Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Plants from England

I was looking on the nursery book shelves for an inventory of notable trees from my hometown of Forest Grove, Oregon – but I never did find it. However I did discover A Descriptive List of Woody Plants by Brian and Julie Humphrey, two English plant experts whom I keep in touch with. They visited me twenty-some years ago at the nursery and I visited them about fourteen years ago at their nursery in Suffolk. We used to trade scions and cuttings back when the consequences of getting caught were minimal, and though Brian still offers to send me whatever I want, I have to decline these days.

Viburnum plicatum 'Summer Snowflake'

What I find unusual about the Humphrey couple is that they actually do read the Flora Wonder Blog – every word of it – and I know because they are not shy to point out my errors. Recently I ventured into a blog about Viburnums, a plant genus I don't really know that well, and my photo and B.S. about V. x bodnantense 'Dawn' was clearly not, and instead I was depicting V. plicatum, probably 'Summer Snowflake'. I bought it retail I think as 'Dawn' but I don't remember where as it was twenty years ago. I don't mind taking chances in the blog, even if I am sometimes rong, and I appreciate to be told so. Not to sound arrogant but I don't produce the blog for you, or at least not primarily. I like to keep my brain active and I have learned a lot in the research for the stories.

Abeliophyllum distichum 'Pink Star' Juniperus squamata 'Chinese Silver'
Acer davidii 'Serpentine' Liquidambar styraciflua 'Moonbeam'
Acer rufinerve 'Albolimbatum' Liquidambar styraciflua 'Silver King'
Betula costata 'Fincham Cream' Magnolia 'Atlas'
Betula 'Edinburgh' Magnolia 'Joe McDaniel'
Betula ermanii 'Mt. Apoi' Magnolia kobus var. stellata 'Chrysanthemumiflora'
Betula jacquemontii 'Inverleith' Nyssa sinensis 'Autumn Blaze'
Betula luminifera Picea breweriana 'Fruhlingsgold'
Betula utilis 'Forest Blush' Pieris 'Firecrest'
Betula utilis 'Jermyns' Pieris 'Havila'
Betula utilis var. jacquemontii 'Doorenbos' Pieris japonica 'Compact Red'
Betula utilis var. jacquemontii 'Grayswood Ghost' Pieris japonica 'Humphrey'
Calocedrus decurrens 'Berrima Gold' Pieris japonica 'Little England'
Cornus alternifolia 'Argentea' Pinus cembra 'Aureovariegata'
Cornus 'Porlock' Pinus mugo 'Ophir'
Cotinus 'Grace' Pinus strobiformis 'Foxtail'
Cupressus lusitanica 'Glauca Pendula' Pinus sylvestris 'Corley's Dwarf'
Cupressus macrocarpa 'Wilma' Pinus sylvestris 'Edwin Hillier'
Cupressus sempervirens 'Green Pencil' Pinus sylvestris 'Inverleith'
Daphne acutiloba Pinus sylvestris 'Nisbet's Gem'
Embothrium lanceolatum 'Norquinco Valley' Pinus wallichiana 'Densa Hillii'
Halesia monticola 'Vestita' Prunus cyclamina
Hamamelis intermedia 'Barmstedt Gold' Sinojackia rehderana
Juniperus communis 'Oblonga Pendula'

Seth is able to sort the Master Plant List by source, so 47 times we came up with the name Humphrey. Two names are fictitious – Pieris japonica 'Humphrey' and 'Little England' – because I had to call them something after a careless employee lost the labels, and they are both still in the garden.

