The month of July was named in honor of Julius Caesar (upon his death). The year's 7th month finally gets serious with heat and the nursery crew grows weary with the physical work and the constant need to dodge the irrigation department. Heat, exertion and the state mandated wearing of masks is not a healthy combination, yet the employees press on...much to my gratitude. Thankfully no one has fallen ill to the wicked C. virus as we constantly fuss and sanitize, well beyond the legal requirements.
|Lilium leichtlinii var. maximowiczii|
July may be the dog-days month, yet there are plenty of visual attractions that satisfy our senses. We have a collection of about 50 species and/or cultivars of Lilium. Currently in vibrant flower is L. leichtlinii var. maximowiczii and our clone is DJH 228 (collected by Dan Hinkley). The var. max is the orange (tiger lily) variant of Honshu, Japan's normally yellow-colored species and the max range extends into Korea and Manchuria as well. The specific epithet honors Max Leichtlin (1831-1910), a German horticulturist who founded a botanic garden in Baden Baden which specialized in bulbous plants.
|Lilium martagon 'Claude Shride'|
A few weeks ago we hauled our large pot of Lilium martagon 'Claude Shride' from a far greenhouse to our office area so all could enjoy its blossoms. The martagon species is the “Turk's cap lily” and Shride's form blooms profusedly with deep red-to-mahogany flowers which are spotted with bright orange. The martagon species is native from Portugal to the mountain meadows of Switzerland and all the way to Mongolia. I usually despair when a cultivar is given the name of the discoverer or breeder, especially so with the given name of Clod...err, Claude, but Mr. Shride (1893-1976) seemed like a good guy, a lily breeder form Vashon Island, Washington who became President of the Lily Breeder's Association, and I'm sure he was quite proud of his creation.
|Lilium species at Sebright Gardens|
The common name of lily is from Old English lilie, from Latin lilia, and the latter name of lilia is plural of lilium. It is probably derived from Greek leirion, and perhaps that from an eastern Mediterranean word hleli. Across Europe the lily* name is beautifully rendered as Lelei in Dutch, Lis in French, Lirio in Spanish, Giglio in Italian and – my favorite – Liliya in Russian. Last week I was at Sebright Gardens, and owner Thomas Johnson's landscape was full of flamboyance as well as subtle beauty with dozens of Lilium hybrids. The photo above was one of my favorites but I couldn't find the label.
*The “lily” word was used as early as the 1500s for “white, pure and lovely,” but the greatest oxymoron of all is that my vile, welfare trailer-neighbor is surnamed “Lilywhite.” The old hag has hated me from the beginning since I wouldn't allow her mangy horses to graze in my newly planted Display Garden. “Nothing will grow there anyway,” she announced. See photo at the blog's beginning to see my response.
|Hydrangea aspera 'Macrophylla'|
|Hydrangea aspera 'Macrophylla'|
|Hydrangea aspera 'Macrophylla'|
A large Hydrangea aspera 'Macrophylla' has been growing near the office for over 30 years and it is in full flower at this time. It is a magnificent shrub, except that now it should be viewed from a distance as all of the blossoms are at the top. The specific epithet aspera* means “rough” or “coarse” but I find the leaves to be soft and velvety. Young shoots and the leaf petioles can be bristly however. The deciduous shrub, introduced from China by E.H. Wilson, makes a notable winter presence due to tan-to-cinnamon colored exfoliating bark. One wonders why it never received the prestigious Award of Garden Merit, or at least not to my knowledge. We used to propagate 'Macrophylla' but sales were always weak – maybe it required a more catchy cultivar name.
*I love the state motto of Kansas – ad astra aspera – which is Latin for “to the stars through hardship (or rough times).”
|Fuchsia magellanica 'Pumila'|
I can't think of a plant with more cuteness per square inch than Fuchsia magellanica 'Pumila'. The Chilean/Argentinean dwarf dies back completely in winter and you're certain it's gone for good, but every spring it reappears and blooms lustfully in July and August. The magellanica species honors Ferdinand Magellan of course, and it occurs on Tierra del Fuego at the southern tip of South America. The genus Fuchsia was named in 1703 by French botanist Charles Plumier and honors German Botanist Leonhard Fuchs (1501-1566), and the German's surname literally means “fox.” Magellan himself didn't find time for flowers when passing through the Straights – he was preoccupied with wealth and survival instead – and it was Plumier who discovered Fuchsia (triphylla) on the Caribbean island of Hispaniola (Haiti and Dominican Republic) in about 1696.
