Thursday, May 28, 2020

Leaves of Gold



Tilia cordata 'Akira's Gold'


Buchholz and Akira Shibamichi
Last November I was in Japan visiting plantsman Akira Shibamichi...finally, after a hiatus of 16 years. He appeared sharp and energetic and remained about the same age as before, while I had gone shiro (white: on the top lettuce). He pointed out this plant here and that plant there, here and there, on and on. One I vaguely remember was a golden lime, Tilia cordata (heart-shaped), but it was mostly bare of leaves at that late date. After I returned home I noticed on MrMaple's website that they featured a Tilia cordata 'Akira's Gold', and I was quite surprised that it was already named and actually in America besides. Really, you should subscribe to MrMaple website's plant notifications, and even if you don't buy anything – a shame if you don't – you can still glean plant information, often accompanied by the origin of the cultivars they peddle. Anyway, the Nichols brothers sent a vigorous, large start of 'Akira's Gold' which has now leafed out in a container in my greenhouse, and I'll be sure to find a place to ground it in the Flora Wonder Arboretum this fall.

Liquidambar styraciflua 'Golden Treasure'

Liquidambar styraciflua 'Gold Beacon'


Another gold-leaved special is for a “Sweet Gum,” Liquidambar styraciflua 'Golden Treasure'. The leaf is mostly colored yellow but a small, important amount of green remains in the leaf center, enough to keep the golden portion from sun scald. Also the starry, maple-like leaf is more exciting with the variegation rather than just being totally, boringly yellow. The genus name is derived from Latin liquidus meaning “liquid” and ambar meaning “amber” due to the sap's color. The gum is commerced for a number of uses, ranging from perfume to chewing gum to folk medicines. In the past we have also grown L.s. 'Gold Beacon' – which it truly is – but still I prefer the 'Golden Treasure' which is more adventuresome.

Acer platanoides 'Princeton Gold'

Acer platanoides 'Princeton Gold'

Acer platanoides 'Princeton Gold'

Acer platanoides 'Princeton Gold'


Last night I was out in the arboretum, just wandering from tree to tree, enjoying the glimmer that the setting sun bestowed upon the wind-dancing leaves. They were brilliantly aflutter, and it was especially the case with Acer platanoides 'Princeton Gold'. I give this selection an A+ rating for being attractive throughout the growing season, and for the fact that the strongly gold-colored leaves do not scorch at all in our fierce (up to 108 degree F) humidless-summer temperature. I remember back to the previous spring when I was impressed with how the golden, emerging leaves were delightfully complemented with attached red petioles. This is a very worthy introduction, but other than my one arboretum specimen I don't propagate or distribute 'P.G.' since it is a patented clone, and what a stupid shame that with that legalese restriction it cannot become more widely available.

Acer buergerianum 'Michael Steinhardt'

Acer buergerianum 'Michael Steinhardt'


Mr. and Mrs. Steinhardt
One can easily grow enamored with Acer buergerianum 'Michael Steinhardt', a golden selection of the “Trident maple,” from a species native to Japan. The plant was introduced by Don Shadow of Tennessee, USA, and the luscious burn-free yellow leaves of spring become somewhat orange by mid-summer. Photo (above) shows that the original discovery will grow with a broadly oval crown, but at the small-to-10' size that we sell, they are somewhat willowy, so perhaps we should prune even more than now. M. Steinhardt, honoree of the cultivar name, is the successful New York City financier who owns a Mt. Kisco arboretum and zoo (Iroki), and his grounds are graced with many of my plants – maples especially – which often include the largest-of-its-kind in the world, and in quite a few cases, the original tree itself. I figure that I can both make money off of Iroki, and also better insure the historical integrity of the special trees themselves...since they are probably more secure at their new, well-endowed Mt. Kisco location than remaining under the tenuous ownership of Buchholz himself.






















Acer longipes 'Gold Coin'


Acer longipes 'Gold Coin' has entered into the FW arboretum thanks to the long-time maple grower from Oregon, Carl Munn. Actually it should be named A. l. subsp. amplum – from Latin ampulus, meaning “numerous,” but nothing in the literature adequately explains what is so “ample”: the flowers ,seed, leaves, or just what? Anyway it is a Chinese endemic that's in the platanoides section and was introduced to cultivation by E. H. Wilson during one of his forays into China in the early 1900's. 'Gold Coin' is a small-to-medium size tree with reddish young new growth that turns to a strong golden yellow, then eventually evolves to green on the older branches. All of that is followed by a clean whitish-yellow in autumn. This special golden selection was introduced by the well-known maple veterans at Esveld Nursery in Boskoop, The Netherlands in the 1980's, and its paucity in the trade is said to be due to the difficulty with propagation, but...but I don't know about any of that from personal experience. The longipes specific epithet refers to the leaf's elongated, pointed lobes.

