Friday, April 5, 2013

Hometown Exotics

Quercus garryana

Quercus garryana

I have spent the bulk of my life in or near Forest Grove, Oregon, which is appropriate I guess, since I am now a grower of trees, and a contributor to forests. Originally the town was named "Tualatin Plains," but it was changed to Forest Grove due to the plethora of trees, in particular the "Oregon Oak," Quercus garryana. As a youth I didn't pay particular attention to the oaks or any other trees and shrubs, other than to climb, or to dig the ball out of them. One notable exception was the grand array of "Giant Redwoods," Sequoiadendron giganteum, that was distributed throughout town, especially since I lived next to two of them.

Sequoiadendron giganteum

Sequoiadendron giganteum 'Glaucum'

Sequoiadendron giganteum 'Little Stan'
Sequoiadendron giganteum 'Luzi'

Sequoiadendron giganteum in Verboort

Buchholz and the van Hoey Smiths in Verboort

Sequoiadendron giganteum 'Pendulum'

My behemoths were unclimbable, but I collected an arsenal of cones that helped me to rule the neighborhood. I found a better purpose for the cones when I was ten years old: my grandmother ferried me around Eugene, the dozen or so florist shops, and I made my first "horticultural" sales at a nickel a piece, and I think I made three and a half dollars in a day. How interesting that all tree reference books list Sequoiadendron giganteum Buchholz, since J.D. Buchholz from the University of Illinois was the first botanist to successfully argue for the separation of the Sequoia genus into sempervirens and giganteum, and that now I have one of the world's most comprehensive assemblage of cultivars.

The Forest Grove giants are among the world's largest outside of their native range. In 1870, nurseryman Porter realized that his trade didn't yield much profit (similar to me today) so he struck out for California to make his fortune in the gold rush. He didn't find enough gold, so he returned to Oregon and brought Giant Redwood seedlings with him. They were planted in various locations in town, and also in nearby Verboort and Hillsboro. Porter planted a fun alley on his property in Verboort, but these trees, even at over 140 years of age, are not so huge because they crowd each other.

So, I've been familiar with these exotics for most of my life. As I grew older and started a plant collection, I came to realize that most of the plants in Forest Grove were exotic; from Latin exoticus, meaning something introduced from another place. In fact, almost every yard in Forest Grove, and indeed in your home town too, the vast majority of the native species have been replaced with exotics. Of course I have contributed to this situation, and have done so proudly; but to the chagrin of the "earthies" who are certain that I have ruined the planet. I won't defend my position here, except to maintain that I have made Forest Grove a better place, and your town too. Well, certainly more interesting at least.

I'll confess straight away that most photos in this blog are not from Forest Grove – people get nervous when a sketchy individual, such as myself, shows unusual interest in their property.

Metasequoia glyptostroboides

Sequoia sempervirens

I once donated a Metasequoia to the city for Rogers Park, but I was sure that nobody would water it – they drink so much! – and the Metasequoia surely would perish by mid-summer. But not so; the diligent groundskeeper tended it purposefully, and now it thrives with minimal care. A couple of the Giant Redwood originals are within a cone's throw of this "Dawn Redwood." There are a few "Coast Redwoods," Sequoia sempervirens in town, but I feel one should be in the park also, so that the denizens can see all three species from one place. I'll see if the local bureaucracy can deal with a free tree, or whether the park's department is under duressful budget constraints.

Ulmus glabra 'Camperdownii' at the Bloedel Estate

Ulmus glabra 'Camperdownii' in Corvallis, Oregon

Ulmus glabra 'Camperdownii'

Another interesting Forest Grove exotic is Ulmus 'Camperdownii'. Note that I didn't give it a species name, though it has long been thought to be a cultivar of the "Wych Elm," Ulmus glabra. 'Camperdownii' does not reproduce from seed, and at least one botanist (Green) considers it a nothomorph of Ulmus x hollandia var. vegeta. I had not previously encountered the term nothomorph, though I know that notho is from Latin nothus, meaning false, and morph in horticulture is derived from Greek, and refers to the transformation of form or shape.

You probably don't care about the science of 'Camperdownii', and I think it's over my head as well. The original freak was spotted nearly two hundred years ago by the head forester at the Earl of Camperdown's estate in Dundee, Scotland. One of the Earl's gardeners grafted a scion onto an Ulmus glabra, with success, and all subsequent 'Camperdownii' are from the original mutant's scion. Hardy to USDA zone 4 (-30 degrees F), it grows in many gardens around the world, and its appearance is unlike any other tree. It will form a compact dome-shaped tree with arching branches, and looks equally special in winter with its zig-zagging bare branches. It is obnoxious when top-grafted, as the graft union forms a gnarly mess on the trunk. Better to graft low, or produce them via rooted cuttings.

