Friday, September 23, 2016

California Conifers

Oregonians generally don't care for Californians, but I think our southern neighbors are not even aware of it. We have an unofficial motto that says, visit, spend your money but don't stay. I first became aware of Californians when I was 17 years old and attended college at the University of Oregon (AKA University of California at Eugene). Half the school seemed to be from California and one even became a roommate. They had an arrogance about them that was unwarranted in my opinion, and my Cal roommate chastised me for the (uncool) way I buttoned my sweater. I even had to listen to the mantra that all new, progressive and wonderful ideas originate in California and I should be grateful that this student emissary was diligent to enlighten me.

I don't dislike Californians anymore, except that many have migrated to Oregon and they significantly add to our traffic woes. Actually I even love their state, and within its borders the flora and the scenery are equal to, or superior to that of Oregon, which is not easy to admit. I was about 10 years into my nursery when I took a week off to make my first plant pilgrimage into the Mecca of floral diversity.

Cupressus sempervirens

In southern Oregon I refilled my car with gas in the town of Grants Pass, a name which curiously does not possess an 's. One theory is that it was so-christened by – or because – General Ulysses S. Grant rode through the area with his soldiers, and it's fortunate that he didn't die there or the town might have been named Grants Tomb. Residents of nearby Medford, Oregon refer to the town as “Grunt 'n Piss,” but I find it attractive and it is chock-a-block with huge specimens of Cupressus sempervirens.

Picea breweriana

I stopped at the ranger station expecting little, but I hoped there might be a bureaucrat available who could point me in the direction of a place to see the “Brewer's weeping spruce,” Picea breweriana. Fortunately the receptionist called for an old coot who warmed to me and my quest with great enthusiasm. He poured us both a cup of coffee and then got out all kinds of maps, some of which I could keep. He overloaded me with information but I got the general idea of where to go...into the Siskiyou Mountains. Indeed I found many Brewer's, scrappy as they were, for the flora wasn't very lush on the serpentine soils. I'll admit to cheating because the photos above are from Portland's Hoyt Arboretum, and my original slides from the Siskiyou's have not yet been converted digitally. But I had fun on the narrow gravel roads, none of which were marked sufficiently to correspond with the maps, and eventually I wandered past the Mt. Ashland ski resort and into the town of Ashland, Oregon, happy to not be lost.

Picea breweriana lost in the Biscuit Fire

Sarcodes sanguinea

One of the most beautiful areas for Picea breweriana used to be in the Kalmiopsis Wilderness, and in particular the area near Baby Foot Lake. That was also the location where one might see the “Snow plant,” a lurid red shaft that appears just after the snow has melted. I say “used to be” because the Biscuit Fire in 2002 burned a half million acres (780 sq. mi., or 2000 sq. km.). Once-proud conifers were turned into bleached poles, and I was presented with a very eerie spectacle on my re-visit in 2010. I lamented the passing of all trees, but in particular the Brewer's spruce. I tried to find the lake, for certainly it didn't burn, but the 2-mile trail was no longer in evidence. Some salvage logging had occurred while environmentalists feared for the spread of Phytophthora lateralis among the native “Port Orford cedars,” Chamaecyparis lawsoniana, spread by loggers' boots and equipment. I'm not really a fan of the lawsons, but on the other hand I don't want them to die out. Nary a Brewer's spruce could be found...until I noticed on the ground hundreds of half-inch seedlings; so they were coming back after all, and every decade or so – even though I don't have many decades left – I would like to visit and check on their progress.

Picea breweriana with Mt. Shasta

Ok, all of that was in southern Oregon, but let's continue now into northern California. My next destination was the Castle Crags State Park which features 28 miles of hiking trails, and the Pacific Crest Trail also passes through the park. The park was named for 6,000' tall glacier-polished granite slabs, preposterous gray monstrosities that hovered above the oak and conifer forest. As I ascended the steep trail I overtook an attractive female with a large dog as her companion. Later I saw why the dog was a good idea, and not just as protection from me, but because as I labored up the mountain a California black bear romped perpendicular to my path only 100' ahead of me. I have never been so close to a bear in the wild, but then he didn't want anything to do with me either. I finally reached a plateau – my sweat-drenched summit – and off in the distance was my reward of a very large Brewer's spruce with magnificent Mt. Shasta in the background, and I pondered that it would make an excellent final resting place. Except that I would be damned if my remains should ever be sent to Cal...Cal...California!

