Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Here Today, Gone For Now...Goodbye Forever?

Rhododendron thomsonii

The Flora Wonder Arboretum is continuously in flux, what with plants entering into the collection, plants documented, maintained and sometimes propagated and even sold, and also with plants accidentally or intentionally booted off the ark never to be seen again. There have been a lot of joys but also many regrets. For example: my one and only plant of Rhododendron thomsonii was happily thriving near the office under the protective canopy of a large Acer palmatum 'Alpenweiss'. I was particularly pleased a few springs ago when it flowered prolifically, and I had an urge to contact all of my known plant snobs to come and witness the bloody event. But alas, the abundant flowering was forewarning that the specimen was prepared to expire, to go dead, and it didn't leave me with any explanation of cause or even a sad condolence. F you – “I quit” – that was all.

Rhododendron thomsonii

Dr. Thomas Thomson
This Rhododendron species is a high altitude shrub native to India, Bhutan, Nepal and southern China where it grows at altitudes of 3,000-4,000 m (11-13,000 ft.). I love the bluish-green orbicular-ovate leaves, and it looks particularly regal even when not in flower. J. D. Hooker* collected the species from Sikkim and named it for Dr. Thomas Thomson (1817-1878), a surgeon of the Thibetian [sic.] Mission who was Hooker's travelling companion in the eastern Himalaya. Thomson was appointed superintendent of the Calcutta Botanic Garden, a place where I sweated profusely in the 100 degree heat during my one and only visit in 1979 when I was perfectly single. I mention “single” because in those days a white young (handsome) American tourist aroused the tittering (single I hoped) wealthy Indian girls to point and laugh at me. It was rude and unnerving at first, but eventually I learned to mock them in response by pointing and laughing at them also. It was weird, but exhilarating. Anyway R. thomsonii displays deep red flowers that I can only describe as delicious. God bless the Rhododendron Species Garden in Federal Way, Washington, for two years ago I was able to purchase a replacement R. thomsonii, and yesterday it was planted in the shady area down by the creek at the edge of the woods.

Joseph Dalton Hooker receiving a tribute of flowers in the eastern Himalaya

*Joseph Dalton Hooker (1817-1911) was a British botanist and explorer, and was also Charles Darwin's closest friend. For 20 years he served as the Director of RBG, Kew and was really the first European to collect plants in the Himalaya. I relish one description of Hooker – for it would apply to me also – that he was “impulsive and somewhat peppery in temper.”

The Flora Wonder Arboretum

Of course I hope that every plant that I put into the ground will out-live me. It's a strange thought, but at this point in my life I must question why I bother to plant anything? It's for whom? If not for me, who will really care? What happens next? The Flora Wonder Arboretum might eventually become a Wal-Mart parking lot, and certainly there's enough losers in the area to patronize the store. If not for my children, the world could easily have done without me. Maybe this will be my last blog – we'll see – but you will go on just about the same. I used to read the comics page in the newspaper, almost every comic, every day, but I quit about 50 years ago because nothing was funny. Then yesterday I read every comic in the paper and I thought that they were all pretty funny. Where had I gone in that time? Life is really good if you let it be.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Autumn Notes

Rosa nevadensis

We're well advanced into autumn, and after our record-setting (days above 90) scorching summer  we all welcome the breath of fresh air. Leaves are falling now, some without turning colors first...just brown and crapped-out after their long ordeal. Seeds have developed and sometimes shine with brilliance, as with the hips of the Rosa genus. Our orchard produces enough apples and pears to feed Kim Jong-Un's army, and I really wish the employees would heed my offer that they can take all they want...really, and don't look nervous when I plead. Why is food so hard to give away? Fortunately Haruko is adept at making applesauce, so she has already put up a year's supply.

Acer palmatum 'Sango kaku'

Acer palmatum 'Sango kaku'

I look out the office window, watching the original Display Garden changes its tune, with green foliage becoming yellow, orange, red and purple. The first two trees I planted – and at the time I thought they were amazingly cool – was a pair of Acer palmatum 'Sango kaku'. One died early on...after a brutal winter, but the other prospers and today a yellow-orange cloud hovers over the lower plants. Let's see: it was six years old when I bought it, and that was 38 years ago. Sango kaku, or “coral tower” in Japanese, is an apt name in winter when the tree was young, but now you don't see any red (branches) when you stand next to it. On a clear day – if you are 100 feet away and look up – you can see red twigs at the top in the winter months. Basically, it's like a cute young girl that doesn't age well, because at 44 years she should still be looking good and living up to her name.

