Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Dinky Plants























Mrs. and Mr. Jeddeloh


Pinus mugo 'Mini Mini'

Pinus mugo 'Mini Mini'

The late Herr Johann-Dietrich Jeddeloh from...yes, Jeddeloh, Germany paid me a visit about eighteen years ago. We were in my Far East section looking at conifers and I wondered what the international tree celebrity would find of interest. He was happy it seemed, just to be in a tree collection, and it didn't bother him that I was a small dwarf in the plant world. Suddenly Mr. J. stopped at a weeny pine, a Pinus mugo 'Mini Mini' grafted on a short standard. The little dink was only ten inches wide at ten years of age. He fell to his knees in rapture and petted the little bun. In German he said "What a beautiful little Pinus," except the Europeans pronounce Pinus as "Peenus." Indeed it was a beautiful pine, but I did detect a slight blush on Mrs. Jeddeloh's face.

I don't grow mugo 'Mini Mini' anymore, for it is just too damn dwarf. A one gallon pot should wholesale for at least thirty dollars, but who's going to buy onto that? At least I still have some in the gardens, and I remember discovering the miniscule mugo as a witch's broom mutation on Pinus mugo 'Mops', which is itself an unprofitable dwarf.

Picea glauca 'Blue Planet'

Picea glauca 'Blue Planet'


I'll continue with the unprofitable miniature theme, but it's tough to explain why I persist to grow them. They do combine well with other plants, and are wonderful in our pumice gardens and alpine troughs. They certainly don't grow too large and hog grandiose space in the garden. But garden centers wince if I charge fourteen dollars for a one gallon conifer, regardless that it's ten years old or more. Picea glauca 'Blue Planet' is an example of a true runt, but it sure is cute. It will form a flat bun and might grow to only eight inches wide in ten years. It was found in Germany as a sport of Picea glauca 'Echiniformis', and if any of its thin stems grow to over one inch, they should be considered a reversion and pruned out. While the many cultivars of dwarf "Alberta Spruce" are prone to mite attack, I've never seen it on 'Blue Planet'. Foliage is dark blue-green, and is especially nice with its lighter dots of spring new-growth.

Pinus mugo 'Mr. Wood'

One of the most generous of any plantsman that we've ever met was the late Edsal Wood of Oregon. He was fond of hemlocks and found quite a number of dwarf and white-tip forms. Mr. Wood was a regular at the Copper Kettle Bar, where they say his 4 PM cocktail always awaited him. I once showed up at his nursery, called Bonsai Village, at 3:50 but he had already left, and I learned my lesson to never be late. Another time he called me over to see something special which he had found. He handed me an impossibly miniature dwarf pine, to take it home to "try." With its blue foliage I assumed that it was a Pinus parviflora, but Edsal said it was a mugo seedling. I wondered if he had jumped the gun on cocktail time, but I nodded in agreement and took the treasure home. It sat in my greenhouse for a while; then one day I pinched off a fascicle and to my surprise it contained only two needles, and was indeed a blue mugo. The temporary name I gave to it when first propagated was 'Mr. Wood'. Eventually I sold or gave some away, so the name has stuck, even though I hypocritically advise that peoples' names should not be used for plants. Years later I discovered that Mr. Wood gave a sister seedling to Larry of Stanley and Sons Nursery, who named his 'Fishhook', as it features a slight curve to the tiny needles. Stanley chose the better name I think, but the main point is that they are two distinct clones, even if they look almost alike, and it somewhat galls me that some "plantsmen" knowingly insist that they are the same. They absolutely are not! And "real" plantsmen never insist anyway.

























Acer palmatum 'Hupp's Dwarf'



























Acer palmatum 'Hupp's Dwarf'


Acer palmatum 'Sir Happy'























Styrax japonicus 'Frosted Emerald'


Cornus kousa 'Summer Gold'























Cornus kousa 'Ohkan'


Acer palmatum 'Hupp's Dwarf' originated as a seedling at Oregon's Drake's Crossing Nursery. It is so dwarf that it is difficult to find scionwood, and it does not propagate to high success due to its short internodes. But it's a likable dwarf with an irregular shape and pretty pinkish new growth. We also root 'Hupp's Dwarf', and that makes for an even more dwarf tree, or "shrub" I should rather say. But there is another maple cultivar, Acer palmatum 'Sir Happy', that makes 'Hupp's Dwarf' look like a giant. They are similar, both with small crinkled green leaves, but 'Sir Happy' is far more dwarf. It was found at Crispin Silva's nursery in Molalla, Oregon, the same creative company that has introduced Davidia involucrata 'Lady Sunshine', Styrax japonicus 'Frosted Emerald' and Cornus kousa 'Summer Gold', the latter being similar to Cornus kousa 'Ohkan', an unpatented dogwood that we peddle. Mr. Silva has discovered an improbable number of variegated broadleaf trees due to his keen eyes and hands-on approach to plants, although one person laughingly suggested that his nursery sits atop what was once a toxic waste site, hence the "mutations."


