Nelis Kools
Haruko Buchholz
It was long ago so I don't remember everything, but I must have veered southwest from the Crags, from the Interstate 5 to the coastal route of Hwy 101. Ten years later I stopped to rest again in the town of Eureka – what a great name – but this subsequent trip was with the conifer expert Nelis Kools of The Netherlands and my fairly newly-wed – and then childless – wife, Haruko. On my first California trip I stayed overnight at a mediocre chain motel which I found in my fatigue to be adequate. However, on the second stay with Haruko and Nelis – he was stationed in room 208 and we were in room 206 – there was incredible commotion in room 207. An amorous couple was pounding, pounding and slamming the headboard against the wall, and at first we just chuckled at their apparent fun. The problem was that it never stopped, it went on-and-on, and finally I was pounding on our shared wall for them to stop. The next morning groggy Haruko and I met with Nelis and I complained and apologized about the disturbance...when Nelis announced that he assumed it was caused by us. Haruko remained silent, but she wanted to yell at him, that it wasn't us, that, that we were far more elegant than that!

I have been through the California redwoods a number of times, and have stopped at many forestal attractions, so I don't remember exactly what I experienced on the first visit. I think I procured a redwood-burl bowl...for a former girlfriend...I just don't remember. But I did visit a number of S. sempervirens groves and individual trees, and all visitors must be humbled and stupefied at their enormity. I can mention that the earth's tallest tree species also occurs on the very southern tip of the Oregon coastal route, but that the ultimate champions are clearly in California, and I was overjoyed to wander beneath them. The knucklehead President Ronald Reagan, when mere Governor of California, offered that if you have seen “one redwood, then you have seen them all,” which basically gave the greenlight to cutting and processing thousands more. The Gov – at the time – apparently didn't understand or appreciate the incredible biodiversity of these ancient forests and didn't take into account the thousands of native life-forms that were affected by redwood logging.

Native range of Sequoia sempervirens

Native redwoods are restricted to a narrow coastal fog belt about 450 miles long and no more than 25 miles wide, nevertheless they thrive in the Flora Wonder Arboretum with very little fog. In fact I have specimens that have received no supplemental irrigation at all, and so does the Hoyt Arboretum in Portland, so I'm not sure why they haven't “travelled” more along the Pacific coast.* Of all of the world's flora, a mature redwood forest produces the greatest biomass per unit area, even much more than in the thickest, tallest rainforests.

*A Flora Wonder Blog reader offers:

I also have your answer as to why Coast Redwoods only grow naturally to southern Oregon, yet we both planted them about 38 years ago, including here on the Olympic Peninsula WA state, and see them also in Vancouver BC.) They set their pollen in WINTER, getting rained out/too cold here to set seed, so they never will happen here. Seed in Calif. is only 15% viable tops, usually less. I plant/root suckers to grow to timber in 35+ years. They root easily with a heel.

An albino Sequoia sempervirens

I was once given scionwood of an albino Sequoia sempervirens, but the wood was very soft and neither cuttings nor grafts survived. Later I came across a publication entitled The White Redwoods – Ghosts of the Forest. If you want to search for this wonderful little book the ISBN is 0-87961-087-5. The book explains that they survive because their white tops are actually nourished by the web of their neighbor (green) trees' roots. There are a number of albino redwood sites, and one specimen mentioned in the 1980-published book already stood 80' tall. About 10 years ago I visited a site in a California state park just north of Santa Cruz. I walked a mile-long loop with interpretive signs and finally came to the albino. The tree looked like crap because a few days earlier (in late April) the area received a sharp frost and the albino was badly burnt.

