Friday, May 26, 2017

Selling Out

These days we're shipping scads of liners (AKA lining-out plants), and that's a good thing because I wouldn't know what to do with them all. We don't custom propagate like we did years ago, back when I employed forty earnest souls and we supplied the best growers in Canada and America with new and wonderful maple and conifer grafts. We were highly instrumental in putting Oregon's nursery industry on the map and in putting millions of dollars into state coffers, although no elected official has ever thanked me for it.

We are no longer renowned for our rooted cutting program; heck, it's my office manager that is in charge of that now, and he tends to over mist and rot to death half of what's in the propagation house… and just as well, or we would have too many of those plants too. But we're still pretty good at grafting, and the past two years with Juana in charge have been exceptional. For every three plants we graft we need to sell one – if not two – as liners so that (as they become large) they don't overwhelm our smaller crew and our limited facilities.

Acer palmatum 'Japanese Princess'

Acer palmatum 'Japanese Princess'

So, even though we are no longer custom graft, we continue to over propagate beyond our grow-on needs, and I view the overage as speculation  propagation. There is no exact science as to what will sell as a liner – or at any size – and even though we have been able to sell 100% of our extra Acer palmatum 'Japanese Princess' for the past three seasons, there will likely come a time where these spendy items will be passed over. Nobody will give me any warning that this will happen, and then it is quite possible that the following year we will sell out again. What is funny is that I have some employees who assume that I know exactly what I am doing, and I think it would demoralize them if they knew the extent that I do not.

Acer palmatum 'Mayday'

Acer palmatum 'Seedling from Mikawa yatsubusa'

Acer palmatum 'Seedling from Mikawa yatsubusa'

A sister to 'Japanese Princess' is Acer palmatum 'Mayday', and they were both seedling selections from the huge mother plant of 'Mikawa yatsubusa' growing along the main entrance to the nursery. Both 'Japanese Princess' and 'Mayday' display the same short internodes and small overlapping leaves as their mother, but the former boasts pink foliage in early spring, while the latter features a blonde coloration. I have raised a few thousand of these sorta-look-alikes to 'Mikawa yatsubusa', while the remaining two-thirds of the seedlings are strictly “palmatum” in nature, and they are utilized two years later as rootstock. It is fascinating to observe the diverse offspring, and a few times we'll even find variegated uprights and laceleafs. For me money would absolutely buy happiness, and if I had tons of it I would abandon my nursery business and raise seedlings solely for the fun and knowledge of it. I would surround myself with highly motivated and attractive Japanese graduate students wearing white lab suits who exhibit great zeal for maples. Anyway, all of the 'Mayday' on the Liners Ready Now list were snapped up on the first day.

Acer circinatum 'Baby Buttons'

Acer circinatum 'Little Gem'

Also making a quick exit was Acer circinatum 'Baby Buttons', the most-dwarf “vine maple” known to date, and a cultivar which originated as a witch's broom mutation on a wild tree growing next to a busy interstate highway. This cultivar was discovered by an employee of Buchholz Nursey, then propagated, named and sold a few years later. What is remarkable is that the grapefruit-sized mutation was spotted at all, when the average car speed is between 65-75 MPH. Another maple-selling nursery was told about the witch's broom, and they propagated also, except at a later date than Buchholz Nursey, and their (unofficial?) name for the plant is 'I-205 Interchange' – or a name something like that. Just so you know these two would be the same clone – so no need to collect both – but the 'Baby Buttons' epithet would take precedence. As with all of the witch's broom-originating circinatum cultivars, such as 'Little Gem' and 'Alleyne Cook', plants grown in a greenhouse, especially when young, will put on considerable growth, and the novice grower might conclude that they're really not so dwarf. But when planted out in the “real world” 'Baby Buttons' will delight you with how tiny the leaves can be – usually only one-half inch wide – and that a dense ten-year-old plant will not exceed the size of a basketball. Sadly the circinatum species, even though grafted onto Acer palmatum rootstock, does not perform well in most of the humid central and east coasts of America, so hopefully the buyers of my 'Baby Button' starts will market them in climates where they'll succeed.

