Friday, September 12, 2014

Happy Coming Home

When I come home from work and enter my driveway at Flora Farm, to my left is the FF Maple Field which is a collection primarily of maples, but which also contains a number of other exciting plants. The field is 800' long by 110' wide, or slightly over two acres, and the trees are given plenty of space...for now. Some day – when my beard is down to my waist – I'm sure that the canopies will touch. I say that nothing is for sale, but I've said that before with other arboretum specimens, only to succumb to the almighty dollar. Previously we had row crops there, but I tired of driving by and seeing sales craters; I just wanted the scenery to make me happy before I walk into the house.

Stewartia monadelpha
Reuben Hatch with Paeonia 'Joseph Rock'

Gladiolus dalenii 'Bolivian Peach'
Oxalis bowiei
First of all I pass an impressive specimen of Stewartia monadelpha, a tree that really anchors the collection. It is 50-55 years old, and was gifted to me by plantsman Reuben Hatch when his property was developed. Beneath the Stewartia was a patch of various Erythronium species and their offspring hybrids. The flowers endured the transplant and treat me to a nice display every spring. Hatch has given me hundreds of plants over the years, most of which I am happy about – but not the bamboo! – and often there'll be a two-for-one surprise. One example was a pot of Gladiolus dalenii 'Bolivian Peach'; but earlier in the spring the wonderful Oxalis bowiei appeared in the same pot, then bloomed.

Daphne x burkwoodii 'Briggs Moonlight'

Daphne x burkwoodii 'Briggs Moonlight'

Daphne x burkwoodii 'Briggs Moonlight'

Near the Stewartia is a cheerful Daphne x burkwoodii 'Briggs Moonlight'. The plant is outstanding, but the name is not. Simply 'Moonlight' would have been better, for there was no need for Briggs Nursery to throw their name into the mix. The x burkwoodii hybrid was achieved by crossing D. cneorum (from Europe) with D. caucasica (from the Caucasus region), and plants will be deciduous or semi-evergreen depending on the climate. Last winter my plant was decidedly deciduous, but since it's hardy to -20 degrees F, USDA zone 5, it came through the winter in good shape. Also important is that it can be grown in full Oregon sun without any burning. It was discovered as a sport on Daphne x burkwoodii 'Carol Mackie', itself variegated but much less impressive. Flowers are light pink and highly fragrant, but whatever you do, do not eat anything for all parts are poisonous. 'Moonlight' does not set seed, as the flowers are sterile, but then seedlings probably wouldn't come true anyway. The variegation is 99.9% stable, but every once-in-awhile I have to snip out a green twig.

Davidia involucrata 'Lady Sunshine'

Also at the top of my driveway is Davidia involucrata 'Lady Sunshine'. I planted it near the back-hedge of Thuja plicata 'Green Sport' so it could receive some late afternoon shade, and also to highlight it to greater advantage with a dark back-drop. As I said, I want to be happy when I come home. 'Lady Sunshine' was found at Crispin's Creations Nursery in Oregon, and I assume as a sport though I don't know for sure. When I see it I wish that Armand David (the discoverer of Davidia) and E.H. Wilson (the Davidia introducer to Europe) could come back for a day and see the variations of Davidia cultivars, just as I wish that Bach could come back to know that we still play his music, and that he didn't labor in vain.

Hamamelis x intermedia 'Strawberries & Cream'

An exciting new Hamamelis – for me anyway – is x intermedia 'Strawberries and Cream'. It blooms February/March on leafless stems, and the flowers especially shine with the sun as back-light on the rare sunny days of winter. Flowers consist of four narrow, crinkled petals which are light yellow at the tip, but which gradually turn to red at the base, while the calyx cup is purple. The x intermedia hybrid is between H. japonica and H. mollis (Latin for "soft"), and it occurred at the Arnold Arboretum by chance, and it was discovered by employee William Judd in 1928. The term hamamelis is Greek for "together with fruit," referring to the fact that flowers and fruit are present at the same time, which in the plant world is unusual. The common name of "witch hazel" is because the leaves are similar to the leaves of hazel trees (though not botanically), and the "witch" connotation is due to the use of the "wych elm" (Ulmus glabra) in Britain for its pliable stems, similar to the wych – or "witch" hazel branches. For what it's worth, only six x intermedia cultivars have gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit – 'Arnold Promise', 'Angelly', 'Pallida', 'Barmstedt Gold', 'Jelena' and 'Diane'; but they better get with it as there are a lot of great new cultivars being developed.

Liquidambar styraciflua 'Slender Silhouette'

Sciadopitys verticillata 'Mr. Happy'

Other non-maples in the Maple Field are Liquidambar styraciflua 'Slender Silhouette', Sinowilsonia henryi, Daphniphyllum himalaense ssp. macropodum and Styrax japonicus 'Pink Compacta' (an invalid name – from Japan no less). A few conifers in the field include Pinus strobus 'Mini Twists', Picea abies 'Gold Drift' and Sciadopitys verticillata 'Mr. Happy' – the original tree – and a few others.

