Friday, September 14, 2018

The Plant Name Challenge

Pinus parviflora 'Goldilocks'

If you consult the American Conifer Society (ACS) website concerning Pinus parviflora 'Goldilocks' (or 'Goldylocks') you will read, “This cultivar has a complex history and illustrates why taxonomists can be difficult to be around.” Indeed, it has a murky history, but I don't think any “taxonomists” – at least trained or professional – have had anything to do with it...but I would agree that taxonomists can be difficult to be around.

Pinus parviflora 'Goldilocks'

The ACS continues, “According to the Royal Horticultural Encyclopedia of Conifers, Goldilocks is synonymous with P. parviflora 'Dr. Landis Gold' and the misspelled 'Goldilocks' but the correct name should be Pinus parviflora 'Tenysu-kazu'.”

The Royal Encyclopedia is a wonderful well-photographed publication but it contains mistakes – to be expected – and it is wrong about this “Tenysu-kazu.” I'll go back to the Flora Wonder Blog Partial to Pinus parviflora from January 25, 2018 and repeat the part about 'Goldilocks':

Pinus parviflora 'Goldilocks'

For years I kept separated and propagated three parviflora cultivars that always looked alike – 'Goldylocks', 'Dr. Landis' and 'Tenysu kazu'. I heard a couple of times that they were one and the same with 'Tenysu kazu' being the original name (from Japan). It was supposedly imported into North America by the late Dr. Henry Landis of Ontario, Canada, and was called (at times) 'Dr. Landis Gold' since the needle tips are cream-yellow in color. Upon Landis's death some of his plants were purchased by Verkade Nursery of New Jersey and they wrongly named the plant 'Tensu kasu'. Later someone else renamed the selection 'Goldylocks' – spelled deliberately wrong. The American Conifer Society states, “With that, the ACS will recognize the 'Tenyzu*-Kazu' – [thanks, but why the dash in the name?] – the original Japanese name, as the proper cultivar name with 'Goldylocks', 'Dr. Landis' and 'Dr. Landis Gold' relegated to AKA status, while 'Tensu kazu' and 'Goldilocks' are left as misspellings of other names.” But, of course, the previous sentence from the ACS should not capitalize the kazu part.

*Even the Conifer Society spells it Tenysu and Tenyzu in the same description.

You get the story again if you google Pinus parviflora 'Goldylocks' on the ACS website, where it is written that “This cultivar has a complex history and illustrates why taxonomists can be difficult to be around.” Then, a David Olszyk stridently comments, “It's becoming more well-known that 'Tenysu-kazu' is the correct cultivar name for this selection. The rules of nomenclature require that the original name be used for academic study with commercial names relegated to AKA status.” That's why, for example, that the misspelled Acer pensylvanicum stands, when the correct spelling of pennsylvanicum should have been used. So thank you, David O., for your nomenclatural expertise.

Pinus parviflora 'Tenysu kazu'?

But wait a minute. What if the good Dr. Landis screwed up in the first place with the spelling of 'Tenysu kazu'? Tensu kazu or Tansu kazu seem to be legitimate Japanese names, but Tenysu does not. I'm certainly not a Japanese linguistics expert, but at this point in my life...with using Japanese plant names for 45 years, and then being married to a wife with two daughters who chirp constantly in Japanese, I can positively tell you that tenysu is not Japanese. Wife – Haruko – confirmed my suspicion and said definitely not. So there.

Pinus parviflora 'Tanima no yuki'

Remember – it was Haruko Buchholz who cleared up the nomenclature of another Japanese parviflora pine – 'Tanima no yuki' which was screwed up into 'Tani mano uki', and even today some prominent nurseries still have it wrong, and so even does the Royal Horticultural Society of England. While a number of individuals take credit for the correct spelling – as in they have “researched” into the matter – it was actually Haruko who first solved the mystery 17 years ago. We were walking through the Display Garden and I asked her the meaning of the Japanese name. I said, “They say that the name means snow on the mountain.” Wrong. She corrected the spelling to “snow in the valley” by rearranging the letters into “Tanima no yuki.” Furthermore – she blushed – “tanima (or valley) is slang that bad boys use to refer to a woman's cleavage.” I reminded her that I was a “bad boy” too.

Osaka Castle

Anyway, back to the Tenyzu or Tenysu kazu question, Haruko says kazu means “number” so I don't know why that would be in a plant name. She wonders if the correct name is 'Tenshu kaku', an architectural typology commonly known as a castle keep (donjon), which is usually the central tower located within a castle. Note the tower of the famous Osaka castle – maybe that looks a little bit like the variegated P. parviflora. That's a long-shot name and explanation, and one would have to consult an old Japanese conifer connoisseur I suppose, but I don't know of anyone. In the meantime we'll continue to label and sell our trees as 'Goldilocks' because I don't like the “y” in either Goldylocks or Tenysu. In fact the latter sounds like “tennis shoe.” For what it's worth the Hillier Manual of Trees and Shrubs goes with Tennis shoe, er...'Tenysu-kazu'.

