Monday, March 9, 2020

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Camellia 'Night Rider'

After chilly mornings this past week the freezing fog eventually lifts and we reduce our garb to T-shirts by lunchtime. Maples are pushing in the greenhouses, the Camellias are in full flower and the Edgeworthias are at their most lustful in odour. I know that many in the F.W. Blog readership are still in a frigid condition and you probably wince at my cheerful outlook, but as I enter my 40th year of nursery ownership I at least find a lot of Good to go along with the Bad and the Ugly.

Corydalis 'Blue Panda'

Corydalis 'Porcelain Blue'

Definitely Good is a new perennial that we bought starts of a year ago – Corydalis flexuosa 'Porcelain Blue' which was bred by Hillier Nurseries, the English institution that I always blog about. While many Corydalis selections are summer dormant, such as 'Blue Panda' which my friend (R. Hatch) filched from the Panda Reserve in Sichuan China, 'Porcelain Blue' flowers from early spring until autumn. We had a group of 200 in 1 gal containers in the greenhouse that never went dormant at all, and every time we cut them back they quickly resprouted and flowered soon thereafter. The 'Blue Panda' friend was quick to dismiss the idea that there existed an improved Corydalis until I led him into the greenhouse and he became stupefied with the thousands of cobalt-blue blossoms. Unfortunately, the selection is protected so we are not allowed to propagate ourselves; but anyway I predict that it will soon become commonly offered in garden centers that buy from other wholesale growers specializing in perennials. At that point I will discontinue with growing 'Porcelain Blue' except for the five plants I placed around my house. That's pretty much the story of my career: grow new plants, keep and enjoy a few, then eventually move on to more new stuff again...on-and-on until my life no longer proceeds...on and..

Corydalis 'Porcelain Blue'

I hope that Hillier makes a ton of money with their 'Porcelain Blue,' but with their patent, growers – since I am one – are required to call it Corydalis Hillier TM 'Porcelain Blue'. Though it was "bred" by Hillier Nurseries, I wonder if the specific epithet flexuosa is entirely accurate, or if perhaps another species is also involved. After all, out of 470 species in the world, there are at least 357 native to China. The genus name is from Greek korydalis meaning "crested lark" and it is a member of the poppy (Papaveraceae) family.

Pleione 'Riah Shan'

Another Good is our Pleione crop which is receiving great customer support. One reason is that we don't offer solo bulbs or newly potted bulbs that might produce a single blossom, unless before that a retail customer spills it out onto the ground and then just walks away. Our fairly-priced product is kept here for an additional year to become well-anchored and is truly retail-ready. We have 43 cultivars now and we're working to get them all into greater production. P. 'Riah Shan' has been blooming for two weeks already. The flower color is intense, and I consider it an attribute that the blossoms are so tiny. What a sweetheart!

Pleione x confusa 'Golden Gate'

Caerhays Castle
Pleione x confusa 'Golden Gate' is a reliable and delicious-looking yellow orchid with a red throat. It was originally collected by George Forrest in SW Yunnan, China and sent to J.C. Williams of Caerhay's Castle in 1924. It was at first considered to be P. forrestii but now is known to be a naturally occurring hybrid between P. forrestii and P. albiflora. I've had the straight P. forrestii a couple of times but would lose it after a year or two, but fortunately 'Golden Gate' is a doer and is just as beautiful as its P. forrestii parent. We would love to add to our Pleione collection but the USA authorities have clamped down on their importation, so unless we breed our own we'll probably be stuck at our 43 cultivars.