Acer palmatum 'Little Sango'

Acer palmatum 'Little Sango'

Acer palmatum 'Winter Flame'

Another sell-out from a witch's broom origin was Acer palmatum 'Little Sango'. I saw the original broom in an Acer palmatum 'Sango kaku' and it was a crummy thing with a lot of dead wood, and I wouldn't be surprised if it's entirely dead now. Fortunately the original scions thrived as they were grafted onto vigorous green palmatum rootstock, and now the relatively new cultivar is firmly established in maple collections. The best thing about these dwarf winter red-stem cultivars, such as 'Fjellheim' and 'Winter Flame' in addition to 'Little Sango', is that you can look down at them, or sideways at them, so that the coral twig color is most obvious in winter… as opposed to the large-growing forms such as Acer palmatums 'Red Wood', 'Beni kawa', 'Japanese Sunrise' etc. that display their red new growth high in the sky, and as these trees age they become less impressive. As we were growing and building up our stock of the witch's broom I found myself calling it 'Little Sango', and somehow the name stuck when I sold my first plant of it. I admit that it now goes by an inappropriate name, that little – an English word – should not be combined with the Japanese word sango (“coral”), as such international language combinations are “outlawed” by the accepted rules of nomenclature. Usually I am a stickler for these conventions even though I sometimes find myself preaching about , but not always adhering to the rules.

Acer japonicum 'Abby's Weeping'

Last summer we didn't propagate many Acer japonicum cultivars, and the reason was that our stock plants just didn't yield good quality scionwood. Often times the terminal buds swell up and shoot new growth at the same time that we want to propagate. I would have grafted a couple of hundred A. j. 'Abby's Weeping', for example, but after pawing over the stock plants I wound up cutting nothing. Only one hundred A. j. 'Aconitifolium' grafts were successful, so I put sixty up for sale. I was actually disappointed that they were quickly purchased, as that leaves (no pun intended) me with only forty (of a smaller size) to grow on. The liner customers always get the best quality, per instruction to my employees, but the manager of the liner sales department, and the manager of the grow-on sales department are seldom in agreement, and both vie to prevail. Those who are familiar with Buchholz Nursery know that I head both departments.

Acer japonicum 'Aconitifolium'

'Aconitifolium' – with leaves like the perennial genus Aconitum – has to be one of the worst cultivar names in Japanese maple history, but the Japanese epithet of 'Maiku jaku' – or “dancing peacock” – is one of the best and most appropriate. 'Aconitifolium' used to be called 'Laciniatum' or 'Filicifolium' and these old Latin names are sure clues that the cultivar has been around a long time – since 1888 – and the Vertrees/Gregory Japanese Maples  book even indicates that it once went by the name of 'Veitchii'. Many of our larger specimens wind up in Midwestern American gardens where a sturdy and hardy tree is required, and though 'Aconitifolium' is ferny and pretty in spring, its dependably dramatic autumn colors of orange, red and purple are why it has become a mainstay. I have even seen it with marvelous autumn color in rainy olde England at the Westonbirt Arboretum, and that is a place where not every maple species – such as Acer saccharum – will color.

Acer palmatum 'Orange Dream'

I was a little surprised that all the Acer palmatum 'Orange Dream' disappeared from our Liners Ready Now list as I previously suspected that the cultivar was falling from favor. Selected and introduced by the Gilardelli Nursery of Italy in the late 1980's, we initially sold large amounts of liners and larger specimens as well. 'Orange Dream' is a fantastic beauty in early spring with fresh orange foliage that soon turns to yellow with some orange on leaf margins and tips. "Orange Dream" is a catchy, very commercial name, but inevitably growers and collectors wondered why it wasn't called "Lemon Dream," or something else, as the orange coloration was so brief. I also attributed slower sales to the fact that 'Orange Dream' will burn in full sun in Oregon due to our lack of humidity, though no doubt it performs better in other regions of the United States. Another problem is that it is an extremely vigorous bush when happy and well watered, and so it never stops growing in late summer  and into the fall. Thin soft shoots can soar to five feet in length, and thus they are susceptible to die back during hard early frosts. So I was happy that all of the liners sold, but I don't think that we'll produce a greater number this coming year. Better to be safely sold out than overstocked is my conservative approach.