Due to Haruko's intense Japanese pride and her desire to contribute to my career, she made a determined effort to solve the 'Goldilocks' nomenclatural kerfuffle. She consulted the cognoscenti in
Japan – and she has quite an array of distinguished contacts – but came up empty. They like her 'Tenshu kaku' theory however.

Whatever the plant's correct name, Dr. Landis brought it into Canada around 1980. Thereafter, the ACS explains, “Sometime before 1999 Billy Schwartz, a colleague of Bob Fincham [the first ACS President], brought back from Japan a cultivar with many of the same characteristics which Schwartz called 'Goldilocks' (sic). Fincham has propagated Schwartz's specimen and believes it to be the same as 'Tenysu-kazu'.” If, if that is true, the implication is that there is or was a cultivated variant produced by someone in Japan, but that Western horticulture has screwed up the name beyond that. One of Haruko's contacts suggested that Dr. Landis collected the one variegated seedling from a bonsai grower-say-and brought that back to Canada, so no one in Japan would know anything about a “cultivar.” However, if the Fincham/Schwartz theory is correct, then someone in Japan was actually producing a cultivar.

At this point Buchholz will use the trade name of Pinus parviflora 'Goldilocks' (AKA 'Tenshu kaku'). But I stress that I am not on a nomenclatural mission to convert anyone to use my proposed name, least of all the venerable RHS, even though the ACS and the RHS are both clearly wrong with their name.

PS 1 I'll indulge your patience with a couple of post scripts. I've been to London's world-famous Kew Gardens twice, the last time with wife Haruko, BC (Before Children), so it must have been around 16 years ago. In their iconic rock garden was a number of dwarf conifers with attractive, authoritative labels. A little cutie pine was labelled strobus when it was actually a parviflora, or perhaps vice versa – I don't remember which. But it was wrong, I was 100% certain of it. I should have photographed and documented the error, but at the time I didn't think to do so, or that I would even be alive and writing a blog about it in 2018. I thought it was incumbent upon me, however, to report to a nearby gardener who was making notes, perhaps for a to-do work list, about my discovery. “I say, good chap” – but then I had to wait 20 seconds for a roaring low-flying jet to pass – “just so you know, there is a labelling mistake in the rock garden, that Pinus so-and-so is really Pinus blah blah blah.” Woah – his left nostril contracted and his upper lip curled in a look of disdain, contempt – no, utter incredulousness! – that a colonial hillbilly should ever question the sanctity of this premier RHS institution. I shrugged, whatever, because in my life I don't mind to make mistakes, to be wrong. In fact, I prefer to be the dumbest man in the room, especially among women, because I receive stimulation to be in the company of superior intellects. My god – give up your ego if it allows you to elevate...and the women will love you anyway.

Ginkgo biloba

PS 2 I mentioned previously that Acer pensylvanicum's name was a spelling mistake (should have been pennsylvanicum), but that the rules of international nomenclature insist that the mistake should stand. The same is true with one of my favorite trees, Ginkgo biloba. It is found in fossils dating back 270 million years and is native to China. eventually the genus made its way to Japan, and today's name of Ginkgo is regarded as a misspelling of Japanese gin kyo, meaning “silver apricot,” referring to the edible seed. Engelbert Kaempfer first described Ginkgo in his book Amoenitatum Exoticarum with the spelling of Ginkgo, but that perhaps was a misspelling of Ginkjo, and that error was spread by Linnaeus in his book Mantissa Plantarum II. The Japanese language system of Kanji typically has multiple pronunciations and you can't really blame a Westerner for being confused. The older Chinese name for the tree means “silver fruit,” pronounced Yinguo in Mandarin or Ngan-gwo in Cantonese.

Pinus parviflora 'Himeko janome'

Pinus parviflora 'Hagoromo'

PS 3 Earlier I alluded to “mistakes” in the RHS Encyclopedia of Conifers. One common error seems to bother me more than it does others, and that is the practice of capitalizing the second part of a Japanese plant name. I see it too often with Japanese-origin maples as well as with pines. No Royal Encyclopedia should list 'Fubuki Nishiki' and 'Gin Yatsubusa' and 'Himeko Janome' instead of the correct 'Fubuki nishiki', 'Gin yatsubusa' and 'Himeko janome'. Pinus parviflora 'Pygmy Yatsubusa' should not have a capital “y,” but then it's not a legitimate name anyway. Pinus parviflora 'Hagaramo' and 'Hagaramo Seedling' are not correct – it should be 'Hagoromo' which translates as an “angel's robe.” But I guess, for some reason, 'Hagoromo' isn't used anymore, and it is a synonym for 'Gyoku-sho-hime', so apparently the latter name was used first. P. parviflora 'Asahi-zuro' is not a Japanese word – it should be 'Asahi zuru' and the name means “dawn swan” or “rising sun.”

