Friday, April 12, 2013

To Gossler's We Go

Gossler Farms Nursery

Many hours of driving was well worth it, as I travelled south to Eugene, Oregon, then east to Springfield, then east s'more to Gossler Farms Nursery. I was in the verdant McKenzie River Valley, the waters which contribute to the Willamette River, thence to the Columbia River...and eventually into the Pacific Ocean. Instead of vegetables previously grown, the Gosslers – plant-nerd Roger, mother Marj and brother Eric – have transformed their property into a horticultural Mecca, and a feast of specialty plants abound. Roger Gossler admits that "we are strange," and the locals surely would also conclude, but to the flora cognoscenti their plant collection is one of the greatest delights in the world. Additionally, Roger will wax on with bubbly enthusiasm about each and every treasure that they grow. He has ninety years of stories to tell, though I suppose he's probably a little younger than that.

Roger Gossler

Pollard Plane Tree

Yes, Roger is a good guy, honest and hardworking. If someone doesn't like him, then I don't like that person. Years ago the Gosslers were primarily purveyors of Magnolias, and while they continue to sell some, they've added a million other plants to their product line. One year they sold 400 Magnolia x 'Elizabeth', but I wonder how many these days? Instead there are Camellias, Rhododendrons, Daphnes, Pieris and plenty of other stuff that I had never heard of before, such as Lomatia myricoides, a southern Australian plant that's hardy in Oregon.

Magnolia x 'Elizabeth'

Magnolia x 'Elizabeth'

First, though, I'll pay homage to the magnolias, for there were many impressive specimens in bloom. Gosslers were among the first to offer Magnolia x 'Elizabeth', a hybrid of Magnolia acuminata (the Cucumber Magnolia) and Magnolia denudata (the Yulan Magnolia) which was hybridized at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Magnolia x 'Elizabeth' remains a favorite because of the clear light-yellow flowers which bloom before the leaves appear, even though other cultivars have more deeply yellow flowers.

Magnolia x 'Vulcan'

Magnolia x 'Vulcan' was in perfect form, with most of the blossoms still intact in spite of the wind and rain. I have a Magnolia x 'Vulcan' next to my house, which I visit daily when in bloom, so I know it well, and for some reason I'm four or five days head of the Gosslers in flowering. This cultivar was bred in New Zealand by Felix Jury, an expert who is no stranger to Magnolia introductions. It resulted as a hybrid of Magnolia campbellii var. mollicomata 'Lanarth' with Magnolia liliiflora. The only problem with Magnolia x 'Vulcan' is that it is only hardy to USDA zone 7, due to the tender campbellii parentage.

Magnolia x 'Genie'

Magnolia x 'Genie' forms a small-statured compact tree, and is also new from New Zealand. It resulted from a cross between Magnolia x soulangiana and Magnolia liliiflora by Vance Hooper, and it features dark burgundy flowers. Gossler's young tree was only four-to-five feet tall, but already had five blossoms, and so gardeners with small plots can enjoy a wonderful flowering shrub in their landscape. Apparently Magnolia x 'Genie' received its name because of the "magical" qualities its flowers possess.

Magnolia 'Paul Cook'

I looked at the huge pinkish-cream flowered blossoms on a good size tree and assumed it was 'Caerhay's Belle', one of my favorite hybrids (between Magnolia sargentiana 'Robusta' and Magnolia sprengeri 'Diva'), but why on earth was it blooming now? My trees finished blooming two weeks ago. It turned out to be something else: 'Paul Cook' was its name, also with parentage of Magnolia sprengeri 'Diva', but crossed with a Magnolia 'Picture', according to Roger. Blooming later than 'Caerhay's Belle' is an asset, as 'Paul Cook's' blossoms are less likely to be damaged by spring frost.

Camellia 'Black Opal'

I can't wait to get to the Camellias, for while I'm not "Camellia Guy" at all – I don't even have one on my property – I certainly fell in love with them on this visit, and I should probably improve my status. Camellia 'Black Opal' is a stunning, glossy black-red semi-double, but of course varying soil types, light, and temperatures can influence the reality of flower color – just like with everything else – but at Gosslers, on this Thursday, April 4th, 'Black Opal' rivaled the impressive Magnolia 'Genie'...and they're really quite similar, don't you think? I invite the reader to refer back to the Bombastic Blooms blog, where I visited a Paeonia nursery, and then a Clematis collection, to find blossoms of similar depth. But don't get side-tracked, and finish this blog first.

