shared horticultural obsessions burrows deeply into the story of how we Americans became such a fanatical nation of gardeners and are today, in fact, at the forefront of a new Golden Age of Gardening.

"Spreading the Gospel of All Things Green"
Janet Draper, Horticulturist, Mary Livingston Ripley Garden, Smithsonian

What is it like to garden in front of millions of people from all over the globe? And how does a tiny garden compete with the Air and Space Museum for a visitor's precious time? Janet applies the Smithsonian's goal of "Increase and Diffusion of Knowledge" to the Mary Livingston Ripley Garden by utilizing attention grabbing plants, innovative combinations, or just defying the accepted notion of what a public garden is expected to be.

Janet goal is to show people plants they don't know—rather than stick with the ordinary—and get people excited about the diversity and complexity of Mother Nature. She is still amazed and excited about the tendrils of a passion vines or the complex pollination methods of a Dutchman's pipe and delight in hearing a castor bean seed pod explode. These things and more are the wonders that I hope to share with my visitors.

"Confessions of a Plantaholic: A Case Study of the Events and the Outcomes of a Southern Gardener with Blatant Horticultural Attention Deficit Disorder"
Hayes Jackson, Alabama Cooperative Extension Service

Some gardeners are able to focus. Hayes cannot. His garden is a collection of collections. Over the past three decades, he has joyfully moved from one genus to another. From gingers to epimediums, agaves to bamboos, and palms to conifers.… Hayes will attempt to explain his madness and highlight some of the "best of the best" from his past plant addictions.

"Extreme Gardening"
Panayoti Kelaidis, Senior Curator Director of Outreach, Denver Botanic Gardens

Denver is a city of geographic and climatic extremes – cold winters, hot summers, low precipitation, lots of sun, and high altitude.  Gardening in such an area has its challenges and rewards. Panayoti will share some his personal and professional experiences of gardening in an extreme environment.

"Bizarre Botanicals"
Larry Mellichamp, University of North Carolina Charlotte Botanical Gardens

Bizarre Botanicals is a new book about weird plants you can grow and is Larry's symposium topic. Weird meaning highly unusual and downright strange when compared to the everyday plants. These are plants like the carnivorous Venus flytrap (and other carnivores) that trap and eat meat, clubmosses that have exploding pyrotechnic spores, giant Titan arums with overpowering stench to help with sex, flamboyant flowers such as Brazilian candles, plants with cute traits such as love-in-a-puff, manipulative orchids that beat up their pollinators and throw them down the drink, succulents that mimic rock and look like baseballs, tenacious fruits that kill desert deer, the black orchid never before seen by the average person, plants that seems to send telegraphic signals, those that shoot off pollen like cannon fire, and many more—all a part of the world of sex and death that lurks behind the seemingly ordinary serene world of benign garden plants. See for yourself what the wonderful world of plants has to offer.

"Exploring the Mountains of Northern Vietnam for Hardy Plants … You Don’t Necessarily Have to Be Mad, but It Helps"
Bleddyn Wynn-Jones, Crûg Farms

Bleddyn Wynn-Jones, plant explorer, horticulturist, and writer will be sharing his experiences in travelling the botanically rich area of northern Vietnam where the difficult mountainous terrain still holds many undiscovered or rarely seen plants. Having visited this area numerous times with his wife Sue who accompanies him on most of their expeditions over the past 20 years. There will be an opportunity to see not only the botanical treasures but some of the day to day experiences and also a glimpse of some of the culture of the area.


Tony Avent, Plant Delights Nursery at Juniper Level Botanic Gardens

Tony Avent is the owner of Plant Delights Nursery and Juniper Level Botanical Gardens in Raleigh, North Carolina. Plant Delights Nursery, an international retail mail order nursery, serves as the public face of Juniper Level Botanic Garden. Their mission is to discover, study, select, and make available new perennial plants for both shade gardens and sun gardens around the world. Since 1994, they've taken over 60 botanical expeditions and sponsored many more, both domestic and worldwide in their quest for great new plants. While the nursery offers over 1,600 different perennials at any one time, this represents only about 10% of the living plant collections featured in the gardens. The mission of Juniper Level Botanic Garden is one of aesthetic display of ornamental plants, ex-situ plant conservation, plant evaluation, plant identification, plant exploration, plant propagation, and education about the diversity of ornamental plants from around the world. Their emphasis is southeast U.S. natives, especially those of conservation concern and those whose horticultural desirability make them targets of unscrupulous collectors who decimate wild populations by selling wild collected plants.