Pinus mugo 'Piggelmee'

There are a number of cases where the RHS lists plant names unlike what I have seen before, so I wonder who is right, or at least the most correct. I grow Pinus mugo 'Elfingreen' but I have seen it listed as 'Elfin Green'. The RHS goes with 'Elfengreen' for what it's worth. I list Pinus mugo 'Piggelmee' but the book has 'Pigglemee'. I have a Pinus mugo 'Reisengebirg' but the RHS lists 'Reisengebirge'. Pinus strobus 'Slim Jim' or the RHS's 'Slim Gem'? Pinus ponderosa 'Margaret' or the RHS 'Margarette'? These questions might seem as trivial nitpicking to some, but we have already seen how easily Pinus parviflora 'Tenshu kaku' – and what the name refers to – get corrupted into the non-meaning 'Tenysu kazu' or 'Tensu kazu'.

Pinus pumila 'Dwarf Blue'

Another question – are there really two distinct cultivars: Pinus pumila 'Dwarf Blue' and 'Blue Dwarf'? Pinus mugo 'Jakobsen' is a valid listing but 'Jakobsen Variegated' is dubious as the freakish pine often – too often – presents cream-white portions that frequently burn in Oregon. In fact, I don't think I should propagate it anymore because I've thrown too many out.

Pinus parviflora 'Ogon janome'

While not a “mistake,” I wonder about the RHS assertion that Pinus parviflora 'Himeko Janome' [sic] is more colorful than 'Ogon Janome' [sic]. The beautiful photo (page 1000) of the former is from my garden, but I've never grown the two side-by-side to know which is the “more colorful.”

Pinus mugo 'Mr. Wood'

In some other instances the Encyclopedia is flat-out wrong. Pinus mugo 'Fish Hook' is not synonymous with Pinus mugo 'Mr. Wood'. I've gone over the history, probably ad nauseum. While they indeed look alike, they each were introduced independently, and I and the other grower were unaware until years later. I'll repeat from a previous Flora Wonder Blog, Cute as a Button, Jan. 27, 2017:

Another cute pine is the diminutive Pinus mugo 'Mr. Wood', and it too features tiny recurved blue needles. A seedling was given to me about twenty years ago by the late Edsal Wood, a very generous plantsman with an eye for the unusual. He grew thousands of seedlings, in particular hemlocks, but he gave away the fun stuff because he made an adequate living with his Woods' Rooting Hormone – which we still use – and other chemicals. I honestly thought Edsal was mistaken when he handed me the mugo for it more resembled a very refined Pinus parviflora. It was only three inches tall in a little pot, but when I got home I pulled off a fascicle and indeed it consisted of two needles, not the five of a parviflora.

Years later I came across a Pinus mugo 'Fish Hook' that was introduced by Larry Stanley of Stanley and Sons Nursery of Oregon. Some conifer aficionados insisted that 'Mr. Wood' was just a renaming of 'Fish Hook', and shame on that Buchholz cad for doing so. But rong! It turns out that Edsal gave another (sister) seedling to Larry about the same time, and while they are similar, they are absolutely two different clones. I'll take my hat off to Larry for he chose the better cultivar name, and I'm always harping against using a person's name for a cultivar. But I never intended to name mine 'Mr. Wood' – that was just a temporary code name so I could keep track of it. At some point I gave away or sold a few, so with the horse out of the barn the name must stick.

Pinus strobus 'Mini Twists'

Another glaring error is to attribute Pinus strobus 'Mini Twists' and 'Tiny Kurls' to the late plantsman Andy Sherwood of Oregon. Sherwood had died decades before the two dwarf pine cultivars were developed. Greg Williams, a noted plantsman from Vermont, had noticed that Pinus strobus 'Horsham', a dwarf selection from a witch's broom, produced a high percentage of dwarf seedlings. I copy the following two paragraphs from Robert Fincham's Small Conifers for Small Gardens (2011):

Pinus strobus 'Torulosa' is an open-branched tree with serpentine branches and twisted needles. It is attractive but becomes quite large. Williams had a Pinus strobus 'Horsham' planted near a Torulosa' and worked with its seedlings for a number of years. A high percentage of these seedlings were dwarf and exhibited characteristics inherited from the 'Torulosa'. Williams shared three of these seedlings with other collectors and nurserymen. I was one of the collectors.

When I wanted to introduce two of the seedlings through Coenosium Gardens, I contacted Williams and received his permission to name them. I named the slowest growing seedling 'Mini Twists'. The faster growing seedling, called 'Tiny Kurls' by Dianne, was introduced first. The fastest growing seedling of the three never became popular and wasn't given a name.

Pinus strobus 'Vercurve'

The third cultivar was indeed named and cultivated by me, and perhaps it is the largest growing of the three. I named it 'Vercurve' because it originated in Vermont and displays curved needles. I don't propagate it anymore because I like the 'Mini Twists' name better, but 'Mini Twists' is hardly a “mini.” My website says it grows 2.5' tall by 3' wide in 10 years, but 12-year-olds are about 3' tall by 5' wide, at least in my nursery.

