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.

1994 Plant Selection

Abelia chinensis
Chinese abelia

An outstanding deciduous flowering shrub with fragrant masses of white/blush flowers from July through frost; one of the very best "butterfly" plants for the garden. USDA Zones 6–9 and best in sun—takes light shade.

  • shrub to 5'–7'
  • plant in sun to part shade
  • hardy
  • white flowers in summer
  • butterfly/pollinator friendly

Abies firma
Momi fir

The most heat-tolerant of all firs with ability to grow into Florida. Native to Japan and can reach 80' with great age. Slow growing when young but will grow 2'–3' per year when established. USDA Zones 5–9 and best in sun.

  • tree to 80'
  • plant in sun
  • hardy

Acer palmatum 'Beni schichihenge'
variegated pink-leaf Japanese maple

A very beautiful clone of the symbol tree of The NCSU Arboretum with pink to cream to red foliar variegation which remains showy through the summer better than most types in southern heat. Small deciduous tree reaching 10'–15'. USDA Zones 6–9 and best in light shade to full sun.

  • deciduous tree to 15'–18'
  • plant in sun to light shade
  • hardy

Asarum splendens
Chinese wild ginger

A beautiful broad-leaved evergreen herbaceous perennial ground cover introduced recently from China by the Arnold Arboretum, Boston. Can reach 1' in height with silver mottled green foliage. Propagated slowly by division of clumps. USDA Zones 7–9 and best in light shade, particularly in winter.

  • to 10"
  • plant in shade
  • hardy

Betula nigra 'Little King'
Fox Valley dwarf river birch

A recent trademarked plant introduction from the Chicago Botanic Garden; a dwarf form of the common river birch which will reach 10' with time. Beautiful bark. USDA Zones 5–9 and best in full sun—takes wet or dry soils.

  • to 8'–12'
  • plant in sun to light shade
  • hardy

Bignonia capreolata 'Tangerine Beauty'

A new color form of the native crossvine with tangerine reddish-orange flowers which was provided by Scott Ogden of Texas and introduced by The NCSU Arboretum in 1993. Rapid growth; evergreen vine covered in flowers in spring and reblooms. USDA Zones 5–9. Sun or shade.

  • evergreen vine to 20'–30'
  • plant in sun
  • hardy
  • tangerine-red flowers in spring

Camellia 'Carolina Moonmist'
Cochran camellia

In the 1960s Fred Cochran, Ph.D., did some of the earliest C. sasanqua × C. oleifera hybridization to obtain hardier landscape camellias. This seedling of his was recently selected and named by The NCSU Arboretum for its large pink to rose flowers and a plant hardy in USDA Zone 6. Best in light shade.

  • hardy

Castanopsis cuspidata
Japanese chinquapin

A near relative to the oaks; this beautiful broad-leaved evergreen tree has great potential for a fast growing, fine textured shade tree for the Southern landscape in USDA Zones 6–9. Can be propagated by cuttings and will grow in full sun or light shade.

  • evergreen tree to 30'
  • plant in sun to part shade
  • hardy
  • creamy yellow flowers in spring

Cedrus deodara 'Compacta'
compact Deodar cedar

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

Cephalotaxus Collection
plum yew

Cephalotaxus harringtonia 'H. W. Sargent', 'Prostrata', and 'Fastigata'; and C. drupaceae True yews cannot be grown well in the south; but this tough stress-resistant conifer shrub fills that niche. Among the most deer-proof of all plants. USDA Zones 5–9. Sun or shade. You will receive two of the four selections listed.

  • hardy

Cercis glabra 'Celestial Plum'
smooth redbud

This rare species is similar to the better known C. chinensis, a multi-trunk small deciduous flowering tree. This showy deep plum-purple flowered selection was recently named and released by The NCSU Arboretum and is not yet available commercially. USDA Zones 6–9. Sun.

  • deciduous multi-trunked tree to 15'–20'
  • plant in sun to shade
  • hardy
  • plum-purple flowers in early spring

Citrus trifoliata 'Flying Dragon'
contorted hardy orange

A spectacular and interesting shrub/small tree at any time of year with white fragrant flowers in spring, dark green trifoliate foliage in summer; yellow citrus-like fruit in fall and twisted & contorted branches and thorns in winter. Very stress tolerant. USDA Zones 5–9; sun to partial shade.

  • flowering tree to 12' tall
  • plant in sun to part shade
  • hardy
  • white flowers in spring

Cornus officinalis 'Spring Glow'
cornelian cherry

An outstanding small tree introduced recently by The NCSU Arboretum. The most heat-tolerant and free-flowering selection for southern areas; excellent foliage; beautiful bark; blooms heavily (March, fragrant) when young. USDA Zones 4–8; best in sun; tolerant of difficult soil situations.

