Tuesday, November 22, 2011

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

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.

Chamaecyparis obtusa

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.

Arboretum Trompenburg

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.

Friday, November 18, 2011

European Trip Day 5 Morning

Arboretum Kalmthout

Autumn weather continued to be decent. A frosty morning, with last night's Belgium beers still fogging our faculties, was followed by blue sky and songbirds. Finally, my long-held desire to visit the Arboretum Kalmthout would be fulfilled.
Upon entering, one path goes left, one goes right, and one goes straight ahead. We split into three groups, two with guides: half went left, half went right, so I alone chose straight ahead. Soon I came across the largest Abies koreana 'Silberlocke' I have ever seen (and I've been twice to Horstmann's Nursery in Germany), a perfect glittery-blue pyramid. The label reflected the old (inappropriate) name 'Horstmann's Silberlocke'.

Abies koreana 'Silberlocke'

The garden contains plants from all over the world--about 7,000 different varieties they claim. The de Belder family was particularly fond of Hamamelis, and many of us know 'Jelena', the old orange-flowered selection named for Jelena de Belder. Hamamelis x intermedia 'Diane' was named for her daughter. Kalmthout, indeed, is famous for its annual "witch hazel" tour in January and February. Good thing they redeem themselves in winter, because now they looked rather scrappy, and wildly-widely spread into other shrubbery.

Hamamelis intermedia 'Spanish Spider'
Hamamelis intermedia 'Spanish Spider'
The ground's history goes back to 1856, and some trees date back to that time. Unlike spacious Wespelaar, tree editing at Kalmthout with a chainsaw would be my mission if I owned the garden. But still, it was an arboretum, and though unlike my Flora Wonder which is crammed with cultivars, there were many fantastic old specimens. Per my usual habit, I tend to focus on the old-timers' trunks. Stewartia x henryae was spectacular, with the mottled bark resembling the pseudocamellia parent more than its other parent, monadelpha. We are growing the Polly Hill Arboretum selection 'Skyrocket', which has great potential for its slender habit. Sorry, none for sale yet.

Stewartia henryae
Betula papyrifera

Betula papyrifera

Carpinus turczaninovii
Carpinus turczaninovii

Zelkova serrata

An old specimen of Zelkova serrata proudly showed off its trunk, as did Carpinus turczaninovii, Betula papyrifera, Paulownia fortunei 'Fast Blue' and Stewartia pseudocamellia. But the best trunk of the day was Quercus x hispanica (Q. cerris x Q. suber) 'Lucombeana'. This is a large ornamental tree originally grown by Mr. Lucombe in England in the 1760's. The Quercus suber parent is known as the "cork oak," and has been wedged atop millions of bottles of wine, but unfortunately is not very hardy (USDA zone 8). The Quercus cerris parent, or "Turkey Oak," is hardy to USDA zone 6, so the hybrid would be a wonderful tree where space permits.

Paulownia fortunei 'Fast Blue'
Paulownia fortunei 'Fast Blue'

Stewartia pseudocamellia

Quercus hispanica 'Lucombeana'

Another tree of note was an old Acer buergerianum, which turns out to be Belgium's champion. I was impressed with Chamaecyparis lawsoniana 'Imbricata Pendula', apparently thriving on its own roots. We grow--and easily sell out of--this curious cultivar, but must graft it on Chamaecyparis lawsoniana 'DR', which is resistant to Phytophthora. I've preached before about the irresponsibility of too many American growers who propagate and sell Chamaecyparis lawsoniana cultivars on their own roots.

Acer buergerianum
Chamaecyparis lawsoniana 'Imbricata Pendula'

Another impressive tree was Euonymus planipes, with autumn color just beginning. As mentioned before, Kalmthout is an old arboretum in an old country with old nomenclature. E. planipes is now referred to as E. sachalinensis, as its origin is Sakhalin Island, off the coast of Siberia. An Asian tree, Picrasma quassioides, was a new genus to me. Hillier describes it as related to Ailanthus and "a very ornamental small hardy tree with attractive pinnate leaves…flowers green…followed by red, pea-like fruits."

Euonymus sachalinensis

Euonymus sachalinensis

I enjoyed the old trees and the vistas of this excellent tree collection, although there was very little of horticultural value from this visit for Buchholz Nursery. Flora Wonder Arboretum will be inspired to try a few trees, however.

Picrasma quassioides

Picrasma quassioides

European Trip Day 5 Afternoon

To Hemelrijk in the afternoon. At Kalmthout, the de Belders loved trees perhaps too much. Another, larger piece of property was purchased in 1961, and served as the spill-over estate. We were greeted by the lovely Barbara de Belder, daughter-in-law of the late Jelena. While the property is a landscape park and botanical garden, Jelena loved her trees more than tree labels. One of the purposes of our botanically-trained group was to hopefully identify some of the species.

Prunus species

As I was ill-equipped, and never solicited to help, once again I struck out on my own. I was careful to focus on my wander through this 250 acre park, careful not to get lost and find myself in France. It was a wonderful place with lakes and forests and vistas. Hemelrijk is a combination of the Dutch words for "sky" and "kingdom."

Fagus sylvatica

Azalea species

Hamamelis 'Orange'

Daniel de Belder stayed out of sight until the end (or perhaps he had been spying on me all along), when he was recruited to show his bee hives. At the end we were treated to his honey, perfect honey which was the color of his wife's hair. I read later that Daniel works in the diamond business in Antwerp, and drives home every night to his 15,000 plants and trees. He said, "My father would come home from work, and he and my mother would go for a walk. And whenever he traveled for his business, he would bring her a new plant. The garden is really the love story between my parents." Aww.

Acer japonicum

Acer palmatum 'Shinobu ga oka'

As in America, de Belder's Acer japonicums would be among the first trees to display autumn color. A strap-leaf green palmatum with red seeds was labelled 'Shinobi ga oka' which should read 'Shinobu ga oka', which is very similar to (or the same as) 'Scolopendrifolium'. Most impressive was the cork-like trunk of Acer palmatum 'Nishiki gawa'. Acer lobelii had a richly colored gray trunk, and once was considered a subspecies of platanoides, but now is more carefully regarded as the Italian subspecies of Acer cappadocicum. The trunk of Acer rufinerve was fantastic. I had my first-ever encounter with Acer diabolicum, a medium-sized Japanese species, commonly named the "horn maple," or "of the devil," due to the horn-like projections on the fruits.

Acer rufinerve
Acer palmatum 'Nishiki gawa'
Acer cappadocicum ssp. lobelii

Acer diabolicum

Everything was beautiful on this sunny afternoon. I eventually caught up with the group, in time to have our photo taken in front of Acer x freemanii, which is a hybrid between Acer rubrum and Acer saccharinum. Or was it freemanii? The botanists bobbed, weaved and jabbed, but a consensus was never reached. Oh well, all of the trees could go unlabelled from my point of view. Today was a day of light, and all of the trees looked wonderful; and for sure, nomenclature today was totally unnecessary.

Attendees of the 2011 International Maple Symposium