Monday, April 10, 2017

It's Still Winter

Helleborus hybridus '#106'

I was tempted to brag about our early blossoms – some Rhododendrons, Narcissus, Helleborus and Lindera obtusiloba flowers can all be seen from the office window. But I shouldn't give the Flora Wonder readership the impression that all is sunny with birds and butterflies flitting about. In fact today the employees are braced against the wind and rain in their raincoats and hoods, and only body size and shape gives you a hint of who's beneath.

Thuja orientalis 'Franky Boy' 

The foliage is dripping wet on the trees and shrubs, and the pots and boxes are heavy for the crew as they wrestle them into trucks usually bound east. A nice order for a good customer in Pennsylvania is already staged and we hope the truck for it shows up tomorrow morning as promised. I notice that he has Thuja orientalis 'Franky Boy' on order, a cheerful thread-leaf dwarf that I first saw at the Kools Nursery in Deurne, Holland. The cultivar was selected out of 3,000 seedlings of 'Elegantissima' by Tree Nursery Frank of Austria in about 1990, then introduced in 1999 according to the Dutch Conifer Society's Promising Conifers Part 1. One wonders why anyone would plant so many 'Elegantissima' (selected 1858) seedlings – to what purpose? As you see I still stick with the Thuja name for the genus, when I should probably comply with the current Platycladus ("with broad or flattened shoots") designation. I like to be correct and I can easily change, but remember that I have employees and many customers who can barely keep up with it as it is.

Picea pungens 'Dietz Prostrate'

Picea pungens 'Procumbens'

The order contains two spruces that he'll never tell apart should he lose the labels – Picea pungens 'Dietz Prostrate' and Picea pungens 'Procumbens'. Both display good silver-blue needle color and both grow equally low to the ground (with occasional leader pruning, at least at my nursery). The latter has been around for a long time (1910) and is also known 'Glauca Procumbens', and if 'Dietz Prostrate' is a newer introduction it never needed to have been named. Neither should be confused with 'Glauca Prostrata', a more rambunctious selection that is also more likely to throw up a leader.

Picea abies 'Gold Drift'

Besides being a retail nursery, our customer also does complete landscape jobs. Perhaps he will combine Picea abies 'Gold Drift' with the ground-hugging spruces, as yellow and blue plants enhance each other. 'Gold Drift' is a vigorous selection, growing just about as fast as the common "weeping Norway Spruce," Picea abies 'Pendula', and to call it a dwarf would be wrong. Growers claim it tolerates full sun, and if seen from a distance they are correct; however at Buchholz Nursery a 100 degree day will cause a little scorching, even when the specimen receives adequate moisture. But if grown in shade, as we do our stock plants, the foliage color is pale green. Even though 'Gold Drift' is a fairly new introduction, I already have one staked at 8' tall. I'm also tempted to plant another without a stake and let it ramble low to the ground.

Abies nordmanniana 'Golden Spreader'

Abies nordmanniana 'Golden Spreader' originated as a seedling in the Shoots Nursery in Holland in the early 1960's, and in spite of the name all old specimens will develop a leader and become nicely-shaped pyramids. Unlike 'Gold Drift' our fir does not burn in full sun, and another bonus is that it stays fairly yellow in the shade. "Golden Glow' might have been a better name because the color is particularly rich in winter, and I would have to put it in my top 10 of all dwarf conifers. I enthuse about 'Golden Spreader' because I just returned from a hike out to the Blue Forest to measure it, and it shines even in the gloomy rain.

