Friday, March 22, 2013

What Could Have Been


I visited a Portland-area retail nursery last week, and did so surreptitiously; not that I would have been unwelcome. But it wasn't a sales call. I just wondered what they were selling, and where their products came from. They used to buy from me years ago, back when they had an attractive and friendly buyer, a Miss M., who was florally acute, and especially interested in new and unusual plants that no one else was growing. She would spend hours at a time at my nursery, finding things in the back corners that even I had forgotten about. We had a wonderful collaboration, and she helped to make horticulture a good career decision for me.

But alas, she has been gone for a dozen years, and her replacements are in a buying rut that does not include Buchholz Nursery. They had some maples there that were very cheap, and boy did they look it. And a lot of stretched-out or crooked conifers, mostly "old-times" plants that I gave up on years ago because nobody was buying them anymore. In many cases I could recommend a better cultivar, and also supply it in better shape. To be fair, there were a lot of good plants as well, but Portland's gardeners have no idea how much more interesting their favorite retail nursery could be.

So far, this has been a highly arrogant blog, I know. Is Buchholz really so great? Well, I'm not, but the plants are, and this remiss retail nursery is spoiling the ultimate fun for its customers. They should clear off a few tables and move the stuff to the back, and I'll tell you what they should restock with.

Acer palmatum 'Crimson Queen'

Acer palmatum 'Tamuke yama'

Acer palmatum 'Tamuke yama'

Acer palmatum 'Tamuke yama'

























Acer palmatum 'Red Dragon'


First of all they can totally dump the crappy-looking 'Crimson Queen' maples. Yes, that group that was grafted atop thirty inch green sticks, the ones with all the dead wood. Of course they were cheap, but no matter the cost, there is no value in them. There is nothing wrong with the 'Crimson Queen' cultivar, and I grow a few myself. I do so because I have some long-time customers who are used to the catchy name, and they look good, especially in the spring. But Acer palmatum 'Tamuke yama' is more vigorous, and keeps its red color longer in summer, at least in Oregon. Or, Acer palmatum 'Red Dragon', which is also very red throughout the summer, and which forms a more compact tree. In other words, 'Crimson Queen' came and went.

Acer palmatum 'Mikawa yatsubusa'

Acer palmatum 'Mikawa yatsubusa'

Acer palmatum 'Mikawa yatsubusa'


Acer palmatum 'Mikawa yatsubusa'

Acer palmatum 'Japanese Princess' in May


Acer palmatum 'Japanese Princess' in July


Then they should also subscribe to our maple program, where we reward our customers with the choice new cultivars in a #1 or #3 pot. Our maple program is designed, ultimately, for the maple addict, one who grows more and more hooked with every new maple he or she acquires. The condition is called "maple fever." Did you know that both J.D. Vertrees and Japan's Masayoshi Yano caught the disease in their old age, and eventually published books about maples? There was a time when they knew little or nothing about Acer. If a collector already has Acer palmatum 'Mikawa yatsubusa', for example, he is in select company; but he would pay anything for 'Japanese Princess', a new cultivar that originated as a seedling from 'Mikawa yatsubusa', and is a "Mikawa" look-alike, except that the spring foliage on 'Japanese Princess' is a wonderful pinkish-orange.



























Acer palmatum 'Mikawa nishiki'


Acer palmatum 'Mikawa nishiki'


How could you pass, then, on Acer palmatum 'Mikawa nishiki'? The leaf shape and leaf node characteristics don't resemble 'Mikawa yatsubusa', and I really don't know its origin, but look at the photos above and ask yourself: isn't this a maple that I must have? Of course it is; and God bless the Buchholz Nursery maple program.




























