Gardening Unplugged - Moving Plants (Do's and Don'ts)

Gardening Unplugged - Moving Plants (Do's and Don'ts)

with Dr. Patrick McMillan

By Published May 31, 2023

In this episode of Gardening Unplugged, Dr. Patrick McMillan provides tips on when and how to move your perennials and answers questions from guests at our 2023 Winter Open House and Garden Days.

Video Transcription

The soil is warmed up in the spring, it's one of the best times for you to move a lot of woody plants in your garden or introduce new woody plants in your garden. If any of you ever purchase from woodlanders one of my one of my partners in in Botanical exploration Bob McCartney down there refused to sell a plant after the end of March right. Absolutely refuses yeah you put an order if he's too busy towards the end of March he just won't send you the planes I don't have time to get it to you it's not going to live and so he kind of cuts out most of the northern half of the country which he you know he's kind of a true blue Southerner anyway so it's interesting when we go on trips.

Anyway, it is the time of year really a great time of year to plant woody plants but not everything transplants well in the winter. So, there are plants, and we'll look at some of these plants, that are really bad to transplant in winter. One of the plants that's signature for us, all the agaves that we grow, this is not the plant the time to transplant those. And in general, we can think about plants that that are coming from drier regions desert regions places that have a problem with too much humidity in the soil, those are things we don't want to move in the wintertime because they're struggling through the winter. They thrive in the summer here, but they struggle through the winter. It’s not that the plants are not cold hardy, it's that the plants struggle when they have root damage and those roots get wet, they're very prone to rot. The crown of the plant is prone to rot, and anytime you transplant a plant, that plant is under stress.

"Not everything transplants well in the winter"

Now, what's the best part about transplanting plant in the wintertime versus… you don't have to water it, you don't sweat, there's all these other good things, right. So if we're digging a big woody plant to transplant, there's a couple of things that we would want to do to that plant before we move it, even though it is winter time.

Camellia vietnamensis - Juniper Level Botanic Garden

Number one, you want to reduce the size of the plant. the above ground woody structure to match the amount of root structure that you have that you're putting in the ground. So, let's say we purchased this, a really fine plant here, we've got a Camellia vietnamensis. Guess where that's from? And so, we won't really do everything to this plant that I would normally do to it. But we have a big camellia and camellia's flower when? In the winter, right, so it's a great plant to talk about. They flower in the winter and they oftentimes… some of these species, like vietnamensis, are going to flush fairly early in the spring. And so, when I look at this plant this is a good plant to put out that I wouldn't even need to do anything at all concerning pruning back the woody structure because it's not incredibly root bound. So, when you bring your plants home, if they look like that, great. If they have a big tangle of roots that have grown around the pot there, that's one that I would probably end up cutting back some woody growth. So, if we had that, what you want to do is just like when you're learning to prune, our pruning master Doug Ruhren over there does a wonderful pruning class if you ever get a chance to get with him, but branches that are coming towards the center of the plant, things that structurally you want to take out of the out of the shrub or tree to begin with are great places to start. But you don't have to reduce that foliage as much as you would if you're planting it in the spring or you're planting it during the summer.

"The worst possible time to put a plant in the ground is when it's actively growing"

We plant plants all season long here. And Tony always loves to say that you could transplant a plant anytime if you're good enough horticulturists. So, when I kill those plants, I guess I'm just, after 30 some years, I'm just not good enough right? But it makes sense to transplant certain plants at certain times of the year. So active growth, not a great time to transplant plants. When do we normally transplant plants? Yeah, but when do we normally as a society go out and buy all these plants and transplant? Spring. The worst possible time, right. The worst possible time to put a plant in the ground is when it's actively growing because you suddenly take away all of its root structure, its stability. It’s like moving yourself across the country and expecting you to go to work the same day. You're not going to be very productive on that day. So, moving them when they're dormant is a much better idea. Making sure if your plants are root bound that you do try to tease out some of that root structure. There's a lot, we're not… this isn't about potted plants so we're not going to talk a lot about that. And then reducing some of the woody vegetation so it's not losing a lot of water and under stress even though it's wintertime. It's also a good idea, particularly if you're dealing with something that's evergreen. I'll show you a fine example of a plant we moved this winter that we killed. Just a minute... Okay yeah, we killed it.