Sciadopitys verticillata

Sciadopitys verticillata 'Gold Rush'

Sciadopitys verticillata 'Green Star'

Sciadopitys verticillata 'Green Star'

Sciadopitys verticillata 'Joe Kozey'

Sciadopitys verticillata 'Picola'

Sciadopitys verticillata 'Fatso'

Sciadopitys verticillata 'Mr. Happy'

Sciadopitys verticillata 'Mr. Happy'

At the west end of Forest Grove is a planting of three Sciadopitys verticillata, the Japanese "Umbrella Pine." They occur in a housing development that was considered high-priced and exclusive fifty years ago. These closely-planted exotics have since grown into each other, and if they were mine I would limb them up to reveal the cinnamon-colored trunks. In the early 1980's, the original owners were quite dubious and fretful when I suggested that I would pay for two, and dig them, so that the third could prosper individually. They had never encountered such a plant huckster before, I supposed, and I failed to convince them. At least I was allowed to take cuttings, for which I found an eager market. The "Umbrella Pine" continues to sell these days, but even better are the various cultivars, such as 'Gold Rush', 'Green Star', 'Joe Kozey', 'Picola' and my own 'Fatso' and 'Mr. Happy'. The cultivar we produce the most of is 'Winter Green', which is relatively easy to root and can be sold on its own, or used as a rootstock for the others.

Calocedrus decurrens

While Sciadopitys is commonly known as the "Umbrella Pine," it is of course not a true pine, or Pinus. Similarly with "Cedars," most are not true Cedrus. Oregon's "Western Red Cedar" is actually Thuja plicata, the "White Cedar" (or Cypress) is Chamaecyparis thyoides, the "Pencil Cedar" is Juniperus virginiana, and "cedar chests" are made out of Calocedrus decurrens. And so are pencils. The wood is made from Calocedrus, or "Incense Cedar;" and an interesting fact is that over 16 billion are manufactured worldwide annually, most of which are painted yellow.

Cedrus atlantica 'Glauca'

Cedrus atlantica 'Glauca Pendula'

Cedrus atlantica 'Glauca Pendula'

Cedrus atlantica 'Blue Cascade'

Cedrus atlantica 'Sapphire Nymph'

But back to Forest Grove's exotics, which are well-represented by the true Cedars, or Cedrus. They make handsome evergreen specimens, but invariably are planted too close to homes and buildings. At a small size Cedrus atlantica 'Glauca' is narrow and sparse, and it is tempting to plant one in a small space, or close to the house. If only the planter could know how large one gets, their use would diminish greatly. Another atlantica cultivar is 'Glauca Pendula', which remains more manageable, but it is no dwarf either. People don't seem to realize they grow every year if healthy, and the new foliage has to go somewhere. Atlantica 'Blue Cascade' is a nice alternative, forming a weeping haystack, and 'Sapphire Nymph' is a prostrate dwarf with glittery silver blue foliage, but neither of these two can be found in town.

Cedrus deodara 'Devinely Blue'

Cedrus deodara 'Feelin Blue'

Cedrus deodara 'Feelin Blue'

Cedrus deodara is plentiful, however, but they also grow to enormous size, and do so quickly. The species comes from the western Himalayan foothills, and is admired at a small size for its gracefully weeping branchlets. Better garden choices are 'Devinely Blue' and 'Feelin Blue' which take up a fraction of the species' space. My wife thought that deodaras were actually native to Japan, since they are so ubiquitous in her hometown of Tokyo, and I think I hurt her feelings when I pronounced that was not the case. And I learned a lesson: never use the word "bullshit" when responding to your wife's opinion.

Pinus sabiniana

Pinus coulteri

There are a few Pinus sabiniana, the "Digger Pine," in and around town, and they gallantly survive our wet winters. The species is also known as the "Foothill Pine," for they are plentiful in California's arid foothills west of the Sierras, usually between 1,000 to 4,000 feet in altitude. It is a distinctive species with long gray-green needles in fascicles of three, and with a sparse "airy" appearance. There is a planting in Dr. Bump's exotic Forest Grove garden, and they provide the "perfect amount" (he says) of shade for his large collection of Rhododendrons. Pinus sabiniana is remarkable for its huge cones, the second most massive of all Pinus, and similar to Pinus coulteri, the cone champion, a closely-related California species.

"The Digger Pine" was introduced by David Douglas in 1832, but its edible seed was long used as a source of food by the Paiute natives, who were observed to forage around the base of the tree for the nuts. The botanical name honors Joseph Sabine, secretary of the Horticultural Society of London, a big-shot who Douglas felt the need to impress to advance his own career.

Juniperus chinensis 'Daub's Frosted'

Juniperus chinensis 'Daub's Frosted'

Forest Grove has junipers all over the place, of course, but probably none of them are from Oregon. Juniperus chinensis cultivars abound, usually in the Pfitzer category, with the 'Blue Pfitzer' and 'Gold Pfitzer' the culprits. I don't like them at all, for I slung thousands of them into trucks when I worked for another nursery. They smell like cat piss and they cause a rash on your arms. In the garden they can grow to huge size, and then it becomes a huge problem to remove them. But equally as much as I hate the Pfitzers, I like chinensis 'Daub's Frosted'. It is low-growing, compact, and makes a dramatic presence in the landscape. C'mon Grovers, grub out the damn Pfitzers and replace them with 'Daub's Frosted'!