Magnolia kobus var. stellata 'Jane Platt'

Magnolia kobus var. stellata 'Jane Platt'

I don't remember what I sent to England, with the exception of Magnolia kobus var. stellata 'Jane Platt'. In the Hillier Manual of Trees and Shrubs (2014 edition) the authors give specific rank to both kobus and stellata, a practice I should probably adopt if for no other reason than to make garden labels more simple. Of 'Jane Platt' Hillier says “Named from a plant grown as M. stellata 'Rosea' in the garden of Jane Platt in Portland, Oregon, USA, this form has very profuse deep pink flowers with up to 30 tepals.” Jane Platt and her husband are no longer alive, but they really kept an excellent landscape that plant snobs still love to visit. Unlike my busy gardens, Jane designed with class and elegance, and she truly was an artist with her grounds. M. 'Jane Platt' was actually named by Magnolia expert Roger Gossler, for he was convinced that the pink blossoms were much deeper in color than any 'Rosea' he had ever seen.

Davidia in the Platt garden

Davidia involucrata 'Platt's Variegated'

I also named and introduced a tree from the Platt garden – Davidia involucrata 'Platt's Variegated', for my start came from a tree in the bottom portion of their garden. I don't produce it anymore because it needs some age before the cream-white appears, and in fact the “variegation” is nothing more than an abundance of half-half bract/leaves.

Acer rufinerve 'Hatsu yuki'/'Albolimbatum'

Acer rufinerve 'Hatsu yuki'/'Albolimbatum'

Back to the Humphrey list, I received a start of Acer rufinerve 'Albolimbatum', and later from an American grower A. r. 'Hatsu yuki', only to find out years later by maple author Peter Gregory that they are one and the same. I don't produce it under either name anymore because sales were weak, and furthermore a significant portion of my original start has reverted back to total green. Still I like it and it has plenty of room to grow, and the fall color is usually outstanding. Acer rufinerve was first described by Philip von Siebold in 1845, and the specific name is derived from rufus for “russet red,” referring to the color of the hairs on the leaves, flowers and seeds. Hatsu means “first” in Japanese and yuki is “snow.” We had a young male intern from Japan named “Yuki,” but his characters did not translate as “snow;” nevertheless we called him “Snowboy.”

Acer davidii 'Serpentine'

Acer rufinerve and Acer davidii are both in the section Macrantha. The latter was named after Armand David (1826-1900), the French missionary and botanist. The davidii species was first introduced into England in 1879 by Charles Maries while he collected for the Veitch Nursery. Since it occurs over a large area in central and western China it can vary in appearance, and three great plant hunters – George Forrest, Frank Kingdon-Ward and E.H. Wilson – also sent versions of the species back to Europe. Mr. Humphrey provided my start of the cultivar 'Serpentine' and he describes it: “A small growing form...with half size rich green leaves which produce excellent yellow/orange autumn colour and light elegant 'snake bark' branches.” We propagate it by grafting onto Acer davidii or Acer tegmentosum, the latter being the more winter hardy of the two. It will also root by soft wood cuttings under mist in July. For me 'Serpentine' can get off to a crooked start with either method of propagation, and one learns that you can't stake away a “dog-leg” trunk, so you prune, prune, prune, and you'll eventually end up with a dense attractive tree.

Betula costata 'Fincham Cream'

I've never been a “swinger of birches” like Robert Frost, but I have been a seller of them in the past. Today a few of the birch cultivars from Humphrey are growing nicely at Flora Farm in the Betula section, in an area of about an acre so they have plenty of room. B. costata 'Fincham Cream' is a favorite and my specimen has an impressive trunk. Seth groans because he has to store the many photographs of it that I seem to take every winter. The costata species is native to northeast Asia and Humphrey describes it as a “smaller growing species than many and therefore is suitable for the smaller garden.” I agree that 'Fincham Cream' “has white bark with a hint of cream, excellent golden yellow autumn color,” but my specimen is already huge – grafted onto B. pendula – so I don't know about the “smaller garden” promise.

