Friday, September 29, 2017

Original Buchholz Nursery Introductions

Acer palmatum 'Fairy Hair' in autumn
Acer palmatum 'Sister Ghost'

In the previous Flora Wonder Blog, Arrivals and Departures, I mentioned that I occasionally sell my largest of a certain species, or the absolute last of one, or even the first or the original of a certain tree. For example, the original Acer palmatum 'Fairy Hair' was sold and shipped to New Jersey. The original Acer palmatum 'Sister Ghost' was sold and shipped to Washington state, even though the scoundrels at Garden of Eden Nursery in Puyallup, Washington never did pay for it.

Today's blog will discuss some of the originals – those plants introduced by Buchholz Nursery that still remain. Every tree has its price of course, and so does the entire nursery for that matter; and who knows: maybe some of the following will be sold before I even finish this blog, and perhaps by week's end someone else will own the company.

The original Acer palmatum 'Purple Ghost'

The original Acer palmatum 'Purple Ghost' is still growing in the Display Garden. It became the cultivar that has sold the most from our “Ghost Series,” and apparently thousands of them are now in American and European gardens. It originated as a seedling from A.p. 'Kasagi yama' and is superior to it in all respects. 'Purple Ghost' was selected about 1990, and in 1996 the 6-year seedling was planted out using the code name 'Kasag DG 96', and we even sold some under that code name. I don't do that anymore, rather I now supply the final name to any seedling selection if I give one away or sell it, and that policy saves a lot of confusion later. An example would be my introduction of Acer palmatum 'V. Corbin', where the “cultivar” name is a code name only. Unfortunately it is listed in the Vertrees Japanese Maples (3rd edition 2001) thusly. By the 4th edition 2009, it is listed by its final name of 'Midori no teiboku' – meaning “green and spreading.” The world of horticulture didn't need to go through the extra trouble that I caused.

Acer palmatum 'Ikandi' in spring

The original Acer palmatum 'Ikandi' is still in a container in GH19, and I must confess that as it continues to grow it becomes more difficult to squeeze past. 'Ikandi' originated as a seedling of 'Alpenweiss' but the former is much more colorful, especially if you like bright pink spring foliage. We began to sell 'Ikandi' about five years ago and initially some concern arose that our younger sizes did not display the same color as the photos portrayed on our website. That is to be expected, and discerning maple hobbyists and maple professionals know that young plants produced in a greenhouse with lots of heat, water and fertilizer do not usually display the colorful characteristics that the cultivar was selected for...but that eventually when given “real-world” care, the colors will show up. Our advice to any worried growers is to calm down, be patient, and probably by the following spring you will be thrilled that you purchased our trees.

Acer palmatum 'Ikandi' in summer

In the past few years I have planted 'Ikandi' in a couple of locations at our Flora Farm, as well as in some gardens at the nursery. How many we produce each year depends upon these results. Do we have a fantastic “doer” that will enliven Western gardens, or do we have a wimpy cultivar that needs to be coddled in a container that is suitable only for maple aficionados with over-wintering facilities? Early trials at Buchholz Nursery suggest that horticulture has been blessed with our discovery of 'Ikandi'...and I promise that anyone ordering from our one-gallon maple program will receive at least one, as I promised earlier for Acer palmatum 'Peve Starfish'.

The original Acer macrophyllum 'Mocha Rose'

Acer macrophyllum 'Mocha Rose'

Acer macrophyllum 'Mocha Rose' resides in the nursery's Blue Forest, a garden that originally contained only blue-foliaged plants. Of course there is nothing blue at all about 'Mocha Rose', and for the past 20 years we have incorporated other foliage colors into the forest as well. 'Mocha Rose' was introduced about 2000 and the original seedling appears to grow at about one quarter the rate of the type. Nevertheless it is vigorous and without pruning it would eventually compromise my nearby “mountain hemlocks,” Tsuga mertensiana, which are over 50 years old. None of the parties involved can be dug and moved – at least not without great risk and expense. I value the hemlocks no less than the macrophyllum, so for now I must continue to prune. Too bad 'Mocha' wasn't planted on a large estate lawn, but then I've never owned a large estate. When I say that it grows at one quarter the rate as the type, I am referring to the original seedling. Any propagules – grafted onto vigorous green macrophyllum rootstock – will likely speed up the rate of growth. We'll never sell a large amount of 'Mocha Rose' because 1) it grows too large for most landscapes and 2) it is only hardy to USDA zone 6, or minus ten degrees.

