Friday, March 10, 2017

The First Buchholz Catalog

For the first three years since the founding of Buchholz & Buchholz Nursery I had a few plants for sale – rooted cuttings and 1-year grafts – and they were listed on a single sheet of paper which was folded in thirds and mailed to potential customers. Those were the years (1980-1983) before the world had email or fax machines. My first real catalog was a cute little thing with two staples and consisted of twenty pages. It was distinguished by the artwork of friend Elizabeth Bishop, and I always loved it when I could exchange my plants for her art.

The cover of the 1984-85 Wholesale Catalog shows a stooped old geezer hand-in-hand with a young child, and it sure looks like we are walking past a “mountain hemlock,” my favorite conifer. Wait! What? – who is the “me” in the “we” – the child or the old man? I was told that I was both, that the leading and nurturing of the child is like a nurseryman tending to his young plants. And also Ms. Bishop projected that I would have a life-long affair with my trees, with nature. Right: now I am old, but perhaps not as serene as the old duffer.

I miss the catalog days, as now all business is conducted on our website. The old catalogs seem more personal and friendly than looking sideways at a computer monitor. I don't Kindle – or whatever it's called when you read a book on a device, because I would rather hold print on paper. I'm the kind of guy who prefers to annually kill a real tree at Christmas rather than reuse an artificial tree, though the latter would be more simple and cost effective.

Abies balsamea 'Nana'

Let's look back at what I was selling thirty-some years ago. I was able to peddle the “Dwarf balsam fir,” Abies balsamea 'Nana' as rooted cuttings for $0.25 apiece, and I made good money on them as nearly everything rooted. I described it then as a “slow growing dwarf with dark green needles.” Now, on our website, I elaborate and advise that it is “perfect for a rock garden.” I should rethink that comment because I have since seen an old specimen about 4' tall by 7' wide. In Oregon the balsamea 'Nana' also prefers PM shade to look its best. It's not that it burns – if given adequate moisture – but the lush green color bleaches out as soon as we reach 100 degrees. Once considered a staple of dwarf conifers, one seldom sees them for sale, at least not in Oregon retail nurseries. I sold my last 'Nana' pot a couple of years ago, and nothing remains in the nursery landscape either. Actually that's sad because I remember how pretty the fresh green spring growth was in contrast with the old dark green needles. I hate how “business” often gets in the way of fun, and I think I'll seek out the fir again and put at least one back into the garden.

In 1984-85 I was gaining momentum with maples, listing 57 species and cultivars for sale, with the vast majority being Acer palmatum cultivars. For some reason author, collector and maple guru J.D. Vertrees took an interest in me and helped me to acquire the beginning of my collection. $3.75 was a lot to ask, I thought, for 'Aoyagi', 'Butterfly', 'Higasayama', 'Orido nishiki' (now 'Oridono nishiki'), 'Sekimori' and others as a 1-year graft, but customers willingly forked over their payments. The Vertrees Japanese Maples book was in print and my wholesale customers and the gardening public went into a frenzy, much as the Europeans did with the tulip in the 1600's. My prices were sober, however, with the stalwarts such as 'Bloodgood', 'Viridis', 'Garnet', 'Crimson Queen', 'Ever Red' etc., those that would be grown commercially by the it would turn out, and those went for $2.50 for a 1-year graft.

Acer palmatum 'Red Filigree Lace'

Acer palmatum 'Red Filigree Lace'

I had not acquired Acer palmatum 'Red Filigree Lace' by 1984-85, a delicate laceleaf that Vertrees enthused about in his 1978 first-edition of Japanese Maples. I think that was about the time that nurseryman John Mitsch of Oregon sold stock plants to Iseli Nursery, also of Oregon. Then we heard that someone snuck in at night and stole a few. Eventually another Oregon nursery was offering 'Ruby Lace' which was identical to 'Red Filigree Lace'. Hmm. I bought a start of 'Ruby Lace' and in 1984-85 I was selling grafts for a whopping $5.75. About eight years later when I compared the two “cultivars” side-by-side I dropped the 'Ruby Lace' charade and changed my labels to the proper 'Red Filigree Lace'. I grow the latter today, but not so many because they are so slow, and are often one-sided. The largest 'Red Filigree Lace' in the world is planted near the Buchholz Nursery office and it stands 11' tall by 7-8' wide. Maple enthusiasts are stupefied by its size because it would seem to take a couple of hundred years to grow that large. I readily confess, however, that I “cheated,” that I grafted fifteen or so scions into the top branches of an old 'Bloodgood' specimen about 30 years ago, so I created my big monster in record time.