Pinus cembra 'Tamangur'

Pinus fenzeliana

Note in this blog that I have only mentioned the genus Pinus. I could easily have haggled over other genera, but hopefully I have made my point about the accuracy of plant names and their history – the purpose of the Encyclopedia. I also learned a lot as I perused the Pinus section late on last Sunday night. My Pinus cembra 'Tamansur' is actually 'Tamangur', a place name in Switzerland. Pinus mugo 'Yellow Tip' is correct, not my 'Yellow Point'. Furthermore I was surprised that a favorite pine, P. kwangtungensis, is now known as P. fenzeliana...and so on.

My reservations with the book are puny compared to the incredible achievement of author Derek Spicer. He has been collecting and propagating conifers since the late 1960's, and now owns Kilworth Conifers in Leicestershire, England. My head was swimming as I reviewed just the Pinus section, and it seems practically impossible that only one human compiled the entire Encyclopedia.

Latvian Aris Auders photographed almost everything in the Encyclopedia. He is also a conifer collector and garden designer. All of the photographs are numbered per garden location and my number is 13. Aris only spent two part-days here, and yet found dozens of plants that are included in the book. His perspective on the trees is unique: and though I might walk past a particular specimen every day, somehow he perceived it differently, and it is a treat to see my world through this artist's eyes.

Mr. Auders showed me another of his publications when he was here – I got to borrow it for the night. It was filled with his wife's paintings, for Agija Auders is a renowned artist, and she was the design director for the Encyclopedia. I cheekily told Aris that I liked his wife's work more than his, and actually I do. The bonus of the Encyclopedia is that at the beginning of each of the two volumes is one of her paintings. Volume One presented Moonlight Garden, oil on canvas, 2006 and Volume Two featured White Garden, oil on canvas, 2011. I can't copy those of course, but if you search for her on the internet you will understand my admiration. Hmm...a trip to Latvia in the spring?

Friday, September 7, 2018


Psuedotsuga menziesii 'Skyline'

Years ago a visitor to Buchholz Nursery – his wife used to work here – left unimpressed with my place because “there's nothing normal there.” He couldn't understand why I was obsessed with the abnormal – the dwarf, the narrow, the weeping trees etc. He wondered why I didn't grow and sell the normal green Douglas fir, why I had to grow blue ones. He shook his head at the bizarre Dr. Seuss-like Pseudotsuga menziesii 'Skyline', and was astounded to learn that there are dozens of conifer species with whip-cord foliage.

Indeed horticulture is replete with the freaks, the mutants and the oddballs of nature, and there's a type of gardener that delights in “the more weird, the better.” I like a few strange plants in my garden too, but if that's all it contains the surprise factor is lost, kind of like with the boring women of Portland who all look alike with their purple hair, piercings and ink. The dumbest garden I ever saw was in Japanese where every plant was variegated. Apparently the owner tired of it too and ripped the plants out.

Picea engelmannii 'Snake' 

Nevertheless, let's take a tour of my abnormalities. Similar to the aforementioned 'Skyline' Douglas fir is Picea engelmannii 'Snake', and I've never seen two specimens look alike. At its worst 'Snake' can flop sideways with no tree-like tendency. The terminal bud can abort and eventually that branch will die, so harvesting scionwood means that you sacrifice a branch. I've only had one balanced, well-branched tree in my career (photo above) and I dug the medusa up and took it to our Farwest trade show. Everyone wanted to buy the freak, and in a fit of capitalism I sold it, but regretted doing so when we shipped it the following spring. Picea engelmannii is a western North American species but 'Snake' was selected in Germany in the 1980's.

Picea abies 'Virgata'

Better behaved than 'Snake' is Picea abies 'Virgata', a cultivar of “Norway spruce” with long snake-like branches. It usually produces a single leader and has a well-balanced Christmas-tree shape. 'Virgata' was selected in 1853 and won an Award of Merit in 1978 – I don't know why it took so long for it to receive its due. It was Linnaeus who named Picea abies, a name that confuses some because it is not a true fir like the Abies genus. The genus name Picea is from Latin pix in reference to the sticky bark and cones. The cultivar name of 'Virgata' is from Latin virga meaning “rod” due to the appearance of the branches.

Platycladus orientalis 'Locogreen'

Thuja orientalis, the “Chinese arborvitae,” was named by Linnaeus, but at some point it was reclassified as Platycladus orientalis. The latter name means “with broad or flattened shoots.” It is called “cebai” in Chinese, and some specimens are known to exceed 1000 years of age. While we grow a few cultivars via rooted cuttings, we used to grow the species from seed, and then the seedlings would be used as rootstock for Chamaecyparis (Xanthocyparis) nootkatensis. One seedling was noticeably different with curiously twisted foliage and so it was set aside, and it was eventually named 'Locogreen'. This plant caught the attention of the late plantsman, Dick van Hoey Smith, and he took a photograph of it. In his book Conifers, The Illustrated Encyclopedia (1996) on page 652 it appeared and was named 'Lisa'. The label said “Lisa,” but Smith didn't realize that that was the propagator's name, and the other side of the label was 'Locogreen'.

Platycladus orientalis 'Locogold'

The original 'Locogreen' produced a mutation that was yellow, hence 'Locogold'. So far the latter has not reverted, but overall the color on a mature specimen is not as bright as it was with the original yellow twig, therefore I don't recommend it.

