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.

1992 Plant Selection

Cedrus deodara 'Compacta'
compact Deodar cedar

Deodara cedars are one of the conifer glories of the Southern garden, but quickly make very large trees which may overwhelm small properties. Over 50 cultivars have been named but most are rarely available to the public. This beautiful slow-growing, dense conical cultivar with blue foliage was cultivated in France before 1867, but is rare in America. Our plant has grown about 5' in 10 years at the arboretum and is a very beautiful garden specimen. USDA Zones 6–9. Best in sun but will take light shade.

  • hardy

Cercis griffithii
Afghan redbud

The NCSU Arboretum is noted for having the largest living collection of redbuds in existence—and this species is today perhaps the rarest of those in cultivation and has never been offered for U. S. sale commercially to our knowledge. Very similar to C. siliquastrum with rounded, bluish foliage and the typical magenta redbud flowers in spring on a small tree reaching 6'–10'. USDA Zones 7–9. Best in sun and with good drainage.

  • hardy

bush lily

The idea for this inclusion came from the recent Arboretum Christmas open house at my home where so many people commented on the two tubs of the evergreen "bulb" on display with many bloom stalks of carmel-orange flowers. I obtained the first division of this plant many years ago in California and do not know its true identity—except that it is apparently not the C. miniata which is "commonly" seen as a house plant. This taxa has leaves about 1.5" wide and 12"–18" long with inflorescences produced throughout the year—on my two tubs they are rarely without at least one flowering stem at any time. Tender house plant or USDA Zones 9–10.

  • Evergreen perennial to 18"x18"
  • plant in sun to part shade
  • tender
  • orange flowers

Cornus kousa 'Little Beauty'
compact kousa dogwood

The Asian dogwood is widely admired for its beautiful pointed flower bracts, handsome bark and red fruit as an outstanding ornamental tree. There is great commercial interest in the Asian flowering dogwood at present which seems to be somewhat more resistant to dogwood anthracnose—and many new cultivars are being named with widely varying characteristics. This plant originated at the NCSU Arboretum as a seedling variant in a population grown from seed collected in Korea in 1985. When other seedlings were 6'–12' in height, this seedling remained under 2' in height with small foliage and dense branching habit—with potential for use in smaller gardens, for pot culture, and in rock gardens. USDA Zones 5–9. Useful in sun or light shade; and happier in soil with some drainage (though our original plant is surviving in the nursery swampy clay death pit here it originated).

  • hardy

Euscaphis japonica
sweetheart tree

A very exciting new ornamental tree from Asia collected during our 1985 Lorean expedition. A Deciduous tree with potential to reach 30' with dark green, thick, leathery compound foliage in summer, spectacular panicles of red-fleshed fruit with contrasting exposed black seed from August to October, and "snake-bark" in winter with white striping on deep purple stems! It has been very drought tolerant and also grows well in heavy, wet clay. It has taken two years to learn how to germinate our seed crops—but we finally have plants and will begin to move it to the nursery industry for future production. USDA Zones 5–9. Best in sun with 2'–3' growth per year.

  • deciduous flowering tree to 30'
  • plant in sun to part shade
  • hardy zone 6–9
  • white flowers in summer
  • red fruit in fall

Mahonia chochoco
Mexican tree barberry

A spectacular broad-leafed evergreen shrub/small tree from Mexico with fragrant yellow flowers in midwinter. Newly introduced to cultivation and has great potential for the Southeastern and Western U. S. Hardiness is not completely known since it is so new—but seems likely at least in USDA Zones 7–9 and possibly hardier. Wonderful plant. Sun or partial shade.

Melia azedarach 'Jade Snowflake'
variegated Chinaberry

A very beautiful white variegated foliage deciduous tree variant which was discovered on a farm near San Antonio, Texas by Scott Ogden who shared it with The NCSU Arboretum in 1990. Though commonly grown in the Southeastern U. S., this Chinese tree species has not produced any previous cultivars. The variegation is very attractive and stable with white mottling throughout the dramatic large compound foliage leaf. The arboretum will release this to growers in the future as numbers can be built up—a few trial propagations are available at this point. USDA Zones 7–9. Best in sun. Fast, tough, and handsome.