Betula albosinensis var. septentrionalis

I could sell birches in the early years, but I doubt that now anyone would buy them from me. I first discovered Betula albosinensis var. septentrionalis – which I misspelled with an m in the catalog – in the garden of the late Dr. Corbin of Portland, Oregon. He was a connoisseur of large-growing birches, and fortunately he owned a large estate on which to house them. Nevertheless the birch canopies would merge into the large Magnolias that he also collected. The tops of the Betula were scrappy but the orange-pink exfoliating trunks were attractive. Corbin's was a garden I would not have wanted, but at least his large trees afforded a good deal of shade in the summer. I have a small section at Flora Farm that is named FFCorbin. It contains a couple of specimens of Magnolia 'Caerhay's Belle', the starts of which came from the doctor's garden, plus a number of Japanese maples that his daughter wanted to get rid of so she could plant plum trees in their stead.

Cedrus libani 'Pendula'

Cedrus libani 'Green Prince'

I see that we listed Cedrus libani 'Pendula' and 'Nana' in 1984-85. I was never certain of the species with the 'Pendula', whether it was deodara or libani, but I bought it as the latter from a reputable conifer nursery in 1980 when it was already eight years old. The original is still here; in fact my parking spot at the nursery is right next to it. I came to learn that one had to be careful with the 'Nana', for some nurseries were selling it as if it was the same clone as 'Green Prince'. After I successfully segregated my stock trees – 'Green Prince' was more dwarf with darker foliage – I got rid of 'Nana' never to propagate it again. I wasn't selling grafts of 'Green Prince' in 1984-85 because I was building up my scion stock, but would do so soon thereafter. I may have the largest 'Green Prince' in the world, but I didn't create it by “cheating” like I did with the 'Red Filigree Lace' mentioned earlier. My specimen is about 45 years old and it has matured into a broad pyramidal tree, much more formal than the “irregular-shape” often described in the literature.

Chamaecyparis lawsoniana 'Wisselii'

Chamaecyparis lawsoniana rootstock with Chamaecyparis obtusa scions

I see that we were selling 1-year grafts of Chamaecyparis lawsoniana cultivars, and this was before the development of C. l. 'DR', or the disease resistant clone from Oregon State University that we currently graft onto. In 1984-85 we used Thuja occidentalis 'Smaragd' which prevented the Phytophthora lateralis problem on the lawson species, and while the grafts would “take” and “live,” all of the cultivars – even the dwarves – would greatly outgrow the rootstocks. With the larger growing cultivars such as 'Wisselii', one needed serious staking to keep the concoction from tipping over in winter storms. The only C. lawsoniana-on-'Smaragd' remaining in the garden is one specimen of 'Minima Glauca', a boring selection (from 1863) with compressed blue-green foliage. For what it's worth, one can also graft lawsoniana cultivars onto non-disease-prone Chamaecyparis pisifera, but with the same top over-growth as with 'Smaragd' rootstock. Least anyone in the humid Midwest or East Coast gets too excited about lawsoniana cultivars, even if a perfect rootstock existed, the tops might not be too happy growing there anyway. Kind of like with me: I have been to the Carolinas in the spring and in the fall and I thought I was almost in heaven, but I know that if I was ever stuck there in the summer I would rather die.

