Friday, October 9, 2015

Fun with the Gossler Farms Nursery Catalog

I re-entered the nursery just as Eric Gossler was leaving with his order for Gossler Farms Nursery. He tossed me his 2015-2016 retail catalog and I didn't have to pay $2.00 like it says on the cover. I shoved everything to the side on my desk and sat down. The first two pages contain the introduction, a folksy recap of their past year, and it is signed by Eric, Roger and mother Marj Gossler, the latter with impeccable cursive. Then follows 35 pages of offerings. I read the descriptions of everything, even some that are my own introductions, because I'm interested in their take on them.

Acer palmatum 'Geisha Gone Wild'

I read that Acer palmatum 'Geisha Gone Wild' "Has rich pink variegated leaves. Especially in spring the leaves are a bright color. In summer the color is lighter, more subdued but still striking."

Acer palmatum 'Japanese Princess'

For Acer palmatum 'Japanese Princess, "Discovered by Talon Buchholz. This addition to his other beautiful maples is a smaller version of A. 'Mikawa yatsubusa' (the plant and leaves are smaller). The new growth is a startling pinkish, later changing to light green. In fall the foliage turns to brilliant orange. Makes a great container plant for the patio." And so on...

Cercidiphyllum japonicum 'Boyd's Dwarf'

Not wanting to come across as braggadocious, I'll discuss other plants in the Gossler catalog, plants that I had nothing to do with their introduction. And by the way it is Roger who provides the catalog descriptions for he is the plant geek of the company. Consider Cercidiphyllum 'Boyd's Dwarf' which is a japonicum species. "We got our plant from Jim Fox in a 2 gal 5-6 years ago and it is about 6' tall. The small leaves cover this bushy shrub. In fall, the color will turn soft yellow." I don't really know this Jim Fox guy, except that he is the author of How to Buy the Right Plants, Tools, and Garden Supplies. He addresses such topics as, "Are you confused by all the choices when you visit a nursery? Do you get sticker shock when you see how much that nice little shade tree costs? Let Jim Fox, a nursery professional with over twenty years of experience, show you blah blah blah..." And, I don't know who Boyd is/was; perhaps he was involved with this European selection. Thank you Roger to give one to me, but I can already see that it will not be a "dwarf," not at all. Esveld Company in Holland says that it will grow to 4 meters in 10 years and I suspect half-again more at Buchholz Nursery. But I am happy to have it and I'll give it adequate room when planting out. As you can see from the photo above, my tree is not "soft-yellow" in autumn, but rather a peachy pink.

Cercidiphyllum japonicum 'Morioka Weeping'

Shortly after 'Boyd's Dwarf', Gossler lists Cercidiphyllum japonicum 'Pendula' (Marioka Weeping): "Our original tree is 40' x 15'. There are several vertical leaders with all the rest of the growth cascading. Looks like a large fountain. One of the glories of our garden." Indeed it is a glory to behold, but get out your tape measure, Roger, for the behemoth in your garden is nearly as wide as tall. Also it should be spelled with an "o," as in Morioka, the name of the city in Japan with a population of over 300,000 souls. Its origin is said to be a tree in the grounds of a monastery in or near the city, and sign me up for a trip to see the original! Hillier reports that "Incredibly, this tree itself originated as a sucker in 1824 from the stump of a previous large tree." I was once given a 'Morioka Weeping' that was propagated by tissue culture, but it never did weep. I would suggest that if you have nothing better to do than read this blog, you should soon plan an excursion to Gossler's to see their impressive specimen and buy one if your garden has the space for it. Then stand next to it in autumn and smell the fallen leaves as they give off a burnt-sugar fragrance.

Camellia x williamsii 'Water Lily'

Buchholz Nursery had never contained a Camellia for over thirty years, until I saw a Camellia x williamsii 'Water Lily' – fell in love with the flowers – and Roger shoved one into my car. My initial aversion was due to youthful encounters with the boring red-flowering specimens planted in front of my parent's house with leaves that harbored a crappy black soot – aphid shit, or what?, I never knew. 'Water Lily' is beyond "lovely" or "pristine," it is down-right sexy. Roger says, "Is an upright growing camellia with deep pink flowers. The individual flowers are different than any other camellia we've seen. The center petals hold together so we don't see the stamens. The cup-shaped semi-double petals make an interesting looking flower."