Tony is a 1978 graduate from the Department of Horticultural Science at NC State University. After graduating, he became the landscape director at the NC State Fairgrounds. From 1985 to 1994, he was the volunteer curator of the Shade House (now the Lath House) at the North Carolina State University Arboretum. In 1987, Tony began his popular weekly garden column in the News & Observer which he continued for 11 years. Tony is an international plant explorer and has visited Argentina, China, Crete, Mexico, South Africa, South Korea, Taiwan, Texas (five expeditions), and Thailand and Vietnam and has explored the Southeast 43 times. He's a prolific hosta hybridizer and freelance garden writer and lecturer (over 640 lectures since 1990). He serves on many committees including the USDA-ARS Hardiness Zone Map Revision Advisory Committee, North Carolina Department of Agriculture Plant Conservation Scientific Committee, and the Woody Plant Advisory Committee and the Symposium Committee at the JC Raulston Arboretum. He's a contributing editor for Horticulture magazine and was an invited participant in the St. Louis Summit, a workshop on linking ecology and horticulture to prevent plant invasions.

Throughout Tony's career, he's received numerous awards including the American Horticulture Society Outstanding Commercial Award, D.H. Copeland/NC Association of Nurserymen Award, Robert Balentine Horticulture Award (Southeastern Flower Show), Marcel Le Piniec Award (North American Rock Garden Society), Nursery Innovator of the Month Award (GM Pro Magazine), Outstanding Alumni Award (NC State University, Department of Horticultural Science, NC Nurserymen Award for Landscape/Beautification of NC State Fairgrounds, Outstanding Journalism Award (Mens Garden Club of America – three times), and the Outstanding Senior (NC State University, Department of Horticultural Science). He's a member in numerous plant societies and is a founding member of the Friends of the JC Raulston Arboretum.

So You Want to Start a Nursery, published by Timber Press in 2003, was written by Tony. This comprehensive book touches on a broad range of issues that prospective nursery owners will encounter. If you or someone you know has been thinking about the "n" word, save lots of time, money, and heartache by learning ahead of time what will be involved. Small nurseries looking to expand will also benefit from the detailed information. Topics covered range from selecting the type of nursery that you will start, selecting land, irrigation, writing a catalog, pricing plants, the effect of the nursery business on family relationships, handling employees, as well as marketing your plants.

Jim Dodson, Beautiful Madness Author and PineStraw Magazine Editor

James Dodson is currently writer-in-residence for The Pilot newspaper and editor of award-winning PineStraw Magazine in Southern Pines, North Carolina, the arts and culture magazine of the Carolina Sandhills.

His regular Sunday column in The Pilot was recently awarded top prize by the North Carolina Press Association. Over the course of a 25-year golf writing career, his writing has won more than a dozen awards from the Golf Writers of America and other industry organizations. He recently served as Distinguished Charles Rubin Writer-in-Residence at Hollins University in Virginia. For two decades he was a contributing editor and regular columnist for Golf Magazine, and golf and travel correspondent for Departures Magazine of American Express.

Jim's journalism awards include the prestigious William Allen White Award for Public Affairs Journalism from the University of Kansas, plus numerous newspaper and magazine industry awards. His work has appeared in over 50 magazines and newspapers worldwide. He is member of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews and the official historian of Seminole Golf Club.

His bestselling books include Final Rounds, The Dewsweepers, Beautiful Madness, The Road to Somewhere, Faithful Travelers, A Golfers Life (with Arnold Palmer), and Ben Hogan: An American Life, which won the USGA International Book Award in 2005. In 2008, he was a featured commentator in the award-winning HBO documentary Back Nine at Cherry Hills.

His latest book, A Son of the Game, published in 2009 by Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, was recently named Top Golf Book of the Year by the International Network of Golf. He is currently at work on American Triumvirate: How Ben Hogan, Sam Snead and Byron Nelson Created the Modern Age of Golf, to be published in early 2012.

In early 2011, Jim was named winner of the prestigious Donald Ross Award, given annually by the American Society of Golf Course Architects, for his significant literary contributions to the game of golf.

Dodson resides in Southern Pines, North Carolina with his wife, Wendy.

Janet Draper, Horticulturist, Mary Livingston Ripley Garden, Smithsonian

Growing up in a rural farming community in Indiana, Janet always knew she wanted to do something with plants, so off to Purdue for a B.S. in horticulture. The real life training began immediately with a series of internships that took her on more adventures than she could ever have imagined.

Janet was fortunate to have fabulous mentors who guided her through a series of amazing internships. First stop was Mt. Cuba Center for the Study of Native Piedmont Plants in Greenville, Delaware, and from there, the director, Richard Lighty, Ph.D., encouraged her to work at Kurt Bluemel, Inc., in neighboring Maryland. After completing a year with Kurt learning perennials and ornamental grasses and honing her propagation skills, he suggested she gain European experience. So with Kurt's assistance, she was off to work at the famed perennial nursery of Countess von Stein-Zeppelin in Germany's Black Forest. This happened to be the year the Berlin wall crumbled so she had the opportunity to travel into formerly restricted areas to experience such things as wild hellebores in Hungary, be pickpocketted in Czechoslovakia, and see areas that time had stood still for 30 years after the war.