Calaveras Grove

Calaveras Grove

Sequoiadendron giganteum at Calaveras Grove

Cone-seller Buchholz
My original plant trip to California included a visit to the Calaveras Grove, which was my first encounter with the “Giant redwoods,” Sequoiadendron giganteum. Often I prefer to be alone when discovering natural wonders for the first time, and the Calaveras giants did not disappoint. I have relayed before that I grew up in Forest Grove, Oregon, in a yard with two Sequoiadendron that were planted in the 1870's, making them among the largest in the world outside of their native range. I guess I was about six when I gathered up redwood cones and my Grandmother ferried me to various florist shops where I sold the cones for 50c a dozen. The florists simply couldn't turn down an enthusiastic youngster, and I think I made about five or six dollars that day. It was the first plant sale in my life, and how fitting that I would go on to become a nurseryman with one of the largest collection of Sequoiadendron cultivars in the world.

Abies magnifica

Yosemite Half Dome

John Muir
My solo journey took me to Yosemite and I spent four days at the park, and later I described it as the “Disneyland of Nature.” It was at Yosemite that I finally took my hat off to California and bowed low. I have been back about half a dozen times, but always with others, even once with my father-and-mother in law from Japan. The geology is fantastic, such as with Half Dome, where a glacier carved away the missing half. I suppose the Abies in the foreground of the photo above is magnifica or magnifica var. shastensis. I have tried to locate this Abies on subsequent trips but it has since disappeared, and if it died the dead stick should still be there. It's as if it walked away, tired of posing for the tourists. At a lower elevation I discovered a grove of large A. magnifica, and it's easy to see why it received its specific name. The similar Abies procera, or “Noble fir,” also exists in California, in the northwestern portion of the state, and the two can hybridize which makes tree identification tricky. Concerning A. magnifica, known as the “Red fir,” John Muir wrote that its “plushy branches...with ferns and flowers for a pillow” provided the best bed for a mountaineer. Later he declared, “No wonder the enthusiastic Douglas* went wild with joy when he first discovered this species.”

The “Douglas” in question was (of course) the earlier fellow-Scotsman David Douglas who introduced the species.

Pinus jeffreyi

I had already seen the Pinus jeffreyi species before on my initial California floral trip, but never did I see it so wonderfully presented as in Yosemite. Trees would gain purchase in cracks on the granite slopes, and the one in the photo above has become my all-time favorite. It seems to say, “Look at me, I took advantage of my opportunity.” There is no way to know the age of this jeffreyi, and on my first Yosemite visit I marveled that there wasn't a Brad-loves-Angelina heart carved into the bark, especially since it was just a short distance away from a large tourist parking area. Well, that was then, but now it is scarred, defaced by someone with no more brains than the rock he was standing on. It is situations like this when I fantasize about being the judge, jury and executioner, and I devise creative ways to make them pay for their malfeasance. Actually the world would be a much better place if I was Solomon to all.

Pinus longaeva 'Sherwood Compact'

Dr. Kim Tripp visited Buchholz Nursery years ago (25?), and I was impressed with her knowledge and enthusiasm. At the time she was with the JC Raulston Arboretum in North Carolina, but since has worked her way up as Director of the New York Botanical Garden. She asked if I had ever been to the White Mountains in SE California to see the “Great Basin Bristlecone pine,” Pinus longaeva, for she had recently visited. She called it a “special place, like sacred.” At the time I was growing Pinus longaeva 'Sherwood Compact' but I had never been to the White Mountains. But prompted by her story I exited Yosemite on the east side of the Sierras and drove south to the town of Lone Pine. Due to some festival in the area there was not a room to be had, and I spent the night in the car at a rest area – which was not restful at all.

White Mountains

Pinus flexilis

Juniperus osteosperma

Pinus longaeva

In the morning I drove my aching body up to the top of the White Mountains, passing Pinus flexilis and the “Utah juniper,” Juniperus osteosperma. When I finally came to the Pinus longaeva road-end I was above 11,000'. I exited the car in a light-headed state, having ascended so quickly. I promised myself to take it easy, already knowing the possible danger from previous trips to the Himalaya. At the time I was the only one there, looking at the fantastic pines, equally beautiful whether dead or alive. “Dr. Tripp,” I wanted to shout, “you are right, this is a special place!”