Camellia 'Black Opal'

Camellia japonica 'Kujaku tsubaki'

After falling for 'Water Lily', I later encountered Camellia 'Black Opal' and 'Kujaku tsubaki', and both of them found their way into my collection thanks to Roger. This evangelist of plants has certainly stirred up a lot of commotion in my life, and his "garden coaching" service has aided other erstwhile gardeners in improving their 'scapes. Anyway, Roger is a true guru of plants, or how else would you explain grumpy ol' Buchholz finally falling for Camellias?

Choisya x dewitteana 'Gold Fingers'

...further into the catalog we come to Choisya x dewitteana 'Gold Fingers', a plant I don't have, but one which is exuberantly growing in my "grandfather's" garden. Roger says about 'Gold Fingers' that, "This hybrid of C. 'Aztec Pearl' and C. 'Sundance' has narrow foliage that is bright yellow all year. The flowers are orange scented in the spring." I remember first discovering 'Sundance' at the originator's Liss Forest Nursery in southern England in 2002 (or there-abouts),  but I think I prefer 'Gold Fingers'. The remarkable thing is that it can be grown in full sun without any scorch, and this has been a record-breaking brutally hot summer.

Cornus kousa 'Mandarin Jewel'

Gossler offers Cornus kousa 'Mandarin Jewel' and says "This plant was named for its mandarin orange fruit in the fall. The green foliage makes a pretty background for the white bracts in June. In fall, the foliage turns lovely yellow-orange-red." The orange fruits are now appearing on my trees, and with nearby Cornus kousa 'Big Apple' I just might make a fruit salad. You really can ingest the fruits – I have – but you have to pick them at the right time just like with wine grapes. Too old, too young = not so good; you learn what's just the right time. Soon I will present to my busy wife yet another project: kousa jam. The word mandarin arose in the late 16th century and referred to a Chinese official, and that was derived from Hindi mantri for "counselor." Citrus nobilis is the tangerine or mandarin orange or satsuma that originated in southwestern China or northeastern India, and maybe I'll throw them into the salad as well.

Cunninghamia lanceolata 'Glauca'

Cunninghamia lanceolata 'Glauca Prostrata'

I was surprised to see Cunninghamia lanceolata 'Glauca' in their catalog – a tree I used to raise – and I wonder who is supplying them. 'Glauca' can be produced via hardwood cuttings in winter, but we gave up on it because the propagules would grow branch-like and it took forever to form a strong leader. I imagine the "China fir" species is hardy to USDA zone 6, but after a harsh winter the older needles would brown and persist forever, so it would take two or three happy years of new growth to cover the bad. I'm not saying that you should steer away from Cunninghamia, but rather that it is dubiously profitable for the grower. I once saw a sprawling specimen at Arrowhead Alpines in Michigan, and maybe its survival was due to the fact that it was buried under snow each winter; I was given a start of their "prostrate" 'Glauca' form, but it immediately assumed a leader in Oregon. Roger describes 'Glauca' as "the blue Chinese fir. This 30' tree has fairly broad needles that are pretty blue. The plant has a graceful arching form. We haven't seen any plants available for several years, so pick one up if you have a chance." The Cunninghamia conifer is considered a member of the Cupressaceae family and is native to China, Taiwan, Vietnam and Laos and its name honors Dr. James Cunningham, a British doctor who introduced the species into cultivation in 1702.

Gardenia jasminoides 'Kleim's Hardy'

If you're looking for a hardy Gardenia – well, at least hardy to 0 degrees F – Roger would love to sell you 'Kleim's Hardy', a selection from Don Kleim from the Henderson Experimental Garden in Clovis, California. Roger says "This gardenia has single, white flowers sporadically during summer. The flowers have a wonderful scent." 'Kleim's Hardy' is the jasminoides species from southern China and Japan, and is commonly known as the "common gardenia" or the "cape jasmine." The genus name honors Dr. Alexander Garden (1730-1791), a Scottish physician, botanist and zoologist who resided for many years in Charleston, South Carolina. When Garden discovered Linnaean classification, he happily sent specimens to Linnaeus in Sweden, and birds, fish, reptiles, insects etc. to others in Europe. The poor doctor was somewhat lonely in America, writing that "there is not a living soul who knows the least iota of Natural History," and so his botanical conversations were carried on by correspondence. Interestingly, Garden never saw or had anything to do with the Gardenia genus.

