Friday, September 13, 2019

Pocket Guide to Japanese Maples

Juana grafting

We finished our summer grafting last week, and I'm a big part of the effort since I still cut most of the scions. Now I admit to feeling a little bittersweet because the push to keep the grafters going energized me (the two of them require about 550 each per day), but I wonder how much longer the dog-and-pony show will last. My two teenage daughters are a bit sad as well since they were paid handsomely to prepare the scions, but now they're back to school work on rainy September days, and there's no wage for any of that.

Acer palmatum 'First Ghost'

By coincidence, on the last day of grafting I pulled the abbreviated Vertrees/Gregory Japanese Maples “Pocket Guide” from the shelf so a new employee – who showed great interest in the maple grafting process – could appreciate and learn about the various cultivars that we produce. I don't use this “Pocket Guide” myself, even though it was hand-signed by author Peter Gregory, because the 12-year-old publication is not as comprehensive as the full-sized 3rd and 4th editions of Japanese Maples. I do like it, however, because one of the four photos on the cover is Acer palmatum 'First Ghost' which I took about 20 years ago. What is unusual about the photo is that one leaf is an anomaly to the basic leaf shape and color of the cultivar. Strange-looking leaves are not unusual with plants, and if examined alone, one might never guess what cultivar they belong to. For what it's worth, the one weird leaf on 'First Ghost' is now used as the logo on our letterhead and on the Buchholz Nursery sign at our main-road entrance.

Acer palmatum 'Azuma murasaki'
Acer palmatum 'Beni yubi gohon'

Notice the book's sales blurb – is that what you would call it? – on the cover which promises that the book contains “300 popular cultivars.” That claim is not coming from the authors, but rather from Timber Press, the publisher. However, the fact is that at least half of the cultivars contained therein are not at all popular. I don't suggest that they're not worthy cultivars – cultivated variants or varieties – but so many are absolutely not “popular,” nor were they ever considered so by anyone. To wit: Acer palmatums 'Akegarasu', 'Ao kanzashi', 'Aoba jo', 'Ariake nomura', 'Atrolineare', 'Attraction', 'Autumn Glory', 'Azuma murasaki'...just to name a few. Or how about 'Barrie Bergman', 'Beni kagami', 'Beni ubi gohon' which should be spelled 'Beni yubi gohon' – not meaning “five long red fingers,” but should be translated as “five red fingers,” – 'Berrima Bridge', 'Berry Dwarf', 'Boskoop Glory' etc. None of the above are even moderately popular in the trade, nor were they ever, so “popular” is a dumb tag.

Look, I know that very few want my opinion, and especially not those at Timber Press. There were a considerable amount of half-assed boners in their 1999 publication of Maples for Gardens and the 1994 printing of Maples of the World which I called the publisher out on...but he considered my reviews “vituperative” and “unwarranted.” Thankfully the dim-wit is long gone while I'm still here, but I'm less vituperative than before. I have aged and mellowed somewhat, but I'll still offer some thoughts about an interesting chapter (beginning on page 23) called Japanese Maples For Specific Purposes and Locations in the Timber Press Pocket Guide.

The maples are listed in 22 different categories:
1 Maples for spring color
2 Maples for fall color
3 Maples for winter bark
4 Dwarf Maples (to 6 ½ ft.)
5 Small Maples (6 ½ – 13 ft.)
6 Medium-sized Maples (10-16 ft.)
7 Large Maples (13-26 ft.)
8 Very Large Maples (20 ft.+)
9 Maples for Partial Shade
10 Maples for Full Sun
11 Maples for Containers
12 Maples for the Rockery
13 Maples for Bonsai
14 Dissectum Group
15 Amoenum Group
16 Palmatum Group
17 Matsumurae Group
18 Linearilobum Group
19 Maples with a Wide-spreading Habit
20 Maples with a Rounded Habit
21 Mound-shaped Maples
22 Upright Maples

Acer palmatum 'Ariadne' (autumn color left, spring color right)

Some of the cultivars are listed in more than one category, such as Acer palmatum 'Ariadne' suggested for 1) spring color, 2) small maple, 3) partial shade, 4) matsumurae group and 5) wide-spreading habit. Of course 'Ariadne' could be included in other groups such as maples for containers or for fall color.

