Friday, February 15, 2019

Sparking Joy





Marie Kondo is the perfect female...or is she? Ms. K. is a beautiful Japanese woman – in my opinion – who is an organizational guru, author of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and star of a Netflix series, “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo.” I'm sure a lot of of messy women wish she would keep her theories of happiness to herself and not make them feel inadequate with her uncluttering advice. I am very impressed, though, that she wants us to “thank our belongings,” and in her life her personal possessions are thrown out or kept if they “spark joy.”



In Japanese Shinto culture there is an ingrained belief that every object has a soul, and that you should be pleased if an object takes care of you, like with a pair of shoes. Furthermore: “The more you pay positive attention or respect, the more positively energized they become”...and by saying “thank you,” you are “respecting the spirit of the items that you're letting go of with gratitude, instead of getting rid of them with negativity or force.” This attitude is connected with another cultural belief in Japan called mottainai* which is a mindfulness about not being wasteful.

*The Japan-based magazine Look Japan ran a cover story entitled “Restyling Japan: Revival of the Mottainai Spirit,” and in that author Hitoshi Chiba explained:
We often hear in Japan the expression 'mottainai' which loosely means 'wasteful' but in its full sense conveys a feeling of awe and appreciation for the gifts of nature or the sincere conduct of other people. There is a trait among Japanese people to try to use something for its entire effective life or continue to use it by repairing it. In this caring culture, people will endeavor to find new homes for possessions they no longer need. The 'mottainai' principle extends to the dinner table, where many consider it rude to leave even a single grain of rice in the bowl...”



I love all of it, of course. Haruko, my Japanese wife is naturally proud whenever anyone from her native land becomes world-famous or respected for their virtues. Recently she listened patiently to me while I ranted about some unprofessional behavior inflicted upon me, then said, “Woah, you sound just like my father...oh my god, I married my father!” Interestingly Haruko's father is a well-off, now-retired Tokyo banker who cheers for the Marie Kondo's of Japan, but who himself collects a lot of crap that clutters his (and his wife's) small house with stuff that he no longer uses, like exercise machines and scuba-diving gear etc. As for Haruko, she is exhausted with the travails of raising two teenage (13 and 15-year-old) girls, and she is known as the Uber Lady who doesn't get paid, so finding time to organize the house probably won't happen today or tomorrow or...

Obviously it bugs Haruko that I find Ms. Kan-do so compelling, soo...why don't I help out with the dishes and laundry a little more? My excuse is that the nursery and my tree collection require most of my energy, for it's the plants that spark my joy.

Ilex serrata 'Koshobai'


In the greenhouse our stock plants of Ilex serrata 'Koshobai' are sparkling with tiny “peppercorn-sized” red berries. It doesn't matter that the fruits are small, in fact that's the plant's delight. Anyway there's seemingly a thousand berries on each 18” bush, and since 'Koshobai' is deciduous, the leaves kindly get out of the way for the berry show. An important ornamental attribute is that it is parthenocarpic, which means that it can develop fruit without a male. The serrata species is native to Japan and China and is hardy to USDA zone 5 (-20 degrees F).

Edgeworthia chrysantha 'Gold Rush'


Edgeworthia chrysantha 'Gold Rush' sparked me with a lot of joy when I walked into GH23 yesterday, both for the colorful blossoms and for their wonderful odour. The “paperbush” is in the Thymelaeaceae family and is native to China and Himalayan foothills where I have seen it. The genus was named by Swiss botanist Carl Daniel Friedrich Meissner (1800-1874) who published monographs on the families of Polygonaceae, Lauraceae, Protaeceae, and yep – Thymelaeaceae. John Lindley (1799-1865), an English botanist and gardener, coined the chrysantha specific name due to the yellow color of the species' flowers. One of the joys of nursery ownership is that we can construct greenhouses with heaters where spring arrives 4-to-6 weeks earlier than outside...and where we can appreciate the double-dose of the visual and olfactory pleasures of the god-send Edgeworthia. The generic name honors Michael Pakenham Edgeworth, an Irish botanist who was stationed in the Bengal Civil Service in India and for his half-sister, the writer Maria Edgeworth. How interesting that the heady, sweet-smelling Rhododendron edgeworthii was also named for the Edgeworths.

