Friday, June 15, 2018

Greek To Me

I remember as a young boy watching the movie The Three Stooges Meet Hercules, and pretty much I bought into the whole story. An inventor's time machine took Moe, Larry and Curly back into ancient Greece where they endured harrowing adventures. You can google the film to see a trailer, but constantly look over your shoulder to be sure nobody is watching you. I just did and I was promised that the movie is an “Entertainment of a Lafftime,” and it actually is. Anyway, I think if I could get into a time machine and go back into history, I would go back to ancient Greece and hang out with old Aristotle and his plant-wise sidekick Theophrastus. The mixture of their empirically-minded brains, combined with the culture's lucid imagination of gods, goddesses, flying horses, woodland and sea nymphs etc., all give a lively perspective on plants and their origins. Although world events existed and were recorded prior to the Greeks, the Grecian prism through which life was understood and explained is what I find absolutely fascinating.


The Panax genus belongs to the Araliaceae (or ivy) family, with Panax ginseng being the well-known Asian ginseng. Linnaeus coined the genus name which means “all-healing” in Greek because he was aware of its use in Chinese medicine. Panax shares the same origin as the word panacea and in Greek mythology Panakeia* (daughter of Asclepius and Epione) was a goddess of “universal remedy.” She had four sisters: Hygeia was the goddess of health, cleanliness and sanitation; Laso the goddess of recuperation from illness; Aceso the goddess of the healing process; and Aglaia the goddess of beauty, magnificence and adornment, and of course the latter would be my preferred goddess.


*Panakeia is mentioned in the opening of the Hippocratic Oath: I swear, calling upon Apollo the physician and Asclepius [Greek god of medicine], Hygeia and Panaceia and all the gods and goddesses as witnesses, that I will fulfill this oath and this contract according to my ability and judgement...” A translation of the entire oath appears at the end of this blog, if you care.

Panax ginseng

Back to Panax ginseng, I don't grow the plant, nor have I ever knowingly used it as medicine or for pleasure. Chinese ginseng (or jin-sim) is the root of the plant which is characteristically forked, resembling a person's legs. I was in Beijing in the 1980's, just a few years before the Tiananmen Square affair, and we wandered into a dusty little herb shop which also featured a white-coated “doctor” sitting on a low chair dispensing advice (I guess). I was with a plant-hunting group and we all noticed jars of ginseng on the shelf and the listed prices ranged from a lot of money to an unbelievable lot of money – up to the equivalent of $17,000 for just one root. Our Chinese interpreters explained that the shape of the root was the deciding factor in its cost. We marveled at such expense and asked, “who in China could afford $17,000?” Our interpreters exchanged furtive glances, grinned and shrugged their shoulders. Remember that in the 1980's China had not yet blossomed economically, so who had $17,000?

Pseudopanax crassifolius

While I don't grow Panax, I do grow a large specimen of Pseudopanax crassifolius, an endemic to New Zealand, but I must keep it protected in a warm greenhouse. I am clueless as why the genus is so-named because it certainly does not resemble Panax, though both are in the Araliaceae family. P. crassifolius is commonly known as “lancewood,” but the narrow sword-like evergreen leaves occur only when the tree is relatively young. As the plant matures the leaves change from simple to compound*, with a totally different appearance. One theory is that the fierce leaves on young plants serves to protect it against browsing by the moa, the large flightless bird from prehistoric times. As you can see from the side photo, my daughter liked to play “wicked fingernails” with the leaves, while I worried that she'd poke her little sister in the eye.

*Changing leaves is known as “heteroblastic.”

Paeonia lutea ludlowii

Paeonia mlokosewitschii

A couple of weeks ago we hosted the American Peony (Paeonia) Society, a group of people who, if they indulge in that genus, also most likely enjoy other plants such as our maples, ginkgoes, conifers etc. The Flora Wonder Arboretum hosts a small number of Paeonia species and hybrid cultivars with two of my favorites being P. mlokosewitschii and P. lutea ludlowii.


The common name Peony is from Greek paionia – yep, lots of vowels – and that from Paeion, the “Physician of the Gods,” its reputed discoverer.* He was closely associated with Asclepius, both of whom were invoked as Paian (Healer). Hymns were chanted to Apollo to ward off evil and were also sung before or during a battle. The names vary in their spelling, and the gods themselves are shifty; for example the name Paean is sometimes the alternative name of Apollo. In the Odyssey, Homer says about the land of Egypt: There the earth, the giver of grain, bears the greatest store of drugs, many that are healing when mixed, and many that are baneful; there every man is a physician, wise above human kind; for they are the race of Paeeon.