Acer pictum 'Usu gumo'

All of the Acer pictum 'Usu gumo' sold out quickly, and we are doing our best in making this variegated cultivar not so rare in collections. I received my start 35 years ago from Howard Hughes – not the late billionaire pilot and movie tycoon, but rather a maple collector from Washington state who helped J.D. Vertrees with his collection. Hughes was 90 years old at the time and I remember him mainly for his kindness. Anyway, 'Usu gumo' is a slow-growing cultivar, and even though it's leaves are more white than green, it can withstand full sun in Oregon. It is a sturdy cultivar that is hardy to - 20 degrees F, USDA Zone 5. The nomenclature can be confusing as some authors, such as de Beaulieu in An Illustrated Guide to Maples, do not  even list the Acer pictum species,  and instead they assign 'Usu gumo' to the Acer mono species.  Hillier goes with the pictum designation and so does Vertrees/Gregory in Japanese Maples*, the latter referring to the common name of the "Painted maple" for the species. V/G justifies the pictum name by declaring, "The older name of A. pictum has now been accepted as legitimate by the International Botanical Congress, and so it takes precedence over A mono."

Acer palmatum 'Goshiki kotohime'

*I don't mind authoritative reference books, such as Japanese Maples, to make subjective pronouncements. I'm ok with opinions like "useful in the landscape" or "beautiful in the fall" etc. However, I am critical of limited -experience being offered as fact, as in the statement, "It ['Usu gumo'] is difficult to propagate and not widely known in collections." That is not my experience: If scionwood is collected from young healthy plants, and if the rootstock is in vigorous mode, then the grafting success rate can be 90% or better. Another example is with Acer palmatum 'Goshiki kotohime' , where it is called "quite difficult to propagate because of the lack of vegetative growth. " Well, young healthy plants –especially if grown in a greenhouse – do not lack vegetative growth and they graft and root "quite" easily.

Dianthus 'Blue Hills'

Dianthus 'Blue Hills'

Dianthus 'Dainty Dame'

Dianthus 'Inshriach Dazzler'

One aspect of Buchholz Nursery that makes me proud is that we are a fun nursery. I don't necessarily mean that I or my employees have lots of fun – we work hard and worry a lot, after all – but that the nursery is a fun place for visitors and customers. We sell fun plants, cool plants. Take the Dianthus genus  for example: we like the tiny bun cultivars that produce vivid flowers. D. 'Blue Hills' , 'Dainty Dame' , 'Inshriach Dazzler' and 'Little Joe' are a few that have sold out. In old times Dianthus was known as the "Carnation" and the species D. barbatus was called "Sweet William." The generic name is a Buchholz favorite, as it is derived from the Greek words Dios meaning "of Zeus" and anthos for "flowers," and it was coined by the botanist-philosopher Theophrastus* – a contemporary and successor of Aristotle. Theo's name was allegedly bestowed by A. and means "divine expression." He – Theo – once remarked that "We die just as we are beginning to live," but his great honor was that A. made Theo guardian of his children, and also bequeathed to him his library and the originals of his works.

*The persona of Theophrastus is one that I have studied in great detail, and I would love to comment on his life and share with other plant enthusiasts his intelligence and accomplishments. I have always felt inadequate to do so, however; but what an honor and insight it would be to have walked a mile in his dusty sandals!