After that eye opening experience she jumped the English Channel to work for Beth Chatto at her amazing Nursery and Garden in Elmstead Market, England.

Once back in the States, Janet continued to gain experience at numerous nurseries from Long Island to Illinois. After nearly a decade of working in Perennial Nurseries, she then started putting plants in the ground (instead of little black plastic pots!) as an estate gardener and contractor for Oehme, van Sweden, installing and maintaining their designs.

It was through connections of a horticulture group she helped cofound in Annapolis Maryland, that she heard Smithsonian was hiring gardeners. Janet remembers her first question was, "Smithsonian has gardens?" Thirteen years later, and she is still there, playing in the dirt and talking about plants to people from around the globe.

Hayes Jackson, Alabama Cooperative Extension Service

Hayes Jackson graduated from Auburn University with a degree in Landscape Design and Ornamental Horticulture.  After working in southern California with Armstrong Nurseries, he returned to Alabama to work on his masters in Environmental Biology at Jacksonville State University.   Hayes is the Urban Regional Extension Agent with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System in Anniston where he works with community-based programs concerning urban horticulture.

An avid horticulturist and true plant collector, Hayes has ventured to places like China, the Himalayas of northern India, Japan, Korea, Thailand, Vietnam and Guatemala to look for new plants for Southern landscapes.  His gardens have been featured in many publications including Southern Living and Alabama Gardens Great and Small. 

Hayes has a 7-acre garden that contains just about one of everything. A fine example of a "botanical wonderland", the garden is mostly composed of a network of paths and densely planted beds, but the grass can be cut in 13 minutes. The garden contains large collections of palms, ginger lilies, bamboo, camellias, azaleas, conifers, hostas, natives, cacti and succulents, trilliums, cannas, elephant ears, wildflowers, magnolias, amaryllis, daffodils, hollies … oh gosh, the lists goes on, but you get the idea.  However, you won’t see a Bradford pear or a hybrid tea rose on the place.

Panayoti Kelaidis, Senior Curator Director of Outreach, Denver Botanic Gardens

Panayoti Kelaidis is a plant explorer, gardener and public garden administrator associated with Denver Botanic Gardens where he is now Senior Curator and Director of Outreach. He has designed plantings for many of the gardens at DBG, he is particularly noted for the plantings of the Rock Alpine Garden.  He has introduced hundreds of native ornamentals from throughout the Western United States to general horticulture. He has taken six collecting trips to Southern Africa researching the high mountain flora there, as well as travels to the Andes, the Himalaya (from both Pakistan and China) as well as travels throughout much of Europe, and Turkey. Many of his plant introductions are available through Plant Select®, (a plant introduction program he helped launch along with staff from Colorado State University and nurseries across America). He has lectured in over 100 cities in seven countries, and has been featured in dozens of television, newspaper and magazine pieces. He has published widely in popular and technical horticultural journals.

In recent years Panayoti has been honored with the Boulder History Museum’s 60 Year Living History award in 2004, in 2003 by being inducted into the Garden Club of America as Member-at-Large, in 2002 he received the National Garden Clubs Medal of Honor and in 2000 he received the Arthur Hoyt Scott Medal from the Scott Arboretum at Swarthmore College. He has received four awards from the North American Rock Garden Society. In 2004 he was inducted into the Colorado Nursery and Greenhouse Association’s Hall of Fame. In 2009 he received the Liberty Hyde Bailey Award of the American Horticultural Society.

Larry Mellichamp, Ph.D., University of North Carolina Charlotte Botanical Gardens

Larry Mellichamp is a botanist who as taught for over 35 years at University of North Carolina at Charlotte. He has traveled the world to see odd and curious plants. He is also director of the UNC Charlotte Botanical Gardens where most of these weird plants are on display—indoors and out. He has written about native plants, exotics for the winter garden, and our native Sarracenia pitcher plants.

Begun in 1966 on the newly-established Charlotte campus of the University of North Carolina system, the Botanical Gardens were the brainchild of biology professor Herbert Hechenbleikner, Ph.D., and UNC Charlotte founder, Bonnie Cone. The Gardens were begun to serve as a living classroom for biology students and as a horticultural and botanical resource for the campus and greater community. This was a unique beginning, as university botanical gardens usually spring from a formal horticulture or botany department. Despite the absence of those departments, the Gardens founders believed a university campus was not complete without the educational and cultural resource of a thoughtful, managed botanical garden. This vision became possible through the support of members of the Charlotte community, especially Ralph Van Landingham, and the hard work of Hubert Hechenbleikner and current director, Larry Mellichamp. Over the last 40+ years the Botanical Gardens have evolved into the special resource that exists today—comprising 10 acres of outdoor gardens, a 4,500 sq. ft. glasshouse with attached workspace, and teaching classroom that also contains a 1,200+ book botanical and horticultural library.

