Friday, March 30, 2018

Horticolor Red

Rosa 'Red Drift'

Roses are red my love, violets are blue...

Color is an important component of horticulture, and often we find appealing that which is not normal. Red maples outsell the green ones and blue spruces outsell the green, for example, even though nature preponders in the opposite direction. We marvel at red sunrises, not at the normal dull-white ones, and we all prefer a piercing cerulean sky over one that is gray. I'm sure that our brain agitates at different levels when we confront the various colors, and I suspect that is also true for all fauna on this earth. I am not a scientist of anything, but if I was...I would want to be an expert on how the colors in nature are able to influence our emotions, energy and well-being.

Acer rufinerve 'Erythrocladum'

One must be careful with red, whether in the garden or elsewhere, and I suppose that's because red is the color of blood and/or excitement. Red is also the color of stop, whether at a red light on the road or at the moral-stop at the temptation to enter into a red-light district. Red-Zone equals danger, although many like to window-shop in that area. The devil is colored red, isn't he? It is believed the first word to describe the color was the Proto-Indo-European word reudh. It traveled from there to ancient Indian Sanskrit and Proto-Germanic, while in Greece the word became erythros. Acer rufinerve 'Erythrocladum' features red stems, most prominently in winter. Not only that, but the specific name rufinerve is derived from Latin rufus meaning “russet red,” and that due to the color of the hair on the leaves. Not surprisingly the common name of Acer rufinerve is “red-vein maple.”

Acer palmatum 'Ever Red'

We have two plants with the cultivar name 'Ever Red', one is an Acer palmatum and the other is a Rhododendron hybrid. The maple was a mainstay when I began my career, and you could buy a one-year graft from me for only $2.50. We grew hundreds of them every year at the beginning, but it is no longer in our production because it has been surpassed by 'Red Dragon', 'Tamuke yama' and others because they keep their red color better in hot summers. Was it a coincidence that Gregory/Vertrees in their latest, 4th edition of Japanese Maples no longer lists 'Ever Red' because I don't grow it anymore, when it was included in the 1st 1978 edition? Vertrees commented that it could be distinguished by the silvery pubescens on early spring leaves compared to other cultivars. Later the color disappears and the leaves are purple-red throughout spring, but it doesn't hold its red color as well as another cultivar, 'Crimson Queen' (which was relatively new at the time). Maybe not in the Vertrees garden, but I know of a dry-land (no irrigation) maple grower (Schmidt) in Oregon who finds the opposite to be true, that 'Ever Red' actually out reds 'Crimson Queen' in his fields by August.

Rhododendron 'Ever Red'

Rhododendron 'Ever Red'

Rhododendron 'Ever Red' is a new plant that I first encountered at the 'Rhododendron Species Botanical Garden' in Washington state. It flowers with blood-red bells, and one of my grafted plants from two years ago is now blooming in the greenhouse. Generally I can get a Rhododendron to bloom more quickly from a graft than from one grown on its own roots. Anyway I consider 'Ever Red' to be more of a foliage plant versus a flower plant because the leaves display shiny reddish-purple leaves, and are so red that the blossoms are somewhat lost in the foliage. Besides it is evergreen so you can enjoy the plant's reddish color even in winter. Rhododendron breeders have long been trying to achieve colored foliage, and the breakthrough came from Ken Cox of Glendoick Nursery in Perthshire, Scotland. The 'Ever Red' name has also been used for a Loropetalum cultivar, and who knows what else, so I would suggest that we “ever red” nothing more.

Acer palmatum 'Red Whisper'

For a species that is normally green we have a preponderance of Acer palmatum cultivars with “red” in the name. Let's see – 'Ever Red', 'Hefner's Red', 'Red Autumn Lace', 'Red Baron', 'Red Blush', 'Red Cloud', 'Red Crusader', 'Red Dragon', 'Red Emperor', 'Red Falcon', 'Red Filigree Lace', 'Red Flash', 'Red Pygmy', 'Red Saber', 'Red Sentinel', 'Red Shadow', 'Red Spider', 'Red Spray', 'Red Whisper', 'Red Wonder', 'Red Wood', 'Rhode Island Red', 'Ruth's Red', 'Select Red', 'Uncle Red', 'Wetumpka Red', 'Whitney Red', and 'Hubbs Red Willow' – and I'm guilty of naming a few of these myself. 'Red Whisper' is a Buchholz discovery, but I can't call it a Buchholz “introduction” because none have ever been sold or given away. It resembles 'Fairy Hair', but it never puts on enough growth to propagate, so like an old spinster it just sits in the corner of a greenhouse all by itself. Our website description reads: “A dwarf deciduous shrub with a stubby-branch form. Tiny hair-like spring leaves are orange-red. By summer they become bronze-orange, then orange-red in fall. Growth rate and hardiness unknown.” Actually, for growth rate it would be accurate to say, “not much.”

