Friday, February 7, 2014

The Corbin Garden


This week we are back to Flora Farm...into a small quadrant known as FFCorbin. This locale is west of my house and it features plants from the highly-regarded garden of the late Dr. William Corbin of Portland, Oregon. When he passed away ten years ago, his strong-willed daughter moved onto his property, and she thought that the garden was way too crowded, that there were entirely too many maples...and so I raised my hand. Dr. Corbin's specimens were wonderfully pruned by an authentic senteishi, a Japanese word that means "pruner" (sentei) and "person," (shi). I have mentioned before that Dr. Bump of Forest Grove, Oregon, was very important and instrumental for me at the beginning of my career, and so too was Dr. Corbin. Both were amateur tree experts, and if they were fond of a particular species I felt compelled to find out more about it. I decided to honor and remember Dr. Corbin, and I made a promise to his wife that I would keep and never sell his special maples. She came out to Flora Farm and inspected the initial planting, and was pleased that I gave them a good home.


Acer palmatum 'Hogyoku'



 






















Acer palmatum 'Hogyoku'



There were six maples in this plunder: Acer palmatums 'Inazuma', 'Hogyoku', 'Kinran', 'Muro gawa', 'Tsukushi gata' and japonicum 'Meigetsu'. Dr. Corbin seemed to prefer these plain-Jane types; he thought they blended in well with his Rhododendrons and Magnolias, and there was certainly nothing overtly gaudy about the refined Dr. Corbin or his garden. All six of these cultivars are "old-timers," ones that I have never sold very many of, but they all have their charm and are especially impressive at a large size. One of my favorites, in spite of limited sales, is 'Hogyoku', and what an awkward Japanese name for "a jewel." It is a sturdy upright and will form a wide canopy at maturity. Leaves are rich green in summer, after emerging light-green in spring. Fall color is a most fantastic pumpkin-orange, and was probably the reason why it was originally cultivated.


 





















Acer palmatum 'Tsukushi gata'

Japan

I love Acer palmatum 'Tsukushi gata' as well. The name employs the Japanese word gata for an "ocean bay," and Tsukushi is a location on the southern Japanese island of Kyushu. If you have been around Japanese horticultural names for a while, you'll recognize that the "tsu" is pronounced as su with a silent "t," and for some reason the cultivar is/or was often misspelled as Chikushi gata, like when I first acquired it. Kyushu is the third largest island of Japan (we have: Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu and Shikoku), and Kyushu is home to more than 13 million people. I'm impressed that the most southwesterly islands in the Japanese archipelago are far closer to Hong Kong than to Tokyo. And, of course, Japan and China contend in an endless dispute over the ownership of the furthest tropical rock. My wife and children went on a long-distance journey last summer...to this island well-beyond Okinawa (I stayed back in Oregon), and they had a wonderful time visiting my wife Haruko's best friend Chihiro, a sweet, pretty woman who "dropped out" from the rat-race life of Tokyo...and fell into the land of Nemo fish and sunshine. I'll confess that I could have happily married this Chihiro if I had met her first; and that is what I love so much about my wife: that all of her friends are special, the kind that all men would die for. Haruko hangs out with the best, for sure.


Acer shirasawanum 'Johin'


Back to Acer palmatum 'Tsukushi gata', the main attribute is the black-purple leaves with green veins. It is absolutely stunning in mid-spring and summer, and it somewhat resembles my selection of Acer shirasawanum 'Johin', except that the latter is more plum-red than the black-red of 'Tsukushi gata'. Both cultivars feature the prominent green veins which keep these cultivars from appearing like another boring red upright.


Acer palmatum 'Kinran'


Acer palmatum 'Kinran'



 























Acer palmatum 'Kinran'



Acer palmatum 'Kinran' is notable for bronze-red leaves in spring, and they too feature yellow-green veins. In fact the Japanese name means "woven with golden strings." In summer the leaves evolve to green, with portions of red and purple. As you see in the fall photo above, 'Kinran' can be a vibrant orange, although in some years it is more golden. Our special Corbin specimen is actually more broad than tall, but maybe its original pruning caused that. 'Kinran' will not grow as large as many but it is no dwarf either. The Corbin specimen is the largest I have ever seen, but likely there are greater ones elsewhere, such as in Japan.


