Tony Avent

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Tony Avent
Occupation Plantsman, Author, Businessman
Spouse(s) Anita Avent

Tony Avent is an American horticulturist and plantsman. He and partner, Anita Avent, own Plant Delights Nursery and established Juniper Level Botanic Garden in Raleigh, North Carolina. In addition, he is a well-known plant explorer, author and public speaker.


Tony grew up with a passion for plants. Instead of playing games, he wandered the woods and fields near his home studying wildflowers.[1] At eight years old, his parents built a greenhouse for him. There he grew and propagated plants and sold them as a hobby.

Tony Avent attended North Carolina State University and graduated in 1978 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Horticultural Science.[2] He studied under the well renowned horticulturist J. C. Raulston. J. C. Raulston, instilled in him the quest for the newest and best garden plants from around the world.[3]

After college, he married Michelle Morgan Avent (1957–2012) and worked for the North Carolina State Fairgrounds in Raleigh as its Landscape Director.[2] He worked there for 16 years from 1978 to 1994. In addition he worked as a volunteer curator of the Shade Garden at the J. C. Raulston Arboretum from 1985 to 1994. He also worked as a weekly garden columnist for Raleigh's News and Observer newspaper from 1987 to 1998. He established Plant Delights Nursery and Juniper Level Botanic Gardens in 1988[4] and by 1994 the business had expanded enough for him to resign his state job and become a full-time nurseryman.

In addition to running the nursery, Tony Avent is a plant breeder who is best known for his Hosta breeding program, but is actively breeding other genera as well. In addition, Tony Avent travels the world on plant hunting expeditions to search for new, rare, and unusual plants. He is also an avid plant collector with a large collection of rare variegated Agave. He is a prolific writer as well, having authored a book (So You Want to Start a Nursery – 2003, Timber Press) and dozens of newspaper articles, magazine articles, and web articles. He is currently a contributing editor to Horticulture Magazine and Walter Magazine. In addition, every year he travels the country giving dozens of lectures on gardening topics. He also teaches several day-long classes per year at Plant Delights Nursery on subjects such as plant propagation and soils.

Avent is married to childhood friend and Raleigh native Anita Avent, a B.S. and MBA graduate of Meredith College. Anita Avent is a Mindfulness and Nonduality philosopher and teacher as well as a Board Certified Holistic Health Practitioner. She established the Center for Mindfulness and Nonduality at Juniper Level Botanic Gardens in 2013. She is a former health insurance administrator, regulator, and director with Cigna, the State of North Carolina and a Preceptor and Faculty Associate at the Department of Health Policy and Administration at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She was also an independent business strategist and health care industry consultant appointed by Governor James B. Hunt, Jr. in 1996 to serve as a Rules Review Commissioner on the State of North Carolina Rules Review Commission.

Plant Breeding Efforts[edit]

Tony Avent has breeding and evaluation programs for dozens of genera. He started breeding Hosta in 1984 and has been expanding his palette ever since. His plant breeding efforts focus on the following plant groups.[5]

Plant expeditions [6][edit]

Inspired by the late J. C. Raulston, Tony Avent has made over 66 plant expeditions since 1993 and has traveled extensively around the world in search of new, rare and unusual plants.

Awards and Honors[2][edit]


Traditional Media

Books/Chapters Written by Tony Avent:

Web Articles Written or Co-written by Tony Avent[7]

Organizations and committees[edit]

Avent is an active member of many gardening and plant organizations and serves on several committees including:[2]

Programs / Articles About Tony Avent or Plant Delights Nursery[8][edit]




  • Beautiful Madness by James Dodson, 2006 [19]
  • Bizarre Botanicals by Larry Mellichamp and Paula Gross, 2010 [20]
  • The Collectors Garden Book by Ken Druse 1996 [21]
  • The Plant Hunters Garden by Bobby Ward, Fall 2004 [22]

TV shows


External links[edit]