Friday, June 21, 2013

A Reticulous Review


Reticulate...from Latin reticulatus, reticulum, meaning a resemblance to a "net" or "network;" in botany usually implying the visibility of leaf veins. Today's blog will discuss maple cultivars displaying this characteristic. I think all leaves come with visible veins, but some are more prominent, so that maple aficionados, indeed plant aficionados find the foliage to be amazing and most ornamental. The general pattern is that the coloration is spectacular in spring, rather dull in deep summer, then finally redeemed in autumn with markings different in color from spring, but sometimes equally as exciting.

I've always had an eye for maples, especially those wonderful Japanese maples. As a youth, I appreciated red laceleafs as highly exotic and valuable. But there were also red and green (seedling) uprights, and on many sunny days I rode past them on my bicycle in hometown Forest Grove, Oregon. Then only the most classy of residences had a Japanese maple; you would never find one at a beater or rental house. During my six years of employment in an Oregon wholesale nursery in the mid 1970's, my exposure did not improve. But in 1979 I tumbled through the rabbit hole, so to speak, and discovered Japanese Maples by J.D. Vertrees. I bought a copy and paged through it a thousand (?) times, and my life was forever changed. Later Vertrees, also an Oregonian, autographed it for me, and I remember that he executed his signature upon the dryer machine in his garage.


Acer palmatum 'Aka shigitatsu sawa'

Acer palmatum 'Aka shigitatsu sawa'


For me the greatest impression in the book was a photo of Acer palmatum 'Aka shigitatsu sawa'. Green leaves with a reddish blush, highlighted with black veins, was as wild as anything I had ever seen; and I suddenly imagined myself to be a collector of maples, but certainly not someone who would be a grower of them. Nevertheless, I cashed out on some timber property in the Oregon Coast Hills, and purchased property just three miles south of Forest Grove. And, as it turned out, I was to become a grower of maples...primarily because of my initial fascination with 'Aka shigitatsu sawa'.

Aka is "red" in Japanese, and so is beni. Aka refers to colors that are bright red, while beni is more muted, and is used to describe a duller pinkish or purple red. Beni is actually an old Japanese written word which isn't spoken anymore (except for kuchi beni, for kuchi is Japanese for "lips," hence "lipstick"). So Vertrees and others approved of the name 'Aka shigitatsu sawa', but by the 4th edition of Japanese Maples the name had been changed to 'Beni shigitatsu sawa', and I agree that describes the color much better. My only question is who was authorized to make the change? Maybe any author is by definition "authorized." It doesn't matter much to me, and I continue with the original Aka out of habit; and I'm only curious about the cultivar name-change process. Why didn't anybody notify me? Anyway, we currently grow this cultivar in very small numbers, as it has effectively been replaced by newer, more colorful cultivars. Continue and you will see.

Acer palmatum 'Shigitatsu sawa'

Acer palmatum 'Shigitatsu sawa'

'Aka' or 'Beni shigitatsu sawa' is the reddish form of the old cultivar 'Shigitatsu sawa'. The green selection has been known in literature for over two hundred years, and means "snipe rising from a winter swamp." It doesn't surprise me that variation in leaf shape has taken place, where some in Japan have leaves more deeply cut. Vertrees claims that 'Shigitatsu sawa' is a stronger grower than the red cultivar, but I find the opposite to be true. In any case both make outstanding small trees, and are especially brilliant for orange-to-red fall color.


Acer palmatum 'Kasagi yama'

Acer palmatum 'Kasagi yama' is another old reticulate, and at one time I easily sold as many as I could produce, with access to good scionwood the only limitation. There is a week or two every spring when the "brick-red" foliage is stunning, and I also like the black-red veins. As with all reticulates the leaves' undersides sparkle with the sun as backlight. The problem with 'Kasagi yama' is that the fresh spring color fades to downright ugly by summer. Another problem is that it has a crappy form, with branches crossing and sprawling laterally. With experienced pruning you can overcome the form problems, and ultimately produce a well-shaped small tree, but which nurseryman has the extra time? Vertrees says "it is a rare, very unusual cultivar..." I agree that it is rare, and even more rare now than thirty years ago, and that's because it has been superseded by a number of superior selections.

The original Acer palmatum 'Purple Ghost'



























Acer palmatum 'Purple Ghost'


Acer palmatum 'Purple Ghost'

The Buchholz Nursery "Ghost Series" helped to finish off any remaining 'Kasagi yama' popularity. Acer palmatum 'Purple Ghost' originated as a seedling with 'Kasagi yama' as the seed source. Occasionally someone will request 'Kasagi-DG92', a code name I used many years ago before 'Purple Ghost' was officially named. The "DG92" part of the code indicates that it was planted in the original Display Garden, with 1992 the year that the four or five year old seedling was planted out, and the original still remains. It is not the largest of all 'Purple Ghosts', as early grafts onto vigorous green seedling rootstock have outgained the original. The form (more upright) and deep red-purple foliage make 'Purple Ghost' a better commercial tree than 'Kasagi yama'.

