Friday, June 23, 2017

Old Euro Conifers

Juniperus squamata 'Blue Star'

Tsuga mertensiana 'Blue Star'

There is nothing to prevent a person or company from bestowing a cultivar name upon a plant, even when that name has been used before for another in a different genus or species… but it is bad form nevertheless. I would hate, for example, if someone used the 'Summer Fun' name for a conifer or 'Miss Grace' for a Rhododendron since we already have those names for other selections. 'Blue Star' is a wonderful cultivar name, and it was given to a blue-needled Tsuga mertensiana by L. Konijn from Reeuwijk in Holland before 1965, according to Gerd Krussmann in Manual of Cultivated Cultivars. But also 'Blue Star', the squamata juniper that originated as a witches'-broom [sic Krussmann] about 1950, occurred at the Hoogeveen Nursery in the same Reeuwijk, Holland, and then was first introduced in 1964. So what's up – why are two Dutchmen from the same little town so enamored with the "blue star" name, and then use it for different conifers at about the same time? Certainly these two Dutch goobers knew each other, or about each other ; were they friends or rivals I wonder? In any case note how both chose a catchy English name for their plants… which was so entrepreneurial of them.

I bought the Krussmann conifer book, as well as the accompanying three volumes of his Manual of Cultivated Broad-Leaved Trees and Shrubs, when I began my nursery in the 1980's. The conifer tome was first published in 1972 in Europe, then translated and made available to Americans by Timber Press. I've always wondered if K himself was as boring as his books, but he died in 1980 and I never met him. Timber Press states that "K's work taken overall represents the most comprehensive account of woody ornamental plant material available, "and maybe that is what is so boring. I know, I know that many of you are thinking that it is the Flora Wonder Blog that is truly boring, and I should quit picking on old Krussmann…err K.

Abies numidica

Consider the description for Abies numidica : de Lannoy ex Carr. Algerian Fir. Tree 15-20 mm [sic] high,…" Only 15-20 millimeters high? That boner is on the editor, not K. To continue : "… crown densely branched, regularly conical, branches in whorls, heavily branched, horizontally arranged, young branches yellowish green or brown, glabrous, buds large, ovate, not resinous or only somewhat when young, scales fit loosely, light brown ; …" Thank god, a semi-colon finally so I can catch my breath! That was only half of the description – it continued with adjectives such as stiff, flat, thick, twisted etc. By the time you labor through a description you have forgotten what tree you were looking up.

In spite of a boring text, there is still a wealth of information presented, especially if you are interested in conifer history. For example, Abies numidica used to be called A. barborensis, and no wonder since the species is endemic to eastern Algeria in the Babor  Mountains, and "west to Constantine" Hmm… I'm pretty good at geography, but what does Constantinople in more eastern Turkey have to do with "west to Constantine?" Nothing – only that Algeria has a city (3rd largest in the country) named after Constantine the Great too. The Babor mountains is a range that I had never heard of before – until now when I just checked the internet – but the tallest peak is Mt. Babor at 2,004 m. (6,575 ft.) , a perfect altitude for a true fir.

Sequoiadendron giganteum 'Pendulum'

Juniperus conferta 'Blue Pacific'

One feature of K's work that I like is that dates are given most of the time for the introduction of species (1862 for A. numidica) and cultivars. An exception is that no date was given for Sequoiadendron giganteum 'Pendulum'. Hillier says 1863. When describing the cultivar, he mentions that it is common to be "chaotically branched," or that it occasionally develops a "grotesque shape." I thought it was odd that K added, "Commonly grown in France ; not to be grafted on Sequoia sempervirens because of its susceptibility to frost damage." There you have an example where K. supplements his dry verbiage with horticultural advise. For Juniperus communis 'Horstmann' K reminds us that it "must be staked for the first few years," then adds, "Meritorious, very decorative novelty plant!" He is less enthusiastic for Juniperus conferta 'Blue Pacific' and only calls it a "good groundcover," and for Juniperus conferta 'Emerald Sea' it is "very salt tolerant." Duh – it originated from "cuttings collected by J.L Creech on the coast of Honshu, Japan in 1957."