Acer carpinifolium

Ok, now to the maples. One species, that doesn't look like a maple is Acer carpinifolium, so-named due to its resemblance to Carpinus, or the hornbeams. This Japanese species forms a small tree with a dense round canopy, but I like it for its fresh green leaves in spring. Unfortunately in autumn the leaves turn yellowish, then brown, and these persist on the tree through the winter, and only drop when new growth emerges in spring. In other words, you have a dead tree for half a year.

Acer caudatifolium ssp. multiserratum

Another tree in the field was sold to me as Acer caudatum ssp. multiserrulatum, but the supplier has had a lot of invalid species names. De Beaulieu gives the subspecies no credence in his An Illustrated Guide to Maples, while Hillier in Manual of Trees and Shrubs refers to it as subspecies multiserratum – not multiserrulatum. I'm sure that most of you don't care about what I quibble over, but I just want to be sure that when the botanical elites – Peter Gregory, Masayoshi Yano, Piet de Jong etc. come to visit, that they don't scoff at my plant labels. My tree suffered some winter damage a few years ago, and since I couldn't sell it, or even be sure of its true identity, into the maple ground it went. That's what is great about owning a 60 acre farm, and perhaps the future maple cognoscenti will eventually sort it all out for me. In the meantime I enjoy the griseum-like exfoliating copper bark. Acer caudatifolium (not caudatum) ssp. multiserratum was first collected by E.H. Wilson in 1907 in China, and again I wish more than anything that he would come back – even for five minutes, when I would pepper him with at least 100 questions.

Acer circinatum 'Baby Buttons'

Acer circinatum 'Baby Buttons'

At the top, by my mailbox, are three Acer circinatum 'Baby Buttons', to date the most dwarf of all Acer circinatum least that I know of. It was found next to Hwy. 205 by an ex-employee who noticed the grapefruit-size witch's broom while he was going 65 miles per hour. This ex-employee perhaps feels entitled to name it something else, but since he was overpaid anyway, and since we grafted it onto my rootstock, in my greenhouse, and was nurtured by my employees...I first published its name as 'Baby Buttons' – not 'Interchange 205', for heaven's sake! This former employee extinguished himself and was eventually canned from the company which turned out to be a great addition by subtraction. In the greenhouses 'Baby Buttons' can grow rapid with semi-large leaves – similar to the other circinatum brooms – but after all, when in the ground they will grow no larger than the buttons on my shirt. So far my only disappointment is that the leaves turn to a crappy orange-brown, in spite that the species is noted for outstanding fall color. But perhaps other growers will experience something different. More than one nurseryman is required to make a credible plant description.

Acer griseum

The Maple Field also contains Acer griseum, as I have one tree of the species by itself, one as a three-clump specimen, as well as the cultivar A. griseum 'Susanna' – a very wide-canopied form – and A. griseum 'Narrow Form' named for obvious reasons. E.H. Wilson was initially sent to China by the Veitch Nursery to collect Davidia, and was instructed to "stick to the one thing you are after, and don't spend time and money wandering about. Probably every worthwhile plant in China has now been introduced to Europe." Wrong, James Veitch. Wilson did far more than wander about with his introduction of Acer griseum, and he also collected Actinidia deliciosa (Kiwi fruit), Clematis armandii, Ilex pernyi, Jasminum mesnyi and more. Acer griseum was named due to the gray (Latin griseus) down on new leaves by the botanist Maxwell T. Masters. Too bad that Wilson wasn't in charge of the naming, maybe he would have chosen magnifica or regale or exfoliatus or something more exciting. But that's botanists for you: they always seem to pick a minor detail and run with it.

Acer x 'Sugarflake'

Acer x 'Cinnamon Flake'

Speaking of botanists, one eminent European says that Acer griseum will not hybridize with Acer saccharum (Sugar Maple), and that my introduction of Acer x 'Sugarflake' is just an unusual form of saccharum. I don't know, as I am not eminent, but look at the trunk photo above, for it sure looks like there is some griseum going on. Also, I know that griseum is compatible with saccharum as rootstock. Furthermore 'Sugarflake' was found in a seed bed of Acer griseum. Also in the same field is Acer x 'Cinnamon Flake', a cross of A. maximowiczianum with A. griseum. The same botanist does allow for that hybrid to be valid, but he says the cross is not "interesting." Of course not, for an old sourpuss botanist.

Acer macrophyllum 'Seattle Sentinel'

I have a tall specimen of Acer macrophyllum 'Seattle Sentinel', a cultivar that I don't propagate anymore due to poor sales. I've always been a fan of the skinny, and when you think about it, probably at least half of the species in horticulture feature a narrow cultivar. 'Seattle Sentinel' was found (as a street tree) in 1951 and named by Brian Mulligan, director of the Washington Park Arboretum in Seattle. I hope the original still exists, and if anybody knows its location I would love to know. One of the original propagules is planted next to the parking lot of the adjacent Japanese Garden, where I got my start thirty years ago.