Acer palmatum 'Corallinum'

Let's look at some examples of maples, listed in these subjective categories. For spring color...well, all maples have a spring color, it's just that some are more brilliantly colored than others. One of my favorites is A.p. 'Corallinum', and the tree depicted above used to reside in front of the office, next to our main road. Too close to the road for my comfort. One day the new UPS driver was backing up to turn around and he came within two feet of my tree. I supposed it would be impossible for UPS to accept that their driver had smashed a $5,000 tree so we dug and sold it just to be safe. At the time it was 11 feet tall by 16 feet wide (approximately 30 years old), even though the book says, “Slow growing, this cultivar makes a dense compact plant not exceeding 10 ft. (3m) high.” My sale was ten years ago, so who knows its size now? In Vertrees/Gregory Japanese Maples 4th edition, Vertrees writes, “Unfortunately the name 'Corallinum' has also been applied to the coral-bark maple 'Sango kaku'. Corallinum has also been known under the names 'Beni seigen', 'Carmineum' and 'Spring Fire'.” In the 4th edition and the Pocket Guide, Vertrees mentions seeing a fine specimen in the Sir Harold Hillier Gardens and Arboretum but the best part was left out. In the 1st edition, Vertrees relates that he was discussing with Hillier the false synonymy of 'Sango kaku' with 'Corallinum', and high-pockets Hillier remarked; “Why, they are as different as cheese and chalk.

Acer palmatum 'Hogyoku'

Included in maples for fall color is A.p.' Hogyoku' with its dependable orange color.* However, as autumn progresses the foliage can turn to deep maroon, at least at Buchholz Nursery. The name Hogyoku means “precious jewel” in Japanese. I like the strong-growing cultivar for its lustrous green leaves in summer, as well as for its autumn color; but I swear that I can look at it all day long and not ever decipher why it was named “precious jewel.”

*For what it's worth, the two photos in the Vertrees 1st edition and in the Vertrees/Gregory 4th edition are better and more apropos of 'Hogyoku' than the one selected for the “Pocket Guide.” Not to brag, but honestly I think I should have gone into publishing.

Acer palmatum 'Japanese Sunrise' 

As for maples for winter bark, the seven listed are all interesting choices. A.p. 'Beni kawa', 'Japanese Sunrise' and 'Sango kaku' are basically the same, though I'm sure that there are a few maple geeks out there that prefer one over the others for whatever reason. One mentioned, 'Fjellheim', is a dwarf that can be nice, but it's an absolute wimp for winter hardiness (USDA zone 8 or 9?) and I don't have even one on the place anymore. Strangely, while it is listed as notable for winter bark, there's neither a photograph or description in the text. Oops – Timber Press – and geeze: do I have to micro-manage everything?!

Acer palmatum 'Mikawa yatsubusa'

Acer palmatum 'Mikawa yatsubusa'

The Pocket Guide category for dwarf maples lists a number of cultivars that are not supposed to exceed 6 ½ feet (2m) tall, but a few of them can grow to two or three times that size. How interesting that recently I received an email from Alan Tabler of Oregon's Don Schmidt Nursery:

I have a favor to ask of you. I am giving a talk on 'Small Maples for Small Places' at this year's Maple Society meeting. One of the points I would like to make is that the phrase dwarf maple is usually based on a slower growth rate rather than the ultimate size. Do you have a good picture of your huge 'Mikawa yatsubusa' and its approximate size and age that I could borrow for use in the talk?...

I responded:
Alan, Attached are 2 photos, taken about 5 years ago, in spring and fall. The 'Mikawa yatsubusa' is approx. 44 years old, now about 14' tall and 22' wide. We haven't cut scions from it in over 20 years.
Also, in the past we sold a 'Kamagata' that is now about 26' tall and about 36' wide. The Vertrees/Gregory book includes it in the “dwarf” group...