Picea abies 'Perry's Gold'

Also headed to Pennsylvania is Picea abies 'Perry's Gold', but today the foliage is dull green and it will be about a month before the new golden foliage pops. In its prime the tree will be entirely yellow, and that will last for about three weeks before it gradually goes back to green again. Young plants spread sideways but we prefer to stake ours, and once a plant gets the idea of growing upward you don't need to continually stake. The original tree was impossible to miss as it grew along a roadside in Vermont. Arthur Perry gave scionwood in the early 1990's to Greg Williams of Kate Brook Nursery, who propagated, named and introduced the plant to the world. About six years ago I saw 'Perry's Gold' (incorrectly 'Golden') in a retail garden center in Boskoop,The Netherlands. Also for sale was two of my introductions – Metasequoia glyptostroboides 'Miss Grace' and Picea breweriana 'Emerald Midget', and it's fun to see how quickly cultivars can spread around the world.

Chamaecyparis obtusa 'Confucius'

Chamaecyparis obtusa 'Golden Pillar'

I'll mention one last golden conifer – Chamaecyparis obtusa 'Confucius' – a broad intermediate-sized pyramid. It was a 1984 introduction from Duncan & Davies Nursery in New Zealand and we used to buy plants from them until they went bankrupt. Prior to 'Confucius' we grew 'Aurea Nana', and though similar the latter was more likely to burn. I'll confess that we grow less 'Confucius' than we used to, the reason being that 'Gold Pillar' and 'Gold Post', two selection as stunningly colored, but more dwarf and narrow.

Acer palmatum 'Orangeola'

Acer palmatum 'Sherwood Elfin'

Our customer has always bought lots of maples, so apparently he feels they are fairly priced. The 10-gallon Acer palmatum 'Orangeola' goes for $88, but so does the smaller 'Sherwood Elfin' which is at least three years older. The point is that I make less profit – maybe even none – on some cultivars versus others. 'Orangeola' has become very popular since it was introduced by Happy Hollow Nursery of Oregon in the 1980's, though its corny name was bestowed not by the nursery, but rather by a plant "rep" – one of those middle-men who could make a living with plants without getting their hands dirty, or at least not dirty from soil. The dwarf 'Sherwood Elfin' received its name because it was a chance seedling from 'Sherwood Flame', and each displays about the same maroon leaf color. For some reason I have never staked the 'Elfin', but for my next crop I think I should probably try some that way.

Acer palmatum 'Corallinum'

Even the slow-growing Acer palmatum 'Corallinum' is faster than 'Sherwood Elfin', but for us it is a little more difficult to graft. Our stock is usually in containers in the greenhouse, and about mid-September the thin shoots are hard enough for scionwood. Our first and largest specimen grew into an oval shape that was about 8' tall. It was in the office planting and could be seen from out the window. The afternoon light through the pink-red leaves could be spectacular, but alas the tree was sited too close to the road. I fretted for its safety year after year, witnessing a couple of close calls from new UPS drivers. What insurance company would believe that it was worth over a thousand dollars? But then I probably had a two thousand dollar deductible. Vertrees in Japanese Maples reminds us that the name Corallinum has been incorrectly used for the cultivar 'Sango kaku', as the latter translates from Japanese meaning "coral tower." The late plantsman Sir Harold Hillier scoffed at the mistake and described the two cultivars "as different as cheese from chalk."

Acer pseudoplatanus 'Eskimo Sunset'

Acer pseudoplatanus 'Eskimo Sunset'

A couple of Acer pseudoplatanus 'Eskimo Sunset' are on the order, not that the larger-growing species with the gaudy leaves fits into every landscape situation. Besides all of the color on the top surface of the leaf, the rich purple undersides reveal themselves as they wave in a spring evening's breeze. I first saw 'Eskimo Sunset' in about 1994 in the Vertrees garden, a short time after he had passed. It was a wimp in deep shade with almost white leaves, standing only a couple of feet tall. The label read 'Eskimo Sunset', which is why I still use that name even though other maple experts believe it should be 'Esk Sunset'. A year later I got a start from another source and Buchholz Nursery has propagated quite a few over the years. Since I've had it for over twenty years it is surprising that it has taken us until a couple of weeks ago to sow seed from our oldest specimen. Our primary objective is to obtain rootstocks to continue propagation, but who knows what else might sprout?

