Chamaecyparis nootkatensis – now Xanthocyparis nootkatensis
Very many plants in the Flora Wonder Arboretum were given to me as seed, scionwood or as actually rooted individuals. Not to make excuses, but I often wonder if they are true-to-name, for I always accept the admonition of the late Van Hoey Smith of Arboretum Trompenburg: that a tree collection without correct identification and correct nomenclature is not valid. The collector, however, can never guarantee the veracity of his sources, nor can he always be informed when the scientific cognoscenti decide to change a name.
If you tour the Rotterdam arboretum you might find an arborvitae named Thuja orientalis 'Lisa'. Now we're told (The Hillier Manual of Trees and Shrubs 2014) that the name Thuja orientalis is no more, that it should be Platycladus orientalis. Well – groan – do I need to stop everything and relabel? That involves numerous cultivars in the greenhouses and in the gardens, and it would certainly confuse the crew, and since I am a for-profit company with no governmental support or other benefactors to bear the costs of change, I'll probably just ride-out the T. orientalis name until I'm finally able to sneak out of this floral prison.
|Platycladus orientalis 'Locogreen'|
So, to that extent, Mr. V.H.S., I must lay low and remain somewhat invalid. Anyway, I remember the time V.H.S. discovered the “Lisa” cultivar in my field – yes my introduction that somewhat resembles the old (1867) Euro conifer T.o. (or P.o.) 'Athrotaxoides' – and he was delighted with the find and thought it was the most interesting conifer he discovered on that particular American visit. A metal label in front of the plant read the cultivar name 'Locogreen', but V.H.S. didn't see it and instead picked up a plastic label from next to the trunk that read Lisa. Years later 'Lisa' was presented in his Conifers, The Illustrated Encyclopedia on page 652 – “A dense, cylindrical plant with greenish-yellow foliage” (Hello – fertilize it!). What VHS didn't realize was that “Lisa” was not the plant's name, but rather the woman who propagated that particular plant.
|Platycladus orientalis 'Athrotaxoides'|
For what it's worth, T.o. 'Athrotaxoides' is described as “Difficult to propagate and hence rare.” Really – who says? It's possible that a Dutch nurseryman just down the road from Trompenburg, or a Buchholz in America, do not have problems propagating it. Is he talking about grafting or rooting cuttings anyway? When I “talk shop” about plants – whether or not they are “difficult” to propagate – I usually qualify it with “at least for me.” Remember that a rat has at least two escape routes from any enclosure.
Early in my career I collected the Picea glehnii species, the “Sakhalin spruce,” then later the cultivar 'Yatsubusa', although all were grafted onto Picea abies, the “Norway spruce.” P.g. 'Yatsubusa' was a dull event for me, with little ornamental merit, and without regret I sold my last plant almost 25 years ago. I'm not sure why I don't have the straight species, even though its foliage is boring too, because I always admired the chocolate-brown placoid (as in fish scales) bark. Back in my early days a lot of conifers were being grown as “standards,” as in a lollypop-like dwarf on a straight trunk, and I imagined that these dwarf balls would be well-presented atop a trunk with ornamental bark. I never got around to doing it because I couldn't grow the glehnii straight, and I was just too busy to mess further with the project. Named for Russian botanist Peter von Glehn (1835-1876), the species also grows in Hokkaido and northern Honshu, where its Japanese name translates as “red spruce.” The photo above was taken at the Portland Japanese Garden, a local treasure described by Japanese garden expert, Prof. So-so-so, as the most “authentic” Japanese garden outside of Japan.
|Picea jezoensis 'J.D.'s Dwarf'|
If it wasn't for the bark I probably wouldn't be able to distinguish Picea glehnii from other Asian species, in particular the “Yezo spruce,” Picea jezoensis. In a past blog I featured Picea jezoensis 'J.D.'s Dwarf', and a blog-reader upbraided me that 'J.D.'s Dwarf' is obviously of the P. glehnii species, not jezoensis. Hmm...ok, but I didn't run outside to solve the dilemma because I don't have the P. glehnii to compare to. The evidence presented was that P. jezoensis has “flat needles!!! and needles green on top and white.” He means “white” beneath I guess. To add to the confusion, The Royal Horticultural Society's Encyclopedia of Conifers (2012) lists the cultivar as 'D.J. Dwarf', not as 'J.D.'s Dwarf', and attribute the name (i.e. the author's first encounter) to Buchholz & Buchholz Nursery, OR, USA in 2009. Well, no, I've always had it as 'J.D.'s Dwarf'; so I don't know (or care) how the RHS author came up with an incorrect version.