Bletilla x yokohama 'Kate'
|Bletilla striata 'Murasaki shikibu'|
A frothy swath is a description I have never uttered nor written in my life, yet it's what comes to mind when I look out of the kitchen window at a large group of Bletilla x yokohama 'Kate'. She is a hybrid between B. striata 'Big Bob' x B. formosana, and thank you Big Bob to help beget the delightful Kate. The blossoms dance in the evening breeze about 3' above the ground on thin stems, and it's a performance that would fit right in with the Nutcracker ballet. 'Kate' isn't the only ballerina we grow, in fact we have amassed a nice collection that includes 'Pink Snow', 'Kuchi beni' (red lips), 'Murasaki shikibu', 'Sweet Lips', 'Ricky' and others. Most are hardy to USDA zone 5-6 and are a cinch to grow, even in full Oregon sun. The generic name honors Louis Blet, a botanist and apothecary at the Spanish court in the 1700s, while the illa is the diminutive suffix. Actually Dr. Blet was honored for the related orchid species now known as Bletia which is native to North, Central and South America, and the West Indies, while Bletilla is from China and other east Asian countries. I feel that Bletilla hybrids and cultivars are at the dawn of a new era, just as Japanese maples used to be, that one day there will be specialty nurseries and collectors who grow hundreds of cultivars. And why not? – they are easy and beautiful.
Aquilegia longiflora (longissima) is aptly named and is commonly known as the “Long-Spur Columbine.” Old-timers used to call the genus “Granny's Bonnet” but women, neither young nor old, wear bonnets anymore. The genus name is derived from the Latin word aquila, for “eagle,” as the flower petals are said to resemble an eagle's claw. The common name of columbine is also from Latin, columbina, which is from columba for “dove,” as the flower resembles a group of five doves. I don't know, I think I would need someone to point out the doves for me. One old pot of A. longiflora is all that remains at Buchholz Nursery, and it happily thrives in a greenhouse that receives overhead watering every day of the summer, yet it is native to arid northern Mexico, west Texas and southern Arizona. I've never seen it in the wild – it is considered rare – but I know two Oregon gardeners (who don't know each other) and both complain that, though interesting in flower, the plant is a flopper.
|Corylopsis wilmottiae 'Spring Purple'|
It's not only flowers that command attention in the hot summer, but plant foliage can also be spectacular. The blossoms of our Corylopsis pooped out months ago but the foliage gives you a half year of enjoyment. The genus has undergone considerable nomenclatural revision since I began my career, and honestly I don't know one species from another – I guess I'm afraid to pry into them. What I first collected as C. willmottiae is now considered C. sinensis Willmottiae Group, and with the suffix iae you know that it honors a woman. The dame in question is Ellen Ann Willmott (1858-1934), an English horticulturist and an influential member of the Royal Horticultural Society. In 1897 she was a recipient of the first Victoria Medal of Honour (VMH). Miss Willmott never married yet she employed over 100 gardeners, all male, and was once quoted as saying “women would be a disaster in the border.” Sadly she spent her way into poverty and was arrested for shoplifting in 1928. I think I could have gotten along with her, even though she carried a revolver in her handbag, but she had a demanding reputation and was quick to can any gardener who allowed a weed to grow among her flowers. I think of Miss (Ms. today) Willmott every time I walk past my specimen of 'Spring Purple', a Hillier introduction. The new leaves are especially purplish in spring, but even now shoots continue to grow and the new leaves are still somewhat purple, albeit with a little more brown in the coloration.
|Corylopsis spicata 'Golden Spring'|
|Corylopsis spicata 'Golden Spring'|
Corylopsis spicata 'Golden Spring' is fantastic in foliage from spring through summer, but you must carefully site it to retain the pleasing gold color while not damning it to scorch in full sun. Let's just say my plants are perfectly sited in a white-poly greenhouse (BAG9) and we can achieve beautiful shoots up to 4' long, with lush leaves twice the size as those grown out in the garden. 'Golden Spring' was discovered by Seiju Yamaguchi from Gifu, Japan, but it is also known as 'Ogon' or 'Aurea' which I suppose is a ploy around its patent (is that still valid?).
