Plant Delights Nursery
|Incorporated. Privately Held|
|Industry||Mail-Order Perennial Nursery|
|Headquarters||Raleigh, North Carolina, USA|
|Products||Rare and Unusual Perennials|
|Owner||Tony Avent and Anita Avent|
Number of employees
|Varies by season. 20-40|
Plant Delights Nursery is a mail order plant nursery based in Raleigh, North Carolina, specializing in herbaceous perennials, and owned by Tony Avent and partner Anita Avent. Plant Delights Nursery was established in 1988 by plantsman Tony Avent and currently operates on the 28-acre campus of Juniper Level Botanic Gardens.
Proceeds (10-15% of revenues) from Plant Delights Nursery's for-profit perennial plant nursery fund the research, educational programs, and ongoing maintenance of the not-for-profit Juniper Level Botanic Gardens, established in 1988, to bridge the gap between horticulture and botany. Juniper Level Botanic Gardens is also home to the Center for Mindfulness and Nonduality.
The nursery operates as a mail order plant nursery but also has an extensive online shopping presence and has periodic open nursery and garden days where it sells perennial plants directly to the public. The garden and nursery also host educational classes to raise awareness of the mis-information prevalent in the gardening world, along with mindfulness and nonduality classes and retreats with Anita Avent at the Center for Mindfulness and Nonduality.
Plant Delights Nursery has a widely acclaimed specialty catalog with humorous, topical covers drawn by the acclaimed cartoonist Jack Pittman. Plant Delights Nursery has been featured in many newspapers, magazines, and on television.
Owner Tony Avent with a lifelong love of plants, dreamed of owning a plant nursery. His parents built him a greenhouse when he was 8 years old and as a child he grew and sold plants as a hobby. Avent studied Horticulture at North Carolina State University under the late renowned horticulturist JC Raulston. He married his childhood sweetheart, Michelle Morgan (1957-2012), and after college, he worked for the North Carolina State Fairgrounds as its Landscape Director. While there, he purchased a home and property at 9241 Sauls Road in Raleigh. This parcel would eventually become Juniper Level Botanic Gardens and Plant Delights Nursery.
When Plant Delights Nursery was established in 1988, it was operated as a part-time operation in Avent's back yard to fund the research and educational programs of the botanic garden. The business grew quickly and in 1994 Avent resigned his day job to focus on the nursery and garden full-time. Avent and his wife, Anita Avent, direct the daily operations of both Plant Delights Nursery and Juniper Level Botanic Gardens.
From its initial production area of just one greenhouse, the business has grown to 30 greenhouses covering 28 acres. As the business expanded, Avent purchased adjacent properties. The nursery conducts extensive field trials in research beds at the Juniper Level Botanic Gardens before releasing new plants to the public.
Tony Avent collects rare and unusual plants from all over the world during his frequent plant hunting expeditions. These and plants from other prominent collectors such as Dan Hinkley, Darrell Probst, Barry Yinger, Ozzie Johnson, Hans Hansen, Alan Galloway and Bleddyn Wynn-Jones are trialed for several years in the nursery's field trial beds before being made available for sale. In addition, the nursery evaluates plants from plant breeders, botanic gardens, and plant collectors all over the world to determine their suitability for gardens in the southeastern United States. Tony Avent also conducts his own plant breeding programs with a special focus on Aroids, Crinum, Cyclamen, Hosta, Trillium and Zephyranthes.
The original residence on the 9241 Sauls Road property was converted into the main business office and Avent moved into a house on an adjacent property in 1996. Today the nursery and botanic gardens employ more than three dozen full-time employees as well as many part-time and seasonal employees. In addition, the botanic gardens employ a full-time staff, including a garden curator, along with volunteer workers who assist with garden upkeep and maintaining the research trial beds at Juniper Level Botanic Gardens.
Owner Tony Avent has a history of publishing satirical catalog covers. These covers, created by Jack Pittman have historically provoked controversy as they typically present one sided political satire, evidenced by letters contained in a hate mail section on the Plant Delights website. In 2012, Plant Delights' Spring catalog cover ignited a strong reprisal from Penn State alumni, when the cover featured a caricature of former coach Jerry Sandusky dressed as a lion with a Penn State logo attached chasing children down a road. Numerous Facebook comments directed to the business were deleted. Avent publicly commented on News 5 WRAL in Raleigh that he stands by his artwork.
- Plant Delights History Web Page
- Photo Gallery of Plant Delights Catalog Covers
- Gardener's fantasy and a reality check The Chicago Tribune
- N.C. nursery's plant catalog always fun The Houston Chronicle
- The Plant Hunter The New York Times
- The Plant Hunter Garden and Gun Magazine
- Almanac Gardener
- The Martha Stewart Show
- Tony Avent's Biography
- Plant Delights Information Web Page
- History of Plant Delights Nursery and Juniper Level Botanic Gardens
- Zephyanthes Photo Gallery on the Plant Delights Web Page
- List of Plant Delights Employees
- Hate Mail
- WRAL Story on Backlash