Friday, July 28, 2017


Aucuba japonica

Last week's Flora Wonder Blog featured the Rosaceae family, a huge group of trees and shrubs with diverse genera such as Photinia, roses, apples, pears etc. The blog could have been three times as long with dozens more plants, but I fear that I already indulge your patience. Consider, then, the Garryaceae family with only two members: Garrya and Acuba. If you look up Acuba on our website you won't find it – you have to spell it right – Aucuba.* I only have one photo that I took inside a greenhouse in North Carolina. I felt immediate revulsion when the door was opened because I hate the genus, especially the variegated versions of A. japonica. I learned only recently that Aucuba was in the Garryaceae family; in fact I didn't realize before that Garrya was in its own family, and I would have guessed both genera to be laurels in the Lauraceae family.

*Aucuba used to be included in the Cornaceae family.

Garrya elliptica 'James Roof'

Garrya elliptica 'Evie'

Plant (and animal) "families" are merely cubbyholes for botanists, and I suppose the groupings help them to understand how the members are related, which is usually a sexual matter. Aucuba japonica's flowers appear in clusters of 10 to 30 in a loose cyme.* The fruit is a red drupe (plum-like) and I know that I wouldn't eat one as birds also avoid them. Garrya contains a number of species native to coastal ranges of southern Oregon, California and Mexico, but we only grow the elliptica species. Its flowers are pendant catkins which bloom in late winter-early spring, and with the male cultivar 'James Roof' they can grow ornamentally to 12" in length. Tiny dark seeds are produced with a hard coating, but are fleshy in the interior. So I suppose that these Garrya fruits, though much smaller, are similar to the Aucuba drupes, and therefore both genera can reside in the Garryaceae family. To the casual observer, however, the two plants appear as different as cheese from chalk.

*A cyme is a flower cluster with a central stem. A single terminal flower develops first, and the other flowers in the cluster develop as terminal buds on lateral stems. From Greek kyma for "something swollen."
Nicholas Garry

David Douglas
Garrya was named in honor of Nicholas Garry who was secretary of the Hudsons Bay Company, a strong supporter of David Douglas's botanical explorations. Elliptica is derived from Greek and means "about twice as long as broad" and refers to the shape of the leaves. Aucuba is from Japanese aokoba which breaks down to ao (green), ki or ko (tree) and ba (leaf),* and you already know what japonica means. Carl Peter Thunberg, the Swedish naturalist and follower of Carl Linnaeus, was the first to describe the genus. Partly my revulsion to Aucuba is that my Grandfather and I used to regularly walk through the woods of Portland's Forest Park. We could see that Aucuba, popular for the dry (or wet) shade of nearby homes would escape into the wild. The sight was about as welcome as a turd in the punchbowl, as Aucuba is revoltingly anathema to a Pacific Northwest wood.

*Before presenting that translation here I first ran it past Haruko, my Japanese wife. She initially screwed up her face and doubted it entirely, but then after some research in Japanese she allowed that I could be correct. Ha! However, she said that no one today would use the Edo Period word, and that "Aoki" is the common name now.

Friday, July 21, 2017

The Rosaceae Family

Holodiscus discolor

Karl Koch

Every day I pass a weed-bush on the public road near the nursery. Holodiscus discolor grows amongst the blackberries, poison oak and Oregon grape, and it is a complete non-event for ten months out of the year. The "Ocean Spray" is gorgeous for two weeks when it is freshly blooming, then absolutely horrible for the following six weeks when the flower sprays wither and turn to brown. 100 degree F weather is not its friend, and the ugly flowers persist like uninvited relatives who stay too long. It came to my attention that Holodiscus is in the Rosaceae family, which doesn't seem right, but its membership was confirmed by the Hillier Manual of Trees and Shrubs (2014). I checked the old Hillier 2nd edition – which, by the way: Sir Harold, is falling apart – and yep, even back then the David Douglas introduction (1827) was included in Rosaceae. The botanic name Holo is Greek for "whole, entire disc," referring to a section of the flower below the pistil. Discolor means "two-flowered" since the leaves are green above and hairy gray beneath. But the Holodiscus discolor name doesn't roll off the tongue very well, and we can blame the German botanist Karl Koch (1809-1879) for that. He was best known for his botanical explorations in the Caucasus region, and he never ventured to America to see our crappy Northwest bush; and actually I hate that part of botany: that some European geek is "credited" with a plant's scientific name when the locals who grew up with, and made use of the plant were never consulted.