Acer palmatum 'Little Sango'

Acer palmatum 'Little Sango'

Perhaps a better garden plant is Acer palmatum 'Little Sango' which originated as a witch's broom on a 'Sango kaku'. It grows as a dwarf dense bush where you look sideways at it, not up at it as with its parent. The branches turn the same coral-red as its mother in winter, but there's so many more of them. The tree, turned upside down, would truly be a “red broom.” 'Little Sango' is a Buchholz Introduction, and I'm fully aware that it has an illegitimate name, what with combining English and Japanese words. Even though I constantly harp about correct nomenclature, the “sango kaku” name has become Americanized to a large degree because the tree is described as “ever-popular” or even “ubiquitous” since it is so common in landscapes. The cheap box stores even stock 'Sango kaku' as one of their three Japanese maple staples: 'Bloodgood', 'Sango kaku' and one or another of a red laceleaf. So anyway 'Little Sango' doesn't seem so much of a faux pas, and it's certainly a better name (and stronger tree) than another dwarf 'Sango kaku' broom – 'Fjellheim', an Australian introduction.

Acer palmatum 'Bihou'

Acer palmatum 'Bihou' (pronounced “bee-ho”) is a recent Japanese introduction. I first collected it with a “u” in the name, but the Vertrees/Gregory tome, Japanese Maples (4th edition) lists it as 'Biho'. In any case it is famous for its yellow-orange winter stems, or an “apricot-yellow” color according to maple author Peter Gregory. Yes, that's a better description. I don't grow too many because I haven't fully come to terms with the cultivar. I don't know for sure, but I suspect that it is not winter hardy below USDA zone 7, or 0 degrees F, whereas many palmatum cultivars can withstand USDA zone 5, or -20 degrees F. 'Bihou' also develops black bark smudges around branch crotches. The tree can thrive above these blemishes – whatever causes them – but I hesitate to ship plants that don't look perfectly healthy. The jury is still out.

Acer palmatum 'BiRise'

Buchholz Nursery is probably the first to produce – or even think to do so – a red-bark Japanese maple that combines with 'Bihou'. We produce a concoction called 'BiRise' where we take a 'Sango kaku'-like cultivar, 'Japanese Sunrise', and graft 'Bihou' into its branches. The goal is to attain a half-and-half tree where in winter you have equal parts red and apricot-yellow branches. Wow! – this goes beyond Horticulture 101, where the combination is undistinguished in spring and summer, but in late fall and into winter you can have great excitement in the dormant garden.

Cornus kousa 'Summer Fun'

Cornus kousa 'KLVW'

The variegated Cornus kousa cultivars actually look more vibrant in the fall than they do in spring and summer, the one exception being 'Summer Fun' which looks great all year. 'KLVW' (Kristin Lipka's Variegated Weeper) is saddled with a cumbersome name, but in addition the green and white leaves are dull in spring, especially when compared to 'Summer Fun'. But the former weeps, a trait that some gardeners like, and then it redeems itself in autumn with pink and maroon leaves.

Cornus kousa 'Akatsuki'

Cornus kousa 'Akatsuki'

The variegated foliage of Cornus kousa 'Akatsuki' is about the same as with 'KLVW', with fall displaying a wide array of colors. Ultimately they evolve to mostly purple, a process that takes about three weeks. The popularity of 'Akatsuki' is mainly due to its reddish flower bracts, as it originated as a sport on the red-flowering 'Satomi'. 'Akatsuki' was discovered in Japan and the word means “red moon,” and is used to mean “rising dawn” or “daybreak.”

Cornus florida 'Autumn Gold'

Cornus florida 'Autumn Gold'

Cornus florida 'Autumn Gold' looked good the other day when I walked through the greenhouse. I had my camera but I didn't take any photos because I already have so many. I don't know what causes such variation in autumn color – it can range from bold gold to deep purple – but maybe it's the natural progression of the colors. I should check on my 'Autumn Gold' trees every day and see if they all eventually turn purple.

