Thursday, May 31, 2018

Floral Fillers

Iris pallida 'Variegata'

Narcissus species

Coreopsis verticillata 'Moonbeam'

Gentiana acaulis 'Holzmann'

There are hundreds of plants in the Flora Wonder Arboretum that you might not know we have because they never make it onto the Buchholz Nursery sales list. For example, I have never sold a Narcissus, an Iris, a Coreopsis or a Gentiana acaulis, but they all nod to me when it is their season. The latter reminds me that he is commonly called the “stemless” or “trumpet gentian.” The European perennial is native to mountain ranges where it forms low mats at altitudes up to 9700'. I call the Gentiana a “he” because the genus name honors King Gentius of Illyria* (around 500 BC) who supposedly discovered the medicinal value of gentian roots.

*An ancient region in the western part of the Balkan Peninsula inhabited by the Illyrians.

Impatiens omeiana

Today's blog discusses these “filler” plants in the collection that add to the beauty and interest of my plant world, even though I've never made a dime from them; in fact I will admit that they have contributed to a squandering of my retirement. One such plant is Impatiens omeiana, a Chinese native from Sichuan. I grow it for the foliage mainly, not for its yellow snapdragon-like flowers, and I keep it in a pot in the greenhouse because it is rhizomatous and I don't want it to spread aggressively. The genus can be trouble for its ability to become invasive, and I know a plant collector who brought an Impatiens species back from Pakistan, and now acres in the neighboring valley are infested with it. In fact the genus name is Latin for “impatient” due to its sharp seed discharge. The specific name of omeiana is because it can be found growing on Mount Emei (AKA Emei Shan).

Inula ensifolia

Inula royleana

Helen of Troy
Inula is a genus of about 90 species in the Aster family which are native to Europe, Asia and Africa. The generic name was known to the Romans and was derived from the Greek Helen of Troy, and there's even a species named helenium (which I don't grow). Supposedly this species grew where Helen's tears fell when she was snatched away by Paris. My favorite species is I. royleana which was named after the botanist John Forbes Royle (1798-1858). I first saw it in the Himalayan foothills, growing on grassy slopes at about 10,000' elevation. I have a few clumps in full sun in my backyard where they receive no supplemental irrigation, and they perform dependably to the delight of bees which pollinate the hermaphrodite flowers. Surprisingly the plant is also used as an insecticide. We also grow the smaller species ensifolia which grows to less than a foot tall and is covered with bright yellow daisies in summer. Like I. royleana, I. ensifolia is a perennial and I have a specimen over 20 years old which never fails to bloom. Its specific name was coined by Linnaeus in 1753 due to the plant's narrow sword-like leaves.

Acca sellowiana

The “Pineapple guava” is worth growing, and one can eat both the petals and fruits which have a strong aromatic flavor. The South American genus was known for years as Feijoa, so with its Portuguese-sounding name you know that it is native to Brazil. Early editions of The Hillier Manual of Trees and Shrubs listed Feijoa, but suddenly it was changed in the 2014 edition to Acca without anyone consulting me. I like the former name, for it was given by the German botanist Ernst Berger* to honor the Portuguese naturalist Jao da Silva Feijo. The specific name sellowiana honors Freidrich Sellow, a German who first collected specimens in southern Brazil. I have seen Acca growing outside in a sheltered location in Oregon, but I keep my two evergreen trees in a heated greenhouse just in case. I grow the plant primarily for its interesting flowers, but I have eaten Acca fruit. My children never will – except for maybe when they're adults – because they can't stand strong fruit tastes like figs. Heck, they won't even eat Fig Newtons, which is a crime against childhood.

*I'll have the Ernst Berger with a dark stout, please.

Trilium grandiflorum 'Flora Pleno'

Trilium grandiflorum 'Flora Pleno'

Trillium ovatum

A big show-off, Trillium grandiflorum 'Flora Pleno', has just finished blooming in our shaded, former basketball court. Double jumbo white flowers last for a couple of weeks before fading to pink. Trillium is a genus in the lily family with an erect flower stem with a whorl of three leaves, and the name is New Latin that comes from Swedish trilling for “triplet.” The specific epithet grandiflorum is obvious, while the cultivar name 'Flora Pleno' refers to the double flowers, and it is used for other plants such as Galanthus nivalis 'Flora Pleno'. Flora Pleno is a Latin term meaning “with full flower,” and in some plants all of the reproductive organs are converted to petals which makes them sexually sterile. The first documentation of this abnormality was made by my botany hero Theophrastus in his Enquiry Into Plants over 2,000 years ago. Another Trillium is T. ovatum, and it is native to my wooded slope at the south end of the nursery, but unfortunately the woods is infested with ivy, and so every year I see fewer and fewer of my beloved Trillium.

Roscoea x beesiana

Roscoea scillifolia

Our Roscoeas are in flower now and they will bloom off and on for the rest of the summer. When we get a hot spell the orchid-iris-like flowers will wither, then later it will cool and perhaps rain and new flowers will reappear. The perennial genus is in the ginger family and is native to mountainous regions of China and the Himalaya. Roscoea was named by the English botanist James Edward Smith in 1806, and he honored his friend William Roscoe, the founder of the Liverpool Botanic Garden. R. x beesiana is an interesting hybrid (R. auriculata and R. cautleyoides) that occurred in cultivation and is named for the old nursery, Bees Ltd.*, however it is not certain that Bees made or discovered the cross. The first mention of the name was in 1970 and the first botanical description was published in 2009.

