Connoisseur Plants

Connoisseur Plants are rare, new plants, or hard-to-find old favorites. These wonderful plants are being offered to our donors.

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.

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

2019–2020 – Closes March 8 – Check Your E-mail for a Message from Kathryn Wall

2007 Plant Selection

Abelia spathulata
twin-flowering abelia

This most elegant of abelias is sure to fit in any garden, growing to only 3' to 4' tall and wide. Pairs of 1", white flowers with yellow throats hang from short stems along the main branches in early to mid-spring. The persistent calyces turn rosy pink and add interest over a long period. Fall color is often a good yellow. Easy to grow in full sun to light shade. Zones 6–9.

  • to 4'
  • plant in sun to light shade
  • hardy
Container size:
Abelia spathulata

Acer saccharinum 'Born's Gracious'
cut-leaf silver maple

Discovered in the late 1950s in Germany, but never widely available and usually seen only in arboreta and public gardens, this exceptional cutleaf silver maple brings a fine texture to the overstory. Finely dissected foliage on a vigorous 30' tall tree will have all your horticultural friends green with envy. Golden fall color is an added bonus. Tolerant of even the worst soils and drought once established, full sun to light shade. Zones 3–8.

  • to 45'–60'
  • plant in sun to part shade
  • hardy
Container size:
Acer saccharinum 'Born's Gracious'

Agave difformis
century plant

Help us trial this rare century plant from north central Mexico. As it hails from high altitudes, we think it should be hardy in Zone 7 gardens if it is provided with excellent drainage. The upright, somewhat irregular, grey-green foliage bears dark spines along the edge. Plants sucker freely making an impressive colony in no time. Plants will grow to 18 or more inches tall and slightly wider in full sun, well drained locations. Zones 7b–10.

  • semi-hardy hardy
Container size:
Agave difformis

Agave parryi subsp. parryi var. huachucensis
Fort Huachuca barrel agave

This exceptionally hardy agave will make an impressive clump in the garden. As the largest of the A. parryi clan, the tight rosettes of blue foliage will hold their own in any garden setting. Wide, thickly succulent leaves are tipped with stout, black spines, a lovely but dangerous color and texture combination. Phenomenal in a well-drained, sunny perennial border or as a single specimen in a container. These plants came from the venerable specimen which used to grace the Winter Garden here at JCRA. Zones 7–10.

  • to 24"
  • plant in sun
  • hardy
Container size:
Agave parryi subsp. parryi var. huachucensis

Arbutus unedo 'Elfin King'
compact strawberry tree

Looking for fall and winter interest? Why settle for just fruits or just flowers? This dense, compact evergreen gives you both at the same time. Drooping clusters of Pieris-like, creamy-white flowers in autumn appear just as the previous year's fruits begin to ripen. The 1" fruits hang like bright red ornaments from the 5'–8' tall rounded shrub. The fruits on 'Elfin King' are sweet (unedo = I eat one) and more plentiful than on the species. For added interest, prune your shrub into a small tree to display the gnarled growth habit. Zones 7–9.

  • evergreen shrub to 5'–8'
  • plant in sun
  • hardy
  • creamy white flowers in fall
Container size:
Arbutus unedo 'Elfin King'

Arisaema ringens
Japanese cobra-lily

One of the largest leafed arisaemas in the trade. The curled snake-like green and purple striped flower is borne on a short stalk between two large trifoliate leaves in early spring. The glossy foliage rises to 24" on stout petioles and will form a nice clump in a few years. With age, your Japanese cobra-lily will form short spikes of red fruits in late fall to early winter. A distinctive and impressive cobra lily for the shade garden. It likes to emerge early and may need protection from late frosts. Zones 5–9.

  • herbaceous perennial to 18"–24"
  • plant in shade
  • hardy
  • green flowers in early spring
Container size:
Arisaema ringens

Arisaema thunbergii
Japanese cobra-lily

A wonderfully delicate looking cobra-lily from Japan and Korea with pedatisect foliage (palmately divided like the toes on your foot) growing to about 24" tall. The Jack-in-the-pulpit-like flowers are carried on very short stalks near ground level. The real fun is watching the spadix (the Jack from inside the pulpit) emerge and grow to 10" or more long in a bizarre twisting manner. Very hardy and tough in shade and a rich, well-drained soil. Zones 5–9.

