Friday, August 31, 2012

Chinese Conifers

I recently purchased the massive Conifers Around The World, and had to lug it ten blocks back to my car. It is authored by two Hungarians, Zsolt Debreczy and Istvan Racz, who began their venture in the mid 1970's. The two volumes, with over 1,000 pages and a few thousand photos, seemingly misses nothing, no matter how obscure, and includes many species I have never heard of before. I have always imagined that if I was stranded on a deserted island, I would be perfectly happy if I had enough food, a pretty hula girl, and the Oxford English Dictionary. But maybe now I would take the food, the girl, and the conifer book.

My first night with the book--at home, not on my fantasy island--I read about the wealth of coniferous species in China. Some are rare, some not, and again there is a sizeable group that I have never heard of before.

So today's blog will focus on some of these species, ones that I have grown for profit, and others where I have just collected one tree for the Arboretum.

Abies squamata

Abies squamata

Abies (or "True Firs") are well represented in China. I like them all, but my favorite has to be Abies squamata, the "Flaky Bark Fir." Although it is native to dry habitats on the border with Tibet, and can be found at an elevation of 15,000 feet, nevertheless it succeeds quite well in the Flora Wonder Collection. I've also seen it thrive in Germany, and a particularly impressive specimen exists at Arboretum Trompenburg in Rotterdam. I presume these are seedling grown, but mine are produced by grafting (as low as possible) onto practically any Abies rootstock, with hardiness and soil adaptability being the important factors.

Abies squamata
Acer griseum

The main feature of Abies squamata is the beautiful exfoliating bark. The photos above show a great similarity to Acer griseum. The foliage of squamata is as attractive as any other Chinese species, and it sports deep blue cones. We have had crops of six-year-old trees cone, and at the same age the bark is already noticeable. It is certainly one of my most favorite of all conifers.

Abies beshanzuensis

I'll mention one other Abies species from China, Abies beshanzuensis, not because it is more attractive than the others, but because it is extremely rare, indeed the "rarest conifer in the world," according to Debreczy and Racz. My trees resemble the photos in their book, so I suppose I have the correct species, but of course I don't know for certain. So if there were only eight trees in existence at their discovery (1975), which is now reduced to only three, how did I get it, and furthermore, should I even have it at all? Scions were sent to me by a botanist--I won't say who--about twelve years ago. He used to ship to me a number of other rare conifers, and even though the scionwood was old and scrappy, usually at least one would survive. I had no idea at the time, however, that beshanzuensis was endangered. I have propagated it on various rootstocks, and when available, Abies firma, which it resembles, might be the best choice. To date none of my trees have coned, in fact that's its problem in the wild.

Amentotaxus argotaenia

Amentotaxus argotaenia

An obscure conifer species, but one that I like, is Amentotaxus argotaenia, the "Catkin Yew." Sadly it is only hardy to USDA zone 8, and my one tree currently resides in our tropical Greenhouse 20, our unprofitable, but fun house. It does resemble Taxus, or "yews;" in fact the catkins are known as aments, hence the name. Red berries will occur at branch tips, although my ten-year-old tree has not yet fruited.

Calocedrus macrolepis

Calocedrus macrolepis

Calocedrus macrolepis is a beautiful species, but it too is not very hardy (USDA zone 8) as it comes from southern China in Yunnan province. This "Chinese Incense Cedar" features flat sprays of blue-green foliage with silvery-blue undersides. Its texture and appearance are more appealing to me than any Thuja or Chamaecyparis, and also more so than its sister species, decurrens. This winter I'll graft a few onto decurrens, which is plenty hardy, and eventually plant one out. Calocedrus means "beautiful cedar."

Cunninghamia lanceolata

Cunninghamia lanceolata is known as "China Fir," and it is frequently planted as a forest tree, for the trunks are usually straight for this fast-growing species. It is rarely used in American landscapes for a number of reasons: when it is not totally happy it can be ugly; old needles persist, so when damaged, or browned from extreme cold, the tree will look practically dead for a few years; and finally the needles are sharp as hell, so it is not friendly to the touch. My grandmother in Eugene, Oregon had a hedge of Cunninghamia, which served well to keep the neighbor dogs and children out of her yard. Very strangely, near the airport in Hillsboro, Oregon, a planting of Cunninghamia was used in the highway divider. I don't think 99% of the landscape architects know anything about the species, but apparently one did.