So let me tell you the most important thing about a botanic garden… we kill plants. That is the most important thing we do. So, we are just, we're all marveling [at] this little urophysa growing under the rock here this blooming, it's been blooming like this since November, right. Probably the only one in the entire United States. It's a very unusual plant from China.

Urophysa henryi - Juniper Level Botanic Garden

We got some seeds that grow just in three provinces in southern China. Nobody’s ever thought to grow it, nobody ever thought about it, but it blooms in the winter. It needs warmer temperatures in the winter, so it thrives in the South. But that plant has thrived for us. Five out of six plants that we try like this we kill. So don't think everything we put in the ground thrives. And we don't cover anything here for cold hardiness. Nothing gets covered in this garden because we want to know if it survives and at what point it will die. so why you should care about that is botanical gardens kill things, so you don't have to. Right so the stuff that we know will do well ends up in our open house sales and on our catalog and the stuff that we've killed, and we don't kill them once, we try to kill them no less than three times before we say they won't grow here. Because there's a lot behind that too, all right. So, everybody kind of has the idea about that.

Let's walk around the garden and take a look at some things that are great to transplant in winter. and I know it's still winter there's leaves on trees, you know I was 87 degrees the other day but welcome to North Carolina, right. So, we're talking about bulbs, spring flowering bulbs. When do we plant spring flowering bulbs? this beautiful little tulip here, those get planted in the fall right. Summer flowering bulbs we want to put out in the spring, but perennials transplant beautifully in the South and established beautifully in the South if you can get them in the ground before they start growing.

"Botanical gardens kill things, so you don't have to"

So, we try to push plants to have active growth for our plant sales because nobody buys the dormant plant, unless you're ordering a mail order. So, one of the great advantages of getting stuff from a mail-order nursery [is that] you can get some stuff dormant and get it in the ground before it really starts to grow. Because once it's pushing that growth, you need extra water, you stand the issue of you can over water it and you'll end up with photopher, with root rot, with all kinds of issues on your plant that you don't want. So, it's trickier to plant during the active growing season than it is in the cooler parts of the year. All right, so that means everything, even a bog garden, can be created in the wintertime. So, we just built this bog garden in January. up to January, this was an extension of this little bed that ran across here but we get a lot of water that flows off and we wanted to catch that water and direct it into a pipe so it could go into our drainage system rather than washing our path out all the time. So rather than build a traditional rain garden, we built a line bog garden here. And you might think, “okay, well these are things that grow in hot places, carnivorous plants, Venus fly traps, all these things. You don't transplant desert things in the wintertime, but these aren't tropical things. These are things from North Carolina, South Carolina, and the southeastern United States and like I said, in my book, the best time to transplant most of those things is when they're dormant. And so, putting your pitcher plants in January means that rather than them going under stress from being moved when they're producing their flowers in the spring when most people plant them in our flower buds are coming up great guns here because the plants have had a moment to actively produce a settle their root structure in produce the root structure and start to flower. So, a lot of it is about the biology.

Grass is wonderful to move in wintertime. Sedges, the best time to move is in the wintertime. When you're moving a plant in the wintertime though, you can have things that happen. So, like we moved… we divided a bunch of iris and unguicularis. Do you guys know that one? It’s a winter flowering iris. We divide them in the winter because they're from the Mediterranean region. They’re growing their roots and they're flowering in the wintertime. so, it's a good time to transplant them. We broke up all the clumps, we transplanted them out, and the next week we had 11 degrees. We ended up with over half of all the transplants dying. That’s what we call stochastic in the scientific trade. It’s something that happens that we can't naturally control and yes it was the right thing to do but nature decided against it.

"Hostas, all of our woodland plants, transplant best fall through winter."

