Friday, July 5, 2013

The Wonderful Road Home

The Upper Gardens at Flora Farm

For years I have dragged the full trashcan up my steep driveway on Tuesday nights in wind, rain, darkness etc., and it takes about 308 military-type ascending steps to accomplish the task. It's always fun to walk back though, downhill to the house. My heart-beat rate subsides, and I enter the house with a flushed face, but receive thanks from dear wifey. The journey is a 1,000 foot spectacle with the Upper Gardens to the east, and the FF Maple Field on the west. Some of the best plants from the amazing world of horticulture can be found growing along this road.

Stewartia monadelpha

The top of the road features a fantastic specimen of Stewartia monadelpha. The "Tall Stewartia" – please, what a senseless common name! – is mostly known for cinnamon-red bark, and camellia-like blossoms in summer. This Stewartia's species name is from the Greek word monadelphous, meaning "with filament or stamens untied in one." The genus was named by Linnaeus to honor John Stuart, the Third Earl of Bute, but things got screwed up, and "Stuart" became "Stewart," and that error is allowed to continue to this day. The splendid Stewartia genus is in the family Theaceae, the "Tea Family," and remember that Camellia sinensis, also in the Theaceae family, is the scientific name for the "tea" that we greedily drink. So, maybe, have a cup of monadelpha then. There are a number of Stewartia species in my collection, and I enjoy the genus in general, but I'm far from an expert about them all. At the beginning of my career they were scarce, expensive and somewhat of a snob plant. I got top dollar for the few that I had. Now the seedling growers have figured it out and are able to produce them by the thousands. They are more difficult to sell, even at a lower price, but still Stewartias remain a favorite of mine.

Erythronium revolutum

Erythronium montanum

Stewartia pseudocamellia, our "giraffe" tree

Stewartia pseudocamellia

Stewartia monadelpha 'Pendula'

Stewartia monadelpha 'Variegated'

My good-looking monadelpha came from plantsman Hatch's garden and must be at least forty years old. I dug it and moved it to my property as his was being developed, and I'm happy that the rescue was accomplished. Any tree coming from the old Hatch property is likely to include a bonus plant or plants, and in the case of the Stewartia, I also received a patch of Erythroniums. His garden was famous for them and they were practically weeds, and for years they had the opportunity to hybridize. I have plans to plant another Hatch rescue, a Stewartia pseudocamellia of the same age, near to the monadelpha. This specimen is currently in a huge box, and we affectionately refer to it as the "giraffe tree." And, should all that go well, I might add my rare Stewartia monadelpha 'Pendula' to the area. I would also like to acquire Stewartia monadelpha 'Variegated' which I have seen in Japan, but I don't know the selection's name.

Sequoiadendron giganteum 'Glaucum'

Sequoiadendron giganteum 'Glaucum' at Bedgebury Arboretum

A Sequoiadendron giganteum 'Glaucum' is growing at the top of the road, and with regular irrigation I hope it outgains the neighbor's green tree which is much older. The photo above is from our original Display Garden, and the tree is now the tallest of anything in my garden. The narrow form is a plus, as all gardens have a limited space. Krussmann, author of Manual of Cultivated Conifers says that "'Glaucum' is exactly like the type," except for the blue foliage. But that's not true at all, and I have seen a huge specimen at Bedgebury Arboretum in England, and it appears most needle-like, don't you think?

Daphne burkwoodii 'Brigg's Moonlight'

Daphne burkwoodii 'Brigg's Moonlight'

Daphne burkwoodii 'Brigg's Moonlight'

Daphne burkwoodii 'Brigg's Moonlight'

I planted a Daphne burkwoodii 'Brigg's Moonlight' by the road to provide some dazzle, and it grows happily in full sun. Its flowers are white, and they are somewhat lost in the sparkling foliage. I fantasize about finding one with red flowers, and I guess that's possible since the flowers of the species are light pink. I should confess that burkwoodii is not a straight species, but rather a hybrid between Daphne caucasica x cneorum, and should be written as x burkwoodii to honor Arthur Burkwood who first performed the cross. Daphne is a pretty name (so is Chloe), and on the one hand it is Greek for "laurel," but on the other it refers to a figure in Greek mythology, a female nymph who hung out around fresh water, like fountains, wells, streams etc. In paintings and sculpture, Daphne is usually depicted with firm gorgeous breasts, just the way they should be.