Edgeworthia chrysantha 'Akabana'
Edgeworthia papyrifera 'Red Dragon'






























Even though the 'Gold Rush' cultivar's flowers have opened, lagging behind is Edgeworthia chrysantha 'Akabana', the orange-red-flowered form. Color is apparent, but the flowers are just not as far open. Then we also grow E. papyrifera 'Red Dragon', but according to The Hillier Manual of Trees and Shrubs the species papyrifera is but a synonym for chrysantha. I don't know: why then is the chrysantha species so odiferous, but the papyrifera 'Red Dragon' is not?

Daphne paper making






Daphne bholua

Also blooming and emitting a joyful odor is Daphne bholua, a member of the same family as the Edgeworthia. It is commonly known as the “Nepalese paper plant” and I saw a make-shift factory outside a small Himalayan village, and later I purchased some paper as a souvenir when I was back in Kathmandu. The Himalayan D. bholua would be subsp. bholua, while the Chinese (Sichuan) is subsp. emeiensis. In Nepal, the plant's common name is “baruwa” and in Tibet it is called “chu chu.” We used to propagate and sell D. bholua even though it is not hardy outside for me, but now I just keep a couple inside for the pleasure of their smell.




Daphne odora 'Maejima'


Another Daphne in bloom is D. odora 'Maejima', a semi-dwarf evergreen selection. The fragrant dark-pink flowers make a nice contrast against the bold green and yellow variegated foliage. D. odora is a Chinese species but it has been long-cultivated in Japan. I asked my Japanese wife what maejima means, but without the characters she was uncertain. She went on the internet and said, “Oh, not that – it is the name of a Japanese porn actress.” Then she also found out it's the name of a small island in the Japanese Inland Sea which is known as the “green island” (AKA Midorijima) due to a preponderance of Pinus densiflora trees, and it is a national park.


Bergenia 'Angel Kiss'




Bergenia 'Flirt'




















I would be inclined to grow Bergenia species even if they never flowered because I spark joy from their glossy, chocolatey-maroon-red winter foliage alone. Dubbed pig-squeak, because if you rub a leaf together, it really does make a squeaky sound, and I know that because I did it when I first encountered the common name. We grow about a half dozen cultivars, most of which are patented, such as 'Angel Kiss', 'Flirt' and 'Lunar Glow', but it is annoying that the breeder of these hybrids never reveals the specific parentage, as if he's determined to go to his grave with his special trade secret. But anyway, the flowers are an added bonus, and they are certainly pretty enough when they emerge in spring.

Nandina domestica 'Wood's Dwarf'


I recently passed a mass planting of Nandina along the public highway, and with their red winter foliage I thought: “well done!” There's so many cultivars that I could not make a positive identification, but then: who cares? I noted that they were in an island bed with no irrigation, and even though they are probably boring in summer, they sure were vibrant on this winter day. The Nandina genus, or “heavenly bamboo,” is an evergreen shrub having red berries in the barberry (Berberidaceae) family. The botanic name Nandina is New Latin and comes from the Japanese word nanten, and it was botanically described by Carl Peter Thunberg. The monotypic species domestica was brought to western gardens by William Kerr, a Scottish gardener and plant hunter. Kerr died in 1814 and he was supposedly the first Western professional plant collector active in China. He is credited with sending to Britain 238 plants new to science, but sadly he expired prematurely in Colombo, Ceylon due to some “evil habits,” namely opium addiction.