Chamaecyparis obtusa 'Nana'

I don't want to come across as a smug book reviewer, but since I use K's work at least once a week I know it well. I have legitimate gripes about the publication: such as the problem that the pages fall out and that the spine is of brittle material. It also irks me that photos and line drawings are far away from the encyclopedic text, and so difficult to find – and of rather crappy quality besides – that you're not inclined to make the effort to seek them. Furthermore the specific epithets are only slightly larger than the cultivar listings, and at the top of the page you have only the generic name. The difficulty is that – take page 86 for example – the cultivar listings begins with 'Kanaamihiba' and ends with 'Nana', but you don't know that you are in the Chamaecyparis obtusa section without additional effort.

Ok, enough complaining. It was fun to make myself a coffee, alone in my office on last rainy Sunday, and randomly peruse K's Manual. I skipped the "crown conical, buds globose, dark red, resinous, branches tiered…" portion of the text, and just focused on the factoids that I found interesting. A few examples follow:

Abies x arnoldiana 'Poulsen'

Abies x arnoldiana (A. koreana x A. veitchii).
Germinated in 1953 in the Goteborg Botanic Garden, Sweden from seed sent by the Arnold Arboretum. Similar hybrids were developed under controlled conditions by D.T. Poulsen in 1959 ; the seedlings grow faster than A. koreana, the needles are larger, the cones blue to violet and develop very early. Difficult to graft. [The prostate cultivar 'Poulsen' is not difficult to graft whatsoever, at least at Buchholz Nursery].

Chamaecyparis lawsoniana 'Blue Surprise'

Chamaecyparis lawsoniana 'Blue Surprise'
Developed from seed by Arth. P.J. de Beer in Tilbury, Holland.

Cathaya argyrophylla

Cathaya argyrophylla
China ; Kwangsi Province, found in May 1955, by members of the Kwangfu Lingchu expedition.

Cedrus atlantica 'Glauca Pendula'

Cedrus atlantica 'Glauca Pendula'
Stem erect-drooping [what?] … branches… hanging "mane-like" from the limbs… Originated before 1900 by Paillet in Chatenay, France.

Juniperus chinensis 'Titlis' [sorry no photo]
… Foliage silvery-blue, sharp to the touch.

Picea abies 'Acrocona'

Picea abies 'Acrocona'
Originated spontaneously in the forest near Uppsala, Sweden before 1890 ; widely disseminated in cultivation today.

Picea polita

Picea polita
Tiger-tail spruce (= P. torano Koehne). Japan, main island [Honshu], on lava soil. The common name stems from the "tail-like" pendulous branches of very old trees in Japan.

Pseudolarix amabilis

Robert Fortune

Pseudolarix amabilis
Golden Larch. E. China ; Chekiang and Kiangsi. Introduced by R. Fortune [pronounced fortoon] into England in 1852. Quite winter hardy. [Fortune was the British spy who, at risk of death, stole tea plants – Camellia sinensis – and tea-processing information from China]

Pseudotsuga menziesii 'Fletcheri'

Pseudotsuga menziesii 'Fletcheri'
Dwarf form. This and 2 other dwarf forms, 'Nana' and 'Cheesemanii' [really!], developed at the same time before 1895 in the Lock King Nursery of Weybridge Kent, England. The above form [Fletcheri] was eventually introduced by the Fletcher and Son Nursery in 1915…"

Podocarpus elongatus 'Monmal'

Podocarpus elongatus
Round crowned tree. S. Africa ; only the western Cape Province.

Podocarpus henkelii

Podocarpus henkelii
(The spelling "henckelii" is incorrect!). S. Africa ; Natal and the bordering regions of the eastern Cape province.

