Friday, September 8, 2017

The Master Plant List and the Buchholz Nursery Photo Library

Our Master Plant List – the computerized compilation of all species and cultivars growing at the nursery and in the Flora Wonder Arboretum – is a tool we use because our brains can't remember everything. But do all the listings still exist? Do all of the plants that have been recently acquired appear on the list? Do we really have Pleione Ueli 'Wackernagel Pearl' for example, and if so why is the specific name Ueli capitalized? I consider the Master Plant List to be the company Bible and any omission or misspelling is not to be tolerated. The problem is that I rely on employees who, over the years, don't match my zeal for nomenclatural and historical accuracy.

Pleione x ueli 'Wackernagel Pearl'

Well, it turns out that the orchid does exist here, and it was acquired by Office Manager Eric, and he used my credit card when I wasn't paying attention, and I think he even took the photo above. So ok, I guess I don't know everything that goes on at the nursery, and maybe I'm not so far ahead of everyone else. We received our start of 'Wackernagel Pearl' from England two years ago, it being a hybrid between P. aurita and P. formosana. I don't know who or what is a “wackernagel,” but I think it would have been better off with just the name 'Pearl'. It appears that it was originally registered by Heinz Pinkepank in 1991. Pinkepank – I kid you not, and the hybrid name should properly be rendered as x ueli. The orchid genus Pleione is showy with the most feminine of flowers, however the name orchid comes from the Greek word orchis meaning “testicle” because of the shape of the bulbous roots.

Pleione with Les Oceanides Les Naiades de la Mer

The name Pleione originates in Greek mythology, and as a star she was the mother of seven daughters known as the Pleiades. For those who appreciate an astronomical description, Pleione, like many stars in the cluster, is a blue-white B-type main sequence dwarf star with a temperature of about 12,000 Kelvins. A few space nerds out there will completely understand that description and that is their “reality.” For me, however, “space” is a fiction and it is no more “real” than mythology, except perhaps with our recent solar eclipse. The Greeks knew Pleione as an Oceanid nymph, and naturally I am partial to her when I consider her depiction in a painting by French artist Gustave Dore. There are a number of possible origins to the name Pleione – all of them great stories – but her name is associated with grace, speed and elegance.

Acer truncatum

Acer truncatum

Acer truncatum 'Fire Dragon'

Acer truncatum 'Super Dragon'

Ok, let's get back to the Master Plant List (MPL) lest I dwell excessively on Greek nymphs. I had a few extra Acer truncatum rootstocks after primarily using them to propagate Acer pictum 'Usu gumo'. I checked the MPL to see which truncatum cultivars are in the collection and I found none listed. But hold on – wait a minute! – because I have at least three; all given to me three years ago by Keith Johansson of Metro Maples of Texas. I'm not licensed to propagate and sell his selections, but he allowed that I could graft a couple in case my originals should perish when planted out. Why they were not on the MPL when in the SE corner of BAG9 I have 'Baby Dragon', 'Super Dragon' and 'Fire Dragon'? The latter two are vigorous and I snipped five scions from each, but the 'Baby Dragon' is a floppy little wimp and I decided to pass for this year.

Acer truncatum is a pretty species named for its flat-based leaves, and the amazing thing is that it grows in the hell-hole of Texas, probably better than palmatum or any other species. It is commonly known as the “Shantung maple” and it hails from its tough range in northern China, Manchuria and Korea, so no wonder that it thrives in Texas. Acer truncatum also partners well with other species, in particular with A. platanoides, and a couple of selections from that union have yielded x 'Norwegian Sunset' and x 'Pacific Sunset'.

Wollemia nobilis

Dracaena draco

Dracaena draco

You all have access to our photo library on our website, whether you buy anything from us or not, but that of course does not necessarily give you permission to use these photos. While the library is an autobiography of all that I have seen, the MPL is a list of what we actually have in the collection. Some are confused with Wollemi nobilis for example, of which we have one (only) 14' tall specimen. So it appears on our MPL although we've never had any for sale. I have 16 photos of Dracaena draco in our photo library, but it won't appear in our MPL because I have never possessed one ever.

So why present photos when I don't have the plants for sale, or have never even had them on the property? In lurid red type at the beginning we proclaim: “Although our Plant Library contains interesting and hard to find plants, please understand that we do not necessarily offer all of these for sale. Please consult our availability listings for current stock.” Englishman Sir Harold Hillier presented pretty much the same thing with the Hillier Manual of Trees and Shrubs, an encyclopedia where much of the contents have never been acquired nor offered for sale by Hillier Nursery. Also, I doubt that anyone – past or present – at Hillier's has seen every plant contained in the Manual. Like Hillier, my photo library morphed into something beyond what was first intended; and not to brag, but mine probably contains more listings since I include annuals and perennials. The Hillier Manual is a greater achievement since it contains more information, and in a concise and easy-to-read format. Also I enjoy the mix of botany and horticulture, occasionally including personal anecdotes and experiences in the Hillier's.

