Connoisseur Plants

Connoisseur Plants are rare, new plants, or hard-to-find old favorites. These wonderful plants are being offered to our upper level members, Collector (formerly Sponsor) level and higher.

Please note that several plants are available in very limited quantities. For some plants, we don't know the full range of hardiness, only how it has behaved at the JC Raulston Arboretum. Sometimes, we cannot find any information in our references on a particular taxon. This does not mean that the plant doesn't exist, perhaps just that we are staying one step ahead of published information. One of the purposes of the Arboretum is to test new plants for suitability to the southeastern United States. By growing some of these "new-to-us" plants in your own garden, you can be a part of this evaluation process. Feedback from you is invaluable!

Happy choosing, and thank you for your continued and invaluable support of the JC Raulston Arboretum.

To submit your selections, please use the form link in the e-mail you received on February 21, 2024 from Kathryn Wall. If you need assistance, please e-mail Kathryn at or call (919) 513-7004 Selections should be placed no later than end of day March 3, 2024.

Note: The distribution year listed below is the year the plants were awarded. Members request them early the following year. And they're picked up or delivered shortly thereafter.

1989 Plant Selection

Aucuba japonica 'Rozannie'
Japanese aucuba

A new cultivar from Holland of this familiar broadleaved evergreen shrub widely used in the landscape. Solid green leaves, is best planted in shade and will reach 3'–4' in height. Aucubas have separate male and female plants and the attractive red fruit are not often seen in many plantings due to the lack of one sex or the other. The Dutch have selected this variety which is self-fruitful and which also has fruit double the size of normal Aucuba. It is so attractive they are selling it in Holland as a fruiting houseplant for the bright red color. Our plant was likely the first one in the United States in 1988. We hoped to have some to distribute to nurserymen by this year but did not have enough by August to do so. You will be getting it a half year ahead of any nurseryman! Plants are small (rooted cuttings) but grow rapidly.

  • evergreen shrub to 8'
  • plant in part sun
  • hardy to zone 7b

×Cuprocyparis leylandii 'Gold Rider'
golden Leyland cypress

The Leyland Cypress conifer has become a standard fixture of the N.C. landscape in recent years useful for rapid screening with 3'–4' of growth a year. This new cultivar with golden foliage was recently developed in Holland—and again we were likely the first to import a plant of this spring. (The original plant died from root damage and stress in the shipping process—but we stripped the plant of all cuttings and 15 rooted). Has the potential to provide a fast-growing, beautiful, bright golden conifer for the garden.

  • evergreen conifer to 40'–60'
  • plant in sun to part shade
  • hardy

Eleutherococcus sieboldianus 'Variegatus'
variegated five-leaf aralia

A deciduous shrub with attractive white variegated foliage which reaches 5'–7' in height and as wide. Can be grown in either sun or shade and is one of the very best plants for tolerance of difficult dry shady areas (which so many have in our wooded city lots). So outstanding that NCAN has selected it for future promotion with market release in perhaps three years.

  • deciduous shrub to 6'–10'
  • plant in sun to shade
  • hardy

Ficus sarmentosa var. nipponica

In 1985 the NCSU Arboretum was able to participate in a plant collecting expedition to South Korea to look for new and hardier plants for landscape trial. We collected seed of this species which has likely never been grown and sold commercially anywhere in the world. To this point it has been hardy in our garden trials (we've not had one of the real "killer winters" since trials began) and looks good for an evergreen ground cover vine or for climbing on brick or wooden walls. Easily propagated by cuttings and it can also be grown as a houseplant on a trellis or in a hanging basket. the leaves are about 2" long and dark green.

  • tender

Helleborus argutifolius
Corsican hellebore

The many types of Christmas/Lenten Roses are among the finest of garden perennials with evergreen foliage and attractive winter flowers. This uncommon species has dramatic large silvery-green foliage and attractive winter flowers. This uncommon species has dramatic large silvery-green foliage with toothed margins and whitish-green "flowers" which persist for months in the winter garden. It will reach 2'' in size and can live for many years making large clumps—best in shade. These are young seedling plants grown from seed distributed by the American Rock Garden Society last year.

  • hardy

Ilex (Assorted Deciduous Hybrids)

The deciduous hollies with bright red winter fruit are among the most magnificent of garden plants (see The NCSU Arbretum collection right now for living evidence!) and the new hybrids with larger and showier fruit are just entering the commercial nursery trade. With selection of this choice we will distribute to each recipient 3 different cultivars newly named by the noted plantsman, Ms. Polly Hill of Barnard's Hill Farm in Massachusetts. The three will include a male pollinator and two female cultivars not yet in commercial trade. They are small—established rooted cuttings—but they will quickly make wonderful garden plants.