Betula apoiensis 'Mount Apoi'

Is it Betula apoiensis 'Mount Apoi' or B. ermanii 'Mount Apoi'? Hillier describes apoiensis as “a variable shrub, closely related to B. ermanii...and that it is found on Mount Apoi, Hokkaido Japan growing with Pinus pumila.” It is a stretch to assign cultivar status to 'Mount Apoi' as it was raised from seed collected on said mountain, and I wonder how it differs from the type when the species is described as “variable.” My specimen from Humphrey – also grafted onto B. pendula – is quite attractive but it is planted way too close to the aforementioned Davidia involucrata 'Platt's Variegated'. Do I let them grow into each other or intervene and remove one? Ah, the gardener's dilemma; so this winter we will propagate both so progeny of each can stay on Noah's Ark. I suspect the birch will remain because a few years ago an attractive Chinese female botanist was touring the nursery – and seldom do the intellectuals know much – but from a distance she asked “Is that Betula apoiensis?” I was shocked, and asked “hhhow did you know?” She replied that she did a dissertation on the genus. I had fantasies that we should marry and procreate biological geniuses, one of whom would take over the nursery and provide me with an exit plan.

Another birch from Humphrey was B. luminifera, and I write was because I have it no more, and I can't remember if the scions ever did grow for me. What a fantastic specific name though, and Hillier refers to its “lustrous” leaves and the “shining reddish brown bark.” Humphrey accounts that “This comparatively rare species was collected in the wild by Roy Lancaster on his expedition to Mt. Omei [China] 1980.” As with girlfriends for a playboy, when the years pass you just can't remember who or what came, then went. My Master Plant List – over the years – contains more no mas than what is here today. I have no regrets, though, for that is the way of this world: far more species have arrived – then disappeared – from this Earth than what exist today. Office manager, Eric Lucas, told his 27-year-old son that he was “lucky to be alive.” The dubious youth, who is happy, still wondered what was his father's rationale. The answer is that something could have gone wrong along the way – along the so many ways – such as an ancestor dying from a lion attack, or from disease during the Great Plague or from being shot as a horse thief. Any little thing could have screwed up the lineage and you. Anyway, no luminifera either.

Calocedrus decurrens 'Berrima Gold' in Arboretum Trompenburg

Calocedrus decurrens 'Berrima Gold' 

Speaking of luminescent, Calocedrus decurrens 'Berrima Gold' came to me first from Mr. Humphrey, but of course I would have eventually acquired it anyway. It was selected at the Berrima Bridge Nurseries in Australia and Hillier adequately describes it as “A slow-growing form with orange bark and pale yellow-green foliage, tipped with orange in winter. Ultimate height uncertain.” It is incredible when seen combined with the scarlet red of a ladybug. As far as its height, I have never seen one taller than the wonderful specimen at Arboretum Trompenburg in Rotterdam and their specimen – perhaps because it is growing in some shade – is far more tall and narrow than the chubby squatters I grow in Oregon. Understand, however, that not everything is so glorious about 'B' Gold', for it is a notoriously untransplantable tree in my experience, so we keep them in containers from day one.

Cornus x 'Porlock'

Cornus x 'Porlock' 

Cornus x 'Porlock' forms an attractive little tree, however I have no market for the hybrid (C. capitata x C. kousa) because my customers either 1) don't know it or 2) assume that it is not winter hardy. Of the two species in the cross capitata is the wimp as it is native to lower elevations in the Himalaya and China. 'Porlock' is semi evergreen in Oregon, but I would prefer that it would just go ahead and lose all leaves because as winter advances they become more unsightly. The creamy white flowers are nice but I wouldn't call them wonderful, however the strawberry-like fruits last for a couple of months in fall and they are most ornamental. An ex-employee who was afflicted with ADHD thought he should cut down my specimen at Flora Farm because something was causing the trunk to crack and peel. I responded “No way!” and asked him if he wanted to cut down all of our Acer griseums too? 'Porlock' was a natural hybrid occurring in the garden of Norman Hadden in West Porlock, Somerset in the 1950's, along with another hybrid seedling named 'Norman Hadden'.