Acer palmatum 'Inazuma'


Acer palmatum 'Inazuma' is the "Thunder Maple," and it has been in cultivation for well over one hundred years. One bumpkin Oregon nurseryman had trouble remembering the name, so he simply referred to it as the "big-leaves 'Bloodgood'." From a distance I guess they are similar, but 'Inazuma' has more-narrow and serrated leaves. If you grow enough red palmatum seedlings eventually you will discover an 'Inazuma' type -- I have many times – but imagine the Japanese person who first stumbled onto the original 'Inazuma' tree that was so different than the type.






















Acer japonicum 'Meigetsu'








 














Acer japonicum 'Itaya'


The final Corbin maple is Acer japonicum 'Meigetsu'. I don't have a good photo of 'Meigetsu's' fall foliage, but I remember it to be orange, red and purple, and often with some green still apparent, and such is the coloration of most japonicums. Add yellow to that as well. You won't find 'Meigetsu' in the Japanese Maple book of Vertrees/Gregory, 4th edition, but you will find Acer japonicum 'Itaya', and I can't tell the two apart. The book does go on to say that "'Itaya' and 'Itaya meigetsu' are synonyms for Acer japonicum and Acer shirasawanum." I acquired my "cultivars" from different sources, and certainly don't have the final word. I do know that Japanese names can be tricky due to the evolvement of the language. Many are used in old poetry or imply a mood or impression. The Japanese brain is not the same as ours in the west, and Linnaeus would have been as vexed as I am trying to sort it out.


 

















Acer palmatum 'Geisha Gone Wild'




 
























Acer palmatum 'Geisha Gone Wild'


Ok, to add a little spice to the Corbin section I planted an Acer palmatum 'Geisha Gone Wild', mainly because I wanted one close to my house, and especially since the afternoon sun would provide backlight. Anyone who has grown this wonderful cultivar will have his own version of its worthiness, but for me it is an exceptional doer, and we sell quite a number. We had a couple of rows far from my deck, and on summer evenings they would be glowing, and nothing lit up the scenery any better. The cultivar resulted as a vigorous mutation on an Acer palmatum 'Geisha' – itself a veritable wimp – because indeed one 'Geisha' done went wild. The same occurred in New Zealand at about the same time and was named 'Shiraz', but I wasn't aware of that when I made my introduction. I was pleased once to hear another grower claim that 'Geisha Gone Wild' was "better" than 'Shiraz'. I never planted the two next to each other so I don't know. But note that many variegated maples can produce some variability, even if scionwood comes from one tree. Every twig is potentially different. In other words, maybe one of my 'Geisha Gone Wild' can be "better" than another. Nature is nature, and horticulture is not always a cookie-cutter endeavor.


 

















Acer platanoides 'Rezek'


 

















Acer platanoides 'Rezek'



 




















Acer platanoides 'Rezek'



If 'Geisha Gone Wild' was the "spice" to the Corbin section, then Acer platanoides 'Rezek' is the bizarre. It forms a stout skinny upright and no two look alike. The foliage appears bewildered and crinkled, and in spring it looks like something you would harvest from your vegetable garden. 'Rezek' is painfully slow, and a 20-year-old tree can vary from six to twelve feet tall. I was given my start from the late Ed Rezek who would find a number of these strange mutants in his yard. My individual seedling was temporarily labelled 'Rezek' but the name stuck, even though I say that using a person's name in a cultivar is in poor form.*





Cornus x 'Dorothy'


*I'll make an exception to that pronouncement if the person being honored has a name such as Dorothy. I cut scions from Dorothy Harris's Cornus, a possible hybrid between florida and nuttallii, and named it after the sweet woman. I would have dated her (at thirty years older than myself) but I wasn't single at the time. You can learn more about Dorothy Harris at Musings from Sacred Grounds, but of course finish this blog first.