*However it was the Greek Theophrastus who first gave name to the genus.

Iris species

The iris is the colored portion of the eye, with the pupil in its center. In botany the genus with the same name is a group of plants with showy flowers and sword-shaped leaves, and it was Theophrastus who coined that name too. In Greek mythology Iris was a messenger of the Olympian gods (especially of Hera) which sometimes took the form of a rainbow. From the oldest parts of the Iliad the word is used for both the messenger and the rainbow.

Iris 'Blueberry Parfait'

Iris 'Dancing In Pink'

Iris 'Mexican Holiday'

I grow a number of Iris species in the garden, but I'm not really a fan of the big gaudy hybrids with cutsie-poo names like 'Blueberry Parfait', 'Dancing in Pink', 'Mexican Holiday' etc. Sadly my species plants cannot all be identified because 1) I'm not an Iris expert and 2) my crew threw away many of the labels when they cleaned up the leaves in the autumn. The labels were metal and each had an 18” bamboo stake next to the label so they would be easy to find. It was painful to realize that my employees – at least some of them – have no clue to the importance of a plant name for me. I really feel that I deserve a lifetime achievement award for my enormous patience and restraint when dealing with mindless label-losing workers.

Crocus species

Crocus (croci plural) are in the Iris family and the name is from Greek krokos, and that is a word derived from Hebrew karkom, Aramaic kurkama and Arabic kurkum. The word ultimately goes back to the Sanskrit kunkumam which means “saffron.” In Greek mythology Krokus was a mortal youth who was unhappy with his love affair with the goddess Smilax, so the gods turned him into the plant that bears his name.

The problem was that Smilax was a nymph, and love always is unfulfilled and tragic when mortal men mess with goddesses. Smilax, for her part, was transformed from a woodland nymph into a brambly vine. Smilax is a genus of about 300 species found in the tropics and subtropics worldwide, and common names included greenbriers, prickly-ivies and catbriers. S. regelii is from Jamaica and is commonly known as “sarsaparilla,” which is also a catch-all name for all American species. Anyway it seems as if the mortal youth came out floristically better than poor Smilax.

Minoan Saffron Fresco

Saffron croci were used to dye the garments of women of high status, like priestesses, and the preferred color was yellow to deep orange-red. It originated as a sacred flower in Crete and eventually made its way into India, and to this day saffron robes are associated with Buddhist and Hindu priests, monks and nuns. A pottery discovery at Knossos was decorated with an apron-like garment with images of croci blossoms. Worn at the waist they were believed to relieve menstrual cramps, and saffron spice was used medicinally for the same purpose. Besides that, saffron was believed to increase the level of potency in men. A Minoan fresco found at Thera (now Thira) shows women dressed in yellow and orange-red, gathering saffron stigmas* from croci and offering them to a seated goddess or priestess.

*The stigma receives pollen and it is where pollen grain germinates.


A lot of myths exist concerning plants such as crocus. Krokos was a flower-boy who became the lover of the androgynous Hermes. Since Krokos was mortal, rough play between he and Hermes resulted in a mortal wound. Wherever the blood of Krokos fell, a saffron flower grew, the red style* colored the same as his blood. Interestingly the saffron crocus, the “flower-boy,” is sterile and cannot produce seeds, and can only reproduce by offsets on the corms. Eventually traders spread it to Europe, India and China where the saffron dye and spice had a greater value than jewels or precious metals. The species (C. cartwrightianus) became the most widespread species in the Ancient World, at least a thousand years before the rise of Athens.

*The style is a narrow upward extension of the ovary, connecting it to the stigma.

Narcissus species

You probably think that the Narcissus flower was named for the vain youth who marveled at his own reflection in a pool, then fell in and drowned. That's not how the story actually goes...but first, in Greek narcissus means “numbness” because its bulb houses a toxic substance, a narcotic. In one legend Narcissus fell in love with his own reflection in a stream and remained there to admire it, then eventually died of starvation. The thoughtful gods transformed him into a flower so he could remain beside the stream forever. It was the goddess Nemesis* who led him to the water in the first place because she didn't like his proud behavior. No one is certain if the flower is named for the myth, or the myth for the flower, or if there's any connection at all. Roman Pliny the Elder claimed that the plant was named for its fragrance (narkao) which means “I grow numb,” but long before that Theophrastus and Dioscorides referred to N. poeticus – nice name. Eventually Linnaeus in his 1753 Species Plantarum described the genus when there were six known species (the plural is narcissi). The name daffodil is from affodel, and that from Greek asphodelos, but the latter is a completely different plant genus. But it too was mentioned in Greek mythology, when Homer described it as “covering a great meadow, the haunt of the dead.”

