Thursday, March 22, 2018

Pendant Plants

Abies koreana 'Blue Cone Pendula'

Abies procera 'Glauca Pendula'

I have dozens of plants with 'Pendula' in the cultivar name, not to mention the specific name of Betula pendula. Sometimes the names are probably not valid, such as Abies koreana 'Blue Cone Pendula', where English and Latin are combined, and besides I think it was “selected” after the 1950's when you don't get to use Latin anymore. Not only is the name illegitimate, but the branches and trunk display no pendant characteristic. Maybe the original tree wept, but my 20-year-old specimen has grown into a perfect Christmas-tree shape. The same happened with Abies procera 'Glauca Pendula' which I look at out of the office window every day. I cut the scions myself from the Dutchman's nursery yard, and his tree had crept to 10' wide and less than one foot tall, and I supposed it to be about 20 years old. I threw away the 'Glauca Pendula' label because visitors would look at the label, then at the tree, and then at me like I was crazy. I replaced it with Abies procera 'Glauca' and now the world is right. I'll admit to staking the false 'Glauca Pendula' two or three years after it was grafted so that it would spill out from a centered trunk, then it was planted out into the Display Garden where I didn't really want a big tree. I guess it took matters into its own hand and proudly shot skyward, wanting to be the big shot in the garden.

Xanthocyparis nootkatensis 'Pendula'
Xanthocyparis nootkatensis 'Green Arrow'

Buchholz Nursery and the Flora Wonder Arboretum is a freak-show to some, where there exists very little that's normal. Here green trees are blue, normal-shaped trees are extra skinny or very dwarf, and where species that are supposed to be upright have branches that droop downward. Generally the pendulous trees are more dwarf or narrow so they fit better into today's smaller gardens. Chamaecyparis nootkatensis 'Pendula' is a better fit than the species type, and in the wild the latter can develop into huge spreading (ugly) trees that no one would want in their garden. Of course, one can do better than C. n. 'Pendula' by planting 'Green Arrow' or 'Van den Akker', which are far more narrow, and in fact you hardly ever see the old 'Pendula' in the garden centers anymore. Excuse me, I should have used the new nomen, Xanthocyparis, instead of Chamaecyparis nootkatensis.

Cupressus x arilosa 'Pendula'

I used to have a large cypress collection with starts coming from botanists, hobbyists, arboreta and other nurserymen. Fortunately, blasts of cold from the Arctic reduced the number of species to a more manageable size. But still the survivors grew to huge proportions and there was never really a good market for them. Some of them went to Flora Farm and I lined them out along the road to the Western hills, and ultimately that might be the reason I bought the 60 acre farm: to house useless non-profitable species. Two Cupressus x arilosa 'Pendula' were planted on rental property near the nursery, and though I don't use that ground anymore, the new owner has allowed them to stay and I see them daily as I drive to work. The parents of the cross were C. arizonica and C. torulosa, the latter a Himalayan-foothill species that's barely hardy in Oregon. I don't know who performed the cross, or if 'Pendula' is any more weeping than any of the other hybrid offspring. Today the trees are 30' tall, and I'm happy that I can “own” them for a few seconds per day without any need to take care of them.

Juniperus rigida 'Pendula'

Another member of the Cupressaceae family is Juniperus, and rigida 'Pendula' is a graceful tree-size selection. The rigida species is native to Japan, Korea and northern China. It was introduced by J.G. Veitch in 1861 and first described by Siebold and Zuccarini, two German botanists. I have never seen the straight species anywhere, but in The Hillier Manual of Trees and Shrubs (2014) it is described as “elegant” and with “gracefully drooping branchlets.” “A lovely species.” That's how I would describe J. r. 'Pendula', so I wonder to what degree 'Pendula' is a cultivar, and in fact Hillier doesn't list any cultivars of rigida. I asked Seth if he knew where we had Juniper rigida 'Pendula' growing and he didn't know. Office manager Eric doesn't know either, and no one else at the nursery knows since we don't propagate it anymore. I am the only one who knows and I told Seth it is “ten steps away from where you park every day.” A hedge was planted about 30 years ago between my nursery and the neighbors...and maybe it's not so “lovely” if nobody has noticed it or has ever wondered about it.

Lagarostrobus franklinii 'Pendula'

Similar to Juniperus rigida where 'Pendula' might just be describing the species – and not really a cultivar – the same could be true for Lagarostrobus franklinii 'Pendula'. Hillier also calls the species “graceful” with “slender, drooping branches.” It is commonly known as the “Huon pine” and is native to Tasmania and Australia, but it is not common in America because it is only hardy to about 10-15 degrees F. When I first grew Lagarostrobus it was originally included in the Dacrydium genus (Hooker), but the two never seemed to be all that closely related. Later I was visiting an English arboretum (somewhere) and I saw that it had been renamed, and to no surprise, except that both genera are in the Podocarpaceae family. (I would have guessed that Lagarostrobus would be a member of the Cupressaceae family, but I guess that's why I'll never be a botanist).

