Friday, January 12, 2018

Sharing Plants

I don't have a problem with Chinese products for sale in America; obviously no one forces us to buy them. I did perk to attention, however, about ten years ago when Japanese maples began showing up in Oregon nurseries. Ultimately I think their market fizzled because our economy was beginning to gasp for breath at that time and there was a significant oversupply of maples. Maybe there was simultaneously some American governmental regulations that stymied the Chinese, such as in The Netherlands when bad bugs were discovered in maple shipments. Another problem for the Chinese was that they were peddling maples that were not true to name, and I saw a group of these for myself at another nursery.

Maybe the Chinese plant producers will eventually establish themselves in America – I wouldn't be surprised to see cheap maples in the box stores for example, where poor quality and shoddy identification are trumped by low price. In 2017 I had two different Chinese companies visit my nursery with a desire to purchase starts of nearly everything: “for our domestic market, for our domestic market only.” Yeah, right. I declined but added that they could have everything they wanted, but they would have to purchase the entire nursery. “Oooh.” In both cases they stumbled onto the Buchholz website where we appear highly prominent, in spite of the reality of our small size. They travelled to Oregon primarily to do business with Buchholz Nursery, and left feeling surprised by rejection.

The problem with our website – in particular the photo library – is that plantsmen world-wide peruse it with the assumption that all plants depicted are in production and for sale. Rong! When one clicks onto Our Plants they are warned in lurid red type: Although our Plant Library contains thousands of 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. The library is a record of all that I have seen, my autobiography as I have stated before. The majority of plants contained are not even grown at Buchholz Nursery. Sorry for the confusion, but pay attention.

Recently I received a plant request email from Korea, from a Mr. Kim Pungkil of the Milim Botanic Garden. No doubt he spent hours looking at my photos and making a desire list. I groaned because even though I'm not opposed to helping his institution, I don't have many of the plants, and besides: the logistics of international plant sales are time consuming and daunting. We keep an inventory of all plants on our sales list, but not for all the plants in our collection. Pretty much I am the only one here with a clue as to their whereabouts, so it's a task that I cannot delegate. I'm well occupied with keeping the nursery afloat, with my duties as father and husband, and with being an awesome employer for my crew, and it would take hours trying to find plants or scionwood from his list. I don't know what I'll do – maybe try to find a few things to send to him. By the way, this Mr. Kim Pungkil is undoubtedly responsible for the superb Acer palmatum cultivar of the same name.

After first scoffing and grunting and tossing away Kim's list, I picked it back up to analyze his requests one by one.

Acer 'Red Flamingo'

Acer 'Silver Cardinal'

Acer 'Red Flamingo' – we used to propagate it by rooted cuttings in the summer under mist. It was a pretty selection but sales were weak because it wasn't very hardy. One winter the trunks were damaged on my stock plants which were in an unheated poly house. Eventually I tired of looking at them and they were dumped...and I immediately felt better. The nomenclature was murky with 'Red Flamingo' anyway. In the Hillier Manual of Trees and Shrubs it is described as an Acer x conspicuum (A. davidii x A pensylvanicum) which should be hardy in Oregon. It is said to have originated as a sport of A. 'Silver Cardinal' which Hillier also lists as A. x conspicuum. Then Hillier backtracks by suggesting that 'Silver Cardinal' – which we also grew and discontinued – “is said to be a seedling of A. pensylvanicum but appears close to A. rubescens.” This A. rubescens Hayata was formerly listed as A. morrisonense Li, therefore a native to Taiwan, so no wonder my plants were not hardy. Maple authority De Beaulieu doesn't acknowledge the A. rubescens species, nor does he with A. morrisonense. Anyway, no 'Red Flamingo' for Pungkil.

Acer x conspicuum 'Phoenix'

Hmm...Acer x conspicuum 'Phoenix' probably is a true A. davidii x A. pensylvanicum hybrid, and over the years we have grown a few thousand of them. One can propagate it by grafting onto any stripe-bark maple such as A. davidii (USDA zone 5), A. tegmentosum (USDA zone 4), A. rufinerve (USDA zone 5) etc. It has been called “tricky” to propagate (Blue Bell Nursery, England) but we do fairly well with winter grafts when the scionwood is sufficiently hardened. I was interested to discover about 15 years ago that another Oregon nursery was offering plants propagated by tissue culture. Did these produce the same red winter bark, were they as hardy on their own presumptive roots, would the trees grow as vigorously etc.? I haven't heard anything further about those I just continue producing mine the old fashioned way, and we have no trouble selling out our inventory. A nurseryman mustn't grow too complacent, however, because there are always companies more intelligent and industrious than you, and you might suddenly find yourself in the slow-lane of commerce.