Acer rubrum 'Vanity'

Acer rubrum is known as the “red maple,” and it was so-named (by Linnaeus) because of its dependable red fall color. It is most noticeable in spring as well, for its red flowers appear before the leaves emerge. All winter I would drive past urban landscapes and pay no attention to dormant deciduous trees, not knowing or caring about their identity. Now, when in flower, I can see that many are Acer rubrum. I've never propagated any rubrum cultivars – with the exception of 'Vanity' – because they are produced cheaply by the thousands by large Oregon shade-tree nurseries. One nursery, which surely thought long and hard to proclaim on their catalog cover, “Trees are the Answer,” lists 14 different rubrum cultivars, not to mention their countless hybrids with rubrum. 'Vanity' is aptly named for it is a gaudy variegated selection, and it propagates easily by rooted cuttings or by grafting onto rubrum rootstock.

Acer shirasawanum 'Shira Red'

Acer shirasawanum 'Red Dawn'

Acer shirasawanum 'Ruby Red'

The Acer shirasawanum species has a few “red” cultivars, like 'Red Dawn', 'Shira Red' and 'Ruby Red', with the former two likely being hybrids with palmatum and the latter probably being a full-blooded shirasawanum. The seed on 'Shira Red' rises above the foliage while it hangs down on 'Red Dawn', otherwise the two cultivars appear about the same. I have found the shirasawanum species to be a little more winter hardy than Acer palmatum, so even if some of these three cultivars are hybrids, they are probably a little more tough than straight palmatum.

Agapetes 'Red Elf'

Agapetes 'Red Elf' is a fun plant, but I keep it in my warm house because it is hardy to only USDA zone 9 – or so say the experts. We've experienced heater failure in that house before, but my 'Red Elf' survived while other plants perished, so I question the zone 9 report. I was trekking in the eastern Himalayan foothills 25 years ago, and suddenly the trail was strewn with pretty red flowers. I supposed that the women and children from the upcoming village had decorated the path in my honor and as a sign of welcome. But no, because when I looked up I could see Agapetes hanging epiphytically from tree branches above. I'm not an Agapetes expert so I don't know the species I encountered, nor do I know the parent species of 'Red Elf', my start coming from far away in a Tasmanian nursery. For what it's worth, Far Reaches Farm in Washington state also offers 'Red Elf', and they claim that the species is hosseana. If true, then it is commonly known as the “Thai huckleberry” (Saphaolom), and yes, the berries are sweet and edible. The Agapetes name is from Greek agapetos for “beloved.”

Edgeworthia 'Red Dragon'

Edgeworthia is in the Thymelaeaceae family and it is related to daphne. It is native to the Himalaya and China and it is famous for early blooming, usually with yellow flowers that are nicely fragrant. Happily there is a cultivar known as 'Red Dragon' with orange-red blooms, but it is variously listed as species papyrifera and species chrysantha, with Hillier in his Manual of Trees and Shrubs going with the latter. If true, it is commonly known as the “Oriental paperbush” (Mitsumata). The bark is used for making traditional Japanese paper known as washi, and also for Japanese banknotes because the paper is durable. Confusion exists whether or not chrysantha and papyrifera are one and the same, but if they are then chrysantha should be used as it was first used in the 1800's. It was Carl Daniel Friedrich Meissner (1800-1874), a Swiss botanist who coined the name, and the epithet honors Michael Edgeworth (1812-1881), an amateur botanist from Ireland. Chrysantha is derived from Greek chrusos for “golden” and anthos meaning “flower.”

Enkianthus campanulatus 'Princeton Red'

We grow a number of Enkianthus campanulatus cultivars that were selected for their red flowers, and frankly there's enough of them unless you can introduce something really different. 'Miyamabeni' is one (beni = “red” in Japanese) and 'Akatsuki' is another (aka is also red in Japanese); then there's also 'Hollandia Red' and 'Princeton Red'. I don't know of a common name* for the genus, but its generic name comes from Greek enkyos meaning “pregnant” due to the bulging base of the flower and anthos meaning “flower” The specific epithet campanulatus is Latin meaning “bell-shaped.” We don't propagate Enkianthus any more due to weak sales, but nevertheless it is an excellent garden shrub with superb autumn color, and I have old specimens scattered throughout the gardens.

