Friday, June 5, 2020

Plants Named for People



Rhododendron 'Taurus'

Rhododendron 'Taurus'

Rhododendron 'Taurus'


While I have worked with trees since I was about five years old, I formally entered the nursery profession in the early 1970s when I landed a job at a large wholesale nursery (since gone bankrupt). The company produced easy to propagate and easy to grow plants – relatively easy that is – and they probably maintained at least 80 acres of Rhododendrons alone. There were a dozen or so varieties, but thousands of each. I then made my acquaintance with R. 'Jean Marie de Montague' and I'm sure I personally dug four or five thousand of them myself. It wasn't my favorite cultivar because the branches were horizontally stiff and breakable and difficult to tie up to dig. If you look up 'Jean Marie de Montague' in the Hillier Manual of Trees and Shrubs (2014) you won't find it; you must look instead for 'The Honourable Jean Marie de Montague' and good luck cramming that long name on a label. I was young and dumb (horticulturally) back then, but I remember being amused by the pompous name, and even that a plant could be named for a royal person in the first place. I don't have a 'Jean Marie de Montague' on the property, but it is one parent of the fantastic hybrid R. x 'Taurus' which was bred by an old mentor, the late Dr. Frank Mossman.























Rhododendron 'Marchioness of Lansdowne'


Maud Evelyn Petty-Fitzmaurice
For you royalty aficionados a marchioness is the wife of a marquess,* and Maud Evelyn Petty-Fitzmaurice became one when she wed Henry Charles Keith Petty-Fitzmaurice, the 5th Marquess of Lansdowne at Westminster Abbey in 1869. She was Vicereine of India from 1888-1894 while her husband was Viceroy. A true courtier, she was Lady of the Bedchamber to Queen Alexandra from 1905-1909, then was an Extra Lady from 1910-1925. For charitable services she was appointed Dame Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire (GBE) in the 1920's. While Jean Marie de Montague was “Honourable,” The Marchioness of Lansdowne was considered “The Most Honourable.” You can see that she was a very attractive woman, my type for sure, and I think I could have measured up to her standards as I am “The President”...hmm, of Buchholz Nursery. I have an old, large specimen of Rhododendron x 'Marchioness of Lansdowne' in the Display Garden, and in fact it is blooming now. I admit that I can't be certain which marchioness received the rhododendron's name, as the Bowood Estate was laid out by the 3rd Marquess of Lansdowne in the 1850s, and today the area has expanded to 60 acres of rhododendrons, camellias and azaleas that surround the family mausoleum. Any help from Britain?

*A marquess is a British nobleman ranking below a duke and above an earl.

Rhododendron kesangiae var. album

Rhododendron kesangiae


Kesang Choden
I have a Rhododendron kesangiae (known in Bhutan as “Tala”) in the garden, and it will eventually grow to a large size. Normally the species flowers a rose-pink color that deepens to purple, but I have the var. album form. I don't know what that means though. Was it one plant that was noticed as flowering white, and seedlings from it also flower white, or is there somewhere in its Bhutan range where they all bloom white? The iae suffix to kesangiae's specific name is a nomenclatural give-away that it honors a woman, and in this case it honors the Royal Grandmother of Bhutan, Ashi Kesang Choden Wangchuck, the only queen grandmother in the world since all of the other old royal hags have passed on.

Abies koreana 'Silberlocke'

Abies koreana 'Silberlocke'


Abies koreana 'Silberlocke'
I have been to the Horstmann Nursery in Schneverdingen, Germany twice, but I'm not certain if it's still operational. And sadly the great plantsman G√ľnter Horstmann had just passed away before my first visit (and he didn't appear the second time either) but his son Uwe had taken it over. It was a conifer specialty nursery and a number of wonderful cultivars had their origin there, especially the internationally-known Abies koreana 'Silberlocke', which the family prefers to be known as 'Horstmann's Silberlocke', except the RHS and Buchholz and most others have shortened it to just 'Silberlocke'. In any case it originated as a seedling as many German nurseries use the hardy, adaptable Abies koreana as a rootstock for other Abies cultivars, or as a slow-growing garden specimen itself. The name translates to “silver locks (of hair)” which is self-explanatory when one sees the vivid needles' undersides curled around the stems. I received a start early in my career and I suspect that I had the largest tree in America. I say “had,” because as I mentioned in an earlier blog my crew went loco in la cabeza a year ago when they were instructed to cut the cones off because they were ripe and heavy and were making the branches flop...and oops! – they cut the entire tree down. I discovered it gone a few days later but I didn't say a word because, well, why? Adios.

Abies koreana 'Ice Breaker'

Abies koreana 'Ice Breaker'

Abies koreana 'Ice Breaker'


G. Kohout of (former) East Germany discovered a witch's broom mutation on a 'Silberlocke' about 15 years ago which he named 'Kohout's Ice Breaker', but K's name has largely been dismissed, to his chagrin. Nevertheless it is a spectacular dwarf, dense conifer and it has already gained fame with the RHS and received the prestigious Award of Garden Merit. Near the office I planted a group of seven on a mound fairly close to each other, knowing full well that they would soon grow into one, and thus I would then have the largest 'Ice Breaker' in the world. Fortunately none have ever coned or...yikes!

