European Trip Day 6 Morning
We left the hotel early, and the Arboretum Trompenburg in Rotterdam, Holland was our destination. Of course it was raining; my three previous visits to Trompenburg were all soakers as well. I had mixed feelings about visiting at all: this would be the first time that Dick van Hoey Smith would not be my guide. Trompenburg was his life's work, but he passed away in December of 2010. "The oak has been felled."
|Dick van Hoey Smith with Quercus pontica in 2007|
|Flora at Trompenburg|
Dick loved to walk the grounds with fellow plants people. The smarter (tree-wise) the person or group, the sharper he was. His range of tree knowledge was probably never surpassed by anyone, and he was also very much a "cultivarist." Many who visited the collection recall his kindness and generosity, even though there could be a gruff exterior. In later years, when he toured the garden in his mobile scooter, one had to literally run to keep up, as he would begin his story whether you were there or not. After backing his scooter into someone, Dick announced that it was your responsibility to watch out for him. One time he was photographing a plant, and said to the person nearby, "your shadow is not improving my photo."
Whether at his arboretum, or at Flora Wonder, or somewhere else on a trip, plants people would share their stories about Dick. Sometimes there would be jokes and imitations, like his habit of saying "Absolutely fantastic!" about a particular plant. Or, "Joan, Joan, where's my film?" to his daughter. "Maike, Maike, [his other daughter] did you write that name down?" I would appreciate any good stories if the reader is willing to share.
In spite of the rain, the trees looked good and the grounds were in the best shape compared to any of my previous visits. Gert Fortgens, the current director, gets credit for the excellent condition, and hatless, he hardly seemed to notice that it was raining as he led our group.
Abies squamata, with its exfoliating brown bark, is one of the signature trees. I don't know if this specimen is on its own roots or not. We produce Abies squamata 'Flaky' by grafting onto Abies balsamea var. phanerolepis. This Chinese squamata is a must-have for any serious tree collection. I always love to see the narrow golden pillar, Calocedrus decurrens 'Berrima Gold', as Trompenburg's is the tallest I have ever seen. Chamaecyparis lawsoniana 'Karaca', which I do not grow, looks very much like our Chamaecyparis lawsoniana 'Imbricata Pendula'. Similarly, Thuja orientalis 'Balaton' shares a resemblance to Thuja orientalis 'Franky Boy', a curious thread-leaf conifer that is currently one of the hottest plants we sell. A Thuja, for heaven's sakes!
|Calocedrus decurrens 'Berrima Gold'|
|Chamaecyparis lawsoniana 'Karaca'|
Chamaecyparis lawsoniana 'Jeanette' glowed in the rain with rich deep-green foliage. Some plants can do that; another that comes to mind is Ilex aquifolium 'Night Glow', though I didn't see it at Trompenburg. Metasequoia glyptostroboides 'White Spot' was unusually colorful. Very few grow it in America because of its lack of color. Mr. Fortgens explained that pruning all the side branches was the trick. Remember that a broom mutation on a 'White Spot' is the origin of the exceptional new dwarf conifer 'North Light'.
|Chamaecyparis lawsoniana 'Jeanette'|
|Metasequoia glyptostroboides 'White Spot'|
|Thuja orientalis 'Balaton'|
Trompenburg has a couple trees of Chamaecyparis obtusa--I think 'Nana Gracilis'--with skinny sticks for trunks, arising out of enormous boles, which is probably Chamaecyparis lawsoniana rootstock. Thuja occidentalis 'Smaragd' is our preferred understock for obtusas, but with old age the graft union on mixed species only gets more ridiculous.
A couple of trees were new for me. One was the handsome hybrid, Quercus x 'Pondaim', a Q. pontica and Q. dentata cross. Q. pontica, the "Armenian Oak," was van Hoey Smith's favorite tree, which he responded when asked, saying "The answer is simple." The other parent, Q. dentata, the "Daimyo Oak," is native to China, Japan and Korea, and is beautiful in its own right. We occasionally produce a bizarre cultivar, Quercus dentata 'Pinnatifida'; with deeply cut leaves, it looks like something from the Amazon. The second new tree was Fraxinus excelsior 'Aurea Pendula'. This weeping specimen of the "Common Ash" was planted next to the canal, and probably goes unnoticed until its autumn show.
|Quercus x 'Pondaim'|
|Fraxinus excelsior 'Aurea Pendula'|
Another signature tree is the ghostly Cornus controversa 'Variegata'. The cultivar is not so rare anymore, but to see a large specimen light up a cloudy day is memorable.
|Cornus controversa 'Variegata'|
Well, there was a lot more to see, but photos were hard to come by due to the rain. We retired into the lunch room for our warm soup and croquettes, and nothing had ever tasted better.
European Trip Day 6 Afternoon
Finally, to a nursery, the famous maple nursery Esveld, in Boskoop, Holland. Cor van Gelderen is in charge now, as was his father before him. "Plants are the soul of a garden," has been their philosophy since 1865. Well, it's not much of any garden without the plants. But I think the meaning here is which plants. A garden's plants define the soul of the gardener, identifies what kind of person he is, what his priorities are, how he has fun etc. While there is a huge assortment of trees at Esveld other than maples, how could anyone possess a worthy soul without the Acers?
Cor, in his talk at the Maple Symposium, explained that Esveld grows only a few of most cultivars, as little as five to ten of each. The plant market aside, there's simply no room for more. We witnessed a labeling system for their hundred--or thousands?-- of cultivars. The employees had better be focused!
|Acer palmatum 'Dr. Tilt Type I'|
|Acer palmatum 'Dr. Tilt Type II'|
In the garden, maples were labeled with large white wooden stakes. Most cultivars were familiar, but two new ones were from America. Acer palmatum 'Dr. Tilt' (type 1 and type 2), and Acer palmatum 'Carll's Corner' (not 'Carlis Corner'), a cute broom mutation from an atropurpureum from New Jersey. Acer pectinatum 'Mozart' was impressive for reddish new shoots, and Acer palmatum 'Alpine Surprise' was attractive (but shouldn't it be 'Alpine Sunrise'?).
|Acer palmatum 'Alpine Sunrise'|
|Acer palmatum 'Carll's Corner'|
|Acer pectinatum 'Mozart'|
As we crossed the bridge into the "Aceretum," a clever name for their maple collection, impossible to miss is the oldest (and certainly the largest?) Acer shirasawanum 'Aureum'. I've been to Esveld two times previously, and have never seen it in leaf, always arriving too late. This is the famous specimen that dates back to a century and a half, and is likely one of Siebold's original introductions. Cor related the interesting story about how it came to Esveld--talk about a nursery with serious history. I'm sure he hopes and prays that it doesn't croak on his generation's watch. I first became aware of this tree in 1978, with the publication of Vertrees' Japanese Maples 1st edition. On page 136, when it was deemed to be a japonicum, is a photo of a huge golden ball, so add thirty plus more years to imagine what a size it is now. Vertrees claimed, "I have not been able to find records of any larger A. japonicum (sic) 'Aureum' in any other country."
|Acer shirasawanum 'Aureum'---Siebold's original introduction|
Sadly, once again the Dutch October sky ended our plant day. Cor was a good host, but he was spread thin, answering dozens of questions from many of the attendees. I'll try to think of a way to get him to Oregon, as a speaker perhaps. I'd like to tap into his wealth of knowledge and experience. Emailing is never as satisfying as a walk through the garden.