Frequently on Thursdays I am truant from work, driving off for a hike or to visit gardens and nurseries, usually accompanied by my “grandfather.” One week it's a 3 ½ hour trip north to the Rhododendron Species Foundation, then a 2 ½ hour trip south to Gossler Nursery the next. Every one of these garden excursions leads me to new plant knowledge, and often I come away with the plants themselves.
|Roger Gossler in spring 2013|
We arrived early on a pleasant spring morning and found Roger Gossler toiling at the back end of a greenhouse. I think he was a bit dismayed to see us so early, for all of the other greenhouses were under water – no, not like a hopeless mortgage – and Roger no doubt had many tasks he hoped to accomplish before we showed up. But he generously dropped them all and proceeded to entertain us with plant identifications, his experiences and stories about the people associated with his bushes.
|Hamamelis japonica 'Pendula'|
|Hamamelis x intermedia 'Bonny Brook'|
|Hamamelis 'Double Gold'|
Roger has quite a collection of Hamamelis cultivars, many that I had never seen before. Earlier he had given me a plant of Hamamelis japonica 'Pendula', a “strong weeping witch hazel that will get to 1' tall at most without staking. The flowers are small, but are very fragrant.” (Gossler Farms Nursery 2014-2015 catalog). Hamamelis x intermedia 'Bonny Brook' was new for me, and though it was long out of bloom, I admired that the lush foliage continued to show off its jewel-like irrigation droplets. It is said to bloom with fragrant yellow petals with red at the base. 'Bonny Brook' originated about 1990 at Bonny Brook Nursery in Washington state. Other new cultivars included H. 'Dishy', with orange-red petels in the middle that shade to gold at the tips, and H. 'Double Gold', a plant with leaves variegated with a dark green center and a chartreuse-yellow wide margin. According to Roger it originated in The Netherlands as a sport of H. 'Westerstede'. Perhaps I should schedule a late-winter trip to Gossler Nursery to see his myriad of cultivars in bloom?
I have never grown a Kirengeshoma palmata, a shrub that Roger says forms a 2-3' bush with arching stems. It was especially arching after its recent irrigation. He describes that “this woodlander has yellow flowers in late summer that look like a badminton shuttlecock.” Also known as “yellow wax-bells,” it is in the family Hydrangaceae. It is native to the mountainous areas of Japan and Korea and is hardy to -20 degrees F, USDA zone 5. The generic name certainly sounds exotic, but unfortunately there is no interesting story as it is just a Latinized version of the original Japanese name.
I instantly recognized Leiophyllum buxifolium, a Rhododendron relative that I saw in the Smokies last spring. Roger calls it a “Sand Myrtle” from the New Jersey Pine Barrons, but in the Smokies it is more appropriately known as the “Mountain Myrtle,” and in fact Myrtle Point on Mt. Le Conte was named for the beautiful shrub. The star-like flowers range from white to pale pink; Roger's was blooming white in the greenhouse, and he said that his 30+-year-old plant is only 18” x 18”. The generic name is from Greek leios meaning “smooth” and phyllon for “leaf,” while the specific name is due to its resemblance to boxwood (Buxus). The plant was first described by Karl Heinrich Bergius (1790-1818), a Prussian botanist, naturalist, cavalryman and pharmacist. His cavalryman resume was due to serving in the Prussian campaign in the Napoleonic Wars, for which he was awarded the Iron Cross. Bergius was encouraged to relocate to Cape Town, South Africa, where he was to work as a pharmacist and collect for the Berlin Museum. Sadly he died in isolation and poverty of tuberculosis at the age of 28.