Those are field those are field grown but yeah so you always stand a chance you can do the same thing. If you're transplanting in the summertime and suddenly there's no rain for two months and you know it's 100 degrees and it never gets below 80 at night your hostas aren't going to be very happy transplanting at that time. Hostas, all of our woodland plants, transplant best fall through winter. So that's really the time to be thinking about this. And next year you guys need to come to our fall plant sale and really take advantage of that because you can get them in the ground. And rather than all your neighbors planning out the thing and it looks kind of okay in the spring where they bought it with a flower on it and put it out and it looks you know almost okay for a couple weeks and then two years later it looks good. You put yours out in the fall and in the spring… boom! They’re fully established. The roots are growing.

Not all plants grow all their roots all at the same time. So, some species do start to grow root growth during the warmer times of the year, other species of plants do most of their root growth in the cooler times of the year. So many of our temperate grasses are doing a ton of root growth as they're dormant, or right before they go dormant, and right when they become active in the spring. They’re not doing it during the summer so much as they are doing those times of the year, it depends. But what you really need to do is just know your plant, make sure you know it.

Other things we don't transplant in the wintertime - anything that is really marginally hardy for us. that is, semi-tropical, things like ginger lilies, hedychium, alocasias, colocasias (the elephant ears) bananas; those we want to wait till around April 1st or when frost is over before we put them in the ground because they're really from tropical origins. Even though the species we grow are from temperate places, the family as a whole is tropical and so they do [their] best, and they're growing most of their below ground and above ground growth, when the soil temperature has warmed up. So, if we plant them before the soil temperature warms up, we're really not doing them any good. Well, you guys walk through the garden yet? Oh my god, it's so beautiful right now, it's unbelievable.

Hellebores: you can't find a bad time of year to transplant hellebores. They're so tough they'll make it. Obviously, we all transplant them right when they're flowering in the wintertime, probably not the best time to do it, but they do just fine with the with winter planting, no problem.

Q: What about seedlings, should they be a certain size before you take them out?

So, we try to take up all the seedlings and you'll find where we've missed pods. We try to remove the seeds because we don't want these to actually produce mutts around each clone that we have. for the thousands of different types of hellebores that we have we try to increase that clonally so that all the flowers are exactly the same because they're really not very fidel. They tend to breed with anybody who's close and it's always successful. so, you end up… they're very promiscuous, yeah, they're very promiscuous. And so, if you're trying to get upright flowers and helleborus hybrids, like we are, and you're crossing around you don't want to save all the seedlings unless you're growing them out somewhere else because it'll sort of mud up your clone. so, but the time to take them out is when they have the two cotyledons and the first leaf first real leaf. So, when you see a little three parted leaf come up in between those two cotyledons the two seed leaves that's the time to pull them out and pot them up or move them. If you do it with just the cotyledons, you get really high mortality. If you wait too long, you're going to have a mess you know.

Q: When is that generally?

Right now. Yeah, usually March through early April is the best time. I'm sure I can find you guys an example of a...

So, when we're moving something woody, we really should try to do it in the cool season. But let's say we wanted to move something as big as this, this big Ilex decidua. We do that here something this big but there's a whole series of things that we will end up doing before that plant actually leaves the ground. One of the first things we'll do is we’ll root prune around the plant and we're going to root prune out to as big as the wad of soil that we want to take out of the plant. And we're going to come back in and we're going to remove all of the big stems out of that plant and remove it down to smaller stems. And we usually will reduce the overall stems that are left by half. And we're going to do that months before we actually move the plant, so we'll do that actually usually in the spring if we're going to move it in the fall. You can take mulch and fill in around where you've cut through those roots, but what you want to do is start to stress the tree and get it used to being living off of a smaller root ball before you move it. So, with deciduous things like this possumhall, this Ilex decidua, we would try to move it. November is a great time to move plants like this, after the leaves have fallen and we don't have to worry about water loss. If we're going to move an evergreen like… let's look at this guy over here. If you're going to move an evergreen that's gotten too big for the site that it's in, like this buxus, we're going to follow about the same procedure. I would like to get in there and root prune around this buxus, even at this size, months before I'm going to move it. And I'm also going to take back the buxus about in half before I would move it. But now when you move something like a buxus or an Ilex granada or an Ilex vomitory in the wintertime if it's evergreen it's still going to be losing water. And what's more, if you have a really cold dry wind like we had that 11-degree night we also had 40 mile an hour winds nearly constantly and it really burnt a lot of things that don't normally burn in our garden. Fully hardy things like the droplets of oldies and the aspidistras that normally take it down to five degrees with no problem, they burnt like crazy with that that wind because it desiccated them. cold air holds less moisture than warm air. So, when we're moving evergreens, there are products you can buy to spray on the leaves, the no-wilt products that will help to prevent water loss and if you're moving a big one, I suggest them. they'll work. We should have used it on the one I'll show you Oscar's dead over here. I'll show you our dead Ascot yeah, I know I can't believe it. It was like the worst plant that could have died here I'll show you why, but we moved it while I was away for the holidays, and it got moved and didn't get treated right.