Juniperus squamata 'Blue Star'

In 1984-85 I had a catalog and plants to sell, but what I didn't have was money. After the down payment on my (empty) property and an annual mortgage due, I had no money to buy pots, fertilizer, media etc. I worked full-time for other nurseries then came home at night to pot seedlings and graft plants. Yes, I spent long hours outside with a headlamp, but at least I was spared stupid programs on TV. But I did scrounge up enough money to buy 300 'Skyrocket' juniper, 4' tall in one-gallon pots at a dollar each.* The juniper nursery was facing hard times and the owner must have been puzzled why a start-up nursery would have a market for junipers that he couldn't sell. What he didn't know was that we would top graft them, and we would sell a one-gallon liner (for $3.50) of Juniperus squamata 'Blue Star', J. horizontalis 'Wiltoni' and J. procumbens 'Nana, all of which was a new concept, a new product for the nursery industry. Later we would grow thousands of top-grafted juniper for other wholesale growers, and even today many continue, though likely with smaller numbers. There was little profit for us with the enterprise because they required a lot of labor, room and stock trees, and we discontinued the practice in about 2000.

*Actually the experience was the first time that I was cheated in the nursery business. After the agreed price of one dollar each (on Saturday) my (then) wife arranged a truck (on Monday) to pick them up, and she had to go into their field and load herself. When she returned to their office to pay, after being fully loaded, she was told that the price was $1.50, and that news was delivered by the secretary as the owner had slipped out the back. My wife fumed and began to unload, but was told she had to do it back out in the field to avoid an additional handling charge. A week later another nurseryman intervened, for he wanted some top-grafts too, so we got them for one dollar after all. An interesting side bar to the story is that the cheater was “religious” – he sang in his church choir. A saying became popular with others who also dealt with him, since his last name was Gold, that “All that is Gold does not glitter.”

Pinus pinea

Pinus patula

I see that we were listing many hardy pines as 1-year grafts, but for some reason we were also offering Pinus pinea seedlings – the “Italian Stone Pine” – in pots for $2.50. The only market for the zone 8 species (10 degrees F) was California, and perhaps I fancied that some rich Californian would want to lay out his own Appian Way. The biggest problem was that the pine seeds were cheap – $5.00 maybe – but that all one thousand germinated. I potted one hundred and threw the rest away, and we actually were able to sell about half. When they got too big for the pots they were transplanted in one-gallons. They all perished outside in a cold winter because we had too little room at the Inn. The same poor-production planning also occurred with Pinus patula, the “Mexican weeping pine,” where too many germinated and most were thrown out. The zone 8 P. patula does survive in Oregon winters when grafted onto hardy Pinus sylvestris, and my Grandfather has a beautiful specimen in his garden with the Scot's rootstock.

Pinus parviflora 'Aoi'

Everyone loves the Japanese Pinus parviflora species, and in 1984-85 I was listing 'Glauca' at $2.50 each, and it was popular enough that I sold about 500 grafts (with P. strobus as rootstock). I also had obtained stock of the “new” P. p. 'Adcock's Dwarf' and I was able to sell grafts for $3.50 each. Actually there was nothing “new” about 'Adcock's Dwarf' for it originated as a seedling in the Sir Harold Hillier Garden in 1961 and was named for the propagator Graham Adcock. What I liked best about it is that grafts took nearly 100%; what I didn't like is that the cultivar would develop a needle drop in April due to our wet springs. New healthy growth would quickly follow, but imagine explaining that to your garden-center customers every year. So we discontinued 'Adcock's Dwarf' for better-behaving (and more blue) dwarf cultivars such as 'Aoi', 'Blue Lou', 'Kobe' etc.

Pinus parviflora 'Adcock's Dwarf'

For years I did keep a large specimen of 'Adcock's Dwarf' in a wood box even though we were no longer selling young plants. This specimen was grafted at about 2' tall on a vigorous P. strobus rootstock. Within twenty years it had formed a ball about 6' tall by 5' wide. The eminent – some would say arrogant – JRP van Hoey Smith was visiting one day when he saw that the label on my pine said 'Adcock's Dwarf'. He spat and sputtered and could barely contain himself because I obviously had a mistake, that 'Adcock's Dwarf' could never grow so large. If there was to be a debate I could see that it would be one-sided, so I just thanked him for setting me straight. Later that winter he sent me “correct” scions, and I grafted a few and grew them along side my “rong” scions, and of course they were identical. One could learn an important lesson about plants with this experience, that growing conditions in Oregon might be superior to The Netherlands for certain plants. Also, a “pushed” – watered and fertilized – pine in a container might grow twice as fast as yours in the ground at your European arboretum. And finally, maybe Buchholz with his German ancestry is twice as capable of growing pines than any Dutchman. Ok...the last statement was blasphemous and I didn't really mean it.