Picea glauca 'Pendula'

While we can question if some 'Pendula' cultivars are really valid, Picea glauca 'Pendula' certainly is. According to the Iseli Nursery website, the cultivar was “rediscovered” in 1982 at the Morton Arboretum (Chicago) where a specimen had grown since 1958, and that tree came from D. Hill Nursery, propagated from a tree in a native stand near Guelph, Ontario. There could be more than one “pendula” however, for the American Conifer Society claims, “This cultivar originated as a spontaneous weeping mutation found in the 1860's in Trianon Park, Versailles, France. French botanist Elie-Abel Carriere formally described it in botanical literature in 1867 in Traite General des Coniferes.” Indeed, at the beginning of my career I had two different forms named Picea glauca 'Pendula', and I eventually ditched the one that wasn't so narrow.

Pseudotsuga menziesii 'Pendula'

Pseudotsuga menziesii 'Toledo Weeper'

Pseudotsuga menziesii 'Ft. Ann'

The original Pseudotsuga menziesii 'Graceful Grace'

Hillier doesn't mention a Picea glauca 'Pendula' at all, which I think is the most serious omission in the Manual. If they had included 'Pendula' it probably would have been described as Pendula Group, which is what they do for Pseudotsuga menziesii Pendula Group (without the single quotes). It/they is/are described as “An unusual form with weeping branches. C. 1868.” A “group” is absolutely correct, and I have seen forms of our “Douglas fir” that sort-of-weep, such as 'Ft. Ann', to some that do so exceedingly. Hillier does mention the singular cultivar 'Glauca Pendula' which is described as a “small weeping tree of graceful habit. C. 1891.” It originated as a seedling selected at Simon-Louis Freres Nursery in France, but the seed was probably the bluish strain from somewhere in the Rocky Mountains. My favorite of the gray-blue-green weepers is 'Graceful Grace' and the photo above is the original tree at a Masonic home in Pennsylvania. Sadly it was murdered to make way for a larger parking lot. Ouch!

Chamaecyparis lawsoniana 'Imbricata Pendula'

Chamaecyparis lawsoniana 'Imbricata Pendula' is a fantastic medium-sized tree, but sadly it is encumbered with its clinically old-fashioned name. 'Imbricata Pendula' – please! As I have preached before we propagate by grafting onto Chamaecyparis lawsoniana 'D.R.' (disease resistant rootstock) where we achieve from 90-95% each year. Hillier describes it as, “A small, loose, conical tree with thin decumbent branches and whip-like pendulous branchlets. Foliage mid-green. Raised from seed by R.E. Harrison in New Zealand about 1930 but not introduced until much later by D. Teese, Australia, as propagation is difficult.” Once again Hillier goes parochial* with “propagation is difficult,” and I think anyone in the British Isles with healthy rootstock and scions could accomplish the same successful results as I. Maybe rooting 'Imbricata Pendula' is difficult, but I wouldn't know because why invite the root-rot disease problem by growing it on its own roots?

*Parochial is from Greek paroikia meaning “temporary residence,” from paroikos for “stranger.”

Cercidiphyllum japonicum 'Pendulum'

Cercidiphyllum japonicum 'Pendulum' will grow into a medium-sized weeping deciduous tree. You can't cram it into a small garden as it will spread more wide than tall, or at least it has for me. The genus is native to Japan and China and can grow to more than 100' in the wild even though it is considered an understory tree. The generic name comes from Greek kerkis meaning “redbud” (Cercis for “round”) and phyllon meaning a “leaf.” “Katsura tree” is the common name, and of course we also have 'Katsura' as the cultivar name for an Acer palmatum and for a Pieris japonica. I went to my resident Japanese language expert – my wife – and asked her what was the katsura word meaning. I should never ask her language questions when she is cooking dinner because dinner will burn, and if I ask her when we are eating dinner it will go cold. Seldom are Japanese answers quick and concise. Haruko explored the possibilities which rambled: “District name in China, old China decorative object, Chinese story that the tree is from the moon (because of round leaves?), happy special meaning, like for a girl's name – well, not a girl's name, but one of the characters of katsura is used in a girl's name, China, China, China – you know, Japan is suburb of China, everything from China, the Oleaceae family is katsura, maybe Jasmine etc.” Yeah, dinner got cold, and know that this blog is hard work. Then, Haruko tossed out the theory that katsura means “fragrant tree.” Ok, enough dear, my potatoes are cold. I like the fragrant theory, except that the Acer and Pieris cultivars have no fragrance, but the Cercidiphyllum does smell...interestingly in autumn with an odor which has been variously described as vanilla, burnt sugar and old apples.

Albizia julibrissin 'Pendula'

Botanist Antonio Durazzini first described the “Silk tree,” Albizia, when it was introduced to Europe from Iran, and he named the genus after the Italian nobleman Filippo Albizzi. It's interesting that the Italian's name contains two “z's” but the generic name only has one. The specific name is a corruption of the Persian word gul-i abrisham which means “silk flower.” It seems like every species of tree in the world contains at least one weeping form, but I had never seen nor heard of one for Albizia julibrissin until I saw a large specimen in a North Carolina nursery a few years ago. Frankly it was sprawling and unattractive, but maybe when in flower it's not so bad.