My favorite Nandina is the cute dwarf 'Senbazuru', and I copy from a previous Flora Wonder Blog:

Nandina domestica capillus 'Senbazuru'


Senbazuru
Sadako Sasaki
The freaks and mutants of nature can also be dainty and attractive, and such is the case for Nandina domestica capillus 'Senbazuru'. That is a cumbersome name but the Japanese selection's name means, “A group of one thousand origami paper cranes (orizuru) held together by strings.” An ancient Japanese legend promises that anyone who folds a thousand cranes will be granted any wish by the gods. The crane is said to live for one thousand years, along with the tortoise and the dragon, so that's why one is made for each year. My wife is adept at origami and she can fold together a pretty crane in seconds, and the recipient of her little gift instantly beams a smile. More deeply though, cranes are a symbol of peace and are seen at places like war memorials or atomic bomb memorials. A sad story is that a two-year-old Japanese girl, Sadako Sasaki, was exposed to radiation from the atomic blast at Hiroshima. She developed leukemia, and terminally ill at age 12 – the age of my beautiful youngest daughter – she began to fold cranes inspired by the legend of senbazuru. After 644 she became too weak and died on October 25, 1955; however her classmates finished the project and today there is a statue of Sadako holding a crane in Hiroshima Peace Park. I hold hope that this pretty Nandina (or “Heavenly bamboo”) will inspire everyone to find peace and happiness.

I have a plant of 'Senbazuru' near where I park my car at home, so I see it every day. I won't blog about it ever again because it rings too close to home when I think about my children, in particular my youngest, Saya.

Abies koreana 'Alpine Star'


Abies koreana 'Alpine Star', or 'Alpin Star' according to many Euros, is a cute dwarf with short, very dark green needles. The tiny buds on branch terminals are prominently white so the effect is like viewing a joyful constellation in the night sky. So far, my stock grows dense and low, about twice as wide as tall, but maybe that's becaues I take plenty of cuttings. It is interesting that some Abies species are difficult to root, like A. concolor, but the green A. koreana cultivars are relatively easy, including the silver-blue 'Ice Breaker' and 'Silberlocke'. 'Alpine Star' will be more dwarf if grown from cuttings than by grafting, but in either case it makes a wonderful addition to a small or rock garden as well as in a container or a trough.























Rhododendron x 'Pink Snowflakes'


Rhododendron x 'Pink Snowflakes' is a dwarf hybrid between two Chinese species (racemosum x moupinense), and it makes you smile every time you see it in bloom. The buds are swollen and red now, but when they open (about mid-March) they will be light pink with purple speckles inside. If Marie Kondo owned my garden she would thank 'Pink Snowflakes' for all the happiness it brings, thus energizing it to prosper. The only problem is its winter hardiness – reportedly to USDA zone 7 (0 degrees F) but I've had some damage at 10 degrees F.

Helleborus hybridus '#102'

Helleborus hybridus '#105'

Helleborus hybridus '#106'

Helleborus hybridus '#108'

Helleborus hybridus '#112'


Heracles
The Hellebore flowers are amazing really – in the cold morning their stems droop and the blossoms rest on the ground, but when it warms up during the afternoon they pop back up to greet you. I'll admit that they're not much to look at when out of flower, but I'll happily keep mine on the ark. The numbered selections (above) came from thousands of seedlings grown at the O'Byrns' Winter Jewels collection. It was Linnaeus in his Species Plantarum in 1753 who named the genus, and it comes from helleboros (for H. orientalis) which is derived from helein (“to injure”) and bora (“food”), as many Helleborus species are poisonous. On the other hand, in a fit of madness induced by Hera, Heracles killed his children by Megara, but then his madness was cured using hellebore. Hellebore plants are usually left alone by animals such as deer and rabbits because the leaves produce distasteful alkaloids, and even gardeners with sensitive skin should be wary if handling them.