Bleddyn Wynn-Jones, Crûg Farms

Bleddyn was born to a farming family in 1948 in the north-west of Wales, in a part of that principality that experiences the mild influence of the Gulf Stream. Growing plants in such an environment has always been a natural process, but a practical background of a rural life mostly involved growing produce for the table. Just as natural was the progression into learning to farm. Culminating in taking on the management of one of the family farms of Crûg in 1974, eventually establishing a reputation for producing high quality beef which gained a premium price at market.

Meanwhile, ornamental plants came more to the fore, as this ancient property seemed to yearn for some embellishment. Curiosity soon found Bleddyn immersed in textbooks on the subject, coupled with visits to Bodnant Gardens and the Botanical Gardens at Bangor University, both sited close to hand. Then, suddenly in the late 1980s there was a  sudden downturn in income from beef hence an additional income was sought, eventually opting on the idea of opening a nursery to run alongside the farming enterprise. Within a year Crûg Farm Plants was established and surprised Bleddyn and his wife Sue by its popularity. This gave them the confidence and income to participate in their first seed collecting trip in 1991. Which set the trend as from that year on they have undertaken annual collecting trips of up to three months duration. Fortuitously meeting up with Dan Hinkley in 1993 while on his first collecting trip in Korea. The pair hitting it off instantly with Dan culminating in many joint collecting trips, but curiously not to China. Collecting has now become a way of life, having established a network of contacts throughout most Asian countries with mountains high enough to harbour temperate plants. Coupled with a couple of expeditions to Central America and Colombia.

Bleddyn is a regular contributor to horticultural literature in the United Kingdom as well as many television documentaries with Sue, although time has not availed itself for a book. In recent years, Bleddyn and Sue have been able to exhibit at several European flower shows earning them some of the highest honours. Culminating in 2011 in earning the RHS Chelsea Flower Show Gold Medal coupled with the President's Award, the first time this has been achieved by anyone exhibiting purely self collected material, yet alone on their fist attempt.

Open House

Tony Avent is helping us kick off the symposium on Friday with an open house at Juniper Level Botanic Gardens and Plant Delights Nursery. Stroll through the gardens and take some time to shop the nursery. Juniper Level Botanic Gardens is a six-acre display garden with over 17,000 taxa in its collections and Plant Delights Nursery grows unusual and hard-to-find garden perennials. Enjoy lunch during your visit.


Auction purchases support the JCRA's general fund within the NC Agricultural Foundation, Inc.


We've planned a whirlwind nursery trip for September 23, 2011 (Friday). We're visiting Camellia Forest Nursery, Plant Delights Nursery, The Little Herb House, and The Unique Plant. Participants depart the JCRA at 8:00 AM and return at 4:30 PM. Lunch is at Plant Delights Nursery.

Brochure and Registration Form

A downloadable/printable brochure is available. Past symposia participants were mailed the brochure. If you'd like a copy, please download it or call (919) 513-7005. Please use the registration form available in the brochure or call (919) 513-7005 to register.

Cover design: The cover is comprised of 5,000 unique photographs from the JC Raulston Arboretum's photograph collection. At the time of the brochure's creation, this represented over 5% of the collection. A larger version is available for online viewing.


A limited number of rooms have been reserved at the Ramada Blue Ridge for $75.00 (single and double rates for September 22–24). The Ramada is located at 1520 Blue Ridge Road in Raleigh. It's the closest hotel to the JCRA. For more information about the hotel, please visit their Web site. To make a reservation, please call (919) 832-4100 and mention it's for the "CGJCR9" group code and the "JCRA" group block. Reservations should be made on or before September 14. The Ramada Blue Ridge offers a free hot buffet breakfast to their hotel guests.

Early registration (ends August 31, 2011): $150.00 for members and $170.00 for nonmembers. Late registration (begins September 1, 2011): $170.00 for members and $190.00 for nonmembers. Add $30.00 for the optional nursery tour.
Please call (919) 513-7005 or use the registration form in the brochure to register. The JC Raulston Arboretum cannot offer online registration for any event. Symposium registration is limited to 150 people and the tours are open to 30 people each. Registration must be received by September 21, 2011 (Wednesday).
Symposium cancellations can be made through August 31, 2011 (Wednesday). A $10 fee applies to all cancellations. No refunds will be made after August 31, 2011.
Juniper Level Botanic Gardens (Friday), the JC Raulston Arboretum (Friday and Saturday), and other area nurseries.
The JC Raulston Arboretum is located at 4415 Beryl Road and Juniper Level Botanic Gardens is located at 9241 Sauls Road, both in Raleigh.
Free parking is available at each of the sites.
For information, please call Chris Glenn at (919) 513-7005.