Friday, December 11, 2015

Weepers




Betula pendula
Picea glauca 'Pendula'



























Horticulture has provided us with a weeping form for nearly every species of tree. I suppose the origin of the weeping* term is due to the similarity to falling tears, but with trees it is their branches that spill downward. Most gardeners are familiar with the word pendula which can be used for a species – like Betula pendula – or a cultivar, such as Picea glauca 'Pendula', and the "hanging" connotation is from Latin pendere.

*Weep is from the Proto Indo European root wab, then eventually to Old English wepan, to "shed tears."

Styrax japonicus 'Momo shidare' / 'Marley's Pink Parasol'


In 2004 I was visiting Tokyo-area nurseries and gardens with the primary goal of finding new and interesting plants. I was shown a weeping fountain of branches that was either top-grafted or trained up to ten feet (I don't remember). I recognized it as a Styrax – probably japonicus – but it was more narrow than the forms in America such as 'Carillon', 'Crystal' and (now) 'Fragrant Fountain'. But this Styrax was adorned with bright pink flowers, and I had never seen a weeping pink before. That winter I received scions that were labeled 'Pink Pendula', and though I was happy to get them, I groaned at the illegitimate name. Presumably it would have had a Japanese name, but once again I guess the Japanese were trying to be helpful by translating for me. Since I didn't think this clone was in America yet I took the liberty to translate back into Japanese – and I know, that's usually not a good idea, but... – and so I renamed it 'Momo shidare', the Japanese version of 'Pink Pendula'. We propagated 'Momo shidare' via rooted cutting under mist in summer, and though we achieved good success we found it difficult to overwinter pots a year later where at least half would die. When grafted onto established Styrax japonicus rootstock in pots we would celebrate a 99% rate of success one winter, but then near 0% the next. After about eight years of this uncertainty I finally threw in the towel and sold all of my stock plants to an Oregon propagating nursery...to let someone else figure it out. To my surprise they renamed 'Momo shidare' to 'Marley's Pink Parasol' and patented the introduction. Now we buy starts from them (JLPN) and grow them on for sale, but today we have a kerfuffle about what should be called what, and whether or not the patent is valid. In any case it is a wonderful weeping tree.

Diospyros kaki 'Pendula'

Carl Peter Thunberg
I grow a weeping form of persimmon, Diospyros kaki 'Pendula', and it is more than just a novelty for the fruit is delicious even though small. The little orange devils were inedible – astringently bitter – a month ago, but after our 20 degree low they turned brown and unattractive, but became ever so tasty. The species name kaki is the Japanese name for the tree and fruit, and it was first described by Carl Peter Thunberg in 1780, but unbeknownst to him the species is also native to China, Burma and Nepal and was introduced from China to Japan. The Chinese had used the Diospyros for over 2,000 years and they were certain that besides food, it contained mystical powers. The word Diospyros is derived from the Greek dios and pyros meaning “divine fruit,” or more literally the “wheat of Zeus.” The word persimmon is derived from pessamin, in the Algonquin language of the eastern USA people – such as Pocahontas would have spoken – meaning a “dry fruit” in reference to their Diospyros virginiana. Most of us would not consider a persimmon to be a berry, but botanically it is.





















Pyrus salicifolia 'Pendula'



Sissinghurst

Pyrus salicifolia is the willow-leaf pear, a species native to the Middle East. The silver foliage is attractive, but when the cultivar 'Pendula' gained the RHS Award of Garden Merit I think that was going too far. 'Pendula' is not suited for a small garden, but rather an estate or tree collection – such as the Flora Wonder Arboretum – where it has plenty of room to spread. My 15-year-old tree is about 12 feet tall by 10 feet wide, and I have seen some over twice that size. It flowers heavily in spring, and of course the blossoms are pretty, but they must compete with the glittery foliage and from a distance it looks like a big silver haystack. The genus name Pyrus is from Latin pirus for “pear tree,” while the word pear originated from Latin pira, and that from the Semitic name for “fruit,” and that from the verb pra meaning “to beget, multiply, bear fruit.” Perry is an alcoholic beverage made from fermented pear juice, but I have never consumed it. Besides, the fruits on P.s. 'Pendula' are only an inch long, sparsely produced and basically inedible, so you would need another species of pear to produce a decent drink. The most impressive specimen of P.s. 'Pendula' I have seen was at Sissinghurst in England, the home and garden of Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicholson, and it was in their “white” garden. These “lates” had acquired 'Pendula' a long time ago, but then the cultivar originated from Germany in the 1850's.


 
























 Cornus kousa 'KLVW'


Cornus kousa 'KLVW'


I don't know the origin of Cornus kousa 'KLVW', a weeping variegated selection. I mean I know who found and introduced it – Robert E. Lipka – but was it a branch sport or a seedling? I suspect it was the former, as was my Cornus kousa 'Summer Fun', and it probably occurred on a green weeping cultivar. For the record 'Summer Fun' appeared from a quarter-inch green rootstock in a small pot, where one branch was green and the other variegated. 'KLVW' is short for 'Kristin Lipka's Variegated Weeper', a rather cumbersome name and difficult to fit on a label. If I wanted to honor my daughter I think I would have shortened it to 'Kristin's Weeper'. Unless staked it will crawl along the ground, and it might be nice that way if planted above a wall. We prefer to stake and our trees usually grow to five feet tall by three feet wide in ten years. The light green leaves are variegated with white and the white flowers in July feature sharply pointed bracts, and then in autumn the leaves can darken to purple. 'Summer Fun' has the more attractive variegation than 'KLVW', but I know of no other variegated weeping dogwood than 'KLVW'.

Fagus sylvatica 'Pendula'

Fagus sylvatica 'Purpurea Pendula'


























Fagus sylvatica 'Purple Fountain'


The common “European beech,” Fagus sylvatica, has a number of weeping forms, with 'Pendula' probably the oldest, known since 1836. I have seen grand old specimens in Europe which appear to be near 100' tall, and they can take up a lot of sideways room too. I have never grown one because at the start of my career everyone preferred the more neat and compact 'Purpurea Pendula'. It is an old-timer too, having been introduced in 1865. It doesn't gain much height unless staked, so when a bankrupt nursery was selling a field for cheap I went to take a look. They had 'Purpurea Pendula' labels but the tops were advancing skyward on their own, so it was certain that they were not 'Purpurea Pendula', and more likely 'Purple Fountain'. I can't be interested in any plant at any price if I don't know positively its identity, so good riddance to the bankrupt nursery and their plant mix-ups, and maybe that was one reason why they went under.


























Fagus sylvatica 'Aurea Pendula'


My favorite of the weeping beech has to be 'Aurea Pendula'. According to Krussmann's Cultivated Broad-Leaved Trees and Shrubs it appeared as a branch sport and was raised by Van der Bom in 1900. I never knew of its existence until I saw one in the garden of the late Howard Hughes of Washington state, a superb plantsman who was helpful to J.D. Vertrees when he began his Japanese maple research. The Hughes specimen was perfectly sited with a large Douglas fir providing afternoon shade. He was in his nineties – Hughes,  that is – and was very generous with me with some maple starts, and with the Fagus as well. Every spring visitors to my Display Garden ooh and ahh over the golden weeping beech, but I could have had one even larger if it was not for my capitalist instinct to sell plants. The specimen in my garden is absolutely not for sale...unless you buy the entire farm. Beech can be brittle at any size, so digging and shipping a large weeping golden beech would be a nervous undertaking and we produce all of ours in containers. I probably sell mine for too low a price because it takes forever to get one to ten feet.