I agree with Alan's point that calling a maple “dwarf” should be based on a “slower growth rate” rather than “ultimate size.” Alan works at an excellent nursery nationally famous for their maples and I look forward to his talk. Also I admit that I lie a little bit on our website descriptions for height and width for plants, that I undersize them somewhat. In other words I might have a cultivar that will grow to 15' tall in 10 years at our nursery, but I list its height at only 10' tall because the gardener who purchases the tree probably lives in a less lush environment, and he would never achieve that rate of growth.

Acer palmatum 'Tsuma gaki'

Acer palmatum 'Tsuma gaki'

Acer palmatum 'Tsuma beni'

The so-called “small maple” category is relative too. (As my uncle Albert Einstein used to say, “Everything is relative”). Some of the cultivars include two laceleafs, A.p. 'Crimson Queen' and 'Lemon Lime Lace', but I have never seen those two anywhere that grew between 6 ½' to 13' tall. I suppose if you kept staking them they would get to that height, but I've never seen it. On the other hand 'Orange Dream' and 'Ukigumo' have exceeded 13' at our nursery. So has 'Tsuma gaki'; and in the book 'Tsuma gaki' and 'Tsuma beni' are listed as separate cultivars. Masayoshi Yano, author of Book For Maples, says they are one-and-the-same, and that was my experience too...but then many of our maple starts came from somewhere, so who knows if they were correctly labeled in the first place.

Acer palmatum 'Kamagata'

The aforementioned A.p. 'Kamagata' was included in the dwarf maple section, and it's also listed as appropriate for the rockery. I have seen Vertrees's original seedling and indeed he had it planted in a mini rockery which can be seen in the booklet on page 86. I know that I've harped on this before in previous blogs, but keep in mind that an original seedling is not necessarily the prototype for what follows, especially for “dwarf” types. The original seedling is on its own roots, obviously, but grafted plants of “dwarf,” or “rockery” cultivars are usually propagated on borrowed, vigorous green rootstock and they can zoom to a size well beyond the original. Whether Timber Press gets that point or not, I don't really care; but I would have loved to discuss that observation with Vertrees, except that he is long gone. A grafted 'Kamagata', then, is not the same (at all!) as the original seedling selection. A 'Kamagata' propagated via rooted cutting might be more true to the original...I will concede.

Acer palmatum 'Villa Taranto'

Acer palmatum 'Atrolineare'

Seriously, some of the book's “categories” are kind of dumb, such as Maples with a Wide-spreading Habit, Maples with a Rounded Habit and Mound-shaped maples etc., because many cultivars can fit into these groups, and I don't think that the typical maple shopper would particularly value or seek out of any of those characteristics. As a maple grower and aficionado I know that these arbitrary groupings don't mean much to me...but maybe I'm just too jaded with my lifetime of involvement with the trees. One category that I dwell on, however, is the Linearilobum group because I've always been fascinated with those spider-like freaks, whether maples or other species of plants. The 2007 publication does not include many that I favor today, and from that point of view a 12-year-old book can be very outdated. Of the seven maples included in this category, 'Atrolineare', 'Beni otake', 'Beni ubi [sic] gohon', 'Red Pygmy', 'Shinobuga oka' and 'Villa Taranto' are dead as far as sales are concerned. That doesn't mean that they were ever bad selections, rather just that very few want them anymore...or at least from my company.

Acer palmatum 'Hubbs Red Willow' 

Acer palmatum 'Pung Kil' (reverted tree)

Now, the best selling (for me) of the “strap-leaf” cultivars – and I hate that strap/strapy/strappy term – is A.p. 'Hubbs Red Willow'. In my opinion it beats all of the other red linearilobum cultivars hands down. The foliage on our mature specimens remains regally vibrant even into September when other cultivars really fade to bronze green at this time. Another favorite is A.p. 'Pung Kil' which is a rather quirky selection from Korea. It displays very thin purple-red lobes, but often there is also present some more broad lobes, and it's that combination that makes it seem more interesting than the more “manufactured” appearance of 'Hubbs Red Willow' and 'Beni otake'. Unfortunately we recently had one tree produce all broad-lobed leaves, so I guess you can say that it had “reverted,” but then it wouldn't be the first tree to do so at Buchholz Nursery. I pulled it away from the crop so that it wouldn't be accidentally shipped, and who knows, maybe we'll top graft it with something else.