Abelia grandiflora 'Radiance'

Abelia grandiflora 'Radiance'

Abies alba 'Barabits Star'

The first plant in our photo library is Abelia grandiflora 'Radiance', a variegated shrub that I first saw in North Carolina four years ago, but I've never grown it. The first MPL listing is Abies alba 'Barabits Star' and I actually have a few for sale. Note that there is no apostrophe to the Dr. Barabits name – which I learned just now – so we have to update all Barabits plants with the correct name, and there are quite a few of them. His Abies is a semi-dwarf cultivar with a dense compact habit that originated as a witch's broom in his pinetum in Hungary. It was discovered in 1965 and was later patented by the Hungarian Agricultural Institute of Budapest in 1975, but I don't think that anyone today honors that patent. My first specimen was planted in the Display Garden years ago and it grew into a perfect cone, like it would have made the most fantastic Christmas tree. Unfortunately it would have been crowded and ruined by an aggressive maple, Acer palmatum 'Emerald Lace'. What to do? I dug the Abies and put it into a nice cedar box, but then I was suddenly overtaken with a moment of capitalism and listed it for sale at a high price. Drat! – someone bought it anyway and I had to say goodbye. All of my subsequent 'Barabits Star' take on a spreading form without the perfect central leader, but Merry Christmas to somebody...

Zephyranthes candida

The final listing on our MPL is Zephyranthes candida, but sales were weak so I planted out the final ten pots into the landscape, and I'm happy that the USDA zone 7 bulbs survived our 3 degrees F cold snap this past winter and they are today in bloom. It is commonly known as the “Rain lily,” in the Amaryllidaceae family, with a native range in Argentina, Chile and Uruguay. The common name is due to the fact that it bursts into flower soon after it receives substantial rain. It displays happy crocus-like white flowers which arise above the dark-green grass-like foliage. I like the name zephyr which is derived from Greek zephyros meaning the “west wind,” and it is combined with New Latin anthes (anthos) for “flower,” but I don't know what got into name-giver Cooperia Herbert to use a Greek name for a South American bulb. Was it windy that day? Candida (candidus) is Latin for “white” or “shining,” but be careful because there is a Candida genus which is a yeast-like fungus that can cause athlete's foot or other infections.

Leucothoe keiskei

I opened my MPL at random near the middle and came to Leucothoe keiskei, an ericaceous shrub from Japan. I first saw it at the University of British Columbia's second-rate* rock garden in October and the leaves glowed with a ruby-red color. The species needs to be planted in moist well-drained soil, and in Oregon it will perform horribly if not given afternoon shade. The species was introduced by E.H. Wilson in 1915 and was given an Award of Merit in 1933. In the Hillier Manual there is mention of the cultivar 'Royal Ruby' with “Dark green foliage, rich ruby-red when young and again in winter.” I acquired 'Royal Ruby' from FF, an Oregon mail-order nursery. I could see after a couple of years that it was not of the keiskei species – a hybrid maybe, but not keiskei – so now I just list it as Leucothoe 'Royal Ruby'. When confronted with my suspicion of specific inaccuracy, the know-it-all responded with, “Oh well, you win some, you lose some,” and never did he offer to return my money. Anyway, when I see 'Royal Ruby' listed in the Hillier Manual I would like to see their plant. I can peruse photos on the internet that look more like keiskei than the plant I was given; and 20 years later I still haven't forgiven the vendor, as some other of his plants have proven false. Win some, lose some...indeed.

*Second rate when I last visited 20 years ago, due to lack of upkeep-money. Hopefully it has been rejuvenated since.

Rehderodendron macrocarpum

Dr. Bump
The MPL also lists Source 1 and Source 2 for the times when I acquired the same species or cultivar from two different places. Such is the case for the seldom-seen Rehderodendron macrocarpum, where my original start came from the late Dr. Bump of Forest Grove, Oregon, and the second was years later from the Rhododendron Species Botanical Garden, though I'm not certain if the latter is cutting-grown or a seedling. I don't remember what happened to the Bump source, but I grafted some sticks from his tree onto Styrax japonicus. A few took and they were sold a couple of years later, and I just kept one for my collection as it can grow into a large and uncommercial tree. I guess my specimen died, and I don't recall ever seeing it in flower, but in any case it is no longer here. According to Hillier the macrocarpum species was discovered by F.T. Wang in 1931, and he (Hillier) describes it as “A magnificent species, in garden merit equal to the best Styrax.” The genus name honors Alfred Rehder (1863-1949), a horticulturist and taxonomist who worked at the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University. The young German was originally hired as a mere laborer* at the Arnold but his additional talents were soon recognized, and it's quite remarkable that a Chinese tree genus (commonly known as Mu Gua Hong) scientifically bears his name. I am envious obviously, for I would love to have a generic name honor me as Buchholzodendron, combining my Germanic name with dendron, or Greek for “tree.”
Alfred Rehder