*Bees Ltd. was a pioneering plant nursery founded by Arthur Bulley (1861-1942), a well known plantsman in the late 19th and early 20th century. He funded the famous plant collectors George Forrest, Reginald Farrer and Frank Kingdon Ward. There are dozens of plant species named for Bees or Bulley, such as Aconitum bulleyanum, Allium bulleyanum, Corydalis bulleyana, Berberis beesiana, Bergenia beesiana, Gentiana beesiana and Rhododendron beesianum. An excellent account of Bulley is A Pioneering Plantsman, A.K. Bulley and the Great Plant Hunters by Brenda McLean.

Alangium platanifolium

Alangium platanifolium is described on our website: A large shrub or small tree, often multi-branched, with an open canopy. Light green maple-like leaves turn yellow in fall. Yellow-white flowers in summer. Hardy to 0 degrees, USDA zone 7. It is a perfect example of a BIO plant (Botanical Interest Only), the kind of tree that I jam into the Flora Wonder Arboretum with no intention to propagate. It is native to Japan and Korea, but the generic name – alangi – is a Malayalam name because other species of Alangium are native to southeast Asia. It was named in 1783 by Jean-Baptiste Lamarck referring to Alangium salviifolium. The fossil record shows that it was once more wide-spread, even in England and North America; and my start came from the quirky, now-fossilized Heronswood Nursery in Washington state, a company that specialized in esoteric BIO plants until they went under.

Berberis darwinii

I have collected many species and hybrids of Berberis over the years, but I do not propagate most of them because I know they would never sell for me. B. darwinii is a wonderful – though large – garden species that is hardy in Oregon. For smaller gardens the 'Nana' form would be best. B. darwinii flowers early with an unusual orange-red color, and at a time when bright colors are sparse in the garden. The species was discovered by Charles Darwin in 1835 on the voyage of the Beagle and then introduced by William Lobb in 1849. You all know the Darwin story, but Lobb was famous as the first of many plant collectors sent out by the Veitch Nursery firm to acquire new species from the best corners of the world. Lobb was responsible for the commercial introduction to England of the “Monkey Puzzle tree,” Araucaria araucana, the “Giant Redwood,” Sequoiadendron giganteum, the “Santa Lucia fir,” Abies bracteata and the deciduous Rhododendron occidentale plus very much more. Unfortunately he grew erratic at the end of his career, and he died forgotten and alone at St. Mary's Hospital in San Francisco from what was recorded as “paralysis,” which was a euphemism for syphilis.

Berberis x stenophylla 'Corallina Compacta'

There are plenty of Berberis hybrids in horticulture, and one attractive garden shrub is B. x stenophylla which is the cross of B. darwinii x B. empetrifolia which was known in the 1860's. We grow the cultivar 'Corallina Compacta' which is a cute dwarf. It flowers with coral-red buds at first, but then opens with yellow blooms.

Berberis trigona 'Orange King'

Another South American species with orange flowers is B. trigona, which for most of my career was known as B. linearifolia due to its short narrow leaves. Indeed, early editions of The Hillier Manual of Trees and Shrubs described it as linearifolia, but now in the 2014 it has been changed to trigonatrigonum is Latin for “triangle” – and again, no one notified me. It was introduced in 1927 from Argentina but it also occurs in Chile. The eye-popping cultivar 'Orange King' features larger flowers than the type, and they are an exciting sight in early spring.

Berberis jamesiana

Berberis jamesiana

One final Berberis that I'll mention is B. jamesiana, a medium-size shrub that can grow to at least 12' tall and wide. That hogs a lot of space in the garden but you won't be sorry when you see it adorned with dangling salmon-red berries* in autumn. It was introduced by George Forrest in 1913 from Yunnan, China, and received an Award of Merit in 1925. Again, I don't propagate any of these barberries as no one would buy them from me; I'll enjoy them myself then, as I am not on a mission to convert anyone.

*As you can see from the photos above, the berries can also be white. All photos were taken – at different times – from just one plant.

Clematis x cartmanii 'Joe'

Clematis x cartmanii is an evergreen vine from New Zealand, but for it to grow upward it must be staked because of a paucity of tendrils to cling. There are a number of cultivars such as 'Avalanche', 'Sensation', 'Michiko', 'Pixie' and 'Joe' – and I grow the latter, good ol' 'Joe'. You can also let it scramble, such as over a Rhododendron, for the wispy foliage shouldn't bother whatever is beneath it. The name x cartmanii honors botanist Joe Cartman who produced the hybrid from C. paniculata and C. marmoraria, and the origin of the name 'Joe' should be obvious. The word clematis is from Greek klematis for a “climbing plant,” from klema for “twig.” I'm not really a vining gardener, and 'Joe', which is smothered with tiny white flowers in spring, is the only Clematis I have ever grown. With thorough enjoyment, however, I have visited the Rogerson Clematis Collection at Luscher Farm south of Portland, Oregon, and I can appreciate the beauty of Clematis without much effort on my part. If you have time – after this blog – go to our plants on our website, enter Clematis, and you can see what the Rogerson Collection has to offer. Remember – I have repeated it many times – the photos on our website are not necessarily of plants that we grow and offer for sale, rather they are an autobiography of the plants that I have seen.

