A Rare Breed

JC Raulston Arboretum
JC Raulston Arboretum

Attention, gardeners and green thumbs! JC Raulston Arboretum’s annual Rare Plant Auction and Garden Party happens this month and it’s the perfect opportunity to get your hands on a variety of unusual and hard-to-find plants. 

This year, the nearly three-decade-old annual fundraiser will feature the “Flamethrower,” a new version of the redbud plant that arboretum director Mark Weathington describes as having golden foliage that darkens to a rich burgundy color, which transitions to coral and then to chartreuse.

“Since new growth continues through the year, there is a kaleidoscope of colors,” Weathington says. “It’s truly amazing.”

The Flamethrower results from more than 20 years of breeding work by former JCRA director Denny Werner. It’s currently available for viewing in the arboretum, but is not available for sale to the general public yet. 

“That plant won’t be available in nurseries until a year from now, so it’ll give somebody a chance to get a plant that won’t be seen in any other garden for quite a while,” Weathington says in a recent interview with a communications liaison from NC State. “We look for rare specimens, brand new selections, and reliable performers which aren’t readily available in the trade.” 

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In addition to the Flamethrower, tropical plants and several types of succulents will be available at the auction–popular choices for decorating offices, patios, townhomes and other small spaces. Less rare plants to be auctioned include Japanese maples, hostas and hellebores, and new types of hydrangeas. 

“Some of them [are] from our own collection,” Weathington says. “Other plants come from specialty nurseries and other botanic gardens across the United States. We really try to go for things that are difficult, if not impossible, to find at other spots.”

All available plants will be onsite for the auction and proceeds will be used to help keep the arboretum open all year. Bidders must be present for the live auction. 

“Every year, we’re getting a younger and more diverse audience, making it an event where you get a cross section of people in North Carolina,” Weathington says, adding that one of the arboretum’s missions is to get plants into the hands of people who will enjoy them. “A big part of the experience is being out here in the garden at one of the prettiest times of year.”

Tickets to the Rare Plant Auction and Garden Party cost $125-$150; sales are limited. Tickets are available at jcra.ncsu.edu.

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