Ginkgo biloba 'Munchkin'


Mr. Silva also introduced Ginkgo biloba 'Munchkin', the most dwarf Ginkgo we grow, with the most tiny leaf. Typically the leaves are smaller than my little finger's nail, but they are crowded on a little tree that may grow to one foot tall by one foot wide in ten years; but don't worry, as fall color is as fantastic as on any Ginkgo. 'Munchkin' is very cute, and for us more dwarf than the cultivar 'Chase Manhattan'. The latter is a good dwarf, but I wouldn't call it a "miniature," and how 'Chase M." got named is most uninspiring: someone claimed that it was "worth more than all the money held in Chase Manhattan's bank." Later the truth of that prophecy was revealed, as many banks failed because they were ultimately empty.



























Salix boydii


A couple of willows fall into the miniature category, Salix boydii and Salix lindleyana. The boydii was found in the mountains of Scotland by William Boyd, and is thought to be a natural hybrid between Salix reticulata and Salix lapponica. It forms a multi-branched upright shrub with tiny gray-green leaves, and perhaps is the plant most perfectly suited for bonsai in our entire collection. We push boydii in the greenhouse, where we can achieve two-to-three inches of growth per year, and then the new shoots are promptly cut off to make more cuttings; outside in the garden we are lucky to get one inch of new growth. Take note: Salix boydii is not the same as the sprawling groundcover, Salix repens 'Boyd's Pendula'.

Salix lindleyana

Salix lindleyana

Salix lindleyana is a choice creeping willow that loves life in our pumice gardens and alpine troughs. Hugging reddish-brown branches with bright green leaves are adorable. Tiny catkins are cute, and begin cream-white and mature to red. The species is usually found in moist rock crevices in Bhutan and Nepal at elevations over 12,000', but nevertheless it performs well in our garden at almost sea level. Lindleyana was first described by Nathanial Wallich, then validly published by Nils Andersson (1821-1880), a Swedish botanist who was particularly interested in Salix. I assume the species was named for John Lindley (1799-1865), the noted English botanist, who more importantly was also a horticulturalist. Today the Lindley Library is the largest horticultural library in the world, but I've never visited even though I'm a member of the Royal Horticulture Society. There are so many wonderful gardens to see in England – with live plants – that I have never taken the time to spend the afternoon in the musty library. But really I should, one day.

Abies lasiocarpa 'Duflon' in spring

Abies lasiocarpa 'Duflon' in winter


There is probably at least one miniscule cultivar of "True Fir" for every Abies species, but I can think of none more dwarf than Abies lasiocarpa 'Duflon'. This was discovered by the Duflon sisters of Washington state, and distributed by E.H. Lohbrunner of British Columbia. My first start of 'Duflon' was given to me by the late Jean Iseli when it was the size of a golf ball, at about five years of age. It was planted in my original Display Garden and prospered. Imagine my horror when I discovered one day that some knucklehead had stepped on it. It was crushed and so was I. The broken twigs were carefully pruned out, but I left it in place. It totally recovered, filled in, and now is 15" by 18" wide, and only 10" tall at 35 years. Propagation is difficult, as the grafter must search for a straight section of three-year-old wood, which is usually found on the outer perimeter of the plant. 'Duflon' has made a wonderful inclusion into my collection, in spite of its tragic history.


Abies concolor 'Masonic Broom'

Abies concolor 'Masonic Broom'

Abies concolor 'King's Gap'

Abies concolor 'King's Gap'

Abies concolor 'Z-Mark'


Abies concolor is the "White Fir," a western USA native. For years 'Masonic Broom', a tiny cultivar from a witch's broom mutation, was what we all attempted to grow. I've seen the original broom – or what's left of it – at a Masonic Home in Pennsylvania. Ultimately it is a poor selection – or at least here in Oregon, due to sudden death or significant die-back. We finally quit in frustration, but fortunately a replacement, 'King's Gap', has become available. 'King's Gap' forms a dense squat bun, and features brilliant powder-blue foliage. Other similar "do-ers" are 'Hidden Lakes WB' from the Hidden Lakes Arboretum in Michigan and 'Z-Mark'. For us, all cultivars are best placed in full sun, in well-drained soil, and they make wonderful additions to our rock garden.