*Nemesis: her name was derived from the Greek word “nemo” meaning “dispenser of dues.” Happiness and unhappiness were measured out by her, especially with matters of love, and she made sure that happiness was not too frequent or too excessive. Geeze – really a bitch!

Liriope muscara 'Okina'

By the way the mother of Narcissus was Liriope, and she became pregnant when she was raped by the river-god Cephissus. This time the (Liriope) plant was named for the goddess. It is a low grass-like genus from east and southeast Asia, and it is somewhat like another grass-like genus, Ophiopogon, and both are placed in the Asparagaceae family. The name ophiopogon is derived from Greek ophis for “snake” and pogon for “beard.” The Asparagus family includes 114 genera and about 2900 species, the genera which vary from Agave, Beschorneria, Camassia, Chionodoxa (Greek for “glory of the snow”), Dracaena, Hosta, Muscari, Polygonatum, Scilla and more.

Scilla peruviana

It was the Greek Theophrastus who coined the name aspharagos, and so too the name skilla. From there it became Scilla in Latin and was named for a “sea onion,” a squill (Urginea maritima). There is a plant also named Urginea maritima in the Hyacinthaceae family, and its name is due to one species coming from Beni Urgin, a place or tribal name in Algeria.

Anemone nemorosa

Pliny the Elder
I always have trouble spelling anemone, even saying it too, but I love the plant and the fact that it is Greek for “wind flower,” literally “daughter of the wind.” The Roman Pliny the Elder said the plant was so-called because the flowers opened only when the wind blew. I think old Pliny was blowing wind on that one because I have a number of species that flower when the wind is completely still. The Metamorphoses of Ovid tells us that the plant was created by the goddess Venus when she sprinkled nectar on the blood of her dead lover Adonis. Ovid lived from 43 BC - 18 AD, but before his Venus story our “know-it-all” Theophrastus gave the name of anemone to the plant.

Cassiope mertensiana var. mertensiana

Cassiope species

Murex mollusk shell
Cassiope is rarely found in gardens because it is not so easy to grow. It is a genus of low tufted shrubs in the Ericaceae family, and from my experience it is native to mountainous regions where the drainage is sharp, including Oregon. The name is from Greek kassiope who was the mythical queen of Ethiopia and mother of Andromeda.* In another legend she was the wife of Phoenix, the king of Phoenicia. The land of Phoenicia is from ancient Greek Phoinike which means “purple country,” and was of course a Semitic civilization in the eastern Mediterranean. The “purple” reference was due to the major export of the region, cloth dyed “Tyrian purple” from the Murex mollusk, a sea snail. Extracting the dye involved thousands of snails and a great deal of labor so it was highly valued. It came in various shades but the most valuable was that of blackish-clotted blood.

Pieris japonica 'Bonsai'

*Cassiope boasted to the Nereids (fifty sea-nymph daughters of Nereus, the old man of the sea) that Andromeda was extremely beautiful, so in revenge Poseidon sent a sea monster to devastate her husband's kingdom. Since only Andromeda's sacrifice would appease the gods she was chained to a rock and left to be devoured by the monster. Alas, Perseus flew by on the winged horse Pegasus and saved the day. The flower panicles of the Andromeda plant resemble the “chain” used to secure poor Andromeda.

Cardiocrinum giganteum var. yunnanense

We grow too forms of Cardiocrinum – var. giganteum and var. yunnanense. The word cardio is from Greek kardia for “heart” due to the shape of the leaves. Crinum is the Greek word for “lily,” and the genus Cardiocrinum is commonly known as the “giant lily” due to the huge flower stalks. Var. giganteum is the larger form of the two, and is native to Tibet, Bhutan, Assam, Myanmar, Nepal and Sikkim. Var. yunnanense is less tall, usually growing to no more than 8' tall, but its flowers are equally impressive, being white with purple-red streaks inside. The plant was first described by Nathaniel Wallich in 1824 and was introduced into commercial production in England about 30 years later. It was originally described as Lilium giganteum before being moved into its current generic classification, but one must wonder if the two genera, Lilium and Cardiocrinum, would successfully hybridize. Probably not, for I suppose that it would have already been accomplished.

