Friday, May 27, 2016

A Plant Journey with Grandfather

Schreiner Iris field

A few days ago my Grandfather and I headed down the Willamette Valley to inspect the riot of colors at the Schreiner Iris Garden. After that we went the short distance to Sebright Gardens, a retail nursery adjoining a fascinating arboretum. We were due for rain but it all held off until we were ready to go home anyway. Grandfather is 81, so he sort of feels entitled to special weather treatment, because when younger he toiled in his fields in every kind of weather as a one-man Rhododendron nursery.

Schreiner Display Garden

Acres of Iris in bloom can be seen from the interstate, and it's a sight that rivals the tulip fields in other locations. The Schreiner display garden, however, is more secluded – a couple of acres of flower beds surrounded by walls of trees ranging from conifers to dogwoods to chestnuts. One slowly strolls the grass walkways and the visitor stops to admire the Iris color or color combination that he prefers. It was cloudy, nevertheless certain hybrids had the ability to glow, and I'll remind you that the word photograph is derived from the Greek words meaning to “write with light.”
Allium species

Eremurus species

Paeonia 'Lauren'

Lupinus species

Pause-a-moment seats

The beds contained more than Iris, for example giant Alliums, Aquilegias, pansies, lupines and more competed for attention. Really it was sensory overload, but now and then I'll allow myself to indulge, just as I sometimes do at wine or sake tasting events, where at the end I can't really remember which concoction I liked the best. If I have any Iris preference though, I think it is toward the simple, and I was particularly attracted to the yellows. The wildly-variegated hybrids shouted the loudest of course, but my simple kind of beauty – just as with women – is the type without all of the fuss and makeup.

Iris 'Here Comes The Sun'

Iris 'Dusky Challenger'

The colored part of the eye is the iris, which means “rainbow” in Greek, and Iris was also the Greek goddess of the rainbow, linking heaven and earth. No wonder the hybrids of the genus come in so many colors. As far as I could tell, the garden contained no straight species, and does anyone know of an Iris species garden without hybrids? I think it would be no less beautiful. Iris grow naturally in many parts of the world. Purple Iris were planted over the graves of Greek women to summon the goddess to guide the dead on their journey. For others the meaning of the Iris includes faith, hope and wisdom. In France the Fleur de lis was linked to the monarchy, and in other parts of the world the dark blue or purple Iris can denote royalty. Maybe I was attracted to the yellow Iris because it can be a symbol of passion.

Note the cultivar names of the Irises depicted below, for they are of the same cutesy-poo ilk as Hostas, roses, daylilies etc.

Iris 'Blueberry Parfait'

Iris 'Brilliant Idea'

Iris 'Dancing In Pink'

Iris 'Dangerous Mood'

Iris 'Dreaming Of Rio'

Iris 'Peggy Anne'

Iris 'Sunrise Elegy'
Iris 'Take Five'


Sebright Gardens

Acer rubrum 'Vanity'

A Sebright path

Sebright is a more subtle experience when it comes to the use of color in a garden, yet no wavelength is excluded. Start out with Acer rubrum 'Vanity', and really, what an appropriate name for this gaudy “Red maple” cultivar. Their specimen was neatly shaped and attractive, but I have seen it elsewhere as an overwhelming thug that can spread more wide than tall. The colors – the reds – quiet down by mid summer, and even though I have grown 'Vanity' for a number of years, I really can't remember if anything impressive occurs in fall. Even though we live with someone or something for years, that doesn't necessarily guarantee that we remember the details of their existence, as the vagueness for some never sharpens into memorable focus.