|Picea jezoensis 'Chitosemaru'|
The RHS' Encyclopedia also mentions that Picea jezoensis 'Chitosemaru' is sometimes listed as a P. glehnii cultivar, and that “only one such use can be accepted, to be decided by the International Cultivar Registration Authority.” There's no time-table as to when the Authorities will enact on the correct nomenclature.
Picea glauca 'Blue Tear Drop'
I collected Picea mariana 'Blue Teardrop' which was found at Mitsch Nursery, Oregon, in the early 1980's, and we propagated and sold it as such...until about ten years ago when I was corrected that the species was actually Picea glauca, not P. mariana. It was explained to me that “The twigs are smooth (P. glauca) not pubescent or hairy (P. mariana) and that the stomatal bands under the needles are of two (P. glauca) and not one (P. mariana).” Another question: is it 'Blue Teardrop' or 'Blue Tear Drop'? The authoritative Royal Horticultural Society lists it as 'Blue Teardrop', except that they still go with Picea mariana. I'm not trying to pick on the Royal Horticultural Society – I'm just a small soil grubber from Oregon – but their Encyclopedia contains dozens of errors that I am certain are wrong, so it illustrates that van Hoey Smith's challenge to be “valid” is no easy task.
Acer shirasawanum 'Aureum'
Years ago I received a plant availability list which offered Acer japonicum 'Kin kakure'. I bought some. That was about the same time as the know-it-alls decided that many A. japonicum cultivars were in fact A. shirasawanum. No problem for me since I was anxious to expand my A. shirasawanum collection. A.j. 'Aureum' was transferred to the A. shirasawanum category, and in hindsight the change seemed obvious, even though the late Brian Mulligan of the University of Washington Arboretum went to a lot of trouble with his “chemical analysis.” By the Japanese Maples 2nd edition, author J.D. Vertrees had switched his nomen to A. shirasawanum for 'Aureum'. Whatever you do, don't mix that up with Acer palmatum 'Aureum', a very different tree. Also it turned out that 'Kin kakure' is but a synonym for A.s. 'Aureum', so I paid a lot to buy what I already grew. Remember, we didn't have access to the internet back then.
|Acer shirasawanum 'Aureum'|
The name “kin kakure” is Japanese kin for “gold,” and kakure means “shade” or “shelter,” so it is an appropriate synonym. J.D. Vertrees was not very successful with propagating A.s. 'Aureum' – he didn't know the tricks that I do now for decent results – so he bought liners from me, and I always appreciated that he let me into his orbit. There are a couple of photos of A.s. 'Aureum' in the first three editions of Japanese Maples, but in the fourth there is a new tree photo with an individualistic look – balanced, but not with a perfect tree shape – that is attributed to Peter Gregory, the current franchise author. Actually that is my photo (above), and the tree depicted was my first specimen of 'Aureum', one of the first six cultivars – from Vertrees – to enter into the Buchholz collection, and the parent of the grafts that Vertrees would eventually buy from me. The tree no longer exists – it was swallowed up by an over zealous Picea orientalis – but I don't cry about it or write poetry on its behalf.
|Acer rufinerve 'Albolimbatum'|
|Acer rufinerve 'Hatsuyuki'|
Common in Japan, Acer rufinerve was introduced to England in 1879 by Charles Maries while he collected for the Veitch firm. It is a vigorous, medium-sized tree, but not so common in horticulture, and I guess its problem is that it doesn't really look like a “Japanese” maple. But then most Japanese maples also do not. While Maries collected it in 1879, Siebold and Zuccarini first described it in 1845. What is confusing is that in An Illustrated Guide to Maples by de Beaulieu, the cultivar description of 'Albolimbatum' is attributed to Hooker (Joseph Dalton) in 1869. So where did Hooker see the variegated cultivar when the species itself didn't reach England until 1879 (via Maries)? Since Hooker was never in Japan, was it J.G. Veitch who brought it to England in the 1860's? Anyway my start of 'Albolimbatum' was sent by an English source. Sometimes white spots are apparent on the branches – is that how it got its cultivar name?