Since I had my Hillier's open, I proceeded to page through to see what other genera is placed in the Rosaceae family. Of course I know that roses – Rosa – is in the family, but I discovered quite a number of plants that I have never heard of before, such as Polylepis, Rhodotypos, Sibbaldiopsis, Sibiraea and Heteromeles. You don't know any of them either, am I right? The latter, Heteromeles, is a monotypic genus that used to be included in Photinia. H. salicifolia is the "Christmas berry," a shrub with white flowers that later produces bright red berries that are used for Christmas decorations in its native southern California. This "holly" is what gave rise to the name of the famous film capital – Hollywood. I have been to southern California quite a number of times, but I have never knowingly seen a Heteromeles.

Photinia villosa

Speaking of Photinia, it is also in the Rosaceae family, another fact that I didn't know until I began this blog. What is most typically seen in horticulture is the cross x fraseri which is P. glabra – a Japanese/Chinese native – crossed with P. serratifolia from China and Taiwan. The hybrid's new growth can be spectacular, but it often occurs in late April when we can still receive hard frosts. Well-groomed hedges can be brilliant with red tops one day and then turn to black mush the next, but usually after a month they bounce back with new growth again. I used to grow P. villosa, another Asian species, but I cut it down as it grew into an unwieldy large tree that simply didn't fit into the landscape. The origin of the word Photinia is from Greek photeinos for "shining" or "bright," though judging by a large collection of species in Portland's Hoyt Arboretum, most of them have grown into large shrubs and trees, so the shining brightness is not so apparent, not even in spring. Actually the Hoyt trees are downright ugly.

Stephanandra incisa 'Crispa'

Stephanandra tanakae

I also did not know that the Stephanandra genus is in the Rose family. Hillier describes them: "Though of subtle beauty in flower, their graceful habit and attractive foliage qualifies them for a place in the garden." I guess I would agree with that – I have one in my front yard where it sits minding its own business, never really impressing me or anyone else. Both the incisa species and the tanakae species root easily, but sales were always very slow. The generic name comes from Greek stephanos meaning a "crown" and aner meaning "man" since the stamen supposedly looks like a crown. I would never have thought to name it that and I think it's another example of a poorly named plant. Philipp von Siebold is guilty in this case. The specific name tanakae honors Yoshiro Tanaka (1836-1916), a noted Japanese botanist.

Spiraea morrisonicola

Hillier relates that Stephanandra is "a species of shrubs allied to Spiraea and native to E Asia." Well, I didn't know about Steph's affinity to Spiraea – a genus, the latter, that I featured in last week's blog about Spiraea morrisonicola. Spend enough time in horticulture/botany and you will feel cozy about many relationships amongst plants. It seems that everybody (sort of) sleeps with everybody. Though there's no need to do so, I wonder if you could successfully graft a Spiraea onto a Stephanandra, or vice versa?

Spiraea japonica 'Magic Carpet'

Spiraea japonica 'Magic Carpet'

Last week I mentioned that plant snobs generally poo poo Spiraea, but that they shouldn't. As an example, ten years ago I employed interns from Poland, the Czech Republic, Germany and Japan. I conducted a survey – after they served about 6 months at the nursery – about what was their favorite plant. The Polish intern, who far excelled beyond light-bulb-changing jokes, declared that Spiraea x 'Magic Carpet' was his favorite. That statement elicited a guffaw of derision from a spoiled American kid who was a college horticulture graduate (wooo), and who's father operated a successful conifer/Japanese maple nursery. The brat couldn't believe that anyone would admire a Spiraea, that the intern was a simpleton beyond belief. 'Magic Carpet' would not have been my choice either, but after the Polak's declaration I began to admire the Spiraea with renewed interest and I totally understood and valued his opinion. If the Man from Mars – or an intern from Poland – admires the Spiraea cultivar over the thousands of plants at Buchholz Nursery...then you should just shut up and appreciate his perspective.