Acer palmatum 'Kinshi'

Another favorite linearilobum is A.p. 'Kinshi', a compact, rounded cultivar with very narrow green lobes. I planted seven of them near the public road at the Flora Wonder Arboretum, a gift – I guess you could say – for the motorists who speed down the hill. In autumn, which is nearly here, their foliage will turn to orange-yellow which befits the Japanese name that means “with golden threads.” Isn't it odd that I squander my family money by planting trees with the purpose of intriguing people I don't know who just happen to be driving by? Maybe I'll sell some or all of them in the future, I don't know, but if you tool down Blooming-Fernhill Road this October you will see these maples in their glory.

Peter Gregory

Well, I didn't get to all 22 categories in the Vertrees/Gregory Pocket Guide so consider yourself spared. I'll hand the book over to my employee now, and I might not ever refer to it again. But I encourage you to purchase the book if you haven't already done so, and I consider myself very fortunate to have met and “talked maples” with both of the authors.

Friday, September 6, 2019

From Zen Archery to Bench Grafting

Years ago I was asked to give a one-hour class to college horticulture students about grafting, as if one hour was enough. An earnest student inquired if there was a book I could recommend that would aid the novice, and after serious thought I suggested Zen in the Art of Archery...where the practice of aiming at the target was less successful than the archer submitting to, and becoming one with the target. The book (Zen in der Kunst der Bogenschie├čens) was by the German philosophy professor Eugen Herrigel, published in 1948, and it detailed his experiences studying Kyudo, a form of Japanese archery. The professor lived in Japan in the 1920's, and his book is credited with introducing Zen to Western culture in the 1940's and 50's.

The Japanese consider archery to be a religious ritual, and the German author admits that “the master knows his pupils better than the pupil knows himself, and through this understanding the master is able to best instruct his subject.” I can certainly say the same about my nursery employees. In the first 20 years of my career I had grafted over a half-million trees*, and thankfully most of them “took,” or were successful. There were times, usually in the night under lights, where my knifing took on a life of its own, and in my mindless state I performed my operations without really being aware that I was grounded and “working.” The grafts just happened, and in the morning I put them into the greenhouse. The following year I was pleased that 80-90% had made it.

*It would have been more but I was also out cutting scions and preparing rootstock.

Early on I did buy The Grafter's Handbook by R.J. Garner – great name! – which was published in association with The Royal Horticultural Society, and I purchased the 4th edition of 1979. The jacket review by The Guardian states that “Mr. Garner almost certainly knows more about the vegetative propagation of tree and bush fruit than any man on earth...” After recently receiving The Bench Grafter's Handbook by acquaintance Brian Humphrey, I would suggest that the Englishman Humphrey now reigns as most knowledgeable with ornamental grafting propagation. If only mildly interested, his 600 page tome can easily put you to sleep – just as with Garner's work – but if the reader can relate on some level to Humphrey's theories and explanations, then he'll find himself well-instructed.

I knew that the octogenarian Humphrey was researching and planned to write a grafting book, and I apparently piqued his interest a few times with my ramblings in various Flora Wonder Blogs. While in my career I have largely dwelled in an ethereal realm, BH was paying more serious attention to the science of grafting propagation, and his book is a summation of a lifetime of experience. The CRC Press publication (2019) claims: “This book contains information obtained from authentic and highly regarded sources...blah blah blah,” which makes me nervous about anything I may have contributed.

I don't know if I would have labeled Humphrey's book a “handbook,” for that implies that it's small enough to easily fit into one's hand, but at 600+ pages it's not something you'd want to carry around all day, nor would it easily fit into anybody's pocket. But maybe to the British with their peculiar diction, the term “handbook” is appropriate.

I don't know how many readers will digest the book from beginning to end. I assume it was the publisher who states on the back cover, “Containing 500 full color photographs and illustrations, The Bench Grafter's Handbook: Principles and Practice presents exhaustive information on all aspects of bench grafting.” Careful of the wording there, Mr. Publisher, because “exhaustive” and “exhausting” are pretty much the same. Ok, I'm only joking.