  • herbaceous perennial to 12"–16"
  • plant in shade
  • green-burgundy flowers in spring
Container size:
Arisaema thunbergii

Baptisia (pale pink)
pink wild-indigo

A lovely form of our native wild-indigo with exquisite light pink flowers. Baptisia is among the toughest of perennials for the garden eventually making tight clumps of medium green foliage held on sturdy stems to 3' tall and wide. This unusual colored selection was found as a seedling here at the JCRA. Be one of the first to grow this long lived perennial for sun or light shade. Zones 5–8.

  • to 30"
  • plant in sun to light shade
  • hardy
Container size:
Baptisia (pale pink)

Brugmansia 'Inca Sun'
hybrid angel's trumpet

A breakthrough hybrid in the world of angel's trumpets. This vigorous selection will start flowering when still under 2' tall (most need to be nearer to 4'). It will also continue to produce its peachy-yellow 10" trumpet flowers all summer long without taking a break. Most angel's trumpets flower, then stop and grow before flowering again while this hybrid grows and flowers at the same time. The fragrance of the large trumpets will enchant you on a summer evening. For full sun and average to rich soil. All Brugmansia love water and fertilizer and will respond to them with increased growth and flowering. They can be grown in containers and moved indoors in cold climates, but can generally be kept outside in Zone 7 gardens if mulched well. Reliably hardy in Zones 8–10.

  • die-back shrub to 8'
  • plant in sun
  • root hardy
  • peachy-yellow flowers in summer up to frost
  • butterfly/pollinator friendly
  • fragrant night blooming flowers are 6" wide trumpets
Container size:
Brugmansia 'Inca Sun'

Buddleja davidii 'Evil Ways'
golden butterfly-bush

This eye popping Cistus Nursery introduction has gold fading to chartreuse foliage all season long. Deep purple, nearly black flowers are produced heavily and the resulting color combination if not evil is at least tempting enough to elicit severe plant lust. Reported to be sterile. Full sun in well-drained soils like all butterfly-bushes. Zones 5–9

  • deciduous shrub to 4'–6'
  • plant in sun
  • hardy
  • deep purple flowers in summer-fall
Container size:
Buddleja davidii 'Evil Ways'

Cercidiphyllum japonicum
katsura

One of the largest of all deciduous trees in China, this spectacular shade tree has distinct, rounded, blue-green leaves which emerge purplish in the spring and turn brilliant orange and apricot in the fall. In autumn as the weather cools, the foliage gives off a sweet smell that has been likened to jelly, cotton candy, and burnt sugar. Easily grows to 50' in the landscape and much larger in the wild. Michael Dirr has famously written "...if I could use only one tree this would be my first tree...." Not bad praise. Full sun, Zones 4-8.

  • to 60'
  • plant in sun to light shade
  • hardy
Container size:
Cercidiphyllum japonicum

Chamaecyparis obtusa 'Lemon Twist'
golden threadleaf Hinoki falsecypress

A nice shrubby form of Hinoki falsecypress with twisting, tangled threadlike branchlets. The needles are bright gold near the ends, fading to green in the interior. Many of the branchlets become flattened or club-like towards the tips. Truly an eye catching small conifer great in mixed borders, as a bonsai, or a specimen in a smaller garden. The older bark is beautiful red. To 6', full sun for best color, moist, well-drained soil. Zones 5–8.

  • evergreen upright shrub to 8'
  • plant in sun to light shade
Container size:
Chamaecyparis obtusa 'Lemon Twist'

Chamaecyparis obtusa 'Meroke Twin'
golden dwarf Hinoki falsecypress

A wonderful dwarf gold foliaged Hinoki falsecypress. Beautiful fans of gold tipped foliage give a soft luxurious feel to this conifer. Ideal in Asian themed gardens, containers, and for structure in a perennial border. More sun tolerant than many other gold Hinoki falsecypress. Grows to about 4' tall and half as wide. Full sun for best color. Moist well-drained soil, Zones 5–8.

Container size:
Chamaecyparis obtusa 'Meroke Twin'

Chamaecyparis pisifera 'Clouded Sky'
blue Sawara falsecypress

A medium size blue-grey form of Sawara falsecypress with both adult and juvenile foliage creating an interesting textural contrast on the same plant. An upright grower to about 8' in 10 years, this selection's color will add some cool to the hot summer landscape. We've been very taken with this selection here at the JCRA. Plant in sun to light shade in average to well-drained soil. Zones 4–8.