Cornus alternifolia 'Argentea'

Cornus controversa 'Variegata'

Cornus controversa 'Variegata' at Arboretum Trompenburg

Humphrey also provided my start of Cornus alternifolia 'Argentea' which was rarely seen in the trade at the time. The species is from eastern North America but I don't think it is much used in landscapes. The small-growing silver-variegated 'Argentea' is in much demand however, although when young they can have awkward branching. Again: prune, prune, prune. There is the inevitable comparison between 'Argentea' and the similar Cornus controversa 'Variegata', with the latter being more vigorous and larger growing. Since I am a nurseryman trying to make a living I prefer crops of the variegated controversa, but easily sell out of both species anyway.

Cupressus macrocarpa 'Wilma'

Cupressus macrocarpa at the Strybing Arboretum

Humphrey describes Cupressus macrocarpa 'Wilma' as one of the best of the yellow-foliage forms with a “compact upright habit.” One sees tons of 'Wilma' – or a similar cultivar – in festive wrapped-up pots at Christmas time, and I suppose they are produced by the millions somewhere. I even saw them for sale in a tiny flower kiosk in Tokyo. I always keep a few plants around and they're easy to sell – though hardy to only about 10 degrees F – but the problem is that 'Wilma' originated as a sport on 'Goldcrest' and it can revert back to mother's less fluffy appearance. Cupressus macrocarpa is the “Monterey cypress” native to a small coastal area in mid California. In the wild they are windswept and picturesque, but in cultivation – like in San Francisco's Strybing Arboretum – they can grow to an enormous size. Perhaps the most despised of any conifer is the hybrid x Cupressocyparis leylandii which has C. macrocarpa and Xanthocyparis nootkatensis as parents, an example where the offspring is less attractive than the two pure species.

Liquidambar styraciflua 'Silver King'

Liquidambar styraciflua 'Silver King' was new and exciting earlier in my career, but now it is firmly established in the trade so we don't propagate it anymore. Humphrey writes, “Edges of the leaves are distinctly margined creamy white. Grows well and quickly forms a very attractive variegated tree. Autumn colour causes the leaves to flush pink and purple.” What is remarkable is that 'Silver King' can withstand full sun in Oregon's hot dry summers, including the 108 degree F (42 C) scorcher we experienced a few years ago.

Liquidambar styraciflua seed

It would seem appropriate to group Liquidambar in the maple family (Sapindaceae) due to its maple-like leaves. Hillier puts the genus in the Hamamelidaceae family in his 2014 Manual, while other know-it-alls put it in the Altingiaceae family. The latter is a lonely family for it consists of a single genus Liquidambar with about 15 recognized species. The word Liquidambar refers to its sap, and comes from Latin liquidus and Medieval Latin ambra or ambar. The specific name styraciflua also refers to its sap, and it is commonly called the “American sweetgum.” The fruits are fascinating to me – and I also sold them to area florists as a youth. They contain small seeds within their terminal spikes and they remind me of a miniature version of a medieval weapon. Commonly these are known as “burr balls,” “gum balls,” “space bugs,” “monkey balls,” “bommyknockers,” “sticker balls” or “goblin balls.” The “monkey ball” wouldn't hurt if I threw one at you – they are fairly airy.

Pinus sylvestris 'Edwin Hillier'
Pinus strobiformis 'Foxtail'

I didn't do so well with Humphrey's conifer scions. If Pinus cembra 'Aureovariegata' and Pinus sylvestris 'Corley's Dwarf' ever lived I have no memory of them. Perhaps there's a section of the nursery where I have never been. I did like Pinus sylvestris 'Edwin Hillier' but nobody would buy the blue Scot's pine and I don't even have one in the garden. I did see it at the Hillier Arboretum and I recognized it from far away. I thought that Pinus strobiformis 'Foxtail' was nice – and what a good cultivar name – but again, nobody will buy them.