Acer palmatum 'Beni kawa'

Acer palmatum 'Japanese Sunrise'

Acer palmatum 'Japanese Sunrise'

Acer palmatum 'Beni kawa' (“red bark”): I have some plants around but we haven't grafted it for a few years so I don't have anything but scionwood to send. 'Beni kawa' is another one of the 'Sango kaku' look-alikes along with 'Japanese Sunrise' and 'Red Wood'. Various maple growers and collectors prefer one over the others on the basis of more hardiness, or for more red bark, or for leafing out later etc. I don't know – I can't tell any of them apart without their labels – but for some reason we have singled out 'Japanese Sunrise' for our production.

Nyssa sylvatica 'Autumn Cascade'

Nyssa sylvatica 'Autumn Cascade'

Nyssa sylvatica 'Autumn Cascade' was selected as a seedling at Yamina Rare Plants in Australia by Arnold Teese. It is a vigorous, strongly weeping cultivar and we prune the top and bottom annually to keep it in bounds. Fall color varies between yellow, orange and red, and leaves are attractively shiny green in summer. My one specimen resides happily along the main road into the nursery but we have never propagated it. Pungkil says “I order it as a plants[sic]. If it is out of stock please give me a scion wood.” Does he really have rootstock ready to receive anything from his list as scionwood? I just wonder...who he is, who is he?

Nyssa sylvatica 'Zydeco Twist'

The reason I don't propagate Nyssa is because they are a tough sell, even for an attractive weeper I'm supposing. One exception to that is N.s. 'Zydeco Twist' which is odd enough to command a market. For me it is a compact bush with ebee-jebee twisting stems that give the grafter a fit to find a straight section. The origin of the word zydeco is not certain, but possibly from Creole French pronunciation of French les haricots (“the beans”), part of the title of a popular dance tune, Les haricots ne sont pas sales. When spoken in the Louisiana Creole French it sounds like “leh-zy-dee-co nuh sohn pay salay.” Literally it means “the snap beans aren't salty” which implies “I have no spicy news for you,” due to the speaker's lack of energy. There are other theories, but zydeco music (Swamp pop) involves a swaying movement like the plant's stems.

Cupressus glabra 'Picasso'
Cupressus glabra 'Chaparral'

Pungkil wants three different cultivars of Cupressus glabra: 'Picasso', 'Raywood's Weeping' and 'Chaparral'. The 'Picasso' plant I don't have and the photo was taken elsewhere. I remember it as an ugly plant not worth pursuing. 'Chaparral' was nice, but again the photo was taken elsewhere and I've never had one. 'Raywood's Weeping' I could do – I have one tree left in the arboretum. I discontinued it years ago because the tops of the grafts grow too fast and the less vigorous roots could never keep up. What will Pungkil graft onto anyway? Does he have Cupressus glabra – or the closely related Cupressus arizonica – rootstock? Other rootstock can be used, such as Thuja, Juniperus and x Cupressocyparis but the graft unions will be unsightly as the top outgrows the bottom.

Quercus cerris 'Variegata'

Pungkil wants a Quercus cerris 'Variegata', sometimes known as 'Argenteovariegata', and I'd like one too. The photo of the “Variegated Turkey oak” was taken at Arboretum Trompenburg in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, and I have never seen it offered for sale in an American nursery. Q. cerris is a large deciduous tree that is common and has naturalized in much of Europe. The word cerris is from Latin cerrus which is probably from Proto-Indo-European kar meaning “hard.” The wood may be hard, but since it is prone to cracking and splitting it is not preferred for building.

Parrotia persica 'Vanessa'

Parrotia persica 'Vanessa'

Parrotia persica 'Lamplighter'

Parrotia persica in Iran
A genus also noted for hard wood (Ironwood) is Parrotia persica, and the cultivars 'Vanessa' and 'Lamplight' [sic] were on his wish list. 'Lamplighter' is the correct name for the variegated selection but I don't grow it because it frequently reverts. I have some large 'Vanessa' in the landscape, a form with a more narrow and compact habit than the type. It was a seedling selection from The Netherlands and was introduced in 1975. We discontinued it in favor of an even more narrow Parrotia, 'Persian Spire'. The genus name honors F.W. Parrot, a German naturalist who visited Persia (Iran) in the early 1800's. While there he climbed Mt. Ararat (16,854') in 1829 which was the first recorded ascent, but some insist that Noah's Ark was parked there long before. The photo to the right was taken in Iran where Parrotia is used to fence in livestock.

Parrotia persica 'Pendula' in Europe

Parrotia persica 'Pendula' from the Arnold Arboretum

Parrotia persica 'Pendula' – I have a form of it but mine is not nearly as pendulous as what I have seen in Europe, or maybe it's that my form is the same as in Europe but just too rambunctious in my garden. We used to root and grow it staked to about 6'. There it was topped, but not much evident weeping ever occurred, and I don't care for any 'Pendula' that doesn't weep at a reasonable age so we discontinued it. My start came from the Arnold Arboretum of Boston, an institution noted for correct nomenclature.