  • hardy
Container size:
Chamaecyparis pisifera 'Clouded Sky'

Chilopsis linearis 'Bubba'
desert willow

A native southwestern small tree/large shrub to 15' tall and nearly as wide. Large catalpa-like pink flowers are carried from late spring into fall on this showy dryland plant. Happiest on a well-drained soil in full, baking sun, the narrow willowy foliage will flutter and shimmer in the breeze. It can be pruned into a small tree whose airy texture and showy flowers will fit into most landscapes. Zones 7–9.

  • deciduous perennial to 25'
  • plant in sun
  • hardy
  • pink flowers in late spring to fall
Container size:
Chilopsis linearis 'Bubba'

Cyclamen hederifolium Ashwood Nurseries Silver Leaf Group
hardy cyclamen

Seedlings from our silver leafed cyclamen originally obtained from good friends Dick and Judith Tyler of Pine Knot Farms. These have been specially selected from the seed pots for their vivid silver foliage color. Leaves and flowers will appear in fall as the rest of the garden is thinking about going dormant. The brilliant pools of silver will brighten the garden and are especially nice below deciduous trees and shrubs where they are protected from wind and excess moisture while dormant. Expect these plants to seed politely around your garden, never becoming a nuisance, simply creating more winter interest. Light shade, average to well-drained soil, Zones 6–8.

  • deciduous perennial to 4"
  • plant in sun to shade
  • hardy
  • pink and white flowers in August-October
Container size:
Cyclamen hederifolium Ashwood Nurseries Silver Leaf Group

Euphorbia rigida
rigid spurge

Unaccountably rare in the trade, the upright (rigid) stems of this spurge are cloaked in long, pointed, silvery-blue foliage. In winter, the evergreen foliage often is suffused with plum tones. Grow in well-drained soils in full sun to light shade. It will eventually form 2' tall by 3' wide clumps topped in early spring with gold flowers (technically bracts and cyathia). Easier to grow than some similar euphorbs such as E. myrsinites, rigid spurge is a great garden plant for a dry garden spot. Zones 7–10.

Container size:
Euphorbia rigida

Eurya emarginata f. microphylla
little leaf smooth eurya

We originally received this plant as E. emarginata (little leaf) from plantsman Ozzie Johnson. We think we've got the correct name on it now, but whatever the name it makes a great garden plant. You'll definitely be the only person in your neighborhood with this plant in your yard. Glossy, dark, evergreen foliage on a shrub to about 4'–5' is reduced to tiny proportions on this botanical form. A great addition to the mixed border or foundation planting and a surefire fool-the-plant-geek specimen. Sun or shade, this Japanese plant grows in Zones 7–9 and is tolerant of salt spray.

  • hardy
Container size:
Eurya emarginata f. microphylla

Hemiboea subcapitata
glossy false sinningia

How many African violet relatives are you growing out in the garden? If you're not growing this one, it's one too few. Huge (to 1') glossy deep green foliage tops the 10" stems which spread quickly by underground rhizomes. In fall, 2" tubular foxglove-like white flowers with brown speckling in the throat top the impressive foliage. Easy to grow but almost unknown outside of its native China. It provides great contrast in woodland gardens where it mingles well with larger ferns. Part to full shade, hardy at least to Zone 6b.

Container size:
Hemiboea subcapitata

Hydrangea paniculata 'Dharuma'
dwarf panicled hydrangea

A quite diminutive panicled hydrangea shared with us by Ted Stephens of Nurseries Caroliniana. This distinctive dwarf, ours is less than 24" tall after three years, bears open flattened panicles of white flowers which quickly fade to rosy-pink. The long, narrow, shiny foliage hints at a possible hybrid with H. heteromalla. Whatever the parentage, the burgundy fall color, small stature, and white fading to pink flowers make this recent Japanese introduction a great garden addition. Full sun to shade, Zones 4–8.

  • to 3'
  • plant in sun to shade
  • hardy
Container size:
Hydrangea paniculata 'Dharuma'

Ilex aquifolium 'Ferox Argentea'
variegated English holly

Grow a bit of history, this old cultivar was first recorded in 1662 from England. Ferox is Latin for fierce and is an apt description of this English holly with spines not only along the leaf margins, but also most curiously on the leaf surface. This form is also graced with a creamy white margin to the leaf and purplish-red stems. Upright plant to 35' tall for sun to part shade, tolerant of salt spray, Zones 6–8.