Cunninghamia lanceolata 'Bánó'

Cunninghamia lanceolata 'Glauca Prostrate'

Cunninghamia lanceolata 'Glauca'

Cunninghamia lanceolata 'Glauca'

The cultivar 'Glauca' can be attractive, and a wonderful specimen exists just two miles from Flora Farm in a lower working-class neighborhood. I photographed the cultivar 'Bánó' somewhere--I can't remember--but I do not grow it. At Arrowhead Alpines in Michigan I encountered a specimen with no intention of producing a leader, and they dubbed it 'Glauca Prostrate'. My plants of it also tend to grow laterally, but eventually, I'm pretty sure they will develop a leader or leaders. But woe if you have to pull weeds next to the vicious blades.

Cathaya argyrophylla

Cathaya argyrophylla

Cathaya argyrophylla

Cathaya argyrophylla

Cathaya argyrophylla is the "Chinese Silver Fir," and is described in Conifers Around The World as "unique a living fossil as the Great Panda of China..." Well, the public won't be lining up to view it I'm sure, but it is a very pretty conifer, and most photogenic don't you think? The needles are gray-green with silvery undersides, hence the specific name argyrophylla, but unfortunately the small cones are ugly little turds, as photographed here last year, and would be of no value except to propagate more. We can root the species, but never do very well.

Just what is Cathaya, other than meaning "from China?" Early on in my career it was the "holy grail" of conifers, though only hardy to USDA zone 7. Every conifer collector would die to have it, but China was emphatic that it belonged to China, that nobody was going to get it. A story went around that three Chinese individuals were caught trying to smuggle out Cathaya, and they were summarily executed. It is a believable story unfortunately.

So anyway we eventually received some seed which germinated. When I mentioned Just what is it?, the question was pertinent, because it was its own genus, and what could be used as understock? Some suggested Sciadopitys, or Larix or Pseudotsuga. Even Abies. I haven't tried any of the above, but maybe should, as our rooting propagation ranges from low to dismal. And I'll keep my seed source secret so the Chinese won't come calling.

My final thoughts about Cathaya are derived from reading Chris Callaghan's excellent article Cathaya argyrophylla, some little known facts in the International Dendrology Society's 2011 yearbook. For example "...few people outside of, and probably within, China (including myself until recently), would know that the botanical discovery of Cathaya, recorded for 1955, was actually 17 years earlier and preceded that of Metasequoia glyptostroboides, the other more renowned Chinese 'living fossil' found by T. Kan in Hupeh in 1941, by three years."

Later he writes "It is interesting to speculate that had Cathaya seeds or plants been brought out of China before the war, whether it would have shared some of the fame enjoyed by Metasequoia today, instead of sinking into virtual obscurity everywhere other than China."

Callaghan furthermore projects that Cathaya should be upgraded to endangered status, as fewer exist than with the Metasequoia population. In China a nature series, Forest China, filmed a program entitled Hermit of the Forest, and in the program the Chinese give Cathaya the ultimate accolade, "the Lord of the Firs."

Metasequoia glyptostroboides

Metasequoia glyptostroboides

I won't repeat the discovery of Metasequoia glyptostroboides, the "Dawn Redwood," and its "living fossil" acclaim, as it has been told many times before. It will quickly grow into a huge tree with a beautiful fluted trunk--and you know I am a trunk man. I especially like the tiny cones, as they look like miniature Sequoiadendron cones, except that the Metasequoia are cubically shaped, something my children find appealing. Meta is a Greek word meaning "after," "beside," "with" "like" or "akin to." Strange that two Chinese botanists, Hu and Cheng, would use a Greek prefix for their wonderful new genus, but then it was also strange that the British tried to cram Wellingtonia down our throats, and that Sequoia, the name of a Cherokee Indian leader was used for the coast redwood, the tallest tree on earth, and then Sequoiadendron eventually for the most massive on earth.

