Thursday, July 21, 2016

Specimen Plant List

I recently finished compiling our specimen plant list, a process that requires me to methodically visit every section and greenhouse. I must count the potentially saleable and then decide how many of them I want to part with, keeping in mind future propagating needs and where smaller sizes might be etc. I've done it for years because no one else wants or can do the job, but it takes many days to complete the task. I want prices to be fair and to thrill customers with the value of what they receive. Thanks to the internet some of the retail outlets inform their customers when the Buchholz truck will arrive so they can be the first to pounce. I'm hesitant to brag because my good fortune can end instantly due to wars, acts of God or the whims of the gardening public.

Kniphofia 'Orange Vanilla Popsicle'
Acer palmatum 'Shaina'

Picea pungens 'Hartsel'

Corylopsis spicata 'Golden Spring'

I have said before that I group our plants into three categories: 1) maples, 2) conifers, and 3) everything else. For many of you everything else is the most interesting, and the specimen list can include the largest Davidia involucrata 'Lady Sunshine' for sale in the world, all the way down to Kniphofia in a #1 size pot for $8.50. Particularly nice is a crop of Corylopsis spicata 'Golden Spring', and the soft yellow foliage complements anything that is red – such as Acer palmatum 'Shaina' – or with blue, such as Picea pungens 'Hartsel'. The Corylopsis – with leaves like Corylus (hazel) – features sweet yellow flower racemes on nearly precocious branches, and the foliage color remains vibrant as long as the plant is well sited with morning sun and afternoon shade. Sadly, unlike other members of the Hamamelidaceae family, the Corylopsis usually do not display extraordinary autumn color, at least not at Buchholz Nursery.

Cercis canadensis 'The Rising Sun' 

Acer campestre 'Carnival'

I like Cercis canadensis 'The Rising Sun', the patented “redbud” selection with cream-yellow foliage that didn't burn on our 100 degree June day with no humidity. Its sun-resistance reminds me of Acer campestre 'Carnival' which also remains vibrant under such extremes. We are very good growers of 'Carnival', keeping our plants pruned and compact to better show off the foliage color. 'The Rising Sun' benefits from top-twig pruning so that it does not excessively gangle, and there again you are best off with a Buchholz plant.

Davidia involucrata 'Lady Sunshine'

The Davidia involucrata 'Lady Sunshine' never stay on a sales list long because customers visiting early in the season always speak for them. Of course they do as it is one of the very best of the variegated trees ever, and just as with 'Carnival' and 'The Rising Sun' it withstands extreme sun remarkably well, and our 100 degree day in early June didn't faze my garden-planted specimen at all. So often with these dazzling white-variegated plants, the longer that they are established in the ground the better they can tolerate intense heat. Really, it's funny that the stereotype for (western) Oregon's weather is that it rains all the time, and even jokes and songs allude to that assumption. But if you lived here you would know better – we scorch – and our herbage does not receive the nurturing benefits of high humidity. In other words, we are more akin to Phoenix than to Chicago or Boston when it comes to high-heat plant trials.

Ilex crenata 'Dwarf Pagoda'

Another other plant is the likable Ilex crenata 'Dwarf Pagoda', but there's sadly little or no profit to it. I think the #6 waist-high crop – for only $62.00 each – was started via rooted cuttings in the mid 1990's. It's a wonderful evergreen plant that doesn't take up much room in the garden so I keep growing it, but it's sobering to realize that I'll be in my 80's before this summer's cuttings reach a decent size. We keep them in the greenhouse for winter protection, and another gripe is that the indoor environment causes them to grow skinny, but maybe that's actually a good thing.

Ilex serrata 'Koshobai'

Speaking of Ilex, we're also offering I. serrata 'Koshobai'. The cultivar name means “peppercorn,” and I demonstrated in a previous blog that the red fruits are so small that you can practically fit 50 onto a dime. My 'Koshobai' start came from the late Jim Cross, an East-coast grower of exceptional plants. For a “dwarf” – as most would call it – I find it to grow quite fast, and the three that I planted in front of my house with adequate space for the remainder of my life...have already grown into each other. Berries ripen in October and last well into the new year, and a pot of 'Koshobai' on the dining table at Thanksgiving and Christmas is a Buchholz tradition.