The original Sciadopitys verticillata 'Fatso'

We selected a chubby “Umbrella pine” seedling about 25 years ago and named it Sciadopitys verticillata 'Fatso'. At about 12 years of age it was planted into a cedar box and placed along the main road into the nursery. There, it drew a lot of attention and it seemed as if every customer wanted to buy it. To solve that problem we planted it next to the office where I can appreciate it daily. However I have now concluded that it is not worthy of cultivar status, and I regret that we propagated and sold some 'Fatso' offspring. We never did root 'Fatso' from cuttings, but we did graft some for two consecutive years and then grew them on in containers. These grew at the same rate as the type so 'Fatso' wasn't so fat anymore, and there wasn't any point to continue to produce it. Furthermore, the original seedling has gained purchase in the garden and every year it appears more and more normal, like any other Sciadopitys, so you could conclude that it is not deserving of a cultivar name. Another forgettable moment at Buchholz Nursery.

Chamaecyparis nootkatensis 'Green Arrow'
Chamecyparis nootkatensis 'Van den Akker'

We have a few Chamaecyparis nootkatensis 'Green Arrow' in the Blue Forest which are the first propagules ever of the tree discovered by the late Canadian Gordon Bentham on Vancouver Island. I've told the story before, but in short I rescued the two-year grafts from a bankrupt Victoria nursery and brought them to the USA, and if I had not heard the story about the tree – growing on Canadian government forestry property – from Bentham shortly before he died, the cultivar would certainly have been lost to horticulture. Now they are grown by the thousands, and whether produced by rooted cuttings or by grafting onto Thuja orientalis rootstock, their value has declined due to the abundance. Nevertheless it is an excellent garden plant, and more than one catalog describes it by copying the phrase that I coined: “'Green Arrow' provides a fantastic exclamation point in the landscape.” In spite of its name, the foliage of 'Green Arrow' would more accurately be described as gray-blue, and a rival cultivar, 'Van den Akker', displays foliage more green.

Chamaecyparis nootkatensis 'Sparkling Arrow'

One of the original 'Green Arrows' was dug when it was about 18' tall and it was planted into a large cedar box. We gave it a year to recover and then it was put up for sale and it was snapped up in short order. I flagged it as sold in the summer and it was to be shipped the following spring. When flagging I noticed one 8” shoot with variegated foliage. I watched it for months until it was time to graft, then the one scion was snipped off for better or for worse. Thankfully it took, and thus Chamaecyparis nootkatensis 'Sparkling Arrow' was born. It took many years to build up our stock as I was determined to propagate with only vigorous terminal shoots so that the cultivar would retain its narrow form. Now that 'Sparkling Arrow' is in the hands of other growers I know for a fact that some are grafting with any piece of wood that they can get, and that might compromise the cultivar's standing as a narrow conifer. In any case 'Sparkling Arrow' is much less prone to reversion than the old cultivar 'Variegata' which should be banned from horticulture altogether.

Cornus kousa 'Summer Fun'

The original Cornus kousa 'Summer Fun' is growing in our Atlantic Garden and I can see it out the window from my chair in the office. I am not tempted to sell it – though I would for the right price – because the original is no longer the largest. One of greater size, in fact, is growing in front of my children's play house at the edge of the front lawn. When I mentioned at the dinner table that we might dig it and put it up for sale my wife and kids simultaneously cried out “Nooooo - How dare you!” I calmly responded that it would fetch at least $500. My 14-year-old gave me an incredulous look, “Really?” She doesn't fully comprehend how her father can plant a tree for fun, and then cash in on it for a great sum later, but then I don't get her teenage world either. I bristled a few years ago when a nationally known plant personality suggested that 'Summer Fun' certainly must be my career “legacy.” I though that short-changed me, and I rather believe that if I have any legacy at all it's that I am hard-working and honest and that my jokes are among the world's most funny. For what it's worth, I think that 'Summer Fun' is my only plant introduction that made it into the Hillier Manual of Trees and Shrubs (2014), but that just shows you how insular and behind-the-times British horticulture is.