Left: The original Metasequoia glyptostroboides 'Kools Gold' in Holland.

Right: Nelis trying to hide from the camera.

Metasequoia glyptostroboides 'Kools Gold' aglow in the evening light
'Kools Gold' is known as 'Golden Guusje' in Europe.

Metasequoia glyptostroboides 'Gold Rush'

Metasequoia glyptostroboides 'Gold Rush'

Metasequoia glyptostroboides 'Miss Grace'

Metasequoia glyptostroboides 'North Light'

Metasequoia glyptostroboides 'North Light'

Metasequoia is a handsome tree, but requires a park or large estate to accommodate it. Much preferred horticulturally are the various cultivars. I'll only list them, as I've promoted them many times before: 'Kools Gold', 'Gold Rush' (or 'Ogon'), 'Miss Grace' and 'North Light'. One of my "fantasy" trees, would be to find a bright powder-blue form. Then it would become my first-ever tree to patent, and I would become wealthy, and I could finally retreat to my deserted island after all.

I can't continue after that fantasy, so Chinese Conifers, Part Two will continue next week.

Friday, August 24, 2012

The Interns

Mr. Buchholz with his happy interns

The interns? Ah, the interns, the Buchholz Nursery interns! They are so-called because when you tire of them, then you "turn" them in. Ha!, a weak Buchholz joke. The only problem is that some you never want to turn in; some you want to keep forever, adopt, leave in your will, marry if necessary.

We have had interns, or "trainees," for 25 years, and they come via various visa-producing organizations such as Ohio State University, IFAA (International Farmers Aid Association) and others. We treat the trainees humanely, respectfully, patiently etc...and then eventually we see just who we get; i.e. somebody who is happy and hard working, or sadly, in some cases, those who are not. The first intern was Harald from Germany, who was wonderful, so we continued with the adventure. Some others have been spat upon, kicked and ultimately canned, or should I say shit-canned?

But this year we have two goodies, two girls who have made it onto the "A-List," two girls who will bawl when they leave, and so will we. I present: Mayuko from Japan and Dryelle from Brazil. Very different, but they complement each other, and appear to get along very well. As you can see from the photo above, I have managed to position myself in-between, as I will always pose with pretty girls.

So today's blog features their autobiographies, with [sic] applying, because it reveals their cute efforts with the English language. They're such sweet girls, and we definitely lucked out this time. They have included a few of their own photos to tell their stories.

Reports italicized, beginning with Mayuko:

Hello, My name is Mayuko Nakato.

About myself
My birthplace: Okayama, Japan
Age: 22
Blood type: O
Occupation: Ryukyu University Student (Okinawa)
My specialization: Civil Agricultural Engineering
Hobbies: Volleyball, Sake, Music
My favorite plants: Autumn Moon, Eskimo Sunset, Shojo no mai, Hokkaido, Carnival...

At Buchholz Nursery

At Osaka

At Tokyo

About work
I came to U.S.A as this nursery’s trainee on the end of April.
contents of work: potting, trimming, cutting, weeding, sweeping…

A coming of 20 age with grandmother, aunt and dog

A coming of 20 age with mother

Okayama Castle

Okayama Castle Garden

About my hometown(Okayama)
Appeal point
The most sunny days in Japan
. Mild climate. Less disaster.
Fruit is good

sea, mountain, 3 of large rivers ...  country wealthy in natural resources
 …So Okayama is nice for agriculture



Okinawa Guardian Angel

Okinawan Taxi

Traditional House

Ryukyu University Field


Volleyball Team


After finish full marathon

About University(Okinawa)
Appeal point of Okinawa
The most beautiful sea in the world
People is warm-hearted and kind
Leisurely. Peaceful..I were always sleeping with opened the door and windows.
In this Okinawa, I study about agricultural engineering like a irrigation system, dam, landscape of an agricultural village, disaster(landslide)…
I belonged volley ball club 

Other trainee at Oakland stadium

Monterey, CA Pink Carpet

I’m glad to come here, because when I was kid Japanese Maple is very close to me. And I can study about plants(apples, conifers, other rare plants) and American agriculture and culture and so on. Everything is great experience for me. I love Oregon!!!
Thank you.