[audience anecdote]

So, make sure you still water them. If you're transplanting in the wintertime, you want to make sure that the soil is still moistened. Even though we don't have to supplementally water as frequently as we would during the summer make sure if you're particular if you're moving an evergreen but any plant you move gets watered in thoroughly. Even in the wintertime. You may never have to water it again because if you stick your finger down in the soil and it's got any moisture in there you don't want to add any more moisture during the wintertime but you definitely water first yeah.

Q: What about a shrubby magnolia, Michelia figo

A: Michelio figo, banana shrub. Yeah, it's definitely an 8-foot-tall shrub yeah so up there.

Q: I don’t want an 8-foot-tall shrub… so when is…?

A: Right now, like March. Yeah, if you move them after the like I usually with my thought in this this part of the South is about by February 15th we've had that really, really cold day historically, if you look back. After that we might get a frost but it's not a freeze. And magnolias do do a lot of root growth, just like some of those grasses we were talking about, as it's warming in the spring. So, establishing them then is fine, but we've moved magnolias at South Carolina Botanical Garden we moved field planted magnolias in every month of the year successfully. It just depends on what magnolia. So, with Michelia types, the figo, the unanensis, the ones that are evergreen, you definitely have to reduce the amount of leaf material on your shrub.

Q: So, cut it back.

A: Definitely, and particularly if it's a figo, you can do a lot of your pruning out, for form, while at the same time, like we were talking about with the Camellia we first looked at, the branches are going the wrong way things, that make it look weird, get rid of those. Because the more you can get rid of, the less stress it'll be under when you do move it. Cut them and let it heal in spot before you move the plant.

Q: So how long?

A: Oh three...

Q: It’s no longer 8 feet, what I’ve been doing I’ve been

A: Cutting it back?

Q: It’s just about to bloom right now right after it blooms, I cut it down about 18 inches.

A: Let it heal for at least three weeks. I'd let it heal for at least three weeks before moving them. We had 300 big magnolia and cygnus hybrids that we were field trawling for Kevin Paris, and we moved those all the time around even when they were up 10-12 feet tall and just by doing some selective removal of foliage and making sure the water levels stayed… they stayed well hydrated, we moved them every month of the year. So, they can be done but most people say early spring is the best time to move those kind of magnolias.

Yep, and you had a question too?

Q: Is that a lorapedalum?

A: It is yes

Q: I thought that was just a shrub?

A: Oh yeah, one of the first loropetalum planted in the South is at the South Carolina botanic garden where I was Director for a long time and it's about three times that size, huge. It was a white flowered one. This is one of the biggest pink flowered ones I've seen but the white flowered ones. The first cultivars brought into the United States were white and that one has a trunk about that big on it. It's unbelievable.

Q: How old is it?

A: 1960. something like that yeah yeah it's it's as old as me

Q: Are they genetically trees?

A: Yeah, right loropetalum are trees in the wild yeah.

Look how beautiful… oh the camellia, yeah this one's called ‘Kujaku Tsubaki’ so yes it has drooping… it has a weeping growth habit it has these lovely variegated red and white flowers that never quite open all the way. [It’s one of the only] red flowered camellias I can stomach. I don't know why, it's just me, but those red flowered camellias that look unreal, they just remind me of like plastic flowers on a grave site, you know, it's just like… I can't stomach them. White I love, pink I love, the yellow one's amazing, but the red I… but I like that one, that's really pretty.