Acer palmatum 'Amagi shigure'




























Acer palmatum 'Amagi shigure'

Acer palmatum 'Amagi shigure'

A rival to 'Purple Ghost' is 'Amagi shigure' from Japan. Its color more closely resembles 'Kasagi yama', but its vibrancy lasts longer into the season. I first saw 'Amagi shigure' in the spring at Tsukasa Maples nursery in Saitama, Japan. At first, and from a distance, I assumed that I was seeing 'Purple Ghost'. But why so bright, I wondered? Was it Japan's climate, or soil, or was jet lag messing with me? Of course it turned out to be a different cultivar, one I now like very much, even if it is a bit less vigorous than 'Purple Ghost'. Proprietor Mr. Tanaka of Tsukasa Maples had no idea that my 'Purple Ghost' was then in the pipeline, but he soon received a start from me. I sort of met Mr. Tanaka's son, but he was twenty feet up in the crown of an old stock tree, pruning out the dead wood. Perhaps a plate of bananas would have brought him down, but father was more concerned he continue with work, and I supposed that in another twenty years his son would be up in the tree, while father takes care of business below.

Acer palmatum 'Amber Ghost'

Acer palmatum 'Amber Ghost'

Acer palmatum 'Amber Ghost'

The best-growing cultivar in the "Ghost Series" is Acer palmatum 'Amber Ghost'. It displays a vigorous upright habit, somewhat narrow (but full) when young, then eventually more broad at maturity. Many wholesale growers agree that it is a favorite, whether it is grown in the field or produced in containers. The "Amber" in the name reflects the foliage color through June, July and August, and it never looks bad, as does 'Kasagi yama', while I admit that cultural factors can affect appearances. So goodbye to 'Aka shigitatsu sawa'. Not to boast, but 'Amber Ghost' can now be found in Japan, Europe, Canada and throughout the United States. I predict that one day some growers or box stores will be importing it from China at reduced cost, and only the industry's maple glut and our overall mismanaged economy have kept it from happening already. It was only a few years ago that Oregon's nursery association and the Department of Agriculture were promoting "trade" with China, as if the Chinese have ever honored a fair, sustainable relationship. Our goofy Oregon lightweights can promote (AKA throw money at) exports to China, which has helped a few large shade-tree companies, but imports are already known for disease, pest and incorrect plant identification issues. So in other words, always buy your 'Amber Ghost' from me.

Acer palmatum 'First Ghost'

Acer palmatum 'First Ghost'

Acer palmatum 'First Ghost'

Acer palmatum 'Sister Ghost'

Acer palmatum 'Sister Ghost'





























Acer palmatum 'Grandma Ghost'




























Acer palmatum 'Grandma Ghost'


Acer palmatums 'First Ghost', 'Sister Ghost' and 'Grandma Ghost' are other beautiful reticulates. I've written about them so many times in the past that I'll skip descriptions for now. My photograph of 'First Ghost' actually made it onto the cover of Peter Gregory's Japanese Maples, A Pocket Guide. You will notice from the photo above that the one atypical leaf was drawn out and used as our company's logo, and appears on the Buchholz & Buchholz Nursery Home Page, our letterhead etc. It confuses some people that two different shapes and colors can occur on the same twig. Employee Seth even (mildly) accused me of placing it there from a different tree, that I would find some amusement from doing so. By the time I was done with him he truly regretted the suggestion. (I REGRET NOTHING!) But no, I didn't place it there; I clearly remember the Sunday morning in May, at the south end of Box Area Greenhouse #2, when I recorded the image with my film camera. I can't remember everything, but I certainly remember that. And actually, you can find a lot of that sort of thing happening in a plant collection. It's called diversity, and thank goodness for it, as that has made my career possible.























Acer palmatum 'Ariadne'


Acer palmatum 'Ariadne' is a beautiful Japanese maple selection from Firma Esveld in Boskoop Holland. It was discovered as an open-pollinated seedling and was named after one of the eminent D.M. van Gelderen's (author of Maples of the World) granddaughters. No one in American would name a daughter "Ariadne," but it is not so uncommon in Europe. The name refers to a heroic Greek goddess who lived an emotional life full of downs and ups, but was ultimately rescued by the god (or should I say THE GOD?) Dionysus, and I guess they lived happily ever after. Ariadne is often lusciously depicted in painting, sculpture and poetry, usually semi-clad  and exposing delicious breasts – my kind of goddess. Titian's oil painting Bacchus and Ariadne, from 1520-23, is what usually pops into my mind. I have before described 'Ariadne' as the most beautiful of any maple...well, for about two weeks per spring. It features reticulated leaves with noticeable veins, and an overall pinkish orange blush. It is fairly dull for the remainder of the season, but turns to fiery yellow and orange in autumn. Monet would have loved 'Ariadne' in his garden, and for what it is worth, I planted one next to my driveway, so that wife Haruko and I can enjoy it frequently.