Pinus contorta 'Chief Joseph'

Chief Joseph
The winter-gold pines have begun their transformation from dull and barely noticeable to the dramatic. In about a month they will be fully brilliant. The late Doug Will had a small nursery near Sandy, Oregon and – no offense – it didn't amount to much. Nevertheless he is credited with the discovery of one of the greatest cultivars in the entire world of conifers: Pinus contorta 'Chief Joseph'. The Chief (1840-1904) led the Nez Perce (pierced nose) tribe who dwelled from the Wallowa Mountains in the northeast of Oregon to across the plains west of the Rocky Mountains. Before being named Chief Joseph he was called Hin-mah-too-ya-lat-kekt meaning “Thunder rolling down the mountain.” After skirmishes with the superior numbers of the American army, he tried to lead his people to safety in Canada, but his 700 followers were no match for the 2,000 soldiers on the 1,400 mile march, and they surrendered just 40 miles from the border. In his surrender speech he said, “My heart is sick and sad. From where the sun now stands, I will fight no more forever.” There's some days I feel that way too with regards to the American and Oregon governments. Sick And Sad – SAS.

Pinus contorta 'Chief Joseph'

Pinus contorta is a variable species, but since Doug Will found 'Chief Joseph' in the Wallowa Mountains, while on a hunting trip, you know he found the var. latifolia, not the P. contorta var. contorta which is the “Shore pine” native to a coastal strip of North America. Will's pine is commonly known as the “Lodgepole pine” and it is much more winter hardy than its coastal relative. The 'Chief Joseph' cultivar is infamous for being difficult to graft – I'm happy with even 50% – so that's why they are still pricey in the trade. Also, it grows better in colder, dryer climates than in the soggy western half of Oregon where I have my nursery. After every winter my trees develop a needle crud where they turn partially brown by February-March. It doesn't kill the trees, but they are unsightly for a couple of months until new growth pushes.

Pinus mugo 'Ophir'

Pinus mugo 'Carsten's Winter Gold'

There are many cultivars of mugo pine that turn gold in the winter. I'm not sure which is the “best” because I don't have them planted next to each other to compare. We have collected 'Ambergold', 'Carsten's Winter Gold', 'Ophir' and 'Zundert', but I have seen other nice ones in Europe such as 'Golden Glow'. Of the cultivars we do produce I like 'Ophir', and even though it's not as bright as some of the others, it radiates a soft color that is a little more elegant. Ophir is a biblical land of uncertain origin, possibly southern Arabia or eastern Africa, from which gold was brought for Solomon. 1 Kings 10:11.

Nerine bowdenii

One little pot of Nerine bowdenii sat in the greenhouse all year, doing absolutely nothing. It was dropped off one day by Roger of Gossler Farms Nursery, a long-time friend and customer. Google and buy something from his retail/mail-order nursery. The Gossler nursery can best be described as eclectic, with a lot of great plants, many of which you have never seen or heard of before. Anyway the Nerine has burst into dozens of lily-like blooms. The genus is not in the lily family, but rather the Amaryllidaceae family. It is probably not hardy outdoors, or borderline if it is, so I'll keep the South African native in the greenhouse indefinitely I suppose. The species was named for Athelstan Cornish-Bowden who sent bulbs from South Africa to England in 1904 and the English loved it so much that it achieved the Award of Garden Merit. The genus name Nerine is fun. It was coined by William Herbert in 1820 and derives from the Nereids, the sea nymphs of Greek mythology who protected sailors and their ships. Nothing better than a group of nymphs for protection, as long as they do their job. But a common name is “Guernsey lily,” in reference to the island of Guernsey in the English Channel, for the species N. sarniensis washed ashore after a ship wrecked en route to The Netherlands, and the bulbs became established and multiplied around the coast.

Rhododendron macrosepalum/stenopetalum 'Linearifolium'

Rhododendron macrosepalum 'Linearifolium' has blossoms present from May throughout all summer, and there are still fresh flowers today, at least in the greenhouse. Also known as the “Spider Azalea,” the Japanese native will eventually stop flowering for winter. I've only had one planted outside but it died in winter, although the American Rhododendron Society claims it is hardy to 5 degrees F. According to Hillier in his Manual of Trees and Shrubs (2014), the species name has been changed from macrosepalum to stenopetalum*, and he says it has been “long cultivated in Japan.” That's good because it is of garden origin, and nobody has seen the cultivar (or variety) growing in the wild.