Look at how pretty this little prunus is too, P. incisa ‘Kojo-No-Mai’. Isn’t that delicate and beautiful?

Q: Is that growing in the shade?

A: Yeah, yeah, it gets about… gets a little sun there because we've got some open. This is south, this way. Really delicate, really wonderful, there's so many gaudy cherries that finding a nice, elegant cherries…

Q: I saw a whole bunch at the gardens yesterday, do they all kind of stay about that size, or can they get huge?

A: It depends on which one but this cultivar is a little contorted in growth form, so it stays smaller.

Q: Is that Prunus incisa?

A: Yeah, I love Prunus incisa, but you see how contorted this growth form is? Keeps it…it’s cool yeah, it's almost like putting a contorted coralist…

Q: What did you say that one was?

A: Prunus incisa and the cultivar… this one is ‘Kojo-No-Mai’ so yeah

Q: Do you have a common name for that?

A: I don't have a common name for those and there's, you know that's one of the things about when you're transitioning to being a full-on converted plant nerd is that you lose those.

Q: But I need a common name that I could pronounce!

A: I'm gonna see if it has one for you here… Fuji. Fuji cherry, yeah Fuji cherry.

Q: Does it actually have cherries?

A: Oh yeah, all of the prunus… now I don't recommend eating any prunus you don't know. Because prunus, some prunus, have incredibly toxic fruit. So like our native laurel cherry, Carolina Laurel Cherry, is toxic. And so you have to be careful because cyanide is really in all it's what gives cherries peaches um even almonds have cyanide in them because that whole genus prunus is known for accumulating lots of cyanide in the fruits the leaves and the stones.

Q: Is it in the fruit or is it in the seeds?

A: All parts. So, part of what gives you the flavor, that sort of peach flavor, part of that is cyanide. Yeah cyanide, yes arsenics in the apples. Yeah, anthocyanins give them the color, it's a pigmentation. So, you always have to be careful. So, let's go look at where we screwed up. That's a good place to learn.

You know pruning, you hear a lot of people talk… when do you prune your hydrangeas? Who can tell me when to prune hydrangeas? Now because you can see the new growth.

Now is the time to get in there and do some good pruning. So, it's also a great time to plant hydrangeas as we're talking about moving plants in the wintertime, it's a great time to move them, it's a great time to plant them, because they really suffer from drought stress if you move them during the growing season. I'm sure you've planted or transplanted hydrangeas and they wilt. They wilt, you water them, you water them and then it dies because you over watered and you got root rot, right.

So, it's a great time to plant hydrangeas and also a great time to trim. So, you can see, I came in here and I trimmed this. They hadn't been trimmed for a couple years here, at least not properly. And rather than just trimming back the plant, all I do is I deadhead the plant and then with the hydrangea I go in and I remove about a third of the stems. The older, big stems so that you're constantly flushing newer stems because hydrangea stems bloom great the second, the third year. The fourth year they start to have smaller spit flowers and they start to decline. So, if you can keep rejuvenating by every year and I, you know, I would choose… you know they hadn't been trimmed for a couple years but I would never leave that stem typically when I'm pruning a hydrangea. Because that stem, you can see, it's old, it's branched, it's got… starting to have fissured bark down on the bottom so I would usually cut those out and try to encourage and keep only stems that look something like this. To that, that one's on the on the edge, that one's probably should go, that one's on the edge but I could only trim out about a third this year because I don't want to over trim it. I want to still have enough flowers to be attractive next year. It'll get even more brutal treatment, I promise.

Q: What sort of mulch do you use?