Pinus mugo 'Ophir'

Pinus mugo 'Ophir'

My favorite of the conifer starts is Pinus mugo 'Ophir' and it is still in production. It is a golden dwarf that emits a beautiful glow, especially in winter. There are other golden mugos that are perhaps more intensely yellow, but 'Ophir'* looks best, at least in my garden.

*Ophir is a biblical land of uncertain origin, possibly southern Arabia or eastern Africa, from which gold was brought for Solomon. 1 Kings 10:11.

If you have actually read this far, you noticed that I jumped back and forth with quotes from Hillier and Humphrey, which is not surprising since Brian Humphrey used to work for Hillier. He is retired from his own nursery now, but still enjoys his garden, and he is writing a book on propagation. Lucky him – he's retired, but I am just tired.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Fall Planting

Fall harvesting

Our allotment of dry days in the fall is never enough. One wonders whether to plant, work on weed control or to dig and harvest. We accomplished some of all three, but this year's autumn effort went to an unusual amount of planting, not only into the fields for future capitalistic sales, but also into the keep them interesting and relevant. Why does all of the new stuff, or the marginally hardy have to stay holed up in the greenhouses where there's never enough space anyway? The overall fiscal management of Buchholz Nursery would probably be better off in more capable hands instead of with me who enjoys the gardens (apparently) more than turning a profit. Most plants that went into the ground would have been in demand and could have been sold at a profit, and if the employees knew that fact they would probably rebel and demand higher wages or my ouster.

Styrax japonicus 'Evening Lights'

Ok then, what were some of the highlights that got stuck into the dirt instead of into my retirement account or into higher wages? One plant that I have been itching to get planted is Styrax japonicus 'Evening Lights', the Japanese “snowbell tree” with purple leaves instead of the typical green. The tree photographed above was taken at Oregon's Sebright Gardens, and its attractive vigor inspired me to finally plant one of my own, kind of like a counter-punch to their wonderful place. Spring's white campanulate blooms appear more luscious as they dangle among purple leaves compared to the normal green. What a great name too: with cream-white lantern-lights glowing in the darkness.

Acer macrophyllum 'Mocha Rose'

Acer macrophyllum 'Santiam Snow'

Acer macrophyllum 'Golden Riddle'

In the Quercus section at Flora Farm I repositioned an Acer macrophyllum 'Mocha Rose', for it would eventually have collided with a Pseudotsuga cultivar. Then, on its flanks we planted Acer macrophyllum 'Santiam Snow' and A. m. 'Golden Riddle'. So let's see what happens. 'Mocha Rose' is proven and wonderful, and even plant-dumb truck drivers will lumber out of their rigs to inspect and ask about it in April-May. It will still look good in June before turning chocolate – not burnt though – in July after a few 100 degree F days. Heritage Seedlings of Salem, Oregon introduced the variegated A. m. 'Santiam Snow' and they say that it does “fairly well” in full sun in the summer. I suspect that my newly-planted specimen will burn like hell the first year, and then less so in subsequent years. And I predict the same with the yellow-leaved 'Golden Riddle'. If I live long enough I will witness all three of these macros' canopies growing into each other, and that will be a small price to pay for a long life.

Quercus garryanas at Flora Farm

Hamamelis x intermedia
'Strawberries & Cream'
Garrya elliptica 'James Roof'
The “Quercus” garden at Flora Farm is so-named because it is dominated by three 100 year plus Quercus garryana, two of which appear in the photo above. The section is about 50' wide by 500' long, so I can cram a lot of trees into it. Whenever my wife or I head to an eastern destination from our home we take the route along FF Quercus so I am very mindful about what I plant there. Even though we have been married since ancient history, I still strive to please and entertain her. What would Haruko like to see on a cold but sunny February day when she drives to the grocery store? I know – how about Hamamelis x intermedia 'Strawberries and Cream'? Or perhaps Garrya elliptica 'James Roof'? We're only two months away from their flower show, and the anticipation keeps me going on these cold winter days.