Acer macrophyllum 'Golden Riddle'


I have a golden specimen of the “Oregon Big-Leaf maple,” Acer macrophyllum 'Golden Riddle'; but if you acquire one give it a lot of space, and probably you should plant it with PM shade as well. I planted one out in full sun about three years ago, and it did burn for its few outdoor years, but often the scorch problem will dissipate with time, but maybe not. You can solve the scorch by planting in shade, and while that will produce just lime-green leaves, they will be quite attractive anyway. The A. macrophyllum species is the largest member of the Sapindaceae family and features leaves up to 24” across. While Native Americans used the maple's wood for canoe paddles, it has also been used in modern times for furniture, firewood, salad bowls and guitar bodies...and if you have plenty of time on your hands you can use it to make maple syrup.




























Acer maximowiczianum 'Metallic Gold'


Carl Maximowicz
I've seen Acer maximowiczianum 'Metallic Gold' only once in my life and that was in a Japanese collection near Tokyo. I liked that the leaves were not completely gold, but rather the green trifoliate foliage had a light blush of gold, and like with the Liquidambar (above), that was more interesting than if it was solid gold. Alas, it was 16 years ago that I saw 'Metallic Gold' and I've dropped hints ever since that I sure would like to acquire it, but have yet to score one. I remember the Japanese specimen was short and not particularly old, but it was bushy with strong, stout stems and it glowed in the pre-evening light. Acer maximowiczianum is the “Nikko maple” and indeed I saw a few huge specimens in Nikko at the University of Tokyo's distant arboretum. A synonym for the species is Acer nikkoense but you'll also find it ranging into China too. The specific epithet honors Carl Johann Maximowicz (1827-1891) who discovered it in Japan in the 1860's. Unfortunately botanists got carried away, quite ridiculous actually, for there also exists an Acer maximowiczii, a snakebark with simple leaves and striped bark – very different than A. maximowiczianum. The maximowiczii is native to China only, and some botanists now consider it as a subspecies of Acer pectinatum, and some insist that pectinatum consists of four additional subspecies. I've learned to steer clear of contending botanists with their nomenclatural obsessions, and I tend to classify the species differently, as in: can I make money off of them? Also, if not grown from seed, what rootstock does one choose to graft them upon?

Cercis canadensis 'Hearts of Gold'


There are a number of Cercis canadensis (“Redbud”) cultivars with leaves of gold. 'Hearts of Gold' is a worthy selection and can be grown in full sun. The dubious California Monrovia Nursery Company claims that it is “The first known gold-foliage Cercis!” Apparently the “craftsmen” – their name for their employees – had never heard of 'Aurea' which was selected much earlier. 'Hearts of Gold' was discovered in a private garden in Greensboro, North Carolina in 2002, and was first produced at Hidden Hollow Nursery in a...”hidden area” outside of Belvidere, Tennessee. The Neubauers of Hidden Hollow grow shade trees – I visited about six years ago – and their quality product means I don't have to mess around with patent issues, and wholesale growers like myself can buy a well-sized tree at an affordable price.

Cercis canadensis 'Hearts of Gold'


I think that the beautiful golden foliage of 'Hearts of Gold' would be incentive enough to place it in the garden, but the grower is also rewarded with lavender-purple flowers – individually small but impressive en masse – which occur before the golden leaves emerge...a spectacular double delight. Cercis canadensis is the state tree of Oklahoma and it is native from Ontario, Canada all the way down to northern Florida and even into Mexico. And, if you're so inclined, the flowers can be eaten both fresh or fried, as native Americans did. They [the Natives] were probably just hungry, but later research indicates that the flower extract contains anthocyanins, the green developing seeds contain proanthocyanidin and that linolenic, alpha-linolenic, oleic and palmitic acids are present in seeds. I'm too cautious to try any of that, so I just enjoy the Cercis genus for its flowers and foliage.

Choisya ternata 'Gold Fingers'

Catt's Cat


I visited the fascinating English plantsman, Peter Catt, sixteen years ago at his nursery in southern England. He produced Japanese maples and had even visited my nursery once. He is perhaps best known for his introduction of the “Mexican orange,” Choisya ternata 'Lich' – for his Liss Forest Nursery – which is brilliantly marketed as 'Sundance'. The orange's foliage ranges in color from chartreuse to golden yellow, on a manageable bush, and also a gift to the gardener are clusters of sweetly fragrant white flowers. Some growers insist that, when crushed, the flowers emit the distinctive smell of basil. I should confess that I've never grown Catt's 'Sundance' as I'm not really into that type of “Mediterranean” shrubbery, but I did fall for its relative 'Goldfingers' because I liked the skinny lobes, for I have always been a fan of the skinny. His discovery/selection is patented, and we both carefully danced around that issue – I being against the practice in general, but he revealed that the royalties actually brought him more income than did his other plant sales...so I have to admit to being somewhat jealous. Wife Haruko was with me at the time, and actually pregnant with daughter Harumi, but neither of us knew about it at the time. Peter treated us to lunch at a nearby pub, and Haruko recalls that the energetic old white-haired Englishman zipped through the narrow streets in his sporty car way-too-fast and also on the wrong side of the road. Poor Haruko had to endure the wild speed with her babe-in-the-oven, and I was somewhat unnerved as well. My most fond memory of Peter Catt – and by the way, shouldn't there be a nursery rhyme? – was that he was accompanied by his pet cat – Catt's cat – as we walked through the nursery, and when the orange feline plopped upon some containers of Hakonechloa, smashing the blades, he didn't scold or chase away the critter at all, instead he smiled at her with a somewhat bittersweet look. I found out later that Peter's wife had recently passed away.