A: We mulch mostly with triple ground mulch , but our supplier did not have great triple ground. They started to sell us this stuff that has larger chunks in it, I don't like that as much. That's what we do here. Our gardens here are for illustrating for you as many different kinds of plants as we can and showing you what the growth form of those plants are it's not as much about design or functionality. So in my own home garden I have zero mulch. I never use mulch, absolutely not, absolutely not. I use the leaves that fall there, no problem, but I try to fill everything. I don't have any empty space between any of my plants in my own gardens because in my own gardens I design them all as what I call natural community gardens. And if you go in the wild, nothing has blank space and there's never a time you can't put something between other plants. It doesn't have to be a ground cover. I plant way too heavy for most people in the South but if you visit elsewhere, like England or the Pacific Northwest or anywhere else in the world except the South where we still kind of like to have our little well-formed balls with mountains of mulch in between them, you'll see that there's so much more texture and vibrancy and you create so much more life by having all the space filled with something that insects can eat, insects can use for pollen and nectar, and all the rest of the wildlife follows. So, try to avoid as much mulch as we have. We have to use it here like this because we have to contain these things so that we can propagate from them to sell to you as well as show you exactly what the form and structure of a plant is. So, it has a little different purpose. If we didn't, every space would be filled and overlapping.

Q: Do you have anywhere in the garden where you’ve done that so that we can see what it looks like? Because, without that, people go away from here thinking this is what they’re supposed to do.

A: Well and this is fine, but yeah, we need that. So, if you could… if we could just get you to, we only need about 16 million more dollars to fund our endowment and if we can get there, then we'll have the ability to do that. Until we do, the whole garden is supporting the nursery and so it's so difficult. But it's amazing, I mean, still has ridiculous…

Q: But even just one little area, just to show people?

A: Well, the bog garden in front is getting ready to be like that but yeah, as we move…

Q: The Souto Garden is like that.

A: Which one? Souto Garden is a bit like that. Yeah, Souto Garden is somewhat like that. The sun garden over here is starting to become that way and we are planting what we call rooteral areas, intentional weedy spots for supporting pollinators using native plants that we are just letting go through their entire life cycle. Because here you know we deadhead we cut back we can't have seeds come up all over the place and pollute the different types, but we need places like that, and our own home gardens should have places like that right. All right let's go look at the disaster here.

That's beautiful this year.

The trillium… when you guys go through the garden, you got to just look at every different trillium. It's the largest collection of trillium anywhere.

How about ferns? Ferns transplant beautifully once the threat of really cold weather is over. ferns transplant beautifully in the late winter. if you're transplanting ferns out in the fall, you have to watch them pretty good. because a lot of times what happens with the winter is when we have frost heave, it's going to push your ferns up and leave them on the top on the surface of the soil or you'll damage those roots. Because you guys have seen what ferns look like when you dig them up? They have very different root systems, right, they don't look quite as advanced, they're not anchored in as well. They’re just little fibrous roots that aren't as structured as we see in most flowering plants and because of that, you have to be kind of careful when you are planting ferns, out when you're transplanting. I like to do most of my fern beds right now, March late February through March because you can still get them out in time. they don't have those fresh fronds. because if you transplant them and move them once they've started to produce fronds in the spring, all those fronds are going to fry because you can't keep them wet enough and they're under too much stress. But if you plant them before the fiddleheads come out, you're going to have a much better success rate. And if you can't do it then and you buy a potted fern that's got fresh fiddleheads on it, and it's already warm in the spring, keep them in the pot until those fiddleheads have hardened off into good leaves and then plant your fern in the ground. But watching out for frost heave is a big thing in the winter. Yeah?

Q: Best time for trillium?

A: Trillium! This is an interesting one because most of the books originally and my good friend Fred Case, late friend Fred Case from Michigan, used to always say, “You need to divide and move trillium in August or September, that's the only time you successfully can transplant trillium”. Total hogwash. You can do it any time of the year. We do most of ours nowadays in the summer. The only time that it's difficult to transplant… Trillium because they're all done more or less by the time it gets warm enough to have too much heat stress, you can transplant a trillium in flower, and it doesn't set it back very bad at all. It's all about disturbance around that rhizome because trillium have a rhizome and just little Roots off the rhizome. and if you've lost all of the soil contact from that rhizome and transplanted, it's going to decline a little bit and you know die prematurely. because it only produces one leaf. This is all one leaf, three bracts on one stem. And when that stem is dead there's nothing else so if it doesn't stay up long enough to photosynthesize long enough and pull a lot of nutrients into the rhizome it's not going to be very big next year. and so, a lot of times if you're transplanting by bare root or something in the spring, a trillium, you'll have it do its thing that year and it'll kind of die early and the next year it won't bloom, but the third year it'll be fine. If you want it to do very well you wait until after it's flowered, put it in the ground, and it should have gotten enough energy and be able to produce a flower two years in a row rather than one out of three.

