Friday, October 24, 2014

Singing In The Rain

Noah's Ark

Throughout our hot brutal summer I yearned for respite, for cooler temperatures and rain, good, old fashioned rain. Well, now it's here, but it's not so wonderful either. It's dark when I wake up and when I go to bed, and the interval between is a dreary gray. Nevertheless I set out on foot to tour the nursery, to see if I could find some inspiration.

Franklinia alatamaha 'Wintonbury'

Camellia sasanqua 'Setsugekka'

Gordlinia grandiflora

My walk started out in the original Display Garden which is adjacent to the office. And I was immediately gratified by the flowers of Franklinia alatamaha, and my bushy tree has been in bloom for six weeks already. Actually there are only a few blossoms now, and they are partially camouflaged by the sparkling green-to-orange leaves. Franklinia is a monotypic genus in the tea plant family (Theaceae), and the flowers are extraordinarily Camellia-like. The "Franklin Tree" is similar to Gordonia lasianthus, also native to southeast USA, and in fact there exists a bigeneric hybrid that is called Gordlinia grandiflora. Franklinia is deciduous and Gordonia is evergreen, and the hybrid is also evergreen – or at least tries to be, and that's not always a good thing. My only experience with Gordlinia is growing them in pots in the greenhouse, and I wonder how last winter's frigid snaps would have affected the foliage. For the novice horticulturists, you should know that Franklinia was originally discovered in the wild along the Alatamaha River in Georgia by the botanists John (father) and William (son) Bartram in 1765. The Bartrams collected plants and seed from a modest grove; and a good thing they did, for it was never seen again in the wild. John Bartram was close friends with Benjamin Franklin, which explains the scientific name.

Sciadopitys verticillata 'Green Star'

Near to the Franklinia is a husky specimen of Sciadopitys verticillata 'Green Star', a German selection discovered in 1984 and introduced in 1992. I guess I shouldn't say "discovered," because it was intentionally caused by a chemical treatment of seed with colchicines. This chemical was originally extracted from plants of the genus Colchicum, and was commonly used to treat gout. In the case of Wittboldt-Müller Tree Nurseries, the result was a doubling of the ploid level of the chromosomes. The stout needles of 'Green Star' are broad and thick and form a circular pattern at the end of the shoots. The attractive cultivar is in great demand, but unfortunately it does not root easily at Buchholz Nursery, and we propagate by grafting onto normal Sciadopitys. Many years pass before a specimen is grown to six feet tall, which is the size of my largest, and I'll grow these another two or three years, then price high. I've also collected 'Sternschnuppe' which looks identical to 'Green Star' – and some nurserymen think they are the same – but the English name is much more marketable in the USA.

Sciadopitys verticillata 'Picola'

Another German cultivar is Sciadopitys verticillata 'Picola', originally a seedling discovered by G.D. Böhlje Tree Nurseries of Westerstede before 1980. Thankfully we are able to root 'Picola' and we grow many of them. It is considered a dwarf – but not a miniature – and eventually it assumes a broad pyramidal form. It will grow to approximately 2' tall by 1.5' wide in ten years. Both of these "Umbrella Pine" selections are hardy to -30 degrees F, USDA zone 4.

Sciadopitys verticillata 'Gold Rush'

Sciadopitys verticillata 'Gold Rush'

Speaking of Sciadopitys verticillata, two large golden cultivars were coveted this year, 'Gold Rush' and 'Yellow Dream'. Previously, they looked pretty much the same in the shade of a distant greenhouse. Then this spring we set them out along our main road, so that everyone who visited would have to walk past them. Neither of them burned, but I could see that 'Gold Rush' displayed the more intense color, so now I can effectively discontinue production of the 'Yellow Dream'. 'Gold Rush' can be rooted, but we prefer to graft onto a green rootstock to perhaps add some extra vigor. A couple of years ago a customer purchased one of my largest specimens, which he then allowed a landscape architect to incorporate into a beautiful indoor landscape at the Seattle Flower Show. Thousands of plants were used for the show, but the landscape with the 'Gold Rush' was the runaway hit.

Anemone hupehensis 'Crispa'

Anemone x hybrida 'Honorine Jobert'

Anemone x hybrida 'Honorine Jobert'

Oops, heavy rain has arrived, so I take shelter in GH22. The noise on the poly is immense, and you can't possibly have a conversation inside. So nobody heard me when I said "Wow" at the flowers of Anemone hupehensis 'Crispa', commonly called the "Japanese Windflower," even though the specific name indicates that it is also native to Hubei Province, China. Hubei means "north of the lake," referring to Lake Donting, a large shallow flood basin of the Yangtze River, and home to the origin of dragon boat racing. Outside in the Display Garden we have a patch of A. x hybrida 'Honorine Jobert', a cross of A. hupehensis with the Himalayan A. vitifolia. I saw them yesterday when it was dry, but I'm still inside GH22 looking for more stimulation.