Daphne x 'Lawrence Crocker'


Apollo and Daphne
We used to propagate and sell Daphne x susannae (D. arbuscula x D. collina) 'Lawrence Crocker' although it is sometimes listed as x medfordensis. The authenticity of the latter name is questionable. In any case it is a garden show off with deep pink, very fragrant blossoms on an evergreen, with a dense, rounded form. The best part about Crocker's cracker of a plant is that it apparently arose spontaneously, for the legendary plantsman was a co-founder of the Siskiyou Rare Plant Nursery near Medford, Oregon and I have a number of alpines in my garden from the well-known source. I don't know if Cracker, err Crocker named it for himself but I hope not. Of course the genus name Daphne was named for a female in Greek mythology, for she was a naiad, a variety of nymph associated with wells, springs and streams. She implored her father to transform her into a laurel to escape the amorous Apollo. We have discontinued with all Daphne production because my female crew tended to overwater, and I just couldn't get through to them that they were constantly dying because of it. So I find it ironic that Daphne (from Greek daefni) is associated with bodies of fresh water.

Acer palmatum 'Peve Chameleon'

Acer palmatum 'Peve Dave'

Acer palmatum 'Peve Lombo'

Acer palmatum 'Peve Multicolor'

Acer palmatum 'Peve Ollie'

Acer palmatum 'Peve Stanley'

Acer palmatum 'Peve Starfish'

Acer palmatum 'Peve Starfish'


Piet Vergeldt of The Netherlands operates one of the best nurseries in Europe, with sons who are not pampered at all. I have visited three times I think, and though there's plenty to see I tend to hurry through as I sense that they are anxious to get back to work. The company has introduced quite a few fantastic plants, with cultivar names that begin with “Peve,” short for Piet Vergeldt. They grow the types of plants that I prefer – dogwoods, magnolias, conifers and maples, and for the latter we have received starts of A. palmatums 'Peve Chameleon', 'Peve Dave', 'Peve Lombo', 'Peve Multicolor', 'Peve Ollie', 'Peve Stanley' and my favorite, 'Peve Starfish'. In fact, 'Peve Starfish' is the maple, out of hundreds of cultivars, that I currently produce in the greatest number.

Taxodium distichum 'Peve Minaret'

Taxodium distichum 'Peve Minaret'


I acquired Taxodium distichum 'Peve Minaret' almost 20 years ago and was one of the first nurseries in America to offer it. On my website I described it as “A deciduous conifer with a compact, pyramidal form...” That description was based on a row that Vergeldt had planted next to his greenhouse, and the photo above shows my wife Haruko standing among them. It turns out that they appear compact because Vergeldt regularly harvested scionwood. My oldest specimen is 30' tall now and I never would have planted it where I did if I had only known, but since it's not so rare anymore there might come a day when I'll turn it into firewood. I first saw 'Peve Minaret' while on a Conifer Society tour, and I snapped a few photos before everyone in the bus hovered around it. It was in the afternoon on about day six and five wives stayed on the bus – by that point they had their fill of plants and only accompanied their husbands to Holland to keep them away from the red-light district in Amsterdam I suppose. One woman eventually did get out and she clearly admired the 'Peve Minaret', so she went back to the bus to call the others out. Soon enough there were five women, all stroking its foliage. I reasoned that if five tired ladies who weren't really into conifers fell in love with it, then I should grow it too.

Magnolia stellata 'Jane Platt'

Magnolia stellata 'Jane Platt'

Jane Platt's garden


I grew Magnolia stellata 'Jane Platt' for quite a few years, then something convinced me that it should be classified as M. kobus var. stellata so I changed all the labels. I should have consulted my Hilliers Manual first because it's listed there as stellata with kobus a separate species. Anyway it is one of my favorite of all small trees. It was acquired by Mrs. Platt of Portland, Oregon as M. stellata 'Rosea', but Magnolia expert Roger Gossler of Oregon was convinced that it was superior to the typical 'Rosea' that he was familiar with. He obtained cuttings, and after growing it for a few years as 'Rosea' he asked Mrs. Platt what she would rather it be named. In the Gossler Guide to the Best Hardy Shrubs he relates: “Very uncharacteristically, she said, 'How about Jane Platt?' We named it just that, and dedicated our catalog to her that fall. She never said anything to us, but we heard she was thrilled. When 'Jane Platt' was exhibited [the plant, that is] at the Royal Horticultural Society, it received an Award of Merit, a thrill to Mrs. Platt and our family.” I have visited the late Jane Platt's garden a few times, and some of my plants have been added to her palette. She truly was an elegant woman with an artistic sense of plant placement and combinations. She had money to facilitate her passion, but money does not guarantee good taste.






