Abies cephalonica 'Meyer's Dwarf'

Abies cephalonica is the “Greek fir” and it grows in the mountains of southern Greece, but was first described by those growing on the island of Kefalonia. We grow only one cultivar – 'Meyer's Dwarf' – which forms a dense mound and with shorter needles than the type. Kefalonia is the largest of the Ionian Islands in western Greece and was named for the mythological Kephalos, the founding “head” of a great family that includes Odysseus. The word kephalos is Greek for “head.” Athenians furthered the myth that Cephalus was married to Procris, a daughter of Erechtheus, an ancient founding-figure of Athens. A lot happened to test their marriage, including Eos – the goddess of dawn – kidnapping Cephalus while he was hunting. Eight years later he was returned and Procris gave him a javelin that never missed its mark. Unfortunately, upon hearing a rustling in the bushes which Cephalus took to be an animal, he actually impaled his beloved wife. He eventually remarried but never forgave himself over the death of Procris, and he committed suicide by leaping into the sea.


Cephalus really should have stayed with Eos, goddess of the dawn (Roman Aurora). Her siblings were Helios (the sun) and Selene (the moon), and each day Eos rose into the sky from the river Okeanos (Oceanus), and with her rays of light she dispersed the mists of night.


When you think about Aglaia, Eos, Cephalus, Panacea, Krokus, Homer with the Iliad and the Odyssey and all the other fantasies of ancient times, we're fortunate that the internet wasn't around then, or we would probably have none of these wonderful stories.


Hippocratic Oath

I swear by Apollo the Healer, by Asclepius, by Hygeia, by Panacea, and by all the gods and goddesses, making them my witnesses, that I will carry out, according to my ability and judgment, this oath and this indenture.

To hold my teacher in this art equal to my own parents; to make him partner in my livelihood; when he is in need of money to share mine with him; to consider his family as my own brothers, and to teach them this art, if they want to learn it, without fee or indenture; to impart precept, oral instruction, and all other instruction to my own sons, the sons of my teacher, and to indentured pupils who have taken the physician’s oath, but to nobody else.

I will use treatment to help the sick according to my ability and judgment, but never with a view to injury and wrong-doing. Neither will I administer a poison to anybody when asked to do so, nor will I suggest such a course. Similarly I will not give to a woman a pessary to cause abortion. But I will keep pure and holy both my life and my art. I will not use the knife, not even, verily, on sufferers from stone, but I will give place to such as are craftsmen therein.

Into whatsoever houses I enter, I will enter to help the sick, and I will abstain from all intentional wrong-doing and harm, especially from abusing the bodies of man or woman, bond or free. And whatsoever I shall see or hear in the course of my profession, as well as outside my profession in my intercourse with men, if it be what should not be published abroad, I will never divulge, holding such things to be holy secrets.

Now if I carry out this oath, and break it not, may I gain for ever reputation among all men for my life and for my art; but if I break it and forswear myself, may the opposite befall me. - Translation by James Loeb.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Strawberry Fields...Forever

A couple of Saturdays ago while running some errands in town I thought I would treat myself to an espresso before returning to work. Chirpy Cathy at the coffee trailer asked me where I was headed to and I replied, “Back to work.” She groaned for me at my misfortune, assuming that I wasn't going to have a happy day. I countered that it wasn't so bad because I owned the work, and generally I enjoy what I do. She asked what kind of company and I told her “a wholesale tree nursery.” “Awesome,” she responded, “have a great day!” Buoyed by her cute enthusiasm, I indeed went on to have a good day, though I wouldn't rate any of it as awesome.

Interestingly, the origin of the word for “work” is closely related to that of the word “torture.” I copy from Jeremy Seabrook's Opinion in The Guardian 2013:

The etymology of all the words for “work” in European languages suggests work as coercion, certainly not for the prosperity of the worker, but as a fulfillment of human destiny. Ecclesiastes 3:22 declares: “There is nothing better than that a man should rejoice in his own works; for that is his portion...” Words indicating labour in most European languages originate in an imagery of compulsion, torment, affliction and persecution. The French word travail (and Spanish trabajo), like its English equivalent, are derived from the Latin “trepaliare” – to torture – to inflict suffering or agony. The word “peine,” meaning penalty or punishment, also is used to signify arduous labour, something accomplished with great effort, hardship and suffering...

Book of Genesis: In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread.

2 Thessalonians 3:10: This we command you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.

Book of Proverbs: Through sloth the roof sinks in, and through indolence the house leaks.
Love not sleep, lest you come to poverty.
Like vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes, so is the sluggard to those who send him. Slothfulness casts into a deep sleep and an idle person will suffer hunger.

For my entire life I have been destined to “eat the bread of anxious toil,” while my drug-addicted, welfare-assisted neighbors do the opposite. Naturally then, I have a problem with entitlement people, whether they be spoiled children, employees or neighbors, and especially for politicians who assume they know what is best for me and what sacrifices I must make. And in Oregon at least, they are soooo well-practiced at squandering taxpayer dollars while always crying out for more.

