Friday, September 15, 2017

9/11 and Hiroshima Ginkgos

My daughter and I drove through Forest Grove on September 11 and she knew why the American flag at the entrance of town was at half mast. She's only 11 years old, but nevertheless her previous school's teachers discussed the events. That school is located in the almost non-existent town of Dilley (really), just a mile south of Forest Grove, and it is considered one of the top public grade schools in Oregon. Now she attends (6th grade) in Forest Grove at a horribly mediocre school where she has to dumb down to fit in. S. made the observation that the Dilley school discussed the 9/11 events but that Forest Grove made no mention of it, and I understand the reason is the administration worried that it would be portraying Muslims as bad people. Today most Americans love the Japanese in spite of the fierce and brutal fighting that took place in the 1940's. Should schools skip teaching about World War II so as not to offend a touchy Nihonjin?

Hibakujumoku Ginkgo

I was recently given an op-ed article that appeared in the 8/5/2017 New York Times, known to some as the Failing New York Times. It was entitled The Tree That Survived Hiroshima and was written by Ariel Dorfman, an emeritus professor of literature at Duke University. The tree(s) in question are the "hibakujumoku" ginkgos, which translates as "atomic bomb survivors." In 1984 Dorfman visited the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum and three of the nearby ginkgos, and then-Director Akihiro Takahashi – who had a flattened ear and gnarled fingers from the blast – declared that the ginkgos "expressed the endurance of hope, the need for peace and reconciliation."

Ginkgo biloba

Dorfman (age 75) is a Chilean-American novelist and human rights activist and he is naturally worried about how dumb and self-defeating humans can be. He concludes his article with the warning, "How paradoxical, how sad, how stupid it would be if, more than seven decades after Hiroshima opened the door to the possible suicide of  humanity, we did not understand that warning from the past, that call to the future, what the gentle leaves of the ginkgo trees are still trying to tell us."

The A-Bomb Dome

The Hiroshima Memorial Park was built on an open field that was created by the explosion. I have not visited the park but a structure – now called the A-Bomb Dome – partially withstood the blast and has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.* The "Little Boy" bomb actually detonated over the city and the building and its vertical columns were able to resist the vertical downward force of the blast. Everyone inside the building was killed instantly, however.

*The Chinese delegates opposed the designation because it could be used to downplay the fact that Chinese people suffered even greater losses due to Japanese aggression during the war.

Tsutomu Yamaguchi

Tsutomu Yamaguchi (1916-2010) was visiting Hiroshima on August 6, 1945 on business for his employer Mitsubishi Heavy Industries when the bomb exploded. Though injured he returned to his home city of Nagasaki, and the following day he reported to work. That morning he told his supervisor how one bomb had destroyed all of Hiroshima, to which his supervisor told him that he was crazy, but at that very moment the Nagasaki bomb detonated. Yamaguchi was the only known survivor of both attacks, and he lived to the age of 93 and died of stomach cancer.

Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941

Yamaguchi was well known in Japan and was naturally a proponent of nuclear disarmament. He told an interviewer "The reason that I hate the atomic bomb is because of what it does to the dignity of human beings. I can't understand why the world cannot understand the agony of the nuclear bombs. How can they keep developing these weapons?" The answer might be because of what happened at Pearl Harbor.

Torii gate at Itsukushima Shrine

Cinnamomum species, painted by Haruko's father

On a happier note my wife and kids have been to Hiroshima's Itsukushima Shrine (Shinto) which is also a World Heritage Site. The torii gate was designed and built centuries ago on pier-like structures over the bay so that it would appear to be floating on water. The gate is constructed from decay-resistant camphor wood (Cinnamomum camphora) known in Japan as kusunoki. Though tourists can reach the gate at low tide, its purity is so important that since 1878 no deaths or births have been permitted near it. Therefore pregnant women, the terminally ill and the very elderly are requested to stay away.

Hiroshima's name means "broad island" and it is situated on the Ota River Delta facing the so-called Inland Sea to its south. The Sea is created by the area north of the islands of Kyushu and Shikoku and South of Honshu. I've never been near the Inland Sea but I feel that I know something about it from reading a travel book The Inland Sea by Donald Richie. The Times Literary Supplement praises the book with, "Earns its place on the very short shelf of books on Japan that are of permanent value." My wife is the perfect Japanese tour guide and hopefully I can visit one day.

