Friday, October 10, 2014

The View From The Top



Flora Wonder Arboretum


You have seen the above photo before; in fact it was chosen by y'all as last winter's photo contest winner. The recipient received a 12" x 18" print beautifully mounted on a bamboo board, and she asked me the identity of the first maple in the foreground. I replied Acer palmatum 'Shaina', but that was wrong; it is Acer palmatum 'Mikawa yatsubusa, with 'Shaina' a row beyond it. I admit that plants in the foreground look like a jumble, but that's because of my angle looking down the hill, and really they were in neat rows, 4 feet apart. Now this section has been completely cleared, so a duplicate photo can never again appear, and sadly, the money from these trees has already been spent.

Saya Buchholz


I remember that I took the photo on Saturday, Oct. 5, 2013 at 9:45 AM, after I returned from driving my daughter Saya to all-day Japanese school. I relish this chore: to be alone with her in the car, which I always warm up on cold mornings, and then I walk her into the school building. There are many hundreds of Japanese kids in the Portland area, and they all arrive at about the same time. All are enthusiastic and healthy it seems, and their beautiful faces make me want to adopt all of them.

Sammy sitting like people

I also have a print – a larger one – of this contest winner – and it sits on a bench in our kitchen. The old couch across the large room is where I sit with the dog, and we both sniff our noses as my wife prepares food. So I spend a lot of time looking into the photo...lost in thought. Sometimes Haruko will ask a question or make a comment and I am scolded for not listening. As I age, she reminds me, I don't pay attention as much as I used to. That's probably true, but still, I love her far more than when we first married.

Come with me then, as the arrow(s) will point to the tree(s) in question, and you'll learn a little bit about this part of the Flora Wonder Arboretum. I'll use photos from other locations, just so you know, if they are better.

Acer palmatum 'Mikawa yatsubusa'

Acer palmatum 'Mikawa yatsubusa'

Acer palmatum 'Mikawa yatsubusa'




Acer palmatum 'Mikawa yatsubusa'
Again, the round blobs in the foreground are Acer palmatum 'Mikawa yatsubusa'. My oldest tree, pictured above, is probably 40-45 years old, and is the largest specimen that I have ever seen. Is it the largest in the world? It could be, but I doubt it. For example, where is the original? – Japan I suppose, but Masayoshi Yano, author of Book for Maples, has not seen one larger than mine. I have been asked a few times if it is for sale. The answer is "Yes, of course, but you have to buy the whole farm to get it." Ha ha...but I'm serious. We don't harvest scions from my big tree anymore, although we do collect seed from it. Across the road are many maples in 20" cedar boxes, including red cultivars. Our goal is to hopefully discover a red seedling with the same form, which we would name 'Beni mikawa yatsubusa'.

I'll admonish all of you growers and collectors of Acer one more time, to focus on the korrect spelling. Most lists I see contain numerous errors. With Mikawa yatsubusa, the "M" is capitalized but the "y" is not. If there was a Beni mikawa yatsubusa, the "B" is capitalized, but the "m" and "y" are not. And that is the law for all maples with Japanese names. 'Beni yubi gohon', 'Oshio beni' and 'Sode no uchi' are correct, so don't do it any other way. With English names, you can capitalize all of the word beginnings. 'Purple Ghost', 'Crimson Queen' and 'Autumn Moon' are correct, and even 'Villa Taranto' which comes from Italy. Those are the rules – the simple rules – and I am not asking for rocket science. And by the way, knock off with the variety dissectum, for laceleafs, such as Acer palmatum var. dissectum 'Viridis' and Acer palmatum var. dissectum 'Crimson Queen'. It's unnecessary. Besides, you don't list Acer palmatum var. palmatum for 'Bloodgood' and 'Fireglow'. Linnaeus was probably a boring, arrogant nerd, but he did provide a scientific framework for how people from many countries could communicate accurately about plants, animals, everything. So do you part with maples, err Acers.

























Acer palmatum 'Shaina'


Acer palmatum 'Shaina'
Acer palmatum 'Shaina' originated as a witch's broom mutation on an old Acer palmatum f. atropurpureum at the Red Maple Nursery in Pennsylvania. Richard Wolff named it 'Shaina' in 1984, and I think I remember that it was named after his daughter. I hope his daughter is good looking because Shaina in Yiddish means "beautiful," but I don't know if the Wolffs were Jewish. I received my first 'Shaina' about twenty years ago, from the now defunct Duncan & Davies Nursery from New Zealand. 'Shaina' is a great cultivar, but I never seem to have the correct number on hand; I've been long or short most of the time. Some years 50 for sale is too many, and other years 100 is not enough. But if you see them on my sales list you're advised to buy them, for they are always well-grown and priced fairly, just like the rest of my trees.

