Acer rufinerve 'Hatsuyuki'
At about the same time as 'Albolimbatum' I received the cultivar Acer rufinerve 'Hatsuyuki'. The two were never growing next to each other so I didn't think twice about their similarity...until one day when Peter Gregory was visiting and he casually mentioned that they were one and the same. Good; I concluded that I would drop the less-than-poetic name 'Albolimbatum' in favor of 'Hatsuyuki' (“spring snow”). We haven't propagated any in the past five years because other stripe-bark maples are in more demand. Besides, when relatively young and growing in lush conditions characteristic of Buchholz Nursery, the “snow” (yuki) can be faint, and therefore not exactly eye-popping. My oldest specimen in the field is much more colorful, except all of that color is up in the sky and difficult to distinguish. No wonder it never sold very well, but I think if gardeners could see it in its fall glory, maybe they'd splurge on it then.
|Acer palmatum 'Beni yubi gohon'|
Remaining is another misnomer – which I already cleared up over 20 years ago – Acer palmatum 'Beni ubi gohon' which should be 'Beni yubi gohon'. Yubi not ubi, since ubi is not a Japanese word. Yubi means “finger” and the cultivar 'Beni ubi gohon' means “five red fingers,” and indeed the foliage on this dwarf, compact cultivar features five small, drooping fingers.
|Acer palmatum 'Fairy Hair'|
The most finely hair-like linearlobum of all is Acer palmatum 'Fairy Hair', known for its wispy green foliage. This cultivar was discovered in about 1984 from seed from a specimen of Acer palmatum 'Scolopendrifolium' growing in the garden of Dr. Corbin, Portland, and about ten years later it was named and released into the trade as 'Fairyhair' – one word. So if you encounter the one-word version of the name, that would be correct as that would take precedence. There was no mention of 'Fairyhair' in the first three editions of Japanese Maples by J.D. Vertrees, but he included it in the fourth where he understood to list it as 'Fairy Hair'. I discovered the new spelling after I had purchased the new edition, and concluding that no harm, no foul, I now also list it as 'Fairy Hair'.
Someone from Israel has been hounding Seth because he wants a Thuja sutchuenensis; Seth replied that we don't have any and we don't grow it anymore. That wasn't accepted because we must have it – at least one – because “it's on the [our] website.” Indeed, there is a photo in our website library, but still Seth is correct: we don't have any. And besides, is the photo of the true-to-name species? We discontinued it many years ago because it's not very winter hardy (probably to USDA zone 7) and our customer base is usually in colder climes. Secondly, we dropped it because few would buy it, or the similar Japanese Thuja standishii either. Asian arborvitae are great in arboreta where the plants don't have to pay their way, but in my career I have been desperate for money, where business survival is not guaranteed. Buchholz Nursery supports an arboretum on two properties – no easy task – so there have been many plants given the pink slip over the years. Maybe, 28 years ago, all the T. sutchuenensis I had left was five scrappy trees that needed planted out or potted up. Maybe it was in August with 100 degree temperatures and my focus was on the rest of the nursery...so dump these non-profitable arborvitae and keep the irrigation flowing!
The French missionary Paul Guillaume Farges (1844-1912) first collected the conifer in Sichuan, China, hence the specific epithet, while it is known as ya bai in Chinese. It is now rare in the wild, so I guess I didn't do anything to ensure its survival. Obviously I wish that I still grew at least one specimen, for the sake of this blog if for no other reason, but I can't defend my impetuous decisions from 28 years ago. Oh, and another reason I discontinued T. sutchuenensis is because a customer accused me of pawning off T. standishii for T. sutchuenensis, and who needs an identity drama in the nursery. Move on!
|Ginkgo biloba 'Akebono'|
Akebono is a popular name in Japan, meaning “daybreak” or “dawn,” and in America you will find it used for restaurants where it is usually pronounced “ah kee bono,” however “ah kay bono” is correct. Some in America – and probably most in Japan – know about Akebono Taro, the famous Hawaiian-born champion sumo wrestler, and it is estimated that each of his breasts weighs 52 pounds. I grow Ginkgo biloba 'Akebono', supposedly a male with a compact ascending form; but since my stock plants aren't yet displaying that characteristic, I wonder if the scionwood was sourced by a greedy or ignorant nurseryman who propagated with side shoots.