  • to 15'–25'
  • plant in sun to partial shade
  • hardy

Cryptomeria japonica Collection
Japanese cedar

The NCSU Arboretum has perhaps the largest cultivar collection in the U.S. of this plant which is so valuable in the southeastern landscape—with many widely varied forms. Those choosing this selection will receive three uncommon and varied cultivars for trial. USDA Zones 6–9; sun or light shade.

  • hardy

Danae racemosa
poet's laurel

One of the finest of broadleaved evergreen shrubs with arching branches to 3' in height and 4' wide with great age. Beautiful red winter fruit. Rarely seen commercially due to propagation issues and slow growth (six years to a quart from seed!) but highly desirable. USDA Zones 7–9; best in shade. Three year old seedlings.

  • evergreen shrub to 3'
  • plant in shade
  • hardy
  • orange-red fruit in late summer to winter
  • deer resistant
  • Long lasting cut branches

Daphniphyllum macropodum

An outstanding broad-leaved evergreen Asian tree with handsome foliage to 6"–8" in length and blue fruit in panicles in the fall and winter. USDA Zones 6–9 and will grow in full sun or moderate shade.

  • evergreen tree to 25'
  • plant in sun to shade
  • hardy to zone 6
  • blue fruit in winter

Euscaphis japonica
sweetheart tree

A deciduous tree from Korea to 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! USDA Zones 6b–9. Best in sun.

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

Forsythia 'Fiesta'
variegated forsythia

A truly unique and superior forsythia which has handsome cut-leaf and variegated foliage for interest beyond the normal short spring show period of this genus; and a compact plant which will not eat windows and walkways or require frequent pruning. USDA Zones 5–9; best in full sun for heavy flowering.

  • hardy

Grab Bag of Treasures Collection

For this listing we feel we need a certain quantity of a plant to offer to donors in order to have a reasonable chance of obtaining it if requested. We constantly have small quantities of diverse rare plants from new propagations. For this selection—you will receive three assorted rare new plants of our choice from our nurseries.

Hedera Collection
ivy collection

Hedera colchica 'Dentata Variegata' (variegated Persian ivy). A showy large-leaved evergreen ivy with three awards from the Royal Horticultural Society (1907, 1979, and 1984) and much praised in plant references. A ground cover or it will climb wood and in USDA Zones 6–9, and can be used as a houseplant in colder areas. Hedera rhombea 'Variegata' (variegated Korean ivy) – Small to medium sized, variegated leaves—rare in commercial trade. Again a ground cover or vine in USDA Zones 6–9, or houseplant in colder areas. Hedera helix 'Gnome' or 'Spetchley' (English ivy) – Small leaves on compact plants—outstanding fine textured ground cover which will climb on wood or stone. USDA Zones 6–9, or houseplant in colder areas.

Heptacodium miconioides
seven-son's tree

A deciduous small tree recently introduced by the Arnold Arboretum from China with great beauty from the September white fragrant flowers; pink to purple bracts in October, and white to tan flaking bark on trunks in winter. USDA Zones 5–9 in sun or light shade.

  • tree to 15'–25' tall
  • plant in sun to part shade
  • hardy to zone 5
  • white flowers in summer
  • red calyces fruit in fall
  • butterfly/pollinator friendly
  • fragrant flowers followed by pink to red calyces

Hymenocallis 'Tropical Giant'
spider lily

A very beautiful herbaceous bulb/perennial with superb foliage and striking large white flowers in summer. Obtained from Scott Ogden in Texas and slowly built up by division of clumps since. Hardiness unknown USDA Zones 8–9 (7?).

  • herbaceous perennial to 36"
  • plant in sun
  • hardy
  • white flowers in summer

Ilex Collection
holly collection

Ilex aquifolium 'Angustifolia' – Broadleaved evergreen shrub with narrow leaves and very fine texture; has been one of the best adapted English hollies to southern heat in our plantings. Ilex ×attenuata 'Sunny Foster' – A selection with bright golden foliage in full sun—striking. Ilex crenata 'Rocky Creek' – A contorted branch growth form of the familiar Japanese holly—very different. Ilex opaca 'Clarendon Spreading' – Eastern US species; brdlvd evergreen shrub—spreading habit. A NC cultivar. Ilex opaca 'Silver Crown' – Eastern US species; broadleaved evergreen tree with white-variegated foliage—slow. Ilex rubra – "Mexican holly" – A new evergreen holly with red fruit originally collected in Mexico by Yucca Do Nursery. Small foliage is a bit like the blue hollies with fine toothed margins. Hardiness is unknown- likely USDA Zones 7–9?.