Ulmus glabra 'Camperdownii'

A tree that has always fascinated me is Ulmus glabra 'Camperdownii' and I have blogged about it before.* The cultivar is a disaster if topped-grafted on any rootstock because the contorted top will outgrow and consume its feeble trunk. Grafting on ground level is better, but you'll always be fighting rootstock suckers. Therefore, I reasoned in 1984-85 that one should root 'Camperdownii' and then train it up to the desired height so it could form its dome. The elm roots, but only a few come away vigorously while others just sit there with small leaves and no new growth. Propagators hate half-assed crops, and we would rather that most thrive or that all die. I eventually tired of my crummy crop and decided to dump them rather than to nurse them along.

*One can learn more by typing Camperdownii in the white search box on the home page of the Flora Wonder Blog, but finish this blog first.

Paging through past Buchholz literature is like stumbling upon one's old high school yearbook. Who was I then and what was I doing? Mainly, I think, I was just trying to survive.

Friday, March 3, 2017

My Native Flora

Exotics and natives at Flora Farm

The fields and gardens at Flora Farm are filled with exotics, but the perimeters consist of Oregon's native flora, the trees and brush that house bugs and birds and mammalian critters. Some will lament that I didn't devote all of my land to natives, but I could never have made a living that way, and besides none of my exotics are invasive or have in any way harmed the native fauna.

Afternoon light at Flora Farm

Afternoon rainbow

We set an all-time record for rain this past February, and not only that but it averaged 10 degrees colder than normal. The fog pierced into our bones, and on some days the gray hell didn't lift and we never warmed. But not always. Today, February 28th I have returned home from the nursery and my lands are awash with 5:30 PM light. Two chicken hawks sit at the top of the pie-cherry tree and further to the east arcs a worthy rainbow, not quite as brilliant as I sometimes see, but still I feel like I'm getting my money's worth.

Accipiter cooperi

I think our raptors are the Cooper's hawk (Accipiter cooperi), sometimes called the quail hawk because of their rounded torsos. I don't know how long they live, but every February-March for the past 14 years they conduct their business in my backyard; sadly I have never seen where they nest. Oddly the males are smaller than the females and they have a higher-pitched voice. As with humans – though human men are usually larger – the chicken hawk males are said to be submissive to females and will listen for reassuring call notes when the females are willing to be approached.

Quercus garryana

Annual Tualatin flood

Lichen species

Anyway let's get past the amorous hawks and go down to the brushy banks of the Tualatin River to see what is growing. There are many scrubby oaks (Quercus garryana) that line the river, none of them nearly as stupendous as my prize a quarter-mile uphill from the river near my house. Nearly every year our bottom lands flood and the oaks can stay submerged for three to four weeks without harm. I sometimes wonder if the weight of the biomass of lichens, moss and ferns is greater than the pure wood itself. Scientists say that the gray lichen does not harm the trees, that oaks are strong due to dense, entwined wood cells. After all, the two natives have evolved together for several million years so they apparently don't mind each other's company. Further away from the river in my Upper Gardens the lichen has begun to cling to my Japanese maples as well. I wished it wasn't present for I prefer the clean look on maple branches, but lichens are said to be an indicator of good air quality and they are used as food, shelter and nesting material for squirrels, birds, deer, bats, wasps and butterflies etc.

Toxicodendron diversilobum

OK then, everyone loves the oaks – so go hug an oak. But be sure you know what you're getting into, because frequently the presence of the Quercus implies that you could be stepping into poison oak (Toxicodendron diversilobum). Since they are so often found growing with each other one wonders if they share a symbiotic relationship, or if the birds just eat the ripe fruits and then shit them out while sitting in the old oak tree. Poison oak is nasty stuff and a huge percentage of country children wander into it. Their bodies will rash horribly – and I mean everywhere – and they will miss school for at least a week but without any fun. I know as I have been a victim, with my last outbreak when I was a teenager on a fishing trip. I suppose that most sufferers eventually develop an immunity to the poison – the urushiol – but it affects everyone differently. Office manager Eric Lucas' mother, a tough country gal, was burning brush on her property and threw the poison oak branches onto the fire. Eric's father warned her that what she was doing was not safe, but it turned out that the poison from the smoke didn't bother her at all but it disabled him. My children are smarter than I was at their age for they have learned to identify poison oak, and the dog is kept on a leash when they're down by the river so that the kids don't unwittingly pet him and get infected.