Pieris japonica 'Katsura'

Pieris japonica 'Katsura'

Katsura River

Arashiyama maple mountain

I planted five Pieris japonica 'Katsura' along the long road to my home and they are flowering freely now with their pinkish-red chains of bells. Other Pieris japonica cultivars are similar in blossom color such as 'Shojo', but the best feature of 'Katsura' is the wine-red new growth that follows the flowers. I don't know who named it 'Katsura' when the common name of the Cercidiphyllum genus is "Katsura" and of course there's the Japanese maple selection Acer palmatum 'Katsura'. According to Japanese Maples by Vertrees/Gregory the maple's name translates to "wig." My wife says B.S. to that. "Katsura" can mean "wig," depending on certain characters, but what sense would that make? More likely katsura refers to an old Chinese story or poem where the pattern of a tree could be seen on the moon, and that led the Japanese to use it for a place name – for example the Katsura Imperial Villa on the banks of  the Katsura River in Kyoto, Japan. Yes, there's a lot of maples there. Of course: there exists another Katsura in Chiba Prefecture near Tokyo. By the way, there's an Obama city in Fukui Prefecture, and according to Haruko obama translates to (more) "B.S."

Narcissus at Flora Farm

A few weeks ago my Wife called me at work to tell me how wonderful I am. I was busy, and grew a little annoyed since I suspected that she was going to ask a favor...but then she brought up the fact that the dwarf daffodils were in flower, and she knows I planted them near our house so she could see them every day. H is right – not because I'm wonderful – but that I do place certain plants along our long roads or near the house so she can savor them. After 18 years of marriage I know her well and what delights her, and really I have no greater enjoyment than to make her happy.

Narcissus species

By the 1500's the English referred to the daffodil as asphodel, and that from Latin asphodelus, and earlier from Greek asphodelos. In the Netherlands, famous for their bulbs, they originally called the daffodil de affodil. Narcissus is the botanic name of course and it was formally coined by Linnaeus in his Species Plantarum of 1753. No one knows exactly the origin of the word narcissus, but it is linked to a Greek word for "intoxicated" – hence narcotic – and you all know the boy of that name who fell in love with his own reflection. The genus Narcissus was well known to the ancient Greeks, and Theophrastus described a species thought to be N. poeticus. They were interested in the plant's medicinal value, unlike Haruko who just thinks of them as early-year-loveliness, and I consider them as good cheap fun as well. For what it's worth, the daffodil is the national flower of Wales.

Magnolia 'Caerhays Belle'

Magnolia 'Caerhays Belle'

On a scale more grand than the puny daffodils is a good-sized Magnolia 'Caerhays Belle' with its hundreds of dinner-plate-sized flowers. Not only is it precocious (flowers appearing before the leaves) but its blooms are among the most early of all Magnolias. That's great excitement for the late winter garden...unless you receive a frost, and one is predicted for this weekend. 'Caerhays Belle' was a cross made by Charles Michael, the head gardener of Caerhays Castle in Cornwall in 1951. He had to wait 14 years before he saw his first blossom, but grafted plants will usually flower in about five years. The hybrid's parents were M. sargentiana var. robusta x M. sprengeri var. sprengeri 'Diva'.

Magnolia 'Genie'

A crop of Magnolia 'Genie' is also blooming now, but then they are in containers in the warm greenhouse. My specimen planted outside will also continue to flower throughout the summer, but just a blossom or two at a time. The slightly-fragrant tulip-shaped flowers begin almost black in color, then open to a rich maroon-purple color and are about 6" across. Best of all is that a light frost doesn't seem to bother the blossoms. 'Genie' was bred in New Zealand and is a M. soulangeana x M. liliiflora cross. The latter species is horrible as a nursery plant due to its disorderly branching, nevertheless it can contribute excellent blood to hybrids.

Rhododendron lanigerum

Rhododendron lanigerum

Rhododendron lanigerum

Another Good  find today (March 6) is Rhododendron lanigerum in bloom in the Display Garden. My start came as scions from R. Hatch – the 'Blue Panda' guy – about 12 years ago. More information can be had about the species from the Rhododendron Species Botanic Garden's website. Director Steve Hootman mentions "the amazing-looking large buds" and that "the fuzzy overlapping scales of the buds give the appearance of some strange small pineapple..." Steve continues, "This species is known only from Pemako in SE Tibet and adjacent NE India where it occurs in forests from 8,500 to 11,000 ft." Well, the tree has proven winter hardy in my garden, but in a couple of years I've had the pineapple buds damaged in a February deep freeze. My single specimen flowers pink, but Hootman says it can vary from "pink to red or crimson," and I'm happy to know that because my website images also indicate various colors, with some photos coming from others' gardens.