  • to 25'–35'
  • plant in sun to part shade
Container size:
Ilex aquifolium 'Ferox Argentea'

Ilex crenata 'Adorned'
variegated Japanese holly

'Hoogendorn' has long been recognized as one of the finer dwarf Japanese hollies, growing to about 2.5' tall and slightly wider with glossy green foliage. This selection ups the ante with a broad gold margin around each leaf. Expect a diminutive, slow growing plant that packs a lot of punch in a small package. Sun to part shade in a moist, well-drained soil. Zones 6–8.

  • evergreen shrub to 2'
  • plant in sun to part shade
  • hardy
Container size:
Ilex crenata 'Adorned'

Magnolia macrophylla
bigleaf magnolia

Looking for a little wow in the garden? The foliage on this deciduous native magnolia grows up to 30" long and 12" wide. Flowers are just as large, often to 10" across, white with purply-pink staining in the center. Ultimately making a large rounded tree to 50', bigleaf magnolia brings a distinct texture to the garden. Full sun to part shade, Zones 5–9.

  • deciduous tree to 35'–45'
  • plant in sun to shade
  • hardy
  • white flowers in late spring
Container size:
Magnolia macrophylla

Mahonia gracilis
slender mahonia

Similar to Mahonia aquifolium but with longer, more tapering leaves and laxer growth habit. Foliage is softer, not as spiny, and glossy medium green. An evergreen shrub to 6' with fragrant yellow flowers in December. This is certainly one of the best mahonias for integrating into most landscapes with its looser habit and glossy foliage. For shade and well-drained spots. Zones 7–9. Native to Mexico.

  • evergreen shrub to 6'
  • plant in sun to part shade
  • hardy
  • yellow flowers in winter
Container size:
Mahonia gracilis

Osmanthus heterophyllus 'Sasaba'
holly tea-olive

A striking and beautiful evergreen shrub from the wonderfully fragrant flowered genus Osmanthus. Rigid, dark green, deeply lobed leaves have a trident or star-like outline. The slow-growing form to 6' (10') has a stiff but open, very upright habit. Small, white, sweetly scented flowers appear in late fall. A venerable, but seldom encountered selection from Japan for sun to part shade in most soils. Zone 6–9.

  • evergreen shrub to 8'
  • plant in sun to part shade
  • hardy
  • white fragrant flowers in fall
  • deer resistant
Container size:
Osmanthus heterophyllus 'Sasaba'

Osteomeles schwerinae
Chinese emperor plum

A beautiful and distinctive mounding shrub of fine texture due to its small pinnately compound leaves made up of many tiny leaflets. Stems and leaves are covered in grey woolly hairs imparting a silvery cast to the entire plant. In early summer 3" clusters of small white flowers are followed in fall by reddish fruits eventually turning blue-black. Tolerant of dry soils and thriving in full sun. Zones 7(at least) to 10.

  • hardy
Container size:
Osteomeles schwerinae

Pinus coulteri
big-cone pine

A rarely cultivated pine from south and central California down into Baja California found on dry mountain slopes. Long, thick, somewhat blue-green needles. It generally grows to about 30' tall but is capable of growing to twice this height. The cones are 10"–15" long and half as wide with wicked, curving, pointed scales. Green cones can weigh over four pounds making them the heaviest cones of any pine. Trees commonly grow in areas with below freezing temperatures, but are rarely cultivated in the east. For dry soils in full sun, Zones 6b–10.

Container size:
Pinus coulteri

Podocarpus chinensis
Chinese podocarpus

A large needled podocarp very similar to P. macrophyllus var. maki, dense upright branching with dark green foliage makes a great screen or specimen. Ultimately can reach 25' or more, but fairly slow growing. Our specimen near the parking lot didn't seem fazed at all by the high heat and dry weather this summer. Full sun to part shade, Zones 7b–9.

  • conifer to 20'
  • plant in sun to part shade
  • hardy
Container size:
Podocarpus chinensis

Podocarpus lawrencei
mountain plum-pine

A low, compact, needled evergreen shrub with blue-green, yew like foliage. Formerly known, and still seen in books as, Podocarpus alpinus (thus, the common name mountain plum pine). As a native from the southeastern mountains of New Zealand and Tasmania, we have been most pleasantly surprised by the vigor and cold and heat hardiness of this compact evergreen shrub. We've grown mountain plum-pine in both shade and sun with no problems. If you're not familiar with the Southern Hemisphere podocarps, prepare yourself, as this looks nothing like Podocarpus macrophyllus. Zone 7.