Pleione x 'Riah Shan'
Pleione x 'Irazu'





























I have written in the past (July 18, 2014 Flora Wonder Blog) about how I squander company resources by growing plants “just for the heck of it” when there is no intention to propagate and sell any of them. “With my no-profit tree collection I behave like a wealthy aristocrat. Thanks to Buchholz Nursery and its customers for funding my folly.” But since then our Pleione genus went from a “hobby” collection to major production. We even acquired new cultivars from Canada and Britain – at great expense – and these are being propagated and will be offered for sale in the future. Our timing was fortunate because, due to further international governmental regulation with the orchid trade, one can no longer so easily import Pleione from abroad.

Pleione confusa 'Golden Gate'


One of our newer acquisitions is Pleione confusa 'Golden Gate', and I can't imagine any plant sparking more joy. Actually, it is more properly described as x confusa because it is a naturally-occurring hybrid between P. forrestii and P. albiflora. It was first collected by George Forrest in Yunnan, China and I'll bet he probably wetted his pants when he discovered it. The yellow hybrid was at first grown under the name of P. forrestii. but it differs by having larger flowers with longer petals and a cut lip, and most importantly, P. x confusa is not as touchy as P. forrestii – which I have had, and lost, a couple of times.

Eric Lucas


It is due to the enthusiasm of office manager Eric Lucas for the Pleione genus that we transitioned from a “hobby” collection into sales, and he keeps a careful watch on their care. 15 years ago my wife and two Japanese interns spent a half day dividing and planting bulbs in February. When finished, Haruko gently watered them, gently because only one-third of the bulb is actually in the media. Since there was nothing in active growth, they wouldn't be needing additional water for at least a month. Nevertheless a mindless employee with a hose in her hand watered them sideways with excessive pressure and jetted a lot of the bulbs out of their pots, then left them in disarray. Haruko was heart-broken when she saw the mess. She repotted the bulbs, even though the varieties were then mixed up, and we put up a card that says in Spanish “Absolutely do not water!” Said notice is still in place, and besides we recently moved the entire collection from far-away GH21 up to GH1, the greenhouse closest to Eric's office chair.

Sarracenia flava
Sarracenia x 'Judith Hindle'




























I used to suppose that carnivorous plants all came from the jungles of Borneo or somewhere like that, but eventually I learned that some species are actually native to America, and that they are plenty hardy and easy to grow outdoors in tubs. We keep a collection of them near the office and visitors and customers are fascinated when seeing them and when they learn about the various strategies they employ to catch their prey. A few years ago my daughter is on record as saying “I hate boys [that has changed]. They're like bugs: you just can't get rid of them.” I bought her a couple of Sarracenia* species, thinking she would enjoy watching them devour bugs, and I was right. The myth that they are difficult to grow or require a terrarium is nonsense, and our tubs are grown in full sun and left out all winter. Whether or not you propagate or sell Sarracenia, you find yourself in awe when you learn about the “pitcher plants”: They catch insects by producing a narcotic (coniine) nectar along their pitcher rims. The bugs try to get more by going further in, where they lose their footing and fall inside. They can't climb out because the inside walls are too smooth, and they cannot fly out because they cannot attain airlift. The plant absorbs nutrients from the consequent bug-mush. Sometimes they'll gobble a yellow jacket, and you'll see him trying to get out sideways. You can see the pathetic head poking out a chewed hole, but he just can't escape with the rest of his body. When you explain all of this to a novice, you invariably spark their interest and amazement.



*I quote from the Savage Garden by Peter D'amato: “For such unusual and once-common plants, they were slow to be recognized by the early European settlers. In 1700 [botanist] Tournefort described plants sent to him by Dr. M.S. Sarrazin of Quebec, and Linnaeus followed his lead, naimg the genus Sarracenia in 1731...Darwin suspected their carnivorous nature but did not study them.”



I don't know if Marie Kondo gardens or not, but I would love to have her visit the Flora Wonder Arboretum, so someone please tell her that she is invited. And of course anyone who can read an entire Flora Wonder Blog is invited as well.