Rodgersia 'Bronze Peacock'

I had an old brownish-green Rodgersia in the garden but it never impressed me. When it finally grew over the path I had my excuse to rip it out, and I largely forgot about the genus until years later when I encountered Rodgersia 'Bronze Peacock' in another's garden. The patented selection can only be purchased from Terra Nova Nursery – which we do – and so far we have sold out every season. Terra Nova hypes it as “the darkest foliage of any Rodgersia” and that the thick and glossy leaves “can't be ignored.” They provide a lot of information on their website concerning watering needs, flowering time, USDA hardiness, landscape value and such, and I even learned that Rodgersia is a member of the Saxifragaceae family. But what irks me about Terra Nova is that they never reveal the species, or the parents if it is a hybrid, just as they don't for most of what they sell. Why not? Are they intentionally keeping that a secret, like some cooks who never give out a recipe? In any case the Asian genus was named for the American Admiral John Rodgers who commanded an expedition in the 1800's to China and Japan were R. podophylla was collected.

Acer japonicum 'Aconitifolium'

Acer palmatum 'Hino tori nishiki'

The Van der Maat daughters
Terra Nova fancies that the leaves of Rodgersia look like the tail feathers of a peacock, and now that marijuana is legal in Oregon we are liable to get a lot of other “far out” connections with plants and their names. I always thought that Acer japonicum 'Aconitifolium' – bad name – was redeemed by its Japanese name of Maiku jaku, or “Dancing Peacock.” That I can accept more easily than the peacock of Rodgersia. Continuing into the realm of birds is Acer palmatum 'Hino tori nishiki', a cultivar that features bright red foliage in spring. The Japanese hino tori means “firebird” in English and I suppose that the nishiki part refers to its changing from red to green by summer. I don't know, but I suppose that simply 'Hino tori' would have been a better cultivar name. Nevertheless we sell tons of them, so who am I to quibble about the name? It was selected and named by Dutchman Dick van der Maat of The Netherlands, a good guy who is proud not only for his maples, but also for his two daughters. Dick thrives in the teeming crowd of Boskoop nurseries where one must excel just to survive.

Acer palmatum 'Beni yubi gohon'

Since I have just priced every #6-size or larger maple in the nursery, it means that I have checked all of the labels. Why do I have so many of this, but so few of that? Occasionally I will discover one loner – like 'Red Falcon' in a #7 pot in some obscure corner of the nursery and then I must decide if I want to sell it or not. Are there smaller ones somewhere in the pipeline? Do I care if it's the last one? 'Red Falcon' originated in New Zealand at a nursery – bankrupt more than once – that was notorious for mislabeled plants. I bought some Acer palmatum 'Beni ubi gohon' from them, which should be yubi not ubi. The correct name translates as “five red fingers,” except that their plants were not true to name. Not that their version was a bad maple, just that it was not korrect. Their sales rep sighed because he heard like stories from other customers, but after all he was just the middle man. The powers back in New Zealand had bushes to sell, so to hell with Buchholz's “opinion.” Half a year later the rep came up with the brilliant name of 'Red Falcon', but I didn't get my money back for the rong plants. So you see, I don't really care if I sell the last so-called 'Red Falcon'.

Acer sieboldianum 'Kumoi nishiki'

Acer palmatum 'Purple Ghost'
Acer palmatum 'Amagi shigure'

Sales were great the previous five years for Acer sieboldianum 'Kumoi nishiki' so I keep producing my modest numbers. I've experienced it before, though, that strong sales for a number of years can suddenly evaporate to nothing. Acer palmatum 'Kasagi yama' was very popular the first fifteen years of my career before my own 'Purple Ghost' effectively eliminated the desire for 'Kasagi yama'. Now I sell more A.p. 'Amagi shigure' than 'Purple Ghost' because it is more new and dazzling, even though the former is a weaker grower. What is possibly better than all of the above is one of the seedlings that I am trialing, or the one from someone in Japan or Europe.

Acer shirasawanum 'Autumn Moon'

Acer shirasawanum 'Autumn Moon' was not listed in the Vertrees Japanese Maples first edition, but it made its appearance in the 1987 second edition*, and that's about the time I acquired my tree which is planted next to the office. It is thriving perhaps because its roots feed off of the nearby septic system, and now it has a beautiful canopy 13' tall by 15' wide. For the most part you don't – or shouldn't – stake your way to a nicely-shaped shirasawanum, but rather you prune. The species has the propensity to grow sideways with crisscrossing branching, and if you don't like the way it looks, then prune it and prune it hard. I suppose that our 3-gallon 'Autumn Moons' are a year older than at the competition's and yes, ours cost more, but the trunks on a Buchholz maple are of a better caliber of caliper.

*It was his own introduction, and the original seedling emerged via seed from Acer shirasawanum 'Aureum', known originally as Acer japonicum 'Aureum'.