Horseshoe Meadows

Pinus balfouriana 'Horseshoe Pillar'

Pinus balfouriana witch's broom

Dick van hoey Smith
On the eastern side of the Sierras one can ascend to 9,000+ feet to a campground named Horseshoe Meadows. From there outdoor aficionados can back-pack or ride horses to a system of lakes and fish for the California Golden Trout. For my part I was on a mission to find a needle-narrow Pinus balfouriana made famous in a photo book by the late Dick van hoey Smith, Conifers – The Illustrated Encyclopedia. On page 442 is a photo of a tree which he named 'Horseshoe Pillar'. Mr. Smith once confided to me that it was the one tree he coveted the most, but at the time he was with a tour group, and was there at the wrong time of the year for scionwood anyway. My purpose to visit this site was to discover the tree and collect scionwood, and I now wish I would have kept his hand-drawn map. I was successful even though the harvest was illegal in a national forest. I reasoned that Smith's Arboretum Trompenburg in Rotterdam, The Netherland, was an entity above the law, and that, yet again, I was making the world a better place. I sent a graft to Trompenburg, also illegal (but see previous sentence), but it died. Then van hoey Smith died so it seem pointless to send another.

Another narrow Pinus balfouriana

The death of the 'Horseshoe Pillar' is not surprising when you consider that there is not a good rootstock for P. balfouriana, unless one was to use P. aristata or P. longaeva which I didn't have. I used P. strobiformis, and when I graft P. longaeva 'Sherwood Compact' only 10-20% actually make it to the third year, at my nursery anyway. Besides, I didn't want to ruin Mr. Smith's “Holy Grail.” I spent more time hiking in the area than he did with his tour group, and I found a number of specimens just as, or more narrow than his 'Horseshoe Pillar'. Not only that, but also a few P. balfouriana witch's brooms were harvested. The end result has been nothing of ornamental merit. I have no regrets though, for you'll find me at my happiest in high elevation forests, and I hope to again take my hat off to California.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Stand By Your Maples

Acer palmatum

Recently as I looked on the internet for information concerning a maple cultivar I found that I had stumbled upon a maple forum where two guys were corresponding about their various maple experiences. I could tell that they were amateurs, but nevertheless they were enthusiastic about their trees, and I guess it is these types that ultimately allow Buchholz Nursery to succeed.

I am not beyond learning something new about maples, so like a seedy voyeur I followed their back-and-forth, with the bulk of my attention spent just trying to figure out what they were saying. The following are a few [sic] selections from their pratter:

“Whilst it would appear some of your maples are shutting down, I've always assumed with red apparently being the default color of sun stress, that it is often this we are seeing, especially if the fall colour (presumably without chlorophyl) is never I right?...I hope so!”

“Almost all my maples are potted, whic can be an advantage (you can move them to a better place when you feel they are stressed) and an inconvenient (when you can't or forget to water them).

“What is the impact of the different factors, I'd like to know for sure;”

“There's also a large amount of gray mould and I have never seen the maple tar spot this bad, many of the ornamental sycamores are in a terrible state. No real way to treat it, of course, and it's unsightly not life threatening.”

“Our local TV station/weather news tonight stated that this July and August were officially the wetest in Yorkshire for over eight years (Well quelle suprise as you might say).”

“Wish I could be so enthusiastic about the rain. The disasterous cat litter experiment has taken it's toll. The death list so far is quite high though a couple probably died of other causes.....”

“They certainly test your brain do JM when trying to work out what's going wrong, and how do I rectifie this? again this is the pleasure and joy of keeping them I think.

These two maple collectors – I think one from England and the other from France – continue on and on, where they applaud each other for their successes, and commiserate over their failures (such as the disasterous cat litter experiment). I imagine these two men have never met, and yet they can closely bond over maples, something that neither can do with their wives probably. I suppose their neighbors think of them as maple experts for spouting Eh sir – Latin possibly? – when they brag about their trees. The collectors are harmless, if a bit zealous, but one thing is certain: they don't want your damn brats chasing the ball through their plants.