Acer palmatum 'Filigree'
Acer palmatum 'Filigree'

Upon close inspection you can also classify the delicate cultivar Acer palmatum 'Filigree' as an example of reticulated foliage. The net, network is subtle, but it is there. The leaves are so deeply cut...into narrowly dissected leaflets, that the maple connoisseur will never be overwhelmed by the presentation. Delicate beauty does not need to overwhelm you, but rather it seeps into you, with its lambent (softly bright or radiant) luminosity. For me, 'Filigree' is the most "feminine" of all cultivars.


Acer palmatum 'Mikazuki'

Acer palmatum 'Mikazuki'

Acer palmatum 'Mikazuki'


Acer palmatum 'Mikazuki' was discovered, named and introduced by Buchholz Nursery, and has quickly become one of our most popular cultivars. I regret the quick naming of it, however, as "Mikazuki" refers to the crescent moon, due to the sickle-shaped leaves. While that characteristic is indeed evident, that does not really define one's overall experience with the foliage. I guess that, more than any cultivar, 'Mikazuki' reminds me of coral reefs and wildly-colored fish from the ocean's deep. Maybe I should have named it: 'Nemo'. By the way, my wife Haruko and our children – but not me – will soon travel to her hometown Tokyo for a three week visit. She will then travel many miles southwest to Okinawa, then hundreds more to the distant dot on the Japanese archipelago, which is a short distance away from Taiwan, a rocky spot currently on the greedy radar of the Beijing regime, those who are anxious to control everything. The island's name is Iriomote, and that is where Japanese tourists frequent (...well, infrequently) to scuba dive and observe said Nemo. Alas, I'm not into sand, fish-smells, heat and humidity, but I would love to visit again with Haruko's best friend Chihiro, a dear sweetheart who escaped the rigors, conformity and claustrophobia of Tokyo, and one who now raises her two children as far away from "it all" as possible. Chihiro is no less heroic and tragic than the Greek ideal, Ariadne. Yes, I could have happily married her, "her" being either one.

Acer palmatum 'Peaches & Cream'

Acer palmatum 'Peaches & Cream'




























Acer palmatum 'Peaches & Cream'


'Peaches and Cream' is a palmatum selection from Australia, and it has been around for my entire career. At its best it can be quite colorful, but when overly lush and vigorous the color will be mostly green. Supposedly it was an intentional hybrid between 'Shigitatsu sawa' as the seed parent, and 'Aka' or 'Beni shigitatsu sawa' as the pollen source. If that is true, breeder Arnold Teese needn't have gone to the trouble to execute a controlled cross, as open pollinated seed from 'Shigitatsu sawa' will yield quite a number of 'Peaches and Cream' look-a-likes.


Acer palmatum 'White Peaches'

Acer palmatum 'White Peaches'

Acer palmatum 'White Peaches'


Unfortunately, confusion in the trade surrounds the cultivar, with the existence of two very different looking clones being grown. That doesn't surprise me at all. My photos most above exemplify the "type" that I have grown since my beginning, over thirty years ago. But another kind of "Peaches and Cream" also appeared in early maple collections and commercial nurseries. So, is one right and the other wrong, or did one original clone evolve down two different paths? As described before, I have seen two very different leaves upon the same branch of Acer palmatum 'First Ghost'. Until the matter is resolved, though it probably never will be, I keep them separate, and identify the more deeply-dissected and more-white variation as 'White Peaches'. I'm not promoting that growers-collectors grow both, or one over the other either; but just be aware that 'Peaches and Cream' comes in two different flavors.
























Acer buergerianum 'Hana chiru sato'

Acer buergerianum 'Wako nishiki'



























Acer buergerianum 'Wako nishiki'




























Acer pictum 'Usugumo'

Acer pictum 'Usugumo'

There are a couple of other Japanese maple species with reticulated cultivars. Acer buergerianum 'Hana chiru sato' and 'Wako nishiki' both feature white leaves with green veins. Both are very white in early spring, but fortunately evolve to more green by the time hot weather occurs. Acer pictum 'Usugumo' begins with pinkish new growth, but by mid-spring the leaves fatten and reveal a most intricate network of veins. I know of no other American nursery – except my own – that produces 'Usugumo' commercially. Speak up if you do!

Seedlings from named cultivars


My love of the reticulates is evident. We also harvest open pollinated seed from these choice cultivars, and the offspring are "absolutely fantastic," as the late van Hoey Smith used to say. Currently hundreds of them reside in GH15, taking up valuable space, while older ones have been field or garden planted. Especially in spring, visitors are overwhelmed with the beauty, and so am I. "Be fruitful and multiply," Flora seems to be telling me. The photographs below are all seedlings, all arising from beautiful parents. That explains why we are called Flora Wonder.











































































































































Very beautiful, Talon. But are you trying to assume my role?



2 comments:

  1. amazing pictures......I finally feel accomplished. I've procured all but 3 of the highlighted cultivars (White Peaches, Ab Wako nishiki, and Ap Mikazuki)
    Only recently have I discovered your blogs.......love them

    ReplyDelete