Hosta 'Avocado'

Hosta 'Love Pat'

Hosta 'Midnight Sun'

Hosta 'Mouse Tracks' 

Hosta 'Silver Threads and Golden Needles'

Hosta 'Blue Mouse Ears'

Waves of Hostas

Hosta retail tunnel
Waves of Hostas thrive in the Sebright shade, and I wonder if their garden might host the highest density of slugs in the world. Just as with the Iris earlier, the Hostas are saddled with darling names such as 'Avocado', 'Love Pat', 'Midnight Sun', 'Mouse Tracks', 'Silver Threads and Golden Needles' etc. I'm not really a Hosta kind of guy, but I do grow some such as 'Blue Mouse Ears' and 'Teenie Weenie Bikini', however the latter is spelled. Frequently gardeners who favor Japanese maples in their landscape will accompany them with Hostas and ferns, and in the Sebright greenhouse – a tunnel that extends over 300' – that is what they offer at the retail level. Hostas are native to Asia, and they are known in Japan as giboshi, while in Britain they have been referred to as plantain lilies. The genus was once classified in the Liliaceae family, but now it is placed in the Asparagaceae, and yes you can eat them. Austrian botanist Leopold Trattinnick named the genus in 1812 in honor of a fellow Austrian botanist, Thomas Host.

Cinnamomum porrectum (parthenoxylon)

My eyes latched onto an interesting shrub and from a distance I took it to be a Eucalyptus, a genus whose foliage I hate. But this plant was more refined with long blue-green leaves. The label read Cinnamomum porrectum (parthenoxylon), and it was the first time that I had ever seen it as the “cinnamons” are not considered hardy in Oregon. The label confused me – was the species porrectum or parthenoxylon? I looked it up and both are considered valid species. Was this a hybrid, or did the specific name change from one to the other? Parthenoxylon – Greek for “virgin wood” – is native to south and east Asia where it is commonly known as “Selasian wood,” “Saffrol oil” or “Martaban camphor wood.” The Cinnamomum genus is in the Lauraceae family, and it is comprised of about 270 species, most of which are aromatic. C. verum is the “true Cinnamomum,” although other species can produce the tasty spice, and it is the inner bark that is harvested. It is fun to visit unusual plant collections and to find new species. We had a mild winter last year, but I plan to revisit after a cold one to see how their Cinnamomum fares.

Zantedeschia 'Edge of Night'

Another new plant to me was the colorful Zantedeschia 'Edge of Night'. The genus is known as the “Arum lily” or the “Calla lily,” but it is only related to them, and they are native to east and south Africa. The species and hybrids are sadly only hardy to USDA zone 8, or 10 degrees above zero. I'm anxious to return this summer to see the spathe-shaped flowers with their central spadix, to see what colors the 'Edge of Night' displays, though I have a feeling that it will be a very dark color. The name of the genus was given by the German botanist Kurt Sprengel (1766-1833) in honor of the Italian botanist Giovanni Zantedeschi (1773-1846).

Acer palmatum 'Susan'

At Sebright I discovered Acer palmatum 'Susan', which I do not have and had never seen before today. But with its small leaves and a woman's name my mind instantly turned to Dick van der Maat of Boskoop, The Netherlands – he has introduced others somewhat like 'Susan'. And sure enough, it was one of his “girls;” and as I've said before, no one ever tires of another pretty girl. In De Collection van der Maat states, “This dwarf has very small light green palmatum-type leaves in the spring, becoming a shiny mid-green for the summer, and turning yellow in the fall. It forms a dense round bush up to 3 ft. or so (1m) in height. Because of the small leaves, plant size and shape, it is well suited for bonsai culture.” Well, so much for the “3' or so” because the Sebright tree is already 5-6 feet tall, and I imagine that it will mature to at least 12-15 feet tall.* I have been to van der Maat's Nursery – a long narrow rectangle of land situated alongside a long narrow canal, as is usually the case in Boskoop. A few years ago I arranged for him to visit Oregon maple nurseries and he gave a talk at the Portland Japanese Garden. Dick is a good guy.

*Of course there could be more than one 'Susan' in the trade.