Acer palmatum 'Taylor'
Acer palmatum 'Hino tori nishiki'

Both of these forumists appear to take their losses in stride, each concluding that “it is a nightmare to keep Acer palmatum 'Taylor' going,” and that Acer palmatum 'Hino tori nishiki' is also problematic, but never do they complain about the wasted expense. One suspects that they would even skip their next meal to procure a replacement, but I doubt that their wives know how much they pay for each tree.

Acer shirasawanum 'Autumn Moon' in spring

Frenchy writes, “I won't post a pic of how awful 'Autumn Moon' looks, bleached practically white with brown edges.” Yorky – or is it Yorkie? – responds by calling it “Autumn crispy moon.” Mine are crispy as well, for we reached 100 degrees F in June this year, a temperature unheard of so early in England.

Acer palmatum 'Peve Multicolor'

Acer palmatum 'Momoiro koyasan'

Acer palmatum 'Pink Filigree'

Yorky again, “Peve Chameleon always pretty colours.” I don't know 'Peve Chameleon' unless it is the same as 'Peve Multicolor', and if it is the same, then I prefer the “Chameleon” tag. I'll have to look into that possibility.* “Pink you say when the sun gets on it wow, looks good in the shade to.” For “Momoiro koyasan, this has kept going all summer just amazing colours every month, just keeps giving pleasure a true stunner!!”

Acer palmatum 'Peve Chameleon'

*Actually they are not the same. Now I remember that I have a photo on my website, taken at Vergeldt's, but I don't have the tree.

Acer palmatum 'Amber Ghost'

I was happy to read, “Amber ghost one of two, these are just supurb can't wait for these to get larger over the years, will be buying a few more of these fellas.”

Frenchy brags that “All my young grafts are planted out, every body who wanted re potting is now done and I have just finished planting all the spring bulbs for next year all in pots!! and if I see another daff bulb I will scream!!!” I would certainly hate to see him go daffy over the spring bulbs. He further pines, “Now that my kids are gone to the real world, I should sell my house which is too big, buy a smaller one, but with a bigger garden so I can have more maples!”

He might want to reconsider a larger garden because he mentions “Crazy weather...Considering what the two biggest polluters in the world have announced to pledge, I doubt that the “COP21” in Paris will really help.” Then he stoically promises, “But we're still standing and taking care of our trees.”

Maples in the garden

We would have no more wars or international strife if all citizens were so devoted to their maples...or Rhododendrons or Dahlias etc. The two correspondents seem like good-hearted men, and even though their exchange took place in 2015, I hope the Brexit vote won't alter their shared maple love.

Acer palmatum 'Strawberry Spring'

Acer shirasawanum 'Bronze Age'

Obviously neither man will win a writing award, but their accompanying photos are often very good (except that I have elected to use my own). I would love to give each man a maple that they don't yet have, maybe an Acer palmatum 'Strawberry Spring' or Acer shirasawanum 'Bronze Age'. I would relish meeting them for a maple three-some some sunny spring day, and we'll stand together and take care of our trees.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Maples On My Mind

I dream about maples this time of year. Maples in the morning, maples in the evening and maples in the middle of the night. We're in the thick of maple grafting, and almost three-fourths of the way done. I locate and cut every scion, sometimes at night with my daughter Saya. She is ten and full of energy, but she has learned to keep quiet when I am counting. We can talk later when we shorten the scions to the correct size and prune off the leaves...carefully so as not to damage the buds.

The challenge of the Flora Wonder Blog is to explain what I am doing, but in a way that is not over the head of the casual plant-person, but also not utterly boring for those professional propagators who are more accomplished than I.

Acer palmatum 'Bloodgood'
Acer palmatum 'Ryu sei'
A finished graft looks something like the illustration above, except that we are doing maples now, not conifers. I didn't make the drawing, but no, we do not lay the knife down on its blade edge. Hispanics refer to the “graft” as un inherto and “to graft” is inhertar, literally “to inherit.” The rootstock is usually seedling-grown, then it “inherits” a new top, usually a cultivated variant – cultivar – such as a deep-red upright like Acer palmatum 'Bloodgood' or the weeping green of Acer palmatum 'Ryu sei'. I have heard Germans refer to the process as copulation, but then they're also known for referring to the pines as peenis. The late Herr Jeddeloh, a famous German plantsman, was admiring a dwarf mugo in my garden. He caressed it and said in German what translates to “that is a beautiful little peenis.”