Acer palmatum 'Kurenai jishi'

Acer palmatum 'Kurenai jishi'



























Acer palmatum 'Bihou'


Acer palmatum 'Bihou'


This Portland retail nursery also does not provide Acer palmatum 'Kurenai jishi', a new selection from the aforementioned Yano; the cultivar name means the "black lion." They keep trying to sell their Acer palmatum 'Sango kaku', but imagine how many hundreds of Acer palmatum 'Bihou' would fly out of there, except that they don't know anything about it. They are "too busy" to come out for a visit, and they think that they are already in the essential plant loop, that they are the cognoscenti, the connoisseurs of plant knowledge, the purveyors of plant "passion." Perhaps they think that my prices are too high, what with all the cheap deals around, but again, they would do well to focus on plant value.

Acer palmatum 'Alpenweiss'



























Acer palmatum 'Amagi shigure'

Acer palmatum 'Amagi shigure'

Acer palmatum 'Ariadne'

Acer palmatum 'Asagi nishiki'

Acer palmatum 'Marlo'

Acer palmatum 'Beni kosode'




























Acer palmatum 'Ikandi'


Acer palmatum 'Ikandi'

Acer palmatum 'Ikandi'


Possibly I have a few blog readers in Portland, and just know that your "high falutin" retail nursery also does not supply, when they could, Acer palmatums 'Alpenweiss', 'Amagi shigure', 'Ariadne', 'Asagi nishiki', 'Marlo', 'Beni kosode', 'Ikandi' etc. Sorry that you have to travel to San Francisco, or somewhere, to buy them. Or, you could visit a favorite mail-order nursery that we sell plants to: Sammy's Alpines, which is in Oregon. They are classy people with a sense of adventure, people who are clearly plant lovers, and a company whose purpose is to provide the new, the unusual and the rare. See www.sammysalpines.com, but first finish the blog.

Portland is not alone with retail garden centers that have spurned us. There was a company in Champaign, Illinois that billed itself as the "best garden center in the Midwest." I took that claim as a challenge, that how could they be?...if they didn't buy from mee? We contacted them and offered free plant samples, and my samples are choice new plants that can't be found elsewhere. The person in charge was "very busy," and he never got back to us. I visited this garden center, again, on the sly. It was a good-looking place in general, and I could see who they were buying from in Oregon. So they were good, but they could have been better.



Cornus kousa 'Heart Throb'

Cornus kousa 'Heart Throb'

Cornus kousa 'Heart Throb'

Cornus kousa 'Heart Throb'


Cornus kousa 'Satomi'



























Cornus kousa 'Satomi'


Cornus kousa 'Satomi'





























Cornus kousa 'Summer Fun'





























Cornus kousa 'Summer Fun'


Cornus kousa 'Summer Fun' in autumn


Many garden centers buy their ball-and-burlap material, then pot them up using just barkdust with maybe a handful of slow-release fertilizer. Or the wholesale supplier does the same. I experimented with this cost-cutting measure, fortunately on a small scale, and could easily see that the plants were inferior in color and vigor compared to those in our typical high-price potting media. Also, certain plants shouldn't be harvested from the field, then potted up and offered for sale in the spring. Cornus kousa cultivars are a prime example; the plants need a full year to recover from being dug, otherwise the flowers will be small and off-color. What retail center would want to convalesce a tree for an extra year? Cornus kousa 'Heart Throb' or 'Satomi' will display undersized flowers that are lightly pink at best. 'Summer Fun' will also produce undersized leaves when freshly dug, when its fantastic large variegated leaves are the main attraction.

































Picea pungens 'Gebelle's Golden Spring'



Picea pungens 'Gebelle's Golden Spring'



Picea pungens 'Spring Blast'







 



Picea pungens 'Spring Blast'


The Piceas have a number of cultivars known for their brilliant spring flush, like the foliage is in bloom. Some feature golden new growth and others white or cream-white. These should be held a full year after field harvest because otherwise the new shoots will be muted in color, and also because the new growth will be greatly reduced. So why put them in the field at all then? The answer is that most grow better – much more sturdy and full – in our ground versus in a container. Picea pungens 'Gebelle's Golden Spring' is a sight to behold in April-May, before gradually changing back to blue-green later in the summer. Picea pungens 'Spring Blast' is another, with cream-white spring coloring.


