Stewartia x henryae 'Skyrocket'

Acer palmatum 'Beni shigitatsu sawa'

Stewartia x henryae 'Skyrocket' replaced a dead Acer palmatum 'Beni shigitatsu sawa'. The maple was healthy and happy for at least 25 years. Two summers ago it produced an inordinate amount of seed – hundreds of thousands maybe – and they were absolutely beautiful. Then this past spring only 10% of the tree leafed out with the rest dead, and since I don't run a plant hospital it was edited entirely. 'Skyrocket' had spent its entire life inside Greenhouse 20 where I was trying to push the best scionwood, but with my dismal propagation results year after year I'm giving up on putting it into cultivation. It was selected from seedlings raised at Polly Hill Arboretum in Massachusetts, and with its narrow form it has obvious garden potential. The x henryae hybrid occurred spontaneously at the Henry Foundation for Botanical Research in Pennsylvania and was first described in 1964. I hope that whatever afflicted the maple won't harm the Stewartia because it is the only 'Skyrocket' I have.

Crinum 'White Queen'

We planted a group of Crinum 'White Queen' in our Far East garden. They were also hanging out in GH20, and we supposed that at some point we would divide them and become purveyors of Crinum. I don't know why but they never really thrived indoors, and the flopping strap leaves took up a lot of room. 'White Queen' is a Luther Burbank cross using Crinum x powellii 'Alba' x Crinum macowanii. Crinums are known as “Cape lilies” (from South Africa) and not surprisingly are in the Amaryllidaceae (amaryllis) Family. The name crinum originates from New Latin, coming from the Greek word krinon meaning lily.

Zephyranthes candida

Like Crinum, Zephyranthes candida is another bulb and it is commonly called a “Rain lily.” It is also in the Amaryllidaceae Family and ranges from the southern USA all the way down to Argentina. Its name is derived from Zephyrus, the Greek god of the west wind and anthos meaning “flower.” Zephyranthes was on our sales list for two years in a row, and to date no one has ever bought even one, so that is why we put some into the garden. Fortunately we didn't grow too many, but there are a few still left if you would like one at no charge. They are only marginally hardy in Oregon, but you can put it into your GH20.

Osmunda regalis

I only had one Osmunda regalis, and it was given to me by Roger of Gossler Farms Nursery. We planted the “Royal fern” down by the pond because this deciduous plant is native to bogs and stream-banks in Europe, Africa and Asia. Roger has a vigorous specimen in his large – non bog – garden and every time I visit he enthuses about it, and for all I know he maybe eats it in his salads.* The name Osmunda is possibly from Osmunder, a Saxon name for the god – excuse me, The God Thor; furthermore it is possible that Osmunda evolved in the southern continent of Gondwana, but nevertheless a fossil has been found in Sweden. Sue Olsen in Encyclopedia of Garden Ferns lists a number of species of Osmunda and one, claytoniana, “is one seriously old species with fossil records, found in the Antarctic, dating back 200 million years to the Triassic era, the longest continuous life span of any living fern.”

*Osmunda regalis is said to taste like asparagus.

Acer palmatum 'Ikandi' in spring

Acer palmatum 'Ikandi' in summer

There are a number of maple cultivars that have never seen the ground at Buchholz Nursery, and they have only lounged in the benign atmosphere in our containers and greenhouses. But before I get too enthusiastic about them I need to test them in the out-of-doors “real world.” Acer palmatum 'Ikandi' – a Buchholz introduction – really impressed me this past spring and summer at Flora Farm, and so I planted a couple more at the nursery, with one located at our company's entrance. I was (most) pleased that the New York Botanic Garden in the Bronx planted one also, and their woody plant curator, Deanna Curtis, describes it as “unfurling in a carnival of pink, white and green.” Just wait until it becomes established in their climate and soil, and I predict that all visitors, in the spring and fall especially, will want to acquire one. Really I like it, and don't think that I mention it in the Flora Wonder Blog to promote myself or my company, although it is great if I can accomplish that as well. A seedling from Acer palmatum 'Higasayama' – which seemed to be an improvement over the parent, was raised at Baltzer's Nursery in Oregon and was named 'Alpenweiss', and then a seedling from 'Alpenweiss' was selected and named 'Ikandi' at Buchholz Nursery. I look forward to one day germinating seed of 'Ikandi' to see how much further we can take her desirable attributes.