Coniogramme intermedia 'Shishi'

Continuing with the “new” (for me) was a small fern, Coniogramme intermedia 'Shishi', and to learn more about the strange dwarf one can do no better than to consult Sue Olsen's Encyclopedia of Garden Ferns. I already know that 'Shishi' means “lion” in Japanese, as in the maple, Acer palmatum 'Shishigashira', so I suspected that the intermediate species would be native to Japan. Sue's book indicates that besides Japan, its range extends to the “deep forests” of “Sakhalin, the Kuriles, eastern Asia, and the Himalayas.” [At first I wanted to leave out the comma after “eastern Asia” and to refer to the plural as the “Himalaya” without the “s,” but hey – it's not my book, and I assume that Sue and Timber Press know what's best.] In any case it does not like to “dry out” and “needs vigilance against the slugs and snails that can come to feed on the foliage.” Even though the heavily-crested cultivar 'Shishi' is interesting, I would like to acquire just the straight species of the “bamboo fern.” Sue remarks that “the genus name is derived from conio, dusky, and gramme, line, in reference to the soral pattern.” I love her comment that, “Only a few species [of Coniogramme] are temperate and currently in cultivation, and these are surrounded by taxonomic question marks,”...because I cheer for a nature that is not so easily cubbyholed.

Selaginella braunii

The Sebright garden contained a tiny example of Selaginella braunii, the “Braun's spikemoss” or the “Chinese lace fern, arborvitae fern.” Sue nails it when she mentions that, “On the US West Coast, plants could easily pass for young seedlings of western red cedar (Thuja plicata),” however S. braunii is native to China and India. We also have a Selaginella species native to the Northwest USA, S. douglasii, which I have seen, and the species can be found on “partially shaded rocks, mossy crags, and riverbanks in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.” Sue informs us that there are 700 to 750 species of “spikemoss,” and they are so-named because of their “narrow, stalked structure,” and that the name comes from “the combination of ella, little, with selago, a species now classified as Huperzia selago.” I must only dabble with the ferns and Selaginella because of the “sponge phenomena,” whereby my limited brain capacity is already full, and the addition of more data means that some previous knowledge must necessarily exit, and that is why a visit to Sebright is somewhat dangerous.

Pterstyrax hispida

Pterstyrax hispida is a tree I have seen before – it can get large – but Sebright's was blooming, and the panicles of small flowers were glorious with the sun as backlight. The hispida species is native to China and Japan and was first described by Philipp von Siebold, then introduced to Europe in 1875. I wonder if horticulture will ever discover a pink-flowered form, as has occurred with Styrax japonicus. The generic name pter is from Greek pteris or pterid for “fern,” from pteron for “feather” or “wing.” Styrax is a genus in the Styracaceae family (the storax family) which features white flowers in drooping racemes. Storax is also a fragrant balsam derived from the bark of Liquidambar orientalis, a member of the Hamamelaceae family, also called “Levant storax.” Hispida is a common name in botany, as in Robinia hispida, Smilax hispida, Stachy hispida – the “hispid hedge-nettle” – and means “hairy, bristly, rough.”

Styrax japonicus 'Evening Light'

Styrax japonicus 'Pink Trinket'
Styrax japonicus 'Snow Drops'
Styrax japonicus 'Pink Trinket'
Also in the Styraceae family is Styrax japonicus 'Evening Light', a purple-leaved cultivar with contrasting white bell-shaped flowers, best viewed from beneath. In Europe there exists another purple-foliage selection, 'Purple Dress', but it is one with pink flowers. Sebright had an attractive specimen of 'Evening Light', but sadly for nurseries like mine, it is apparently patented, and a license is required for propagation. As usual I'm screwed because my company is too small for anyone to bother with, but by the same token I don't plan to be overly generous with my dwarf white-flowered Styrax, and especially with my compact pink-flowered Styrax. I'll share them with other “little guys” like myself, and the big-goon companies can hog the royalties from their patented plants. Actually if I was wealthy with a lot of time on my hands, I would be inclined to legally challenge the entire concept of patenting plants. Can nature really be prostituted with patents?