Juniperus squamata 'Blue Star'

Another common juniper in town is Juniperus squamata 'Blue Star', a cultivar we discontinued long ago. They look wonderful when young, and the landscraper will certainly impress his client initially, but eventually they always flop open and get a foliage crud. Run to your nearest box store and you buy your own for just a dollar or two, and if you consider them annuals to be dumped after a year, then I'll recommend them for your scape. Squamata is an Asian species native to high altitudes, which explains why it performs so poorly on our Tualatin Valley plain.

You'll also find upright, columnar blue Junipers which likely are Juniperus scopulorum 'Skyrocket', a Rocky Mountain species. They are fine until a wet snow falls and they splay open. Eventually they will look bad anyway, for old age makes them go to seed and gives them a dirty look.

Juniperus horizontalis 'Golden Wiltonii'

Juniperus horizontalis 'Golden Wiltonii'

Juniperus horizontalis 'Pancake'

Juniperus horizontalis 'Lime Glow'

Juniperus pingii

Juniperus pingii

Juniperus cedrus

So, all right, I'll temporarily stop being negative about the poor choices in junipers that Grove gardeners seem to relish, and I'll suggest some substitutions. As I mentioned before I highly recommend chinensis 'Daub's Frosted'. Add to that creeping groundcovers, horizontalis 'Golden Wiltonii' or 'Pancake', or a cultivar that is a little larger, 'Lime Glow'. My favorite tree-like cultivars are Juniperus pingii from China, and Juniperus cedrus, which is surprisingly hardy, from the Canary Islands. I'll rejoice if I spot any of these in a Forest Grove landscape.

Acer circinatum

Acer circinatum 'Burgundy Jewel'

Acer circinatum 'Burgundy Jewel'
Acer macrophyllum 'Seattle Sentinel'

Acer glabrum ssp. douglasii

Acer glabrum ssp. douglasii

Drive down Maple Street, and guess what? – it's lined with maples. There are a number of species or hybrids used as street trees. I can identify a purple-leaf Acer platanoides, which could be one of several cultivars. There are the probable hybrids, and I've never learned exactly what they are; I think "Sugar Maple," Acer saccharum and the "Red Maple," Acer rubrum are involved. I think these were good choices for the most part, and most have excellent fall color. The platanoides species is from Europe, and commonly called "Norway Maple." The "Sugar" is from America's east coast and so is the "Red Maple." Oregon's three native species, Acer circinatum, glabrum ssp. douglasii and macrophyllum are absolutely never used as street trees. There's no hope for the glabrum species, but a selection like circinatum 'Burgundy Jewel' would be outstanding. And there is a columnar cultivar of macrophyllum, 'Seattle Sentinel', which could be used as a street tree, although it will get quite tall.

Drive down any street in Forest Grove and you will eventually pass a Magnolia x soulangiana, loaded now with pink/white blossoms. The rest of the year one doesn't realize just how many there are. The hybrid is of Magnolia denudata, the "Yulan" or "Jade Lily" from China, crossed with Magnolia liliiflora, the "Mulan" or "Tulip Magnolia" from Japan and China. The cross was made by a French plantsman, Soulange-Bodin in 1820. He was a retired officer in Napoleon's army, then wisely returned home to his chateau near Paris to pursue a higher calling. After the war he supposedly declared that everyone in Europe would have been better off to have stayed at home growing cabbages.

Magnolia 'Kiki's Broom'

Magnolia 'Kiki's Broom'

Magnolia 'Kiki's Broom'

I don't grow Magnolia soulangianas because they get very large and spreading, but mainly because they are so common and would be unsalable for me. Anyway, the Flora Wonder Collection contains many other choice Magnolias instead. Magnolia 'Kiki's Broom' is probably a full soulangiana, or at least a hybrid with soulangiana. It was discovered as a witch's broom, and propagules grow into a dense dwarf thicket. Today in our garden 'Kiki's Broom' has exploded into bloom, to the amazement of my wife and children.

Narcissus cultivar

Perhaps the most commonly encountered exotic in Forest Grove are the thousands of daffodils. They are native to Europe, north Africa and western Asia, not your front yard. Botanically known as Narcissus, they belong to the Amaryllis family, while the common name is derived from affodel, as Asphodelus is another plant genus that is also common to Europe. Daffodil became the standard common name when a Dutch article referred to de affodil in the 1600's.

Tsuga mertensiana

Summing up, you can see that there is a large range of exotics in Forest Grove. In fact, one can travel the world in a typical suburban garden. Even a tree that is native to Oregon can be considered an exotic if it comes from someplace else. For example, I have a number of "Mountain Hemlock," Tsuga mertensiana, cultivars in my garden, but none are native to the Forest Grove area – you have to travel fifty miles east to find them. Make a point in your garden to identify the natives versus the exotics, then teach your children. Plant "stories" can be great fun for all generations.

Sonya Buchholz tending her garden

1 comment:

  1. Yes, you saved the best picture for the Last! Sonya is so precious attending her garden!
    Kindest regards,