I know you didn't tune in for a government or welfare-neighbor rant, but I pay an ever-increasing amount to support failed systems, all of which are funded by the sweat of my brow. You can inscribe on my tombstone:
He was born
He was duped
And then he died.
And my tombstone will be shaped like a fist with a raised middle finger.

Young Buchholz

My travails began when I was a runt at age 7, when I entered the work force picking strawberries. The first season I wasn't very fast and I didn't make much money, but at least I could understand the correlation between effort and reward. By the second year I was twice as fast for I had awoken to the concept of a love for money. We weren't poor as a family, but I was one of five kids, and the unsaid assumption was that whatever you wanted, you had to go out and get yourself. No “allowance” in the Buchholz family. I bought my school clothes, a bicycle, movie money etc. with the dough I earned from working the fields.

Strawberries only grow to one-foot high, but the fruits usually dangle at ground level. You straddled the row and bent low to pick, then alternated that with crawling on the ground next to the row. It was back-breaking torture that began when it was cold in the morning and continued until it was hot in the afternoon. Daddy-long-leg spiders danced across your neck a couple times a day, sent from the devil just to add to your torment. More affluent parents sent their spoiled kids to the fields mainly to get rid of them for the day, but the brats usually goofed off when cold or hot or tired because they had the safety net of an allowance and other indulgences. By the time I was 13 I had become the fastest picker of the lot, and my energy was driven by my love of money, plus I was obsessed with proving that no matter how hard you tried, you could never out-work me. I endured dirty clothes, painfully lumpy dirt clods and the stench of warm strawberries – to this day which I do not eat – for about ten years. You could scrub your hands for an hour with soap and hot water, but your red-stained hands would identify you as a berry picker for at least a month after the season ended.

Bitter berries for Buchholz; did the experience turn me into a miserable old man? I think not – really the opposite. My torture of crawling down the berry rows – though it ruined my back – served to humble me. At the time I was even teased for my zealous behavior, but by then I had learned to use the phrase, “fuck you.” Anyway, today I can really appreciate and relate to my good employees. Every arduous task I assign them I have done myself, so I know every day how much effort they give. They are rewarded with a paycheck and an occasional pat on the back, but never do they hear from customers and visitors, “What a wonderful place you have.”

The Flora Wonder Arboretum

In my teens I went on to pick beans, cucumbers, pears, cherries and other crops. Kids don't do that anymore, in fact we can't even find high-school kids who want to make $12 an hour doing nursery work. The world has changed and it is more soft now, and old-man Buchholz is a relic of a bygone era. Too bad. Buchholz Nursery has been good for the world – I have employed people, developed trees for the environment and paid millions in taxes. My indulgence – the Flora Wonder Arboretum – exists because of my youthful experience in the berry fields.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Floral Fillers

Iris pallida 'Variegata'

Narcissus species

Coreopsis verticillata 'Moonbeam'

Gentiana acaulis 'Holzmann'

There are hundreds of plants in the Flora Wonder Arboretum that you might not know we have because they never make it onto the Buchholz Nursery sales list. For example, I have never sold a Narcissus, an Iris, a Coreopsis or a Gentiana acaulis, but they all nod to me when it is their season. The latter reminds me that he is commonly called the “stemless” or “trumpet gentian.” The European perennial is native to mountain ranges where it forms low mats at altitudes up to 9700'. I call the Gentiana a “he” because the genus name honors King Gentius of Illyria* (around 500 BC) who supposedly discovered the medicinal value of gentian roots.

*An ancient region in the western part of the Balkan Peninsula inhabited by the Illyrians.

Impatiens omeiana

Today's blog discusses these “filler” plants in the collection that add to the beauty and interest of my plant world, even though I've never made a dime from them; in fact I will admit that they have contributed to a squandering of my retirement. One such plant is Impatiens omeiana, a Chinese native from Sichuan. I grow it for the foliage mainly, not for its yellow snapdragon-like flowers, and I keep it in a pot in the greenhouse because it is rhizomatous and I don't want it to spread aggressively. The genus can be trouble for its ability to become invasive, and I know a plant collector who brought an Impatiens species back from Pakistan, and now acres in the neighboring valley are infested with it. In fact the genus name is Latin for “impatient” due to its sharp seed discharge. The specific name of omeiana is because it can be found growing on Mount Emei (AKA Emei Shan).