Acer sieboldianum 'Seki no kegon'

Acer sieboldianum 'Seki no kegon' was planted into the original Display Garden with enough room for about five years. After that it will have to be pruned hard for the rest of its life, or dug and moved elsewhere. Who knows, maybe someone else will own the nursery at that point? The cultivar is billed as a “weeper,” but really it is a spreading “archer” that vigorously grows sideways, and then the long branches do fall downward. According to the Nichols brothers at – and yes, they're retail so buy something from them! – “The name 'Seki' comes from the family name of Mr. Kazuo Seki who originally found this phenomenal tree. 'Kegon' comes from the famous cascading waterfall 'Kegon-no-taki'.” Apparently it was discovered in 1970, and when over 30 years old it stood only 10' tall. I graft ours on the compatible Acer palmatum and list 'Seki no kegon' as hardy to USDA zone 5. At Mr. Maple they go one better and use Acer sieboldianum rootstock, so their trees can withstand cold of -30 degrees F (USDA zone 4). My original tree grew to 3' tall by 7' wide in only eight years, and while I was sorry to part with it, it is now happily growing at the wonderful Iroki Garden in New York state.

Acer buergerianum 'Michael Steinhardt'

And speaking of Iroki, the garden is owned by Michael Steinhardt, and in our Long Road section I planted Acer buergerianum 'Michael Steinhardt', a cultivar discovered and named by Don Shadow of Tennessee. As you can see the cultivar features golden leaves, and Shadow reports that it doesn't burn in full sun. The photo above is of the original tree, and I was giddy with excitement when Don gave me a start. Now that I have five progeny one will be tested in an Oregon summer. 100 degrees in Tennessee is different than in Oregon – we have less humidity so many of their golden plants take the heat better than here.

Iris douglasiana

In my Grandfather's garden is a patch of Iris douglasiana which was spreading enough so that he could spare some starts for me. It is a common perennial wildflower native to the coast of southern Oregon to central California. It is a variable species that usually produces purple-blue flowers from April to June, but I prefer the milk-white form. My favorite place to see Iris douglasiana is at Point Reyes National Seashore north of San Francisco, but hang on to your hat as it is perpetually windy there. I overheard a park ranger tell a group of students that Point Reyes was the most biologically diverse location in the USA, which takes into account the marine life as well as that on land.

Abies koreana 'Vengels'
Abies koreana 'Nigrans'

Along the main road into the nursery we planted Abies koreana 'Vengels'. I have had larger ones than the 3' tree we planted, but I sold them a couple years ago...then instantly regretted it. The cultivar is slow and compact, but not dwarf, and the main feature is the skinny bracts on the narrow gray-green cones. You can see from the photos above how 'Vengels' differs from the type. I received my start as scionwood only, and I never had read or heard about the cultivar, or why it was selected. I had a couple of 4' trees in wood boxes. I walked past them one spring day and was amazed to see a crop of cones, and then it was obvious why it was selected. I assume the cultivar was discovered in Europe – they love Abies koreana there – but I don't know who or what Vengels is. Please: help from the Flora Wonder readership!