Acer palmatum 'Kandy Kitchen'

Acer palmatum 'Shaina'

A couple of Acer palmatum 'Kandy Kitchen' will be a colorful addition to someone's landscape. I've been growing the cultivar for about twenty years, and on the one hand it is just another dwarf red witch's broom maple, but still it is a little different from the many others. It originated as a mutation on an Acer palmatum f. Atropurpureum and was discovered by Joe Stupka of Pennsylvania. It is distinguished by bunched pink leaves at the twigs' tips which will be greenish if grown in shade, followed by throbbing scarlet foliage in the fall. I suppose the standard for the witch's broom dwarfs is 'Shaina' ("beautiful" in Yiddish) which was discovered by Richard Wolff of Red Maple Nursery, Pennsylvania, in the early 1980's. I wish that a group of young plantsmen from various parts of the country (or world) would undertake a witch's broom trial, where 'Shaina', 'Kandy Kitchen', 'Fireball', 'Elizabeth' etc. could be evaluated. Actually it would be nice to have a red leaceleaf and a red upright evaluation too.

Acer palmatum 'Hubbs Red Willow'

Everybody likes Acer palmatum 'Hubbs Red Willow', a bushy tree with deep purple bamboo-like leaves and I even planted one along the road to my home. Unfortunately the name has been misspelled as 'Hupp's Red Willow' and that is probably because there exists a 'Hupp's Dwarf'. The Hupps are prominent nursery peoply from Oregon while Hubbs (without the apostrophe) was named for Elwood Hubbs from New Jersey. Simply 'Red Willow' would have been adequate without the need to commemorate Mr. Hubbs, just as the similar 'Beni otake' ("red bamboo") is sufficient without including the finder's name (Edsal Wood). Anyway our customer will soon receive two 'Hubbs Red Willow' in 20 gallon pots and they look very nice.

Acer palmatum 'Helena'

We'll also ship a couple of Acer palmatum 'Helena', a cultivar that most of you don't know. Its charm is subtle although its foliage color (as with women's moods) changes greatly throughout the year. Leaves are emerging as I write and they are coppery pink and orange. Later they'll go through a light green phase with dark margins, and then they'll be mostly deep green by summer. Fall color ranges from yellow to orange to red. This compact tree was selected by Dick van der Maat of Boskoop, Holland, and I was fortunate to see it in his nursery in the autumn about ten years ago.

Bergenia 'Angel Kiss'

Maples, conifers...a few Cercis and Fagus comprise this customer's order. The only exception is Bergenia 'Angel Kiss', a perennial that you might be surprised we grow. I tell new customers that we grow three groups of plants: 1) maples, 2) conifers and 3) everything else. Bergenia certainly falls into the latter category, yet it is the type of plant that combines well with the other two, and that is the criteria for us growing it. In any case we're sold out of 'Angel Kiss' for this year. What distinguishes this hybrid are snow-white flowers that emerge above the foliage in spring, then as they age they evolve to a light pink hue. The leaves are dark glossy green with lighter green veins, and then in autumn they turn to delicious dark red-purple. Our colorful garden clumps lasted throughout most of the winter, and only a month ago did we prune them back. If you have nothing better to do you can rub the leaves of Bergenia together, for the sound they make has yielded the common name of "pigsqueek." The genus was named for Karl August von Bergen (1704-1759) a German anatomist and botanist, and the honor was bestowed by botanist Conrad Moench in 1794, too late for Bergen to brag about it.

Your damn blog!

This blog has been written for a month, but to type, organize photos and post it is always difficult in the mad spring shipping season. Seth is on a short fuse this time of year and he has been known to snap about "your damn blog!" I gently remind him, "It's our blog Seth, it's our blog."


  1. And please tell Seth that it is a lovely blog and that you take AMAZING photos of your wonderful plants!

  2. God how I hate golden colored plants. They always look sick to me.

  3. Élvezettel olvastam ezt is:) Gyönyörűek az örökzöldek és a juharok is.


    Petra Magyarországról