*Rehder applied to Charles Sprague Sargent to work on the Arboretum grounds for $1.00 per day. It was noted in Arnoldia (1938) – a publication that I subscribe to – that “his first task was to eliminate the weeds in the newly established shrub collection by the vigorous use of a hoe.” Eventually Rehder replaced his hoe for a pen and he collaborated with E.H. Wilson to write the Plantae Wilsoniae which documented “Chinese” Wilson's plant collections. Rehder's career is notable for authoring about 1,400 plant names and for publishing more than 1,000 articles in botanical and horticultural works. Besides Rehderodendron, over 60 genera and species bear his name.

Quite a number of (former) employees were uncomfortable with my obsession with my plant records, like I should allow some leeway for human error. Well, I didn't fire or kill anybody for the omission of the aforementioned Acer truncatum cultivars. At the beginning I kept my records in a shoebox with 4x6 note cards, where every cultivar or species was recorded along with the plant's source or sources. I even added notes, like: from so-and-so, but he's wrong with a number of nomenclatural issues with other try to acquire from another source. Keep in mind that my records were from pre-computer days, so the best I could do was to use a sharp pencil on crisp cards in alphabetical order. The system worked; really it was perfect, and all of my information was concise and accurate.

Acer palmatum 'Fjellheim'

Well, I was very methodical about recording additions to the collection, but far more lax about what should be deleted. With raising a family and trying to keep the nursery afloat, I just didn't have the energy to know when a cultivar or species went extinct in the Buchholz realm. For example, I collected one stock plant of Acer palmatum 'Fjellheim', the 'Sango kaku' witch's-broom dwarf. Seven plants were propagated from my original, which was then sold, and after a few years the propagules were planted out in the Far East section of the nursery, and they were to be used as a future scionwood source. Though I list 'Fjellheim' as a USDA zone 7 plant, hardy to 0 degrees F, all seven of my trees succumbed during a cold snap at 5 degrees F. So, all were dead, and who needs to grow such a delicate wimp anyway? The entry was removed from the MPL and the nursery moved on. Later in the summer I discovered about twenty rooted cuttings in a propagation flat in the corner of GH17, so it didn't totally disappear after all! I forgot that we had stuck a few cuttings the summer before. The point is that Buchholz Nursery is a fairly small company that houses and maintains a minor arboretum, and even though it is run by a hard-ass German founder, the records cannot be completely trusted.

Saxifraga macnabiana

Another example was when I was in a “cleanse-the-house” mood, and I sat down to delete various plants from the MPL that were clearly no longer in the collection. Off the list went Abeliophyllum distichum 'Pink Star' when my one-and-only disheveled plant was thrown away because it was prominently placed along the driveway to impress and please my wife, yet it was always sickly and half dead. So goodbye. I also deleted Saxifraga macnabiana because I hadn't seen it in years. It was an early collection, probably acquired from a Hardy Plant Society sale because it was cute when I saw it in flower. Probably it died the first year it was planted out...because I really didn't know how to grow the touchy genus back then. So, also off the list. Honestly, the very next day I was walking through the Display Garden, and just twenty steps away from where I am writing now, I encountered a tight green mound with frothing white flowers. Yep, it was my deleted Saxifraga macnabiana! Certainly I was pleased, though humbled; but never have I claimed to have the brains of a Linnaeus. Anyway...put it back on the MPL.


  1. What a pleasure to read the text of a botanical scion that makes me smile at the thought of my one time orderly file of chosen plants for clients. I've long abandoned "my accomplishments" after realizing several hundred was only a drop in the bucket. Okay, I was raised in Zone 4, but am now planning retirement travel from Zone 2 to 9. When I moved "here" we live in zone 5 or maybe 5+ (in a well protected planting). Now it's a Zone 6 and I feel I missed 25 years of zone 6 plants, but I know a zone 4 week can come this winter or maybe the next.
    Thanks for your words and pictures.

  2. It may be better to just mark deleted plant records as "died" or "sold" instead of actually deleting anything. I like to have the history sometimes even if the entity no longer exists.