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.

To submit your selections, please use the link in the e-mail you received on February 16 from Kathryn Wall. If you need assistance, please e-mail Kathryn at kbwall@ncsu.edu.

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.

2008 Plant Selection

Aristea ecklonii
blue stars

Can you say "cobalt blue"? Good! Then, you know the color of the flowers of this exciting member of the iris family (Iridaceae). Although considered to be a Zone 8 plant, or a tender perennial in colder areas, this evergreen, rhizomatous plant is a striking addition to any garden for its iris-like foliage and panicles of deep blue, flat-faced flowers that resemble those of the blackberry lilies (Belamcanda chinensis). We have grown this plant for over two years in a protected spot near the Wilder Visitor Center. Do not confuse this plant with the Amsonias, also called blue-stars. We thank our friend John Fairey at Peckerwood Garden Foundation (Hempstead, Texas) for allowing us to propagate these plants from mature clumps growing in the garden there. Shade to part sun.

  • to 24"–30"
  • plant in sun; protected spot
Container size:
Aristea ecklonii

Bambusa multiplex 'Fernleaf'
dwarf clumping fernleaf bamboo

This clumping bamboo is perfect for the small garden, generally growing to about 10' but managing heights of 15' or more in the perfect spot. All along the canes, branches with small, green leaves emerge like fern fronds making this tidy, dense bamboo perfect for hedges or hiding the electric meter. Fully evergreen down into the teens, and root hardy to about -5°F. Full sun to part shade.

  • shrub-like to 8'–10'
  • plant in sun to part shade
  • hardy
Container size:
Bambusa multiplex 'Fernleaf'

Buddleja loricata
mountain sagewood

Everyone needs an evergreen butterfly-bush! This South African shrub bears tough, corrugated leaves all year through. The deep sage green leaves are highlighted by silvery hairs covering the stems and undersides of the leaves creating the overall effect of a dense, rounded, silvery shrub. Size is usually about 4'–5', but it can grow to nearly 10' in warm locales. Occasionally called popcorn buddleja in reference to its flower's resemblance to popcorn, flowering occurs in early summer, attracting butterflies. The small, creamy-white flowers are very pleasantly fragrant, but not as showy as their more common Buddleja relatives. Full sun.

  • evergreen shrub to 4'–5'
  • plant in sun
  • hardy
  • creamy-white flowers in summer
Container size:
Buddleja loricata

Calluna vulgaris 'Golden Carpet'
golden Scotch heather

A truly beautiful creeping heather, growing to less than 6" tall and about 15"–20" wide in a well-drained, sunny spot. Bright yellow foliage makes this a standout plant all season long while the orange winter color helps warm those short, cold days. Mauve flowers appear in early fall like jewels on the golden background. Acidic soils are a must for successful growth. Full sun to light shade.

Container size:
Calluna vulgaris 'Golden Carpet'

Calluna vulgaris 'White Lawn'
creeping Scotch heather

This absolute pancake of a plant will rarely raise itself over 2" from the ground. The clear green foliage provides an elegant background for the long racemes of white flowers on a miniature evergreen ground cover. Grow in acidic soils. Perfect for rock gardens or other well-drained locales. Full sun.

Container size:
Calluna vulgaris 'White Lawn'

Camellia 'Crimson Candles'
hybrid camellia

A favorite camellia among enthusiasts, this Camellia Forest introduction is a hybrid between C. reticulata and C. fraterna. Red sepals covering the buds give this upright-growing plant a very distinctive look throughout the winter. The elongated buds resemble candles and make this an easily identifiable plant in the landscape even before the single, deep rose flowers open in late winter. New growth is bronzy-red and the older evergreen foliage is finer textured than C. japonica. This selection has proven to be disease resistant, vigorous, and cold hardy. Full sun to shade.