We employ the type of graft referred to as the “side graft.” It is fast and simple and even monkeys can be trained to do it. However, there are many different methods of grafting, and one can do no better than to consult R.J. Garner's The Grafter's Handbook, published in association with The Royal Horticultural Society. Many times new nurseries spring up when the newly-trained grafter wonders why he is working for the Man, when he could be working for himself. As one nursery sage remarked when I told him I was starting my own nursery, “Then you'll find out what death really is.” I watched a grafter – the Dutchman's son – for about ten minutes, and thence I was entirely self-taught, learning from trial and considerable error, learning what death really is.

Cedrus atlantica 'Glauca'

One of my first assignments was to custom graft 22,000* Cedrus atlantica 'Glauca' for a previous employer. Due to beginner's luck nearly every graft took. I was under the impression that the grafts needed to be constantly misted, even when the new growth appeared, and so the crop developed a case of botrytis (gray mold). I went through the entire 22,000, pruning off the infected parts, then applied a fungicide which arrested the problem and they all put out 6-12” of new growth. The rootstocks and scions both belonged to my ex-employer, and our arrangement was that I would only be paid for what lived, so after 7 months of labor I received a payday after all.

*This ex-employer easily sold 300-500 'Glauca' trees each year, with his starts coming from the East Coast. I don't think he really expected my good fortune, and no, he was not able to sell that many trees. They went from the ideal six-foot size to nine feet the next year, then twelve the following. At the end he unloaded the remainder at a slashed price and dumped a sizeable amount too.

Davidia involucrata 'Lady Sunshine'

Acer palmatum 'Fireball'

I have been at my own nursery for 36 years, and each summer and each winter we graft thousands of trees, so that is 72 crop endeavors. I must confess that at the beginning of these graft seasons I am enormously apprehensive, never certain that what we undertake will work. It's the same sick feeling I get when they forecast a foot of snow...on the weekend. Every year has a few surprises, both the good and the bad, like getting 100% on Davidia 'Lady Sunshine' last summer, but only 20% on our Acer palmatum 'Fireball'. This year our fortunes might be reversed, and that would be a shame as the Davidia rootstocks cost me $7.00 each. Sometimes I am criticized for not having a reliable specimen inventory, where I sell Acer palmatum 'Purple Ghost' in a 20” square box for four years in a row, and have enough to satisfy most everybody, then the fifth year we sell out on the first day. I don't worry about it because the customers themselves are not reliable either.

Acer palmatum 'Kuro hime'

Since we're well into the summer grafting season I feel more confident than I did at the beginning. I see new growth popping from the scions, such as the colorful red on Acer palmatum 'Kuro hime'. This Japanese cultivar emerges with pink-red on small palmate leaves, later becoming green by summer. Now, at the beginning of September, new reddish growth is appearing again. Vertrees in Japanese Maples says that 'Kuro hime' “forms a dense, compact, small shrub well suited for smaller gardens and containers.” My own website lists its size at 1 ½' tall by 2' wide in 10 years, based on early observation; but heck, my first specimen in the garden suddenly has grown to 5' tall by 6' wide and it is only 12 years old! Interestingly, I think I have harvested nearly 1,000 scions from it over the past four years, and so far graft percentages have always been very good.