Pyrus salicifolia 'Pendula'

Another large and somewhat sprawling deciduous tree is Pyrus salicifolia 'Pendula', the weeping “willow-leaf pear.” It is fast-growing and our oldest specimen is 12' tall by 10' wide after only ten years. Last winter I moved a Magnolia out of its way because I could see the two were in for trouble. P. salicifolia is native to southern Europe and the Middle East and was introduced to horticulture in 1780. The specific epithet comes from Salix plus folia for the leaf with its shiny silver gray foliage. Pyrus is a member of the Rosaceae family and it is the old Latin name for pear. The word pear is from Germanic pera, and that perhaps of Semitic origin pira meaning “fruit.” The genus is thought to have originated in western China in the foothills of the Tian Shan mountain range, then spread north and south along mountain chains, eventually evolving to about 20 major species. China produces the most pears in the world (by far) – 18 millions of tons per year compared to 0.75 for the USA. Just so you know, pears ripen at room temperature, but they will ripen faster if placed next to bananas in a fruit bowl. That doesn't matter, though, because P. salicifolia won't yield anything good to eat, the fruits being hard and astringent.

Salix caprea 'Pendula'

Salix caprea 'Pendula' forms a neat weeping tree, and I used to grow it at the beginning of my career, but now I only have one left which grows down by the pond. The caprea species is native to Europe and western and central Asia, and besides being known as “pussy willow” it is also known as “goat willow.” Goats will eat anything, but the common name probably can be traced to Hieronymus Bosch's 1546 herbal, where the willow is being eaten by a goat.* Salix caprea is dioecious, with male and female catkins on different plants, and 'Pendula' is usually grafted atop another Salix because it is surprisingly not inclined to root for the nurseryman. The genus Salix is in the Salicaceae family and the plural of salix is salices.

*Caprea is a wild female goat.

Fagus sylvatica 'Aurea Pendula'

There are a number of cultivars of “weeping beeches,” Fagus sylvatica, the European beech in the Fagaceae family. All of the cultivars with 'Pendula' in the name were cultivated over 100 years ago, so their Latin names are valid. Newer weeping cultivars skip the Latin and were given names like 'Purple Fountain' and 'Black Swan'. 'Pendula' dates back to 1836 and I have seen enormous specimens in Europe, and like with people some have narrow shapes while others can be more broad than tall. 'Purpurea Pendula' dates back to 1865 and it forms a more dwarf, neat mound. We stopped growing it – though I love the tree – because the branches were so brittle when digging and shipping. My favorite is 'Aurea Pendula' which “originated as a sport on 'Pendula' about 1900.” (Hillier). I'm not sure why it's not more common in the trade because it's a cultivar we graft in the greatest number, and I have never had any difficulty to sell them. Members of a crop will grow at different rates and with the propensity for different shapes, but overall 'Aurea Pendula' is not too slow. Siting in the garden is an issue because in full sun (in Oregon) the leaves will scorch, but if in too much shade the leaves will appear greenish. As summer approaches the butter-yellow of spring fades a bit to green, and that's probably good when we reach our 100 degree days, which we do just about every year. I have 'Aurea Pendula' planted in a few garden locations, but the tree depicted above in our Display Garden is my favorite, my “Golden Girl.”

Ginkgo biloba 'Pendula'

I have a Ginkgo biloba 'Pendula' in the landscape above a pool, but it spreads rather than weeps and we even prune the top to keep it low and wide. Hillier lists a Pendula Group, “A remarkable form with spreading or weeping branches.” I have seen it/them in other gardens and some do indeed grow low to the ground, seemingly without any gardener's intervention. But not for me so we stopped propagating it. I've said it before: there's nothing worse than a “pendula” that doesn't weep.

Stewartia monadelpha 'Pendula'

The final tree that I'll mention came to me from Japan as Stewartia monadelpha 'Pendula', so that can't be a valid name. I wish the sender would have used its Japanese name without trying to translate for me into 'Pendula'. I was lucky to get it at all, but my young wife was quite adept at floating with old-geezer Japanese nurserymen and cajoling them into sending me some good stuff. Well, I sent them some good stuff too. My oldest specimen displays a cinnamon-orange trunk and a compact weeping habit. It flowers profusely in summer although they are small, and maybe its best time to show off is in autumn with orange-red foliage. Linnaeus named Stewartia in 1753 to honor John Stuart, 3rd Earl of Bute, but due to a transcription error it came out as Stewartia...which sticks. S. monadelpha is a Japanese species known as Himeshara. The specific epithet is derived from Greek monos meaning “one” and adelphos meaning “brother,” referring to the stamens being united.

Pendula is the plural of pendulum, so it's odd that it was ever used for a singular cultivar, and I'm glad that it is now outlawed by the nomenclature police. Besides, we sound like snobs when we use these old Latin names for plants.

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