Kerria japonica 'Variegated Prostrata'

Kerria japonica – are you kidding me? – is that also in the Rosaceae family? I guess so – again, according to Hillier. Kerria japonica is a monotypic genus with small green leaves and small yellow flowers. I've never tried to propagate and sell it, but I do have a plant behind my house that I acquired (from Siskiyou Nursery) as Kerria japonica 'Variegated Prostrata'. Despite the incredibly invalid cultivar name it is a pretty little bush – but not quite so prostrate as it (after 20 years old) is now more tall than wide. Oh...and also, the variegation is mostly gone as the green shoots far outnumber those splashed with cream white. According to Hillier this cultivar would more accurately be known as 'Picta' but nevertheless, since it basically stays green, you only have the species, not a cultivar. The deciduous shrub is native to China, Japan and Korea, and was introduced by William Kerr who introduced the cultivar 'Pleniflora'. Kerr (died 1814) was a mere plant hunter, but he was championed by Sir Joseph Banks and was sent to China, and he is considered the first western professional full-time plant hunter in that country. The first in China – that is amazing when you think about it. Unfortunately he was transferred to Ceylon (Sri Lanka) where he died two years consequence of some "evil habits he had contracted," namely opium addiction.

Cherry tree at the Portland Japanese Garden

Otto Luyken
It is not surprising that the Prunus genus also resides in the Rosaceae family. Generally I have steered away from the genus, from a grower's point of view, although I do admire the flowering Japanese cherries every spring. Prunus is a huge genus of trees and shrubs which includes plums, cherries, peaches, almonds...and of course ornamentals such as P. laurocerasus, the "Common Laurel." I had a hedge of it next to the house when I first moved onto the nursery, and I diligently pruned it my first spring. The following spring when it needed pruned again I ripped it out instead – I wasn't going to waste another minute of my life on a damn hedge. Besides, the smell of its leaves made me sick. Equally repulsive is the 'Otto Luyken' laurel, the plebian greenery that is used in parking-lot plantings. Somebody smashed one with their car a few years ago at a Safeway store; the cripple remains and no one has ever attended to it. It is amazing that 'Otto Lukens' are now ubiquitous in America – I guess we have a lot of parking lots. Otto L. (1884-1953) was director of the Hesse Nursery in Weener, Germany. Geeze, how would you like to be from Weener? ...but I guess we are all from one. His dwarf laurel was discovered in the 1940's, but sadly it was not introduced until 1953, the year of his death.

Malus fusca

Malus – the apples – are of course members of Rosaceae. While most think of them for their fruits, I'll go on record as an aficionado of their trunks, their torsos. One of my all-time favorite of tree trunks is M. fusca – the "Oregon crabapple" – which is growing at the Washington Park Arboretum in Seattle. I have never seen its fruits, whether yellow, orange or red, and its top is unspectacular, in part because it grows in considerable shade. Writing about it makes me realize that I haven't seen it in a half dozen years, so I think I'll undertake a road trip to Seattle this fall.

I have seen a lot of Malus species in various gardens, so I'm happy that someone else grows them since I never have. Some of the flowering crabapples are spectacular in bloom, and they can be very attractive in autumn with their bright fruits, but a neighbor on Vandehey Road near the nursery planted an alley of about 30 trees, all the same cultivar. They bloomed beautifully this past spring but now they are infected with some kind of crud. The leaves are all shriveled up now, in mid July, and hopefully they'll defoliate soon. Malus? Malice indeed.

Crataegus monogyna 'Inermis Compacta' at RBG Edinburgh

Crataegus monogyna 'Inermis Compacta' at RBG Edinburgh

While the trunk of the Malus fusca specimen is wonderful, the best torso that I have ever seen – well, except for my wife – is a Crataegus monogyna inermis 'Compacta' growing in the outstanding rock garden at RBG Edinburgh in Scotland. Could they ever have imagined that 'Compacta' would grow so large? My last visit was ten years ago; but please, it must still be there...and don't tell me if it's not. I have grown the "dwarf" hawthorne most of my career, and fortunately have never endured any disease or insect issues. My trees are beautiful with white flowers in spring and brilliant red fruits which persist from fall through early winter, and there's enough of them to keep both me and the birds happy. The cultivar is outstanding in winter as well because of its stout structure. I used to be also, but now...