Magnolia 'Caerhay's Belle'



 



















Magnolia 'Caerhay's Belle'
























Magnolia 'Caerhay's Belle'


Dr. Corbin was a notable collector of Magnolias, and fortunately he had the space to grow them. He would occasionally climb up a tree to top graft a new cultivar, creating two trees in one. The new variety would grow vigorously and sometimes bloom by the second year. Probably his favorite of the Magnolias was 'Caerhay's Belle', which he did not double-do, and I also planted a couple in his section. It resulted from a cross of M. sargentiana var. robusta with M. sprengeri 'Diva', bred by the head gardener of Caerhay's estate in England (in 1951). The original took fourteen years to flower, but only six to eight years for me in Oregon.



Hamamelis 'Orange Peel'


 




















Hamamelis 'Orange Peel'


I also planted a Hamamelis x 'Orange Peel' and it is blooming at this time, although the cultivar wasn't in America in Dr. Corbin's time. He did grow some of the de Belder (from Belgium) selections such as Hamamelis intermedia 'Diane' and 'Jelena'. I first saw 'Orange Peel' at Royal Botanic Garden Wisley – one of my very favorite of botanic gardens – in October, and thought perhaps the cultivar name was due to the orange fall color. But it nicely blooms orange now in February.


 

















Taxodium distichum 'Peve Yellow'


Taxodium distichum 'Little Leaf'

Another notable feature of the Corbin section is a collection of deciduous conifers. Taxodium distichum 'Peve Yellow' was a Dutch selection, and the original seedling is photographed above from Vergeldt's Nursery, and it has never reverted to green. I discontinued 'Peve Yellow' from production because grafts of it could develop portions of green, both here and in Holland. Another “Bald Cypress” is Taxodium distichum 'Little Leaf'. I have described before that it was originally deemed to be “Dawn Redwood,” Metasequoia glyptostroboides. The little runt cannot be said to have any beauty; it would have been one of nature's failures if it wasn't for a kooky nurseryman. Nelis Kools of Duerne, Holland and I learned that our poor success with 'Little Leaf' was because it was in fact a Taxodium, not a Metasequoia, and our problems ended when we used the correct rootstock.


Metasequoia glyptostroboides 'Kools Gold' original tree

Metasequoia glyptostroboides 'Kools Gold' at Buchholz Nursery


Metasequoia glyptostroboides 'Kools Gold'
























Metasequoia glyptostroboides 'Matthaei Broom'



Metasequoia glyptostroboides 'Matthaei Broom'



 



















Metasequoia glyptostroboides 'Silhouette'



Metasequoia glyptostroboides 'Waasland'


 





















Metasequoia glyptostroboides 'Waasland'



I also have four Metasequoias in the Corbin garden: 'Kools Gold' (aka 'Golden Guusje' in Europe), 'Matthaei Broom', 'Silhouette' and 'Waasland', as a portion of the area is rather wet and the Dawns seem to love the extra moisture.


Acer palmatum 'Muro gawa'

There, I've discussed about 25% of the trees in this memorial garden. Earlier I forgot to include a description of Corbin's Acer palmatum 'Muro gawa', but it makes a nice presence as well. The good doctor surely loved his trees, and I look at the ones now at Flora Farm, and wonder who will “borrow” them after me.

3 comments:

  1. the first thing I said upon opening this page: DAMN!!!!
    that HOG is awesome......one of my fav's too; mine is Bonsai training....

    excellent article this entry man, and what a pretty lady, thanx for sharing duder

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  2. There is a typo in the place name of Nelis Kools: he lives in Deurne, (The Netherlands) not Duerne.
    Metasequoia glyptostroboides 'Waasland' is a selection made by the Waasland Arboretum in Nieuwkerken, Belgium.
    Love this blog and you always have such a beautiful pictures.

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  3. I am curious about the cultivar name in Acer shirasawanum 'Johin'. I have one of yours along with 30 other examples of your fine work. I look forward to seeing the pushing of new buds and leaves this spring. Keep up the great work and writing. A huge fan.

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