"Don't you dare, Kim Jong-un!"

Friday, September 8, 2017

The Master Plant List and the Buchholz Nursery Photo Library

Our Master Plant List – the computerized compilation of all species and cultivars growing at the nursery and in the Flora Wonder Arboretum – is a tool we use because our brains can't remember everything. But do all the listings still exist? Do all of the plants that have been recently acquired appear on the list? Do we really have Pleione Ueli 'Wackernagel Pearl' for example, and if so why is the specific name Ueli capitalized? I consider the Master Plant List to be the company Bible and any omission or misspelling is not to be tolerated. The problem is that I rely on employees who, over the years, don't match my zeal for nomenclatural and historical accuracy.

Pleione x ueli 'Wackernagel Pearl'

Well, it turns out that the orchid does exist here, and it was acquired by Office Manager Eric, and he used my credit card when I wasn't paying attention, and I think he even took the photo above. So ok, I guess I don't know everything that goes on at the nursery, and maybe I'm not so far ahead of everyone else. We received our start of 'Wackernagel Pearl' from England two years ago, it being a hybrid between P. aurita and P. formosana. I don't know who or what is a “wackernagel,” but I think it would have been better off with just the name 'Pearl'. It appears that it was originally registered by Heinz Pinkepank in 1991. Pinkepank – I kid you not, and the hybrid name should properly be rendered as x ueli. The orchid genus Pleione is showy with the most feminine of flowers, however the name orchid comes from the Greek word orchis meaning “testicle” because of the shape of the bulbous roots.

Pleione with Les Oceanides Les Naiades de la Mer

The name Pleione originates in Greek mythology, and as a star she was the mother of seven daughters known as the Pleiades. For those who appreciate an astronomical description, Pleione, like many stars in the cluster, is a blue-white B-type main sequence dwarf star with a temperature of about 12,000 Kelvins. A few space nerds out there will completely understand that description and that is their “reality.” For me, however, “space” is a fiction and it is no more “real” than mythology, except perhaps with our recent solar eclipse. The Greeks knew Pleione as an Oceanid nymph, and naturally I am partial to her when I consider her depiction in a painting by French artist Gustave Dore. There are a number of possible origins to the name Pleione – all of them great stories – but her name is associated with grace, speed and elegance.

Acer truncatum

Acer truncatum

Acer truncatum 'Fire Dragon'

Acer truncatum 'Super Dragon'

Ok, let's get back to the Master Plant List (MPL) lest I dwell excessively on Greek nymphs. I had a few extra Acer truncatum rootstocks after primarily using them to propagate Acer pictum 'Usu gumo'. I checked the MPL to see which truncatum cultivars are in the collection and I found none listed. But hold on – wait a minute! – because I have at least three; all given to me three years ago by Keith Johansson of Metro Maples of Texas. I'm not licensed to propagate and sell his selections, but he allowed that I could graft a couple in case my originals should perish when planted out. Why they were not on the MPL when in the SE corner of BAG9 I have 'Baby Dragon', 'Super Dragon' and 'Fire Dragon'? The latter two are vigorous and I snipped five scions from each, but the 'Baby Dragon' is a floppy little wimp and I decided to pass for this year.

Acer truncatum is a pretty species named for its flat-based leaves, and the amazing thing is that it grows in the hell-hole of Texas, probably better than palmatum or any other species. It is commonly known as the “Shantung maple” and it hails from its tough range in northern China, Manchuria and Korea, so no wonder that it thrives in Texas. Acer truncatum also partners well with other species, in particular with A. platanoides, and a couple of selections from that union have yielded x 'Norwegian Sunset' and x 'Pacific Sunset'.

Wollemia nobilis

Dracaena draco

Dracaena draco

You all have access to our photo library on our website, whether you buy anything from us or not, but that of course does not necessarily give you permission to use these photos. While the library is an autobiography of all that I have seen, the MPL is a list of what we actually have in the collection. Some are confused with Wollemi nobilis for example, of which we have one (only) 14' tall specimen. So it appears on our MPL although we've never had any for sale. I have 16 photos of Dracaena draco in our photo library, but it won't appear in our MPL because I have never possessed one ever.