Friday, February 8, 2019

They Shall Not Grow Old





Last week's Flora Wonder Blog featured British nurseries of yore (1875) and began with a description of the Knaphill Nursery of Woking, Surrey, owned by Anthony Waterer. I was pleased to receive a comment from Mark at Stafford Lake Nursery who currently operates a conifer and hosta nursery in that area, and thankfully, I guess, I didn't make any mistakes about my retelling of the Woking history.



By coincidence, one day after the blog was posted I decided to see a film that was reviewed to be: “a documentary that is a gorgeous tribute to the past.” And it certainly was, but shuddering too. A Peter Jackson (Lord of the Rings) movie entitled They Shall Not Grow Old brought old World War I archival film to life with 3-D and color, and all of the horrors of that carnage were shoved into my face. How sad, how pathetic I thought, that most American adults and children of today don't have a clue about the “Great War,” and who suppose that what happened in the past has nothing to do with them now. Well, a million British soldiers were killed plus all of the Germans, Americans and others...all for nothing really except to serve up for the scenario of World War II and more carnage.

So for me, as a nursery owner, it was sobering to relive the British nursery world of 1875, and then to find that a few years later many nurseries, as well as other enterprises, collapsed because of the pointless war. A million British husbands, sons, brothers and friends were dispatched to the miserable wet, rat and lice-infested trenches and ended up with a bullet to the head. Sad, good-kid Geoffrey is not here anymore to spade out the Rhododendrons. Sorry, Mr. Waterer, no one is left to plant and tend to your nursery stock, and besides, no one has the cash to purchase your gaudy azaleas anymore.

A few snowflakes are falling today and a major snow event is predicted for the weekend. As usual I am sick with worry, but at least my employees haven't marched off to war. Anyway I highly recommend the film, They Shall Not Grow Old.

Friday, February 1, 2019

1875: British Nurseries of Yore






I have belaboured Englishman George Gordon's The Pinetum (1858) in a past blog, so I realize that I risk losing readership if I drag his work into attention again. But in that blog I mentioned that Gordon “revised and fully updated” the 1858 publication in an 1879 update, and that I would acquire the newer version to see how it had changed or improved. I did, but alas many of the old mystakes remain, such as Abies bracteata, for the second time, being reported as “first discovered by Douglas, on the mountains along the Columbia River...,” and the continued use of Wellingtonia for what is now internationally accepted as Sequoiadendron, and that Abies Pattonii Jeffrey continues to be found on the “Mount Baker Range in Northern California” when no such location exists since Mt. Baker is located in northern Washington...and so on and so forth.



My man Seth was instructed to search the internet for a copy of Gordon's 2nd edition of 1879, but what he came up with was not an old hard-cover copy, which I wanted, but strangely a paperback version of the work (1880) by Scholar Select which is a crappy, smudged and crooked reprint from a copy housed at the University of Toronto Library from Apr. 20, 1965. The damn thing cost $25.00, $24.00 too much, but actually I am glad to have it. The New Edition is promised as being “Considerably enlarged, incorporating the former supplement, and including an index of the popular names of coniferae, English and foreign, to which is now added An Alphabetical-List of all the coloured plates of the Genus Pinus published in the great works of Lambert, Lawson, and Forbes blah blah blah...”



The back cover of the weird book states, “This work has been selected by scholars as being culturally important, and is part of the knowledge base of civilization as we know it...” Wow! Furthermore, I am informed that: “This work is in the public domain” and that I can copy from it to my heart's content. So, finally I am free from the guilt of plagiarism, which has been the Flora Wonder Blog's modus operandi since the beginning.