I am the Brazilian Buchholz & Buchholz trainee and my name is Dryelle Sifuentes Pallaoro. I study agronomy engineering in Mato Grosso Federal University (UFMT). This is my last year in college and I decided make something different for my TCC so, I came to the US for live this experience.

Brazil, Mato Grosso, Cuiabá

On Buchholz & Buchholz Nursery I learn about maples and conifers and their management. I work on several activities since weeding to cutting propagation. 

Undergraduate research -- Microbiology

University classes - Corn Field in Mato Grosso

Amazonia fruit that is used to produce soda; Guaraná

Tomato field in Goiás - University classes

My thoughts about American techniques - my first expectation - was opposed the idea that I have now. I could see that while there are similarities with the Brazilian system we also have many differences, but this is not the most important thing...

Transplanting basil; Horticulture farm

IFAA Summer Seminar in Wisconsin University: agricultural studies

Working with flowers in Iowa

The most important thing is based in my personal growth. I'm learning about valuing human and how good relations are indispensable in personal and professional life.

Tea Party in America

4th July

Furthermore I live in my host's house with his family and the Japanese trainee - Mayuko. At the same time, I learn about American and Japanese culture what is very interesting. We always do stuff together like play, talk, dance, cook, swim… and, one of the coolest things was go to "Mt Hood" where I knew the snow.

Mt. Hood

Mt. Hood -- Haruko Buchholz and Mayuko

The weather in Brazil is mostly tropical so, snowless... especially in my city, Cuiabá, where we have usually 100ºF. To refresh we can visit the "Chapada dos Guimarães" - 50 minutes from Cuiabá - a National Park with 487 waterfalls or we can go to "Nobres" - 1hour and 30 minutes from Cuiabá - the limestones’ city that has the blue pond.

Chapada dos Guimarães

Blue Pond -- Nobres

In Rio de Janeiro

I can stay hours and hours here talking about our natural beauty but is very easy, you can type on Google and find everything, but maybe, you will not find about how the people are happy and cozy and I can say that I really love my country in this aspect. How about spending your next vacation in Brazil?

Brother -- 15 years ago

Family, my treasure! In order: Celso Luiz (brother), Me, Celso (father), Aucilene (sister in law), Renan (brother), Rosana (mother), Pedro (brother)

Pedro Silvério (Boyfriend) in “Salto das Nuvens” waterfall

Theater group

Festa Junina - Brazilian tradicional party

Carnaval - Brazilian tradicional party

One of my favorite things Dance...

On October I'll come back home and I'll take the good things with me... I feel that I'll miss them (Buchholz and Mayuko) but at the same time I'm happy because this means that I could make real friends.


Dryelle's first encounter ever with snow

The interns caught eating ice cream

Cooking dinner with Haruko

Don't play with your food, girls

Learning how to make s'mores

Mayuko and Saya playing with a new friend

Dryelle after winning horeshoe throwing contest

Harumi and Dryelle, such a sweet pair

I will add to their stories, as they do not give themselves enough credit. Mayuko appeared rather bewildered when she first arrived, but so would have you. Work was physically challenging, and the language barrier was enormous. She has been immersed in botanical nomenclature as well as English and Spanish from some of her co-workers. It's not obvious for a newcomer to even understand why we pot, prune and move plants around. She stumbled into an atmosphere of rapido, where everyone worked twice as fast as she did. But I'm happy to report that she is catching up. She has learned many plant names and even has some favorites. My children love her dearly, and the only problem with that is that they pester her constantly.

Dryelle--do not pronounce as "dry," but as "dree," as in tree--comes from the cowboy lands of eastern Brazil. She is a university student, and her internship here is a project-related requirement. Never before have I seen a 22-year-old who is so poised, alert and calm, but then can burst out laughing with her entire being over something silly. It's fun to be around someone who appreciates life, with all of its different people, and Dryelle adds happiness to all who meet her. I should also mention that she is Brazil's horseshoe-throwing queen, and has never lost a contest.

At Multnomah Falls in the Columbia River Gorge

There you have it: old man Buchholz with a house full of women. It's all out of balance, but I definitely love it.