Gladiolus dalenii 'Bolivian Peach'

Roger describes Gladiolus dalenii 'Bolivian Peach' as "a 2' gladiolus with gorgeous peachy-pink (light colored) flowers in August. This larger grower than G. 'Boone' is a looser form but will be hardy and beautiful. Our plants have been to 5 degrees F." Gladiolus is a South African bulb-like corm with strap-shaped foliage, and the name is Latin meaning "small sword." The specific name dalenii honors the Dutch botanist Cornelius Dalen who was director of the Rotterdam Botanic Garden. The reader can see the peach color above, but what does 'Bolivian Peach' have to do with Bolivia? The answer is that it was found by Plant Delights Nursery on a roadside bank near the town of Bolivia in Brunswick Co., NC, a community of 148 at the 2000 census, but down to 143 in 2010.

Ophiopogon japonicus 'Nana'

Ophiopogon japonicus 'Nana' is a cheerful little plant, and Gossler says, "This tiny Ophiopogon only gets 2-3" tall. This plant makes a nice in filler between rocks or small plants. This cute little plant can also make a tiny container plant. Flowers are white 2-3" tall." Hardy to -20 degrees F, the dwarf mondo grass can also be used instead of a lawn and would never need mowing. In Japan it is known as ryu no hige, or "dragon's beard," not that I've ever imagined a dragon with a beard.* Surprisingly Ophiopogon is in the Asparagus family, Asparagaceae, and it is occasionally sold as a decorative plant for use in an aquarium where it will live for a couple of months before dying. In China the mondo's tuber, known as mai men dong, is the herb of choice to treat yin deficiency. The medicine enters the heart, lungs and stomach and supplies nourishment to these organs. It would probably be very useful for me as it also quiets irritability.

The genetic name is derived from Greek ophio for serpent or snake, and pogon is Greek for "beard," an interesting example where ancient Greece and the Orient concur.

Parthenocissus tricuspidata 'Fenway Park'

A fantastic plant is Parthenocissus tricuspidata 'Fenway Park', and Roger says, "This beautiful plant obviously comes to us from Boston. The small golden foliage makes a nice light screen on a trellis. Our plant is in full south facing sun and thrives. The new growth in spring will be larger leaves with very small leaves later in summer." I was initially impressed with the "golden Boston ivy" at Shadow Nursery in Tennessee where it covered an entire building. I had seen it before in containers at retail nurseries but never thought much of it, but Shadow's covered building did the trick. It was discovered as a sport on the normally green ivy in 1988 by Peter Del Tredici of the Arnold Arboretum. Some suggest that it was actually in Fenway Park*, but the truth is that it was found on an apartment building near Fenway Park, the home of the Boston Red Sox. The botanic name is a mouthful, but comes from Greek parthenos meaning a "virgin" and kissos meaning "ivy." Tricuspidata means "three-toothed" in reference to the leaves. Again, another Greece-Orient connection is due to the fact that the Boston ivy is actually native to China and Japan.

There is no ivy in Fenway Park. The famous Green Monster is painted every season. However, Wrigley Field in Chicago is covered with Parthenocissus.

Podocarpus macrophyllus

Podocarpus macrophyllus is listed in the Gossler catalog, and described as "A plant out of the past! This evergreen shrub was planted in black (dark) entryways in the '50's-60's, but has disappeared since. Sad, since this is a pretty conifer with deep green needles." It is hardy to only USDA zone 7, our zone in Oregon. Roger is correct that you seldom see it in Oregon, but I've seen plenty of them in California. Podocarpus macrophyllus is native to southern Japan and eastern China, and is commonly called (in the West) the "Buddhist pine," but of course it is not a true pine. In Japan it is known as "Kusamaki" or "Inumaki."

Rhododendron 'Coastal Spice'

Rodgersia 'Bronze Peacock'

Salix magnifica

Tsuga mertensiana 'Bump's Blue'

Rhododendron 'Coastal Spice', Rodgersia 'Bronze Peacock', Salix magnifica, Tsuga mertensiana 'Bump's Blue' – I could go on and on. Like I said at the beginning, 35 pages of fantastic plants, all affordably priced. Besides, the Gosslers are good people or I wouldn't be bragging about them.

P.S. I recommend that you buy The Gossler Guide to the Best Hardy Shrubs which features over 350 expert choices for your garden.

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