*From Latin stenos for “narrow, straight.”

Dahlia 'Mystic Illusion'

I've had a dislike for the Dahlia genus most of my life. In the Graham Greene novel Travels with My Aunt, the stuffy banker Henry Pulling brightens his boring existence by raising Dahlias, and you can easily picture a middle-aged loser puttering in his plot. Then about 10 years ago I went on an England plant trip to some of the world's most famous gardens and arboreta, and it seemed as if everybody was growing Dahlias. I came away with the conclusion that they're not so bad after all, especially the “singles” (those displaying a single row of florets). Spaniards reported finding the genus growing in Mexico in 1525, but Francisco Hernandez, physician to Phillip II, was the first to describe it scientifically. In 1789 Vicente Cervantes, Director of the Botanic Garden in Mexico City, sent plant parts to Abbe Cavanilles, Director of the Royal Gardens of Madrid, and one plant flowered that same year. In 1791 he named it Dahlia after Anders Dahl (1751-1789) a Swedish botanist and student of Linnaeus.

Oxydendrum arboreum 'Chameleon'

We grow 'Chameleon', a cultivar of Oxydendrum arboreum. It's not much different than the type, except that when you graft a named clone on seedling rootstock your crop will grow with more uniformity than seedling trees. 'Chameleon' is an excellent garden tree and it won an Award of Merit for its Pieris-like flowers which appear in fall. But then it is also very noticeable for its orange-red autumn foliage which never fails to appear. Oxydendrum – I don't know why it's not dron – was named by Linnaeus where oxy is Greek for “acid,” and that explains the common name of “sourwood.” I guess the cultivar name 'Chameleon' is ok since the leaves change colors, but then so do most deciduous trees. The Greek ancients named the lizard chamaileon from chamai for “on the ground” and leon for “lion,” so the name has nothing to do with the lizard changing his colors. I am a “chameleon” of sorts too, as I am a different person at home than at work. I can be someone you want me to be as well...if I think it is worth it.

We can freeze any night now, we have been close, hence the saying, “frost on the old pumpkin.” We have a fun plant that appeared on the road, just in front of the office door. Two boys (well, they're 30 now) live in the house that connects with the office, and apparently foreman  Luis spit out a watermelon seed on his way to his car. The seed germinated and an attractive little weed – er...plant – appeared. It grew, and what the heck, it flowered and produced a watermelon. We watch it daily, and for the past – what? – two months we marvel at the size increase. It's almost a Jack-in-the-beanstalk event. At some point we'll harvest the melon and have a company party. It won't set any world records because of its late start, and besides, a gravel road is not where national champions are raised. For me, it's like a stork dropped a gift from the sky, but one that we were not expecting. Life can bless you that way.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Going to Seed

Cornus kousa 'Big Apple'

I must concede that Buchholz Nursery has recently gone to seed...in a wonderful sense though. October is the time of year when one notices the replication process, and if all of the children in the world could be exposed to nature's marvels such as seed production they would be less likely to become drug-taking criminals as adults.

Botanically speaking, a seed is the fertilized, mature ovule of a flowering plant, containing an embryo or rudimentary plant. The word seed is derived from Old English sed or saed, and it is sath in Old Norse, and saat in German. Some time ago the leadership of our Oregon Nursery Association squandered $14,000 with a design company to produce a snazzy new logo. What they came up with is depicted above, and honestly it took me a couple of years before I realized that the logo represented a germinating seed, and that was only because I read that it does. Boy, it sure took a circuitous route to sprout.

Callicarpa japonica 'Leucocarpa'

Murasaki shikibu
Anyway, let's take a look at some of those mature ovules that are adorning the plants in the Flora Wonder Arboretum. I've said it before but we grow three groups of plants: 1) maples, 2) conifers and 3) everything else. One such in the third category is a bush I pass along my driveway every day, Callicarpa japonica 'Leucocarpa', the white “Japanese Beautyberry.” In Japan the species is known as Murasaki shikibu, named in honor for the author, poet and lady-in-waiting at the Imperial court during the Heian period. She was author of The Tale of Genji written between about 1000-1012, and it is considered a classic of Japanese literature. Murasaki means “purple” in Japanese, so that would describe the flowers and fruits of the species, but the pearl-white berries of 'Leucocarpa' are so unusual that you look forward to leaf fall in autumn. They last into winter, even enduring hard frosts, and they're a valuable food source for birds. The genus name Callicarpa is Greek meaning “beautiful fruit.”