Rubus spectabilis 'Golden Ruby'

Rubus spectabilis 'Golden Ruby'

Rubus spectabilis 'Golden Ruby'


Rubus spectabilis is a deciduous shrub native to the west coast of North America. In the Rosaceae family, the edible fruits ripen to an orange-pink color which explains its common name of “Salmonberry,” but if not harvested they will eventually evolve to a red color. Rubus is derived from ruber, a Latin word for “red” while the specific epithet spectabilis means “spectacular,” although I can't discern anything particularly spectacular about the weedy bramble at all. I have planted a golden form, 'Golden Ruby', down by my southern creek where it is perfectly at home in the shade of alder trees. “Ruby” in the name describes the flower color, which contrasts effectively agains the golden leaves, but again I wouldn't describe any of it as “spectacular.” The fruit appears like a raspberry, but most find the taste insipid, but nevertheless when you are in the woods they are free. It has escaped cultivation and can now be found growing wild in England and Ireland, and what do you know, the fruit has been used to flavor vodka – a combination which seems absolutely horrible to me.

Symphytum x uplandicum 'Axminster Gold'

Symphytum x uplandicum 'Axminster Gold'


I was gifted a Symphytum x uplandicum 'Axminster Gold' but the cultivar is not a plant I would have ever purchased myself. I described the comfrey early-on for my website as a “Dramatic perennial with large hairy leaves. Green foliage is variegated with gold patches, about half-and-half. Cannot be overlooked in the garden.” Well, with that description I forced myself into enthusiasm, but after a couple of years all the leaves reverted to totally green. I keep it in the garden anyway, planted next to my boring garage, but last week I did go out with camera to document the demure light-blue flowers. Symphytum is a genus in the borage fmaily, Boraginaceae, and x uplandicum (S. asperum x S. officinale) is a Russian comfrey, a healing herb, a “bruisewort,” “blackword” or “wallwort,” and in folk medicine the comfrey is known as “knitbone” and “boneset.” The Latin name Symphytum is derived from Greek symphis meaning “growing together of the bones,” and phyton for “a plant.” Axminster is a town in Devon, England, which was built on a hill overlooking the River Axe which heads to the English Channel at Axmouth. To me, far more interesting than the damn comfrey, is that Axminster dates back to the Celtic time of around 300 BC, and that there was a Roman fort just south of the present town. It was recorded as Ascanmynster in the 9th century and the name means “monastery or large church by the River Axe.”
Fraxinus excelsior 'Aurea Pendula'


Golden-leaved plants may contain Gold in the cultivar name, but often too the Latin designation is Aurea, or Aureum. Along a canal at Arboretum Trompenburg in Rotterdam is an imposing specimen of Fraxinus excelsior 'Aurea Pendula'. The species is the “common ash” of Britain, and from Europe to the Caucasus, but one that I have never grown. I remember spotting 'Aurea Pendula' from a distance in the foggy gloom, and with every step that took me closer I became more and more uncertain about what I was seeing. Fortunately it was firmly labeled, otherwise I might not have guessed it to be an ash. In the Hillier Manual it is described as “A small tree of rather weak constitution...” but the Trompenburg tree looked solid to me. Fraxinus is in the Oleaceae family along with about 700 other members such as lilacs, olives, forsythia and privet. The generic name originated in Latin from a Proto-Indo-European root for “birch,” which also was used to mean “spear.” The city of Fresno in California is one of the worst hell-holes in America, but it was named for its abundance of white ash trees (Spanish: fresno) along the banks of the San Joaquin River. For what it's worth, the Fresno Municipal Landfill was the first modern landfill in America. It was closed in 1987 because it became too full of the overwhelmingly abundant garbage.

Fagus sylvatica 'Aurea Pendula' in the Display Garden


The last tree that I'll discuss is Fagus sylvatica 'Aurea Pendula', probably my favorite tree in the May garden. My largest specimen happily thrives down by the southern creek where it receives shade from the wooded hillside. It is nearly 40' tall, my start coming at the beginning of my career from the late Howard Hughes – no, not the movie mogul! – a plantsman from Washington state. If a tree could have a “human” form, a woman's body easily can be imagined with the 'Aurea Pendula' in the original Display Garden. It is not as old as the creekside tree but it has a very lovely shape. On one spring evening, walking out into the garden just before dark, I detected some movement. 'Aurea Pendula' had hurried back to her place and stood in the first position until I passed. I hid behind a pine and waited, and sure enough she resumed her dance throughout the garden. What a prima ballerina!, cavorting with all of the other trees which stood mesmerized by her graceful movement.


Creekside specimen of Fagus sylvatica 'Aurea Pendula'

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