Symphoricarpos albus

Another plant that occurs in the same vicinity is the “snowberry,” also known as “waxberry” or “ghostberry” due to the white glossy fruit. Its botanic name Symphoricarpos is derived from the Greek word symphorein meaning “to bear together” and karpos for “fruit,” referring to the closely packed berries. The species on my property is albus for obvious reason. The genus is in the honeysuckle family (Caprifoliaceae) and is native to western North America. Birds can disperse the seeds – two per drupe – but the plant also sprouts anew from its spreading rhizomes, and I have one particularly large thicket near my river pump. Native Americans used the plant as a medicine and a soap, and sometimes for food. I've never eaten a fruit, probably because of a story I read twenty years ago when a group of Japanese children were visiting Oregon and went hiking in the Columbia River Gorge. One girl took a fancy to the snowberries and popped one after another into her mouth. She became horribly ill and had to be rushed to the hospital to be induced to vomit. Basically I have taught my children to eat nothing from the woods if I am not around...not that the box grocery store is necessarily a great source for food either.

Arbutus menziesii

Arbutus menziesii 

Arctostaphylos nevadensis 'Ponchito'

There are a couple of madrones at the wood's edge, and they lean out from the Douglas firs and stretch southerly for the sun. I entered Arctostaphylos menziesii into our website to see which photo I would use. I didn't understand why nothing came up so I entered menziesii. Up popped Arbutus menziesii, and of course that is what I was after. I was momentarily confused because they're both in the Ericaceae family and both feature white urn-like flowers. Arctostaphylos is not native to my property, but we have successful plantings of A. nevadensis and A. uva-ursi. Arbutus was introduced to England by David Douglas in 1827, and hopefully his first sighting of the reddish-brown bark wasn't marred by some lover carving his initials into the trunk to impress his girlfriend. The name Arbutus is Latin for “strawberry tree,” for Arbutus unedo, a Mediterranean species. The Arctostaphylos name was given to the genus for the circumboreal A. uva-ursi for plants found in Europe. The name is from Greek arktos meaning “bear” and staphyle meaning “grapes” in reference to bears eating the fruits, and indeed the common name of the genus is “bearberry.”

Acer circinatum

Acer macrophyllum

Of the three Acer species native to Oregon – A. circinatum, A. macrophyllum and A. glabrum – only the former two grow on my property as natives. I did plant one specimen of A. glabrum next to the woods so I could claim to grow all three, but the closest native stand of A. glabrum (ssp. douglasii) that I know of is at Wahkeena Falls in the Columbia River Gorge forty miles away. Neither my “vine maple” nor “big-leaved maple” species form attractive trees, and there are hundreds of the latter, and I guess that it's from too much floral competition, or perhaps from the annual flooding. I have been tempted in the past to plant some A. circinatum cultivars, such as 'Burgundy Jewel' down at the river, and maybe also an A. macrophyllum 'Mocha Rose', and then I could admire them from my deck a thousand feet away. But that would be a project for a younger man with more energy and time, and I doubt that Flora would in any way be impressed.

Fraxinus latifolia

Fraxinus latifolia

I suppose my least favorite tree at the river is the “Oregon ash,” Fraxinus latifolia. It leafs out early, and that will be only six weeks from now, but the foliage color is an unimpressive light gray-green. The trees' structure is rather scrappy, usually with a lot of broken limbs, although a few do soar to about eighty feet tall. Even as firewood the ash is decidedly secondary to that of oak. I know they serve a purpose for wildlife and to stabilize the river banks, but under them too will be found the dreaded poison oak. The ash always look stressed, and by August's end the foliage turns to a dirty yellow, but in the right afternoon light it's not so bad. F. latifolia is the only ash species native to the Pacific Northwest, one of sixteen species in the United States, and the genus is a member of the olive family (Oleaceae). The flowers are dioecious (with male and female flowers on separate trees), and the fruit is a single samara which hangs in dense clusters. The specific name latifolia means “with broad leaves” – not a name I would have chosen – but the botanist Nuttall originally named it Fraxinus oregona. The generic name Fraxinus is Latin for “ash,” and derived names include fresno* in Spanish, frene in French, fassino in Italian and fraxos in Greek.