Liquidambar styraciflua 'Slender Silhouette' (First propagule on the left)

Don Shadow


Also on the list is Nyssa sylvatica 'Slender Silhouette', but certainly he means Liquidambar styraciflua. The splendidly narrow “Sweet gum” is my imagination of the perfect landscape tree, especially for the smaller garden. The species features green maple-like leaves but the genus is in the Hamamelidaceae family. Autumn color is amazing for 'Slender Silhouette' as it is for the entire species, ranging from yellow to orange to burgundy, and the leaves persist for weeks. This fantastic cultivar was discovered and introduced by the noted plantsman Don Shadow of Tennessee, and thankfully he never got around to patenting it. Strangely – or not? – the mother tree was cut down, and one wonders if someone was trying to corner the market by eliminating future propagules. I have seen the first graft of this cultivar at Shadow's home landscape, so that's as close as I'll get to see the original. Besides plant introductions Shadow is famous as a zoologist who keeps about 800 exotic animals from 60 different animal species. Don drove me through the southern Tennessee countryside where I could see wild donkeys, emus, tapirs, camels etc. on his extensive properties. When someone asked him what was his favorite – plants or animals? – he responded that it was plants when the new grafts were growing, but animals when a camel was giving birth. Actually I hate animals, the stinky creatures, though I'm willing to see them in a zoo or under someone else's care. Plants occupy a more elevated realm in my opinion, for they are more quiet and elegant and their copulations are more discreet.

Quercus robur 'Butterbee'

Pungkil wants a start of Quercus robur 'Butterbee', and it was the second request this week; that's odd because one can go years, decades even, before anyone shows any interest in some of our plants. The other 'Butterbee' request earlier in the week was from someone in the Oak Society and I sent him a couple of scions. It was supposed by this society member that, while similar to the better known golden cultivar, 'Concordia', 'Butterbee' displayed better color and was less prone to sun burn. I don't think it is better at all, except for maybe a more fun name, but I sure was hopeful when I first discovered it as a random seedling. The reason we discontinued Quercus production is because both 'Butterbee' and 'Concordia' don't shape very well (for us) in containers. And, in the field, they both burn the first few years; and besides the growth rates vary with field-grown plants where some take off and prosper while others linger as runts their whole life. I suspect that chip-budding in the field would produce better crops versus planting out the side-grafts that we do, but the problem is that I have no employee left in the company who has ever performed a chip bud. I have done a few with other species so maybe I'll try it.

Pinus bungeana at the University of Tennessee Botanic Gardens

Pinus bungeana 'Temple Gem'

In trying to research Kim Pungkil the internet was of no use, though one can connect on Facebook with Jesus Pungkil, a teacher at the University of the Philippines. Also the Milim Botanic Garden on his letterhead leads to nothing from the internet. I do have Kim's email, so maybe I'll contact him and we can send some plants to an address in America and they can figure out how to get them to Korea. Or I could just drop it and not respond, but that would be lazy and maybe even bad karma. The success of Buchholz Nursery is due to the hard work of my employees, but also due to the generosity with plant starts from other growers and collectors. I've never been to Korea, but who knows: maybe one day I can visit and see my plants there. A few years ago I was visiting the University of Tennessee Botanic Garden and I was surprised – but very pleased – to see my introduction of Pinus bungeana 'Temple Gem'. I didn't send it to them but somehow it got there.

Back to the Chinese visitors who I wouldn't accommodate, if they would have asked for just a few plants I would have agreed. Or buy the entire nursery – it's always for sale.


  1. thanks for posting,very interesting.I look forward to your post every week.

  2. Location: ANSUNG-GUN
    Founded: 1969
    Garden Name: Milim Botanic Garden
    Address: 176, Sanjung-Ri, Yansun-Myun, ANSUNG-GUN, Kyunggi-Do, 456-930.
    Status: Private
    Herbarium: Unknown
    Ex situ Collections:
    Fruit trees, endemic plants. Acer, Ilex, Berberis, Carpinus, Buxus, Weigelia, Euonymus, Cornu,
    Chamaecyparis, Juniperus, Thuja, Diospyros, Rhododendron, Pieris, Hydranga, Liriope, Magnolia,
    Hibiscus, Syringa, Paeonia, Picea, Pinus, Phlox, Zizyphus, Chaenomeles, Malus, Prunus, Pyrus, Rosa,
    Cryptomeria, Camellia, Ulmus.
    No. of taxa: c.700
    Rare & Endangered plants: Some threat ened woody plants

  3. re Pseudolarix info. thanks for reminding me that California planthunter John Lemmon nicknamed his wife Amabalis. What a sweet thing to do.

  4. Sun from the north? Depends on which hemisphere you're in at which season, no? Do you happen to know Alan Jellyman, New Plymouth, NZ?