Platycladus orientalis 'Franky Boy'

I don't have it anymore but at the beginning of my career I purchased Thuja occidentalis 'Filiformis' or 'Filiformis Pendula' from a large nationally-recognized nursery whose name begins with Mon and ends with rovia. The idea was to graft the thread mop on a 4' standard, and wasn't that a great idea? At one point, though, my stock plants produced the unique cones of Thuja orientalis. I called the company and the “horticulturist” said that, no, Thuja occidentalis was the correct species. I went to the trouble to photograph the cone, then took it in to the camera store and ordered a print. Remember, no digital cameras or email back then. So I mailed the photo and a month went by with no response, so I called. “Weeeeell,” I was told, “we'll continue to call it T. occidentalis because it has proven hardy for our customers in cold areas.” The following year it was still listed as T. occidentalis, so screw the proper identity. Then the year after that it was listed as just Thuja 'Filiformis' with no mention of a species. Anyway, I don't know if the box-store nursery still produces it, but I dumped my stock in favor of the better Thuja (or Platycladus) orientalis 'Franky Boy'.

Thuja plicata 'Filifera Nana'

Thuja plicata 'Whipcord'

All of the Thuja and Platycladus species have a filiformis form. I used to grow Thuja occidentalis – yes, really occidentalis! – 'Filiformis' but for some reason discontinued it. Another was Thuja plicata 'Filifera Nana', and I have a large specimen in my Blue Forest that is 4' tall by 12' wide, and underneath is forever home to squirrels. I don't propagate it anymore, and have replaced it with Thuja plicata 'Whipcord' because I like the name better and the foliage is more dark than with 'Filifera Nana'. 'Whipcord' originated as a seedling at Oregon's Drake's Crossing Nursery in the 1980's, and now it is common in the trade due to its glossy green grass-like foliage. It is a wonderful container plant and the gardener will have an urge to put a pair of sunglasses on it, Mr. IT.

Chamaecyparis lawsoniana 'Drath Hexe'

In October of 2000 a busload of coneheads from the American Conifer Society was visiting the nursery of Nelis Kools in The Netherlands. At the end of our visit a line had formed to photograph a tiny specimen of Chamaecyparis obtusa 'Drath Hexe', and I waited my turn also. It was weird to see the thread-like foliage with tiny cockscombs. By then I had already discovered the larger-growing Chamaecyparis obtusa 'Lemon Twist' which featured twisted yellow foliage, also with cockscombs, but the Kools miniature looked far more unique. Eventually I received cutting wood and the pieces all rooted. Every time I planted one out it would die within 6 months, and even in containers the little fellas would pop off one by one. Conifer expert Don Howse of Porterhowse Farm experienced the same thing and he speculated, “You know, I don't think it is a Chamaecyparis obtusa, I think it could be a C. lawsoniana.” I studied my stock with corrected eyes and of course it was lawsoniana, and how dumb I was to not have seen that at first. 'Drath Hexe' originated in Germany as a witch's broom on C.l. 'Drath' (often misspelled as 'Draht'), and a photo of 'Drath' can be seen on page 168 of Conifers, The Illustrated Encyclopedia, except that there too author van Hoey Smith wrongly lists 'Drath' as a C. obtusa.

Nelis Kools holding Sequoiadendron giganteum 'Little Stan'

Sequoiadendron giganteum 'Little Stan' (reversion on the right)

Kools Nursery also holds the Netherland's national collection of Sequoia, Sequoiadendron and Metasequoia cultivars. If they were all given adequate space it would take half of Holland; as it is now all you see are the trunks with the canopies crowding into each other. A Kools introduction is Sequoiadendron giganteum 'Little Stan', a miniature with gray-green juvenile foliage that originated as a seedling. It struggles sometimes in our winters when the foliage can burn, but I've never had one completely die. My largest specimen was about 4' tall and grew in the Conifer Field. I didn't pay attention to it for the entire growing year, but in winter I noticed to my horror that it had bolted, and 3' of regular Sequoiadendron foliage had shot out above the juvenile foliage. If 'Little Stan' would have been of witch's broom origin then I wouldn't have been so surprised; I have seen broom runts explode back to what they once were. The 'Little Stan' episode surprised Mr. Kools as well, especially since my plant was on its own roots. You could say that 'Little Stan' just couldn't contain himself, and eventually he was cut down.

Nandina domestica capillus 'Senbazuru'

Nandina domestica capillus 'Senbazuru'

Sadako Sasaki
The freaks and mutants of nature can also be dainty and attractive, and such is the case for Nandina domestica capillus 'Senbazuru'. That is a cumbersome name but the Japanese selection's name means, “A group of one thousand origami paper cranes (orizuru) held together by strings.” An ancient Japanese legend promises that anyone who folds a thousand cranes will be granted any wish by the gods. The crane is said to live for one thousand years, along with the tortoise and the dragon, so that's why one is made for each year. My wife is adept at origami and she can fold together a pretty crane in seconds, and the recipient of her little gift instantly beams a smile. More deeply though, cranes are a symbol of peace and are seen at places like war memorials or atomic bomb memorials. A sad story is that a two-year-old Japanese girl, Sadako Sasaki, was exposed to radiation from the atomic blast at Hiroshima. She developed leukemia, and terminally ill at age 12 – the age of my beautiful youngest daughter – she began to fold cranes inspired by the legend of senbazuru. After 644 she became too weak and died on October 25, 1955; however her classmates finished the project and today there is a statue of Sadako holding a crane in Hiroshima Peace Park. I hold hope that this pretty Nandina (or “Heavenly bamboo”) will inspired everyone to find peace and happiness. At first I thought that this blog would continue, but now I realize that it cannot...