Acer shirasawanum 'Moonrise'

We also grow Acer shirasawanum 'Moonrise', a Carl Munn winner that also came from A.s. 'Aureum' seed. I think that 'Moonrise' is superior to 'Autumn Moon', at least in Oregon, for it withstands full sun better. Also 'Moonrise' features red new growth that adorns the older yellowish leaves, and the combination is so stunning that the three trees I planted along my driveway greatly impress my wife's non-plant friends...who are stunning themselves. I thought it might be best to cut back on 'Autumn Moon' production, due to my personal preference, but it turns out that we sell the two in fairly equal numbers. Both are well-named, aren't they?

Abies koreana 'Ice Breaker' in welsh pots

For the first year we will be selling plants in a “welsh pot.” Hopefully we won't offend anyone from Wales, but a welsh pot is basically a skimpy one-gallon pot. It has the same diameter as a one-gallon, but it is only two-thirds as deep, and it is perfect for dwarves such as Abies koreana 'Ice Breaker', Abies pinsapo 'Horstmann', seedlings from 'Mikawa yatsubusa' etc. And yes, they are generally less expensive than the same thing in a one-gallon. Besides, the welsh is a cute product.

Dryopteris sieboldii 

I don't know why it took me so long to offer ferns, but we have recently added a few, and they are perfect complements for Japanese maple cultivars. The gardening public is probably not familiar with the botanic names and can't tell a Dryopteris from a Polystichum, but the common name of “Japanese wood fern” for Dryopteris sieboldii is something that can be remembered. Previously I was intimidated by ferns because there are so many species and I considered my brain being too jammed to absorb new names and general fern knowledge. But just as it is with maples, sukoshitzutsu (“little by little” in Japanese) I now know a few and I can understand how fern expert Sue Olsen, author of Encyclopedia of Garden Ferns, got into this wonderful group of plants. It's interesting that her late husband, Harry, was a maple expert, and you can see many of his photos in Japanese Maples by Vertrees and Gregory. “Fern Lady” and “Maple Man” could perhaps be characters in a children's book, and maybe when I finish this blog I can create a story.

Abies concolor 'Hosta La Vista'

Abies concolor 'Candicans'

I don't want to give short shrift to the conifers for we still grow thousands of them. One attractive Abies, or “true” fir, is Abies concolor 'Hidden Lake WB', which developed as a witch's broom mutation at the Hidden Lakes Arboretum in Michigan. Recently I was told that it was renamed 'Hosta La Vista' because it sits high in the tree and has a view of a bed of Hostas beneath. I groaned when I heard the new name, and just as with vanity license plates I think there should be a committee to review the proposed name. The concolor species can be difficult to grow in the wet winters and soggy soils of western Oregon. After a dozen-to-twenty years I cut them down as they begin to look scrappy, which was the fate of the once-beautiful 'Candicans' in the photo above.

Pinus koraiensis 'Gee Broom'

The original witch's broom at Gee Farms

I was told by Gary Gee, the finder of Pinus koraiensis 'Gee Broom' – which we grow lots of – that its name has been changed to 'KG', or is it 'Kay Gee'? In any case, it is an excellent dwarf with soft blue-green needles, and it's easy to grow and tolerates full sun. It is listed on our specimen availability under its old name until I stand corrected with the spelling – perhaps someone in the Flora Wonder readership can advise. We've had 'Gee Broom' long enough for it to prove that it's a worthy garden plant, unlike so many of the witch's broom conifers that can fall open as they age.*

*Examples of poor dwarves in Oregon include Abies concolor 'Birthday Broom', Picea glauca 'Cecilia', Larix laricina 'Newport Beauty' and Chamaecyparis lawsoniana 'Drath Hexe'.

Pinus parviflora 'Regenhold Broom'

One of my favorite of the miniature pines is Pinus parviflora 'Regenhold' which actually should be 'Regenhold Broom'. It was discovered by Ron and Judy Regenhold as a witch's broom mutation on Pinus parviflora 'Glauca' in Cincinnati, Ohio, For us it is very tight and compact, growing a little more wide than tall. Sometimes those “spreaders” can surprise you, when after a number of years they develop leaders, such as with Abies nordmanniana 'Golden Spreader'. We propagate 'Regenhold Broom' by grafting onto potted 4-year-old Pinus strobus, and then it takes an additional 5 years to fill out a 6” wide #1 container. For any who can't appreciate my patience and effort to produce such choice garden plants then I can recommend a couple of box stores for you to shop...and you can continue with your boring life.

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