*Fresno is the largest city in California's Central Valley, a hell-hole where days exceed 100 degrees F seemingly all summer. It was named for the abundance of ash trees lining the San Joaquin River and an ash leaf is featured on the city's flag.

Cirsium arvense

“Canada thistle,” Cirsium arvense, is also a bane to my lowlands, and it has been present throughout my ownership. It is a plant in the Asteraceae family, but since it is not native to Canada no one knows how the common name came about. The generic name Cirsium is derived from Greek kirsos which means “swollen vein,” and related plants from this genus were used as an herbal remedy to relax swollen veins. The specific name arvense means “of cultivated fields,” and the thistle shares it with other weeds such as “bindweed,” Convolvulus arvensis. Seeds are attached to a cotton-like pappus as photographed above, and the system is perfect for wind dispersal. Why the thistle is so problematic is that its seed can survive in soil for up to twenty years, and also that a single plant can develop a lateral root system with a twenty-foot spread in a single season. Besides, root pieces can break off in cultivation so the infestation can grow worse. The local farmer used to grow corn in this area and the presence of thistles posed him no problem, but he has been away for five years and I notice the invasion is getting worse.

Cornus sericea

Cornus sericea 'Hedgerows Gold'

Cornus sericea 'Hedgerows Gold'

Cornus sericea (syn. C. stolonifera), our native “red osier* dogwood” has developed into impenetrable patches of red stems up to 12' tall in my soggy eastern woods. Certain cultivars, with red or yellow stems are used in horticulture, and we also used to grow the rambunctious 'Hedgerows Gold', but it required a lot of space or constant pruning. The flowers of the species are quite boring, small and dull white, and the fruit is also small and rather unornamental. The specific epithet sericea means “silky” due to the texture of the leaves. I don't have a problem with this native since it stays in place and away from my exotics, and of course it's part of the greater ecosystem that has evolved along the Tualatin River. And if I ever take up smoking I know I can copy Native Americans who smoked the inner bark in a mixture with the bearberry to improve the taste.

*The name “osier” is from Latin ausaria for “willow bed.”

Salix species

I really don't know much about “willows,” botanically identified as Salix, except that at least one species (or hybrid) grows on my property. Today its catkins are noticeable because they appear before the leaves, and cut stems can be brought indoors now and they are described as “pussy willows.” At Flora Farm an emptied maple field was neglected without any cultivation, and after three years I had willow bushes at least 10' tall. We pruned them to the ground last fall and we'll try to eliminate them this year, but I regret that money and effort is required to keep farmland free of scrub when there is no profit to be made. Nature certainly has an urge to dominate my lands, and who knows, maybe she'll eventually get the best of me.

Pseudotsuga menziesii

At higher elevation on the northwestern banks of my property are a number of impressive specimens of Douglas fir, Pseudotsuga menziesii, where I would guess that each tree is 150 years old. They are far out west from my home and the thought has occurred to me that logging them would provide a nice retirement income. I would hate to cut them though, and would prefer to sell the property intact one day. Besides, the government would suddenly appear with hands out for a “timber tax.” Oregon's leeching liberals have never helped me with anything and so I resent that my life's efforts and achievements are something for them to pocket. They have also proposed to meter and tax me on the water from my well, as if they had anything to do with installing and maintaining it. It used to be that a man “owned” his property if he held the deed, but now the state has decided that we're only “renting” it from them, for after all where else would their pensions come from?

Maybe I should look at it their way too, since the White Man didn't consult, and just took away the Natives' lands before I entered the scene, so it never really has been “mine.” The resident coyotes yip and holler at night beneath my house, a chilling reminder that they are weighing in too.