Acer japonicum 'Taki no gawa'

Acer japonicum 'Emmett's Pumpkin'


Acer japonicum 'Yama kage'

Acer japonicum 'Giant Moon'

Acer japonicum 'Giant Moon'

Acer japonicum 'Aki hi'

The Maple Field contains three cultivars of Acer japonicum: 'Taki no gawa', 'Emmett's Pumpkin' and the late Jim Schmidt's introduction of 'Yama kage'. Maybe this fall I should plant a few more, because the species is so colorful in fall and interesting in spring with its flowers, and one can never have too many japonicums, as long as room allows. 'Taki no gawa' colors well, but does not seem so different than the type. The explanation might be due to the claim by de Beaulieu in An Illustrated Guide to Maples that "the leaves of American trees differ from those of their European counterparts. The latter have larger leaves with deeper lobes..." 'Emmett's Pumpkin' displays orange hues on spring leaves before turning to green, then fall colors range from orange to red. 'Yama kage' also has great fall color, but it was selected for leaves larger than the type. So was my introduction of A. j. 'Giant Moon' and so does Vergeldt's A. j. 'Aki hi'. If I was aware of the other two at the time of naming 'Giant Moon', I wouldn't have bothered.

Acer palmatum 'Killarney'

For a number of years I have grown a few Acer palmatum 'Killarney'. It is an upright spreading cultivar with green leaves, but frankly I always considered it a non-event. Then a couple of years ago the American branch of the Maple Society included a visit to Charlie Morgan's Amazing Maples company. The timing was perfect, for most of his trees had come into fall color at the same time – which has never happened to me. As you can see from the photo above the leaves of 'Killarney' were colored an orange-pink, an unusual color compared the reds and golds of other cultivars. Vertrees in Japanese Maples describes the same color, but that it evolves to "fiery red." I assume (but don't know for sure) that its origin is Killarney, Ireland, which is located at the southwestern tip of the Emerald Island. Killarney in Irish is Cill Airne, meaning "church of sloes," with sloe referring to the fruit of Prunus spinosa. 'Killarney' has been celebrated in a number of English songs, such as "My Father Was Born in Killarney – Don't Run Down The Irish" and "Oh My Lily of Killarney."

Acer palmatum 'Geisha Gone Wild'

Acer palmatum 'Mikazuki'

Acer palmatum 'Rainbow'

Back to the Maple Field, I have a couple of my own palmatum introductions included: Acer palmatums 'Geisha Gone Wild', 'Mikazuki' and 'Rainbow'. The 'Rainbow' is prone to revert, unfortunately, but I thought that growing one in the ground would be better than the coddled ones in the containers at the nursery. We will see. 'Mikazuki' benefits from PM shade, but my tree is in full blazing sun, and it looks a bit dull by now. The same is true with the 'Geisha Gone Wild' with the earlier leaves, but a foot of new growth has shot out in the last month, so it remains very attractive.

Acer palmatum 'Ariadne'

I purposely planted Acer palmatum 'Ariadne' close to the road so I could enjoy its two weeks of beauty every spring. New growth appears in pastel shades of light orange and pink and seems to be most feminine at that time. Now it is a haggard old hag however, and I can't wait for the leaves to fall. In my experience fall color is orange-red, but I have learned over the years that fall color can vary under different growing conditions and climates. I would say that there are exceptions to the proclaimed colors in the various maple books.

Acer palmatum 'Wakehurst Pink'

Acer palmatum 'Wakehurst Pink' was introduced by the Dutch nursery Firma Esveld in the 1980's, but the original tree is growing at Wakehurst Place Gardens in England. Dutch nurserymen always carry a pair of secateurs apparently, and they're known to roam all over Europe in search of new plants. Anyway 'Wakehurst Pink' has a pinkish hue in spring, then it evolves to bronze green with some pink portions. In my greenhouse by mid-September the foliage is a dull green, and you wouldn't imagine why anyone would want one. I don't recall its fall color, but I'm only a month away from finding out.

Acer palmatum 'Ikandi'

Acer shirasawanum 'Shogun'

Acer palmatum 'Japanese Princess'

Finally, I also planted out a number of individual seedlings from named cultivars. This trial might or might not lead to any new selections, time will tell. I have hundreds of these seedlings in containers at the nursery, but when I plant them out they must face the "real" world, the relentless summer sun, frigid winters and months of almost-steady rain. They will be fun to get to know, as some have already been named and are in production, such as 'Ikandi', 'Mikazuki', 'Shogun', 'Japanese Princess' and more. Old Buchholz is fairly happy going home.

Acer palmatum seedlings from named cultivars

Acer palmatum seedlings from named cultivars

Acer palmatum seedlings from named cultivars


  1. I always enjoy your blogs.

    Today especially; I love the connection with Armand David and Bach! Wonderful!

    Kind regards,

    Paul Jerskey

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