So why present photos when I don't have the plants for sale, or have never even had them on the property? In lurid red type at the beginning we proclaim: “Although our Plant Library contains interesting and hard to find plants, please understand that we do not necessarily offer all of these for sale. Please consult our availability listings for current stock.” Englishman Sir Harold Hillier presented pretty much the same thing with the Hillier Manual of Trees and Shrubs, an encyclopedia where much of the contents have never been acquired nor offered for sale by Hillier Nursery. Also, I doubt that anyone – past or present – at Hillier's has seen every plant contained in the Manual. Like Hillier, my photo library morphed into something beyond what was first intended; and not to brag, but mine probably contains more listings since I include annuals and perennials. The Hillier Manual is a greater achievement since it contains more information, and in a concise and easy-to-read format. Also I enjoy the mix of botany and horticulture, occasionally including personal anecdotes and experiences in the Hillier's.

Abelia grandiflora 'Radiance'

Abelia grandiflora 'Radiance'

Abies alba 'Barabits Star'

The first plant in our photo library is Abelia grandiflora 'Radiance', a variegated shrub that I first saw in North Carolina four years ago, but I've never grown it. The first MPL listing is Abies alba 'Barabits Star' and I actually have a few for sale. Note that there is no apostrophe to the Dr. Barabits name – which I learned just now – so we have to update all Barabits plants with the correct name, and there are quite a few of them. His Abies is a semi-dwarf cultivar with a dense compact habit that originated as a witch's broom in his pinetum in Hungary. It was discovered in 1965 and was later patented by the Hungarian Agricultural Institute of Budapest in 1975, but I don't think that anyone today honors that patent. My first specimen was planted in the Display Garden years ago and it grew into a perfect cone, like it would have made the most fantastic Christmas tree. Unfortunately it would have been crowded and ruined by an aggressive maple, Acer palmatum 'Emerald Lace'. What to do? I dug the Abies and put it into a nice cedar box, but then I was suddenly overtaken with a moment of capitalism and listed it for sale at a high price. Drat! – someone bought it anyway and I had to say goodbye. All of my subsequent 'Barabits Star' take on a spreading form without the perfect central leader, but Merry Christmas to somebody...

Zephyranthes candida

The final listing on our MPL is Zephyranthes candida, but sales were weak so I planted out the final ten pots into the landscape, and I'm happy that the USDA zone 7 bulbs survived our 3 degrees F cold snap this past winter and they are today in bloom. It is commonly known as the “Rain lily,” in the Amaryllidaceae family, with a native range in Argentina, Chile and Uruguay. The common name is due to the fact that it bursts into flower soon after it receives substantial rain. It displays happy crocus-like white flowers which arise above the dark-green grass-like foliage. I like the name zephyr which is derived from Greek zephyros meaning the “west wind,” and it is combined with New Latin anthes (anthos) for “flower,” but I don't know what got into name-giver Cooperia Herbert to use a Greek name for a South American bulb. Was it windy that day? Candida (candidus) is Latin for “white” or “shining,” but be careful because there is a Candida genus which is a yeast-like fungus that can cause athlete's foot or other infections.

Leucothoe keiskei

I opened my MPL at random near the middle and came to Leucothoe keiskei, an ericaceous shrub from Japan. I first saw it at the University of British Columbia's second-rate* rock garden in October and the leaves glowed with a ruby-red color. The species needs to be planted in moist well-drained soil, and in Oregon it will perform horribly if not given afternoon shade. The species was introduced by E.H. Wilson in 1915 and was given an Award of Merit in 1933. In the Hillier Manual there is mention of the cultivar 'Royal Ruby' with “Dark green foliage, rich ruby-red when young and again in winter.” I acquired 'Royal Ruby' from FF, an Oregon mail-order nursery. I could see after a couple of years that it was not of the keiskei species – a hybrid maybe, but not keiskei – so now I just list it as Leucothoe 'Royal Ruby'. When confronted with my suspicion of specific inaccuracy, the know-it-all responded with, “Oh well, you win some, you lose some,” and never did he offer to return my money. Anyway, when I see 'Royal Ruby' listed in the Hillier Manual I would like to see their plant. I can peruse photos on the internet that look more like keiskei than the plant I was given; and 20 years later I still haven't forgiven the vendor, as some other of his plants have proven false. Win some, lose some...indeed.