Daphne and Apollo

...Ok, I thought about that for a while.

Spiraea japonica 'Magic Carpet'

Spiraea japonica 'Magic Carpet'

Anyway, further down the road is a group of three Spiraea japonica 'Magic Carpet'. This selection was bred in England and received the prestigious Award of Garden Merit. We used to propagate and sell it...until I discovered that it was patented then stopped; and besides, it is a "cheap" plant grown by the many thousands by large companies. In the past few years many were put to fire because of oversupply. We once employed a Polish intern who stated that he liked 'Magic Carpet' more than any other plant in my collection. He was chided by another (very former) employee, one Mr. Know-It-All, who thought that the "best" plant must be a maple or a conifer, and how naive and simple the Polo must be. The so-called shitty Spiraea 'Magic Carpet' really is a great shrub, though, and I'm happy to have them, and I've walked or have driven past them every day for many years.

Juniperus chinensis 'Daub's Frosted'

Nearby is a planting of Juniperus chinensis 'Daub's Frosted', and likewise, they should not be dismissed as just another crummy juniper. The foliage is brilliant with a mixture of green and gold, and the plants grow as very low and dense ground-huggers. 'Daub's Frosted' is a much more worthy landscape plant than the huge sprawling golden and blue Pfitzers that used to dominate landscapes. By the way, the name juniper is from Latin juniperus; that was derived from Latin junio which means "young," and parere, which means to "produce." The combination implies "youth-producing" or "evergreen." The female name "Ginny" is derived from Juniperus, and why not, as the alcoholic beverage gin derives its predominant flavor from juniper berries. I'll drink to that!

Acer palmatum seedling selections

In the maple field (FFMF) is a collection of many species and cultivars of Acer. I will resist to sell anything from this field, letting them be, to eventually touch canopies. In my old age I'll walk under them, maybe smoking a pipe and reminiscing about how I acquired each and every tree. Included are eight or nine Acer palmatum seedling selections, with code names for now, in case I ever want to propagate from them. I promoted these recently in the blog called A Reticulous Review, so I won't belabor them now.

Acer palmatum 'Geisha Gone Wild'

Haruko displaying her gei, the art of baguette serving

Acer palmatum 'Geisha Gone Wild' is superb now, and it handled our scorching 97 degree hot flash. It is particularly beautiful in the evening, with the last rays of the sun as backlight. Typically the real geishas are more demure, and I have seen a couple of them walking with escorts into Tokyo's Hilton Hotel, and I certainly wished I could have joined the party. A top-notch geisha can charge $1,000 per hour, and it is for entertainment only, and, other than flirting, the entertainment does not include sex. Geisha is derived from gei, meaning "art" and sha, meaning the "doer," the delectable female who delights you with her artful skills. I couldn't afford the $1,000 per hour, so I married one instead, and I've got the whole package at an affordable price.

Acer palmatum 'Kinshi'

Acer palmatum 'Pung Kil'

Acer palmatum 'Kinshi' is also along the road. This past spring when I returned home from work, 'Kinshi' would be shining with the low afternoon sun. Delicate light-green leaves turn to gold in autumn, and in fact, the name means "with golden threads." I've confessed before that I'm a fan of the skinny, whether in women or in leaf shape, so there are other linearlobums in the Maple Field. A dark purple counterpart to 'Kinshi' is Acer palmatum 'Pung Kil', which I suppose should be spelled with a capital "K," as it is a Korean's name. I don't know how Mr. Kil is associated with the famous Chollipo Arboretum, or if he is at all, but he has been hounding us for the past few years about getting scionwood for dozens of cultivars in our collection. It doesn't seem to occur to him that a one-way relationship doesn't inspire me.