Crataegus calpodendron

Crataegus calpodendron is another hawthorne species, and don't you think its trunk is amazingly similar to that of the earlier Malus fusca? Of course; these two creatures are cousins in the Rosaceae family. Was the calpodendron photo taken at the Arnold Arboretum in Boston? I think so, as the species is from eastern North America, and it is known as a "round-headed tree; very floriferous; bears orange-red, pear-shaped fruits," according to Hillier. I cannot discover the meaning of the specific name calpodendron, though of course dendron is Greek for tree. A cookie goes to whoever can inform me. Crataegus is from Greek kratos for "strength" and akis for "sharp," referring to the thorns on some species. I don't know about Native Americans with C. calpodendron, but with C. monogyna in Europe the Scots have a saying: "Ne'er cast a cloot til Mey's oot." It is a warning to not shed any cloots (clothes) before summer has fully arrived and the hawthornes are in bloom. I have known and employed a number of Scotsmen in my career, and my advice is that they should never take their clothes off, and we'll leave that to their sisters.

Sorbus alnifolia

Sorbus sargentiana

Well, if Crataegus and Malus are both members of Rosaceae, of course Sorbus must also be. The name sorbus is from Latin sorbum for "serviceberry" and sorbus for "servicetree." A Sorb was a member of a Slavonic people from east Germany, and may be another explanation for the origin of the word. The rowans are not my favorite tree, I quickly confess, though I have nothing against them in particular; and in fact in last week's blog I declared my admiration for Japan's Sorbus commixta. It's perhaps that the Sorbus are a bit too formal for me, with something of a "manufactured" look...with their perfect canopies and glossy fruits. I guess I desire a tree with less predictability, with more flaws maybe but with the potential for more fun and spontaneity, such as I find with my wife. Many times she drives me crazy, but at least I am never bored with her.

Amelanchier laevis

Amelanchier alnifolia

Another "service" tree in the Rosaceae family is the genus Amelanchier, a tribe mainly native to North America. I have never had one on my property but Hillier describes the genus as "beautiful and very hardy small trees or shrubs." I mention them here because thousands are produced each year by Oregon's large shade-tree nurseries, though I doubt that I would ever be able to sell even one. A. alnifolia displays an alder-like leaf obviously, and it is a western North American native that was introduced by David Douglas in 1826. Amelanchier laevis is also a North American species and it is known for fragrant white flowers in May followed by orange-red foliage in fall. Surprisingly you don't readily find the "serviceberry" available in Oregon's retail garden centers, but if I ever do stumble upon one I might just buy it. I guess that my previous problem with Amelanchier is that I toured a medium-sized shade-tree nursery in Oregon when I began my career. They grew thousands of Amelanchier and a lightly-branched 7-8' tree could be had for only 12 dollars. Maybe they each cost 11 dollars to produce, but when you grow thousands of them the math works out. I don't know much about the genus really, but I do know that the nursery I just mentioned folded during our recent brutal recession. A time and place for most everything, but never a guarantee for anything.

Rubus spectabilis 'Golden Ruby'

Pyrus pyrifolia

Pyracantha angustifolia

Potentilla dickensii 'Nana'

Aronia 'Autumn Magic'

Chaenomeles cathayensis

Other Rosaceae genera include Rubus, Pyrus, Pyracantha, Potentilla, Pseudocydonia, Aronia, Chaenomeles and more...but I don't want you to grow weary of the family; like I said: as with uninvited relatives who stay too long. Just a final nod to Portland's famous International Rose Test Garden to celebrate perhaps the most important member of the Rosaceae family, Rosa. A few cultivars are presented below, and beware if you visit this garden on a warm summer evening as the heady fragrance can turn a cold prude into a hot lover.

Rosa 'Alatissimo'

Rosa 'Tequila Gold'

Rosa 'Rio Samba'

Rosa 'Betty Boop'

Rosa 'Hot Cocoa'

Rosa 'Iceberg'

Rosa 'Whistle Stop'

Friday, July 14, 2017

Eric's Plant World

The photo below, and most of the others in this blog were taken by Eric Lucas.