*Second rate when I last visited 20 years ago, due to lack of upkeep-money. Hopefully it has been rejuvenated since.

Rehderodendron macrocarpum

Dr. Bump
The MPL also lists Source 1 and Source 2 for the times when I acquired the same species or cultivar from two different places. Such is the case for the seldom-seen Rehderodendron macrocarpum, where my original start came from the late Dr. Bump of Forest Grove, Oregon, and the second was years later from the Rhododendron Species Botanical Garden, though I'm not certain if the latter is cutting-grown or a seedling. I don't remember what happened to the Bump source, but I grafted some sticks from his tree onto Styrax japonicus. A few took and they were sold a couple of years later, and I just kept one for my collection as it can grow into a large and uncommercial tree. I guess my specimen died, and I don't recall ever seeing it in flower, but in any case it is no longer here. According to Hillier the macrocarpum species was discovered by F.T. Wang in 1931, and he (Hillier) describes it as “A magnificent species, in garden merit equal to the best Styrax.” The genus name honors Alfred Rehder (1863-1949), a horticulturist and taxonomist who worked at the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University. The young German was originally hired as a mere laborer* at the Arnold but his additional talents were soon recognized, and it's quite remarkable that a Chinese tree genus (commonly known as Mu Gua Hong) scientifically bears his name. I am envious obviously, for I would love to have a generic name honor me as Buchholzodendron, combining my Germanic name with dendron, or Greek for “tree.”
Alfred Rehder

*Rehder applied to Charles Sprague Sargent to work on the Arboretum grounds for $1.00 per day. It was noted in Arnoldia (1938) – a publication that I subscribe to – that “his first task was to eliminate the weeds in the newly established shrub collection by the vigorous use of a hoe.” Eventually Rehder replaced his hoe for a pen and he collaborated with E.H. Wilson to write the Plantae Wilsoniae which documented “Chinese” Wilson's plant collections. Rehder's career is notable for authoring about 1,400 plant names and for publishing more than 1,000 articles in botanical and horticultural works. Besides Rehderodendron, over 60 genera and species bear his name.

Quite a number of (former) employees were uncomfortable with my obsession with my plant records, like I should allow some leeway for human error. Well, I didn't fire or kill anybody for the omission of the aforementioned Acer truncatum cultivars. At the beginning I kept my records in a shoebox with 4x6 note cards, where every cultivar or species was recorded along with the plant's source or sources. I even added notes, like: from so-and-so, but he's wrong with a number of nomenclatural issues with other try to acquire from another source. Keep in mind that my records were from pre-computer days, so the best I could do was to use a sharp pencil on crisp cards in alphabetical order. The system worked; really it was perfect, and all of my information was concise and accurate.

Acer palmatum 'Fjellheim'

Well, I was very methodical about recording additions to the collection, but far more lax about what should be deleted. With raising a family and trying to keep the nursery afloat, I just didn't have the energy to know when a cultivar or species went extinct in the Buchholz realm. For example, I collected one stock plant of Acer palmatum 'Fjellheim', the 'Sango kaku' witch's-broom dwarf. Seven plants were propagated from my original, which was then sold, and after a few years the propagules were planted out in the Far East section of the nursery, and they were to be used as a future scionwood source. Though I list 'Fjellheim' as a USDA zone 7 plant, hardy to 0 degrees F, all seven of my trees succumbed during a cold snap at 5 degrees F. So, all were dead, and who needs to grow such a delicate wimp anyway? The entry was removed from the MPL and the nursery moved on. Later in the summer I discovered about twenty rooted cuttings in a propagation flat in the corner of GH17, so it didn't totally disappear after all! I forgot that we had stuck a few cuttings the summer before. The point is that Buchholz Nursery is a fairly small company that houses and maintains a minor arboretum, and even though it is run by a hard-ass German founder, the records cannot be completely trusted.

