Tuesday, June 28, 2016

The Master Plant List

Tsuga mertensiana 'Blue Star'

I have my Master Plant List in notebook form which is easier for me to read than looking sideways at a computer screen, and for each plant I have listed my original source. I mentioned last week that an employee screwed up the sources horribly, so I had to redo it from memory. Since that disaster twenty years ago the new administration has had no trouble keeping it accurate. Well, not so fast my friend. Every time we are given a new plant, or buy one or discover one ourselves – and even if it is just a little stick of scionwood – it is added to the MPL. So we're very thorough about that. The problem is to be sure to take it off if it dies or we accidentally (or on purpose) sell the last one. For example my start from Europe of Tsuga mertensiana 'Blue Star' took too long to arrive to me and no scions survived. So we sadly took it off the MPL, que lastima. But a few months later I discovered that we rooted about ten pieces when we were preparing the scions, and so it went back on the MPL after all. This lapse of memory occurred when I was mentally in my prime, and now that I am long in the tooth I forget even more.

Grandfather with a Rhododendron hybrid

Rhododendron mucronulatum 'Cornell Pink'

Rhododendron 'Elfin Gold'

I was paging through the MPL the other night, and for me it was a journey into the past, my horticultural biography. People and places, so many memories. A common name, especially in the Rhododendron section, is Hatch, and that would be my Grandfather Gerald. Long ago he gave me R. mucronulatum 'Cornell Pink' and it was brilliant in early spring planted near the office. Then suddenly it was dead, succumbing to root rot I guess. He also gave me R. 'Elfin Gold', and I have a photo to prove that I once had it, but for the life of me I don't know where it is. You see, I am tempted to take it off the MPL, but if I do I'll discover that it prospers in some forgotten corner. Since I'm uncertain I do nothing...and let another twenty years go by.

Rhododendron cinnabarinum 'Small Leaf UBC'

Rhododendron cinnabarinum 'Small Leaf UBC'

Sir Joseph Hooker
Fortunately the majority of Grandfather's gifts grow well in the gardens, and we even propagate a few. A handsome Rhododendron cinnabarinum 'Small Leaf UBC'* resides down by the creek at the edge of the woods. As you can see form the photos the blossoms emerge pretty pink, then evolve to cream-white with only a hint of the old pink. Leaf undersides are cinnamon-brown, and one might presume that was cause for the specific epithet, but in fact it is due to its yellow-to-cinnabar red flowers. The word cinnabar is derived from Greek kinnabari, and it refers to the brick-red color of mercury sulfide which is the historic source for the scarlet pigment termed “vermillion.” Actually I wonder if my “species” is correct since my flowers – and leaves – are so different from the type. The type specimen was introduced from the Himalayan foothills in 1849 by Sir Joseph Hooker.

*'Small Leaf UBC' is not really a cultivar, but rather a form grown at the University of British Columbia, and was perhaps collected by them.

Camellia x williamsii 'Water Lily'

Camellia 'Black Opal'

The sparse Camellia portion of the MPL indicates that four of them come from visits to Gossler Farms Nursery, while the oddball Camellia japonica 'Sake Cup' hails from Hawksridge Nursery in North Carolina. A lot of pages on the MPL list at least one plant sourced from Gossler, with the exception of conifers. I tell visitors new to the nursery that we grow three groups of plants: 1) Japanese maples, 2) conifers and 3) everything else, with the latter group often coming from Gossler. Roger Gossler scours Northwest nurseries for new and interesting plants, plus he has world-wide contacts. He has been in the nursery business for five decades, but just as with me he is only 39 years old. His is a retail nursery that sells plants on site, as well as a mail-order business, so every gardener in America has access to his product. I would suggest that the entire Flora Wonder Blog readership hurry through this blog, then log onto www.gosslerfarms.com, and for heaven's sake – and for your sake – buy something!

Callicarpa japonica 'Snow Storm'

Cercidiphyllum japonicum 'Boyd's Dwarf'

Disanthus cercidifolius 'Ena nishiki'

Disanthus cercidifolius 'Ena nishiki'

Ginkgo biloba 'Snow Cloud'

Hamamelis japonica 'Pendula'

Magnolia kobus var. stellata 'Jane Platt'

Osmunda regalis

Rosa moyesii 'Geranium'

Gossler was my source for Callicarpa japonica 'Shiji murasaki' (patented in America as 'Snow Storm'), Cercidiphyllum japonicum 'Boyd's Dwarf', the variegated Disanthus cercidifolius 'Ena nishiki', Ginkgo biloba 'Snow Cloud', Hamamelis japonica 'Pendula', Magnolia kobus var. stellata 'Jane Platt', Osmunda regalis, Rosa moyesii 'Geranium' and dozens more. I suppose that the Magnolia 'Jane Platt' is the real moneymaker of this list, and it is included in the Hillier Manual of Trees and Shrubs (2014). Of course Hillier also lists 'King Rose' from New Zealand which I found to be a non-event. King Rose is a typical New Zealand plant name; they come up with Red Dragon, Star Wars, Sweetheart, Vulcan, Apollo and the like. They're good names I guess, just as NZ people are also good, and I doubt that any of you have encountered a bad Z-lander? Anyway, I have bragged before that no retail nursery can have as much fun as shopping at Buchholz Nursery, and certainly no home gardener can have more fun than shopping at Gossler's.