Taxus brevifolia

Taxus L. [Linnaeus] – Yew- Taxaceae
Depending upon the interpretation, either a group of 7-8 species or only 1 large species with a number of subspecies differing by geographical origin. The needles contain the poisonous alkaloid, taxin, which deadly in small amounts for horses ; only the sweet, slimy, red aril is not poisonous, the enclosed seed also contains the poison.

Taxus baccata 'David'
Taxus baccata 'Golden Dwarf'

Taxus baccata
Cultivated for centuries. Includes many cultivars which are not always easy to distinguish.



 Taxus baccata 'Amersfoort'

Taxus baccata 'Amersfoort' = T. podocarpoides Hort.
Developed in France, but discovered by the D.B.B. van den Hoorn Nursery of Boskoop and planted at the Amersfoort Hospital in Holland. At first considered a Podocarpus because of its great dissimilarity to other Taxus forms, but later this was cleared up by a closer anatomical inspection.

Amentotaxus argotaenia

Amentotaxus argotaenia
Shrub… (like Cephalotaxus)…
China ; Kwangtung, Lantoa Island ; Hong Kong. z6?
[Not even close to zone 6 hardiness]

Callitris preissii ssp. preissii

Callitris preissii ssp. preissii
Tree with erect or outspread branches
S. Australia ; widely disseminated. Very valuable forestry tree.

Abies procera 'Blaue Hexe'

Abies procera 'Blaue Hexe'
Originated in the Böhlje Nursery in Westerstede, Holland [Germany?] around  1965. One of the most beautiful dwarf Abies. Promising Cultivar!

Araucaria schmitii

About 18 species in New Guinea, E. Australia, New Zealand, Norfolk Island, New Caledonia and S. Brazil to Chile.

Araucaria araucana

Araucaria araucana
Monkey Puzzle Tree. Female trees 30-50m, male only 15-18m high. Seeds 3-4.5 cm long, reversed oval-oblong, red-brown, edible ("Pinones"), germinating underground.

Araucaria bidwillii

Araucaria bidwillii
Australia ; along the coast of Queensland. 1843

Sciadopitys verticillata

Sciadopitys verticillata = Taxus verticillata Thunb
Japan ; Honshu, Shikoku, Kyushu ; in the mountains, but also frequently cultivated.

Thuja occidentalis 'Smaragd'

Thuja occidentalis 'Smaragd'
Compact conical form, loosely branched, twigs more or less in a vertical plane… glossy bright green in summer and winter. Selected by D.T. Poulsen, Kvistgaard, Denmark ; introduced in 1950. [smaragd is "emerald" in English] 

Picea abies 'Reflexa'

Picea abies 'Humilis'
Picea abies 'Hytrix'

I'll admit that the above factoids aren't all that interesting. Besides, I forgot about my coffee and it's now stone cold. One of the problems with the Manual (for me) is that it is so Eurocentric and it is loaded with old European names that are difficult to pronounce or spell. And of course there are a lot of Latin cultivar names like 'Columnaris', 'Repens', 'Nana', 'Argentea' etc. Also many of the cultivars are old fashion and no longer in the trade in America or even in Europe. If you look up the cultivars of Picea abies, over 90 percent can no longer be found in a garden center. Yes, some of them can still be seen in the old arboreta of Europe – but even less in America – and that's what I mean when I say K's book is of interest historically.

But boy, the comma-laced text can be tedious. Let's see if you can guess what species is being described below, based on the text alone:

"Shrub with ascending stem or a short stem and conical crown or procumbent with many knee form, bent stems, bark gray-brown, scaly, splitting into irregular plates, but not exfoliating, young shoots light green at first, then brown to black-brown, glabrous, buds oval-oblong, 6mm long, acuminate, very resinous, scales tightly adpressed ; [hurray, a semi colon!]… "

That is only one-third of the description. Submit a guess if you want as a comment on the Blog, and I'll make it worth your while if you are correct if… any of you are still awake.

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