Friday, July 27, 2012

Variegated Conifers Part 2

Chamaecyparis lawsoniana 'Phil's Flurries'

This week's web log concludes last week's thoughts on variegated conifers. These quirky plants originate as seedling variants or via foliage mutations. Remember that foliage mutations do not necessarily imply a "witch's broom" origin -- the opposite can occur, where foliage bolts, as with Chamaecyparis obtusa 'Kosteri Fast Form', or reverts with a different color as with Chamaecyparis lawsoniana 'Phil's Flurries', presented last week as one of our introductions.

Picea orientalis 'Sulphur Flush'
Chamaecyparis obtusa 'Kosteri Fast Form'

Picea orientalis 'Sulphur Flush'

Picea orientalis 'Sulphur Flush' is of seedling origin, and in fact, is also known as 'Silver Seedling'. It originated in Holland over thirty years ago. What I grow as 'Sulphur Flush' is identical to 'Silver Seedling', and some suggest that 'Sulphur Flush' is actually a name for some other seedling. I don't know the facts, but I'm always amused by others who know less, but presume they know more. After thinking about it now, I guess I'll probably change my labels to 'Silver Seedling'. But what I do know, after growing this cultivar for a dozen years, is that no two really look alike, at least not in my nursery. One plant can have various-colored shoots, so during propagation, that might account for my one original tree now featuring different-looking offspring. If the shoots are too green, that's not good. If the shoots are too white, that's also not good. The aim is to have the cultivar with a pretty frosting of white, but not too white and weak to live. The two photos shown above almost seem like two different cultivars. So don't think that plants are so simple and easy to categorize.

Pinus aristata 'Lemon Frost'

Speaking of a "pretty frosting," consider Pinus aristata 'Lemon Frost', a Don Howse (of Porterhowse Farms) introduction of a few years ago. Not only does it have the white resin specks of the aristata species, but the needles also display a subtle golden frosting. I suspect that lean soils or reduced irrigation might enhance the variegation, but I've never actually experimented with that.

Pinus cembroides 'Pina Nevada'

Pinus cembroides 'Pina Nevada' has been featured by me before. I've watched visitors walk past my largest tree (only 7' tall) in summer without seeming to notice it. But in winter the needles shine brilliantly, and everyone wants to know where my rows of hundreds are located. This "dragon's eye" Mexican "stone" pine was discovered in 1992 by the late JC Raulston on a plant collection trip with Yucca Do Nursery, and you can see Raulston's photos of the original tree on the JC Raulston Arboretum website. We propagate by grafting onto vigorous Pinus strobiformis rootstock, but still the cultivar remains weak. Many of our starts die within a year or two or three, and almost certainly will die if left unprotected in a container in winter when small. 'Pina Nevada' is truly a wimp, but oh so beautiful once established.

Pinus densiflora 'Golden Ghost'

Pinus densiflora 'Cesarini's Variegated'

Two "Japanese Red Pines," Pinus densiflora 'Golden Ghost' and 'Cesarini's Variegated' are similar, and both are more dwarf than the old 'Oculis Draconis' that hardly anyone grows anymore. 'Golden Ghost's' banding is more yellow than the white of 'Cesarini's Variegated'. Colors intensify in winter, and furthermore, they glow much brighter in midwest and east coast locations. Neither are really good cultivars for a western Oregon garden, in my experience, but they sure do shine elsewhere.

Pinus mugo 'Yellow Point'

 Pinus mugo 'Sunshine'

Pinus mugo 'Yellow Point' didn't impress me for its first eight or ten years here. Yes, the needles were slightly yellow, but I supposed it was like the previous two densiflora cultivars, that western Oregon just wasn't the place for it. A few years ago, in late August in our Display Garden, I was astounded to discover it throbbing with cream-yellow at the ends of the branchlets. The photos above don't do justice to the way it looked that day. But still, it is rather moody; for I have just now walked out to take a look at it, and I'm sorry to report that it's just a green blob today. Pinus mugo 'Sunshine' can vary as well, by being intensely-colored one day, and dull at another time. It displays the dragon eye's banding, and can be a bright cheerful yellow when it feels like it.

