Friday, August 31, 2018

Just Follow The Shining Star

My Oregon Association of Nurseries (OAN) Buyer's Guide came in the mail today and I paged through the members listing to see who is still in business. You can grow and sell plants without being a (paid) member of the OAN as long as you have a state agriculture license.* I would prefer to not be an OAN member for a variety of reasons, but we receive a significant discount on our company health insurance with I suffer the group.

*OAN annual membership for my nursery (at our gross sales) is $1,219 per year (about $1200 too much). I also must donate $3,388.60 per year to the bureaucracy of the Oregon Dept. of Agriculture, and there I absolutely don't get my money's worth.

Cornus kousa 'Heart Throb'

After I made sure that my name was speled right in the buyer's guide, I went to the plant listings where the plants are grouped into categories such as Conifers, Deciduous Shrubs and Broadleaf Evergreens, Shade and Flowering Trees etc. I found it curious (dumb) that Cornus kousa is in the shrubs section while Acer palmatum is considered a shade and flowering tree.

Cornus kousa 'Summer Fun'

Anyway, members pay a fee for each listing, $6.25 for 1, $4.75 for 76+, and I guess they justify the expense if they think it leads to sales. I don't think it does – I did it one year, 30 years ago – but some members list hundreds of times. For Cornus kousa 'Summer Fun' only two companies list it for sale, but I know for a fact that many other nurseries are producing it, some in huge numbers. On the other hand, 19 companies list Cornus alba 'Ivory Halo', a shrub that I couldn't even market one.

Chamaecyparis pisifera 'Tamu himura'

One reason I went through the plant listing is to see who is growing what, to see who my competition is if I am growing it also. The other reason is to see if there are new plants that maybe I should consider growing. A conifer I wasn't familiar with is Chamaecyparis pisifera 'Tamu Himura' [sic]. Of course the name should not have a capital “H,” but then there are no nomenclatural heavyweights in the OAN anyway. I looked up 'Tamu himura' on the internet and saw right away that it is not a plant that I would want. It probably roots easily and grows fast and would sell for cheap, so let the large nurseries crank them out and make their penny on the dollar.

Thuja plicata var. hoganii 'Brick'

Another listing puzzled me – Thuja plicata 'Hogan' – as the implication is that the “Hogan Red Cedar” is a cultivar when in fact it is a variety of the Western Red Cedar. A small population exists in Gresham, Oregon just off of Hogan Road, and another small group grows about 8 miles away near the Columbia River at the western end of the Columbia River Gorge. The variety is characterized by a more narrow and compact growth habit than the type, and mature specimens are quite striking. Now, a cultivar or cultivars can arise from this variety, but the entire group cannot be considered a cultivar.

Thuja plicata var. hoganii 'Brick'

When I googled Thuja plicata 'Hogan' the usually reliable Missouri Botanic Garden's website says, “This cultivar grows naturally in a stand of trees along Hogan Road in Gresham, Oregon.” I assume that the two “stands” are “naturally” occurring as Missouri says, and that they replicate from seed. The only way it could be a cultivar is if a distant pioneer propagated – by grafting or via rooted cutting – a narrow Thuja plicata selection, and then planted the trees out in the two locations. If you saw the Columbia River stand, you would doubt that our distant “nurseryman” would be able to climb in terrain suitable for a mountain goat. If anyone in the readership has further information, I would love to be corrected.*

*I guess 'Hogan' could be a cultivar if someone selected a certain tree to propagate from, and then named that one 'Hogan'. Then you would have Thuja plicata var. hogani 'Hogan'. Is that what happened?

Conifer Grower Larry Stanley of (near) Gresham actually selected the most narrow specimen he could find in the grove which grows next to an abandoned brick factory, and he named it Thuja plicata var. hoganii 'Brick'. I received a start from Larry and I have it growing in the Flora Wonder Arboretum. It is easy to propagate, but again I doubt that I could sell it if I had more than a few.

Taxodium distichum 'Peve Minaret'

'Peve Minaret' in winter

These days only three Oregon nurseries list Taxodium distichum 'Peve Minaret'. The cultivar skyrocketed to fame in America about 18 years ago, after I had first seen it at Linssen Nursery in The Netherlands. I was the first, or among the first to grow it here, and I produced a couple of thousand a year at the beginning. But in a relatively short time sales for liners waned, and sales for specimen plants never did take off. A year into the Recession (about 2009) I received an offer of a “great price” if I could take a “truckload quantity” of 1-gallon pots from North Carolina. I declined, but I still think it's a wonderful conifer and I don't know why the gardening public doesn't agree. Maybe because it's deciduous (i.e. “dead” for half the year), but I think it is attractive in winter without its leaves. In the Hillier Manual of Trees & Shrubs (2014) it is described, “A small, slow-growing, upright cultivar with ascending branchlets and soft, rich green leaves.” I disagree with “small, slow-growing,” as my original start – from Kools Nursery – is already 22 feet tall (6.7m) at 18 years of age, and only 14 years in the ground.