Metasequoia glyptostroboides 'Miss Grace' (same tree)

If I did have a genuine plant legacy why wouldn't it be for introducing Metasequoia glyptostroboides 'Miss Grace'? Scions were sent to me about 20 years ago from a “prostrate witch's broom” found on a “Dawn redwood” from New York. Big deal; I didn't initially imagine that such a thing would have any horticultural merit. A deciduous conifer – dead for half the year – creeping along the ground – who wants that in their garden? Anyway we started with six scions and all took. A year later they were all in 1-gallon pots labeled 'Prostrate WB'. One day my back was turned and the crew had them staked up. That irked me, but I had to accept that the rank and file at Buchholz Nursery have no clue what “prostrate” means – isn't that some problem that old men get? I made a mental note to de-stake them but I never got around to it. They formed neat little weeping trees, and I grew to like them that way, and in fact today we stake up 95% of our 'Miss Grace'. The photo with my wife is with one of the original six grafts, and later that fall it was planted out (photo above), and it might be the largest that exists in the world. I just checked the Hillier Manual and to my surprise 'Miss Grace' is listed, and it's described as “A small, elegant cultivar...” I never sent any to England myself and I think that Dutchman Nelis Kools was the first to get it from me and then he distributed it throughout Europe.

Metasequoia glyptostroboides 'Bonsai'

'Miss Grace' is not completely unique to the plant world, for there exists a near look-alike in Metasequoia glyptostroboides 'Bonsai'. If you place a group of one next to a group of the other you can detect a slight difference, but for me they grow at the same rate. Interestingly 'Bonsai' originated as a seedling as opposed to 'Miss Grace' originating as a witch's broom. The original 'Bonsai' is now growing at the Morris Arboretum in Philadelphia, and it was gifted to them by the late John Kuser.

Tsuga mertensiana

Perhaps my favorite conifer is Tsuga mertensiana, and maybe that's because I'm most happy in their presence in the mountains. The species was first described by von Bongard (1786-1839), a German botanist who worked in St. Petersburg, Russia. He was among the first botanists to describe the new plants being discovered in Alaska which was under Russian ownership at the time. It was Karl Heinrich Mertens (1796-1830), another German botanist, who sent the hemlock to Bongard, hence the specific name mertensiana. Sadly, Mertens died at age 34 after a scientific expedition to Iceland. According to Debreczy and Racz in Conifers Around the World, “Tsuga mertensiana is the most unusual North American hemlock, and was once even placed in a separate monotypic genus (Hesperopeuce).”

Tsuga mertensiana 'Bump's Blue'

Tsuga mertensiana 'Bump's Blue' (In front)

The late Dr. Bump discovered an unusually blue “Mountain hemlock” on the flanks of Mt. Hood, Oregon. Not only did he discover it, he dug it up and transplanted it into his garden, and I would guess that would have been sometime in the 1960's. Who knows how old it was when he stole it from nature? Don't hold it against Dr. Bump for his eco-theft because back then it was normal for a male doctor – a group of men who are often fascinated with plants – to dig up a tree from the wild. The seedling was about 30 years old when I first encountered it, and besides the shining blue foliage I was impressed with its narrow habit. Dr. Bump was delighted when I requested scionwood, and perhaps he took it as a confirmation that he possessed a good eye for plants. It was named 'Bump's Blue' and the photo above was the first graft from his tree which is now over 30 years old. I can sell 'Bump's Blue' easily at any size, but they are so slow-growing that I'm certain that I don't make a profit at all. Some seed sources for Tsuga mertensiana can produce a crop of trees with pretty good blue foliage, but I find them nearly impossible to sell. That's odd because my last crop of garden-worthy 12-year-old trees was priced at only $70.00 and it took forever to get rid of them.

Pinus mugo 'Mr. Wood'

About 20 years ago I visited the late Edsal Wood at his Bonsai Village Nursery. He grew thousands of pre-bonsai seedlings and also thousands of seedlings that were never intended for bonsai. He invited me to his Aurora, Oregon nursery to show off a tiny Pinus mugo seedling with extremely short, curved blue needles. It was only one inch tall at two years of age, and honestly I thought that he was mistaken, that it was really a Pinus parviflora, not mugo. I said something like, "That sure is worth watching," and he responded, "Then you watch it," and he shoved the pot into my chest. When I got home I carefully picked off a fascicle to count the needles and found only two – not five like a P. parviflora would have. So, a miniature blue mugo pine, unlike anything I had ever seen before. To keep track of it I had to name it something, and for some reason I chose 'Mr. Wood' even though I preach against naming plants for people. A decade ago European conifer collectors descended upon my nursery, as word was out that Buchholz had a miniature blue mugo, and I used 'Mr. Wood' without shame to barter for some of their choice cultivars. Now I keep it as a novelty, grafting a few now and then, but I'll never make any money off of it because it takes about eight years to fill a one-gallon sell for just $16? The original 'Mr. Wood' was dug from the garden three years ago because it was in too much shade and too close to another plant. It is absolutely not for sale, not at any price...unless you buy the entire nursery.

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