Firmiana simplex

Sebright planted a young sapling of Firmiana simplex in their newest garden, and I have previously seen trees of it in European arboreta. I have steered clear of it, not knowing what I would be getting into. Hillier describes the genus – in the Malvaceae family – as “A small genus of about 8 species of trees with large, lobed leaves. Found from New Guinea to SE Asia and in tropical Africa.” Ha, another non-hardy tree that is “commonly grown in the Mediterranean areas and S Europe.” As you can see the leaves are somewhat maple-like, but not quite as large as Acer macrophyllum. I'll leave Firmiana for Sebright to grow, but I'll return at some point to see the “curious fruits consisting of a leaf-like blade with pea-sized seeds borne around the edges near the base” (Hillier). Firmiana simplex used to be known as Sterculia platanifolia, indicating that the flowers or foliage emit a fragrance, as Sterculius was the Roman goddess of smell. I have grown Acer sterculiaceum, and maple author Peter Gregory shared the specific name meaning with me. One would expect the Romans to have a god for “smell,” but in truth he was the god of manure due to the unpleasant smell of the “tropical chestnut,” Sterculia foetida.

Pittosporum tenuifolium 'Irene Paterson'

Pittosporum is a genus of evergreen shrubs or small trees, except that they are not reliably hardy in Oregon. P. tenuifolium is one of the more hardy, and Sebright's garden was showing off with 'Irene Paterson', a strongly variegated selection. If I owned the shrub I would house it in GH20 and not risk losing it outdoors, but Sebright's owners garden with more bravado than I do. I have visited some California retail nurseries where many cultivars of Pittosporum are offered, but I always resist. The late James Paterson, former Deputy Director of Parks in Dunedin, found the variegated shrub in the wild near Christchurch, New Zealand, and dutifully named it after his wife. The Pittosporums are commonly called “cheesewoods,” and the fruit is a woody capsule with seeds coated with a sticky substance. The generic name is due to the sticky seeds, from Greek pitta meaning “pitch” and spora meaning “seed.” The specific name is derived from Latin tenu meaning “slender” and foli meaning “leaves” in reference to the more slender leaves of this species. In New Zealand it is commonly known as kohuhu and black matipo, and by other Maori names kohukohu and tawhiwhi.

Pinus sylvestris 'Green Penguin'

A conifer that I had never seen before is Pinus sylvestris 'Green Penguin', but I used to grow similar cultivars such as 'Globosa Viridis' and 'Moseri', where the dark-green older foliage would sprout short light-green tufts in summer. It was almost as if the plant was in bloom. I stared at 'Green Penguin' for a while, trying to figure out the reason for its name. The only thing I could suppose is that it was selected in northern Minnesota in the late 1990's, and therefore it might be hardy enough to survive in Antarctica. I like the narrow form of 'Green Penguin' but I don't think I'll seek it out; and as far as a product to produce in my nursery, forget about it as no one comes to me for Scot's pine anymore.

Feijoa sellowiana (Acca)

I saw Feijoa sellowiana at Sebright, but I think it was last fall. I looked for it again as I retraced their garden paths but it eluded me this May. It is a plant I would like to try, but I don't know of anyone local who offers it. It is a fruiting tree from South America, nicknamed the "pineapple guava" although it is not a true guava, and it is said to taste like pineapple, apple and mint. I have had many Brazilian trainees in the past, and one currently, so I have developed an ear for Portuguese to go along with my "Spanglish," and Feijoa sounds so Brazilian. For example: Saint Paul is Sao Paulo in Portuguese. The German botanist Ernst Berger named the plant after Joao da Silva Feijo, a Portuguese naturalist. The specific name honors Friedrich Sellow, a German who first collect specimens in southern Brazil. For valid historical reasons of nomenclatural precedence, which I won't go into, the genus in the Myrtaceae family is now known as Acca. Rules are rules of course, and I try to be botanically current, but sometimes I just don't feel like changing, so I'll probably stick with the Feijoa name.

Arisaema taiwanense

Popping above and arching over the Hostas was Arisaema taiwanense, the "Taiwan cobra lily." The radial leaf features long slender leaflets ending in a wispy thread. The flower develops a black-purple hood with a wicked-looking thread-like tongue, and frankly it scares the hell out of my wife* who is certain that the devil – in snake form – is involved. The name Arisaema is derived from Latin (from Greek) aris for "arum" and Greek haima for "blood" from the red-spotted leaves of some species.

Sarracenia leucophylla

*I can understand her aversion, and the poor girl is also fearful of the Sarracenia genus.

