Tony Avent

Last updated
Tony Avent
BornAugust 20, 1957
Raleigh, NC, USA
Occupation Plantsman, Author, Businessman
Spouse(s) Anita Avent

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


Early life and education

Avent grew up with a passion for plants and nature. Instead of playing games, he wandered the woods and fields near his home in Raleigh NC, studying wildflowers. [1] At age five, Avent was building terrariums and dish gardens with mail-order plants, and at seven years old, his parents built a greenhouse for him. There he grew and propagated plants and sold them as a hobby. [2]

Tony Avent attended North Carolina State University and graduated in 1978 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Horticultural Science. [3] He studied under the well renowned horticulturist J. C. Raulston. Avent was inspired by Raulston who built the JC Raulston Arboretum. [2] In 1977, he married Michelle Morgan Avent (1957–2012). [3]


In 1978, he began working for the North Carolina State Fairgrounds in Raleigh as its Landscape Director. [3] [4] He worked there for 16 years until 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, 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. Avent was featured in the book, Heroes of Horticulture by Barbara Paul Robinson, 2018; Beautiful Madness by James Dodson, 2006; The Plant Hunter’s Garden by Bobby Ward, Fall 2004, and The Collector’s Garden Book by Ken Druse, 1996. He is currently a contributing editor to Fine Gardening Magazine. In addition, every year travels the country, having given over 800 lectures on gardening topics. He also lectures each year at Plant Delights Nursery. In 2018, Avent was named a Distinguished Alumni at his alma mater, North Carolina State University.

Avent is married to Raleigh business woman and childhood friend Anita Avent, a B.S. and MBA graduate of Meredith College. Anita Avent is also a Mindfulness and Nonduality 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 and mother to three adult children. She is also an independent business strategist and healthcare 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

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. Avent currently holds several US Plant Patents; Baptisia 'Blonde Bombshell' PP 26,828, Baptisia 'Blue Towers' PP 27,088, Baptisia 'Ivory Towers' PP 26,827, Hosta 'Tattoo' PP 11,603, Hosta 'Sun Mouse' PP 30,033, Dianthus 'Wicked Witch' PP 19,824. His plant breeding efforts focus on the following plant groups. [5]

Plant expeditions [6]

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 [3]

Writing [3]

Traditional Media

Books/Chapters Written by Tony Avent:

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

Organizations and committees

Avent is an active member of many gardening and plant organizations and serves on several committees including: [3]

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




TV shows

Related Research Articles

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Horticulture is the science, art, and practice of cultivating plants, flowers, fruits, vegetables, spices, and medicinal and aromatic crops with the purpose of decoration, beauty, ornament, and fancy.

A plantsman is an enthusiastic and knowledgeable gardener, nurseryman or nurserywoman. "Plantsman" can refer to a male or female person, though the terms plantswoman, or even plantsperson, are sometimes used. The word is sometimes said to be synonymous with "botanist" or "horticulturist", but that would indicate a professional involvement, whereas "plantsman" reflects an attitude to plants. A horticulturist may be a plantsman, but a plantsman is not necessarily a horticulturist.

<i>Baptisia australis</i> Species of legume

Baptisia australis, commonly known as blue wild indigo or blue false indigo, is a flowering plant in the family Fabaceae (legumes). It is native to much of central and eastern North America and is particularly common in the Midwest, but it has also been introduced well beyond its natural range. Naturally it can be found growing wild at the borders of woods, along streams or in open meadows. It often has difficulty seeding itself in its native areas due to parasitic weevils that enter the seed pods, making the number of viable seeds very low. The plant has low toxicity levels for humans.

JC Raulston Arboretum


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Juniper Level Botanic Gardens was established in 1988 by Tony Avent and his late wife Michelle as a privately owned botanical garden at 9241 Sauls Road, Raleigh, North Carolina. The botanic garden is open eight weekends per year; visits at other times must be scheduled in advance with the garden's owners or garden staff. The Center for Mindfulness and Nonduality at JLBG, established by Anita Avent in 2013, offers nonduality retreats, mindfulness meditation classes, and individual and group self-inquiry sessions for those exploring and seeking a fundamental shift in perception by meditating on the deeper questions of the nature of the assumed personal self and external reality. The botanic gardens radiate a quiet wisdom which point directly to the ineffable, invisible, and intelligent aware presence that every spiritual tradition calls the Absolute.

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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.

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  1. The Martha Stewart Show
  2. 1 2 "This collector-grower built an Eden of rare plants. Now he tackles the challenge to preserve it". The Washington Post. 2019-09-17. Retrieved 2020-10-22.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 "Tony on the Road | Tony Avent Speaking Schedule". Plant Delights Nursery. Retrieved 2019-11-07.
  4. 1 2 "About Plant Delights Nursery, Inc. and Juniper Level Botanic Garden". Plant Delights Nursery. Retrieved 2019-11-07.
  5. "Plant Delights Introductions". Plant Delights Nursery. Retrieved 2019-11-07.
  6. Tony Avent's online expedition logs
  7. "Perennial Plant Articles". Plant Delights Nursery. Retrieved 2019-11-07.
  8. "In the Media". Plant Delights Nursery. Retrieved 2019-11-07.
  9. Gardener's fantasy and a reality check Chicago Tribune – Ken Druse, Sept 14,2003
  10. N.C. nursery's plant catalog always fun, Houston Chronicle, Georgia – January 9, 2010
  11. When Plant Fans Gather, a Harvest of Obsessions, The New York Times – February 2, 1997
  12. The Global Backyard: Weird Is In , The New York Times – February 20, 1997
  13. A Gardener Grows Balmy In Winter, The New York Times – September 12, 2003
  14. You Want a ursery, Here's a Reality Check, New York Times – September 12, 2003
  15. In the Plant Game, Some Bets Are In, The New York Times – April 2006
  16. The Plant Hunter, New York Times – April 28, 2010
  17. Some myths worth busting, New York Times – April 29, 2010
  18. Nursery owner plants delight in growers by making gardening fun, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette – February 10, 2001
  19. Beautiful Madness, by James Dodson
  20. Bizarre Botanicals, by Larry Mellichamp and Paula Gross
  21. The Collectors Garden Book, by Ken Druse
  22. The Plant Hunters Garden, by Bobby Ward
  23. "UNC-TV ONLINE: Video On-Demand: Almanac Gardener". Retrieved 2019-11-07.
  24. "UNC-TV ONLINE: Video On-Demand: Almanac Gardener". Retrieved 2019-11-07.
  25. Martha Stewart Living TV Show Web Site
  26. Martha Stewart Living TV Show Web Site