  • hardy

Itea Collection
sweetspire collection

Itea virginiana 'Saturnalia' and I. yunnanensis – "sweetspires" (Grossulariaceae). 'Saturnalia' is a new cultivar of the native sweetspire named and introduced by Larry Lowman of Arkansas for its brilliant yellow, orange and red fall color. The I. yunnanensis is a bit of a mystery—coming to us from China as seed labeled Stachyurus yunnanensis – but the evergreen nature and look of the plants seems more like Itea—you can check when it flowers. 'Saturnalia' is USDA Zones 5–9 and best in full sun; I. yunnanensis Zones 7–9 in partial shade.

  • to 6'–8'
  • plant in sun to shade

Kalmia latifolia × K. hirsuta
sandmount laurel

This very rare hybrid mountain laurel seems more durable and easier to propagated (cuttings) and grow than either parent. The flowers are small, pink and very attractive with sporadic fall rebloom. USDA Zones 6–8 and best in light shade with good drainage (azalea culture).

Koelreuteria paniculata 'September'
late-flowering goldenrain tree

The common goldenrain tree flowers in mid-summer with showy yellow flowers. This seedling variant, which blooms in September, was discovered in 1960 at Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana but is very rarely available in commercial trade. USDA Zones 5–9; and best in sun.

  • hardy

Liquidambar styraciflua 'Rotundiloba'
fruitless sweet gum

Originally discovered in 1930, this deciduous native shade tree has round lobed leaves which turn purple in late fall and it does not produce any gumballs. Now beginning to enter nursery trade from promotion by The NCSU Arboretum. USDA Zones 6–9; best in sun.

Lonicera nitida 'Silver Beauty'

A new silver-edged foliage variegation cultivar of this semi-evergreen low shrub recently introduced in England and not yet available in the United States. Fine textured and easy to propagate from cuttings; has potential for use as a bonsai subject. USDA Zones 7–9; sun to part shade.

Loropetalum chinense var. rubrum
purple-leaf Chinese fringe flower

Originally collected in China by plantsman James Waddick, Ph.D. A broad-leaved evergreen shrub to 8'–10' with purple foliage and striking hot-pink flowers (heavy in spring and sporadically all summer). USDA Zones 7–9 or a sun porch tubbed plant. Sun or partial shade.

Mahonia Collection
leatherleaf mahonia

Mahonia ×media 'Arthur Menzies', 'Lionel Fortesque', 'Underway', 'Winter Sun' – "hybrid grape hollies" (Berberidaceae). A wonderful group of hybrid cultivars of crosses of M. bealei × M. lomarifolia which bloom with large fragrant panicles of showy yellow flowers in mid-winter. Rarely available in the United States and among the very finest of plants for the southern landscape. USDA Zones 7–9; best in winter shade. You will receive one plant; not the entire set—indicate your choice(s).

  • to 6'–8'
  • plant in sun to shade
  • hardy semi-hardy

Mahonia lanceolata
Mexican grape holly

A spectacular new broad-leafed evergreen shrub/small tree from Mexico with fragrant yellow flowers in midwinter. Notable for its long (2'–3') inflorescences which flower over a long period. Hardiness is not known since it is so new—but likely USDA Zones 7–9?. Wonderful plant. Sun or partial shade.

Nandina domestica Collection
heavenly bamboo collection

The NCSU Arboretum has the largest collection of cultivars of this broad-leaved evergreen in the United States. Many of the slow and unusual foliage form types are not available in commercial culture. You will receive three cultivars of our choice of these rare types.

  • hardy

Osmanthus Collection

Osmanthus fragrans f. aurantiacus – An evergreen shrub from China with fragrant orange-red flowers in October. A highlight visitor favorite plant when in bloom when it scents the air for a hundred feet. USDA Zones 7–9. Sun or shade. Osmanthus heterophyllus 'Sasaba' (Sasaba false holly – Japanese broadleaf evergreen shrub with white fragrant flowers and handsome dark green and deeply cut starlike foliage. This cultivar was collected by Barry Yinger and distributed by Brookside Gardens—but due to slow growth it is not in commercial trade. USDA Zones 7–9. Sun or shade.

  • hardy semi-hardy

Palm Collection

Sabal sp. – A hardy trunkless palm which has been in the winter garden for many years—showy long inflorescences. Trachycarpus fortunei – Seedlings of a particularly hardy parent tree uninjured in Raleigh through many record winters.

Photinia villosa 'Village Shade'
downy photinia

A flowering deciduous small tree from China introduced by The NCSU Arboretum. It may be the finest small tree out of our program—with handsome dark green, glossy foliage, masses of white flowers in spring, and showy red fruit in autumn. USDA Zones 5–9. Sun or partial shade.

  • hardy

Pseudolarix amabilis
golden larch

An exceptionally beautiful monotypic genus of deciduous conifer tree from China with lacy fern-like foliage in summer and brilliant golden fall color; fast growing. Unlike the true larches that it resembles, it grows very well in the south tolerating the heat and poorly drained soils. USDA Zones 4–8; best in sun.