Ginkgo biloba 'Spring Grove'

Sebright Gardens

Colobanthus quitensis
The Sebright garden/arboretum sits at a minor elevation, but enough so that one can look south and enjoy the bucolic country setting of Oregon's famous Willamette Valley. They enjoy wonderful gardening soil and a benign climate and so their plants prosper, and even when they tempt the Fates of Hardiness I cheer for their success. The visitor will discover old specimens – such as Ginkgo biloba 'Spring Grove' – that reveal that the garden has been around for a long time. It didn't just spontaneously emerge, but rather every plant was nourished with drops of sweat when planted – and the owners can probably tell you every story about every plant. School children should visit Sebright, for a geography lesson could be learned from the fact that they grow a plant from six of the seven of the world's continents. By coincidence they are scheduled to visit me on the day that this blog is posted, so I will present them with an Antarctic plant – Colobanthus quitensis – one of only two flowering plants from the most southern continent – so they can demonstrate to the kids that plants grown in Oregon can literally represent the entire world.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Conifers in GH28

Our greenhouses are not necessarily arranged in order because they are numbered in the order that they were built, regardless of location. GH25, 27 and 28 are all about 100 yards away from each other, but what they do have in common is that they're all full of conifers. New plants are in them, as well as many which aren't hardy at a young age. Let's take a walk through GH28 and see what's there.

Cupressus cashmeriana at the J.C. Raulston Arboretum

The first encounter is Cupressus cashmeriana, the “Weeping Cypress of Bhutan.” My start came from a Canadian nursery about 25 years ago, and I could see that the perfectly-compatible rootstock was Thuja occidentalis 'Smaragd'. For some strange reason C. cashmeriana is less compatible with Thuja occidentalis 'Pyramidalis', when you would think that the understock species is all that should matter, not the cultivar. Rushforth in Conifers (1987) states, “Kashmir cypress” makes a very attractive tree but unfortunately is very tender and only survives for more than a few winters in Ireland or the mildest part of Britain. It is an excellent plant for use in a conservatory...” I remember seeing it 13 years ago at Kew in their fabulous conservatory, and it was not so far from reaching the top of the huge structure. In the Hillier Manual of Trees and Shrubs (2014) they claim that they have a 10m specimen planted outdoors that is 30 years old. I was most surprised to see an outdoor specimen at the J.C. Raulston Arboretum in North Carolina a few years ago, where it hardily withstood 7 degrees F. C. cashmeriana is not known to be native to Kashmir in northwest India, yet it was introduced from there in 1862. Was there a thriving horticultural scene in India before the British got there?

Tsuga mertensiana 'Bump's Blue
Dr. Bump with 'Bump's Blue'

Tsuga mertensiana 'Blue Star'

Tsuga mertensiana is probably my favorite conifer, probably because I'm not slaving away at the nursery when I am out goofing off in the Oregon Cascade Mountains. There is one particular colony of a thousand or so on the western flank of Mt. Hood. They range in size from little guys to 50' specimens, usually slender, and I think I have met nearly every one in this family. We never had much luck selling the straight species, but cultivars like 'Bump's Blue' and 'Blue Star' are in high demand. The only problem is that it takes about 12 years to achieve 6' in height, so they're not very profitable. The main reason that we grow them indoors is to encourage more growth from the lush conditions when they are small. The late Dr. Bump dug what became 'Bump's Blue' out of the ground at Mt. Hood about 50 years ago and planted it in his garden; certainly illegal today, but back then gardeners did whatever they wanted. 'Blue Star' was selected by L. Konijn of the Netherlands in 1965, and I saw a nice specimen at the Gimborn Arboretum. Be careful to not mix up these two cultivars, as you might not ever be able to tell them apart. The mertensiana species was introduced to Britain by Scotsman John Jeffrey in 1851. He arrived at Hudson Bay in 1850 and then travelled all the way to the Columbia River. He explored and collected in Oregon, Washington and California for four years, sending the goods back to Scotland. Then in 1854 he disappeared while crossing the Colorado Desert from San Diego, never to be seen again. Jeffrey met his maker at an age younger than I was when I began Buchholz Nursery, nevertheless he is honored for Dodecatheon jeffreyi and Pinus jeffreyi. If he had not been the first to introduce Tsuga mertensiana, eventually someone else would have, but cheers to Jeffrey for discovering a species that eluded fellow countryman David Douglas. These collectors died too young, but I suppose that they both sucked a lot of marrow from the bone of life before passing.