Platycladus orientalis 'Franky Boy'


I first saw Platycladus orientalis 'Franky Boy' at the nursery of Nelis Kools in Deurne, The Netherlands, and I expressed admiration and asked about it. Dead-pan Nelis responded, “Well, it is a Thuja.” That was probably 20 years ago, but just two years later I had it in production, and today we root a few thousand per year and also top graft standards on Platycladus orientalis rootstocks. According to Promising Conifers “'Franky Boy' was selected out of 3,000 seedlings of Platycladus orientalis 'Elegantissima' by Tree Nursery Frank from Heiligen Eiche, Austria in ± 1990-1992. They introduced it in 1999.” 'Franky Boy's' foliage color changes throughout the season: gold in spring, yellowish-green in summer and a bronze-orange in winter. I dug and potted my original tree to sell, and it is about 7' tall at 18 years of age.

Tsuga mertensiana 'Elizabeth'

Tsuga mertensiana 'Elizabeth'


Tsuga mertensiana is our native “Mountain hemlock” and all seem to be slow-growing, usually with a narrow form for the first 20 years. I have a few 50 year+ specimens in the Blue Forest, the seed being sown by a tree farm in the hills above Silverton, Oregon, and their canopies have broadened now. T. m. 'Elizabeth' is a dwarf with horizontally-spreading branches. A 25-year-old specimen will be about 4' tall by 6' wide, at least in my nursery. 'Elizabeth' can be propagated by rooted cuttings in winter, or by grafting onto seedling mertensiana rootstock. It was discovered in the Mt. Rainier National Park in Washington state in 1940 by Elsie Frye who named it for her daughter, Elizabeth; which of course would be illegal today – not to name it Elizabeth – but to filch it from the forest. When Mrs. Frye “harvested” it she certainly could not have known that her tree was going to remain in a spreading form, for in the wild it's almost always explained by the mountainous environment. And I wonder how old the original tree was when she claimed it?

Aesculus hippocastanum 'Wisselink'

Aesculus hippocastanum 'Wisselink'

Aesculus neglecta 'Erythroblastos'

'Wisselink' left, 'Erythroblastos' right


The first time I encountered Aesculus hippocastanum 'Wisselink' was at the Bellevue Botanic Garden near Seattle, Washington, and their small tree had held up well all summer in full sun, surprising for a selection that is basically white, except with prominent green veins. Remember about 30-40 years ago when a hamburger commercial for “where's the beef?” went pre-internet viral and entered into usage with mainstream politics...basically meaning that the blah blah blah of politik-speak needed to be grounded by something resembling substance. I imagined the same about the “Horse chestnut” 'Wisselink', for one wonders: where's the chlorophyll? The variegated horse chestnut was found by William Wisselink as a chance seedling near the Dutch village of Aalten. Surprisingly the beautiful cultivar is not listed in the Hillier Manual of Trees and Shrubs (2014), nor in Krussmann's Manual of Cultivated Trees and Shrubs (1984), nor in Bean's Trees and Shrubs Hardy in the British Isles (1982), perhaps the three most stalwart of publications for the horticulturist and gardener. A couple of specialty growers in Oregon have mixed up 'Wisselink' with Aesculus neglecta 'Erythroblastos', and since I have a specimen of both in the greenhouse I was able to help them untangle the mix-up. The 'Erythroblastos' displayed a strong red cast to the leaves – for about two weeks – where 'Wisselink' never does, but I admit that in the June greenhouse they can look similar.




























Chamaecyparis lawsoniana 'Phil's Flurries'


Chamaecyparis lawsoniana 'Phil's Flurries' is a selection that will probably never have a solid future in horticulture. It is a variegated Chamaecyparis lawsoniana selection that was first observed as a sport on C. l. 'Green Globe' – a cultivar that often misbehaves. The mutant was set aside by our manager Phil Turrell, an excellent employee who “lasted” at Buchholz Nursery for 18 years, quite an accomplishment. Alas, the colorful cream-white shoots can burn, and the propagator should seek out the foliage that is half green, half white, but even then it can go sideways and turn into a totally green bush, or one with too much vulnerable white, so likely the end result is a horticultural mess that won't make anybody money. Perhaps I should have named the cultivar 'Phil's Flub', but that wouldn't be his fault since plantsmen discover many abnormal growths which we cultivate, and ultimately we win some and we lose some.




























Chamaecyparis nootkatensis 'Laura Aurora'


Chamaecyparis nootkatensis 'Sparkling Arrow' at the New York Botanic Garden


The same could be said for Chamaecyparis (Xanthocyparis) nootkatensis 'Laura Aurora' (named for my 2nd daughter), a variegated form of the “Weeping Alaskan cedar.” Abnormal growth in the Cham/Xantho genus is commonplace, but the issue is whether or not that leads to a stable, unique clone. With the Chamaecyparis genus the odd-balls and freaks usually do not, but when they prevail they can be spectacular. My advice is to never name after a friend or any family member, though I have done so, because you basically waste an honor if it flops. At the beginning I could not have predicted that C. n. 'Sparkling Arrow' would become positively established in horticulture but that C. n. 'Laura Aurora' would not. Again, you win some and you lose some.

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