  • evergreen shrub to 8’–10’ tall × 5’–6’ wide
  • plant in partial sun to partial shade
  • rosy-pink flowers in late winter
Container size:
Camellia 'Crimson Candles'

Camellia japonica 'White Perfection'
Japanese camellia

Volunteers and garden members have been asking us to propagate this plant and we've got a few to share. Sometimes seen as 'Alba Supreme', this old cultivar is hard to find despite being a great plant. Pristine white, elegantly-double flowers against the dark, glossy green foliage will warm up your winter landscape. The formal double flowers are perfect for floating in a bowl of water as a centerpiece. We've been growing ours for well over a decade and think as highly of it now as we did when it was brand new.

  • hardy
Container size:
Camellia japonica 'White Perfection'

Ceanothus thyrsiflorus var. repens
creeping blueblossom

Grown from wild-collected seed received from the North American Rock Garden Society, this West Coast native is a prostrate form of the California lilac. Evergreen foliage is topped by clusters of sky blue flowers. Best in a sunny spot, protected from drying winter winds. We haven't grown this plant yet, but anticipate that it will perform even better than the more upright species. Grow in a well-drained soil, full sun to part shade.

Container size:
Ceanothus thyrsiflorus var. repens

Cephalanthus occidentalis 'Oshack'
buttonbush

What a wonderful native shrub! We've always liked the common buttonbush which grows throughout a large swath of the United States, but this large flowered form that we have received from both Mike Dirr and Tony Avent has us really impressed. The larger than normal (~2"), round, white flower clusters dangle gracefully from the branches over a long period in mid-summer for a beautiful display. The shrub which can grow to be quite large often doesn't leaf out until May, making it the perfect structure for growing spring flowering vines through. Buttonbush prefers a moist site and will even grow in water, but will suffer if planted in too dry a spot. If plants get overly large or unruly, they can be cut to the ground in early spring to revitalize them. Full sun to shade.

Container size:
Cephalanthus occidentalis 'Oshack'

Cercis canadensis 'Flame'
double-flowered eastern redbud

The prized, but often difficult to find, double-flowered redbud is one of the favorites in our North American Plant Conservation Consortium Cercis collection. Large heart-shaped leaves on this somewhat upright selection usually turn clear yellow in the fall, often with a brownish margin. The early spring double flowers will be the envy of all your gardening friends as the blossoms glow from every branch of this vigorous tree in April before the leaves emerge. Full sun to shade.

  • hardy
Container size:
Cercis canadensis 'Flame'

Cinnamomum japonicum
Japanese camphor

A wonderfully elegant evergreen tree with a tropical feel, this hardy camphor tree is one of the toughest of the true cinnamon plant (Cinnamomum zeylanicum) relatives. It bears the distinctive three-nerved foliage that is often flushed bronze when first emerging. Growth habit is upright, pyramidal, and vigorous. Small, greenish-white flowers give rise to purple-black, round fruits. Best with some protection from winter winds. Full sun to part shade.

  • evergreen tree to 25'–35'
  • plant in sun to light shade
  • hardy
Container size:
Cinnamomum japonicum

Clethra alnifolia 'Caleb'
Vanilla Spice summersweet clethra

This new form of a favorite native shrub (trademarked as Vanilla Spice™) probably won't be available in retail stores until 2010, but we've managed to coax a few from our friends at Spring Meadow Nursery. The exceptionally fragrant, white flowers on this selection are up to 50% larger than typical forms packing a lot of punch in late summer. The deep green foliage helps make the flowers really pop, and the gold fall color adds another season of interest. If you love fragrance in the garden, native plants, or just all around excellent performers, this is the plant for you.

  • deciduous shrub to 3'–6'
  • plant in partial sun
  • hardy
  • pure white flowers in late summer
Container size:
Clethra alnifolia 'Caleb'

Cornus florida 'Pluribracteata'
double flowering dogwood

The heaviest flowering of any of the double forms of our native dogwood, and a local find that was discovered before 1914 in Orange County, North Carolina. The floral bracts typically number six to eight and are often somewhat twisted giving a very full display. Flowering is usually slightly later than the typical dogwood and fruiting is scarce at best. This plant is reputedly resistant to spot anthracnose. Full sun to shade.