Ginkgo biloba


Sciadopitys verticillata


One aspect of the newer edition's “Enlargement” was to add an Index of Popular Names, meaning “common” names. There I learned that Theloo (Spirituous Liquor) is the common name for Juniperus Squamata [sic], the “Scaly-leaved Nepaul Juniper,” and Schmucktanne is the German name for Araucaria. Hak is the “Tree of Life or Evergreen,” a term applied to all the Arborvitae in China, while Haken Kiefer is German for the Mugho pine. Yellow Deal is the common name for Pinus Sylvestris, the “Scotch Fir,” while White Deal is the Norwegian name for Abies excelsa (Picea abies), the common “Norway Spruce.” Closer to home, an American-Indian name I guess, is Sas-coo-pas for the “Big Tree or Great Fir” for Abies Douglasii, the Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii). Oh, and one more – which I had never encountered before – is Quachow, deciduous, from China for Salisburia adiantifolia, the “Maiden-hair Tree” (Ginkgo biloba). What great fun these common names! Sorry – I can't stop – how about Quilrblaetterige or Schirm-fichte for Sciadopitys verticillata? Ok, I'll admit, I've already gotten more than my money's worth from my $25.00 coniferous paperback reprint.

Following the popular name index are five catalogs...er, catalogues from prominent nurseries of the time: 1) Anthony Waterer, Knaphill Nursery, Woking Surrey 2) Richard Smith, Worcester 3) William Barron & Son, Elvaston Nurseries, Borrowash, Near Derby 4) Maurice Young, Milford Nurseries, Near Godalming, Surrey and 5) Lawson Seed and Nursery Company, Edinburgh and London. If you were the 6th or 7th prominent nursery in Great Britain and left out of Gordon's book you would bear the author a strong grudge.


These catalogues are of great interest to me because they detail the plants being grown about 100 years before I entered the nursery industry in 1974. The nomenclature has certainly changed since the yore days, and of course straight seedlings versus today's preponderance of cultivars were usually the plants being offered. The price to the right of the plant's listing – which was explained to me by a bonafide Englishman – represent shillings (s) and pence (d). One hundred years ago there were 20 shillings to the pound and 12 pennies to the shilling. England decimalized in 1971, so today the term shilling is no more, but the penny was kept, and there are 100 to the pound.





Let's take a look at these nurseries and see what they were growing. The Woking area was home to nurseries for over 200 years because the soil is well-drained and easily-worked, making it ideal for plant nurseries. In 1724 Thomas Waterer was farming at Knaphill (AKA Knap Hill), then his grandson Michael Waterer (senior) acquired the bog-land in about 1770, drained it and planted Rhododendrons and other Ericaceous plants. Supposedly a Fagus sylvatica 'Pendula' – the “Weeping Green European beech” – still stands, and it covers a quarter of an acre wide. Michael Waterer (junior, 1770-1832) enthusiastically continued the enterprise and especially the hybridization of Rhododendrons, and hundreds of visitors attended exhibits at a show room in Regent Street, London. Michael Jr. made Rhododendron crosses using blood from American species, and when J.C. Loudon, founder of The Gardener's Magazine visited in 1829 he exclaimed that it contained “the largest and finest collection of American plants I ever saw.” In 1853 Anthony Waterer took over, and the nursery was famous for the development of azaleas. By 1861 there were 107 employees on 350 acres, and stock included Douglas fir over 35 feet high and a Magnolia with a spread of 54 feet. A walk was planted at 2,310 feet in length and 40 feet wide, coined the “Rhododendron mile,” and it drew visits from King Edward VII. Anthony's son, also Anthony, took over at his father's death, but with the outbreak of WWI much of the staff departed and a memorial recorded the names of those who were killed in action. Anthony lost heart and made no attempt to restore the wilderness the nursery had become.



Chamaecyparis lawsoniana 'Minima Aurea'


Back in 1875 the Knaphill Nursery catalogue boasts of containing “the largest quantity of the finest plants to be met with in this country, or in Europe. A visit, which is earnestly solicited, will prove this to be no mere assertion.” Their catalogue is 36 pages of fine print, sometimes with little essays about how wonderful a plant is, so you see the nursery braggarts 100 years ago acted the same as today. The Lawson cypress (Chamaecyparis lawsoniana) already had golden and dwarf cultivars, and for 'Viridis' we read, “This cypress, raised here, is, there is no doubt, ONE OF THE FINEST HARDY EVERGREENS IN EXISTENCE.” The hype continues with, “We do not believe there is an evergreen which is so universally and deservedly admired. It is purchased, without exception, by every one who sees it growing in our nursery.”