Cornus kousa 'Summer Fun'

Intern Yuto disgusted with Cornus kousa 'Wolf Eyes'


Cornus kousa 'Summer Fun'
You can see the tops of a row of Cornus kousa 'Summer Fun', and it surprises many people that 'Fun' can take full sun. When they go into the ground as small trees, they might burn a little, but when the roots are established they grow perfectly well. Of course I'm speaking for those in Oregon with irrigation. I grew and sold C. k. 'Wolf Eyes' for a while, because of its name recognition, but it's really inferior to 'Summer Fun'. Leaves of 'Wolf Eyes' curl up in hot weather and the tree looks stressed and miserable. I know some large companies are now peddling 'Summer Fun', but I don't recall anyone asking me if that would be ok. I didn't patent it, so it's hoyle to propagate and grow as many as you want. Just don't ruin the market by growing too many, then dumping them cheap.

























Acer pseudosieboldianum


Acer pseudosieboldianum
Also fun in the foreground, though you can barely see one, is a grove of seven Acer pseudosieboldianum. The species is very winter-hardy and it displays fantastic autumn foliage, but it is not admired for its gangly form. You can improve on that with pruning, but it's kind of like with Acer circinatum seedlings, where they're best presented in clumps. I'll admit that I got the idea of a grove of pseudosieboldianum from the famous English garden at...well, I can't remember. The trees in my Flora Wonder photo are not yet showing their famous fall color, but the photos above prove that it will come, with oranges, reds and purples as good as with any Acer species. The "Korean Maple" is similar to Acer palmatum, and the two species can be compatibly grafted onto each other, but why would one want to reduce the hardiness of USDA zone 4 pseudo. by borrowing the rootstock of USDA zone 5 palmatum? What seems bizarre is that I know of no cultivars of pseudo, when there are more than a thousand cultivars of palmatum. Breeding efforts were underway ten or more years ago to hybridize the seedling pseudos with palmatum cultivars – and I even played a part in this effort, but eventually the breeder ditched me and I got nothing for my trouble. From that point on I've had no use for Chicago's Morton Arboretum, and indeed ,the breeder later skipped town for greener Wisconsin pastures. Acer sieboldianum is a Japanese species, named for Philipp von Siebold, and it is known for yellowish-green flowers, while Acer pseudosieboldianum is known for purple flowers. Certainly a better specific name could have been chosen for the "Korean Maple."

Quercus garryana

Quercus garryana

Quercus garryana


Quercus garryana
Let's go long now...to the two large orbs in the middle of the photo. They are 100 year-old-plus specimens of the "Oregon Oak," Quercus garryana. Actually there are three of them – my Three Amigos – one barely seen to the left, which suggests that they were man-planted as they are parallel to my eastern property line. The species was introduced by David Douglas and named for Nicholas Garry, a deputy governor of the Hudson's Bay Company, a functionary who assisted Douglas in his botanic explorations. The species used to be abundant in western Oregon, in fact my hometown of Forest Grove was renamed from Tualatin Plains due to an impressive group of oaks on the present-day campus of Pacific University.


Haruko's crashing branch

In addition to my Three Amigos, I have a huge garryana in my front yard, estimated to be over 300 years old, and it hangs over our driveway. My wife returned home recently, and as she got out of the car she was startled by a thunderous crash, as a three-foot diameter branch was severed. By coincidence I returned home shortly thereafter, where Haruko stood frozen with tears in her eyes. Yikes, that was close.

I have over 100 photos of Quercus garryana in my photo library, proof of my affinity toward the species. Some are from my property and the remainder from the hills and valleys of Oregon. Remember that our website contains only a portion, so as not to exhaust you.

























Pseudotsuga menziesii






















Pseudotsuga menziesii


The original Pseudotsuga menziesii 'Graceful Grace'


Pseudotsuga menziesii
Pseudotsuga menziesii 'Graceful Grace'
The large trees beyond the oaks are Pseudotsuga menziesii, the "Douglas Fir," which are on my neighbor's property. She "owns" them, but I borrow them for free whenever I feel like it, as in this photo. In the past the species was known as Pinus taxifolia, then Abies taxifolia. Today it is classified as Pseudotsuga menziesii (Mirbel) Franco. Mirbel (1776-1854) was a French botanist who recorded the name as Abies menziesii. Franco was a Portuguese botanist, who in 1950 provided compelling proof for the "correct" name, or at least for now. The pendulous cultivar 'Graceful Grace' is partially visible in the photo, just beyond the maples.


Cryptomeria japonica 'Yoshino'



























Cryptomeria japonica 'Yoshino'



Cryptomeria japonica 'Yoshino'
The pyramidal conifers to the left of the oaks are a grove of Cryptomeria japonica 'Yoshino'. The trees feature fresh green foliage with reddish-brown bark, and from a distance they could be mistaken for Sequoiadendron. 'Yoshino' can reach forty feet tall and as a solo specimen it has a grand appearance, tending not to bronze in winter, at least in Oregon. As a fast-growing tall hedge, 'Yoshino' is perfect, and it is hardy to USDA zone 5, or -20 degrees F. I like the sound of yoshino, and as a Japanese person's name it means "respectful" or "good." I don't know much about the origin of the cultivar name, but from Japan of course, and there is a town named Yoshino in the Nara Prefecture. According to the American Conifer Society's website, 'Yoshino' originated in the 1920's, and "has been in North American commerce since 1938," and this fact is attributed to Jacobson in North American Landscape Trees.




