Globularia cordifolia

Also exceedingly fun is the Globularia genus. We sold out of the species cordifolia (for "heart-shaped" leaves) and repens (meaning that it forms a low evergreen perennial mat) The flowers are cute daisy-like balls that rise above the foliage. We sell them as individual pots or include them in our alpine troughs. I know very little else about them, except that they are easy to grow, and I wished that this past year we would have propagated more.

Juniperus chinensis 'Daub's Frosted'

No less fun are some conifers we grow, and apparently we have customers who feel the same way. Gone are liners of Juniperus chinensis 'Daub's Frosted', the yellow-green variegated low-spreader that made me a fan of the “Chinese juniper” after all. The problem is that I previously loaded thousands of its prickly brethren – the pfitzers especially – into trucks when I worked for a large (commodity-boring) company in the 1970s and 1980s. My forearms would rash with juniper contact, but the worst part – trapped in the interior of an east-coast-bound trailer – was the abhorrent smell of the junipers combined with the pungent sick-sour breath of the Korean interns who had just finished their garlic-laden lunch and who were helping me to load the truck. Thank you, Korea, for the cultural – if nauseating – “exchange” experience. But anyway, in spite of its ancestors and relatives, 'Daub's Frosted' is a most garden-worthy conifer.

Picea glauca 'Daisy's White'

Another conifer that sold out with reckless abandon was Picea glauca 'Daisy's White'. This is a dwarf “conica” cultivar noted for cream white new growth on an otherwise boring gray-green evergreen pyramid. The fresh new growth is spectacular, however, and even non-plant people are very impressed. The middle-aged mail lady, for example, prefers to hand-deliver the larger packages to our office door rather than make me go to the post office. Obviously she desires to interact with me, but also she is visibly impressed with our colorful conifers… and she would likely deliver even without me.

Ok, enough… my daughter must type this blog and she (Harumi) concludes that I have gone on way too long. I really shouldn't brag that sales have been so great, but for certain lining-out plants they really have been excellent. Not so with everything, but at least Buchholz Nursery continues…and who knows how far we'll go?

Flora: "I don't know, Talon, but it really does sound like you are bragging about great sales."

Talon: "Look Flora, you are always worried that I take too much credit for my plants and sales.
Yes, I remember that you bestowed them on me in the first place."

Flora: "Good, or else I might start looking for a younger nurseryman."


  1. Great blog entry and informative, thanks.

    Robert Mathews
    Grateful Maple nursery

  2. As one pedant to another, I appreciate your keeping watch on authors, editors, and publishers regarding their language and proclamations. Still, although I don't necessarily disagree with your take on "witch's broom", I think it's at least arguable. Does each of your family members have their own broom? In these difficult economic times, it might be sensible for a coven to share one. Also, no less august an authority than Missouri Botanical Garden uses "Witches'-broom", complete with hyphen, though I can't think of a justification for the hyphen. The oft-maligned Wikipedia, though, does it your way.
    Now, who watches the watchers? Me. How does Vertrees/Gregory, later V/G, become, toward the end of the entry, V/S? And why is it that your website describes Aibes numidica, Algerian Fir, as blue and 7' in 10 years, whereas all the botany sites say it's 65' tall and dark green? Might what you have be the cultivar 'Glauca'? (This is what led me back to your blog, which I hadn't visited in a long time, but should, because it's very good and always entertaining. I wanted a place where it was possible to contact you since, in retirement, I no longer have a business name and never had the required fax number. What century is this?)
    One thing I have learned in my post-retirement career as a plant pot tag researcher is that reliable information on plants is astonishingly hard to come by. Much of the "information" on nursery websites is laughable, university experts disagree radically, and huge breeders don't give a damn. I recently asked Ball Flora Plant what they meant by labeling a plant Impatiens hawkeri and calling it an interspecific hybrid. They replied that, although it is interspecific, it looks like I. hawkeri, so that's what they called it. So don't be too hard on Timber Press. They're the least of our worries.