Quercus robur 'Concordia'
Quercus robur 'Purpurea'





























Knaphill offered all kinds of deciduous trees, such as Acer species, Aesculus, Betula, Quercus etc. I was surprised to see that Quercus robur 'Concordia' was already in production, and priced from 3s 6d to 7s 6d. Other cultivars of English oak include 'Heterophylla' (Fern-leaved oak), 'Pendula' (Weeping English oak) and 'Nigra' (Purple oak). Acer colchicum 'Rubrum' is offered, where “In this handsome tree the young leaves are crimson,” but it turns out the specific epithet is synonymous with Acer cappadocicum. Acer palmatum is not listed and instead we have Acer polymorphum, with cultivars 'Atropurpureum', 'Dissectum', 'Palmadifolium', 'Rosea Marginatum' and 'Sanguinea'. The first specimen of Acer palmatum reached England in 1820, but prior to that the Swedish doctor-botanist Carl Peter Thunberg had named it Acer palmatum for the hand-like shape of the leaves. After all, the centuries-old Japanese names kaede (hands of frogs) and momiji (hands of babies) were in use, so I don't know why Waterer used polymorphum (which translates as “many-formed”) in 1875.



Richard Smith Nurseries boasted in 1875 of growing 50 acres of fruit trees, 50 acres of conifers and other evergreens and 12 acres of rose trees, with “32 miles of walks for the convenience of attending to the stock, and 2 ½ acres of glass to rear the young plants.” Smith's catalog is exclusively conifers, with Wellingtonia 6-7' tall for 21s. A variegated version of the giant redwood was 15s for a 2 ½' tree. Thujopsis borealis could be had up to 7' tall for 5s, and if you bought one it would today be called Xanthocyparis (Chamaecyparis) nootkatensis, the “Weeping Alaska cedar.” The 'Compacta' and 'Variegata' selections were also available.

Chamaecyparis obtusa 'Rigid Dwarf'


Chamaecyparis obtusa (hinoki) is not listed in Smith's catalogue, instead we find the old generic name of Retinospora with a number of cultivars. The same is true with Chamaecyparis pisifera, but oddly C. ericoides, filifera, lycopodioides, plumosa, squarrosa and stricta are given specific status.




























Glyptostrobus pensilis


Glyptostrobus pensilis


I was surprised to see Smith's listing of Glyptostrobus sinensis pendula since I have never seen a weeping form of what we now call Glyptostrobus pensilis. I'm also surprised to read the description of G. pensilis in The Hillier Manual of Trees and Shrubs (2014) that the species is “not recommended for the cold localities...This remarkable species has grown in the SHHG without protection for many years but has achieved a height of only 3m (2013).” C'mon – winters at Hilliers are like those of Club Med compared to mine in Oregon, and I have a 30-year-old Glyptostrobus about 30' tall.



The William Barron and Son Nursery is not shy to brag about their great plants, claiming that “their stock of Coniferae has become celebrated both at home and abroad as being perhaps the best in the trade. The superiority of their plants is sufficiently established by the fact that, during the last six years, W.B. and Son have constantly exhibited at all the principal shows in the United Kingdom, and have as yet invariably obtained first honours.”




























Araucaria araucana


Araucaria imbricata (Chilean pine) now goes with the specific name of araucana, since it was discovered in the 1780's and originally named Pinus araucana. Barron charged up to 110s for a larger-sized “Monkey Puzzle,” but there's no exact height given. Surprisingly there is an 'Aurea Variegata' listed – I've never seen one – and it is described as “A beautiful golden variety of the Araucaria, raised by Mr. Fowler, Castle Kennedy about 20 years ago, the original plant being now 22 ft. high, and finely variegated all over the tree.” Wow, I was in the area of Castle Kennedy in southwest Scotland 20 years ago – I wonder if the variegated Monkey Puzzle still stands?