Q: Are they short like that or do they get taller?

A: Oh my gosh, they're every… it depends on the individual clone of the trillium. there are species, we have species that are… the whole plant is that tall, and that big around. And then there are species that can be this tall. And out on the west coast volcano the great big Trillium Kurabayashii has flowers that big and can be that tall. Unfortunately, won't grow here but… trillium.

Q: And that’s trillium?

A: Yeah, trillium, because they have three leaves, three sepals, three petals.

Q: What colors do they come in?

A: Every color you can imagine so there's some open ones right here you can see. This is a trillium; this is the sessile flower form of trillium. most of the trillium that thrive in the South have what we call sessile flowers. So, they're not… if you’re from the north, they're not what you think of as a trillium because you think about the one with the stalk and the white flower, the large-flowered trillium. Most of the Southern trillium have their flowers flat against the bracts, like this one. This is actually a hybrid trillium it's a cross between Trillium recurvatum and Trillium lancifolium so it's a hybrid between this and one that's grown right on the other side of the bridge there. So, it kind of is intermediate between the two but most of the sessile flowered ones come in reds, purples, yellows, greens, kind of in between orangish-brown, bi-colored, tri-colored. This one got stepped on when it was coming up in the spring. When they were mulching, they stepped on the bud and broke off the tip of the bud, so it doesn't have beautiful flower, beautiful leaves this year, but it's perfectly okay. But it's amazing the number of forms of those that you can find. And then the pedicellate flowered ones don't grow as well in the Piedmont in general but if you walk around the garden, you'll see some with white flowers, pink flowers, red flowers, yellow flowers, there's an enormous diversity. What I love about the sessile flower trillium is they flower for a month or more. And the northern one, the large flowered white trillium, will produce that open beautiful flower but if it rains, it's only going to last one day and if it doesn't rain, and you're lucky, you might get three or four or five days out of that before it starts to decline. So, the sessile flowers have a lot to offer. They also have very interesting scents. Some of them smell like lemons or bananas. a lot of them have fungal odors or odors that are like rotten meat because they trick pollinators into visiting their flowers.

And so, we've been trying to find boxwood replacements and particularly ones you don't have to trim. We don't trim anything here. nothing is shaped at Juniper Level; we don't have any trimming into balls. If you see something growing in a nice tight spherical shape like this was, it's because it grew that way naturally. So, this was Oscar, okay. Oscar was an Ilex vomitoria which is ‘Vomit Holly’, not the most marketable name probably but that that's why we call it Yaupon, which is a Native American word. and it's a native Holly to the coast. and this form had this really nice dense bunch. When it got moved, it was growing in a really confined space between two large rocks. So, we were able to get all that we could of the root structure out we didn't turn it back we moved it and we didn't spray it with Noel, and we did it in the winter the week before the 11-degree cold. so everything you can do wrong we did wrong with this plant and this is why people get scared away from transplanting things in the wintertime. it was too big to move to begin with it needed to have serious pruning to get into a size where it would survive that. It was evergreen, we didn't keep it from losing a lot of its water, and we had the extreme cold spell right after moving it which that's just stochastic. but that would have been such an amazing plant have for the form and folks do not have to go to the effort to prune it into the form and it's native and it's…

Q: And it’s poison…

A: It's not poison. No, absolutely not.

That is an interesting story, so I'll tell you that, and I'll be done with this talk, so I don't take up your whole day but it's a super interesting story. So, this plant, Ilex vomitoria was one of the most important species to Native Americans in the Southeastern United States of any. Yaupon is the local Carolina coast name for the plant from the native language and yaupon, the fresh, green, bright green leaves on this, like all holly have caffeine. And mate, if you've ever heard of mate, that they drink down in South America in Chile Argentina in Brazil, mate is a holly that they harvest the leaves to make a tea that's really high in caffeine. This has just as much, if not more caffeine than the mate leaves.