  • hardy
Container size:
Cornus florida 'Pluribracteata'

Cornus florida 'Suwanee Squat'
dwarf flowering dogwood

A most unusual and highly-desired form of our native flowering dogwood, 'Suwanee Squat' is the most height-challenged member of this group. It can ultimately grow to six or so feet tall with a spread two to three times as wide although it seems to be in no hurry to reach so high. Ours in the mixed border is only about 18"–24" tall and every bit of 48" wide. It flowers heavily and does not have the contorted leaves so common in the awkward weeping forms of dogwood. We've been told this is tough to grow, but our plant seems perfectly happy in a mostly shaded spot in good soil. Part sun to shade.

  • deciduous flowering tree to 5'
  • plant in partial sun to shade
  • hardy
  • white flowers in spring
Container size:
Cornus florida 'Suwanee Squat'

Cryptomeria japonica 'Pom Pom'
dwarf Japanese-cedar

No, we haven't pruned our plants into poodles. This dwarf (to about 2' in eight years) Japanese cedar is small and mounding, forming tufts on the ends of branches. Ultimately, it will form somewhat of a leader and will become more vertical. Perfect for the smaller garden, in containers, or as an evergreen element in borders. The foliage will turn a bit bronzy during winter, but will return to bright green in the spring. Full sun to part shade.

  • evergreen conifer to 4'
  • plant in sun to part shade
Container size:
Cryptomeria japonica 'Pom Pom'

Daphne tangutica
sweet daphne

This is one of the easiest of the evergreen daphnes to grow. Pinkish-purple flower buds open to reveal white flowers with purple backs in April. Additional flowers often also appear in mid-late summer. Although not quite the olfactory treat of D. odora, the fragrant flowers are still quite remarkable. Red fruits follow flowering adding another season of interest. Full sun to part shade in a well-drained soil.

  • hardy
Container size:
Daphne tangutica

Euonymus alatus 'Michael Hayman'
Unforgettable Fire compact winged euonymus

A brand new selection of winged euonymus being sold under the trademark name Unforgettable Fire™ found by Kentucky plantsman and photographer Michael Hayman. Selected for its compact growth to about 4', dense branching, and small leaves, this plant presents a different appearance and texture than many other forms of winged euonymus. As expected from these garden stalwarts, the fall foliage is brilliant red. Full sun to part shade.

  • to 4'
  • hardy
Container size:
Euonymus alatus 'Michael Hayman'

Fraxinus greggii
littleleaf ash

A drought-tolerant native from the southwestern United States into Mexico growing at high elevations. Pinnate leaves bearing tiny leaflets are mostly evergreen in warm spots, often not falling until just before new leaves emerge. We've been very happy with our plant's growth in the Scree Garden and expect it eventually to form a multi-stemmed shrub, or it can be pruned to a small tree to expose the smooth grey bark of the trunk. Flowers are not very showy, but the texture and form of this unusual ash make it well worth a spot in the garden. Full sun, well-drained soils.

  • to 15'
  • hardy semi-hardy
Container size:
Fraxinus greggii

Hakea microcarpa
small-fruited hakea

Named for Baron Christian von Hake, a German patron of botany in the 18th century, hakeas are rarely seen in Mid-Atlantic gardens. The fine texture of these protea relatives from Down Under make them useful garden additions and they are perfect for stumping your know-it-all gardening friends. It grows naturally in damp sites such as along streambanks. Creamy white flowers are attractive while the stiff round or flattened foliage gives an airy appearance. Prune after flowering to promote branching. Full sun to light shade.

