Friday, March 29, 2019

What's Its Name?

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.

Platycladus orientalis

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.

Picea glehnii

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'

Charles Maries
Joseph Hooker
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'.

Thuja sutchuenensis

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 dump these non-profitable arborvitae and keep the irrigation flowing!

Thuja standishii
Paul Farges

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 Taro
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.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Van Gogh - The Potato Eaters

We endured the long winter where the outlook was bleak and the provisions were meager...

Matisse - Dance

But we survived and we're now celebrating the riot of spring. Business is good and we are shipping thousands of plants across the country. As usual we are overwhelmed, so today's blog, though written, never found time to be produced. Let's go back in time and see what was happening five years ago at the end of March.


Winding Paths March 18, 2014

The original Display Garden at Buchholz Nursery, photographed above, and at the beginning of every Flora Wonder Blog, was begun thirty four years ago, with some trees being about ten years old (or more) when planted. The grounds were quite sparse then, and even in the middle I could not take a piss comfortably. And there was no shade, neither for me nor for certain plants. How I coveted the shady areas in older established gardens! Now the Display Garden has aged, and has undergone many changes with trees harvested, edited (cut down), limbed up, as well as many new items planted. I don't consider these plants a "landscape" in the traditional sense; it is more of a collection, like my son's baseball-cards just tossed without order into a box.

In circle: the beginning of the Display Garden, September 1982

The Display Garden contains a network of winding paths, and a first-time visitor – especially one constrained by time – is consternated by the myriad of potential routes: "Should I turn left, or right, or move straight ahead?" The visitor doesn't want to miss anything, but there are cool plants to see in every direction. In the history of the Garden, no one has ever passed from one side to the other at a normal walking pace...without stopping to look at plants and read the labels. He converses with himself if alone, or aloud with others if in a group. The Display Garden is not something I'm particularly proud of, in the sense that I have accomplished anything great. All I did was to take great plants and hole them into the ground.

This morning we have the gift of a blue sky and sunshine, and most of last night's frost is gone. Let's wander (from Old English wandrian, related to wend and wind) around and see what we find.

Abies concolor 'Wintergold' prostate form

Abies concolor 'Wintergold' in January

Abies concolor 'Wintergold' in May

Pinus contorta 'Chief Joseph'

At the very beginning we encounter a luminous nine-foot golden pyramid, Abies concolor 'Wintergold', and it pairs well with today's bright blue sky. Further into the garden is a 'Wintergold' of the same age, but it was always disinclined to form a leader, and it is only two feet tall by eight feet wide at fifteen years of age. The golden color is most intense in winter, and probably its only rival for dramatic color is Pinus contorta 'Chief Joseph'. An outstanding feature of the concolor is its chartreuse-colored new growth in spring, and you can see in the photo above how that new growth contrasts with the older, golden foliage. I've had more people ooh and aah over 'Wintergold' in spring than in winter, and these people would include non-plantsmen such as truck drivers and the mail lady.

Abies concolor

Abies concolor is commonly known as the "White Fir," and it occurs in the mountainous areas of North America and into northern Mexico. The species name concolor refers in this case to "having uniform color." It has even been recorded at an elevation over 11,000 feet, and eventually can form a large-size tree up to 200 feet tall. The species was discovered and introduced by William Lobb, a botanical explorer who was sent to California from 1849 to 1853 by the English Veitch Nursery. Lobb was famous for introducing Sequoiadendron giganteum (as the sore losers in England continue to call Wellingtonia), Araucaria araucana, the Chilean "Monkey Puzzle Tree," and one of my favorites of all conifers, Abies bracteata, the "Santa Lucia Fir." Poor Lobb never returned to England; he lost his marbles in California due to syphilis and died forgotten and alone.

Tsuga heterophylla 'Thorsen'

I have a beautiful specimen of "Western Hemlock" in the Display Garden, Tsuga heterophylla 'Thorsen', aka 'Thorsen's Weeping'. 'Thorsen' only "weeps" if it is staked up, otherwise it will form a low-spreading groundcover. The green foliage is much more rich and refined than on any of the Tsuga canadensis cultivars, but 'Thorsen' is not quite as hardy (to -10 degrees, USDA zone 6). This hemlock will tolerate partial shade, but it looks fantastic when grown in full sun; and remember, you Midwesterners and East Coasters, our summer sun is more akin to an Arizona heat than to your muggy misfortune. My only gripe about 'Thorsen' is the crappy cultivar name. I don't know who Mr. or Mrs. Thorsen is or was, but the selection is far too wonderful to be saddled with such a dumb name.