Inula ensifolia

Inula royleana

Helen of Troy
Inula is a genus of about 90 species in the Aster family which are native to Europe, Asia and Africa. The generic name was known to the Romans and was derived from the Greek Helen of Troy, and there's even a species named helenium (which I don't grow). Supposedly this species grew where Helen's tears fell when she was snatched away by Paris. My favorite species is I. royleana which was named after the botanist John Forbes Royle (1798-1858). I first saw it in the Himalayan foothills, growing on grassy slopes at about 10,000' elevation. I have a few clumps in full sun in my backyard where they receive no supplemental irrigation, and they perform dependably to the delight of bees which pollinate the hermaphrodite flowers. Surprisingly the plant is also used as an insecticide. We also grow the smaller species ensifolia which grows to less than a foot tall and is covered with bright yellow daisies in summer. Like I. royleana, I. ensifolia is a perennial and I have a specimen over 20 years old which never fails to bloom. Its specific name was coined by Linnaeus in 1753 due to the plant's narrow sword-like leaves.

Acca sellowiana

The “Pineapple guava” is worth growing, and one can eat both the petals and fruits which have a strong aromatic flavor. The South American genus was known for years as Feijoa, so with its Portuguese-sounding name you know that it is native to Brazil. Early editions of The Hillier Manual of Trees and Shrubs listed Feijoa, but suddenly it was changed in the 2014 edition to Acca without anyone consulting me. I like the former name, for it was given by the German botanist Ernst Berger* to honor the Portuguese naturalist Jao da Silva Feijo. The specific name sellowiana honors Freidrich Sellow, a German who first collected specimens in southern Brazil. I have seen Acca growing outside in a sheltered location in Oregon, but I keep my two evergreen trees in a heated greenhouse just in case. I grow the plant primarily for its interesting flowers, but I have eaten Acca fruit. My children never will – except for maybe when they're adults – because they can't stand strong fruit tastes like figs. Heck, they won't even eat Fig Newtons, which is a crime against childhood.

*I'll have the Ernst Berger with a dark stout, please.

Trilium grandiflorum 'Flora Pleno'

Trilium grandiflorum 'Flora Pleno'

Trillium ovatum

A big show-off, Trillium grandiflorum 'Flora Pleno', has just finished blooming in our shaded, former basketball court. Double jumbo white flowers last for a couple of weeks before fading to pink. Trillium is a genus in the lily family with an erect flower stem with a whorl of three leaves, and the name is New Latin that comes from Swedish trilling for “triplet.” The specific epithet grandiflorum is obvious, while the cultivar name 'Flora Pleno' refers to the double flowers, and it is used for other plants such as Galanthus nivalis 'Flora Pleno'. Flora Pleno is a Latin term meaning “with full flower,” and in some plants all of the reproductive organs are converted to petals which makes them sexually sterile. The first documentation of this abnormality was made by my botany hero Theophrastus in his Enquiry Into Plants over 2,000 years ago. Another Trillium is T. ovatum, and it is native to my wooded slope at the south end of the nursery, but unfortunately the woods is infested with ivy, and so every year I see fewer and fewer of my beloved Trillium.

Roscoea x beesiana

Roscoea scillifolia

Our Roscoeas are in flower now and they will bloom off and on for the rest of the summer. When we get a hot spell the orchid-iris-like flowers will wither, then later it will cool and perhaps rain and new flowers will reappear. The perennial genus is in the ginger family and is native to mountainous regions of China and the Himalaya. Roscoea was named by the English botanist James Edward Smith in 1806, and he honored his friend William Roscoe, the founder of the Liverpool Botanic Garden. R. x beesiana is an interesting hybrid (R. auriculata and R. cautleyoides) that occurred in cultivation and is named for the old nursery, Bees Ltd.*, however it is not certain that Bees made or discovered the cross. The first mention of the name was in 1970 and the first botanical description was published in 2009.

*Bees Ltd. was a pioneering plant nursery founded by Arthur Bulley (1861-1942), a well known plantsman in the late 19th and early 20th century. He funded the famous plant collectors George Forrest, Reginald Farrer and Frank Kingdon Ward. There are dozens of plant species named for Bees or Bulley, such as Aconitum bulleyanum, Allium bulleyanum, Corydalis bulleyana, Berberis beesiana, Bergenia beesiana, Gentiana beesiana and Rhododendron beesianum. An excellent account of Bulley is A Pioneering Plantsman, A.K. Bulley and the Great Plant Hunters by Brenda McLean.

