Friday, May 24, 2013

Hard at Work?





Paeonia 'Border Charm'

I try to strike some balance in my outlook as I wander the nursery grounds: between enjoying special floral delights versus the overwhelming realization that we are far behind in our work. The weeds are growing, the grass is high and the cows are in the corn. Our maples are lush and colorful, but they all need to be potted up, pruned and staked; but we're still shipping, and of course that always takes precedence. The past two Sundays I have come to the nursery with work in mind, and I do a little, but eventually I'll see something spectacular – like Paeonia 'Border Charm' in bloom – and I race to get my camera before the scene disappears. One thing leads to another, to another photo, and before I know it I have recorded a hundred images. I thus escape the work pursuit, and drug myself instead with flora wonder. Eventually I feel guilty to have abandoned my family, and I return home...where my wife praises me for my toils, for my work ethic and dedication. Ha!


Paeonia 'Erika'

Paeonia 'Erika'


As I said, Paeonia 'Border Charm' took me out of the work mode. The name implies that you should plant it in the border front, and you'll be rewarded with about a week of fun before the blossoms fall apart. As with most flowers, the blossom color will vary from year to year, being pale yellow some years, and more deeply yellow in others. I think it's a matter of light intensity that causes the variation. 'Border Charm' is an "Itoh" peony, an intersectional hybrid where the herbaceous and tree peonies have been crossed. The first to accomplish this was Toichi Itoh from Japan in the 1940's. Near to 'Border Charm' was Paeonia 'Erika', a large boldly-red flowering form, but I don't think it is an intersectional.

Acer palmatum 'Corallinum'

Acer palmatum 'Corallinum'


Our spring has been fantastic for maples, as we barely escaped a late April frost, and it hasn't gotten too hot yet either. Our collection of hundreds of cultivars provides a dizzying array of colors. Certainly all maple species flower, although many palmatum blossoms go unnoticed to all but the true plantsman or observant hobbyist. But I'm not talking about the reproductive flower organs that are colorful, but rather the foliage. Acer palmatum 'Corallinum' has been amazing this spring, and no red blooming Rhododendron or crabapple outperforms it. Our oldest tree is now ten feet tall by twelve feet wide at 33 years of age.


Acer palmatum 'Peve Multicolor'

Acer palmatum 'Peve Multicolor'

Some of the variegated palmatums were at their best last Sunday, such as 'Peve Multicolor', and my camera anxiously devoured it, even though I already have ten photos on our website. I originally saw the selection at Piet Vergeldt's (hence Peve) nursery in the Netherlands a number of years ago, but his small plants were not impressive in October. The only color was light green, and I couldn't understand why he was grinning proudly. I got a start of it anyway, and dismissed it for the first four years. In the spring of year five, however, it finally "colored up," and I'm now impressed enough to produce a few hundred each year – a large number for Buchholz Nursery.

Acer palmatum 'Rainbow'

Acer palmatum 'Rainbow'

Acer palmatum 'Rainbow' perhaps should have been named "Rainbows," for no two look alike, but at its best it is the most popular maple in our collection. I must confess that our growing conditions are very successful for most of the cultivars in production, but a few, such as 'Rainbow', can rambunctiously bolt, which can result in trees with mostly purple foliage. We are very careful about each and every 'Rainbow' scion cut, as we certainly don't want to flood the market with inferior trees. But once stock plants are in the hands of others, I know that greed and stupidity will prevail, and we'll see a lot of watered-down 'Rainbows'.


Acer palmatum 'Hana matoi'

Acer palmatum 'Hana matoi'


The same can be said for Acer palmatum 'Hana matoi', for its shoots also vary in color. Some wholesale growers are accused (by the maple "not quite" know-it-alls) as having a "poor strain." I'm not so sure that that is the case, and probably it should rather be said that these growers are not selective enough in their scionwood. The old cultivar, 'Toyama nishiki', is another variegated laceleaf that has effectively been replaced by 'Hana matoi'. A "not-quite expert" once said that he stopped growing 'Toyama nishiki' because it "always reverted." Again, I don't think so; that's not how I would describe the situation.

Acer palmatum 'Toyama nishiki'

In the past I purchased some Acer palmatum seedling trees that were branched at eight feet tall. I removed most of the canopy, save five or six top shoots, onto which I grafted 'Toyama nishiki', and my scion stock all came from one tree from J.D. Vertrees, who also started with one original scion tree. Over the years I would graft from my first stock plant, assuming that all shoots would result in the same offspring. But after about ten years, my eight-foot-tall top-grafted trees displayed portions that were quite different. Some were reddish-brown with little variegation, some were variegated with white and green and some had more pink than others. So, every scion resulted in differently-colored foliage. I wasn't pleased about the situation because I'm known in the trade as Mr. True-to-Name, and my hodge-podge trees were difficult to explain. But fortunately there were enough goofy customers out there who thought my concoctions were cool, and all trees were eventually sold. The point of this narrative is to illustrate that plants, like people, cannot always be stuffed into convenient, easily-identifiable categories. But while that can be frustrating, it can also be the exhilarating aspect to horticulture.