Picea glauca 'Daisy's White'






























Picea glauca 'Daisy's White'



Picea glauca 'Spruce Lane'
































Picea abies 'Perry's Golden'




Picea orientalis 'Aureospicata'




























Picea orientalis 'Aureospicata'


Picea orientalis 'Aureospicata'































Picea pungens 'Maigold'





























Picea pungens 'Spring Ghost'




























Picea pungens 'Spring Ghost'


Picea glauca 'Daisy's White' grows well in containers, so we don't have to worry about recovery. But Picea glauca 'Spruce Lane' needs the full year off the sales list, as does Picea abies 'Perry's Golden', Picea orientalis 'Aureospicata', Picea pungens 'Maigold' and Picea pungens 'Spring Ghost'. The USA and Canada's independent garden centers are all the same: the prevailing goal is that all shipments from Buchholz sell the same week that the plants come off the truck. The better garden centers actually follow the sales from each of their suppliers, and we're proud when we score well. There's nothing I like to hear more than: "Send more! Everything's gone. I didn't order enough."

Acer palmatum 'Fairy Hair' in spring

Acer palmatum 'Fairy Hair' in autumn





























Acer palmatum 'Ruby Stars'
























Acer palmatum 'Ruby Stars'


Jovibarba heuffelii 'Gold Bug'

Jovibarba heuffelii 'Gold Bug'

Draba brunifolia


Einstein said that "imagination is more important than knowledge," and I think that applies to horticulture as well as physics. Buchholz Nursery pioneered octagon-shaped cedar boxes, little 7" baby boxes, alpine cedar troughs, pumice stones and pumice garden planters. I was beaten to the punch by the hanging-basket concept, but Buchholz was the first, or among the first, to provide packages which feature an incredible combination of plants. The Acer palmatum 'Fairy Hairs'  are well received in a pumice stone. Acer palmatum 'Ruby Stars', combined with Jovibarba heuffelii 'Gold Bug' and Draba brunifolia, for example, is an example of a collection that will bring years of enjoyment. If I was an insurance salesman, or a banker, or even a poor, starving college student, I would feel compelled to purchase some of these items. And remember guys: chicks dig our 35,000-year-old pumice stones with our choice plants. They reveal how cool you are, and your mating odds are greatly increased. Imagine how many matches I have caused with my fun products.

I have survived without sales to this unnamed Portland-area retail nursery, and, after all, I can't cure ignorance. I can't make them "less busy" to visit. Apparently their buying rut still works, just as it does in Illinois. But c'mon you gardeners out there, show me some love, and nag your garden centers to provide you with better choices. Old Buchholz works hard to pay for dance and piano lessons for his kids. Health insurance has doubled from five years ago etc. Help me to keep going. Thanks that you do.

5 comments:

  1. Hi Talon
    Hope you feel better.
    C Sallis

    ReplyDelete
  2. Talon, I will do my best to purchase as many maples as I can this year. Wouldn't mind a website link like Sammy's.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I find that Talon supply's the best retail ready Maples I can buy.

    ReplyDelete
  4. When I was a manager/buyer at a garden center, I was ALWAYS looking for cool new plants and so were my customers. I was also never too busy to talk about free samples from a new supplier, and it's sadly a rare thing that suppliers offer. Now I'm just a salesperson at a different nursery. I've seen lots of old customers who've told me the old place I worked just isn't the same. Sadly I was just finding out about Buccholz & Buccholz when the old job and I parted ways and I never got to order maples or any number of awesome plants you stock! I have a fledgeling mail-order nursery, but it will probably be some time before we can afford to buy into your maple program. Until then, keep growing graet plants!
    PS... I'm still never too busy to talk about free samples. ;)

    ReplyDelete
  5. I have sent this to my Sister who lives in Cape Mear by Tallimok. She would love these. I live in Iowa and have no idea if these BEAUTIFUL-AWSOME trees or shrubs would live here. How much are they? They are all just plain Wonderful. dgbrown2321@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete