Friday, January 29, 2016

My Contributories

Reuben "Gerald" Hatch

I am not original, rather I am a composite of others, trying to copy from the best. Likewise, my horticultural career has had its inspirational experiences, where many others have given to me more than I have given to them. Perhaps I should start with “Gerald” Hatch, more correctly known as “Reuben” Hatch (AKA my “Grandfather”). I have walked with him almost once a week for the past 25 years, where we observe nature, comment on the world's problems – without solution – and discuss his Toto toilet problem where the Japanese brand doesn't flush his crap down adequately.

What's Gerald doing back there?

Why do I call him “Gerald?” The answer is that he takes a daily walk near his home...where he meets many regulars on his morning constitutional. One couple who frequently passed him finally asked him for his name, and my Grandfather replied, “Reuben.” Upon the next encounter on the trail his acquaintances fell into confusion and uttered, “Good morning Gerald.” Reuben didn't correct them because it didn't really matter to him. I found the situation most hilarious and I told my wife about it, with our two children sneakily listening. Harumi said – emphatically, because she is Miss Emphatic – that “it is his own fault – he [Reuben] should have corrected it in the first place!” Yep that is Harumi. Saya and Haruko countered that “Yeah, well, these situations just happen...they, la, la etc.” What amazes me is that the whole Japanese community in the greater Portland area has weighed in on the matter – it has gone Orientally viral – and that includes thousands of people. “Gerald,” to be or not to be? Reuben himself shrugs it off, because at age 82 he doesn't care about it so much, and just taking a short walk in the morning is his primary objective. How do you think he should have handled it? For my part I basically side (rarely) with Reuben with “who cares?” but I relish the kerfuffle that has polarized the community. Grandfather's life continues on, and he has made no adjustments with regards to his pseudonym; he has his own eyes, ears and heart, and he does not require the validation or correct naming from others.

Rhododendron campanulatum ssp. aeruginosum

Rhododendron campanulatum ssp. aeruginosum

Rhododendron x 'Taurus'

Rhododendron x 'Taurus'

Rhododendron x 'Seta'

Reuben is retired now, but in his prime he operated a one-man nursery growing “Rhododendrons for the discerning gardener.” His legacy can be seen in the Flora Wonder Arboretum where many choice species and cultivars reside. One of my favorite species is R. campanulatum ssp. aeruginosum, a compact shrub with metallic-blue spring leaves; its blossoms only add clutter to the bush. It is native to Sikkim and Bhutan, and impressive plantings of it can be found at the Rhododendron Species Foundation in Washington state. Reuben was also the source for my two forms of R. orbiculare, 'Edinburgh' and 'Exbury' which were featured in a previous blog. Since I am a fan of the skinny I appreciate R. roxieanum var. oreonastes with its long narrow leaves, and again, who cares if it ever flowers? For hybrids it is hard to beat 'Taurus' which was bred by the late Frank Mossman, using the species R. strigillosum – which I also like – and crossing it with R. 'Jean Marie de Montague' – which I hate. 'Taurus' makes a sizeable bush with large good-looking green leaves and a sturdy form. R. 'Seta' is a pretty Bodnant hybrid with R. moupinense crossed by R. spinuliferum, and it will begin to flower in about a month. All of these were gifts from “Gerald,” so I guess you could say that I am a discerning gardener – which is one step short of being a gardening snob.

Polystichum setiferum 'Bevis'

Gaultheria wardii

Roger Gossler
I don't remember the first time I met Roger at Gossler Farms Nursery, but sometime in the distant past we became plant friends. He would buy stuff from me for his retail/mail-order nursery and his mother Marj made sure that all invoices were paid on time. Then the relationship evolved to where he was always bringing me new plants to try, the most recent being a Polystichum setiferum 'Bevis', Gaultheria wardii and a Bergenia alata 'Dixter'. I have never seen any of these before but it will be fun to see what they will develop into. Actually his recent gifts are what would describe Gossler Nursery: a lot of solid garden choices, plus scads of things that you have never heard of before. The solid garden choices can be found in his Gossler Guide to the Best Hardy Shrubs, a Timber Press publication from 2009. I try to reciprocate with Roger and bring him new plants, but he always manages to keep ahead of me. Clearly Buchholz Nursery and the Flora Wonder Arboretum would be much more shallow without Gossler's input.