|Edgeworthia papyrifera 'Red Dragon'|
Fifteen years ago I received a start of Edgeworthia chrysantha 'Akebono', the orange-red flowering “paper-bush.” I didn't really know if the species is E. papyrifera or chrysantha, and to confuse matters we also have an E. papyrifera or chrysantha 'Red Dragon' which looks identical to the 'Akebono'. For what its worth, in The Hillier Manual of Trees and Shrubs, both “species” are considered synonymous, so it makes you wonder if 'Red Dragon' and 'Akebono' are in fact the same cultivar. Of course, each could have been selected completely independent of the other.
|Edgeworthia chrysantha 'Akabana'|
Today you will find nationally-known plant-sellers, such as Far Reaches and Plant Delights, offering 'Akebono'. Unfortunately that plant name is invalid – it should be 'Akabana' which translates as “red” (aka) + “flower” (bana). I don't know one Edgeworthia species from the other, if in fact there are two, all I know is that my two red-flowered cultivars both bloom at about the same time, and both peak about two weeks later than the yellow-flowered E. chrysantha plants.
|Taxodium distichum 'Little Leaf'|
Nelis Kools of Deurne, The Netherlands, holds the national collection of Sequoia, Sequoiadendron and Metasequoia cultivars, which is remarkable given his relatively small plot of land. I have contributed some American selections and he has sent many wonderful new cultivars to me. One time he sent a bizarre-looking “Dawn redwood” with tiny, recurved, almost juvenile-like green needles called 'Little Leaf'. I propagated a few but they never looked good and the graft unions didn't merge well. Nelis experienced the same, and I think we both concluded we should drop the cultivar. Nelis's father took one look at 'Little Leaf' and surmised that it was a Taxodium distichum, not a Metasequoia. Looking closely: of course it was, how could we have missed that? I haven't propagated any in a few years because it really is an ugly thing, and also I should confess that my original acquisition is planted at Flora Farm and a few years ago it developed a vigorous branch – midway up the trunk – that displayed typical Taxodium foliage, which we eventually pruned out.
|Acer palmatum seedlings from named varieties|
Buchholz Nursery is famous – or infamous – for germinating seedlings from named varieties. If mother (tree) is attractive or interesting, then possibly the offspring will also be. Indeed, some get named, such as Acer palmatum 'Golden Falls' from the A.p. 'Ryu sei' parent, Acer palmatum 'Japanese Princess' from mother tree A.p. 'Mikawa yatsubusa' and Acer palmatum 'Blonde Beauty' from mother Acer palmatum 'Amber Ghost'. My detractors would say that I name too many, and actually I would agree; but man, some selections are so wonderful that even the #2 cultivars can fend for themselves in the open market.
|Acer palmatum 'Rising Stars'|
|Acer palmatum 'Rising Stars'|
After I inspect all of our seedlings – which is usually accomplished by the third year – we put them up for sale as Acer palmatum 'Seedling from Mikawa yatsubusa', where we sort out and sell those with short, Mikawa-like internodes, or as Acer palmatum 'Seedling from Ryu sei' where we sort out those with a weeping habit, or Acer palmatum 'Rising Stars' for those seedlings from other cultivars. I was once taken to task, and it was suggested that I “should know better” than to pass off seedlings as the named cultivar. Ha! – I've done no such thing. I'm very clear that these are “Seedlings from...” and I can't be concerned if other growers, retailers or critics understand the process or not. Am I mixing things up? – well, not unless you're ignorant. Of course the novice gardener cannot be expected to understand the nomenclatural rules, but should I hold my breath until he does?
|Ludwig van Beethoven|
I remember once reading that a renowned music critic had negative words for one of Beethoven's works, or the performance of it, and B. responded (in so many words) that of course: “I didn't compose it for (inconsequential) him, but rather for future generations who would understand and revere it.” Beethoven compositions are fantastic and other-worldly, and equally so are the creations of nature.