Bergenia 'Angel Kiss'

Bergenia 'Lunar Glow'

Bergenia 'Lunar Glow'

I find it with Bergenia 'Angel Kiss', where a few late blooms are still present, but fantastic fall foliage is yet to come. The company I buy the patented liners from doesn't bother to name a species or the hybrid parents, which is annoying, because the implications it that we don't need to know. Anyway, since we have sold out this year I should probably order more. The same with B. 'Lunar Glow', a selection with dark pink flowers and creamy yellow leaves on portions of the plant. My interest in Bergenia began early, as it was present in both of my grandmother's gardens, and also I saw it – probably B. ciliata – in the Himalaya growing on steep drippy rock cliffs.

Rodgersia 'Bronze Peacock' in summer

Rodgersia 'Bronze Peacock' in fall

Rodgersia 'Bronze Peacock'

Across from the Bergenia is Rodgersia 'Bronze Peacock', and one lone flower has recently developed, when all the others bloomed last summer. Once again this cultivar, from the same Bergenia company, does not provide us with any specific information. The genus is native to eastern Asia, and was named for Admiral John Rodgers who was commander of the expedition when it was discovered in 1850, and that was the species podophylla. The bronze-colored leaves can get huge, when happy, and the plant makes a bold architectural statement in the garden. 'Bronze Peacock' requires a good deal of sunlight so that the leaves don't go green, and it thrives best in moist soil.

Oxydendrum arboreum 'Chameleon'

Oxydendrum arboreum 'Chameleon'

Augustin Pyramus de Candolle
Oxydendrum arboretum 'Chameleon' is turning orange-red in GH22, while our oldest specimen in the landscape is still mostly green. The photos above are from a previous year. The genus name is derived from the Greek oxys and dendron, meaning "sour tree," referring to the sour taste of the leaves. Arboreum, of course, means "tree-like." I could never figure out why Oxydendrum was spelled with drum and not dron, and it has always seemed wrong to me. The species name is redundant in my opinion, but it was coined by the Swiss botanist A. p. de Candolle (1778-1841), a man who originated the idea of "Nature's War," a concept which had great influence over Charles Darwin with his principle of "natural selection."

Oxydendrum arboreum 'Chameleon'

Early in my career I grew Oxydendrum seedlings into landscape size, but I found them to be extremely variable in size and shape, to the point where they never became a "crop." Some were skinny and weak while others were full and vigorous, and I found that I was tossing away too many as unsalable. Now we root one cultivar, 'Chameleon', and we find more consistency in our production. The employment of this cultivar name is curious, and I assume it refers to the green leaves that turn to red in autumn. The origin of chameleon is khamai, for "on the ground" and leon for "lion," i.e. a "ground lion" or lizard. The plant Chamomile shares the same root, since it too is found on the ground. Interestingly, Oxydendrum is in the Ericaceae (Heath) family, and one of its common names is – OMG! – "titi titi tree." Genetically the "Sourwood's" closest relatives are in the genera of Pieris and Lyonia. It was used by Native Americans for treating menstrual and menopause problems, diarrhea and a sedative for the nerves, while early colonists used it for brewing "spring tonic," a root beer-like concoction combined with water or whiskey. I'll take a shot of that!

Hemerocallis 'Kwanso'

It was still raining hard, so I dashed from GH22 into GH20. There was no way that I could miss the Hemerocallis 'Kwanso', a variegated-leaved form of the "Day Lily." Generally I don't care for the genus but I acknowledge their usability in a wide – and tough- array of landscapes. 'Kwanso' is grown primarily for the green and white foliage, and the only problem is that it can revert to the basic green, but when it is lustfully colored it is remarkable. The genus name is derived from hemera for "a day" and kallos for "beauty." The odd thing is that while the flowers are short-lived, they always last more than one day at Buchholz Nursery.

Rhododendron macrosepalum 'Linearifolium'

Rhododendron macrosepalum 'Linearifolium'

Rhododendron macrosepalum 'Linearifolium' continues to bloom. It has been cultivated in Japan since 1808, and was first classified by Philipp von Siebold, but the narrow-leaf form of macrosepalum has never been found in the wild. To complicate matters, the new (2004) Hillier Manual of Trees and Shrubs now lists it as R. stenopetalum 'Linearifolium'. I won't immediately jump on board for the change, for it is a hassle to change our system, labels, sales etc., but eventually I'll come around. Stenopetalum simply means "narrow-petaled," but I don't have any information on what justified the name change. In any case, the plant is commonly called the "Spider Azalea," and the narrow lobes are now changing to orange-purple. Many leaves will fall, but at least half will remain on the bush throughout winter.