Pelargonium endlicherianum

Stephan Endlicher
We are now blooming a gorgeous clump-forming perennial in one of our troughs – Pelargonium endlicherianum, and the above photo was taken by our office manager Eric Lucas on his smart phone. Thankfully it survived our cold winter, and the west Asian “geranium” is showing off magnificently. It is considered the most winter-hardy species of the genus, but the gardener is advised to avoid too much water in the winter (Alpine Garden Society, August 2013). Our species – there are about 280 others, mainly in South Africa – comes from Turkey and Syria and what the heck: it was deluged with water this past winter and spring but survived perfectly. We annually suffer many disappointments and failures in our horticultural profession, so it is particularly refreshing when a species thrives. The generic name originates from Greek pelargos for “stork,” due to the resemblance of the seed vessels to a stork's bill. The specific name endlicherianum should be familiar to many in horticulture, for it honors Stephan Endlicher (1804-1849), the brainy Austrian botanist who formulated a major system of plant classification.*

Chief Sequoyah
*Go ahead and look up Sequoia in any plant reference book and you will see that the name was coined by Endlicher. Even though he was appointed Professor of Botany at the University of Vienna, he exhausted his resources buying botanical collections and books, and spent money publishing his own and others' writings...but ultimately he blew his brains out in despair at age 44. Too bad he's not still around to explain, for it was assumed that he named the Sequoia redwood (in 1847) to honor Chief Sequoyah's invention of the Cherokee syllabary (alphabet). However, the Chief never saw the Sequoias, neither the sempervirens species nor the giganteums, and neither did botanist Endlicher. Now it appears that Endlicher was thinking of the Latin word for “sequence.” Oops.

Magnolia 'Elizabeth'

Many companies establish hard rules about employee internet use – they don't want their workers spending time on porn sites, for example. Eric has free reign, however, and we frequently catch him on plant sites, so we allude to his “plant-porn” addiction. In years past Eric would send money to the old mail-order plant nurseries and he still grows many of their offerings at his North Plains, Oregon homestead. He was probably the first gardener in Washington County to acquire Magnolia 'Elizabeth' – from Oregon's Gossler Farm and Nursery – and that was twenty years before he ever came to work at Buchholz Nursery.

Sarracenia flava
Sarracenia species

The closeup on the right shows a Sarracenia which is home to the Crab Spider. The spider waits for the pitcher to attract prey with its nectar, then pounces on the cranefly and pulls it into the trap and takes what it wants and leaves the remaining for the plant.

Japanese Iris

Japanese Iris

Eric is handsomely over-paid at his job, but nevertheless we appreciate his plant enthusiasm. He helped us to acquire a carnivorous plant collection which sits in front of the office. While we don't propagate or sell them, they are still a source of amazement to nursery visitors as well as to our employees. I recently cut a bouquet of Japanese iris to celebrate my daughters' beautiful dance recital, and rising above the purple iris I placed two Sarracenia flava pitchers, with a note of appreciation tucked into the throats. The iris were gorgeous but pooped out in a week, but going on a month now the Sarracenias still look fresh. Eric bulges big eyes when he reads about carnivorous plants, about how they interact with the insect world, and he constantly marvels about how plant reality is more fantastic than any fiction.

A lot of things wouldn't happen at Buchholz Nursery without help – and I'm not talking about the physical help of pruning, staking, shipping etc. I mean the addition of enthusiasm, and before Eric's employ I received very little enthusiasm about plants from my employees. Most have been hard workers – or they were kicked out! – and General Manager Seth is brilliant at what he does, but Eric is a true CPN* and he has led us down some wonderful paths. Many years ago I acquired my first Pleiones, but they were only a time-consuming hobby, even though they did contribute to a great wedding photo with my wife. I despaired when she spent a full day dividing and potting up the rootless bulbs, only to have a mindless employee jet them out of their pots by watering sideways. Tearfully, Haruko repotted them but we lost much of the all-important identification. Then, before we knew what we were doing, Haruko suddenly produced two children and our Pleione passion lagged. A few bulbs were kept, and bloomed, but the damn things only reminded me about my limitations, for I didn't have the energy to keep the nursery afloat, to pet the dog and the kids, and to also deal with the non-profitable bulbs.

*CPN= Certified Plant Nerd

Pleione 'Riah Shan'

Pleione formosana 'Tongariro'

But...Eric to the rescue! He not only revitalized the Pleione collection, but he has also expanded it. We are now actually selling them and they are finally paying their way. Most of the Pleione commerce in the world is cash for bulbs. Perhaps because of my sad experience with my irrigation crew, I decided to only sell potted plants, so for a modest price the home gardener receives an established plant with the potential of multiple blooms. Eric oversees our project, and he advises when to plant, water, fertilize etc. Without his frequent supervision we would screw it all up like before. He's having great fun, but a year ago when he paid more money than the GNP of many third-world countries on new bulbs from England, I had to gulp and steady myself. But, after they bloomed this past spring I wanted to hug the sweaty old geezer. That is what I mean by “help” – help me to have fun by you doing the dirty work.