Pinus ponderosa var. benthamiana


One pine Barron offers is P. Benthamiana, and my guess is that it is a subspecies of Pinus ponderosa, the west group that survives in western Oregon and California. Another species is Don Pedro, and I don't know the botanic name for sure, but I suspect it is P. taeda, the “Loblolly pine.” I'm uncertain about Pinus Mandschuricus, except that “Manchurian pine” is a common name for the “Korean pine,” P. koraiensis, except elsewhere Barron lists a P. koraiensis.






William Barron (1805-1891) was born in Berwickshire, Scotland, and after an apprenticeship at Blackadder he entered the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh where he was put in charge of the glasshouses. In 1862 he bought 40 acres for a nursery site, then he was joined by his son in 1867. The firm gained a reputation for landscape gardening and the transplantation of large trees and was a leading provider of public park designs. I would love to see his “Transplanting Machine” in action.

Betula pendula 'Youngii'


Maurice Young's Milford Nursery was famous for the weeping birch, Betula pendula 'Youngii' which I used to grow years ago. Young says, “I can now offer fine specimens in standard or pyramidal forms, as well as young plants on stems of various heights from 6 to 10 feet with good heads. As there are other Weeping Birches, it is necessary to ask for Young's variety.”

Juniperus chinensis 'Aurea'


Young was most proud of his golden Chinese juniper, Juniperus chinensis 'Aurea'. He boasts, “During the two years that this plant has been before the public, it has more than justified the high opinions given upon it by the Press and the leading Horticulturalists, both in England and on the Continent, that it is without doubt “THE FINEST GOLDEN CONIFER OF THE DAY.” Young claims that his wonderful conifer has been supplied to:
Her Majesty The Queen, Royal Gardens, Windsor
H.R.H. The Prince of Wales, Sandringham
H.R.H. Prince Frederick William, Potsdam
H.S.R. The Grand Duke of Hesse, Darmstadt
H.M. The King of the Belgians, Laeken
“Also to many noblemen and gentlemen, and to the leading
nurseries in England, on the Continent, and in America.”



Finally let's consider the Lawson Seed and Nursery Company, for which Chamaecyparis lawsoniana was named. Their catalog is 27 pages long with just a list of plants with prices, with no plant descriptions or additional bragging. Very Scots-like. The only ornament is a nice drawing of Cupressus Lawsoniana, supposedly the original seedling. The evergreen is far from my favorite conifer, though we do grow a few cultivars which are grafted onto disease-resistant rootstock. C. lawsoniana is commonly called the “Port Orford cedar” because it is native to the area nearby present-day Cape Blanco, Oregon which George Vancouver originally named for George, Earl of Orford, “a much respected friend.” Today the incorporated city of Port Orford with its 1,000 souls is the westernmost incorporated place in the 48 contiguous states.



Charles Lawson (1795-1873) was a Scottish nurseryman and merchant, noted for the introduction of foreign flora into the UK. When father Peter (a seed merchant) died in 1821, Charles took over the family business of Peter Lawson and Son and he became a specialist in grass seeds and conifers. I don't know what ever became of the nursery, except that in 1886 The Lawson Seed and Nursery Co LTD and Liquidators squared off legally versus Peter Lawson and Son Ltd, so I guess they ended up fighting among themselves.



I can accept that some Flora Wonder Blog readers don't give a hoot about old British horticulture, and couldn't care less about nurserymen from 100 years ago. Why does old Buchholz dwell so far in the past? Well, I have books with old photographs of nursery men and women, and everybody appears healthy and earnest and completely engaged in their activities. I'd love to do a year's internship at a British nursery in 1875. Of course it would be better if I was still in my twenties or thirties, but I would gain knowledge and perspective on my chosen craft.