Sciadopitys verticillata 'Fireworks'

Sciadopitys verticillata 'Gold Rush'

Abies koreana 'Ice Breaker'

Abies koreana 'Silberlocke' at Arboretum Kalmthout

Bethlehem Nursery is a frequent source on my MPL, and the late Dennis Dodge from Connecticut was very generous with me. We never bought nor sold anything to each other, but rather traded, and I have dozens of great plants from him. Funny, he was well-connected with European collectors even though, to my knowledge, he never travelled out of the USA. He was particularly fond of Sciadopitys verticillata – the Japanese umbrella pine – and I received 'Fireworks', 'Golden Parasol', 'Hinge Form', 'Tumbleweed', 'Gold Rush' and 'Yellow Dream' from him. But there was far more, as in an Abies koreana 'Kohout's WB' that was eventually renamed as 'Ice Breaker', even though finder Jorge Kohout of East Germany prefers that we refer to it as 'Kohout's Ice Breaker'. We won't, too late, too bad, just 'Ice Breaker' is fine, and we're selling scads. I can only hope that the Arboretum Kalmthout in Belgium will plant one near their huge A.k. 'Silberlocke', which is the largest that I have ever seen, to demonstrate the origin of cultivars.

Hydrangea macrophylla f. normalis 'Quadricolor'

Corylopsis glaucophylla

Arbutus 'Marina'

The now defunct Heronswood Nursery from Washington state was the source of many plants for Buchholz Nursery. I would drive four or so hours to get there and pick up* my annual order of about twenty plants. They would be best described as overpriced and undergrown, but with some effort we could nurse them into stability, and a few years later we would be able to start taking cuttings. A lot of the plants had a brief run here, and all that remains is maybe one in the garden. Hydrangea macrophylla f. normalis 'Quadricolor' sold well for a few years before the customers scattered. Corylopsis glaucophylla never did sell, and I've never seen it listed before or after the one year I acquired it from Heronswood. Arbutus 'Marina' grew fast and was attractive, but sadly it finally perished in the infamous winter when our Greenhouse 20 heater conked out. At one point it was fairly new to horticulture even though the parent tree dates from 1944 in San Francisco, but in 2006 it was beginning to fall over and was cut down. About ten years ago I was driving through an attractive Bay Area town – San Rafael I think – and I remember seeing 'Marina' widely used as a street tree, so it wasn't rare at all. I am 100% certain that I don't have 'Marina' anymore, and it is past due that it comes off the MPL.

*My last pick up at Heronswood was just before the parent company pulled the plug and locked the gates. My order consisted of two flats of small pots which cost over $500, and I loaded them into my car to begin the long drive home. I didn't pay attention to the invoice until the next day when I noticed a $35 pick up fee was added. That was the most weird charge ever in my career.

Sassafras tsumu

Stachyurus salicifolia

Ribes sanguineum 'Brocklebankii'

Euphorbia 'Fen's Ruby'

I began the laborious endeavor to page through the MPL to find a “successful” Heronswood plant, one that was absolutely a cracker from a commercial point of view. Then I got the bright idea to have Seth do it from his computer, and in 20 seconds he handed me a list of 103 plants, and keep in mind that another 50 or 100 have already been taken off the list. I wanted to end the Heronswood chapter on a positive note, to credit them with the partial success of Buchholz Nursery, but to my astonishment there is not a single one that is in production today. They all turned out to be “esoteric” or BIO plants (botanical interest only), and none of them ever fed the family or paid the taxes. To be sure, I am nevertheless happy to have many of these plants still in the collection, such as Sassafras tsumu (from China), Stachyurus salicifolia and Ribes sanguineum 'Brocklebankii', and they add to the overall appeal of the Flora Wonder Arboretum. On the other hand I regret ever adding Euphorbia 'Fen's Ruby' to the property as the scourge spurge has spread to almost an acre.

Juniperus horizontalis 'Pancake'

Bletilla ochracea

I added some fun plants to the collection from Siskiyou Rare Plant Nursery in Southern Oregon, but most of them were from ten-to-twenty years ago. They used to be “famous for alpines and more since 1963,” but apparently they have now fallen on hard times. In the old days I received Juniperus horizontalis 'Pancake' from Siskiyou; I like the name and indeed it creeps at only an inch above the ground – far more of a hugger than the old cultivar 'Wiltoni'. It is also fun to stake 'Pancake' or to graft onto short 24” standards. Another success was Bletilla ochracea, the Chinese ground orchid, hardy to about 0 degrees F. We propagate and grow it for the pretty flowers, but in Africa it is also cultivated where it has been used by healers to cure the vampirism disease.