Acer palmatum 'Peve Starfish'

Acer palmatum 'Peve Starfish'

Acer palmatum 'Hitode'

I think I have relayed the story of Piet Vergeldt's (of Lottum, The Netherlands) purple-red seedling with a stout constitution and delightfully curled leaves, looking like a more-extreme form of the old Acer x 'Trompenburg'. I vaguely remember seeing it years ago, then on my last visit to Vergeldt about five years ago I saw a crop of 6' trees with the name 'Starfish' – or actually 'Peve Starfish', as all Vergeldt introductions begin with “Peve.” They were not dwarf at all, not compact either, but very muscular looking. Piet reminded me – for I had forgotten – that I was the one who suggested the Starfish name. In the meantime I introduced my own seedling with recurved lobes and named it 'Hitode' which is Japanese for “starfish.” I would not have introduced my tree, let alone as 'Starfish', had I remembered the Vergeldt tree which I consider far superior. Starting with just a dozen scions of 'Peve Starfish' – not that long ago – we were able to graft 675 plants this summer. I am not able to multiply loaves and fishes, but one of my horticultural strengths is to quickly produce a cultivar. I must be careful, however, that my zeal doesn't get carried away, that I don't become like my ex-employer with way too many Cedrus atlantica 'Glauca'. I am not super conservative (cowardly) either, for 675 grafts is a sizeable number for my small company.

Acer campestre 'Carnival'

Lucille Whitman
Last summer we grafted a number of Acer campestre 'Carnival', and with the “free” heat from the sun we did quite well. In prior years I somehow concluded that they should only be propagated in the winter, but I'm glad that I made the summer experiment. One propagator of 'Carnival' uses bareroot seedlings in winter and places the grafts on a hot-callus pipe, then after three weeks takes them off to pot up. I asked Lucille of Whitman Farms how that method worked, and with her native Tennessee drawl she responded, “Why they practically jump onto each other.” I copied her with the same positive result, so I guess there are a number of ways to propagate 'Carnival'. If Lucille, myself and the monkeys can do it, I suppose so can everyone else. The common name of Acer campestre is the “Field maple,” and the species is commonly used for hedges. I advised my Grandfather, as evidenced in the photo above, to prune his specimen heavily, otherwise it would grow too large for his small garden; and besides, keeping it low and dense provides more vivid color.

Acer palmatum 'Ruby Stars'
Acer palmatum 'Beni hoshi'

Acer palmatum 'Shigitatsu sawa'

Acer palmatum 'Shigi no hoshi'

Every year we graft – I don't graft, but I do cut the scions – Acer palmatum 'Ruby Stars'. It is a likable cultivar with a catchy name discovered by the late Harry Olsen of Washington state. He bemoaned the fact that 'Ruby Stars' is virtually identical to 'Beni hoshi', the latter which translates as “red star,” a cultivar originating from Del Loukes of Oregon. Olsen needn't have worried as I too have discovered identilikes, and other plantsmen also, for the well-known Acer palmatum 'Orangeola' is nothing more than the not-so-well-known Acer palmatum 'Brocade'. Grow enough maple seedlings and you will eventually discover another 'Purple Ghost', 'Shishigashira' or 'Bloodgood' just as I have. Look in the Vertrees Japanese Maples book (4th edition) and you will see a photo on page 236 of Acer palmatum 'Shigi no hoshi' – needlessly encumbered with dashes as in 'Shigi-no-hoshi' – and then on the next page (237) is a photo and description of the identical (and older) 'Shigitatsu sawa'. Vertrees – before Gregory chimed in – called 'Shigitatsu sawa' a “magnificent plant,” and suggests that the name means “snipes, quacking, flying up from a swamp,” and that the name appears in literature since the early 1800's. It also suggests that ancient Japanese poets spoked pot when contemplating maple names. As you see I have wandered from 'Ruby Stars' to 'Orangeola' to 'Shigitatsu sawa', all in the same paragraph, and indeed we have grafted all of the above.

