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The Backyard Botanist With encyclopedic knowledge and painstaking care, Jim Lanier’s passion for growing things is one beautiful addiction

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By Barbara J. Sullivan • Photographs by Mark Steelman

here are times when the line between amateur and professional blurs. Some amateurs actually outstrip the professionals. In the world of horticulture, professional garden writers are paid to dole out advice on the latest fungicides or color trends. Professional catalogue growers will sell you some Amadeus Mozart daffodils or an heirloom belle amour rose for a tidy sum. In just about every town in America there are nursery owners and landscapers for whom plants mean business. They’re paid to know things like Latin names and USDA growing zones. Every so often, though, you’ll come across a gardener who calls himself an amateur, who makes no money at what he does, but who, truth be told, could go mano a mano with any professional in the business. One such gardener is Jim Lanier, an energetic and unstoppable force in the Wilmington gardening world. He lives a stone’s throw from the Intracoastal 64

Salt • September 2014

Waterway near Wrightsville Beach, his house enveloped in all things growable. His plant collection continues to increase without any foreseeable end in sight. It is intense, and he’s happy to help you navigate it. From the tiny spike moss plant whose leaves look like heavy green lace, to the towering, thirty-foot Washingtonia palm, he’ll tell you where he got it, how long it’s been growing there, how its origins can be traced back to China or Mexico, and whether or not he loves it. Generally, he loves it. The older he gets, the fewer in number are the plants he doesn’t love. Jim will greet you at the door by asking if you’d like a piece of Phedimus ellacombianum the way someone else might offer you some iced tea with lemon. If the Latin name doesn’t ring a bell he’ll explain that it’s a low-growing, yellow-flowered succulent formerly classified as a sedum. Don’t get him started on why taxonomists couldn’t leave well enough alone with those sedums. The Art & Soul of Wilmington

September Salt 2014  

The Art & Soul of Wilmington

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