Chamaecyparis nootkatensis 'Van den Akker'


Chamaecyparis nootkatensis 'Van den Akker'
The skinny creatures with the drooping branches are eleven Chamaecyparis nootkatensis 'Van den Akker'. Thousands of bicyclists and motorists pass by my Upper Gardens, and they must wonder about such a ridiculous group of trees, like "what's the point?" An exclamation mark* is the point, but then I've always been a fan of the skinny, and I think they're cool. Van den Akker was a Washington state landscaper of Dutch descent. The original plant of this "Weeping Alaska Cedar" was on the property of someone else, but Van den Akker was the first to propagate and distribute the clone, and he chose to name it after himself. He also named an Acer palmatum 'Van den Akker', so apparently he was very fond of his name. I would never saddle a plant with the Buchholz name – I would be too embarrassed for that. The Chamaecyparis is like an arrow shooting into the sky, but frequently at the base will arise competing spikes, so that one gets the impression of a forest with just one tree. I've decided to let my trees grow natural and not prune the base, and I've seen large trees grown this way in Washington, and they add a fantastic element to the landscape, especially when planted next to large corporate buildings.

*I originated the "exclamation mark in the landscape" description years ago, but I have discovered other plantsmen borrowing the terminology. That's ok I guess, and I borrow too. I even borrow from myself, like when I tell my children a joke. At first they groan, then when I unknowingly retell it later they ignore me.


























Cercis canadensis 'Appalachian Red'


Cercis canadensis 'Appalachian Red'
One tree is barely visible in the photo: Cercis canadensis 'Appalachian Red'. While this cultivar of "Redbud" is barely noticeable in the fog, it presents itself bombastically every March-April when in flower. I'm not sure if I really like the flower color, and kind of like with Crepe Myrtles, they look surreal or fake. 'Appalachian Red' was discovered in its namesake mountains, along a road in Maryland. Yes, the Appalachians occur in the eastern end of Maryland. The genus name is due to long seed pods which resemble a weavers shuttle, or kerkis in Greek.




Catalpa bignonioides 'Nana'


Catalpa bignonioides 'Nana'
Another tree that I've long enjoyed is Catalpa bignonioides 'Nana'. Forgive the Latin cultivar name, as it was selected in France about 1850. It is a compact bush with a dense round form and hardy to -20 degrees F, USDA zone 5. C. bignonioides is commonly known as the "Indian Bean Tree," referring to the native Americans, not India, as it is native to southeastern USA. Glossy heart-shaped green leaves taper to a point, then turn yellow in autumn. The species needs some age before flowering, and my dwarf has not yet done so. The type will bloom in July-August, in large panicles of white with yellow and purple markings. Flowers are followed by long seed pods, or "beans," which can develop to a foot long. The flowers are considered perfect, in that they contain both stamens and pistils, i.e. their reproductive parts, but the developmental delay ensures that they don't pollinate themselves.


Sambucus nigra 'Pyramidalis'

























Sambucus nigra 'Pyramidalis'


Sambucus nigra 'Pyramidalis'
Sambucus nigra is the "Common Elder," and it is known for its sweet fragrance when in flower (cream-white) in June. Heavy cluster of shiny black fruits develop in late summer and they are edible – if pigeons don't get to them first. My father used the fruits to make wine, but he didn't have the recipe down correctly and it tasted terrible. Meanwhile my grandmother used the tiny black berries to make jelly, and that was good. Anyway the cultivar in the photo is 'Pyramidalis', and it makes an attractive compact pillar of green. I like it in winter as well, when the heavily fissured gray bark is revealed. We used to propagate this slow-growing cultivar, but sales were never good, and now you miss out on a nice plant.


Pinus flexilis 'Vanderwolf Pyramid'


Pinus flexilis 'Vanderwolf Pyramid'
One final tree that I'll discuss is Pinus flexilis 'Vanderwolf Pyramid', a compact selection of the "Limber Pine." With our heavy candle-pruning, and in our lush soils, nobody grows a better specimen than we do. The silver-blue needles glisten in full sun, and they are soft to the touch. Flexilis is hardy to USDA zone 4, or -30 degrees F, so it is a perfect little tree. Right? Well, no, actually not. Sales have dried up, and I have only one final crop to sell; so help me out and buy some. In the 1990's, up until about 2009, sales were tremendous, and every Tom, Dick and Harry had fields with hundreds of 'Vanderwolfs'. Prices plummeted as nurseries panicked and floundered, and selling at any price seemed better than bulldozing and burning. I could call out a few guilty parties on that, but I won't, even though they did none of us any good. The last straw was to see 'Vanderwolfs' for cheap at a box store, actually for much less than my wholesale price. They looked like crap with their undersized balls, the roots wrapped up in orange plastic twine that will eventually girdle the tree and kill it, but...they were cheap.

I hate to end the blog on a depressing note, and as I've said before: for me business is good, but not great. What is great however, is the view from the top of my Flora Wonder Arboretum. That perspective was what I planned all along when I bought the property, to provide enjoyment to the public, and to encourage appreciation for trees. It's nice to make a living that way.


"Thank you Talon, that was wonderful."

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