Styphnolobium japonicum 'Pendulum'

Somewhere along the way Sophora japonica 'Pendula' – in the Leguminosae family (Hillier Manual of Trees and Shrubs 5th Edition) – was changed to Styphnolobium japonicum 'Pendulum' in the Papilionaceae family (Hillier 8th Edition). It is rarely seen in America for some reason, but many of the European plant collections contain it. It is commonly called the “Weeping Japanese Pagoda tree” and it makes a neat mound. Hillier calls it “picturesque” and “an admirable lawn specimen, also suitable for forming a natural arbour.” The species is “native to China, but widely planted in Japan.” The reason the species is known as the “pagoda tree” is because they were often planted near Buddhist temples. It was introduced to Britain in 1753 by the nurseryman James Gordon, and one specimen at Kew is one of the original five planted in 1760.

Liriodendron tulipifera 'Little Volunteer'

A Liriodendron tulipifera 'Little Volunteer' was planted in the Upper Gardens at Flora Farm, and it replaced a Magnolia that wasn't faring well. Again, I don't run a plant hospital. In any case the replacement is also a member of the Magnoliaceae family, and 'Little Volunteer' is a more compact form of an otherwise huge species. The “volunteer”* part is because that is the state nickname of Tennessee, the location of the finder at Hidden Hollow Nursery. It is estimated to grow at 1/3 the size of the species and should make a good street tree, except Liriodendron is notorious for dripping aphid juice. It is said to bloom in midsummer, but when I visited the Neubauers at Hidden Hollow in May I took the flower photo above.

*The nickname originated during the War of 1812 when thousands of volunteers from Tennessee played a prominent role, especially during the Battle of New Orleans. Then during the Mexican War, the Secretary of State asked for 2,800 volunteers and got 30,000 respondents. Maybe they just like to fight.

Daphne odora 'Maejima'

Daphne odora 'Maejima'

Maejima Island, Japan

Daphne and Apollo
I put another Daphne odora 'Maejima' into the ground to keep it away from potential customers who visit the nursery and want to buy the few containers that I have. I bought ten from another nursery so that I could propagate and sell them also. Then a good customer came along and wanted all ten – groan – so I parted with five, thus reducing my cutting stock in half. The customer in question has a knack for finding my newly acquired – and not for sale – stock plants that are never put on the sales list, and since she is a happy good-looking female I usually relent. Daphne odora is an evergreen shrub with glossy foliage and deliciously-smelling winter (February-March) flowers. In Korea the plant is called churihyang, meaning “a thousand mile scent.” There are other variegated Daphne odora cultivars such as 'Marginata' and 'Aureomarginata', but 'Maejima' displays the most impressive variegation of all. The specific name odora was given for obvious reason, while the generic name Daphne is derived from the Roman myth of the nymph who was turned into a laurel bush – which is Daphne-like – to escape Apollo's amorous advances. Maejima, according to my Japanese wife, is a beautiful island located between Honshu and Shikoku in waters known in Japan as the “Inland Sea.”

Cornus florida 'Autumn Gold'

Cornus florida 'Autumn Gold'

The late Dennis Dodge asked me if I would like scions of Cornus florida 'Autumn Gold', and the truth is that I didn't particularly want them. The reason is that the florida species is susceptible to the anthracnose disease which afflicts the East Coast dogwoods, and so for my entire career I chose to produce only the kousa species which is more resistant. But Mr. Dodge was a well-known plant connoisseur with a taste for the very best. In short, I'm now glad that I accepted the scions because my 'Autumn Gold' starts have turned out to be wonderful trees. The white flowers don't impress me very much as they are not very conspicuous against the light green foliage, but the autumn color can be outstanding, ranging from bright yellow to purple-red. I planted a specimen at Flora Farm last year, and a month ago we shoe-horned another into the Display Garden. Thank you Mr. Dodge.

Again, I kind of wonder why I was in such a frenzy to jam more bushes into the garden, especially when less can appear to be more in a tasteful landscape. I have not created world class gardens even though they are filled with world class plants. My scapes are admittedly “too busy,” but what else can a hortiholic do?