Alangium platanifolium

Alangium platanifolium is described on our website: A large shrub or small tree, often multi-branched, with an open canopy. Light green maple-like leaves turn yellow in fall. Yellow-white flowers in summer. Hardy to 0 degrees, USDA zone 7. It is a perfect example of a BIO plant (Botanical Interest Only), the kind of tree that I jam into the Flora Wonder Arboretum with no intention to propagate. It is native to Japan and Korea, but the generic name – alangi – is a Malayalam name because other species of Alangium are native to southeast Asia. It was named in 1783 by Jean-Baptiste Lamarck referring to Alangium salviifolium. The fossil record shows that it was once more wide-spread, even in England and North America; and my start came from the quirky, now-fossilized Heronswood Nursery in Washington state, a company that specialized in esoteric BIO plants until they went under.

Berberis darwinii

I have collected many species and hybrids of Berberis over the years, but I do not propagate most of them because I know they would never sell for me. B. darwinii is a wonderful – though large – garden species that is hardy in Oregon. For smaller gardens the 'Nana' form would be best. B. darwinii flowers early with an unusual orange-red color, and at a time when bright colors are sparse in the garden. The species was discovered by Charles Darwin in 1835 on the voyage of the Beagle and then introduced by William Lobb in 1849. You all know the Darwin story, but Lobb was famous as the first of many plant collectors sent out by the Veitch Nursery firm to acquire new species from the best corners of the world. Lobb was responsible for the commercial introduction to England of the “Monkey Puzzle tree,” Araucaria araucana, the “Giant Redwood,” Sequoiadendron giganteum, the “Santa Lucia fir,” Abies bracteata and the deciduous Rhododendron occidentale plus very much more. Unfortunately he grew erratic at the end of his career, and he died forgotten and alone at St. Mary's Hospital in San Francisco from what was recorded as “paralysis,” which was a euphemism for syphilis.

Berberis x stenophylla 'Corallina Compacta'

There are plenty of Berberis hybrids in horticulture, and one attractive garden shrub is B. x stenophylla which is the cross of B. darwinii x B. empetrifolia which was known in the 1860's. We grow the cultivar 'Corallina Compacta' which is a cute dwarf. It flowers with coral-red buds at first, but then opens with yellow blooms.

Berberis trigona 'Orange King'

Another South American species with orange flowers is B. trigona, which for most of my career was known as B. linearifolia due to its short narrow leaves. Indeed, early editions of The Hillier Manual of Trees and Shrubs described it as linearifolia, but now in the 2014 it has been changed to trigonatrigonum is Latin for “triangle” – and again, no one notified me. It was introduced in 1927 from Argentea but it also occurs in Chile. The eye-popping cultivar 'Orange King' features larger flowers than the type, and they are an exciting sight in early spring.

Berberis jamesiana

Berberis jamesiana

One final Berberis that I'll mention is B. jamesiana, a medium-size shrub that can grow to at least 12' tall and wide. That hogs a lot of space in the garden but you won't be sorry when you see it adorned with dangling salmon-red berries* in autumn. It was introduced by George Forrest in 1913 from Yunnan, China, and received an Award of Merit in 1925. Again, I don't propagate any of these barberries as no one would buy them from me; I'll enjoy them myself then, as I am not on a mission to convert anyone.

*As you can see from the photos above, the berries can also be white. All photos were taken – at different times – from just one plant.

Clematis x cartmanii 'Joe'

Clematis x cartmanii is an evergreen vine from New Zealand, but for it to grow upward it must be staked because of a paucity of tendrils to cling. There are a number of cultivars such as 'Avalanche', 'Sensation', 'Michiko', 'Pixie' and 'Joe' – and I grow the latter, good ol' 'Joe'. You can also let it scramble, such as over a Rhododendron, for the wispy foliage shouldn't bother whatever is beneath it. The name x cartmanii honors botanist Joe Cartman who produced the hybrid from C. paniculata and C. marmoraria, and the origin of the name 'Joe' should be obvious. The word clematis is from Greek klematis for a “climbing plant,” from klema for “twig.” I'm not really a vining gardener, and 'Joe', which is smothered with tiny white flowers in spring, is the only Clematis I have ever grown. With thorough enjoyment, however, I have visited the Rogerson Clematis Collection at Luscher Farm south of Portland, Oregon, and I can appreciate the beauty of Clematis without much effort on my part. If you have time – after this blog – go to our plants on our website, enter Clematis, and you can see what the Rogerson Collection has to offer. Remember – I have repeated it many times – the photos on our website are not necessarily of plants that we grow and offer for sale, rather they are an autobiography of the plants that I have seen.