Chamaecyparis lawsoniana 'Blue Surprise'

Chamaecyparis lawsoniana 'Imbricata Pendula'

We always grow Chamaecyparis lawsoniana cultivars indoors for a few years, then when they're in a 7 gallon pot or larger we lack the room inside and kick them out to the Box Area. The species is hardy to USDA zone 5, or -20 degrees, but that is in the ground, and young plants in containers can perish with temperatures as low as 10 degrees above zero. Heck, we even had Picea pungens cultivars – three year old – die in one gallon pots when we reached 0 degrees with 30 mph winds, and they were grafted onto USDA zone 2 (-50 degree) Picea abies. The lesson was learned: protect the lawsons when young, inside. GH28 contains the cultivars 'Blue Surprise' and 'Imbricata Pendula', and certainly these two consist of the most wildly diverse examples of selections within a species. 'Blue Surprise' is a sparkling silver-blue dazzler with a narrow pyramidal habit that broadens at maturity, and be forewarned as a dump of wet snow can screw everything up. 'Imbricata Pendula', on the other hand, gives snow no purchase on its slender branchlets as it casually disses the wintery fluff. An elegant specimen – 30' tall? – exists at Flora Farm, and I purposefully planted it close to the road as a visual gift to the public. We all know that pendula means to “hang down,” as in a pendant; while imbricata is from Latin for “arranged with regular overlapping edges,” as in roof tiles or fish scales...ultimately from imbric for “roof tile,” from imbr for “rain.” I have seen the cultivar in Europe, happily thriving on its own roots, but in America one should propagate it – and all lawsons – on disease-resistant rootstock...and shame on all of the American nurseries that do not! These hucksters – and I have an urge to call them out – certainly know that the majority of their C. lawsoniana cultivars will die once the public puts them in the ground, yet they produce them (profitably) anyway. Look, I know I have my faults and short-comings, but I have never knowingly screwed the gardening public. I have too much respect and appreciation for your enthusiasm and support for my plants; and hey, thanks to you, I never had to get a real job.

Xanthocyparis nootkatensis 'Nidifera'

Xanthocyparis (formerly Chamaecyparis) nootkatensis is native from Alaska, down to northern Oregon, with an outlying population in central Oregon on Mt. Aldrich. There are a number of cultivars which are known to be more dwarf, narrow or variegated than the type, but 'Nidifera' – found in Italy before 1889 as a seedling – is very different, so much so that it was once considered to be C. lawsoniana nidiformis, Thujopsis nidifera, Cupressus nidifera and Thuja borealis var. nidifera. It forms a spreading nest-shaped bush with lovely blue-green foliage. We prefer to stake ours as they will then develop into small weeping trees. In the past we propagated by hard-wood cuttings in winter, but now we prefer to graft onto strong, hardy Thuja orientalis, and our crop responds with more uniformity and vigor. I got my start from the Bedgebury Pinetum in England about ten years ago, and before that I had never seen it. It is still rare in the trade, and I know of no one else in America who produces it. Most of my customers who have bought 'Nidifera' have ordered after first seeing it here, for it displays very appealing foliage.