Abies koreana 'Ice Breaker'

Abies koreana 'Cis'

Abies koreana 'Cis'

Abies koreana 'Tundra'

Abies koreana 'Tundra'

Miniatures in the "Korean Fir" species include 'Ice Breaker', but I've written about that cultivar plenty in the past year. It is certainly the most dazzling, but two others are attractive, 'Cis' and 'Tundra', though they feature short glossy dark-green foliage. What keeps these two from being boring are their perky white buds. 'Cis' was selected as a seedling in Holland in 1975 by a Mr. Roelvink, and is short for "Ciska" (for Francisca) who was Roelvink's mother. 'Tundra' is a little more vigorous than 'Cis' with a slow compact-spreading form, and displays rich dark-green foliage. All of the miniature firs are great fun, as long as garden visitors keep their feet off of them, and I suppose that selling a few plants at a loss is ok, but not too many please.

Dianthus 'White Crown'

Asperula sintenisii

Draba brunifolia

We also produce some "alpines" that are attractive creatures, as long as the grower is patient. Dianthus 'White Crown' is a cutie, a ground hugger that grows to only a few inches wide in three years. Asperula sintenisii displays a pulvinate (cushion-growing) habit and is adorned with profuse solitary pink tubular flowers in June and July. This priceless bun is native to northwestern Turkey in full sun or partially shady locations. Draba brunifolia is a cheerful tight mat that also comes from Turkey and blooms with deep yellow flowers.

Rhododendron keiskei 'Yaku Fairy'

Rhododendron keiskei 'Yaku Fairy'


Keisuke Ito


We are propagating a miniature Rhododendron, keiskei 'Yaku Fairy', which I received from friend and fellow plantsman Reuben Hatch. Actually it is one of the first in America, and when Hatch scalped it out of his garden when his property was being developed, he left another foot of diameter behind. I planted the jewel in a display box, and it is now four feet in diameter. Britain's Royal Horticultural Society selected 'Yaku Fairy' for its AGM, the Award of Garden Merit, but suggested that the ultimate spread would be about 0.5 meters to one meter. Ha! to you Royals, the Hatch plant is now larger than your ultimate size. Thousands of lemon-yellow blossoms literally cover the tiny olive-green leaves in May. The species keiskei is named for the Meiji Era botanist Keisuke Ito (1803-1901), and in the southern Yakushima Mountains it can be found growing in trees as an epiphyte. Mr. K. Wada described the prostrate Rhododendron as the "Fairy Rhododendron of Yaku," and it was thus named by Barry Starling of England. We did some rooted cuttings of 'Yaku Fairy' this past July, and to my amazement they all produced roots and have recently been potted up, so you can look forward to seeing them listed on future availabilities.
























Ilex serrata 'Koshobai'




























Ilex crenata 'Dwarf Pagoda'


Ilex aquifolium 'Pixie'

Ilex 'Rock Garden'

Ilex 'Rock Garden'


Dr. Forrest Bump of Forest Grove, Oregon is a fellow plantsman who I have known for many years. On one visit he announced that he was becoming very interested in the Ilex genus. I thought, "poor fellow, are you that bored?" But eventually I got into them too. When thinking about Ilex miniatures, I immediately considered serrata 'Koshobai'. But 'Koshobai', the "Peppercorn Bush," is dwarf but not miniature. It's really just the berries that are diminutive. Crenata 'Dwarf Pagoda' takes forever to fill a one gallon pot, but eventually it can grow to ten feet tall. Aquifolium 'Pixie' has the overused cultivar name, but it too can grow to ten feet tall, while hogging space at ten feet wide. Probably the only true miniature Ilex I grow is 'Rock Garden'. Notice that I don't list a species, and that's because it is a hybrid, the parents being x aquipernyi crossed with integra, and was a Rutgers University introduction. 'Rock Garden' is a female clone, and so requires a male to produce fruit. You won't be awed by the berries, because even mature plants are so small.

My fascination with these tiny plants explains why I am not wealthy. There are many times when a ten-year-old conifer is sold for less than two-year-old maple. But at least we don't break our backs loading them into the truck. By the way, the term dinky has meant "neat, trim, dainty, small" since 1788, and is from the Scottish dialectal dink meaning "finely dressed, trim." Dinkadee do da, join in the fun.

2 comments:

  1. Hey Talon, Thank you so much for your wonderful words about Matt and Tim Nichols. The praise coming from you has to mean so much to them. The best to you. Mary

    ReplyDelete