Vitis coignetiae

Another climber is the genus Vitis in the family Vitaceae, and it is a vigorous ornamental that can be grown along walls or down banks. It produces tiny grapes, but the species coignetiae's main feature is rich purple and orange autumn foliage. It thrives in poor soils, in fact produces its best colors in such. I discovered the species in England at Harlow Carr where a white wall was devoted to it, and I rushed home to acquire one for myself. The generic name Vitis is Latin for “grape vine” and the specific name honors Mr. and Mrs. Coignet who brought back seeds from their trip to Japan in 1875. It is native to Sakhalin, Korea and Japan and is known in Korea as meoru and in Japan as yama budo. A bitter wine is made in Korea and Japan which is made potable with the addition of sugar. If you introduce it to children they will never drink alcohol again. Interestingly, wild vines can be male, female or hermaphrodite, and I confess that I haven't examined my one vine closely enough to determine its sex...but I'm hoping for the latter, just for the fun of it.

Vitis davidii

Hmm...where have I seen Vitis davidii, the “Chinese bramble grape?” I don't grow it, but I remember being impressed with its soft barbs, and I would probably waste my money if I could find one.

Tulipa bakeri 'Lilac Wonder'

Tulipa humilis 'Lilliput'

Tulipa 'Professor de Monsseri'

Tulipa puchella

Feather rock pumice planters
For a number of years we enjoyed dwarf species and hybrids of tulips (Tulipa), and they were all admirably grown in our 35,000-year-old pumice planters. These planters are geologically known as “feather rock”* and they are mined from the eastern Sierras in California. “Species” tulips prosper in many soils, but they like a dry dormant season which is what they receive in their native homes in the Mediterranean, Asia Minor and the Caucasus. It is a genus of spring-blooming perennial herbaceous bulbiferous geophytes (having bulbs as storage organs) if you want an official botanical description, but most gardeners are only aware of the large and gaudy hybrids that are offered for sale. If you seek out the dwarf species they offer a more pure charm and are perfect compliments to a rock garden. We never succeeded with these dwarves in our arboretum plantings because of over-watering – we were always trying to keep the newly-added woody plants from drying out – but the tulips absolutely prospered in our pumice planters. One day, to my horror, I discovered that every bulb had been grubbed out and eaten by the damn squirrels, though it was probably just one fat son-of-a-bitch that gorged on the lot. Adios to a hundred beautiful companions in the Flora Wonder Arboretum!


*There is a difference between “lava rock” and “feather rock.” The latter forms during volcanic activity and is caused by the reaction of air and lava which “churns” the lava making it foamy and porous. There are many types of lava rock such as pumice, basalt, obsidian or feather rock. These rocks are called igneous rocks and have a glass-like composition. Pumice is more light than feather rock, and every plant you receive from Buchholz Nursery contains between 15-25% of pumice in the soil media. Pumice is an expensive ingredient, but do you wonder why a Buchholz plant is more vigorous, with better roots than those of our competitors – “competitors” with a very small “c?” The pumice actually absorbs and holds water, but allows space in the media for the plants' roots to seek, enlarge and thrive.

Viola 'Dancing Geisha'

Viola is a stringed-instrument of course, but it is also a genus flower name, in the family Violaceae. Most species are from the Northern Hemisphere, but some are native to the Andes and to Hawaii. We know that “roses are red, my love, violas – or violets – are blue,” but not all violets are so sweet, my love, because I have one species – I don't know its name – that is a weed with deep roots that's very tough to get rid of. On the flip-side, violets in the 1950's were used by lesbians to show their love for other women. V. odorata is used in the perfume industry and is known as “flirty” because the fragrance comes and goes. Speaking of flirty, we grow a cultivar named 'Dancing Geisha', and there is no plant more stimulating in my garden. It is a darling with tiny pale-blue flowers with petite freckles.

Viola rostrata

Viola rostrata is another cutie, an eastern North American species known as the “long-spurred violet,” and the photo above was taken in the Appalachian region when Seth and I visited three or four years ago. It's difficult to see but its spur is at least as long as its petal blades and it is colored pale lilac. There are a few other plants with a rostrata specific name, and it breaks down to rostratus (masculine), rostrata (feminine) or rostratum (neuter), a Latin adjective meaning “hooked” or “curved,” or “with a crooked point.” Besides Viola rostrata, we have Yucca rostrata, Eucalyptus rostrata, Stewartia rostrata and others.

Well enough, enough of my profitless fillers, those plants that hang around here without purpose. A good portion of my life has been without purpose too I suppose, except that I have five wonderful children to show for it. Hopefully they'll cure cancer or create world peace, or at least sing and dance for the amusement of others. Go kids!

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