Plantsman Hatch inspecting a Rhododendron

Rhododendron campanulatum ssp. aeruginosum

Rhododendron campanulatum ssp. aeruginosum

Rhododendron cinnabarinum 'Small Leaf UBC'

Rhododendron makinoi

Rhododendron occidentale

Now that I finally have shade in the Display Garden, I have planted a world-class – albeit small – collection of Rhododendrons. These came to me via plantsman Reuben Hatch, a long-time friend who I cheekily refer to as "My Grandfather," or from the Rhododendron Species Foundation of Washington state. I should admit that most of my favorites have little or nothing to do with their blossoms; it is the leaves – both tops and bottoms – and the trunks that I admire the most. Add to that their stories, like where they come from, and who discovered and introduced them.

Rhododendron yuefengense

Rhododendron orbiculare 'Exbury'

Two recent Rhododendron additions to the Display Garden are Rhododendron yuefengense and Rhododendron kesangiae var. album. All photos above are from the Species Foundation, as my plants are still quite small. Plant explorer and Rhododendron discoverer Kenneth Cox states, "More than 50 new species of Rhododendron have been introduced from the wild since 1981 and some are significant garden plants, worthy of widespread cultivation. Furthermore, I am convinced that we have not found them all yet." Rhododendron yuefengense is one such introduction, and features rounded glossy-green leaves and pinkish-white bell-shaped flowers (in early June). Its foliage reminds me of Rhododendron orbiculare, but the flowers are more white than the latter.

Rhododendron kesangiae

Rhododendron kesangiae

Abies forest in Bhutan

Taxus species from Bhutan

Rhododendron kesangiae is a lofty tree-like species with large glossy-green leaves. A beautiful specimen resides just outside the entrance to the Species Garden, and I suspect there are more planted inside. Flowers can be pink-purple to white, and I have the white form, var. album. The species, from Bhutan, was named in honor of Kesang, the Queen Mother of Bhutan, and the suffix iae denotes a female as name recipient in botanical nomenclature. I ran into her husband, almost literally, on a 1990 trip to Bhutan, when I was displaced on an expedition by "lost" (lost = stolen) luggage in Bangkok, Thailand. I finally arrived in Paro, Bhutan, and went from there to Thimphu the capital. I was in a jeep-like vehicle that speedily rounded a dirt-road corner and...suddenly slammed to a halt just inches from crashing into his Supreme Holiness. The jeep driver and my "guide" instantly bowed deeply into their crotches while I dumbly stared directly at the Thunder Dragon King, and we briefly made eye contact. He was approximately my age, and indeed he presented a rather royal visage, but I didn't immediately realize that I was so close to an Asian king. Later, my Bhutanese ushers ferried me to the eastern portion of the realm, on a precarious road filled with boulders and wash-outs, and in one instance we all got out of our vehicle to remove the obstructional rocks. A day later we came to a ten-vehicle traffic jam on this single-track to eastern Bhutan – on the National Highway. It turned out that the King was simultaneously inspecting his eastern possessions, and had stopped for lunch. His entourage prepared a pleasant lunch along the pot-holed road, and decorated the site with an enclosure of fir boughs and tents for royal dining. I got out of my vehicle and decided to roam the hillside to botanize, but first I made sure that the armed royal bodyguards noticed my camera and would have no reason to suspect me of anything malicious. Up on the hillside, barely hidden from armored view, I relieved myself...and reflected that I was pissing in the vicinity of Holiness, and that, furthermore, I was possibly also pissing on a plant species that was new to science. Immediately after I zipped up, I turned to find a most colorful trunk, that of a Taxus species, but one that I've never been able to positively identify. Anyway, Rhododendron kesangiae brings back memories of my time in the Thunder Dragon Kingdom, and my only regret was that I was largely ignorant of the Bhutanese flora at the time.

Picea abies 'Pusch'

Picea abies 'Pusch'

Picea abies 'Acrocona'

At the western side of the Display Garden – in section DG12 – I have a peninsula planting of 'Pusch', a dwarf Picea abies cultivar. It is sometimes known as 'Acrocona Pusch' because it originated as a witch's broom mutation on Picea abies 'Acrocona', a slow-growing "Norway Spruce" cultivar known to cone heavily. 'Pusch' cones heavily as well, and the tiny purple-red orbs reside erectly above the green foliage in spring. By summer the ornamental cones evolve to a russet-brown color and droop downwards, where they remain for the rest of the season. My original planting included seventeen trees, but since they were beginning to grow into each other, the 'Pusch' came to shovel this past winter, and now only seven trees remain. The compact low-spreading cultivar was discovered in Germany in the 1970's by...Mr. Pusch.

