On an overcast, mid-November day in the early 1990s, Kevin Gantt of Hefner's Nursery in Conover, NC gave me a tour of their field-grown trees. As he drove back to the nursery, we passed a modest brick house with a 3-foot mound of pastel yellow shining at one corner. Leaves were already off the trees so the color really caught my eye. When I asked Kevin what the yellow clump was, he answered "that is some old mum that has been there forever." That really was exciting because were already growing two hardy mums but neither were yellow. I asked Kevin if he knew the owner of the house and if he could get a small start of the plant for me.

Time passed and the old mum drifted to the back of my mind but not to Kevin's. On one of Hefner's subsequent deliveries to our nursery there was an extra plant in a one gallon pot. It was from Kevin and it was the old mum I had admired a year earlier.

We propagated it and planted it around the nursery. It was a great performer, growing 24 to 30 inches tall and spreading to really make a show. As it bloomed quite late, I often had it to cut for Thanksgiving. Since we did not know who it was, I tagged it 'Gethsemane Moonlight' to keep track of it. Had I known how popular it would become, I would have called it 'Kevin's Gift.'

On my next visit to Montrose Nursery in Hillsborough, NC, I took two pots of the mum, one for Nancy Goodwin and one for Doug Ruhren. You can guess the rest of the story.


So why do we need another Verbena??? Well, this is not your grandmother's verbena. This one is bright pink, winter hardy to zone 7 at least, with semi-double to double individual florets forming a mounded flower cluster.

This verbena literally "appeared" in our barnyard as a chance seedling. We first noticed it blooming in early April under one of the tables. It not only will propagate easily from cuttings but will seed around, coming true from the parent plant. Or so we thought, until we discovered a white, double floret form nearby. So, we offer you 'Barnyard Pink' and 'Barnyard White'.


Twice, in the span of a week during the fall of 2010, new customers stopped by our nursery to inquire about a traffic-stopping, blue flower growing near a utility pole in a field 11 miles east of us. "Do you know what it is? Might you have any for sale?"

As unlikely as it may seem, I knew the exact plant they were describing since it was growing in front of the home of my sister Joy and her husband Ernie. Joy and I frequently swap plants and shop for them together, so we had discussed this particular plant and how it differed from its parent, a large blue aster purchased in 1996. The primary differences were its more compact growth habits and its late autumn bloom time.

The first seedlings had appeared in 2002, and Joy had selected a particularly compact one to divide and spread around the farm. One division was planted near the utility pole and another at the mailbox. Thankfully, she also shared divisions with me. We offer 'Joy's Aster' in quart containers.

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