*The Japanese species is called “Redvein Enkianthus” due to the red striping on the flowers.

Leucadendron 'Sylvan Red'

I like to write about plants that I have seen, even though I have never grown them, and then once in awhile I'll make an attempt to acquire one. Such is the case for Leucadendron 'Sylvan Red' which I encountered at the botanic garden in Santa Cruz, California. The genus is in the Proteaceae family from South Africa, so naturally I would have to protect it in a greenhouse in winter. The hybrid of L. laureolum x L. salignum is a medium-sized shrub with dark green leaves tinged with red and red stems. The scarlet-red cone flowers appear in winter and spring since it's a southern hemisphere native, and they must make great cut flowers because I sometimes see them in the floral department at the specialty (high-priced) grocery stores. When you have a nursery full of “Plants from the Best Corners of the World” you invariably find yourself collecting non-hardy species for fun, the result of which is that you are squandering away your retirement.

Magnolia x 'Red Baron' 

Magnolia x 'Red Baron' is a tree that we propagate and the sales of it provide me with the money to waste on Leucadendron-type stuff. 'Red Baron' was bred by Dennis Ledvina of Wisconsin, and he is the one who gave me my start. It is blooming now in the Flora Wonder Arboretum, and it's fun to place a partially open flower in a glass vase with a small top. The blossom should float on a little water and then it will open fully. Visitors to the house are always puzzled, “Hey, how did you get that big flower into the small opening?” One reason 'Red Baron' is popular is its good red color, plus it is hardy to -20 degrees, USDA zone 5. Its parents are M. acuminata x M. 'Big Dude'. Hats off to Magnolia breeders because it takes a lot of patience to see if you have bred something worthwhile, and of course a lot of space.

Pinus densiflora

Pinus resinosa

Pines are grouped into “colors,” so we have white-pine species such as P. parviflora, black pine such as Pinus thunbergii, and red pines such as P. densiflora and P. resinosa. Basically it is the trunk color that is being described, or on older trees the upper branches. P. densiflora is well-represented in horticulture, and at the beginning of my career I sold tons of 'Tanyosho', but I don't produce many P. densiflora cultivars anymore. Pinus resinosa is a northeastern USA species with needles that look similar to Pinus nigra, the “Austrian Pine.” It is rarely encountered in horticulture because even the so-called dwarves actually get large and turn into ugly green blobs. I wouldn't mind acquiring the golden tree shown above, but the photo was taken elsewhere and I can't remember where I was.

Rosa 'Drop Dead Red'

I'm not really a rose guy although I do have a few species in the Flora Wonder Arboretum. If I want to see roses I can easily go to Portland's famous International Rose Test Garden where there are thousands of hybrids. If nothing else you can chuckle at the goofy names that roses seem to acquire, like 'Drop Dead Red'. I frequently give flowers to women, my wife and two daughters now, but I have never given roses, not ever in my life. According to fossil evidence the rose is 35 million years old, with about 150 species spread throughout the Northern Hemisphere from Alaska to Mexico, as well as in Asia and northern Africa. It is thought that garden cultivation began 5,000 years ago in China. Eventually the rose came to England, and in the 15th century it was a symbol of the factions fighting for control – the white rose was for York and the red was for Lancaster – and the conflict was “The War of the Roses.” I forget who came out smelling like a rose.

Pulsatilla vulgaris 'Rubra'

Pulsatilla vulgaris 'Red Clock'

We don't sell Pulsatilla, but we have a couple of red-flowered forms, 'Rubra' and 'Red Clock', and they'll be blooming soon in the garden. The specific epithet is vulgaris which is Latin for common, and it is found throughout Europe and southwestern Asia. It is a low-growing perennial and the anemone-like flowers are open bell-shaped. It is commonly known as the Pasque flower which comes from Old French for Easter, the time it usually blooms. It has also been called “Dane's blood,” which is probably not politically correct to say today. The generic name is from Latin pulsatus meaning “beaten about,” describing the swaying flowers in the wind.

I have read that Pulsatilla cures a wide range of maladies, but I don't know of anyone who uses it. One company brags about the benefits, and the type of person who should use it:
Weeps easily. Timid, irresolute. Fears in evening to be alone, dark, ghosts. Likes sympathy. Children like fuss and caresses. Easily discouraged. Morbid dread of the opposite sex. Religious melancholy. Given to extremes of pleasure and pain. Highly emotional. Mentally, an April day.”
Wow! I used to date a girl like that.

There, you have red my blog.

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