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


  1. Really great photos! Lots of maples I didn't know about.

  2. Thank you for sharing your adventure. The photos are wonderful, and I learned a great deal about trees that are familiar and others that are new.