And so the Native Americans would collect these young green leaves and they would dry them and they would put them into a tea in a big cauldron that they would heat that and keep it going for a long time until they got this really like old you know, day old coffee that you are driving across country and stop at the Exxon and you get the last bit of coffee on it, kind of bloop out into your cup, and you still drink it? that's what they were drinking. It was called the black drink. They drank it out of a whelk shell that had the scrimshawed birdman on it. it was and hollowed out or cut at the bottom, so you filled the whelk shell and then you drank out of it. and so, the Native Americans would come together for the for big meetings, important meetings between different groups of families or nations would come together. and they'd have a big feast and then they would drink black tea. and they drank the black tea and then they immediately threw up. And Eaton, who described this plant, knew of the story from John Lawson and other people who have told the story in the past. He knew the story about the fact that the people would throw up after drinking the black tea and he thought that the yaupon itself caused them to throw up as amidic; it does not. They would purge themselves to get rid of any evil spirits that they had ingested at the meal beforehand, and they would throw up so that they would get rid of those evil spirits before they went into important and sacred meetings. It had a very ritualistic, religious, and in some cases, meaning to do that. and the great thing about coffee is that caffeine, is that if you get up in the morning, you drink your coffee, how long does it take for it to hit you? Right, it's absorbed immediately into your system. So, they could drink it, they could wake back up after partying all night, and they could go in clear-headed into the thing even after having purged out all the evil spirits that had secretly been snuck into the gathering’s food.

Q: So, they were bulimic.

A: Right, yeah for that in that case ritualistically bulimic, yeah.

All right well you guys have any particular questions about anything like I said it's such a big topic.

Q: Is it worth waiting and seeing if the roots might possibly come back?

A: Yeah, absolutely. So, you can see I scratched it down there the other day because I had somebody come from Pennsylvania to get a cutting of this thing and I was uh yeah. and I scratched it to see if it still had any life in it; it does. So, if we get any roots sprout or anything out of this we’ll… trust me, I'll baby it like you've never seen. because this is a commercially, would be a commercially very important plant, not for us because we don't do woody plants. but you know, we don't… we share plants with everybody. All anybody has to do from any garden, any gardener, is say “Hey, I'd like to have a cutting” and we'll make sure you get a cutting of that plant, you know, because that's what this place is about. About sharing. Any other questions?

Q: I’ve got a question about Venus flytraps. It doesn’t die in the frost?

A: No. So, Venus flytraps only native to a little area in Southeastern North Carolina and Northeastern South Carolina so Wilmington's is about the same as we are here.

Q: So, what about those in your bog?

A: They were just planted so they would have died back to a little bud if they'd been out all year. They have just one growth point at the center of the Venus fly trap and all the traps die when it frosts those just haven't got frosted since we planted them in January so they're still alive.

Q: Do they have to have a frost or cold weather to live?

A: They do. They won't live multiple years unless they have a cold period to go dormant.

Q: So, my Wal-Mart Venus fly trap that I've kept alive all winter, I need to stick it outside?

A: Absolutely. Yeah, Venus fly traps won't live all year inside.

it's really funny because when I used to teach, like when I was at Clemson, I'd have a lot of school groups come in and stuff like that and I'd have these huge school groups even my college classes I taught the same, I'd always ask them and say “Okay, Charles Darwin said the Venus flytrap's the most amazing plant on Earth. It does all these great things. It's able to catch insects, it lures, it attracts, it digests the insect”. I said, “Where do you think on Earth you have to go to find one of these” and you'd have people say oh it must be from Africa it, must be from South America, from the jungle from, you know, wherever Borneo. And then inevitably in every single class never had a fail and said where do you go to find these? Somebody said Wal-Mart. And the answer is native only to North and South Carolina but yeah, thank you guys so much for listening to me. I hope you learned something. Thank you.

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