Cardiocrinum giganteum

Cardiocrinum giganteum

Tomitaro Makino
I have long admired the Cardiocrinum genus – the “Giant Himalayan Lily” – and my first encounter was in British Columbia at the UBC Botanical Garden in their Asian section. On a long-ago October day I could only marvel at the seed pods which adorned brown stalks twelve feet in the air. Later, when I saw some specimens in flower I was hooked. The plant was first described scientifically by Nathaniel Wallich in 1824, but it took until the 1850's before bulbs were exhibited in England, then known as Lilium giganteum. Later the name was changed to Cardiocrinum, derived from Greek kardia for “heart” due to leaf shape and krinon, Greek for “lily.” The great Japanese botanist Makino christened the lily as Cardiocrinum mirabile, and the literati knows mirabile dictu as “wonderful to relate” or “amazing to say.” Amazing indeed when you see a tall rod adorned with twenty sweet-smelling white trumpets. My first start came from somewhere – the records were lost – but never would it bloom. Hanging out in GH20 was not to its liking apparently, and the flower bud would always rot. Eric admonished me to “get it out of the greenhouse!” – and he said so in a most Trumpian manner. I resented him as a know-it-all, but since I had nothing to lose I did as I was told. To our delight it bloomed the following summer, and he took it as proof that he deserved a pay raise. But seriously...

Cardiocrinum seed

Thanks to Eric, though, we planted the seed – amazing little wafers that they are – and a good number germinated. This spring we will have fat little one-gallon pots to sell, and you had better get your order in early! Far Reaches Nursery in Washington state collected seed in the wild and one bloomed pink instead of the usual cream white. One of their customers demanded to know how the seedling offspring would also bloom pink, not white. The proprietors responded that they couldn't guarantee a pink flower, but then it might also bloom red. Ha!, the woman bought the plant anyway. And so did we but our offspring also bloomed white.

Spiraea morrisonicola

Spiraea morrisonicola

Bunzo Hayata
Eric planted a trough with Sempervivums, Jovibarbas and in the center he placed the dwarf Spiraea morrisonicola. The “Mt. Morrison Bridal Wreath” is a delight when in bloom, and our only complaint is that it went to seed in the trough and threatened to take over. But after it bloomed this past June we pruned it back to the soil level, and we'll look forward to it showing off again next year. I know that most snob gardeners will poo poo any Spiraea, but our start came from Far Reaches Nursery in Washington state, and they are known as consummate snobs with a nursery that backs it up. The choice species was first described by Bunzo (really!) Hayata (1874-1934), a Japanese botanist noted for his taxonomic work in Japan and Taiwan. The species was once known as Spiraea japonica Linnaeus var. morrisonicola Hayata, and is just one of hundreds of interesting plants to be found on Mt. Morrison (now known as Yushan, or “Jade Mountain”). Spiraea is a genus in the family Rosaceae, so it is related to apples, rowans and a whole lot more. At one time the Filipendula genus was lumped in with Spiraea, but no more (Rosoideae instead). Acetylsalicylic acid was first isolated from Filipendula ulmaria when it was still grouped with Spiraea, and the word aspirin was created by adding a (for acetylation) to spirin, from the German Spirsaure, a reference to Spiraea.

Penstemon davidsonii var. menziesii 'Tolmie Peak'

Penstemon davidsonii var. menziesii 'Tolmie Peak'

Mt. Rainier

Peter Rainier
Burdened with an unwieldy name is Penstemon davidsonii var. menziesii 'Tolmie Peak'. Please – nobody change the name now that we have our labels made! Our low mat is in a trough in the old basketball court, and all visitors who must walk from the parking lot to the office have an opportunity to enjoy it. The cultivar was collected on Tolmie Peak (5920') in the Mt. Rainier area of Washington state, a plant-rich site named for William Fraser Tolmie who labored for the Hudson's Bay Company. Supposedly he climbed the mountain in 1833, accompanied by two native Indian guides. I don't know who first named and introduced the plant 'Tolmie Peak', but we were given our start by Rick Lupp, the now-retired owner of Mt. Tahoma Nursery. Mr. Lupp operated a small but spectacular alpine nursery, and he was famous for practically abandoning certain plants...which allowed them to positively thrive. Tahoma is the native American word for Mt. Rainier, and Talol, Tacoma or Tahoma might refer to “mother of waters.” I'm all for restoring the mountain's name back to the original, just as Mt. McKinley was dropped in favor of Denali in Alaska. George Vancouver is the guilty party responsible for re-naming honor is friend Rear Admiral Peter Rainier, perhaps the ugliest officer in the British Navy, and one who never even saw the mountain.