Rhododendron sherriffii

Rhododendron sherriffii

George Sherriff

Rhododendron sherriffii is also beginning to bloom, and its color is a deep blood-red. My oldest specimen is only 3' tall and wide at 12 years, and as with R. lanigerum, it is grafted onto hardy hybrid rootstock. The species name honors George Sherriff (1898-1967), a British plant explorer in India, Tibet and Bhutan in the 1930's and 1940's, and he received the Victoria Medal of Honor in 1953.

Chaenomeles cathayensis

Chaenomeles superba 'Crimson & Gold'

Neighbor's quince

Chaenomeles (pronounced kee-nom-uh-leez) is a thorny deciduous Asian shrub in the Rosaceae family. The genus name is from Greek chainein meaning "to split" and melea meaning "apple," due to the fruit displaying indented quadrants, however slight the indents are. Besides two stolen pines (more about that later) the only ornamental in my neighbor's scrappy yard is a Chaenomeles, a "quince." Possibly they stole it, or perhaps it spontaneously originated there, but anyway it is pleasant to see all orange-red flowers with no leaves yet. I have grown and sold a few cultivars, but no more for the past 6 or 7 years. That pleases the propagation department (i.e. Juana) because no one wants to work with thorns. It would seem appropriate to find the quince make an appearance in the Christian bible, for example, perhaps as a pillow for Job or as a metaphor for the slammed gates of hell. It is certainly a nasty, brawling bush, best seen from a distance. The odd word quince is from Middle English quynce, but more originally from Greek kydonion. Using plenty of sugar, my grandmother's quince jam tasted pretty Good.

New maple grafts

The final "Good" that I'll mention in The Good, The Bad and The Ugly is the fact that the maple grafts from last summer are beginning  to leaf out, and so far it looks positive and hopefully we can continue to stay in business. Obviously I am insecure and every year I have been, especially when I deal with the whims of nature, the uncertainty with employees and the anti-small business, more regulations and taxes that is snowballing in Oregon. Nothing is a "given" or "guaranteed," but at least the market for our product remains in demand. Still I worry; for example: if someone contracts the Coronavirus, that person won't be going to their local garden store to buy my maples. You can't eat dwarf conifers, so who really needs them? Isn't it interesting that Americans have gone into "panic shopping," and the first item to clear the shelves, at least in Oregon, was toilet paper, but I guess you would need a roll of that more than a Corydalis or a Magnolia.

Pinus parviflora 'Goldilocks'

Stolen pine

My criminal neighbor planted two Pinus parviflora 'Goldilocks' near my mailbox along Vandehey road. No, he didn't cash his welfare check and then head to a retail garden center for the pines because no one locally offers 'Goldilocks'; rather he walked over to my container yard at night and took two of mine. I consider it two middle fingers for old Buchholz, for the obvious message is "Yeah, I can take whatever I want and there's nothing you can do about it." Heck, it was probably my "lost" shovel that he used to plant the trees. Our unneighborly adjacents have been stealing from me for years, so we've tightened our security, well, except for  the plants. You can't easily lock them up. What's funny is that a portion of the foliage is the green Pinus strobus rootstock that we keep with the variegated scion for the first five years. The knucklehead has no clue that the rootstock will dominate and he'll eventually have two large green trees in his yard. Earlier in my life there would have been a fight but now I just take it in stride. If all that goes missing each year is a couple of $25 pines I'll consider myself lucky. It's bad, but not sooo Bad

What's Ugly is the rusty eye-sore trailer that the Bad people live in.

The good neighbor's sign

Another neighbor, a Good man, a husband and father and a mechanic by trade, attempts to ward off the criminal malfeasants with the above posting.

I suppose that's enough of the Bad and the Ugly because you don't really need to know about my problems. "Spring" will be officially upon us in two weeks, and I am already blessed with this floral preview.

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