The Sir Harold Hillier Arboretum

I began the book by reading the back cover, then the preface. The latter is a good send off for what follows, with comments such as: “The importance of grafting to the world economy is significant. Grafted plants occupy thousands of hectares of land in many areas.” Humphrey reminds us that, “Historians tell us that the ancient art of grafting may date back four millennia.” Then he reveals a few biographical notes about himself – he doesn't go back quite that far – with the paragraph: “My working life of over 50 years started in 1954 as a lad in a woody plant nursery where I was fortunate enough to have as a foreman a very good knifesman, who learnt his art at the famous nursery of Waterers, in Bagshot, near London. In the early 1960s, an initial two-year session in one of Hillier Nurseries' propagating units specialising in bench grafting further fostered my interest in the whole procedure.” I like Humphrey's purpose, that “The Bench Grafter's Handbook has been written with the intention of providing information based not only on my experience but also on the experience of others.” I wonder if one can be considered a “plantsman” if he/she is not also a propagator. In any case, all genuine plantsmen have benefited from the “experience of others.”

Acer nipponicum 

As I mentioned earlier, I don't know if the typical reader has the interest or discipline to begin the book on page one, and then to wade through the entire contents until the end. I know that I didn't/don't, for I tackled it from the beginning and the end; so like a little kid in a candy store some topics in the table of contents aroused great interest, like “rates of work” at the beginning (described on page 49) or “drying-off pot grown rootstocks” (described on page 108). Then I also indulged in the plant index at the end, where I could go specifically to, say, Acer nipponicum, where I found that Humphrey concurs that Acer nipponicum does not have a suitable rootstock to use for procreation, that A. pseudoplatanus and A. palmatum have both been “suggested,” but that “both have failed here.” Yes, I have wasted my time on them also.

The "golden" Cathaya

When the index listed Cathaya argyrophylla I hurriedly turned to pages 229 and 524. On page 229 a table listed Conifer Families and Genera – Grafting Times, Cathaya was listed as best grafted in W (Winter). With my heart racing I then turned to page 524, anticipating that Humphrey would reveal the secrets to Cathaya propagation. My spirits sank when the Grafting Table List literally said – for rootstock – “? Pseudotsuga menziesii” and then under comments, “Unproven combination but some grafts have survived 4 years.” Yeah, I know, I have an “alive” graft on Pseudotsuga that is 6 years old, 5' tall now, but I predict that I'll throw it out after a few more years. It just doesn't look right, and in spite of being fertilized the same as my other conifers it appears anemically yellow. What a hoot when a noted conifer specialist saw mine in the back corner of GH25 and said, “Wow, awesome, I didn't know there was a golden cultivar of Cathaya!” “Well,” I replied, “it's not actually...supposed to be golden.”

Anyway, that's how I have (and will continue) to process Humphrey's book. For me it's great enjoyment, and I only wish that he was my next-door neighbor, that perhaps we could spar and jab with each other – bob-and-weave if you like – and though I would probably lose in the end it would be great satisfaction to win a few rounds, or at least to give him a solid sock in the face. No, actually I should be careful with the spry old Englishman, lest he sue me for plagiarism for copying from his book.

Athrotaxis cupressoides

...Continuing with genera from his Grafting Table List, with anticipation I encountered Arthrotaxus sp. [sic] which must be species of Athrotaxis, such as cupressoides and selangoides. Humphrey had warned me earlier that certain plants were mispeled and that hopefully they would be corrected in a future printing. Though listed as a USDA zone 8 plant, Athrotaxis – the correct spelling – cupressoides (David Don) survived 0 degrees F in my Display Garden except that the foliage turned to a brown-green color; by summer however, the “Pencil pine” had resumed its normal green coloration. I received my start of the Tasmanian conifer from the Washington Park Arboretum in Seattle where it had no trouble in that relatively benign coastal location, and I propagated and sold lining-out plants via rooted cuttings. I read somewhere that Athrotaxis was closely related to Sequoiadendron, and how interesting that my first specimen was planted next to a vigorous Sequoiadendron giganteum 'Glaucum'. Unfortunately too close, as the happy “Giant redwood” sucked all of the moisture from the garden area and the Athrotaxis grew unsightly. Since the latter was never a great seller – due to the perceived hardiness issue – I eventually edited it from the garden, and regrettably I don't even have one in the collection anymore (regrettably, kind of like with old girlfriends who either dumped me or I tired of them). After reading about its supposed affinity to Sequoiadendron I grafted some onto that rootstock – geeze, they kind-of look alike also – and a few of the grafts survived. But damn, that was 25-30 years ago, and today I honestly can't remember how the propagules fared. I know that I don't have them anymore, so did they eventually die or did I sell them, or just what? How is it that I cannot remember, especially since I was so fond of the A. cupressoides species? Anyway, Humphrey says that Cryptomeria japonica is a suitable understock...which leads me to wonder about the possibility of Cryptomeria grafted onto Sequoiadendron rootstock, or vice versa. The question is academic, since both genera are easily produced via seed or rooted cuttings. If I won the lottery, which I won't since I never play, I would devote myself to such investigative projects.