Roger has lived more than twice the years that were allotted to poor Bergius, but he enthusiastically dashed from our company to tend to a (paying) customer. I was left alone to ponder the identity of a shrub with a curious small blossom, but the plant had no label. Roger doesn't need to spend much time on labeling as he pretty much knows all that he grows, but will do so at the point of sale. Eventually he returned and revealed that my tree of interest was Magnolia figo, commonly known as the “Banana shrub.” I don't understand the banana part, and Hillier describes the flowers as small, brown-purple and “strongly scented of pear drops, produced in a long succession during spring and summer.” Originally classified as Liriodendron figo, it was introduced in 1789 from southeast China and initially described by the Portuguese missionary and naturalist Joao de Loureiro. Later it was reclassified by German botanist Curt Polycarp as Michelia figo, and then in 2006 it was decided that all Michelia belonged to the Magnolia genus. The specific name figo is from Old Portuguese figo, and that from Latin ficus for “fig tree” or “fig fruit.” I would like to acquire a Magnolia figo, but I would have to keep it in my warm hobby house because it can withstand cold only to 10 degrees above 0.
|Choisya x 'Goldfingers'|
|Peter Catt's cat|
Choisya x 'Goldfingers' was a nice find and I liked the name. It is a hybrid of C. dumosa var. arizonica x C. ternata 'Sundance' and was raised by Hillier Nurseries propagator Peter Moor in 1996. I remember seeing C. 'Sundance' at Peter Catt's Liss Forest Nursery in England; he patented it in 1986, and told me twelve years ago that the royalties brought in more income than the rest of his nursery did. I fondly remember that the widower Catt had a close bond with his cat – Catt's cat – and allowed the feline to sit atop his Hakonechloa macra 'Aureola'. Choisya was named for the Swiss botanist Jacques Choisy (1799-1859) who published a number of botanical works, one of which was a Treatise on the families Ternstroemiaceae and Camelliaceae, but botanists now prefer the Theaceae family that consists of Eurya, Camellia, Stewartia, Ternstroemia and Gordonia. Camellia, or Camelia, was named by botanist Linnaeus (1707-1778) for a previous botanist Georg Kamel (1661-1706), while the family name Theaceae is derived from Greek thea for “goddess.” Thea is an abbreviation of names like Althea and Dorothea, while the mythological Thea was the Greek goddess of light, and mother of the sun, moon and dawn. She was the daughter of Ouranos (heaven) and Gaia (earth), the wife of Hyperion (Titan god of light), and mother of Helios (the sun), Eos (the dawn) and Selene (the moon). The next time you encounter a Choisya, Camelia or Stewartia remember the rich etymology of the family name, but I must reveal that her alternate name Euryphaessa has been adopted for a species of Australian leafhopper, Dayus euryphaessa.
|Enkianthus campanulatus (white form)|
Roger showed us a white-flowered form of Enkianthus campanulatus, but I don't remember where he got it. He is very familiar with the genus, and decidedly ruled out the possibility of it being the perulatus species which also blooms white. Obviously I can't tell you any more about Roger's tree, as what you see in the photo is what you get. I'll mention a few things about the genus though, for it was first described by the same de Loureiro who classified the Magnolia figo that I wrote about earlier. He focused on the flowers and created the genus name from the Greek enkyos for “pregnant” and anthos for “flower.” The specific name campanulatus is due to the bell-shaped flowers, and this species is the most cultivated of the 13-17 recognized species. It was introduced from Japan to England by Charles Maries who was employed by the Veitch Nursery. Enkianthus species and cultivars are scattered throughout the Flora Wonder Arboretum and they pair well with our maples and conifers. Roger's white-flowered form will be in bloom for another couple of weeks and you readers really should make an effort to see it. And buy something for heaven sakes; even if your garden is full you can still shoehorn in another couple of plants.
I have visited Gossler Nursery quite a number of times, but for some reason never saw his specimen of Berberis replicata planted along the main entrance. Roger writes in his catalog, “People always see this barberry and ask what it is and want it.” His plant is 8' x 9' after 20 years, and has been hardy to zero degrees F. It is an evergreen with purple new growth contrasting nicely with the older dark-green foliage. It is native to the mountain slopes of Yunnan* – where I have been – but I don't recall seeing it in the wild either. The species is so-named because the leaves are replicate, that is, turned backward. The origin of the generic name Berberis is from Medieval Latin barberis, and that from Arabic barbaris. The classification of Mahonia and Berberis, and their relationship to each other, never seems to be settled, and indeed the two genera are able to hybridize which is known as x Mahoberberis. Furthermore, the dried rhizome and roots of some Mahonia – especially M. aquifolium, the Oregon state flower – contain a number of alkaloides, such as berberine and berberamine. These two spell-alikes are not medicinally close to each other, with berberine known for its anti-inflammatory and anti-diabetic effects. Besides, it can lower cholesterol and help with body fat loss. Berberamine inhibits the growth of liver cancer cells and cancer-initiating cells. I don't know, however, if B. replicata contains any of these properties, so I won't be chewing on any of its leaves.