Pinus parviflora 'Fukai'

Pinus parviflora 'Fukai'

I hate to repeat the same song, but Pinus parviflora 'Fukai' is another tree that varies in its appeal. At its best, it absolutely sparkles with cream white. I find that it requires full sun, and, fortunately, does not burn. 'Fukai' originated in Sweden, then eventually it was introduced by the late Mr. Horstmann of Schneverdingen, Germany. As I whine about the shortcomings of these variegated pines, I wonder if other growers and gardeners share my experience. Perhaps for you they are always spectacular, and you might wonder if I'm just a chronic complainer. But for me these pines are like women: every day they are a little different, and some days very different. Or, or is it me?

Pinus parviflora 'Hani'

Pinus parviflora 'Tanima no yuki'

Pinus parviflora 'Tanima no yuki'

Pinus parviflora 'Hani' and 'Tanima no yuki' are appealing, with puffs of snow-white needles at the branch tips. Both require afternoon shade when we reach the mid-nineties. They are wonderful miniatures loved by all, except that they are very slow to get established. Oops, there I go complaining again.

Pinus parviflora 'Himeko janome'
Pinus parviflora 'Ogon janome'

Pinus parviflora 'Himeko janome'

Pinus parviflora 'Ogon janome'

Pinus parvifloras 'Himeko janome' and 'Ogon janome' are famous dragon's-eye dwarfs. Without the label I probably can't tell them apart. Someone much smarter than me, who used to work here (but was ultimately fired), declared emphatically that 'Himeko janome' was "much more colorful." Well, I've even taken a branch of 'Himeko janome' over to its counterpart, and I still can't tell them apart.

Pinus thunbergii 'Shirome janome'

Pinus thunbergii 'Shirome janome' in winter
Pinus thunbergii 'Shirome janome' in spring

Pinus thunbergii 'Torafu matsu'

Sciadopitys verticillata 'Fireworks'

Pinus thunbergii 'Shirome janome' is a variegated "Japanese Black Pine" with yellow banding. 'Torafu matsu' ("matsu" means pine in Japanese) is different in that its needles are tipped with gold. In winter 'Torafu matsu' takes on an orange color, as seen above. The "Japanese Umbrella Pine," which is not a true pine of course, has a cultivar called Sciadopitys verticillata 'Fireworks' which is similarly tipped in gold. The photo above is not really adequate to demonstrate this variegation, but in person, I was very impressed to see a row of them in a German's field.

Sequoiadendron giganteum 'Frence Beauty'
Sequoiadendron giganteum 'Albospica'

Sequoiadendron giganteum 'Frence Beauty' is often spelled wrong, as 'French Beauty', and I've even seen it listed as 'France Beauty'. Maybe the rest of the plant world is correct and I am the knucklehead, because I usually see it listed as 'French Beauty'. But I do remember a visit to the unique nursery of Wiel Linssen in Holland about ten years ago, the source of my first scions, where it was labeled 'Frence Beauty', and at that time being introduced to a plant collector, a Mr. Frence...from Hungary I believe. Hmmm, just wondering....Sequoiadendron giganteum 'Albospica' is similar, but with more pure white variegation than the cream, or yellowish-white of 'F? Beauty'.

Taxus baccata 'Intermezzo'

Taxus baccata 'Intermezzo', with its columnar form, can be liberally colored with yellow portions, or not. "Or not" means only sparsely colored with yellow portions. Another one of those variegated conifers where no two look alike, where one plant presents itself with great excitement, while another should just stay in the closet.

Thuja orientalis 'Van Hoey Smith'

I'll finish Variegated Conifers with Thuja orientalis 'Van Hoey Smith', a plant that I unintentionally-and completely unofficially-named (see web log of 1/13/12). I apologize again if I have sullied the integrity of horticultural nomenclature. Still, it's a great plant, and the best specimen I've ever seen grows in front of the door of Arrowhead Alpines in the middle of Michigan, sent by us years earlier. Sadly, owner Bob has passed, but I pray that his beautiful conifer continues to thrive.