Austrocedrus chilensis

Another wonderful southern-hemisphere conifer is Austrocedrus (southern cedar) chilensis, but I have only seen it in a couple of collection. I acquired it many years ago from the quirky (but now defunct) Heronswood Nursery in Washington state. My one pot quickly went into decline with what looked to be from root rot. Later I saw it at the Bloedel Reserve – a private garden owned by a now-deceased timber baron – and I remember their 6-foot arborvitae-like tree with blue-green foliage looking particularly regal. I thought about snitching a cutting but the timing was wrong, and I never went back in winter to do so. Hmm...let's see what Humphrey says. He reports: “Thuja occidentalis 1+1p 6-8mm or ? Platycladus orientalis.” For comments he writes “Calocedrus decurrens is an alternative rootstock.” Again, I should be awarded the lottery, as I would love to squander the rest of my days experimenting with these types of compatibility relationships.

Abies koreana 'Gait'

Abies koreana 'Silver Magic'

...Back to the beginning, in the table of contents, are chapters devoted to Abies, Acer, Aesculus etc. Ok, let's go to page 267 to learn about “Abies (Pinaceae) – Fir.” This chapter begins with the Introduction where Humphrey writes: “Most species are propagated by seed; vegetative propagation by cuttings is suitable for only a few, mostly dwarf types.” I would agree that the dwarf types are the most inclined to root. With Abies koreana though, I have rooted nearly every cultivar, even the upright, faster-growing selections. The blue forms are less successful than the green, yet every one of the blue has had at least some root. When H claims that “propagation by cuttings is suitable for only a few...”, I would maybe agree with “few,” but argue for a rather “large few.”

Abies koreana 'Ice Breaker' graft

I'm tempted to go side-ways, and into great depth with the above paragraph, but that would certainly put most of you to sleep. Rather I'll proceed to the Abies Grafting Methods section. Humphrey gives short shrift to “type of graft,” “low-grafting placement” and “tying-in” (a band which holds the new graft combination in place). But what caught my attention are these comments: “Sealing Abies grafts is not necessary [I agree] and can be injurious as it prevents exudation of the resinous sap [I never thought about that]. Some grafters favour spacing tie loops widely to allow exudate to flow away.” The last sentence is from personal correspondence with Englishman Guy Meacham who now resides in Oregon and runs the fun Plantmad Nursery. At Buchholz Nursery our most successful conifer to graft is easily the Abies, and it doesn't seem to matter the species, whether dwarf or not, whatever – they just all take. Our practice is to leave no gaps in the tie-up. We begin wrapping from a little above the union and finish a little below, with no part of the tree visible – to exudate – when finished. Curious, right? Why? There is no good explanation, other than that's how I wrapped my first Abies which took, so I never got around to venture otherwise. I will concede that we spend too much on the (unreasonably) costly rubber bands if/when wrapping more sparingly gets the job done, but I've never had any sap issues.