  • evergreen flowering shrub to 7'
  • plant in sun
  • creamy-white flowers in late spring
Container size:
Hakea microcarpa

Hydrangea serrata 'Kurenai'
mountain hydrangea

The mountain hydrangeas seem to perform better here at the Arboretum in the absence of regular irrigation than the more common French or bigleaf hydrangeas. The slightly smaller stature and finer leaf texture also make them easier to use in the garden. This selection has white lacecap flowers that deepen to red as they age, a truly elegant long-season show. Our plant's foliage emerges a very nice pale green to chartreuse color before deepening to green as the season progresses. Part to full shade.

  • flowering shrub to 5'
  • plant in shade
  • hardy
  • white aging to red flowers in summer
Container size:
Hydrangea serrata 'Kurenai'

Hymenocallis imperialis
spider lily

Grown in our lath house since 1997, this wonderful bulb from Mexico has been a reliable performer. Large, white flowers with long, narrow tepal segments in mid-summer give the plant its common name of spider lily while the huge seeds and bulbs give rise to another common name—big fatty. Best in a moist, well-drained location in full sun to part shade. Like most members of the amaryllis family, this is a real show stopper when in flower.

  • bulb to 30"
  • plant in sun to light shade
  • hardy
  • white flowers in summer
Container size:
Hymenocallis imperialis

Ilex crenata 'Farrowone'
Sky Pointer upright Japanese holly

A dwarf Japanese holly (Sky Pointer™) that's perfect for that small, special spot in the garden. Growing only to about 5' tall and not more than 3' wide, the rigidly upright branches give a symmetrical, formal look to this plant without any shearing. Be one of the very first to get this exciting new evergreen shrub. Full sun to part shade.

  • to 5'
  • hardy
Container size:
Ilex crenata 'Farrowone'

Ilex 'Whoa Nellie'
golden Nellie Stevens holly

Named by Tony Avent after seeing it in Mike Dirr's research plot, this screaming yellow-foliaged form of the popular 'Nellie R. Stevens' holly will definitely give a little kick to your garden. In shade, the foliage will quickly lose the gold coloration so plant this out where it will receive maximum exposure, if you dare. Orange-red fruits add to the color riot if male pollinators are nearby. Full sun to part shade.

  • evergreen shrub to 15'
  • plant in sun to part shade
  • hardy
  • white flowers in spring
Container size:
Ilex 'Whoa Nellie'

Ligustrum japonicum 'Koryu'
distorted-leaf Japanese privet

A plant you just have to see to believe. Each leaf is curled under and ridged along the midrib. While in a lesser plant this might make for an ugly specimen, it actually works with the deep green foliage on this tough-as-nails evergreen shrub. Every visitor to your garden will be drawn straight to this plant to see what on earth it might be. White flowers in mid-spring. Beautiful as a large shrub or limbed up as a small evergreen tree, but it can also be easily pruned into a green meatball if you have a McDonald's or other fast food franchise to landscape. Full sun to shade.

  • evergreen shrub to 8'
  • plant in sun to shade
  • hardy
  • white flowers in spring
Container size:
Ligustrum japonicum 'Koryu'

Lonicera ×tellmanniana
Tellmann's honeysuckle

This hybrid between our native L. sempervirens and the Asian L. tragophylla is an outstanding climbing honeysuckle that won't take over your garden or neighborhood. Large clusters of brilliant amber-orange, fragrant, tubular flowers will bring the hummers (the flying kind, not the gas-guzzling type) flocking to your yard. The undersides of the semi-evergreen leaves are silver blue and especially attractive when viewed from below as the vine grows up a trellis. It grows to about 20' in most soils, best in full sun, but tolerant of some shade. A winner of the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit.

  • to 20'
  • hardy
Container size:
Lonicera ×tellmanniana

Mahonia pallida
Mexican grapeholly

We've been beating visiting plant-nuts off with a stick to make sure we have these hard to find Mexican mahonias for you. Very touch-friendly, matte green foliage is topped with open panicles of small, pale yellow flowers. The flowers resemble the small flowering epimediums more than the typical mahonia and combined with the soft textured foliage, make for a most un-mahonia-like plant. Full sun to part shade.