*Replicata was introduced by George Forrest in 1917 and it received an Award of Merit in 1923.
|Cercidiphyllum japonicum 'Morioka Weeping'|
The Gossler gardens contain a lot of old trees, and none more majestic than Cercidiphyllum, the “Katsura tree.” C. japonicum 'Morioka Weeping' was of good size with attractively weeping branches. It originated in Japan and was named for the city* where it was found, but technically the name is invalid due to the combination of Japanese and English. Somebody once gave me a 'Morioka' but it didn't weep at all, and later I found out that it had been propagated by tissue culture.
*A city of 300,000 located in northern Honshu Island. The area has been inhabited since the Japanese Paleolithic period, from 50,000 to 30,000 B.C.
A wonderful specimen of Cercidiphyllum magnificum graced the lawn, and Roger was very generous with the space he allows for it. If we were back at Buchholz Nursery I would proabably have crammed hundreds of other plants around it. It seems odd that the magnificum epithet was given to the tree that is smaller in stature than the japonicum species. Plant books indicate that C. magnificum rarely exceeds ten meters tall, but Gossler's tree must be that tall now. Magnificum is endemic to central Honshu, and it is dioecious, with separate male and female trees. I didn't check under the leaf to see the sex of Roger's tree.
|Jules Aime Battandier|
Cytisus battandieri is listed in Hillier's Manual of Trees and Shrubs in the 5th edition (1984), but the 2014 edition directs us to Argyrocitisus battandieri. It is described by Hillier as “A tall shrub. Leaves laburnum-like, grey, with a silky sheen. Cone-shaped clusters of bright yellow, pineapple-scented flowers appear in July.” So I was too early for the pineapple experience. It was introduced to England from Morocco in the 1920's, and received the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit in 1933. The “Pineapple Broom” was named for the French pharmacist Jules Aime Battandier (1848-1922) who was considered an expert on northwest African plants from Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco. There are a couple of other plants named for him: Viola battandieri and Ophrys battandieri, the latter being an orchid and the former a violet from Algeria.
|Viburnum plicatum 'Pink Beauty'|
|Viburnum plicatum 'Pink Beauty'|
I'm not really a fan of Viburnum – Viburnum when you can mulch them? – but Roger had a beauty that I would like in my garden. V. plicatum 'Pink Beauty' was as exciting as a new girlfriend, and Hillier calls it “A charming selection in which the ray flowers age to a delightful pink.” The plicatum species is native to China, Japan and Taiwan, and was introduced to western horticulture in 1865. It is commonly known as the “Japanese snowball,” and in Japan it is called yabudemari, which for me is unforgettable and fun to say. Yabu de mari.
There were dozens and dozens of additional plants that attracted me, but I don't want to over stay my welcome. Roger's garden and greenhouses were stimulating as usual, but no two visits are ever close to the same...kind of like being married to my wife, with every day an adventure.
|Paeonia 'Pastel Splendor'|
Cornus kousa 'Tri Splendor'
|Parrotia persica 'Persian Lace'|
|Ginkgo biloba 'Snow Cloud'|
|Rhododendron 'Ken Janek'|
|Hakonechloa macra 'Aureola'|
|Styrax 'Frosted Emerald'|
|Epimedium 'Orange Queen'|
|Sanguisorba obtusa 'Beth Chatto'|
|Paeonia ludlowii 'Lutea'|
|Ulmus x vegeta 'Wredei'|
|Epimedium 'Pierre's Purple'|
|Gardenia 'Kleim's Hardy'|