Sequoiadendron giganteum 'Glaucum'

'Glaucum' at Bedgbury Pinetum
Only three nurseries list Sequoiadendron giganteum 'Glaucum'. I acquired the selection from England about 35 years ago and my original tree is the tallest plant in my Display Garden. I doubt if 'Glaucum' was in Oregon before I began propagating it, but I didn't sell any to the three nurseries who now list it. I remember at Bedgebury Pinetum in Kent, England, looking across a valley of conifers and in the distance was a narrow spire of great height. I asked curator (at the time) Chris Reynolds what was the tree, and it turned out to be the 'Glaucum'. I was pleased with the answer because I love to promote narrow trees, and that you can have a vertical exclamation point without having a huge garden! 'Glaucum' is said to date back to 1860 and is perhaps of German origin. If so, that was fast, because Sequoiadendron was first brought to cultivation in Britain in 1853 by the horticulturalist Patrick Matthew of Perthshire from seeds sent by his botanist son John in California. Many seedling Sequoiadendron display blue foliage, but to be the true 'Glaucum', they would have to look like the Bedgebury – and my – trees. In other words, a glaucous form may have been described in 1860, but I doubt that today's 'Glaucum' existed that early. Bean doesn't mention 'Glaucum' at all, and Gerd Krussmann is of no use because he states that it is “exactly like the type, but with distinctly blue-green needles.” Rong, Gerd: the Bedgebury specimen proves otherwise. The American Conifer Society gave me a chuckle when they stated, “The blue giant sequoia is a very old cultivar in the nursery trade, first described 1860 by Christoph Friedrich Otto (1783-1856) in Hamburger Garden. The suggestion is that the wondrous Otto was describing plants four years after his death – look again at the dates!

Sequoiadendron giganteum 'Pendulum'

A passel of Oregon nurseries produce Sequoiadendron giganteum 'Pendulum' and 23 are listed in the guide, and again, perhaps most Oregon nurseries don't even participate in the guide. Hillier states, “A tree of unique appearance often assuming the most fantastic shapes...described in 1863.” Bean in Trees and Shrubs Hardy in the British Isles describes 'Pendulum' as, “An extraordinary tree with an erect leader and weeping branches hanging close to the stem, forming a narrow spire. It originated at Nantes [France] in 1863.” Bean continues, “Sometimes the main stem leans or undulates and gives off some more or less vertical branches. These weird forms, Mr. Hillier tells us, are the result of grafting on Sequoia sempervirens.” Nonsense to that, Mr. Hillier, because I have seen “weird forms” develop with 'Pendulum' grafted onto Sequoiadendron rootstock, and also with those 'Pendulum' produced by rooted cuttings, so rootstock choice has nothing to do with the “weird forms.”

Pinus parviflora 'Tanima no yuki'

There were a few conifers completely new to me, such as Thuja occidentalis 'Fire Chief', Abies concolor 'Fastigiata' and Abies concolor fastigiata 'Alfred Hanson', and I wonder if the latter two are the same, as well as both being illegitimate names. And of course there were scads of misspelled names:
Pinus parviflora 'Miyou' should be 'Miyoi'
Pinus parviflora 'Tanima no uki' should be 'Tanima no yuki'
Pinus parviflora 'Pygmy Yatsabusa' should be 'Pygmy yatsubusa'
Abies concolor 'Wattenzii' should be 'Wattezii'
Cryptomeria japonica 'Ryocogu Coyokyu' should be 'Ryoku gyoku'
Cryptomeria japonica 'Dense Fade' should be 'Dense Jade'
Pinus thunbergii 'Oculis-draconis' should be 'Oculus Draconis'
...and many more.
Also there are listings for Thuja occidentalis 'Linesville' and Thuja occidentalis Bobazam 'Mr. Bowling Ball' but they are the same plant.

Cedrus deodara 'Deep Cove'
Cupressus arizonica var. glabra 'Blue Ice'

For the most part the listees are known to me and many were past customers back when we were more prominent in the liner business. And it brought back the history of many plants that we once had and sold, but they don't exist here any more. Some of these include: Tsuga canadensis 'Golden Splendor', Thuja plicata 'Can Can', Pinus virginiana 'Wate's Golden', Picea brachytyla, Juniperus procumbens 'Nana', Cupressus arizonica var. glabra 'Blue Ice', Cedrus deodara 'Deep Cove' and many more.