Saxifraga macnabiana

Another example was when I was in a “cleanse-the-house” mood, and I sat down to delete various plants from the MPL that were clearly no longer in the collection. Off the list went Abeliophyllum distichum 'Pink Star' when my one-and-only disheveled plant was thrown away because it was prominently placed along the driveway to impress and please my wife, yet it was always sickly and half dead. So goodbye. I also deleted Saxifraga macnabiana because I hadn't seen it in years. It was an early collection, probably acquired from a Hardy Plant Society sale because it was cute when I saw it in flower. Probably it died the first year it was planted out...because I really didn't know how to grow the touchy genus back then. So, also off the list. Honestly, the very next day I was walking through the Display Garden, and just twenty steps away from where I am writing now, I encountered a tight green mound with frothing white flowers. Yep, it was my deleted Saxifraga macnabiana! Certainly I was pleased, though humbled; but never have I claimed to have the brains of a Linnaeus. Anyway...put it back on the MPL.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Bye Bye Fly

Saturday, 2 PM


Just so you know, the same pesky office fly from Friday is still bugging me on Saturday afternoon. I'm inside on this hot day and so is the damn fly, and I even caught him sitting on my coffee cup rim.

Swat, swat, swat – I keep missing – isn't he a clever sob?...ok, wait, he's on my Ipad cover now, licking his chops and resting on his laurels. I grab the manila folder for my Nationwide Insurance invoices which is flexible yet sturdy...and with a solid whap I squash him to smithereens. I go to the bathroom to scrub my cup with soap and hot water, but after 30 years I really don't want to drink from it again.

P.S. I used Hillary Clinton toilet paper to wipe the fly from my Ipad. Oops – Did I just lose half of the Flora Wonder Blog readership?

Monday, August 28, 2017

A Week To Forget

Wait! Get Sammy a pair of glasses.

A number of groups visited the nursery last week, and I suppose some chose Oregon this August so they could also witness the solar eclipse. By coincidence our nursery association held its annual Far West Plant Show in Portland, an event that I have attended for over 40 years. Out-of-state nurserymen used to do business at the show, but these days the extravaganza has been eclipsed by the internet and one wonders how much longer it can limp along. I always enjoy the fiction a few weeks later when the executive director of the nursery association reports how wonderful and successful it was, and of course the attendance allegedly exceeds that from the year  before. I used to exhibit at the show but now I just attend and I guess the primary reason I go is out of a morbid curiosity, wondering just how shrunken and boring it can get. The Far West Show is free for association members like myself, but a whopping $20 for non-members which is at least $21 too much.

Picea omorika 'Pendula Bruns'

A month ago the German nursery firm Bruns Pflanzen announced that the owner and two members wished to visit on August 23rd, and we agreed to host them in the morning. I was excited because I had visited their nursery 17 years before, and it is one of the better-known in Europe. I remember asking Herr Bruns if we could perhaps see the original Picea omorika 'Pendula Bruns' which is common in the trade, in America at least. He – about my age – gave me a blank look and said he didn't know anything about it. I imagine that it was discovered or at least grown by his father then, but how surprising that the son knew nothing of it.

Baking cookies

I explained to my wife Haruko that in Germany one always sits down with the host, either before or after the tour, for coffee and cookies or cakes. She loved the concept and wondered why American nurserymen were not as hospitable, that maybe we're in too much of a hurry. The day before she baked some treats and I assured her that we had plenty of coffee, and also tea in case one of them was a wimp. I tidied up the office some and put in extra chairs, determined that we could match any German nursery for hospitality. I cleared my schedule in the event that I could also take them out to lunch if they desired.

The morning of their visit I stayed close to the office. The day before any dead plants or garbage was hauled off so I could proudly show off my nursery.
...Hmm, as the morning progressed I kept looking at my watch, wondering when they would show up. I stayed until 5:30 in the afternoon, but never did they appear, and never did they call or email that they had changed their plans. That wasn't very German of them, was it? With their behavior they transformed themselves from real Germans into bleeping Joimans, and Seth and Eric humorously imitated Germanic speech. It was incredible – incredibly rude – that we were snubbed, especially since I am of German heritage, but at least I can laugh about it now, and I can assure you that the cookies did not go to waste.