Acer palmatum 'Koto buki'

Acer palmatum 'Koto buki'

Acer palmatum 'Koto buki'

Acer palmatum 'Koto buki' displayed a riot of color. The Japanese name roughly translates as a "celebration" or a "happy event," although some may find the variegation to be too much, too gaudy (from Latin gaudium for "enjoyment" or "merry-making," while venom gaudium means "empty joy"). But there's nothing wrong with a little fun, if in appropriate places. However, as with 'Rainbow' the stability of the merry-making 'Koto buki' is in question, for one of my three stock trees is considerably larger and less colorful compared to the other two, so we don't cut scions from it.




























Acer rubrum 'Vanity'

Acer campestre 'Carnival'

Acer campestre 'Carnival'

Acer pseudoplatanus 'Eskimo Sunset'

Acer rubrum 'Vanity' is also a colorful cultivar. 'Vanity' will form a large bush or a small tree, and where happy, new-growth can shoot out to five feet...which then flops downward. So it's best to keep it pruned if possible. The same could be said of Acer campestre 'Carnival', as I've seen old specimens which looked horrible. Of course, the same for Acer pseudoplatanus 'Eskimo Sunset'.

Acer palmatum 'Kurenai jishi'




























Acer palmatum 'O jishi'


I'll mention one final maple: Acer palmatum 'Kurenai jishi', a Masayoshi Yano (author of Book For Maples) selection. The cultivar name means "black lion," as the leaf is somewhat like 'O jishi' ("male lion" in Japanese). Kurenai is "black" in Japanese and the foliage is indeed very dark, while new growth is a lighter brown-red, as you can see in the photo above. Yano-san is a wonderful man, and it was a real treat to hang out with him nine years ago in Japan, and then to host him in Oregon for a few days. Even though his lips curve downward (like a sad-face ) when he smiles, he was clearly very proud when he posed with his 'Kurenai jishi'.

Masayoshi Yano with Acer palmatum 'Kurenai jishi'




























Yano-san's wife passed away some years ago, and he remarried, but not to a woman, instead to maples. It all started by purchasing one tree at a garden plant sale, and soon thereafter his collection grew to nearly a thousand, and the great majority of them were in pots placed on stadium-style benches. The pots varied as well, as if he was matching pot color and shape for each individual tree. Everything was watered by hand in spring and summer, a process which took three hours every morning, and it was truly a labor of love. But after visiting the Flora Wonder Arboretum, he declared that he finally knew what he needed to do with his collection. He moved to property outside of Nara, Japan, for the Japanese government was surprisingly willing to develop a Japanese maple park. When you consider that at least half of any government's money is frittered away anyway, to spend a little on a maple park is most worthwhile. I just wish that someone could convince Emperor Obama to bail me out with a maple park.


Aubrieta gracilis ssp. scardica

Aubrieta gracilis ssp. scardica

Alpine trough with Aubrieta


Enough of maples for now, let's continue down the path, as I see the blooming Aubrieta gracilis ssp. scardica ahead, loaded with dainty blue flowers. This plant is in the Cruciferae family (new Latin for "cross-bearing") due to the arrangement of the four flower petals. Aubrieta is a genus named for Claude Aubriet, a French painter of flowers, and wouldn't it be wonderful to have a delightful flower genus named for yourself? The subspecies scardica refers to its location in the mountains of Greece, Albania and Bulgaria. The plant is fantastic in a rockery or draping over a wall, and they're especially nice in our alpine troughs.

Cornus kousa 'Ohkan'

Cornus kousa 'Ohkan'

The Cornus kousas are beginning to flower, but the bracts are not quite their full size yet, nor are the leaves. Still, the cultivar 'Ohkan' was attractive, and I can expect the variegation to develop more contrast in a few more weeks. Then finally, in autumn, the fall color will be a joyous blend of yellow, red and purple.
Corylopsis spicata 'Golden Spring'

Corylopsis spicata 'Golden Spring'

I find myself frequently photographing Corylopsis spicata 'Golden Spring', when (again) I already have plenty of photos. In the photo above you can see the flower spike, which gives the species its name. The plant is commonly called a "Winter Hazel" or "Spike Hazel," as the leaves do resemble the Corylus genus, although Corylus is in the Betulaceae family and Corylopsis is in the Hamamelidaceae family. On the Buchholz Nursery website I describe 'Golden Spring' as "a cheerful deciduous shrub with bright yellow leaves," and I guess I won't alter that in any way.