Camellia 'Donation'

Camellia 'Waterlily'

Camellia 'Pink Chiffon'

Camellia japonica 'Kujaku tsubaki'

Camellia japonica 'Kujaku tsubaki'

My travelling companion, plantsman Reuben Hatch, was on his mission with me to Gosslers to secure a Camellia 'Donation', for it is the greatest thing that he has ever seen, he supposed; and while I found it very nice, I was more taken with Camellia 'Waterlily'. 'Waterlily' possessed an ethereal luminosity that impressed me immensely, more-so than 'Donation'. 'Pink Chiffon' was also pretty good, but probably the most fantastic plant – and not just in the Camellia genus – but in the total Gossler collection was Camellia japonica 'Kujaku tsubaki'. This is the "Peacock Camellia" (Kujaku is Japanese for "peacock" and tsubaki is Japanese for "Camellia"), a weeping form with plumage blooms resembling a "Christmas Cactus." Now, now I know that I must grow some Camellias!

Chaenomeles x 'Hollandia'

Chaenomeles x 'Hollandia'

I grow a few Chaenomeles, a genus native to Japan, China and Korea. It's difficult to fall in love with them due to the spiny stems. The "Flowering Quince" does bloom early, and 'Hollandia' (a x superba selection) looks especially vibrant on dismal rainy days. The plant produces hard green fruits that serve no purpose other than to throw at the neighbor's dog when it craps on your lawn.

Drimys 'Suzette'

I had never encountered the Drimys genus before, but I'll mention it now to illustrate just how far the Gosslers will go with their floral obsession. Drimys lanceolata is the "Mountain Pepper," a Tasmanian evergreen with small white blossoms and purple-red stems, and the cultivar 'Suzette' is a variegated version of it. It is barely hardy in Oregon, and I'll probably skip on growing one, except let me first see the winter stems, then I'll decide.

Osmunda regalis

Roger is impressed with his "Royal Fern," Osmunda regalis, and he gave me one. Today the fiddles were a few inches up, but previously I had seen its large, imposing presence. Osmunda regalis is native to Europe, Africa, Asia and eastern America, where it can be found in bogs and along streams. I have hiked through low-land Asian trails (on my route to higher elevations) and have encountered Osmunda, and I mentioned to our trek leader that I wished I could eat some for dinner. Later that night, to my surprise we were presented a fern soup which was decently edible, and reminded me of asparagus.

Trachycarpus fortunei

"Windmill Palms" are in fashion these days it seems. I don't think one would fit into my landscape situation, but Gossler's looked interesting behind Eric's house. Trachycarpus fortunei is native to central China, down to northern Burma, and the species name honors Robert Fortune, the British spy who disguised himself as a Chinese peasant to smuggle tea (Camellia sinensis) out of China.

Pieris japonica 'Little Heath'

Roger shrugs and acknowledges that his nursery contains the top five genera of Sudden Oak Death potential: Viburnum, Rhododendron, Pieris, Camellia and Syringa. But he can't imagine his garden without them. His Pieris japonica 'Little Heath' is an ordinary evergreen shrub most of the time, but on this rainy April day it was spectacular. That's why walks in a garden or in nature are never the same, and you might receive memorable moments that would not have occurred had you stayed indoors.

Rhododendron macabeanum

Rhododendron macabeanum

Rhododendron macabeanum

Rhododendron macabeanum (light yellow form)

Gosslers have amassed a large Rhododendron collection, and offer many choice species and cultivars for sale. Immediately upon arrival I spotted Rhododendron macabeanum in the garden, in bloom with its large trusses of canary yellow. The species is considered rather tender, but Roger's plant looked to be in perfect health. I flowered a plant in my warm greenhouse 20, but I'm afraid to plant it out. Further down the path I encountered a familiar Rhododendron with light yellowish blossoms. "What's this?" Roger replied, "also macabeanum." No wonder it looked familiar, and I felt rather stupid. But I make the point that even a great species can produce variations with its offspring, and you'll possibly like one more than the other. We can thank the earnest plant collector, Frank Kingdon-Ward, for introducing macabeanum in 1920, and he was famous for careful observation, and then collecting seed from the "best" populations, with horticultural merit in mind.