Acer palmatum 'Inaba shidare'

Forty years ago I worked for a large wholesale nursery – the same one who overproduced Cedrus atlantica 'Glauca' – and the owner was anxious to supply the entire world with red laceleaf maples. At the time American nurseries could not fill his demand so he connected with Holland and placed an order for thousands of red laceleafs. The Boskoop yokels were no doubt giddy with the huge order and they sent thousands of Acer palmatum 'Inaba shidare' – the best red laceleaf known at the time, before 'Tamuke yama' or 'Red Dragon' showed up. I was charged with planting acres and acres of these maples when I noticed a hand-written label in the 'Inaba shidare' group that said 'Select Red'. So, what's with that? The Boskoop broker was contacted and he “Select Red” was just an English term for 'Inaba shidare', were the same. Rong Rong Rong!, they are not the same. I planted the two side-by-side thirty years ago and the 'Select Red' fades to greenish in August more quickly than 'Inaba shidare', and also the dissectivity of the two leaves is slightly different, only apparent when they are placed next to each other. Yep, the Boskoopians cheated, supposing that the Yankees were not sufficiently sophisticated to know the difference. The amiable author of the third and fourth editions of Japanese Maples, Peter Gregory, dances around the issue, perhaps not wanting to offend the Netherlanders, and even suggests that the cultivar is also known as 'Holland Select'. Look, the Boskoop nursery grubbers are no different than us Americans: we're all just trying to make a living, so in a way I don't blame them. For the record, in my nursery in Oregon, the 'Inaba shidare' is superior to 'Select Red' and I no longer produce the latter.

Acer palmatum 'Fireglow'

Acer palmatum 'Red Flash'

We have grafted a good number of Acer palmatum 'Fireglow', a cultivar that arrived in America about 35 years ago, a selection from the Fratelli Gilardelli Nursery of Italy. When the elder Gilardelli visited me about twelve years ago, I proudly marched him over to my oldest specimen of 'Fireglow', but to my surprise he waved it off as inferior to his more recent introduction of Acer palmatum 'Red Flash'. Eventually I acquired 'Red Flash' – which I don't think is so great – and I realized then that all nurserymen, from whatever country, are full of B.S. and are just trying to make a living. Speaking of 'Fireglow', a New Zealand company that imports into America and Europe admitted that their thousands of 'Fireglow' are likely mixed up with something else. It's funny – because these scoundrels have certainly fouled up plenty of cultivars – but I think their 'Fireglows' are true and the same, at least here at my nursery. Whether right or wrong, the Zealanders are also just trying to make a living, and they'd hate to go back to raising sheep over maples. Baaa.

Acer palmatum 'Arakawa'

Acer palmatum 'Octopus'

Acer palmatum 'Okagami'

Owning a nursery and deciding what to produce is not always a scientific marketing endeavor, and the bankrupt nursery next door is an example of an owner who was more market-savvy and financially experienced than myself, yet he was forced to bare his flabby ass for all to see. Earlier today I put three blank plastic labels in my pocket, grabbed three Hefty Strong 13-Gallon-Tall Kitchen Drawstring Bags and headed to the far end of the box area. I carry a list of about 40 maples that I would like to find to propagate, and one-by-one I cross them off when found. But sometimes I stumble upon a few trees ripe with scions that I didn't anticipate, and I go ahead and cut upon them anyway. Such was the case with Acer palmatum 'Arakawa', the “rough bark maple” that develops a pine-like trunk at maturity. The scionwood was straight and strong and the cultivar grows into a salable tree quickly. If for some reason the 'Arakawa' crop doesn't sell then one can top-graft a 'Hana matoi' or another cascading form, then you can produce a tree with additional winter appeal. The two others I cut from were Acer palmatum 'Octopus', a gangly red laceleaf with long branch arms, and Acer palmatum 'Okagami', a red upright that some call the “big-leaved 'Bloodgood'.” I could just as easily have skipped these three cultivars for this season because all were grafted last year as well, but I have plenty of rootstock so what's a few more?

Acer palmatum 'Japanese Princess'

Acer palmatum 'Japanese Princess'

I would like to produce more Acer palmatum 'Japanese Princess', our new dwarf which was originally a seedling from A.p. 'Mikawa yatsubusa'. Most of my stock trees, however, are in one-to-three gallon pots which are way low to the ground. It is difficult to waddle through the pots to reach the scions; and it wouldn't be so bad if I knock a few maples over, but I'm afraid of losing my balance and tumbling over myself. I would like to find a young Swedish intern to assist – I would point at the scion with my cane and she would bend over to cut it, and thus I could grow maples indefinitely.