  • hardy

Ophiopogon jaburan 'Variegatus'
Aztec grass

This plant which appears like a larger version of a white variegated liriope was found in the plant markets of Seoul, Korea during our 1985 collecting expedition. Barry Yinger, noted Asian plant authority, said it was an old Japanese cultivar likely introduced during the Japanese occupation of Korea—and likely not still in culture in Japan. It has had great response from growers each time we take it to a trade show and we keep wanting to distribute it to nurserymen for their production. But it has been slow to multiply and after four years we still have only about 100 pots—so several years until we have enough for commercial use. But we will give 10 divisions away to our friends—definitely a rarity!

Osmanthus delavayi
Delavay's tea-olive

A very beautiful small-leaved broadleaved evergreen shrub which produces white intensely fragrant flowers in early spring. (Hilliers Manual—"one of China's gems") Best in shade and rarely exceeding 2'–3' in size—this choice plant is a delight beside a path or in a rock garden area. Although introduced to cultivation from China in 1890 and awarded the First Class Certificate by the RHS in 1923 it is very rarely ever available in U.S. commercial trade.

  • evergreen shrub to typically 5’–8’ tall
  • plant in sun to part shade
  • hardy semi-hardy
  • white flowers in spring

Pieris japonica 'Toccata'
Japanese andromeda

Many new varieties of the already popular broad-leaved evergreen plant Pieris are coming on the market. Possibly the best of all of them are five new cultivars developed by the Esveld firm in Holland (see Newletter #18) and named for musical terms. During my sabbatic leave I was much impressed with 'Toccata' as a dense, low-growing form with profuse white flower clusters. We had likely the first plant in the United States. and are building it up to give to growers—but will give a few plants away here before they get it. It should be planted in shade in well-drained soil.

Pinus yunnanensis

A new Chinese species of pine tree (not yet in any of the standard plant references) recently collected by an American expedition to the Yunnan province. That province has provided many outstanding garden plants well adapted to our gardens and this should be yet another one. A real rarity with probably not more than a few hundred plants in cultivation outside the native stands of China.

Platanus orientalis f. digitata
cutleaf Oriental planetree

A new (in cultivation for 3,000 years—Socrates taught under this tree!) sycamore tree from the Kashmir valley of northern India which we feel has great potential for a residential scale shade tree. Standard sycamores have very large foliage, coarse texture and are larger than most residential lots can handle. This plant has smaller, cut-leaf foliage (which curl up in little non-messy balls when they fall in autumn), is more densely and finely branched, and seems likely to be of smaller ultimate size. Not in commercial nursery trade of the United States at present—but we are working to introduce it.

Rhus punjabensis

A rare sumac from west China with beautiful cut-leaf foliage and brilliant orange-red fall color. Krussman (the ultimate woody plant reference book) states it can be a small tree getting to 30' in height with white flowers in June–August followed by red fruit in autumn. He also states this species is not found in cultivation—you can prove him wrong!

Sinojackia rehderiana

A very rare and also very beautiful small white-flowering tree related to the Styrax. It is best in sun and will probably not be over 12'–15' in height and has dark green lustrous foliage which stays attractive until late fall. The flowers appear in mid-spring in large masses on the the plants. To my knowledge, this tree has never been sold commercially in the United States. and is rare even in botanical garden collections (we recently sent a plant to the Arnold Arboretum!).

  • hardy

Skimmia japonica 'Rubella'

A beautiful broad-leaved evergreen shrub which has bright red flower buds on the plant all winter as its most attractive garden feature (a male clone and thus does not set fruit after flowering). Widely used in Europe and occasionally in the Pacific Northwest—but essentially not seen in the southeast U.S. landscape. Our experience with it (see a fine plant in the lath house at the arboretum) is that it is very slow growing in our climate. It is tough and durable—just takes time. Although I have seen plants in England 6' in diameter—it will be a 10" to 18" plant in a North Carolina garden—best in shade.

Taiwania cryptomerioides
coffin tree

An extremely rare conifer native only to Taiwan, related to Cryptomeria (the name indicates it looks something like that plant). With age it develops beautiful weeping branchlets on main limbs (see our large plant in the lath house) and can probably reach 15'–20' in height eventually. Our experience is that it needs winter shade to prevent yellowing from excess sun, but can withstand full sun in summer if exposed. To my knowledge has never been sold in commercial channels in the United States. and is unknown even to most conifer collectors. Our young rooted cuttings will sprawl for a time, then eventually send up a strong central leader for vigorous upright growth—just be patient.

  • to 30'–40'
  • plant in sheltered sun
  • hardy