Acer palmatum 'Summer Gold'
I grow a fair number of Acer palmatum 'Summer Gold', an Italian selection from Ghirardelli Nursery (also famous for Acer palmatum 'Fireglow' and other worthy introductions). Earlier G. had also introduced the golden A. x 'Jordan', reputedly a palmatum/shirasawanum hybrid, but as 'Jordan' tends to burn 'Summer Gold' effectively put that hybrid out of business. The foliage of 'Summer Gold' is not boringly yellow – it is actually chartreuse in early spring with a thin red border, then becomes more golden in summer. I grow my crops in the greenhouse for faster growth – but be diligent to prune! A few years ago I purposely left a couple of wooden-boxed specimens outside in full sun to see how they would do. They fared well and did not burn, though I'll admit that they looked “tired” by mid August. Then they redeemed themselves with brilliant orange-red foliage in autumn. When I mentioned the pruning of 'Summer Gold', I didn't want to imply that only a professional horticulturist is able to grow it; actually the opposite, that any idiot can stand aside and it will produce a full, symmetrical canopy on its own.
|Acer palmatum 'Anne Irene'|
Similar to 'Summer Gold', but perhaps a little more feminine in appearance is Acer palmatum 'Anne Irene'. 'AI' originated as a sport from 'Summer Gold' so it is also golden, but is a little more dwarf than its parent. It is a worthy introduction – by Dick van der Maat of Boskoop, Holland – and I'll copy an apt description from the Mrmaple website: “Anne Irene leafs out with bright golden yellow leaves that can be outlined in a frilly red border. As the leaf matures, the red border fades but the leaf turns more and more yellow. The fall color is a bright fiery red to deep maroon.” 'AI' is an absolutely sweetheart and I've never yet seen it revert back to its parent's appearance.
|Ginkgo biloba 'Snow Cloud'|
|Ginkgo biloba 'Snow Cloud'|
Every year I place a number of prominent labels on certain plants that read: SORRY, NOT FOR SALE. First of all I already know that every customer who visits will want to buy them, but they are usually new selections that I want to build up on my stock before I will sell. One such is Ginkgo biloba 'Snow Cloud', a dwarf with cream-white variegated leaves. The color changes throughout the season, and now at the end of July, about 1/3 of the leaf end is colored like a puffy summer cloud which contrasts pleasantly with the otherwise green. On younger growth the entire leaf can be streaked with the variegation. For me, 'Snow Cloud' is like a first date where I like what I see but I don't really know much about her, or even if “she” is indeed female. I've never trialed it out in the garden, but I should plant one out this fall, and I'll site it with PM shade. Variegated ginkgoes are notorious for reverting – will 'Snow Cloud' too?
Speaking of variegated ginkgoes I walked past a group of 'Mariken' – the dwarf which was discovered as a witch's broom by P. Vergeldt in Holland – and I noticed a patch of bicolored leaves at the base of one. It is fun to see but I've never had success to keep the colored portion stable. The crop is about 8 years old and they were recently shifted up to a larger pot size, so one individual employee came into intimate contact with it, and perhaps another hauled it into the greenhouse. Did anyone notice the variegation? I don't have the answer about who sees what around here, I really don't. Before I wrote about 'Snow Cloud' I walked down to GH23 to take a closer look at my few plants and I discovered an old nail on the road, which obviously I picked up. “Nail bad, cost money!” But sadly I'm the only person who notices the nails.
|"I float too high to see nails"|
P.S. If I ever do propagate the variegated 'Mariken' I think I'll call it 'Mariken Woman'.