Dan Luscombe discovering Pinus contorta 'Mt. Hood Variegated'

Speaking of Bedgebury, Dan (not Don, Hillier) Luscombe is employed at the Pinetum. He was in Oregon a few years ago and we made a car trip around Mt. Hood. At one point he exclaimed that he saw a variegated pine, which at that elevation could only be Pinus contorta. It took me awhile to turn the car around, then we scoured the road bank, all the while Dan fretting that maybe it wasn't what he thought. To his relief, “there, there it is!” Not only was it variegated, but prettily so with its grass-green shoots with about a fourth of them colored clear yellow. I returned later that winter, and with no park ranger in sight I quickly cut a couple of scions. My activity posed absolutely no harm to the tree, but government employees don't usually reason with knowledge and common sense. I haven't officially named it yet, but it does have a label that reads 'Mt. Hood Variegated' so I can keep track of it. The pine still has not been trialed outside, and even though it looked good at 5,000' elevation, it's a far different world there than at my baking nursery. I'd like to send a start to Dan to trial at Bedgebury, but unlike the old days when everybody did what they wanted, there are probably rules prohibiting the sending of pines.

Picea orientalis 'Tom Thumb' outside

Picea orientalis 'Tom Thumb' outside

Picea orientalis 'Tom Thumb' in shaded greenhouse

Picea orientalis 'Tom Thumb' is considered the correct name, not 'Tom Thumb Gold'. Nevertheless it is a golden miniature that originated as a witch's broom on P.o. 'Skylands'. 'Tom Thumb' grows between one and three inches per year, so I keep my stock inside hoping for three-inch scions. It requires a good deal of sun for best color, then afternoon shade so it won't burn. One photo (above) is from indoors, so you can see that it's not so bright, but as a stock plant I don't care. I like all cultivars of the “Caucasian spruce,” but surprisingly they don't root, at least for me. We can't root Picea omorika either, when Picea glauca and Picea abies are relatively easy to root. If anyone wants to brag otherwise I would be happy to know.

Chamaecyparis obtusa 'Bess'

Chamaecyparis obtusa 'Bess' is my favorite of the upright hinokies, and it grows about an inch per year. The best attributes are its dark green foliage and narrow habit. The retired John Mitsch gave me my start about ten years ago, and he reckoned it to be about 35 years old then, and now it is only six feet tall. John told me that it was discovered by Joe Reis and named for his wife Elizabeth who was affectionately called “Bess” by her husband. The late Ed Rezek gave me a similar seedling (from 'Nana Gracilis'), and it sits proudly in the garden across from the office. 'Rezek' is a faster grower and more broad at the base than 'Bess'. Once again I just temporarily named it 'Rezek', but then I began to sell it as such even though I'm the one who preaches against naming plants for people. In an open garden setting it is fun to sow seed from 'Nana Gracilis', and you're liable to get dwarf or golden or fast green progeny. I have introduced five C. obtusa cultivars but all of them were the result of a branch mutation – 'Harumi', 'Lemon Twist', 'Moonshine', 'Snow Blast' (horrible) and 'Sunshine', with 'Lemon Twist' probably being the best.

Chamaecyparis pisifera 'Harvard Gold'

John Mitsch

I have mentioned frequently that John Mitsch was extremely generous with me throughout my career. He gave me a Chamaecyparis pisifera that he was pleased with, but he had no intention to propagate it and he supposed that I would. He got his start from someone on the East Coast, but apparently it was never in production. Hopefully my story is correct but I can't be certain. Originally I called it 'Mitsch Gold' – there I go using people's names again – but I saw John a few years later and I brought up the naming of the pisifera. He said, “Well, since it came from the Arnold Arboretum, how about 'Harvard Gold?'” Let it be known! Like other plants in this blog it prospers with morning sun and afternoon shade. It is hard for me to estimate its height and width since we prune ours and sell them when small, and I've never grown one out in the garden. Chamaecyparis pisifera is known as the “Sawara false cypress” and it was introduced to Europe by Philipp von Siebold in 1860. One method to tell the C. pisifera species from C. obtusa is to look at the leaf underside: the white markings of pisifera form an x, and those of obtusa a y. But then most of us (nurserymen) can easily distinguish the two without close examination, even from a distance.