Friday, August 31, 2018

Just Follow The Shining Star

My Oregon Association of Nurseries (OAN) Buyer's Guide came in the mail today and I paged through the members listing to see who is still in business. You can grow and sell plants without being a (paid) member of the OAN as long as you have a state agriculture license.* I would prefer to not be an OAN member for a variety of reasons, but we receive a significant discount on our company health insurance with I suffer the group.

*OAN annual membership for my nursery (at our gross sales) is $1,219 per year (about $1200 too much). I also must donate $3,388.60 per year to the bureaucracy of the Oregon Dept. of Agriculture, and there I absolutely don't get my money's worth.

Cornus kousa 'Heart Throb'

After I made sure that my name was speled right in the buyer's guide, I went to the plant listings where the plants are grouped into categories such as Conifers, Deciduous Shrubs and Broadleaf Evergreens, Shade and Flowering Trees etc. I found it curious (dumb) that Cornus kousa is in the shrubs section while Acer palmatum is considered a shade and flowering tree.

Cornus kousa 'Summer Fun'

Anyway, members pay a fee for each listing, $6.25 for 1, $4.75 for 76+, and I guess they justify the expense if they think it leads to sales. I don't think it does – I did it one year, 30 years ago – but some members list hundreds of times. For Cornus kousa 'Summer Fun' only two companies list it for sale, but I know for a fact that many other nurseries are producing it, some in huge numbers. On the other hand, 19 companies list Cornus alba 'Ivory Halo', a shrub that I couldn't even market one.

Chamaecyparis pisifera 'Tamu himura'

One reason I went through the plant listing is to see who is growing what, to see who my competition is if I am growing it also. The other reason is to see if there are new plants that maybe I should consider growing. A conifer I wasn't familiar with is Chamaecyparis pisifera 'Tamu Himura' [sic]. Of course the name should not have a capital “H,” but then there are no nomenclatural heavyweights in the OAN anyway. I looked up 'Tamu himura' on the internet and saw right away that it is not a plant that I would want. It probably roots easily and grows fast and would sell for cheap, so let the large nurseries crank them out and make their penny on the dollar.

Thuja plicata var. hoganii 'Brick'

Another listing puzzled me – Thuja plicata 'Hogan' – as the implication is that the “Hogan Red Cedar” is a cultivar when in fact it is a variety of the Western Red Cedar. A small population exists in Gresham, Oregon just off of Hogan Road, and another small group grows about 8 miles away near the Columbia River at the western end of the Columbia River Gorge. The variety is characterized by a more narrow and compact growth habit than the type, and mature specimens are quite striking. Now, a cultivar or cultivars can arise from this variety, but the entire group cannot be considered a cultivar.

Thuja plicata var. hoganii 'Brick'

When I googled Thuja plicata 'Hogan' the usually reliable Missouri Botanic Garden's website says, “This cultivar grows naturally in a stand of trees along Hogan Road in Gresham, Oregon.” I assume that the two “stands” are “naturally” occurring as Missouri says, and that they replicate from seed. The only way it could be a cultivar is if a distant pioneer propagated – by grafting or via rooted cutting – a narrow Thuja plicata selection, and then planted the trees out in the two locations. If you saw the Columbia River stand, you would doubt that our distant “nurseryman” would be able to climb in terrain suitable for a mountain goat. If anyone in the readership has further information, I would love to be corrected.*

*I guess 'Hogan' could be a cultivar if someone selected a certain tree to propagate from, and then named that one 'Hogan'. Then you would have Thuja plicata var. hogani 'Hogan'. Is that what happened?

Conifer Grower Larry Stanley of (near) Gresham actually selected the most narrow specimen he could find in the grove which grows next to an abandoned brick factory, and he named it Thuja plicata var. hoganii 'Brick'. I received a start from Larry and I have it growing in the Flora Wonder Arboretum. It is easy to propagate, but again I doubt that I could sell it if I had more than a few.