Mukdenia rossii

Mukdenia rossii

Mukdenia rossii – what an unfortunate name – used to be called Acerophyllum rossii, due to the Acer-like leaves. It has nothing else to do with maples of course, for the genus is in the Saxifragaceae family, as surely a glimpse of the flowers will reveal. It is a slow-growing herbaceous perennial from China and Korea, and is commonly known as the "Hand Fan" due to resemblance to the human hand, but I find that to be a stretch. It is interesting that the Acer palmatum species name is also due to a hand resemblance. So why the genus name had to be changed I don't know, but Mukdenia gets its name from Mukden, which was the old capital of the Manchu dynasty in Manchuria. Was the species name rossii named after Robert Ross, an English botanist who was Keeper of Botany at the British Natural History Museum? I don't know for sure, but anyway, I have grown a clump in a shaded area that is still only one foot tall by two feet wide after twenty years, but then it is constantly competing with an Ajuga thug that was foolishly planted nearby.

Sinocalycanthus raulstonii 'Hartlage Wine'

'Hartlage Wine' blossom evolves to purple with age


I have sung the praises for x Sinocalycanthus raulstonii 'Hartlage Wine' before, for it is a shrub that blooms continuously throughout spring and summer. It is an intergeneric hybrid of Calycanthus floridus and Sinocalycanthus chinensis, and Richard Hartlage was the plantsman responsible for developing the hybrid. He did so at North Carolina State University, so the late horticultural professor, J.C. Raulston, was honored by the cross's name. Raulston was a whirlwind of a person, and unfortunately he died too young in an automobile accident. He visited Buchholz Nursery twice, but each time he stayed for less than an hour, because he was in a rush to get to his next destination. It was amusing to watch him literally running from plant to plant, to take in as much as possible. I stood still in the center of the garden, trying to stay out of his way, but nevertheless I was out of breath just to watch him.


Scilla peruviana

Scilla peruviana

Scilla peruviana


























Acer pensylvanicum


A fun perennial bulb bloomed again for me, Scilla peruviana, also known as the "Portuguese Squill." Surprisingly it is in the asparagus family, Asparagaceae, the same as Dracaena draco, the "Canary Island Dragon Tree" which I featured a couple of weeks ago. Scilla peruviana is not from Peru, as the name implies, and its naming illustrates the sometimes silly rules of nomenclature. The species is in fact native to the western Mediterranean region, and was first described by Linnaeus in 1753. He was given specimens imported from Spain, but aboard a ship named Peru, and he assumed that they had indeed come from Peru. Once a botanical name has been published, it cannot be changed merely because the details are incorrect. The same is true for Acer pensylvanicum, when it should have been pennsylvanicum with two n's. The origin of the word Scilla is from Greek skilla, then Latin scilla for "Sea Onion."

Wollemia nobilis
Wollemia nobilis pollen cone




























Wollemia nobilis
Wollemia nobilis "polar cap"




























Wollemia nobilis female cone

The final plant that I'll feature is Wollemia nobilis, the Australian "Wollemi Pine," a recently (1994) discovered genus in the Araucariaceae family. Wollemi is an Aboriginal word meaning "look around you, keep your eyes open and watch out." It was found by David Noble, a field officer of the Wollemi National Park, in the rugged Blue Mountains surprisingly close to Sydney. The tree is interesting as older specimens develop a bubbly brown trunk that resembles cocoa-puffs. The terminal bud is covered with a white resin which is commonly called a "polar cap." I bought a couple of Wollemi Pine about six years ago from a company connected with National Geographic. The little starts were a hundred dollar apiece, but I took solace that part of the money went to research and preservation. Wollemi can be propagated by rooted cuttings, and I instructed the crew to "do a few." My back was turned and the overzealous propagators cut all of the lower branches, and once cut, the limbs do not resprout. So new growth is only at the top, and before long it will reach the top of the greenhouse, and I doubt the species is hardy outdoors in Oregon. The photos above reveal the male and female flowers, and I was happy to see them sexually expressing themselves.




My career in horticulture has been a tough grind, full of ups and downs, but as you can see I'm fortunate to work in a plant paradise. I'm in a beautiful prison.


"I've got more new plants for you Talon."


5 comments:

  1. Thank you Talon. You've brightened a very dreary rainy day in NYC. Fred Little, RLA

    ReplyDelete
  2. >>Eventually I feel guilty to have abandoned my family, and I return home...where my >>wife praises me for my toils, for my work ethic and dedication. Ha!

    Also guilty :^)..

    ReplyDelete
  3. Marvellous, Talon! I love those acer plants!!! Their leaves are gorgeous :-D Keep smiling Masayoshi Yano! Cheers, Stephanie

    ReplyDelete
  4. Mukdenia rossii was named for John Ross (1824-1915), a Scottish Presbyterian missionary who collected it in "North China ; hills south of the Corean Gate and elsewhere on almost inaccessible and bare rocks"

    ReplyDelete
  5. very good blog. Sorry for mi english.
    im spanish and i have a web about the genus "acer".
    ¿Can i use some photos from your blog? of course i posted photo and his name "photo by Talon Buchholz"

    ReplyDelete