Cedrus atlantica 'Glauca Pendula' in the Kubota Garden























Cedrus atlantica 'Blue Cascade'


One weeping plant that I sold scads of when I began my nursery was Cedrus atlantica 'Glauca Pendula', but there is little demand for it today and we haven't propagated any for a dozen years. It is less blue than 'Glauca', but it can be trained straight up or allowed to wander sideways, and a specimen in the Kubota Garden in Seattle travels for fifty feet. For me, of more interest is Cedrus atlantica 'Blue Cascade', a heaping weeper with foliage more blue than 'Glauca Pendula', and a cultivar with a better name too. 'Blue Cascade' was developed by Colony Nursery of Oregon, and we used to propagate 500 a year for them, but we no longer do custom propagation. As a small plant it looks ridiculous, for you train it up to six to eight feet (or taller) then top it, and eventually you will have branches arching downward as it broadens. You'll probably have to prune a mischievous leader that shoots up once or twice, but then the plant gets the idea and simply cascades. The situation is most unusual, because in my experience with other trees I would have to constantly prune to keep the desired shape, but not with 'Blue Cascade'. I have seen a row of them at Colony Nursery where they all mounded to twelve feet tall by fifteen feet wide, and it was impressive to be sure. But as you can see, you must have plenty of room to add one to your garden.

Dacrydium cupressinum


























Dacrydium cupressinum


Far more refined than the Cedrus is Dacrydium cupressinum, the “Rimu” or “red pine” from New Zealand. I used to keep mine in a protected greenhouse where my oldest specimen reached the top, then I sold it to a Californian. I discontinued with Dacrydium because 1) it's not very hardy and 2) the tree is ungainly at a small size, but it was fun to have one large specimen for my career. The photos above were taken twenty years ago at the Strybing Arboretum in San Francisco, and you can see what a younger, more thin Buchholz looked like back then. In the wild D. cupressinum can grow to over 150' tall, and the crown widens with age. It is a useful timber tree as the trunk usually grows straight, but many of the old stands are now protected. Photos of old Rimu look gnarly and hardly “weeping,” kind of like with old deodar cedars compared to when they are young. In hindsight I regret not keeping at least one Dacrydium, and the photos give me a bittersweet feeling, the same as with my first serious girlfriend, the strawberry blonde.


























Chamaecyparis lawsoniana 'Imbricata Pendula'


Somewhat similar to the Dacrydium in appearance is Chamaecyparis lawsoniana 'Imbricata Pendula', but with the latter having a more open crown. The branches arch downward with long green branchlets hanging perpendicular to the ground. The oldest tree I have is in the Flora Farm upper gardens, and it was purposely planted near the public road and my own driveway so that I could enjoy it every day and also to show it off to everyone else who drives by. Actually that is the main purpose of my upper gardens, because when you're at the top you can look down the hill at acres and acres of trees and shrubs, all with different colors, textures and forms. The hillside would not win any landscaping awards, where vistas are important and less is often better than more; my pallet is not a “landscape,” but rather a plant collection. No garden art in it either, it is too wild for that. Don't worry that I brag about 'Imbricata Pendula', for it will not succumb to root disease because it was grafted onto Chamaecyparis lawsoniana 'D.R.' (Disease Resistant Rootstock).


Juniperus horizontalis 'Pancake'

Juniperus horizontalis 'Golden Wiltonii'

Juniperus conferta 'Blue Pacific'


I will also brag that I was one of the first nurserymen in America to graft groundcover conifers onto standards. Juniperus horizontalis 'Pancake' and 'Golden Wiltonii' make neat weeping trees when top-grafted, and our understock preference is the straight, fast-growing and hardy Juniperus scopulorum 'Skyrocket'. Another choice is Juniperus conferta – the “shore juniper” – but it is so vigorous that we would top graft at six-to-eight feet, and the cultivar 'Blue Pacific' forms a silver-blue waterfall. I have a wide specimen of 'Blue Pacific' that is growing on the ground, and it is probably 20 feet wide and only 1 foot tall in 20 years, and it continues to root in as it goes. The species is hardy to USDA zone 6, or -10 degrees F, and it is native to sandy seashore sites in Japan and also on Sakhalin Island north of Japan.