Taxodium distichum 'Peve Minaret'

'Peve Minaret' in winter

These days only three Oregon nurseries list Taxodium distichum 'Peve Minaret'. The cultivar skyrocketed to fame in America about 18 years ago, after I had first seen it at Linssen Nursery in The Netherlands. I was the first, or among the first to grow it here, and I produced a couple of thousand a year at the beginning. But in a relatively short time sales for liners waned, and sales for specimen plants never did take off. A year into the Recession (about 2009) I received an offer of a “great price” if I could take a “truckload quantity” of 1-gallon pots from North Carolina. I declined, but I still think it's a wonderful conifer and I don't know why the gardening public doesn't agree. Maybe because it's deciduous (i.e. “dead” for half the year), but I think it is attractive in winter without its leaves. In the Hillier Manual of Trees & Shrubs (2014) it is described, “A small, slow-growing, upright cultivar with ascending branchlets and soft, rich green leaves.” I disagree with “small, slow-growing,” as my original start – from Kools Nursery – is already 22 feet tall (6.7m) at 18 years of age, and only 14 years in the ground.

Sequoiadendron giganteum 'Glaucum'

'Glaucum' at Bedgbury Pinetum
Only three nurseries list Sequoiadendron giganteum 'Glaucum'. I acquired the selection from England about 35 years ago and my original tree is the tallest plant in my Display Garden. I doubt if 'Glaucum' was in Oregon before I began propagating it, but I didn't sell any to the three nurseries who now list it. I remember at Bedgebury Pinetum in Kent, England, looking across a valley of conifers and in the distance was a narrow spire of great height. I asked curator (at the time) Chris Reynolds what was the tree, and it turned out to be the 'Glaucum'. I was pleased with the answer because I love to promote narrow trees, and that you can have a vertical exclamation point without having a huge garden! 'Glaucum' is said to date back to 1860 and is perhaps of German origin. If so, that was fast, because Sequoiadendron was first brought to cultivation in Britain in 1853 by the horticulturalist Patrick Matthew of Perthshire from seeds sent by his botanist son John in California. Many seedling Sequoiadendron display blue foliage, but to be the true 'Glaucum', they would have to look like the Bedgebury – and my – trees. In other words, a glaucous form may have been described in 1860, but I doubt that today's 'Glaucum' existed that early. Bean doesn't mention 'Glaucum' at all, and Gerd Krussmann is of no use because he states that it is “exactly like the type, but with distinctly blue-green needles.” Rong, Gerd: the Bedgebury specimen proves otherwise. The American Conifer Society gave me a chuckle when they stated, “The blue giant sequoia is a very old cultivar in the nursery trade, first described 1860 by Christoph Friedrich Otto (1783-1856) in Hamburger Garden. The suggestion is that the wondrous Otto was describing plants four years after his death – look again at the dates!

Sequoiadendron giganteum 'Pendulum'

A passel of Oregon nurseries produce Sequoiadendron giganteum 'Pendulum' and 23 are listed in the guide, and again, perhaps most Oregon nurseries don't even participate in the guide. Hillier states, “A tree of unique appearance often assuming the most fantastic shapes...described in 1863.” Bean in Trees and Shrubs Hardy in the British Isles describes 'Pendulum' as, “An extraordinary tree with an erect leader and weeping branches hanging close to the stem, forming a narrow spire. It originated at Nantes [France] in 1863.” Bean continues, “Sometimes the main stem leans or undulates and gives off some more or less vertical branches. These weird forms, Mr. Hillier tells us, are the result of grafting on Sequoia sempervirens.” Nonsense to that, Mr. Hillier, because I have seen “weird forms” develop with 'Pendulum' grafted onto Sequoiadendron rootstock, and also with those 'Pendulum' produced by rooted cuttings, so rootstock choice has nothing to do with the “weird forms.”

Pinus parviflora 'Tanima no yuki'

There were a few conifers completely new to me, such as Thuja occidentalis 'Fire Chief', Abies concolor 'Fastigiata' and Abies concolor fastigiata 'Alfred Hanson', and I wonder if the latter two are the same, as well as both being illegitimate names. And of course there were scads of misspelled names:
Pinus parviflora 'Miyou' should be 'Miyoi'
Pinus parviflora 'Tanima no uki' should be 'Tanima no yuki'
Pinus parviflora 'Pygmy Yatsabusa' should be 'Pygmy yatsubusa'
Abies concolor 'Wattenzii' should be 'Wattezii'
Cryptomeria japonica 'Ryocogu Coyokyu' should be 'Ryoku gyoku'
Cryptomeria japonica 'Dense Fade' should be 'Dense Jade'
Pinus thunbergii 'Oculis-draconis' should be 'Oculus Draconis'
...and many more.
Also there are listings for Thuja occidentalis 'Linesville' and Thuja occidentalis Bobazam 'Mr. Bowling Ball' but they are the same plant.

Cedrus deodara 'Deep Cove'
Cupressus arizonica var. glabra 'Blue Ice'

For the most part the listees are known to me and many were past customers back when we were more prominent in the liner business. And it brought back the history of many plants that we once had and sold, but they don't exist here any more. Some of these include: Tsuga canadensis 'Golden Splendor', Thuja plicata 'Can Can', Pinus virginiana 'Wate's Golden', Picea brachytyla, Juniperus procumbens 'Nana', Cupressus arizonica var. glabra 'Blue Ice', Cedrus deodara 'Deep Cove' and many more.