  • hardy

Osmanthus heterophyllus 'Sasaba'
holly tea-olive

The white fragrant flowers and handsome foliage of this broad-leaved evergreen shrub species from Japan are well known in the Southeastern U. S. where it is widely used in the landscape. This distinctive and striking cultivar was collected by Mr. Barry Yinger in Japan and distributed by Brookside Gardens in Maryland—but due to slow growth and somewhat difficult propagation it has not yet been offered for sale commercially to our knowledge. The Foliage is dark green and deeply cut with a very starlike appearance. Outstanding ornamental plant for year-round specimen beauty. USDA Zones 7–9. Sun or shade.

  • evergreen shrub to 8'
  • plant in sun to part shade
  • hardy
  • white fragrant flowers in fall
  • deer resistant

Photinia villosa
downy photinia

First of all—forget the Photinia designation which turns plantsmen in the south off—it ain't redtip. This is a seedling variant of a flowering deciduous small tree from China which The NCSU Arboretum will name in the near future and distribute to nurserymen for production. It may be the finest small tree that will come out of our program—which is a considerable statement considering the excellence of several others like Sinojackia which are all coming. It has very handsome dark green, glossy foliage which stays in excellent condition until frost, masses of white flowers in spring (and which seem very fireblight resistant compared to other Rosaceous plants), and showy red fruit in autumn and winter. We grow it as a multitrack tree but it could be trained single stem as well. Likely maturing at 15'–20' with excellent potential for planting under highland wires. Drought tolerant and grows well in heavy clay soils. USDA Zones 5–9. Sun or partial shade.

  • hardy

Pieris japonica Collection
Japanese andromeda

Collection contain 'Debutante", 'Little Heath', 'Scarlette O'Hara', 'Shojo', and 'Tilford' (Ericaceae). A group of very familiar broad-leaved evergreen shrubs reaching 1'–4' in height with white and pink flowers in late winter. These are new English cultivars which are not yet in the American trade. USDA Zones 6–8. (Two plants will be provided of the five offered—rank your choices and we'll try to provide those more highly desired if possible).

Pinus Collection

Collection contains P. ayachute (Mexico), P. brutia (Eastern Europe/Mediterranean), P. canariensis (Canary Islands), P. culminicola (Mexico), P. maximartinezii (Mexico), and P. nelson (Mexico). Most of this group of beautiful conifers are probably USDA Zones 7–9 with P. brutia the hardiest—and most will be best with good drainage as they generally come from areas with dry summer soils. Plant in sun. (An assortment of four plants of the six offered—circle your choices and we'll try to provide them if possible).

Prunus takesimensis

A very beautiful and extremely rare deciduous flowering tree native to Korea which has reached 50' in the wild. Few plants exist in the United States and likely has never been offered for sale anywhere. Grown from Korea collected seed. USDA Zone 5–8.

  • hardy

Quercus phillyreoides 'Emerald Sentinel'
columnar Ubame oak

One of the most admired trees in the arboretum is the 40-year old multi-trunk specimen of this Chinese species in the east arboretum in the new winter garden. Normally a slow-growing species with irregular twisted shape and never grown as a commercial tree—and very rarely available from any source in the U. S. This selection will be introduced as a new cultivar by The NCSU Arboretum in the future from a seedling variant in the arboretum trials. It differs from the species in being more upright (almost fastigiate) with great vigor (2'–4' per year once established)—making a beautiful and fast-growing multi-trunk evergreen tree. USDA Zones 6–9. In the record winter (-10F) a few years ago—this species was the most evergreen and hardiest of the varied evergreen oaks in our trials. Best in sun.

  • hardy