Sciadopitys verticillata 'Picola'

Sciadopitys verticillata

Sciadopitys verticillata

Another attractive conifer is Sciadopitys verticillata 'Picola', a dwarf with a rounded form for its first seven to eight years, but then eventually assumes a leader. 'Picola' was originally selected as a seedling at Böhlje Nursery of Westerstede, Germany, but my start came from Holland about fifteen years ago. To date my oldest specimen has never coned, but I assume that eventually it will. We used to propagate by grafting, but currently we produce 'Picola' by winter cuttings, and we have decent success at that. The genus name Sciadopitys is derived from Greek skias or skiados, meaning an "umbrella" or "parasol," and pitys, meaning a "fir" or "pine." It was introduced into Europe from its native Japan by Thomas Lobb, brother of poor William Lobb, in 1853. Yes, the enterprising Veitch Nursery had a history of sending explorers around the world in search of new plants. I can recommend an excellent biography of the Veitch family, Seeds of Fortune, by Sue Shepard, published in 2003. For over one hundred years, and across five generations, the family – originally from Scotland – was among the most advanced and successful growers and hybridizers in Europe. Their demise came as a result of World War I, but I wonder if there are any descendants in horticulture today, and if so I would like to meet them. The Veitch name is Scottish (Norman), and is a variant of Vacher, or "cowherd," derived from Latin vacca for "cow."

The original Acer palmatum 'Purple Ghost'

The original Acer palmatum 'Dr. Seuss'

Acer palmatum 'Dr. Seuss'

The original Acer palmatum 'Spring Delight'

Acer palmatum 'Spring Delight'

Acer palmatum 'Spring Delight'

Acer shirasawanum 'Sensai'

The original Acer shirasawanum 'Shogun'

The original Acer japonicum 'Ao jutan'

Acer japonicum 'Ao jutan'

There are dozens of Japanese maples in the Display Garden, and I suppose at some point in the future one could canopy-hop from tree to tree without ever touching the ground. There exists around fifty individual specimens, including the original Acer palmatums 'Purple Ghost', 'Dr. Seuss' and 'Spring Delight', shirasawanums 'Sensai' and 'Shogun' and japonicum 'Ao jutan'.

Original Display Garden with 'Tsuma gaki' on the right

Acer palmatum 'Tsuma gaki'

In addition to these "originals" is a fantastic specimen of Acer palmatum 'Tsuma gaki'. It is one of my most favorite of all Japanese maple cultivars, and I easily sold all I had in the early days when my scionwood was limited. Now, when I could potentially graft thousands, the market has waned. I don't understand how such a unique and lovely cultivar can fall from favor, but I have adjusted my production to the times.

Acer palmatum 'Amagi shigure'

Fifteen steps from the original 'Purple Ghost' is Acer palmatum 'Amagi shigure'. I saw the latter for the first time in spring in Japan about ten years ago. From a distance I first assumed it to be 'Purple Ghost', but how in the world did 'Purple Ghost' get to Japan, as it certainly was not sent by me? Now that I grow both cultivars I can see how they differ, with 'Amagi shigure' being the more bright purple (with black veins), and the 'Purple Ghost' being more dark purple (and also with black veins). 'Purple Ghost' is the stronger grower of the two, but I have to admit that I would choose 'Amagi shigure' over my introduction if I could only have one in my garden.

Acer palmatum 'Baby Lace'

Acer palmatum 'Baby Lace'

Apparently I have the largest Acer palmatum 'Baby Lace' in the world, at least according to the discoverer Rick Rey who visited my garden about ten years ago. He first noticed it as a witch's broom mutation on a red laceleaf at his East Coast bank. Rick harvested scions, and a good thing he did because the broom eventually died out, and later it was introduced by Raraflora Nursery in Pennsylvania. The photo above shows my specimen at a younger age, and it attained its superior size because I grafted it onto a vigorous six-year-old rootstock. That is one of my tricks to rapidly increase scionwood on new and dwarf maples, by grafting them atop an older rootstock.


Acer buergerianum 'Wako nishiki' in May

Acer buergerianum 'Wako nishiki' in summer

Acer buergerianum 'Miyasama yatsubusa'

I also have a couple of "Trident Maples" in the Display Garden, Acer buergerianums 'Wako nishiki' and 'Miyasama yatsubusa'. The 'Wako' is an amazing cultivar which can begin in spring with pure-white leaves with green veins. Sometime in May the white leaves evolve to a speckled white and green, then eventually to mostly green by summer. Changing to a green color ensures that 'Wako nishiki' can survive the hot summer, but for every year that the tree is established in the garden, less burning occurs anyway. The 'Miyasama yatsubusa' in the photo above is about eight feet tall at twenty five years of age. We produce the cultivar by rooted cuttings and by grafting, with neither method being highly successful.

Well, there you have a little tour along the winding paths of the Display Garden. I am sure that at some point in the future we'll be returning. I enjoy this place, and especially so when all employees are gone, and only my wife and I are alone on the paths in the evening. Then, I reflect on the circuitous routes that led us to each other.