So, enough of variegated conifers. Some of you love them and some of you don't. As a group, I would conclude that they are over-rated, or, more accurately, over-presented. The gardening public can judge, as I'm overly vested and cannot be trusted. But I'll repeat what I said last week: use them sparingly.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Variegated Conifers

Picea pungens 'Spring Ghost'

Picea pungens 'Spring Blast'

Abies koreana 'Silberlocke'
Abies veitchii 'Glauca'

Today's web log (or "blog," as most of you would have it; a word I detest since I first heard it, as it sounds like an intestinal disorder) is on variegated conifers. Possibly every conifer species has a variegated form, attractive or not. Our nursery alone has introduced ten variegated cultivars; and even more if I include plants with new shoots having a much different color than the older foliage, such as Picea pungens 'Spring Blast' or 'Spring Ghost'. I will not include the "needle" conifers as variegated, if the undersides are a different color from the top, since most are. Sometimes these conifers can have vivid undersides, such as with Abies veitchii 'Glauca' or Abies koreana 'Silberlocke'.

Abies amabilis 'Indian Heaven'
Chamaecyparis lawsoniana 'Phil's Flurries'

Chamaecyparis nootkatensis 'Sparkling Arrow'

Chamaecyparis nootkatensis 'Laura Aurora'
Chamaecyparis obtusa 'Sunshine'

Chamaecyparis obtusa 'Moonshine'

Metasequoia glyptostroboides 'Lightning'
Picea abies 'Gold Dust'

Sciadopitys verticillata 'Mr. Happy'
Tsuga mertensiana 'Mountain Light'

The ten from our nursery are Abies amabilis 'Indian Heaven', Chamaecyparis lawsoniana 'Phil's Flurries', Chamaecyparis nootkatensis 'Laura Aurora' and 'Sparkling Arrow', Chamaecyparis obtusas 'Moonshine' and 'Sunshine', Metasequoia glyptostroboides 'Lightning', Picea abies 'Gold Dust', Sciadopitys verticillata 'Mr. Happy' and Tsuga mertensiana 'Mountain Light'. Some of them will be around long after me, while others will faze out when I faze also. The real money-maker from the group is Chamaecyparis nootkatensis 'Sparkling Arrow'. It resulted from a white mutation on a 'Green Arrow'. So we get the same narrow form, with fairly even white and blue-green color. It can be grown in full sun in most locations; and it actually looks its best in winter, and it never has reverted like the old, discontinued clone, 'Variegata'.

Abies koreana 'Gelbbunt'
Abies amabilis 'Indian Heaven'

A couple of variegated Abies are worth mentioning: Abies amabilis 'Indian Heaven' and Abies koreana 'Gelbbunt'. 'Indian Heaven' was discovered next to the road on the way to the Indian Heaven Wilderness near Mt. Saint Helens in Washington state. 'Gelbbunt' is a German selection, meaning "yellow-colored." Neither will become common household plants, but you have to admit that the 'Gelbbunt' looks especially nice when placed next to a pretty girl.

Chamaecyparis lawsoniana 'Phil's Flurries'
Chamaecyparis lawsoniana 'Silver Threads'

The genus Chamaecyparis is loaded with variegated selections, as all species seem inclined to produce color or form mutations. I'm not aware of a single variegated cultivar that originated from seed. We are now able to proudly provide -- "proudly" because we graft every cultivar of Chamaecyparis lawsoniana on Disease Resistant Rootstock (tm), which most other growers do not...and consequently a large portion of theirs will die on their own roots...while the irresponsible grower laughs his way to the bank--so proudly then, we now produce a number of choice lawson cultivars "responsibly." 'Phil's Flurries' originated as a mutation atop 'Green Globe', as seen in the photo above. 'Silver Threads' forms a compact pillar of blue-green foliage speckled liberally with cream-white. It can withstand full sun in most areas.

Chamaecyparis nootkatensis 'Laura Aurora'

Chamaecyparis nootkatensis 'Laura Aurora' was introduced by us twenty five years ago. It was a yellowish mutation from a nootkatensis 'Pendula', and for me has always grown as a compact bush. The photo above, taken in Holland at a fellow-collector's garden, suggests, however, a more upright and weeping form. Like blind men when describing an elephant, 'Laura Aurora' is difficult to pin down. At its best it is very pretty, but it never took off commercially like 'Sparkling Arrow', which has been described above. The point is that, at their beginnings, I could never have predicted how either would have fared. The same is true with many of my projects and ideas and discoveries: some are great and others turn out to be dismal, embarrassing failures. But better to have loved and failed, than to never have loved at all, as they say...I suppose.