Acer sempervirens

Acer sempervirens

I also acquired Acer orientale* from Siskiyou, except that it is not a valid species name, and anyway it looked identical to Acer sempervirens. The "Cretan maple" is native to southern Greece and southern Turkey where it is usually an evergreen or semi-evergreen shrub to small tree. In spite of its origin my 20-year-old tree has survived the freezes of winter when other "more-hardy" maples have died. We used to propagate by softwood cuttings in summer under mist – they would strike readily – and they made a cute little plant in a small pot. But maybe only Siskiyou and I thought it was worth growing as sales were never strong.

*The name orientale was coined by Linnaeus, and it was introduced into Europe in 1752.

Daphne bholua

I went through a Daphne phase at Buchholz Nursery, but I could never get the crew to understand that their watering needs were different, the Daphnes that is. No employee wants to get caught underwatering anything, and the "better safe than sorry" approach leads to overwatering and Daphne death. We kept the various species together and finally I put up a sign that said "Do not water," which meant that I would tell you when you should water. One time I walked into the greenhouse and saw the Daphne bholua wilting and I immediately put the hose to them. They perked up but due to the stress they picked up a bad case of mites. That event occurred when we exceeded 100 degrees for three days in a row. I didn't know how to convey, "Don't water unless the plants need water," even though the watering crew had all been employed by me for over ten years. I can't do rocket science and they can't grow Daphne.

Silene davidii

We hit up the alpine nursery of Mt. Tahoma* for new plants just a year before proprietor Rick Lupp retired. His was known as a hobby nursery that was full of cool plants, and the little gems provide great accompaniments for our pumice gardens and troughs, plus we sell a lot of the crops individually. I new nothing about Silene davidii until we acquired a start from Rick. It comes from alpine meadows in China where it forms compact cushions with relatively large rose-pink flowers compared to the tiny green leaves. The specific name honors the French missionary Pere Armand David who is no stranger to regular readers of the Flora Wonder Blog. Silene (Cy-lee-nee) is the feminine form of Silenus, a Greek woodland deity, and it is occasionally used as a girl's name. Along with the Lychnis genus, Silene is commonly called the "moss campion." Campion is a variant of champion. The Greek lychnis is derived from stephanomatikos for making garlands with which the winners of games were crowned.

Mt. Rainier

Admiral Peter Rainier
*Tahoma was the Native American name for the mountain that the early British explorers felt compelled to rename as Mount Rainier. No one knows for certain the origin of Tahoma, but in various native languages it can mean "snow peak," "frozen water," "above everything" or "mother of waters." Mt. Rainier honors Admiral Peter Rainier, a rotund British Naval officer who never saw the mountain. On May 8, 1792 George Vancouver bestowed the name for his friend, and the only thing appropriate is that the 14,410' peak in Washington has a western side that averages 126 inches of rain every year, or about four times as much as I receive at the nursery. At Paradise, Washington, a record of 93.5 feet of snow fell in the winter of 1971-1972, and it is known as the snowiest place on earth.

Rhododendron 'Wren'

Rhododendron anthopogon 'Annapurna'

Also from Mt. Tahoma came a good handful of dwarf-species and hybrids of Rhododendron, and it has been fun getting to know them. R. 'Wren' blooms prolifically and it will only grow to two feet tall in ten years. It was hybridized by the Coxes of Glendoick in Scotland and is the offspring of R. ludlowii crossed with R. keiskei 'Yaku Fairy' which we also grow. R. anthopogon 'Annapurna' is a Glendoick selection of R. anthopogon ssp. hypenanthum, and besides the cream-yellow flowers I like the tiny glossy-green leaves. R. anthopogon is native to Nepal (and elsewhere) and I saw it near Mt. Everest which is near Mt. Annapurna. Healing oils are extracted via steam from this dwarf  "rose-tree," and it is a stimulant which affects fibrous tissue, bones and the nervous system. Yeah, give me some of that! Annapurna is my favorite mountain in the Himalaya, located near the Sherpa home of Namche Bazaar, and a nearby monastery used to house the official Yeti scalp – but I think it was stolen.
Abies concolor 'Wattezii'

The Sir Harold Hillier Arboretum

Dr. Bump
The MPL has a lot of blanks when it comes to sources, such as with Abies concolor 'Wattezii', and it exasperates me that the history is lost, and that I am the only one who cares. The late Dr. Bump of Forest Grove, Oregon – a real plantsman – had just returned from a garden trip through England, and he was accompanied by his wife who didn't give a hoot about plants at all. After nearly two hours in the Hillier collection she wasn't impressed with much of anything...until Sir Harold Hillier marched her past his specimen of 'Wattezii' which was vibrant with chartreuse new growth. She admitted that it was the one conifer that she truly loved. Dr. Bump asked me if I could try to find one for him, and then he never mentioned it again. It took ten or twelve years but I finally acquired it, and old Bump was quite pleased and surprised I remembered. I have it in the Flora Wonder Arboretum even though we don't produce it anymore. Every time I pass 'Wattezii' I think of the Bump story, but it irks me to no end that I can't remember where it came from.

This blog has caused me to reflect. Not to brag, but I have a wonderful nursery and plant collection. I am proud then, except that – oops! – I don't have a retirement.