  • to 5'
  • plant in sun to shade
Container size:
Podocarpus lawrencei

Podocarpus macrophyllus var. maki 'Edgefield'
hardy Japanese yew-pine

An old standby plant of the Coastal and Deep South, Podocarpus macrophyllus and its botanical variety maki have long graced Southern cities, homes, and campuses. 'Edgefield' is reputed to be more cold hardy, by at least 5°F, and derives from a plant growing in Edgefield County, South Carolina. We have not had a winter to truly test this yet, but are offering cutting-grown plants for your own gardens.

  • hardy
Container size:
Podocarpus macrophyllus var. maki 'Edgefield'

Podocarpus totara
totara

One of the largest trees in New Zealand, but slow growing in cultivation, rarely attaining more than shrub status in north temperate gardens. Attractive, glossy green foliage is densely borne on the branches making it appropriate for hedging and even topiary. Bare seeds on very thick, swollen, red stalks are showy against the foliage. Full sun to shade, Zones 7–9.

  • hardy
Container size:
Podocarpus totara

Punica granatum 'Toyosho'
apricot-flower pomegranate

Pomegranates make some of the finest edible fruit plants for southern landscapes. This selection bears ruffled double apricot colored flowers about 2" wide followed by 2"–3" fruit which ripens to pale orange. Usually grows to about 12' as a multi-stemmed, large, upright shrub, often with nice yellow fall color. Truly a beautiful flowering shrub suitable for shrub borders and massing. Grow in full sun, Zone 7–10.

  • flowering shrub to 10'–15'
  • plant in sun to light shade
  • hardy semi-hardy
  • apricot flowers in summer
Container size:
Punica granatum 'Toyosho'

Rhododendron 'Gulf Shore'
azalea

A wonderful azalea with a compact habit and cascading branches. We can't believe this fine form is so hard to find in the nursery trade and want to share it with our supporters. Ours hails from Transplant Nursery, originator of many fine azaleas and is planted on top of a wall where its branches will be allowed to hang down. Unarguably a fine form with crabapple colored flowers. Great for use on a slope or as a woody ground cover. Sun to shade, Zones 6–9.

  • hardy
Container size:
Rhododendron 'Gulf Shore'

Rosa 'Nastarana'
Persian musk rose

One of the very few roses that J. C. Raulston promoted, it now lends an air of grace to the Klein-Pringle White Garden here at the Arboretum. This plant has come full circle, originally given to the Bill and Mary Joslin, local JCRA supporters and dedicated gardeners, who in return have shared cuttings back with us for distribution to other supporters. An old variety grown in the 1800s in Persian gardens, the strongly scented, white flowers continue to be produced all summer long. A restrained old rose growing to about 5' tall with clusters of single, elegant white flowers. The American Rose Society ranks it as an "outstanding rose." Full sun to part shade, tolerant of poor soils. Zone 6–9.

Container size:
Rosa 'Nastarana'

Tricyrtis 'Amanagowa'
hybrid toad lily

We love this hybrid toadlily with its yellow flowers and brown speckled foliage. It spreads by underground rhizomes making nice clumps of large foliage with flowers appearing near the end of the season. A great plant for a moist spot in the woodland garden. Zones 6–8.

Container size:
Tricyrtis 'Amanagowa'

Vernicia fordii
tung oil tree

A striking tree for tropical effect, the tung oil tree bears large simple spade shaped to five lobed leaves. Impressive clusters of up to 50 1.5" ivory flowers with a rusty-peach streaked throat create an unforgettable display in spring. Once grown commercially for tung oil in the Deep South, it is now typically grown only as an ornamental. As with most plants in the Euphorbiaceae, all parts of this tree are poisonous. A very quick grower in full sun and fertile soil in a warm location. These are from seed given to us by Tony Avent from a tree growing at Juniper Level Botanic Gardens which has proved to be perfectly hardy in the Raleigh area. Western China. Zones 7–10.

  • to 30'
  • plant in sun
  • hardy
Container size:
Vernicia fordii