Chamaecyparis obtusa 'Mastin'

Variegated Chamaecyparis obtusas, the Japanese "hinokis," are a welcome addition to the world's gardens. 'Mastin' is a perky selection, with a green base almost entirely overcome with sparkling white. Even in Oregon's arid summer climate, it has never burned. 'Mariesii' we also grow, and it is nearly identical; in fact, when we once mixed them up, we dumped the entire crop, as there was no hope to correctly separate the two. The history of Buchholz Nursery is rife with goof-ups and blunders; so just imagine the horticultural nightmares that emanate from the more stupid, the more unconcerned and the more greedy growers. I know that the ultimate plant consumer cannot possibly follow or appreciate my efforts on their behalf.

Ginkgo biloba 'Majestic Butterfly'

Ginkgo biloba 'Autumn Gold'
Ginkgo biloba 'Majestic Butterfly'

Fruits on the male Ginkgo biloba 'Autumn Gold'

Ginkgo? Why is a Ginkgo in a variegated conifer log? As some of you may know, many plant references place Ginkgo with the "conifers." Pollination is accomplished by motile sperm, an act I've never witnessed firsthand, but take my word for it, and you can even watch Ginkgos doing it on the internet. So, conifers then. There are a number of variegated selections, but for me they all revert eventually. Still, some of the leaves are spectacular, as with 'Majestic Butterfly'. But back to the sexual expressions of the Ginkgo, they can also change sex, or become bisexual anyway, and this has happened at the nursery. In other words, a male clone like 'Autumn Gold' can produce female fruit. The theory is that a female seedling used as rootstock can influence the top of a male. I'm no Mr. Science, but my wife has a lot of influence over me for sure, so I just hope that nothing too odd develops.

Juniperus squamata 'Floriant'

Juniperus squamata 'Floriant'

I'm not a fan of variegated junipers, since often the white or yellow portions can burn. However, Juniperus squamata 'Floriant' can have its moments. This variegated form of 'Blue Star' is ultimately short-lived however, or rather, short-useful, because with age it browns-out in the middle and tends to flop.

Juniperus chinensis 'Daub's Frosted'

A wonderful long-term juniper is Juniperus chinensis 'Daub's Frosted'. From a distance you wouldn't call it "variegated," it's just golden. But on close inspection you notice that the foliage is green in the middle, with vibrant golden shoots protruding. It will grow to one foot or less tall by four feet wide in 10 years, or can be staked into an upright little tree.

Metasequoia glyptostroboides 'North Light' (AKA 'Schirrmann's Nordlicht')

Metasequoia glyptostroboides 'North Light' (AKA 'Schirrmann's Nordlicht')

Metasequoia glyptostroboides 'White Spot'

Metasequoia glyptostroboides 'White Spot' is a variegated "Dawn Redwood" with light green foliage blotched with white. I used to not care for it, and don't even have one anymore. Then I saw it looking absolutely beautiful in the rain at Arboretum Trompenburg in Rotterdam. Gert Fortgens, the director, told me the secret was to keep it pruned. A fantastic mutation did occur on 'White Spot' in Germany. This dwarf happy-looking conifer is called 'Schirrmann's Nordlicht' in Europe, and we were given permission to give it the translated name 'North Light' in America (However we use both names on every label when they are sold).

Metasequoia glyptostroboides 'Lightning'

Metasequoia glyptostroboides 'Silhouette'

Metasequoia glyptostroboides 'Lightning' is new from Buchholz Nursery, but we haven't trialed it sufficiently to compare with the excellent cultivar 'Silhouette' from Kools in Holland.

Daphniphyllum teijsmannii 'Variegated'

Daphniphyllum himalaense ssp. macropodum 'Variegated'

Fatsia sp. 'Yellow Form'

Fatsia sp. 'Murakumo nishiki'

Fatsia sp. 'Variegated'

Fatsia sp. 'Variegated'

Osmanthus heterophyllus 'Kembu'

Peonia sp. 'Sato nishiki'

I once visited a garden in Japan with a fantastic collection of variegated plants. The problem was that every plant was variegated. It left the visitor dull on the whole, even though I could admire some of the contents. It featured variegated Paeonia, Daphniphyllum, Osmanthus, Acer, Fatsia etc. Just everything, and I vowed that was something I'd never do. My wife tells me that the garden no longer exists, that the owner has moved on to another whim. And I'll move along now too, as I've had my fill of variegated conifers for one post. I might indulge you with more next week. Just remember to garden with them sparingly.

Acer palmatum 'Toyama nishiki'