Callicarpa bodinieri var. giraldii 'Profusion'

Callicarpa bodinieri var. giraldii 'Profusion'

We don't produce the 'Leucocarpa' anymore – we're just not that kind of nursery, or apparently that's the opinion of our customers. The same is true for Callicarpa bodinieri var. giraldii 'Profusion', a shrub with larger fruit than 'Leucocarpa', and the violet-purple berries absolutely glisten in the autumn landscape. The variety giraldii is ornamentally superior to the species because it is more compact, and if you want more berry production you should plant multiple specimens – say, as in a hedge or in a group of three or more. The “Bodinier Beautyberry” is native to central and western China, and the specific name honors Emile Marie Bodinieri (1842-1901), a French missionary and botanist. There have been so many missionary/botanists in China – and you wonder if they ever converted even one soul – but I guess if my name was Marie I would probably want to go hide out and collect plants in China too. Actually, the species was named for him, but it was another French botanist, Augustin Leveille (1887-1918) who did the naming, he being a botanist and priest who studied thousands of specimens sent to the Academie by Bodinieri and other forlorn collectors.

Decaisnea fargesii

Decaisnea fargesii is a shrub that is absolutely useless for most of the year, but one that becomes fascinating in autumn. You don't plant it in a formal garden or in a rock garden or even in a small garden, but my one plant fits in down by the creek next to the woods. Its arching branches sprawl, but in fall they are laden with metallic-blue bean-pods with black seeds housed in a fleshy pulp. The fruits are rather creepy, soft and squishy, and the common name of “dead-man's fingers” is quite apt. I know it freaked my wife when I teased her to squeeze one when we were engaged, and the experience almost caused her to abandon me before marriage. Haruko didn't know that when I travelled to Sikkim I learned that the aboriginal Lepcha tribe relish the edible fruit, although they only eat the slimy goop in the middle, and I have to admit that that is creepy too. Anyway, the generic name honors Joseph Decaisne (1807-1882), director of the Jardin des Plantes in Paris, and the specific name honors Pere P. G. Farges (1844-1912) who lived in China and discovered the plant. The blue bean pod is in the Lardizabalaceae family in the Ranunculales order which also includes the genus Akebia which too bears edible fruit.

Abies koreana 'Gait'

Cones on the Abies are erectly magnificent in October. They are fully mature now, but soon they will disintegrate and the seeds will flutter to the ground. It is a one-year process, to timidly poke out in spring, then swell to magnificence throughout summer, then to collapse and disperse by late autumn. I'm a fir-guy to be sure, much more-so than a pine, spruce or cypress kind of guy. One reason is that Abies – the true firs – are native to higher elevations, and in their mountain haunts is where I am most happy too.

Abies koreana 'Vengels'

The strangest fir cone of all is perhaps on Abies koreana 'Vengels' where the skinny pokers feature double the bracts of a normal A. koreana cone. When I first received the cultivar as scionwood I had no idea why it was selected, then one day I turned around and was stunned by a row of cones on the six-year-old tree. I don't know where 'Vengels' originated but it was probably Europe, and sad that it was given an unappealing name.

Abies bracteata

Abies bracteata 'Corbin'

Garden of Earthly Delights

Almost as bizarre are the cones on Abies bracteata, the “Santa Lucia fir” from southern California's coastal mountains. The strange cones have long wispy spine-tipped bracts, making them look like creatures from hell in Hieronymus Bosch's Garden of Earthly Delights. Otherwise the species is attractive for a narrow crown, lush leaves (in spring) and handsome spindle-shaped winter buds.

Abies procera 'Silver'

I don't know it for a fact, but I suspect that the most prodigious cones of all of the Abies occur on A. procera, the “Noble fir” of western North America. The cylinders can reach up to 10 inches (25 cm) in length and about half of that in width, and they look preposterous when they hog for space on a small tree. The cultivar 'Sherwoodii', known for its golden foliage, produces golden cones as well. They were too high to photograph on foot, and I always meant to drag the big ladder out to the tree but never got around to it in time. The next thing I discovered they had disintegrated and lay at the foot of the tree. A fair number of these germinated as golden seedlings and one was selected and named 'Noble's Gold'. The following year the mother 'Sherwoodii' died, probably from overwatering, and it was my only tree. Keith Rushforth in Conifers makes a very strange observation about forma glauca: “Selection of nursery plants for the blueness of foliage is better than grafting to obtain good foliage forms.” What is he saying? That selecting blue seedlings is better than grafting scions of one that has already been selected for outstanding blueness? Read his quote again. Rushforth might be a conifer expert, but he's obviously not smart enough to work at Buchholz Nursery.