  • hardy
Container size:
Mahonia pallida

Rhododendron 'Yoshino'
Japanese hybrid azalea

From Japanese nurseryman and Arboretum friend, Taka Kobayashi, comes this amazing evergreen azalea. The early lavender flowers add a burst of bright color to the late winter garden, while the foliage is a handsome enough reason to grow the plant even if it never flowered. Somewhat upright in growth, this form is apparently often used for hedging in Japan. We think it is even better as a specimen plant and would hate to be without it. Part shade.

  • hardy
Container size:
Rhododendron 'Yoshino'

Sedum 'Mr. Goodbud'
garden stonecrop

This new sedum seems to have it all: dusky, blue-green foliage, pale pink buds that open to bright mauve flowers, stout stems that don't flop, and a short stature (under 18"). We've only had ours in the ground for one season, but so far we've been impressed. The color show, between the buds and flowers, lasts for about two months. Best in a well-drained soil with moderate fertility. Large size plants for pick-up only. Full sun to light shade. This plant is patented (PP17671) so propagation is not allowed.

Container size:
Sedum 'Mr. Goodbud'

Serissa japonica 'White Swan'
Japanese snow rose

Everybody has the perfect spot for a Japanese snow rose. This small evergreen shrub will grow in full blazing sun or in fairly heavy shade and look wonderful in either spot. It also is one of the very best performers in drought situations. Each of the tiny leaves on the stiffly arching branches is delicately edged in creamy white giving rise to its other common name "yellow rim." Small white flowers appear in mid-summer through fall. Full sun to shade.

  • evergreen shrub to 3'–5'
  • plant in sun to shade
  • hardy
  • white flowers in spring to fall
Container size:
Serissa japonica 'White Swan'

Stachyurus chinensis 'Celina'
Chinese spike-tail

Hold on to your hats. This outstanding selection has the longest flower spikes of any S. chinensis available with as many as 50 individual yellow flowers per spike. The loose, arching branches make for a beautifully informal plant which when covered by the stiffly dangling flowers on a mature specimen is a sight to remember. Where space is an issue, plants can be espaliered on a wall or along a fence to great effect. Full sun to shade.

  • deciduous flowering shrub to 12'
  • plant in sun to shade
  • hardy
  • yellow flowers in spring
Container size:
Stachyurus chinensis 'Celina'

Viburnum dilatatum 'Michael Dodge'
yellow-berry linden viburnum

This is a truly eye-popping plant when in full fruit. Masses of small golden fruits shine brilliantly against the green foliage and only get brighter as the red autumn tints of the leaves develop. White flowers in May start the season on this selection from the famed Winterthur Estate in Delaware. For best fruit set, plant at least one other selection of V. dilitatum nearby. Full sun to part shade.

  • hardy
Container size:
Viburnum dilatatum 'Michael Dodge'

Viburnum obovatum 'Mrs. Schiller's Delight'
dwarf Walter's viburnum

We've been fans of this outstanding dwarf evergreen shrub for years now, but our esteem has only grown since the drought in 2007. V. obovatum, a southeastern United States endemic, sailed through the hot, dry summer without missing a beat. 'Mrs. Schiller's Delight' is only about 18" tall by 28" wide after seven years in the ground. The semi-evergreen (more evergreen than not for us) mound of foliage is reminiscent of some of the better dwarf Japanese hollies, but I bet your 'Helleri' holly doesn't sport showy white flowers from spring sporadically through summer. We think this is absolutely a first-class garden plant, one of the best performers in the Arboretum. Full sun to shade.

  • semi evergreen to 36"
  • plant in sun to shade
  • hardy
  • white flowers in spring
Container size:
Viburnum obovatum 'Mrs. Schiller's Delight'