  • deciduous conifer to 50'
  • plant in sun to light shade
  • hardy

Rhododendron 'Tama-no-hada'

The Satsuki azaleas are well known; blooming after the mass of spring azaleas. This plant purchased in a California nursery to make cuttings from because of the gigantic white and pink flowers—bigger than I'd ever seen on an azalea (up to 4" across!). USDA Zones 6–9; best in light shade.

Rhododendron 'Trude Webster'
Greer hybrid rhododendron

The first rhododendron to receive a 5/5 ranking from the American Rhodendron Society (1–5 with 5 being tops—the two numbers for flowers and for foliage. Huge inflorescences of pink flowers on a handsome evergreen shrub. USDA Zones 6–8; shade with good drainage and moisture.

Rhodophiala bifida
oxblood lily

A bulb from Argentina which blooms freely in September with 8"–12" tall inflorescences of bright red flowers. It produces foliage which persists through the winter and disappears in spring—remaining dormant until its surprise flowering in fall. USDA Zones 7–9 or for pot culture further north. Best in light shade.

  • herbaceous perennial bulb to 12"
  • plant in sun to part sun
  • hardy
  • red flowers in September
  • deer resistant

Salix integra 'Hakuro Nishiki'
variegated willow

Admired for some years in Europe where it is one of the hottest of "new" plants with nearly pure white variegated foliage. Newly arrived in the United States and not yet sold here. A deciduous shrub (often high grafted in Europe and pollarded each year as a standard) useful in USDA Zones 5–9. Sun to light shade.

  • to 15'
  • plant in sun to part shade

Sophora koreensis
Korean necklace-pod

An exceptionally rare deciduous shrub endemic to Korea. Grows to 2' with compound foliage and yellow flowers in spring. Probably in less than a dozen collections in North America at present. More a novelty than showy ornamental, but it is quietly attractive. USDA Zones 5–8. Best in sun.

  • hardy

Stachyurus chinensis var. latus
Chinese spike-tail

A deciduous shrub to 10' with age which bears showy pendant panicles of yellow flowers in early spring (like forsythia in a wisteria fashion). A rare botanical variety of this Chinese species not in commercial trade. USDA Zones 6–9; best in light shade to full sun with moisture.

Styrax japonicus 'Crystal'
Japanese snowbell

New NCSU Arboretum introduction—a deciduous flowering tree to 15' with profusely produced small white flowers highlighted by purple pedicels and very dark green foliage. One of our very best small flowering deciduous trees. USDA Zone 6–9. Best in sun, but will do in light shade.

  • hardy

Taxus chinensis
Chinese yew

The yews do not survive well in the south with root rots. This beautiful species has performed well in the arboretum—easy to propagate and fast growing with up to 2'–3' per year possible. Will be a tree or can be sheared—has good potential for use as a hedge or Christmas tree crop. USDA Zones 5–9. Sun or light shade.

  • evergreen shrub to 20'–30'
  • plant in sun to shade
  • hardy

Thuja ×soeegaardii 'Green Giant'

Both parents are vigorous and beautiful conifers of great value in our area—and this new hybrid brings even more vigor to the cross. Fast growing with upright columnar growth—will make an excellent specimen or, if propagated, an excellent hedge. USDA Zones 5–8. Best in sun.

  • evergreen conifer to 30'+
  • plant in sun to partial shade

Tsuga sieboldii
southern Japanese hemlock

We have been very impressed with this uncommon hemlock species from Japan which seems to have the greatest heat resistance and vigor. In addition, in northeastern arboreta it is proving to be the most resistant to the insect problems developing there. USDA Zones 5–9. Sun or light shade.

  • to 50' (100')
  • plant in sun to shade, average to moist soil
  • hardy

Ulmus alata 'Lace Parasol'
weeping winged elm

A unique seedling of this beautiful elm with slow growth and weeping branches was discovered 45 years ago and grown in a private garden—reaching a size of 8' in height and 12' in diameter—much like a winged Camperdown elm with great beauty. Tough! USDA Zones 5–9. Best in sun.

  • deciduous tree to 15'
  • plant in sun
  • hardy

Zenobia pulverulenta 'Woodlanders Blue'
dusty zenobia

One of the finest of native southeastern U.S. deciduous shrubs with long panicles of white blueberry/pieris-like flowers in spring and brilliant orange-red foliage in late fall. This Woodlander's Nursery selection has in addition blue foliage through the summer. USDA Zones 6–9. Best in sun with moisture and good drainage.

  • semi-evergreen shrub to 3'–5'
  • plant in sun to light shade
  • white flowers in spring