Abies concolor 'Sherwood Blue'

At the end of the Abies section is a photograph of a new graft of Abies pinsapo 'Aurea' and of Abies concolor 'Sherwood Blue'. I was surprised to see the Sherwood selection – I didn't suppose that it had ever made its way to Europe. I first encountered it in the garden of the late Dr. Bump of Forest Grove, Oregon. It had no name, if I recall correctly, but plantsman Bump said he got it from the noted nurseryman, Andy Sherwood of Oregon. I cut a few scions from Bump's tree and labeled them 'Sherwood Blue', so I guess the name has stuck. For the record, the famous Sherwood had at least two sons. One was in the nursery business, but went bankrupt and screwed a number of fellow nurserymen. The other was our family dentist, so both sons were disliked. And full disclosure: I am somehow and distantly related to them; nevertheless my mother always griped that we had to pay too much for dental procedures, that there should be at least some “family” discount.

Maples under poly tent

One final thought about the Abies section is photographs of grafts in poly tents at two English nurseries. For what it's worth, we never cover our Abies grafts, although we do cover Pinus, Picea and others. But for Abies, why go to the trouble and waste the plastic? They'll grow anyway.

Acer campestre 'Carnival'

Acer miyabei

There's a lot of meat on the bone for the Chapter Acer (Sapindaceae) – Maple, but first I'll pick at the observation: “The linkage between graft compatible A. campestre and A. miyabei is one of the most highly supported relationships within the phylogenetic work.” That's obvious to even non-scientists because the two species look very alike and both feature interesting furrowed trunks at maturity. I grew about 20 Acer miyabei from seed, but though large and well-branched they didn't sell, so I top-grafted 10-20 scions onto each tree with Acer campestre 'Carnival', and, three years later, those absolutely sold.

Acer x coriaceum

The maple chapter contains a blessing, a Graft Compatibility by Species chart, an update of what the late J.D. Vertrees did 35 years ago. For example, for Acer x coriaceum the preferred rootstock is A. monspessulanum, followed by A. pseudoplatanus. Then H. notes: “Not successful here on pseudoplatanus. Surviving for some years on monspessulanum but significant suckering.” So, I guess you either root the “Leather-leaf maple” or grow it from seed.

Acer fabri

Humphrey's compatibility chart contains some surprises, such as with Acer fabri grafted onto Acer palmatum as the preference, and Acer buergerianum as the secondary choice. The comment section was blank to my dismay. I would have absolutely betted against that combination; besides it almost implies that Acer palmatum and Acer buergerianum are graft compatible. But as I learned with sports: if team A beats team B, and B beats C, then of course (by Aristotelian logic) team A should beat team C, except it doesn't always turn out that way. But maybe A. palmatum and A. buergerianum are compatible; I don't think they are, but I've never tried it.

Acer fabri

I flirted with A. fabri for about fifteen years, and we used to root them. Sales were weak for the USDA zone 8 plant, but I enjoyed pointing to my largest specimen – kept in the greenhouse – and ask visitors to guess the genus. Very few could – most thought it was a laurel or ficus – and then I would gleefully point to the samaras and announce that it was a maple. I especially admired the rich mahogany-colored new growth, but when my specimen grew too large for the greenhouse I sold it to California and I don't have it anymore. The evergreen species was collected by Ernst Faber in southeastern China in 1887. Being “evergreen” is not always a good attribute for a tree, and in the case of A. fabri the tired, unsightly old leaves would persist throughout winter, and only drop when new growth pushed them off the following spring. One particular plantsman saw my specimen, after being unable to identify it, then declared, “Oh well, I don't need another esoteric plant.”

Brian Humphrey

I think you can tell that I'm well-pleased with my copy of the Bench Grafter's, plus it was kindly signed by Mr. Humphrey. My copy will stay near, but I'm already wearing it out with use. The author is highly regarded in horticulture where his “chairmanship of the UK ornamental nursery industry research and development initiatives with the UK Ministry of Agriculture led to the award of an O.B.E. (Order of the British Empire) in 1987. In 2013, his work in the nursery stock industry and in various RHS projects was recognised by the award of the VMH (Victoria Medal of Honour) by the Royal Horticultural Society.”

Julie Humphrey

At the end of Acknowledgements, Mr. Brian E. Humphrey thanks his children for their assistance, then writes: “Since the days we met as students at Kew Gardens, my wife Julie has given unwavering support and help. My heartfelt thanks and dedication of this book go to her.” After reading that, I admit to welling-up a little, for I too have been fortunate with a supportive wife.