Chrysothamnus nauseosus  (photo:Walter Siegmund)

The Deciduous Shrubs and Broadleaf Evergreens section contain far more plants unknown to me. Well, I know almost all of the genera, but the species or cultivar is what I'm not familiar with. And I admit to not knowing at all Krascheninnikovia lanata, Baeckea gunniana and Chrysothamnus nauseosus, the “Rubber Rabbit Brush.” The Krascheninnikovia is a plant in the Amaranth family (Amaranthaceae) known as “Winterfat” and it is a weed from western North America. Hey – that's where I live. I guess it's used in habitat restoration. The Baeckea is an Australian bush with a tea-tree aroma when crushed. The Chrysothamnus is a North American shrub in the sunflower family and it too is native to arid regions of western North America.

Magnolia 'Caerhay's Belle'

Stewartia monadelpha

Magnolia – with most cultivars listed being “trees” – and Stewartia monadelpha and pseudocamellia also are strangely placed in the shrub section. There is very little that I grow from this section other than the above and I guess that defines my nursery. Sure, I used to putter with Buxus, Weigela, Hydrangea, Viburnum, Salix, Ribes etc., but anybody can grow that stuff so I had to specialize with higher-end plants, or with plants that aren't so easy to propagate. A common theme of shrub growers – at least in Oregon – is that a higher percentage of them went bankrupt when times got tough in our recent Recession. I don't consider myself a plant snob with my products and I am just trying to survive.

Acer palmatum 'Okukuji nishiki'

The category Shade and Flowering Trees is my specialty, although many of them grow as shrubs. In the Acer palmatum section I am familiar with the 100-or-so cultivars listed with the exception of 'Ed's Carmine', 'Matthew', 'Sara D' and 'Okukuji nishiki'. Oops, the latter I have seen but don't have...I think. When I looked it up on the internet I was surprised that my company lists it and describes it and has a nice photo. Hey! – I had better go check in the greenhouses and find it – and maybe I am losing my mind.

Acer griseum

Early in my career Acer griseum was rarely encountered in the trade, and I remember seeing my first tree in the Hoyt Arboretum in Portland, Oregon. In 1901 E.H. Wilson was sent to China to acquire seed of the newly discovered “Dove tree,” Davidia involucrata, and his employer at Veitch Nursery told him to not waste his time on anything else. Wilson collected plenty of Davidia, but did waste his time discovering and gathering seed of Acer griseum as well. Hillier in Manual of Trees and Shrubs (2014) calls Acer griseum, “one of the most beautiful of all small trees.” Perhaps the most fantastic specimen of all is the old-timer at the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh in Scotland.

Acer griseum

While once rare, a couple of Oregon nurseries figured out how to germinate A. griseum seed, and many thousands are produced each year. Of course the value of the species has declined, but I suppose that is a good thing, and now A. griseum is a commonly grown street tree. It is winter-hardy and tough, even when placed in full sun, and autumn color is brilliant orange-to-red. The OAN guide now has 36 nurseries listing A. griseum, so there could be well over a 100 of us growing it. How odd that A. griseum is everywhere now, but you rarely encounter Wilson's Dove tree in American landscapes.

Acer circinatum

43 nurseries, according to the guide, are growing Acer circinatum – the straight species, not cultivar selections. The species performs poorly in the American Midwest and East Coast, so they are all grown for local consumption. Virtually every bank and doctor's office uses the “vine maple” in their landscapes, often grown as clumps. The species tolerates dry sites and performs happily in deep shade as well as in full sun. A. circinatum – so-named for its round leaves – was introduced by David Douglas in 1826, but my English friends tell me that autumn color isn't as brilliant in Britain compared to Oregon.

Acer circinatum 'Burgundy Jewel'

Maybe that's why Hillier mentions only one cultivar of A. circinatum – 'Monroe' – and the OAN guide lists only two growers. More surprising is that only one company lists the exciting 'Burgundy Jewel', the purple-leaf discovery of Gordy Halgren of Peacedale Nursery in Washington state. I know that 'Burgundy Jewel' is in England now because it was once featured in The Garden, the monthly publication of the RHS. Actually I was the one who sent it to maple specialist Karen Junker in the first place.

Carpinus betulus 'Columnaris Nana'

Many nurseries are growing Carpinus betulus, especially 'Fastigiata' and the narrow 'Frans Fontaine', but only three list 'Columnaris Nana' which we grow. The latter is a dwarf, dense column, but like with kids, when you turn around you're surprised to see them taller than you. My oldest specimen is in my front yard and is 9' tall, but I'll have to move it this winter because I didn't give it enough room. We also grow C.b. 'Monument' which is similar to 'Columnaris Nana', but no other Oregon nursery lists it. 'Monument' was introduced by Viva Nord in Italy.

Ginkgo biloba 'Jade Butterflies'

Three companies are listed in the guide for offering Ginkgo biloba 'Jade Butterfly', but the name should be 'Jade Butterflies'. Another reason I don't advertise in the OAN guide – there are way too many mistakes. Word of mouth and our website are more effective marketing tools, and I suppose so too are our plant introductions. Like the three wise men from the east...just follow the shining star to Buchholz Nursery.