Crataegus monogyna 'Inermis Compacta' at RBG Edinburgh

Crataegus monogyna 'Inermis Compacta'

The plant name Crataegus monogyna 'Inermis Compacta' is a mouthful to say, but it is one of my favorite trees, even in winter with its stout appearance. I would hesitate to call it a “dwarf” as Hillier does in his Manual of Trees and Shrubs, especially if you've ever seen the marvelous specimen in Edinburgh, Scotland at the Royal Botanic Garden's rock garden section. I'm sure it has exceeded size expectations and they no doubt wish they had planted it elsewhere. Crataegus monogyna is a European species often used as hedgerows, and the red fruits ripen in October and last well into winter to the delight of birds. White fragrant flowers appear in May, so if you look closely at the Edinburgh specimen you'll know that I was visiting in spring. The word Crataegus is derived from Greek kratos for “strength” and akis meaning “sharp,” as many species in the Rosaceae family are armed with sharp thorns. The word inermis in the name simple means “thornless,” and that's a good feature, especially if you grow 'Inermis Compacta' commercially as I do. The common name for the genus is hawthorn, where the haw* is the name for the fruit which can be used for jellies and wine. In folklore the Irish say “when all fruit fails, welcome haws.” The Scots say, “Ne'er cast a cloot til Mey's oot,” a warning to keep your clothes (cloots) on until the hawthorns are in full blossom.

*Originally “haw” was an Old English name for a hedge.

Crataegus douglasii

I have a native hawthorn on my property, Crataegus douglasii, named for David Douglas who collected seed during his botanical explorations. It flowers white also, but it has thorns along the branches and I got scratched presenting you with the photo. The fruit is dark purple at maturity and was used as a food source by Native Americans, but I've never made use of it.

Ginkgo biloba 'Autumn Gold'

Ginkgo biloba is an unusual monotypic genus, where it is botanically placed with the conifers. The tree is dioecious, so male and female sex parts are on different trees. Well, usually. Any chance I get I like to show visitors female fruit on my male cultivar, 'Autumn Gold'. I have mentioned this phenomenon before, actually in the hopes that someone will challenge me. I would love to pick a fight with a know-it-all botanist.

Sorbus alnifolia

I planted a group of Sorbus alnifolia at Flora Farm and the fruit is beginning to color red. My grove of five are visible from the public road at Flora Farm, and I admit I plant certain trees in certain places just to show off; or in other cases, along our private roads where my wife will see some of her favorites when she drives S. to school. I've reached that point in life where my primary motivation is to make my family happy, but that's an easy calling when they are sweet and beautiful. Oops – back to Sorbus alnifolia. It is a medium-sized “mountain ash” from Japan, Korea and China, and it is hardy to USDA zone 3, or 40 below zero F. My grove is planted in full sun, and the trees were loaded with small white flowers in May. Obviously the specific epithet alnifolia means the leaves resemble those of an alder, while the name sorbus comes from Latin sorbum, a reference to sitting in a church pew for too long. While sorbus alnifolia is commonly called the “Korean mountain ash,” it is not remotely related to the true ashes, the Fraxinus genus.

Sorbus americana

Sorbus americana

We also have one specimen of Sorbus americana placed near the S. alnifolia. It is planted in the section at Flora Farm labelled FF Cercis, but there are actually more “rowans” in the section than Cercis. This tree is a result of seed gathered by ex-employee P. T. when we traversed the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina some five years ago. That collection activity was probably illegal so he left the company to go into hiding. I remember that day well: it was October and the sun came and went with the drama of Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony (#6). We rounded a mountain curve in the road and brilliant red fruits glistened as the sunlight hit them perfectly. I guess that was about five year ago, but today anyway I have a branch on one offspring tree that is heavily laden with about fifty red fruits...so P. T. Barnum, you are welcome to seed if you want.