Picea breweriana
Picea breweriana with Mt. Shasta





















































Picea breweriana in front of the Buchholz home


One conifer species that is a must for any serious tree collection is Picea breweriana or “Brewer's Weeping spruce.” When I began my nursery I visited a semi-retired seedling grower in the mountains above Silverton, Oregon. He had a row of 20-year-old Brewers that he planted and kept “just for the heck of it,” as he put it. He was astonished when I asked if I could buy them, but then we agreed on a price, and I think it was the first major wheeling-and-dealing activity of my career. Within two years I easily sold half of them for good profit, and then lined out the remainder in my Far East section to enjoy and to have “something to retire on.” Since I was new to my land and to Brewer's spruce, I couldn't have put them in a worse place. They were planted in a gully that was too wet for half of the year and they languished, and a year later I threw them all away. A few years later I visited southern Oregon/northern California and saw where the species thrives, and it was a far different environment than my soggy gully. Anyway I finally learned to propagate them on Picea abies rootstock, and I now have two beautiful specimens planted near my house. Keith Rushforth in Conifers says, “Grafted plants are usually raised for the amenity market; these are much quicker [than seedlings] to make an adult tree, although strong shoots must be used for grafting.” So far, so good, but then he advises that, “Despite its popularity and the habit, it is not one of the most attractive spruces.” What? What is he saying – that a grafted breweriana is less attractive than a seedling-grown tree? Has Rushforth ever seen breweriana in the wild? I know he has not seen my grafted specimens, and if he ever did he wouldn't be able to tell if they were grafted or not.

Picea breweriana 'Inversa Form'


None of my conifer books make mention of cultivars of Picea breweriana, but there are a few dwarf selections such as my 'Emerald Midget', and 'Fruhlingsgold' where the new growth is lightly colored. The most fantastic of all is 'Inversa Form', and though it has a terrible name, it can be described as a really weeping "weeping Brewer's spruce," and you can see the narrow habit in the photo above. I was given my start by Uwe Horstmann, son of the famous German plantsman Gunter Horstmann, who arrived unannounced one day with plant gifts in hand, and now I am very grateful. If the government knew that I had received plants without documentation they would have been confiscated and burned, and I would have received the bill for their destruction. Plantsmen of the world, real plantsmen, can take better care of their trees without any government intervention, so buzz off.

2 comments:

  1. Years ago a the beauty of a deodora cedar was pointed out to me. I'm afraid that at that time in my development I was not able to appreciate what I now find lovely. For many years now I have had the situation reversed for me in that wherever I go, I am always pointing out the beauty, the amazing features, the form, the details of plants, trees, and anything sprouting forth out of the ground (and the ground and rock itself!). In my usual natural exuberance and enthusiasm for most things, exclamations come forth out of mouth in an excited often too loud fashion! As I turn to see what I expect to be equal interest and excitement or at least at real effort at pretense, I find perhaps a tiny glance, maybe none, if I'm lucky a um or ya. I instantly feel sad that they can't 'see' what I see. Most notice bare surface of maybe the whole scene, but rarely anything more. I have found this to be the more common attitude in people. Appreciation of the textures, and details of this amazing world is an infrequent gift.
    Buzz off is an understatement to the powers that be. The many rules, laws that overreaching government have bound us with need to more than buzz off!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Years ago a the beauty of a deodora cedar was pointed out to me. I'm afraid that at that time in my development I was not able to appreciate what I now find lovely. For many years now I have had the situation reversed for me in that wherever I go, I am always pointing out the beauty, the amazing features, the form, the details of plants, trees, and anything sprouting forth out of the ground (and the ground and rock itself!). In my usual natural exuberance and enthusiasm for most things, exclamations come forth out of mouth in an excited often too loud fashion! As I turn to see what I expect to be equal interest and excitement or at least at real effort at pretense, I find perhaps a tiny glance, maybe none, if I'm lucky a um or ya. I instantly feel sad that they can't 'see' what I see. Most notice bare surface of maybe the whole scene, but rarely anything more. I have found this to be the more common attitude in people. Appreciation of the textures, and details of this amazing world is an infrequent gift.
    Buzz off is an understatement to the powers that be. The many rules, laws that overreaching government have bound us with need to more than buzz off!

    ReplyDelete