Ilex serrata 'Koshobai'

We got a call this morning from a repeat customer who wanted to add more Ilex serrata 'Koshobai' to their order. And of course they do, for the cuties are daintily berried at this time. In Japanese koshobai means "peppercorn," as the tiny berries are barely larger than the period at the end of this sentence, but at least they are borne in profusion. The berries are bright orange-red, and all visitors smile with delight when they see the plant. An added bonus is that 'Koshobai' is parthenocarpic – which literally means "virgin fruit" – and so it can produce berries without a male, and therefore the fruits are seedless. We propagate by rooted cuttings under mist in July-August. A ten-year-old bush will only grow to 2' tall by 2' wide, and I have 'Koshobai' scattered throughout my gardens.

Euscaphis japonica

Euscaphis japonica

I have long championed the "Korean Sweetheart Tree," Euscaphis japonica. Though long known in Japan – it was classified by Thunberg as Sambucus japonica – it was also rediscovered by the late J.C. Raulston in Korea in 1985. Nurseryman Don Shadow of Tennessee coined its common name due to its heart-shaped red berries. The origin of the genus name is eu meaning "good" and scaphis meaning "vessel," referring to the seed pod. When the seed capsules open, small shiny-black seeds appear which contrast nicely with the red flesh. Euscaphis has proven hardy to -10 degrees, USDA zone 6; and Krussmann in Cultivated Broad-Leaved Trees & Shrubs apparently didn't have any knowledge of the more hardy Korean strain, for he lists it to USDA zone 9. For me Euscaphis is an ornamental, but to the Chinese the wood is used for furniture, oil from the seeds is used for making soap, tannin is extracted from the bark and the roots are used medicinally. To most plantsmen Euscaphis looks like another Euonymus species, but Euscaphis is in the Staphyleaceae family while Euonymus is in the Celastraceae family. I do not consider Euscaphis to be a mere BIO plant (Botanical Interest Only) because all parts of the plant are attractive to me.

Schefflera delavayi

Schefflera macrophylla

Schefflera macrophylla

There is one enormous blossom flower spike on a 1 gallon pot of Schefflera delavayi, but the other 99 are still too young to bloom. The panicle is nearly three feet long, and I wonder how the roots of the little plant can support such an inflorescence, and what prompted it to show off in the first place. S. delavayi is a nice enough plant, but I wouldn't call it great, and it surprises me that it is exceedingly popular with plant nerds right now. I expect the time will come when you can't give them away, or that we'll find them for cheap at the box stores. The species is hardy to USDA zone 7, and comes from a wide range in southern China. It was first collected by Pere Delavay in Yunnan, China in 1889. More impressive than S. delavayi is S. macrophylla, although it is not very hardy. A large macrophylla is housed in the conservatory at the Rhododendron Species Garden in Washington state.

Polygonum cuspidatum 'Freckles'

I'm still inside due to our monumental rainstorm. The foliage of Polygonum cuspidatum 'Freckles' is catchy, and I thought that the red flower spikes would be appealing as well. My start came from Plant Delights Nursery in North Carolina, the company that introduced it. But the strange problem, as you can see, is that my flowers are white. I am currently waiting for their explanation.

Ah, the explanation was prompt and professional. According to Tony Avent, "All of the red-flowered Polygonums emerge with white flowers that then change to red." But then he adds, "I'm also curious if it will still change to red in your climate."

Salvia microphylla 'Hot Lips'

Salvia microphylla 'Hot Lips' is still in flower, and has been since June. I didn't really want it, but someone gave it to me anyway, and now I have to admit that it is a fun plant. My objection is that it will always remain in the greenhouse, for it is only hardy to USDA zone 8, 10 degrees above 0. The species is a perennial shrub from Arizona and Mexico, and in Mexico it is commonly known as mirto de montes, or "myrtle of the mountains." It is used as a medicinal plant, but I don't know if it is actually effective, but at least you can use it for making tea. It is one of the dozens of plants in GH20 that we'll never propagate and that take up room, which is why we call GH20 the "no-profit" house. But many visitors would consider GH20 to be the "most-fun" house, however.

Enough. Back to the office I go to dry off. I learn that we'll have days and days of heavy rain, so at least we can accomplish many inside tasks. But when will we receive respite from the drenching rain?

"C'mon Buchholz. You nurserymen are always complaining about the weather."

1 comment:

  1. Talon, can you provide any insight into the so-called "golden cultivars" of conifers? Why do they do it? How do they do it? Where does the chlorophyll go? Is the process the same for all species?
    I enjoy your fascinating blog.
    Stu in Bend