Magnolia grandiflora

Magnolia seed pods range in appearance from interesting to grotesque, and at their worst they can look like ugly turds. Magnolia grandiflora, the “Southern magnolia,” is not so bad though. I have seen the species in the wild in North Carolina, but that was in May and they were not yet blooming. It is a popular garden tree, though it gets large, and I guess gardeners are partial to it due to its evergreen nature. The leaves are dark green above and yellow-brown beneath and they are very stiff. The national champion M. grandiflora is in Smith County, Mississippi, and it is 121 feet tall (37m).

Magnolia macrophylla

Magnolia macrophylla

Magnolia macrophylla ssp. ashei

We grow Magnolia macrophylla and M. macrophylla ssp. ashei. Their seeds are cone-like and the fragrant flowers are larger than even Magnolia grandiflora, but the main event is huge leaves that can reach 40 inches in length (100cm). Subspecies ashei is less hardy, coming from Florida, Alabama and Mississippi, and also it is smaller in leaf size and ultimate height. I have the two growing side by side down at the streamside at the border of my woods. There they receive protection from damage from strong winds.

Magnolia denudata

Magnolia denudata 'Forrest's Pink'

Magnolia denudata 'Variegated'

Magnolia denudata is the “Yulan magnolia” or the “Lily magnolia,” and is known for its fragrant, pure white flowers. The Chinese word yulan is from yu for “gem” and lan for “plant.” It can also mean “jade orchid,” and it's impressive because it blooms before the leaves appear (precocious), hence the specific epithet denudata, meaning “bare” or “naked.” M. denudata has historically been revered by followers of Buddhism, and monks were known to have distributed the species throughout China and into Japan. It was Sir Joseph Banks who introduced it into England in 1780. The flower color can vary from white to yellow to a clear pink. My favorite M. denudata is 'Forrest's Pink', and it originated from one of George Forrest's seed collections, and was raised in the 1920's at Caerhays in Cornwall. In Japan I have seen an attractive variegated form, but to my knowledge it is not known in America.

Acer palmatum 'Fairy Hair'

Acer palmatum 'Kinshi'

Acer palmatum 'Hubbs Red Willow'

We grow Japanese maple seedlings from our own collections from named varieties, and a few of the offspring have become popular cultivars in their own right. Maybe one out of a hundred seedlings from Acer palmatum 'Fairy Hair' will resemble its mother, a couple will be larger and look like 'Kinshi', another will look like 'Hubbs Red Willow', but the majority will just look like plain regular palmatums. The latter group will become rootstock for other named cultivars the following year.

Acer palmatum 'Strawberry Spring'

I like to collect seed from Acer palmatum 'Amber Ghost'. For some reason its offspring display more interesting colors than do seedlings of 'Purple Ghost' or 'Grandma Ghost' or 'Beni shigitatsu sawa'. 'Strawberry Spring' was one such selection and now we have it in production. The original is planted at Flora Farm and it appears far more dwarf than its 'Amber Ghost' parent. On the other hand, grafts grown in containers in the greenhouse grow with great gusto. A number of the reticulated (or “veined”) seedlings are grown on and sold as the “Rising Stars series,” where the customer gets a heavy caliper, well-pruned tree at half price compared to a named cultivar. The idea is that I can have my fun, make my selections, and get rid of the remainder...because what am I going to do with them otherwise? I think some retail customers are actually collecting a named plant, but many will buy regardless if it's named or not, for it simply catches their fancy.

Acer palmatum 'Umegae'

The various maples in my garden are loaded with seed this year, and frankly that has me a little worried. Many of them are in their 30's now, so they're relatively young, but what does the heavy seed production mean? Does it mean that they are getting ready to die? I've seen that occur with other plants; it's nature's way of preserving herself.

But maybe everything is fine and I just worry too much. Two stories: 1) Years ago we found out that our Hispanic female employee was mother to 14 children, and she was in her early 40's at the time. My wife (ex) exclaimed “Wow! why did you want to have so many kids?” She looked at the ex with a serious face and replied, “I didn't have a choice.”
Story 2) The greatest officially recorded number of children born to one mother is 69, to the wife of Feodor Vassilyev (1707-1782), a peasant from Shuya, Russia. The mother produced 16 pairs of twins, seven sets of triplets and four sets of quadruplets. 32+21+16=69.