Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Blue Forest at Buchholz Nursery

We had a hard frost last night, and I was greeted by the icy eye of the moon when I left for work. Later, I walked down the hill to check something in our box area greenhouses, down to where the sun doesn't shine due to the nearby woods. My God it's cold down there. Then I walked back up the hill, into the warmth of the winter sun. My mood changed to bright and happy, with the conifers in the Blue Forest looking especially nice. So I retraced my steps and wrote down a few plant names, aware that this blog thing needed attending to.

The Blue Forest

First of all, the Blue Forest was a large garden where every plant displayed blue foliage. In the early 1980's I guess I thought that was a cool idea. I eventually tired of it, and removed most of the spruces and pines, but left seven old "mountain hemlocks," Tsuga mertensiana--which would be criminal to cut down. The Blue Forest is now largely a rock garden, planted with a lot of interesting trees of all colors.

Tsuga mertensiana

Ginkgo biloba 'Marieken', a dwarf European selection, looks pretty in spring and summer, then absolutely fantastic in autumn. This cultivar was new to me in fall of 2000, when I saw it in Germany and Holland. In the trade it is also spelled "Mariken." I actually have two labels, one from Holland and the other from Germany, where the two spellings occur. But "Marieke" is a fairly common Dutch woman's name--and I actually know a Marieke (Kemper) who confirms my spelling. Thanks to our propagation department, the plant is grown by many American nurseries now.

Ginkgo biloba 'Marieken'
'Marieken' is a spreader, growing to one foot tall by three feet wide in ten years, with leaves almost the size of regular Ginkgo. Another dwarf, Ginkgo biloba 'Munchkin' is a real cutie. Its leaves are remarkably tiny, with barely any indentation between the lobes. 'Munchkin' is a slightly more upright cultivar, growing to two feet tall by one and a half feet wide in ten years.

Ginkgo biloba 'Munchkin'


Pinus parviflora 'Aoi'

We grow a large number of Pinus parviflora cultivars, nearly one hundred, and they each have their own individual charm. But perfect for the rock garden is Pinus parviflora 'Aoi'. That is "blue" in Japanese, and it is pronounced "owee," like when you stub your toe on your way to the bathroom in the night. 'Aoi' is a dwarf blue ball for many years, but eventually will form a leader. It should be grown in full sun for best color, and as with all of the parvifloras, good drainage is a must.

Pinus parviflora 'Blue Giant'

Pinus parviflora 'Blue Giant' is a fabulous selection with a pyramidal shape. It was selected in Holland in the 1970's and given its English name. While the lustrous silver-blue needles are slightly longer than the type, it is certainly not a "giant" in rate of growth, achieving only about six feet tall in ten years. A few knuckleheads suggest that 'Blue Giant' is the same as 'Blue Angel' or 'Blauer Engel', a similar selection from Stockmann's Nursery in Germany. But they're not the same, I think. Besides, 'Blue Angel' is patented now, by a large Oregon/California company, even though I was probably propagating it before the patent took effect.

                 Chamaecyparis obtusa 'Golden Pillar'                             Chamaecyparis obtusa 'Vokel's Upright'

Chamaecyparis obtusa 'Golden Pillar' and 'Vokel's Upright' are similar in form (narrow uprights), with 'Golden Pillar' slightly slower due to its rich golden foliage. I've made a drift of these little sentinel creatures, and they look very nice together.

Picea abies 'Stoner'

Picea abies 'Kluis'

Likewise, two spruces are quite similar, Picea abies 'Stoner' and Picea abies 'Kluis'. The 'Stoner' was given to me by Greg Williams of Kate Brook Nursery, and was listed as 'Stoner #2'. I never did see a 'Stoner #1'. And of course 'Stoner' brings out chuckles with many who encounter it for the first time. The 'Kluis' was given to me by John Mitsch of Oregon, now retired, but one of the greatest plantsmen in his day. Both of these gray-green cultivars start out as round or irregular balls, but usually a leader will develop. They are perfect in a rock garden, looking like denizens of an alpine region, and never outgrow their place.

Pinus cembra 'Big Blue'
Pinus cembra 'Blue Mound'

Pinus cembra 'Glauca'

One of the largest plants in the Blue Forest is Pinus cembra 'Glauca'. This venerable tree is about fifty years old, and makes a dramatic silver-blue exclamation point. We grow many cultivars of cembra pine, and even the most robust are still slow-growing. 'Blue Mound' is a dwarf, and while the original tree was a mini mound, most grafted trees will develop a leader. But still, it is a nice cultivar, and not so rare in the trade. I like 'Big Blue', a selection from Johnson Nursery in Wisconsin, "Doncha know." It grows at the same rate as 'Glauca', about six feet tall by three feet wide in ten years.

Chamaecyparis nootkatensis 'Green Arrow'

Well, there are so many great plants in the Blue Forest, mostly conifers, and every once in a while I'll rediscover one that I couldn't remember being there. Probably the signature trees are the Chamaecyparis nootkatensis 'Green Arrows'. They are possibly the oldest and largest in the world, as I introduced the plant into the USA gardens in the mid 1980's. The late Gordon Bentham discovered the tree on Vancouver Island, on government land, but was denied cuttings from it by some pompous little official. Of course Bentham stood at a higher moral level, got the cuttings anyway, and today thousands of gardens are graced by his efforts.

The Blue Forest

The Blue Forest

The Blue Forest looks good in any season; the plants and the granite stones make great companions. But it is always changing, with trees occasionally coming out, and new ones going in. And I guess the stones are changing too: the patterns of moss and lichen are evolving, while the rocks continue to sink a fraction, year after year.

Mosses and Lichens

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