Chrysothamnus nauseosus  (photo:Walter Siegmund)

The Deciduous Shrubs and Broadleaf Evergreens section contain far more plants unknown to me. Well, I know almost all of the genera, but the species or cultivar is what I'm not familiar with. And I admit to not knowing at all Krascheninnikovia lanata, Baeckea gunniana and Chrysothamnus nauseosus, the “Rubber Rabbit Brush.” The Krascheninnikovia is a plant in the Amaranth family (Amaranthaceae) known as “Winterfat” and it is a weed from western North America. Hey – that's where I live. I guess it's used in habitat restoration. The Baeckea is an Australian bush with a tea-tree aroma when crushed. The Chrysothamnus is a North American shrub in the sunflower family and it too is native to arid regions of western North America.

Magnolia 'Caerhay's Belle'

Stewartia monadelpha

Magnolia – with most cultivars listed being “trees” – and Stewartia monadelpha and pseudocamellia also are strangely placed in the shrub section. There is very little that I grow from this section other than the above and I guess that defines my nursery. Sure, I used to putter with Buxus, Weigela, Hydrangea, Viburnum, Salix, Ribes etc., but anybody can grow that stuff so I had to specialize with higher-end plants, or with plants that aren't so easy to propagate. A common theme of shrub growers – at least in Oregon – is that a higher percentage of them went bankrupt when times got tough in our recent Recession. I don't consider myself a plant snob with my products and I am just trying to survive.

Acer palmatum 'Okukuji nishiki'

The category Shade and Flowering Trees is my specialty, although many of them grow as shrubs. In the Acer palmatum section I am familiar with the 100-or-so cultivars listed with the exception of 'Ed's Carmine', 'Matthew', 'Sara D' and 'Okukuji nishiki'. Oops, the latter I have seen but don't have...I think. When I looked it up on the internet I was surprised that my company lists it and describes it and has a nice photo. Hey! – I had better go check in the greenhouses and find it – and maybe I am losing my mind.

Acer griseum

Early in my career Acer griseum was rarely encountered in the trade, and I remember seeing my first tree in the Hoyt Arboretum in Portland, Oregon. In 1901 E.H. Wilson was sent to China to acquire seed of the newly discovered “Dove tree,” Davidia involucrata, and his employer at Veitch Nursery told him to not waste his time on anything else. Wilson collected plenty of Davidia, but did waste his time discovering and gathering seed of Acer griseum as well. Hillier in Manual of Trees and Shrubs (2014) calls Acer griseum, “one of the most beautiful of all small trees.” Perhaps the most fantastic specimen of all is the old-timer at the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh in Scotland.

Acer griseum

While once rare, a couple of Oregon nurseries figured out how to germinate A. griseum seed, and many thousands are produced each year. Of course the value of the species has declined, but I suppose that is a good thing, and now A. griseum is a commonly grown street tree. It is winter-hardy and tough, even when placed in full sun, and autumn color is brilliant orange-to-red. The OAN guide now has 36 nurseries listing A. griseum, so there could be well over a 100 of us growing it. How odd that A. griseum is everywhere now, but you rarely encounter Wilson's Dove tree in American landscapes.

Acer circinatum

43 nurseries, according to the guide, are growing Acer circinatum – the straight species, not cultivar selections. The species performs poorly in the American Midwest and East Coast, so they are all grown for local consumption. Virtually every bank and doctor's office uses the “vine maple” in their landscapes, often grown as clumps. The species tolerates dry sites and performs happily in deep shade as well as in full sun. A. circinatum – so-named for its round leaves – was introduced by David Douglas in 1826, but my English friends tell me that autumn color isn't as brilliant in Britain compared to Oregon.

Acer circinatum 'Burgundy Jewel'

Maybe that's why Hillier mentions only one cultivar of A. circinatum – 'Monroe' – and the OAN guide lists only two growers. More surprising is that only one company lists the exciting 'Burgundy Jewel', the purple-leaf discovery of Gordy Halgren of Peacedale Nursery in Washington state. I know that 'Burgundy Jewel' is in England now because it was once featured in The Garden, the monthly publication of the RHS. Actually I was the one who sent it to maple specialist Karen Junker in the first place.

Carpinus betulus 'Columnaris Nana'

Many nurseries are growing Carpinus betulus, especially 'Fastigiata' and the narrow 'Frans Fontaine', but only three list 'Columnaris Nana' which we grow. The latter is a dwarf, dense column, but like with kids, when you turn around you're surprised to see them taller than you. My oldest specimen is in my front yard and is 9' tall, but I'll have to move it this winter because I didn't give it enough room. We also grow C.b. 'Monument' which is similar to 'Columnaris Nana', but no other Oregon nursery lists it. 'Monument' was introduced by Viva Nord in Italy.

Ginkgo biloba 'Jade Butterflies'

Three companies are listed in the guide for offering Ginkgo biloba 'Jade Butterfly', but the name should be 'Jade Butterflies'. Another reason I don't advertise in the OAN guide – there are way too many mistakes. Word of mouth and our website are more effective marketing tools, and I suppose so too are our plant introductions. Like the three wise men from the east...just follow the shining star to Buchholz Nursery.

1 comment:

  1. love your snide humor and any pictures of your girls are welcome!