Cupressus macrocarpa at the Strybing Arboretum

Cupressus macrocarpa 'Greenstead Magnificent'

Cupressus macrocarpa is the “Monterey cypress” and the largest I have ever seen is growing at the Strybing Arboretum in San Francisco. It occurs in the wild in two small areas along the California coast which means that it tolerates salt spray, but then it is happy elsewhere too. It is marginally hardy for us, and it has succumbed in severe winters, or I should say its cultivars have croaked. 'Greenstead Magnificent' is a vigorous spreader with blue foliage. We like to stake ours up and prune them into neat pyramids. We've never been able to root it – maybe somebody has – but that brings up the question of what rootstock to use. I suppose other Cupressus species would work but I didn't have anything the first time I wanted to propagate, for someone sent me scions out of the blue. It was no major cerebral accomplishment to reason that Chamaecyparis nootkatensis crosses with Cupressus macrocarpa to produce x Cupressocyparis. So if I can use Thuja orientalis as understock for nootkatensis, then probably it would accept the macrocarpa as well. What do you know? – it does. I suspect – but haven't tried – that x Cupressocyparis and nootkatensis would work too. We also grow the golden juvenile Cupressus macrocarpa 'Wilma', and according to my records it was given to me by Brian Humphrey of England. It originated as a sport of 'Goldcrest', but often at Buchholz Nursery 'Wilma' can revert back to 'Goldcrest'. I suspect that millions of 'Wilma' are produced every year – I see them in grocery stores and other non-plant type of places. You'll often see them at Christmas time in a pot with a stupid red bow or ribbon around them. I even saw them for sale at a small Japanese florist kiosk in Tokyo.

Abies pindrow

Abies pindrow

I haven't grafted any Abies pindrow in about 15 years, but last winter I produced a few and now they are in pots in GH28. I love the species and I have some amazing specimens at Flora Farm. But apparently you didn't like pindrow because sales were never strong. I have seen the species in the western Himalaya and I have some photos of their amazing narrow crowns. Too bad I can't show them to you because they're still in slide form, and poor Seth is thousands of photos behind. The “experts” claim that pindrow is hardy to only USDA zone 8, or 10 degrees above zero, but I have a half-dozen of them that survived 0 degrees with 30 mph winds.* Sure, A. pindrow can get nailed by a late frost, but an established tree quickly recovers. I got my start from the nearby Otto Solburger estate, for the old Christmas tree grower also devoted a couple of acres for an exotic tree collection. I never met the man, but his wife seemed pleased that a youngster like me – I was 30 then – was interested in the trees, so she allowed me to cut scions. I have read that large conifer collections in Europe contain A. pindrow, and indeed it was introduced in 1837. The suggestion that the species requires “high humidity and rainfall” does not square with my experience. The pindrow name is derived from its Nepali name for the tree. E.H. Wilson claimed that the species name is derived from the Sanskrit word pind for “incense” and roo or row “to weep,” “from the numerous resinous tears found on the cones and other parts of the tree.” Hmm, where did I read that? And I don't think Wilson encountered A. pindrow in the wild.

*A specimen grows at the New York Botanical Garden – what's the hardiness zone there?

Pinus bungeana 'Great Wall'

The poor photo of Pinus bungeana above was taken at Shadow Nursery in Tennessee, but at least it shows a compact form of what he introduced as 'Great Wall'. I know no more than that, but Don kindly gave me a start.

Cryptomeria japonica 'Rasen'

I'll wrap up the blog with one more tree from GH28, Cryptomeria japonica 'Rasen'. It is an attractive cultivar as a small tree when you can admire its ringlets – the Japanese name means “barber pole” – and then if it has any landscape value beyond that, it's that it stays narrow as it soars skyward. In our conditions it can grow to 25' in just 10 years. As with all Cryptomerias, one need not use the word sugi, as in 'Sekkan sugi' or 'Rasen sugi', because sugi means the Cryptomeria tree itself, so sugi's use occurs in the Department of Redundancy's Department.

Visitors can spend a lot of time in GH28 because it contains many of the one-and-only in the collection. Every once in a while I'll discover a newbie that I didn't realize I had, then I must go back to my accession records to jog my memory about where I got it. One collects a lot of useless plants as well, but that is part of the process in my type of nursery. Before you know it, you've owned a nursery for 36 years and you are growing long in the tooth, but at least you didn't have to hold down a “real job.”