Phlox 'Boranovice'

Also in a basketball-court trough, and also from Mt. Tahoma Nursery is Phlox 'Boranovice' (pronounced veechey). In the photo above you can see that it happily coexists with a Rhododendron forrestii var. repens, and they both look poised to climb up the burnt stump. It is often classified as Phlox douglasii 'Boranovice', a species native to our Pacific Northwest which honors plant explorer David Douglas. We also grow 'Boranovice III', a cultivar with pink flowers, but I prefer the drama of the red. Phlox is a genus of 60-or-so species, mostly from North America, and it resides in the Polemoniaceae family. The name Phlox is derived from Latin for “flower, flame,” and that ultimately from Greek phlegein, “to burn;” it was Linnaeus who coined the name Phlox.

Saxifraga 'Cockscomb'

Saxifraga 'Peter Pan'

Saxifraga edithae 'Edith'

Saxifraga edithae 'Bridget'

Pliny the Elder
Eric loves the Saxifrages, and one of his favorites is 'Cockscomb'. We have a miniscule green bun clinging to a pumice stone for most of the year, then it explodes like fireworks in summer with dozens of tiny white stars. S. 'Peter Pan' features pink flowers and we have two cultivars of Saxifraga edithae: 'Bridget' and 'Edith'. All of these are great in troughs or in our pumice stones, but we find that many of the species and hybrids thrive in partial shade versus the scalding Oregon sun. A word of caution for one who collects Saxifraga, for the grower is largely at the mercy of his source if the name is correct or not. For example Eric corresponds with collectors in Europe and some of the alpine cognoscenti there questions some of our nomenclature. We do our best and we are always willing to be corrected. Saxifraga is a stone-breaking herb, a word which combines Latin saxum for “stone” and fraga, feminine of fragus for “breaking.” The stones that are referred to are not necessarily in nature or in the rock garden, but that the herb has the capability to dissolve kidney stones. The know-it-all Roman Pliny* claimed the above, but others say it refers to the fact that Saxifraga commonly grows in crevices.

*Pliny the Elder was an author, naturalist and natural philosopher, also a naval and army commander, and spent his time investigating natural and geographic phenomena in the field. Too bad that he wanted to see the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius close up because he died from noxious gasses when the wind died and his ship couldn't set sail to safety.

Echinopsis hybrid

Echinopsis is a genus of cacti native to South America and is sometimes known as the "Easter lily" cactus. There are a number of species, though most of the wonderful cultivars are hybrids. We don't know the name of the parents or even of the hybrid displayed above, but to me it doesn't matter because it's Eric's photo that I like. One can't know everything about every plant, such as the Echinopsis genus, but certainly they can be appreciated in collections (since I have never seen them in the wild). The generic name is derived from Greek echinos for “hedgehog” or “sea urchin,” and opsis for appearance, referring to the plant's spines. Long before Eric filled out his time card at Buchholz Nursery he was collecting plants as a hobby. As is often the case, those growers who are not invested in plants as a crop, as a necessary income to be derived, can appreciate the natural world for its beauty and inner-workings more than the professional nurseryman.

Calypso bulbosa

As an example, the exquisite Calypso bulbosa is native to the Columbia River Gorge at about 2,000' in elevation, and I have seen it on both the Oregon and Washington sides. Too bad that it is very difficult to grow in cultivation, that it requires the natural stuff of the forest to survive. But lucky-stiff Eric has it growing naturally on his property and in his neighborhood, as I have jealously seen for myself. Calypso takes its name from Greek meaning “concealment,” since the bulb prefers sheltered areas on conifer forest floors. No wonder that Eric fell in love with plants: he has a beautiful wife and a lovely family, but he is especially blessed to walk out his door to greet the Calypso in the spring.