Vitis coignetiae

Another climber is the genus Vitis in the family Vitaceae, and it is a vigorous ornamental that can be grown along walls or down banks. It produces tiny grapes, but the species coignetiae's main feature is rich purple and orange autumn foliage. It thrives in poor soils, in fact produces its best colors in such. I discovered the species in England at Harlow Carr where a white wall was devoted to it, and I rushed home to acquire one for myself. The generic name Vitis is Latin for “grape vine” and the specific name honors Mr. and Mrs. Coignet who brought back seeds from their trip to Japan in 1875. It is native to Sakhalin, Korea and Japan and is known in Korea as meoru and in Japan as yama budo. A bitter wine is made in Korea and Japan which is made potable with the addition of sugar. If you introduce it to children they will never drink alcohol again. Interestingly, wild vines can be male, female or hermaphrodite, and I confess that I haven't examined my one vine closely enough to determine its sex...but I'm hoping for the latter, just for the fun of it.

Vitis davidii

Hmm...where have I seen Vitis davidii, the “Chinese bramble grape?” I don't grow it, but I remember being impressed with its soft barbs, and I would probably waste my money if I could find one.

Tulipa bakeri 'Lilac Wonder'

Tulipa humilis 'Lilliput'

Tulipa 'Professor de Monsseri'

Tulipa puchella

Feather rock pumice planters
For a number of years we enjoyed dwarf species and hybrids of tulips (Tulipa), and they were all admirably grown in our 35,000-year-old pumice planters. These planters are geologically known as “feather rock”* and they are mined from the eastern Sierras in California. “Species” tulips prosper in many soils, but they like a dry dormant season which is what they receive in their native homes in the Mediterranean, Asia Minor and the Caucasus. It is a genus of spring-blooming perennial herbaceous bulbiferous geophytes (having bulbs as storage organs) if you want an official botanical description, but most gardeners are only aware of the large and gaudy hybrids that are offered for sale. If you seek out the dwarf species they offer a more pure charm and are perfect compliments to a rock garden. We never succeeded with these dwarves in our arboretum plantings because of over-watering – we were always trying to keep the newly-added woody plants from drying out – but the tulips absolutely prospered in our pumice planters. One day, to my horror, I discovered that every bulb had been grubbed out and eaten by the damn squirrels, though it was probably just one fat son-of-a-bitch that gorged on the lot. Adios to a hundred beautiful companions in the Flora Wonder Arboretum!


*There is a difference between “lava rock” and “feather rock.” The latter forms during volcanic activity and is caused by the reaction of air and lava which “churns” the lava making it foamy and porous. There are many types of lava rock such as pumice, basalt, obsidian or feather rock. These rocks are called igneous rocks and have a glass-like composition. Pumice is more light than feather rock, and every plant you receive from Buchholz Nursery contains between 15-25% of pumice in the soil media. Pumice is an expensive ingredient, but do you wonder why a Buchholz plant is more vigorous, with better roots than those of our competitors – “competitors” with a very small “c?” The pumice actually absorbs and holds water, but allows space in the media for the plants' roots to seek, enlarge and thrive.

Viola 'Dancing Geisha'

Viola is a stringed-instrument of course, but it is also a genus flower name, in the family Violaceae. Most species are from the Northern Hemisphere, but some are native to the Andes and to Hawaii. We know that “roses are red, my love, violas – or violets – are blue,” but not all violets are so sweet, my love, because I have one species – I don't know its name – that is a weed with deep roots that's very tough to get rid of. On the flip-side, violets in the 1950's were used by lesbians to show their love for other women. V. odorata is used in the perfume industry and is known as “flirty” because the fragrance comes and goes. Speaking of flirty, we grow a cultivar named 'Dancing Geisha', and there is no plant more stimulating in my garden. It is a darling with tiny pale-blue flowers with petite freckles.

Viola rostrata

Viola rostrata is another cutie, an eastern North American species known as the “long-spurred violet,” and the photo above was taken in the Appalachian region when Seth and I visited three or four years ago. It's difficult to see but its spur is at least as long as its petal blades and it is colored pale lilac. There are a few other plants with a rostrata specific name, and it breaks down to rostratus (masculine), rostrata (feminine) or rostratum (neuter), a Latin adjective meaning “hooked” or “curved,” or “with a crooked point.” Besides Viola rostrata, we have Yucca rostrata, Eucalyptus rostrata, Stewartia rostrata and others.

Well enough, enough of my profitless fillers, those plants that hang around here without purpose. A good portion of my life has been without purpose too I suppose, except that I have five wonderful children to show for it. Hopefully they'll cure cancer or create world peace, or at least sing and dance for the amusement of others. Go kids!