Corylopsis glaucophylla

Thuja plicata 'Holly Turner'

Thuja plicata 'Holly Turner'

Rosa moyesii 'Regalia'

When I look at my Master Plant List, an alphabetical listing of all plants in the collection, whether they are propagated or not, on the right hand side is the source for my plant. Very often I see Heronswood, the quirky nursery from Washington state that is no more. I don't call them quirky in disparagement, not at all, but rather because there was no other like it, and I looked forward to their inch-thick catalog with tiny type. Within 24 hours I would have marked a dozen or so items to purchase, and then the next day I would add a few more. Thus I acquired Corylopsis glaucophylla, Thuja plicata 'Holly Turner', Rosa moyesii 'Regalia' and many more. Then throughout the year I would read about plants, even if I already had a particular plant and knew it well...just to get owner Dan Hinkley's view of it. For example, with Thuja plicata 'Holly Turner' Dan writes, “This cultivar was found on Whidbey Island, Wa., where it produced a wide spreading specimen that tried desperately to muster a leader, but opted in the end to produce only additional lateral branches that wept gracefully downward.” Hinkley named it for H.T., in memory of a “superb gardener, plantswoman and friend...”

Tsuga heterophylla 'Iron Springs'

Hinkley was right about the 'Holly Turner', but his forte really wasn't conifers. For Tsuga heterophylla 'Iron Springs' he describes, “From a towering Northwest native species comes this charming dwarf, which produces dense, irregular branches of dark green foliage to 5' over a long period of time.” I've just returned from a stroll down to my pond house to eyeball the size of my 30-year-old specimen, and good lord, it is over 30' tall; so, not dwarf. Still I have good memories of Heronswood Nursery: I still grow many plants from them and I learned a lot. I have saved all of their old catalogs; I'll never throw them out in my lifetime, and in fact I use them from time to time as a reference book much as I do the Hillier Manual of Trees and Shrubs.

Sciadopitys verticillata 'Gold Rush'

Sciadopitys verticillata 'Green Star'

The late Dennis Dodge from Connecticut was generous with new plant material for me, and I with him, and that makes for a great win-win relationship. His connections in Europe provided him with the best collection of Sciadopitys cultivars in America, and a number of them were then passed on to me. I gave starts of my S. 'Mr. Happy', and Dennis sent to me my first S. 'Gold Rush' and 'Green Star'. Many of his plants from Europe were illegal to import, and usually they arrived in small packages that made it through the post without inspection. He reasoned that healthy propagating wood coming from an established European nursery to his small hobby nursery did not require governmental intervention. I agreed with him, though I was much less bold, as the consequences for me would be much greater.

Cercis canadensis 'Ruby Falls'

My relationship with Heritage Nursery of Oregon is different than with Mr. Dodge. They are a much larger company than mine, and they propagate in far greater numbers, although overall I probably produce 10-20 times as many different plants than they. Their company model is that they are the “middle-man” for many new – and patented – trees and shrubs that are discovered by other plantsmen around America. Since they attend trade shows and have national exposure they can sell a lot of plants...which is good for the patent holder. No one seeks out Buchholz Nursery to distribute large numbers of plants. A lot of the “new” plants available at Heritage are eventually dropped, but others such as Cercis canadensis 'Ruby Falls' will probably stand the test of time. I buy a modest amount, grow them on for two or three years, then I am able to sell them all. But of course I am not allowed to propagate my own. I like Heritage's Acer macrophyllum 'Santiam Snow' which is not patented, but I won't propagate any, or not many, because the macrophyllum species is not sales friendly. If I buy 10 to 20 to 30 of any one variety, usually one makes it into the Flora Wonder Arboretum, even though that entity is the black hole of my horticultural profit. The owner of Heritage is Mark Krautmann, and I fondly remember when we toiled in the fields of the Dutchman's nursery together, and what sustained us while we dug hundreds of boring boxwoods was our chatter about tree species. Overall Heritage Nursery has made my nursery a better place, but who would ever have guessed that 35 years later we would be two old geezers still in the nursery business?

Campanula latiloba 'Alba'

Woodwardia unigemmata mature fronds

Woodwardia unigemmata new fronds

Cardiocrinum giganteum var. yunnanense

I have received a lot of goodies from Far Reaches Nursery in Washington state, but it's all for fun since I don't think that I've propagated and sold anything from them. Their plants all end up in GH20 or out in the garden, but even there they make Flora Wonder more varied and perhaps more valid. I know nothing about many of their plants until I encounter them at Far Reaches for the first time. My most recent haul included Campanula latiloba 'Alba' and Woodwardia unigemmata, and a year before I scored a seedling from their discovery of Cardiocrinum giganteum var. yunnanense 'Big and Pink'. There is no guarantee that my seedling Cardio will also flower pink, but then owners Sue and Kelly offer that it could perhaps flower red. In the past I received the vine Billardiera longifolia from them, but B. l. 'Red Berried' disappeared without a trace, as well as a few other plants that are on my Master Plant List but somehow walked away. There will always be “new” plants from Far Reaches because they collect (responsibly) in Asia, and in fact Sue and Kelly were in China this past fall. One can cover the globe – horticulturally – with a visit to their nursery, but if that's not possible then google them and discover the hundreds of fantastic plants available online.

