I'm wondering if there has ever been a study on the impact gardens like the Missouri Botanical Garden (MOBOT) have on plant sales? This thought recently occurred following UPS delivering my 'Spotty Dotty' mayapple from Forestfarm at Pacifica (http://www.forestfarm.com/). I have been admiring this beauty for a number of years from visits to MOBOT where it is planted throughout the English Woodland Garden. Its umbrella-like chartreuse leaves when fully expanded are a foot and a half across and heavily splotched a darker green to a chocolatey-brown as it ages. Getting down a little closer to explore the secrets to be found under the canopy, the 2' stems are covered with a red "fuzz" and dangling just below the foliage are clusters of bright red tassel-like flowers. Tony Avent of Plant Delights Nursery, Inc. (http://www.plantdelights.com/) describes this Podophyllum as the holy grail of many shade gardeners because of its short supply in the trade. That's code for "not the cheapest plant you will buy." And since I don't like to waste money and kill plants at the same time, I made sure I had a planting site available that offered the necessary shade and cool, moist, organic soil that all Podophyllum prefer before finalizing my order. Hopefully this Chinese cousin of our native mayapple (P. peltatum) will fit right in too.
There have been a number of other plant purchases over the years as a result of visiting MOBOT…which in turn has led to some amazing nurseries around the country in my effort to source new plants. One of my favorite plant finds is false hydrangea (Deinanthe caerulea), a part-shade beauty I found in the Chinese Garden of MOBOT. Although the flowers are a very pretty soft blue, it is the large cleft-foot shaped leaves that caught my eye. Sourcing this plant led me to Far Reaches Farm (http://www.farreachesfarm.com/).
When I saw the butter-yellow flowers of giant scabiosa (Cephalaria gigantea) in the Ottoman Garden of MOBOT, I knew I was looking at another great plant for my garden...and I was right! It adds great height (5-6') airily to the bed without taking up a lot of space or lodging over. And I think the pollinating insects may just like it as much as I do. Sourcing this plant led me to Annie's Annual and Perennials (http://www.anniesannuals.com/).
I really never thought I would get excited about spirea, but I changed my tune after seeing Reeves Double Spirea (Spiraea cantoniensis 'Lanceata') near the Chinese Garden of MOBOT. In mid-spring, Reeves Double Spirea produces a cascading mass of miniature snow-white rose-like (double) flowers. Beautiful! Fortunately, I had mentioned to a friend in Florida Extension that I was looking for one, and what do you know? She sent me one! Otherwise it might have been my Waterloo of plant acquisition. Turns out this plant is tough to source on the retail market.
Every gardener seems to have plant that they just can't seem to grow successfully, and one of mine is the native cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis). I feel like I am being mocked every time I see its stunningly beautiful wands of red flowers growing boldly in someone else's garden. When I myself have been responsible for the death of dozens of cardinal flower plants over the past 30 years throughout the Midwest! I haven't given up though! I know cardinal flower prefers a medium to wet soil but clearly that alone does not guarantee success. My new tactic is to seek out successful stands of cardinal flower and pay close attention to the surrounding plant community for clues to a better planting site. Recently I noted a part-shade planting at the St Louis Zoo that paired cardinal flower with Ligularia, Hosta and Astilbe. Then I found a different full sun planting at MOBOT that paired cardinal flower with 'Adagio' Miscanthus, 'Little Joe' Eutrochium and 'Hortensis' Kalimeris. Oddly enough, I have all of those plants growing successfully on my property but I have never planted cardinal flower with any of them. There may be hope yet for additional plants sales following a visit to MOBOT.