Rhododendron x 'Elsie Frye'

Rhododendron x 'Elsie Frye'

Rhododendron x 'Elsie Frye'

Rhododendron x 'Maxine Childers'

Rhododendron x 'Maxine Childers'

Rhododendron 'Bruce Brechtbill'

The hybrid Rhododendron x 'Elsie Frye' was blooming in the greenhouse, overpowering my senses with its perfume. Outside the pink buds were swelling, and looked even more interesting that way. Another hybrid is x 'Maxine Childers', a cross with the strigillosum species and Rhododendron 'Elizabeth'. I'm not sure what was gained with the cross, with both parents being equally impressive on their own. Maybe it was for a more compact shape, as 'Elizabeth' is a dwarf spreading shrub. Rhododendron 'Bruce Brechtbill" originated as a mutation on the popular cultivar Rhododendron 'Unique', but instead of the creamy-white flowers of Rhododendron 'Unique', the mutation resulted in plants with pink blossoms, while they are shaped the same. If I grew both of them, which I don't, I'd be tempted to plant them together, to make the point that nothing in nature is perfectly stable, and that strange occurrences in horticulture really are the norm. The late Mr. Brechtbill was a Eugene-area nurseryman, but he had passed away before the plant was named in his honor, and perhaps he would have chosen a better name himself.

Rhododendron x 'Primitive Beauty'

Rhododendron x 'Primitive Beauty', a hybrid "Spider Azalea," features long strap-like petals of pure white. The shrub will attain five-to-eight feet in height, with a mounding form. I had never seen it before, but that's why I came to Gossler's place.

Rhododendron spinuliferum

Rhododendron x 'Seta'

There were dozens more of interesting Rhododendrons, but I'll limit you (and me) to just one more: Rhododendron spinuliferum. I suppose it was the unusual orange-red flower color, or at least it was in Roger's greenhouse today, that initially attracted me. The species was discovered by the Abbé Delavay in Yunnan, China, and finally introduced in 1907. The tubular flowers present themselves in erect clusters, a feature that photographers appreciate. 'Seta' is a hybrid in my garden which blooms very early, with parents Rhododendron spinuliferum crossed with Rhododendron moupinense. And if you need it, Chinese traditional medicine finds Rhododendron spinuliferum useful to remove phlegm and treat asthma.

Stewartia monadelpha

Stewartia monadelpha

But enough of Rhododendrons, and on to Stewartia. A famous specimen in the Gossler garden is Stewartia monadelpha, a species native to Japan and Korea. Later in summer it will bloom with white Camellia-like petals, with stamens featuring beautiful violet anthers. Today it was the tree's wonderful structure that impressed me, as well as the cinnamon bark. Stewartias, of course, are frequently planted in "winter gardens."

Stewartia x henryae

Stewartia koreana

Stewartia koreana

Stewartia x henryae occurred as a spontaneous cross between Stewartia monadelpha and Stewartia pseudocamellia at the Henry Foundation for Botanical Research. The Gossler tree appears more like the Stewartia pseudocamellia species, at least with trunk color. A Stewartia koreana is happily growing in front of Eric Gossler's house, and it is easily the nicest one I have ever seen. The Stewartia koreana species is native to Korea, of course, and was introduced by E.H. Wilson in 1917. It is quite similar to Stewartia pseudocamellia, which is native to Japan. The Stewartia genus is in the Theaceae family, which explains why its flowers are similar to family members Camellias and Franklinias. The genus was named (by Linnaeus) for John Stuart, the Third Earl of Bute, who assisted in the founding of Kew Gardens; but oops!, Linnaeus got the spelling wrong, and it had already been published as Stewartia, and so it is today.

Asarum splendens

Daphne odora 'Alba'

Daphne odora 'Alba'

Daphne odora 'Aureomarginata'

Perhaps many of you are worn out by all the information in these blogs, but then at least you're too fatigued to catch the errors. But for those of you who do catch the errors, I appreciate the effort you take to educate me. But for now rest your brain and I'll finish with some Gossler Farms Nursery photos, and let you look them up yourselves.


Enkianthus perulatus

Enkianthus serrulatus

Magnolia x 'Heaven Scent'

Magnolia kobus var. loebneri 'Spring Snow'

Magnolia kobus var. loebneri 'Spring Snow'

Magnolia officinalis var. biloba

Magnolia schiedeana

Mahonia gracilipes

Pinus contorta 'Chief Joseph'

Paeonia x 'Scarlet Heart'

Parthenocissus henryana
Vitis davidii

Podophyllum versipelle

Rhododendron calophytum

Rhododendron calophytum

Rhododendron edgeworthii 'Bodnant'

Rhododendron impeditum

Rhododendron lutescens

Rhododendron lutescens

Rhododendron macrosepalum 'Linearifolium'

Rhododendron 'Ebony Pearl'

Rhododendron pseudochrysanthum

Vancouveria planipetala
Rhododendron tsariense x kiusianum

Yucca 'Tiny Star'

1 comment:

  1. Breath Taking! Thank you sharing your adventure!