Abies concolor 'Hidden Lakes WB'

Abies concolor 'Z-Mark'

Pinus flexilis 'Chickasaw'
Pinus flexilis 'Comanche'

Rich's Foxwillow Pines in Illinois is a long-time customer who* pays their bill and never complains, so if for no other reason I would consider them beneficial for Talon Buchholz and family. Owners Rich and Susan Eyre are certified conifer addicts – coneheads – and besides supplying Midwest landscapes they have acres of large specimens in their collection, and I'm sure they consider that some are definitely for sale, some are sorta for sale, and that others are definitely not for sale – the same as with my collection. As we all grow older the lines blur, for there are plenty of conifers in heaven, and so if someone really wants my tree while I am still here, why deny them the pleasure? So, while Rich's Foxwillow is a good customer, the Eyre's have also blessed my endeavors by giving me starts of new plants, and then further blessing me 5-to-10-years later by buying the mature offspring. Some of the gifted sticks include Abies concolor 'Hidden Lakes WB', a dwarf powder-blue conifer that originated as a witch's broom mutation in the Hidden Lakes Arboretum in Michigan, and Abies concolor 'Z-Mark' – a great dwarf, but I can't remember its story. For dwarf pines I have received Pinus flexilis 'Cherokee', although Pinus flexilis does not exist in the Cherokee Nation's realm? Also from Rich came Pinus flexilis 'Chickasaw' and 'Comanche', and though I don't know their origins, I support the naming of anything Native American for their trees, rivers or mountains before we invaded their lands and designated them with our European names. As they say, “keep it real.”

*At first I wrote that “Rich's Foxwillow Pines is a long-time customer that pays their bills on time; but then I changed it to who pays their bills on time, for they are real people who choose to do so, to my benefit and appreciation, and I enjoy working with good people rather than with soulless corporations driven by the dictates of raw capitalism. I too am a capitalist, but never soulless, since I try to live by the Golden Rule.

Chamaecyparis obtusa 'Nana Lutea'

Chamaecyparis obtusa 'Fernspray Gold'

In my business beginning I was told that if I wanted to start a nursery I should go see John Mitsch at Mitsch Nursery, only an hour's drive away. He sold lining-out plants, primarily conifers, and many other wholesale nurseries would buy their starts from him. John had East Coast connections, and East was the place in America to get new cultivars. Thirty five years ago there was hardly any restrictions on bringing plants in from Europe, and the Dutch nurseries from New Jersey – the Flower State – were probably John's source. In any case I scheduled a visit, but after an hour my head was spinning from the Latin names and the fact that he grew hundreds of cultivars that I had never seen before. I think that Chamaecyparis obtusa 'Nana Lutea' came to Oregon first by Mitsch Nursery, for example. John could root hemlocks, unheard of in the early days; I tried successfully also, and suddenly I was in the chain of demand. In the mid 1980's two things happened that put Buchholz Nursery into the realm of validation: 1) I sold maple liners to J.D. Vertrees and 2) I supplied Mitsch Nursery with rooted cuttings of Chamaecyparis obtusa 'Fernspray Gold'. I stumbled into my stock of 'Fernspray Gold' via a circuitous route from New Zealand, and I may have been the first nursery in America to have had it for sale.

John Mitsch
In 1980 I humbly asked Mr. Mitsch – who is probably now in his upper 80's – if I could buy plants from him. He replied, “Of course, why not?” Well, “why not” is because I wanted to copy him, and eventually I probably took business away from him. He was a mild man but his propagating skills were sharp, and he was a solid reason why Oregon's nursery industry eventually grossed a billion – yes, with a “b” – dollars in sales per year. The Oregon Association of Nurseries (OAN) supposedly represents the interests of its members, and annually celebrates Hall of Fame inductees into its hallowed ranks. John Mitsch is not included, which is a travesty when you consider those who have been inducted. While I am less deserving than John, I too will never be inducted because I am an outspoken critic of the trinket organization, but then...I know you don't care. What I am trying to say in this blog is that I didn't just drop from the become a nurseryman, a plantsman; rather it resulted from an attempt to copy from the skill, knowledge and efforts of the floristically gifted people that – err...who – I was so privileged to meet. Again, I am not original, and many thanks to my numerous contributories.


  1. The Abies concolor Hidden Lakes WB is actually now named Abies concolor 'Hosta La Vista', so named for the position of the original broom overlooking both the hosta garden and Hidden Lake here at Hidden Lake Gardens.
    Gerry Donaldson, Horticulture Manager, Hidden Lake Gardens.

  2. We all benefited by meeting mentors who introduced us into the wonderful world of horticulture, mine was an elderly retired coastguardsman named Mr Gill, who bustled around dispensing knowledge and behavioral critiques with equal enthusiasm.
    I met Ed woods as a mature man in the early 80's and was swept into his world as if we had been lifelong friends. He introduced me to Grant Mitch who was making space in his daffodil breeding to experiment with Trilliums. Great Guys