Acer palmatum 'Hubbs Red Willow'

Acer palmatum 'Hubbs Red Willow' in autumn

Across the road from the 'Pung Kil' is Acer palmatum 'Hubbs Red Willow', which is similar, with dark purple linearlobum foliage. Leaves are a bit longer on the 'Hubbs' and they don't fatten on vigorous shoots as much as 'Pung Kil'. I would say that I prefer 'Pung Kil' over the 'Hubbs Red Willow' because you often can see the two types of leaves, which gives it a more dynamic appearance. Vertrees/Gregory list 'Hubbs' as 'Hupp's Red Willow', and claims it was selected at Red Maple Nursery in Pennsylvania. Gregory may be right, but I don't know, for there exists other errors of supposition in the book. It would have been better overall if the "Hubbs" or "Hupp's" were both eliminated from the cultivar name, as 'Red Willow' gets the job done by itself.

My "MMM," employee Seth (MMM = Main Maple Man), claims that Hubbs, without the apostrophe "'s" is correct, as it was named after Elwood Hubbs from New Jersey. Seth gets agitated and a little irate when he informs me of this for the fifth time, and I always fail to grasp it. OK Seth then, you write the blogs. (Hey, what's with all the hubbub about Hubbs?)

Liquidambar styraciflua 'Slender Silhouette'

The FF Maple Field was planted last fall, and we landscaped it with some good sized trees. Since it is so new, I haven't memorized all of the trees included, but they are all labeled. One time I stopped the car, unsure what I was seeing in the back, then walked over to investigate. It was a Liquidambar styraciflua 'Slender Silhouette', and I'm quite happy to have acquired this selection, having first seen it at Arboretum Wespelaar in Belgium a couple of years ago. Soon it will be common, and large plants can already be found in Oregon nurseries. In Ohio this narrow selection is reported to have grown to thirty feet tall in only twelve years. It was discovered by Don Shadow of Tennessee, and the original was allegedly 60' tall by only a few feet wide. Wow; imagine that pillar with its yellow-to-burgundy red fall color! I admire the genus for its maple-like foliage, although the branches are most breakable with snow and ice. But, even after being ravaged by the winter elements, the Liquidambars can quickly (miraculously) recover.

Abies pindrow

Abies procera 'Silver'

Abies squamata 'Flaky'

Abies firma 'Halgren'

Abies firma 'Halgren'

The two big conifers on the east side of the road are Abies pindrow. Some days they are my most favorite of all the true "firs,"...then I remember that, no, Abies procera is my favorite, and the cultivar 'Silver' is also near to my magic road. But my very favorite is Abies squamata from China, which is the most fantastic tree in the universe. Anyway, Abies firma from Japan is the best of the bunch and I have always thought so, especially with a rainbow poised near it. Well, they're all my favorites, and I would take them over a spruce any day.

The Buchholz Oak in spring

The Buchholz Oak in summer

The Buchholz Oak in winter

THE Buchholz Oak

Posing ponderously at the road's bottom is a huge 300-plus-year-old "Oregon Oak," Quercus garryana. It is unusual to have lived so long, and especially to keep a beautiful shape. It's only a couple hundred yards from the Tualatin River, up where it never floods, and I can imagine a native Indian girl counting her acorns beneath. This monster impressed me immensely when I first drove down the hill with the realtor ten years ago, and it had better survive me, for I would find no further purpose to live should it die on my watch. May the Buchholz Oak prosper!

So, I pulled a muscle in my back this morning while doing nothing stupid – I was merely walking along a level road. I can barely sit to write, and thus ends the blog.

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