Friday, August 7, 2020


Today's blog is abnormal, so I warn you to read no further if you're expecting my typical plant pratter. Let's do geography instead. I know, at least half of the readership has already heeded my warning and will not continue. You remaining all know what geography means – the study of places (including space) and the relationships between people and their environments – from the Greek geo for "earth" and graphia "to write." The word photography, for example, means "to write with light."

When about 7-10 years old I developed a fascination with the world's places, probably because my father worked two jobs and my mother didn't drive, so consequently we never went anywhere. Back then there was no internet and TV was in its infancy, so I wasn't exposed to nature or travel programs. But our family did receive the monthly National Geographic magazine and I devoured most of those articles. An added bonus was that I could ogle bare-breasted African women. Via the magazine I accompanied expeditions to the Andes and the Himalaya, to China and India, to London and New York City etc., and then in adulthood I eventually visited all of those places.

I wasn't the sharpest kid in school but I aced geography well above the other students. For example I could locate on a globe – I guess nobody has those balls anymore – every African country and its capital. The same with most of the world's countries. Later I lost track of a lot of it since the USSR split into a bunch of stans (meaning "land") and some of the African countries renamed themselves etc. Long ago I was in the international section of the Bangkok airport and I was puzzled by the readerboard which listed a flight to Mumbai. When I got home I investigated where the hell was Mumbai and discovered that Bombay had changed its name.


The first recorded use of the word geography was by the Greek scholar Eratosthenes (276-194 BC) and he is credited with the discipline. His map of the known world is fascinating, and actually kind of interesting that so much was both known and unknown. Era was a brilliant polymath: besides geography he was an astronomer, music theorist, poet and mathematician, and for the latter he developed a simple algorithm for finding prime numbers, now known as the "Sieve of Eratosthenes." Era was born in Cyrene, an important Greek, then later Roman city near present-day Shahhat, Libya. It was also headquarters of the Cyrenaics, a school of philosophy founded by Aristippus, a 4th century BC disciple of Socrates. Cyrene's important export during its early history was the medicinal herb silphium, and it was in such demand that it was harvested to extinction. The "giant fennel" was used as a seasoning, as perfume and, oh boy, as an aphrodisiac, so who wouldn't want some of that? To help keep ardor in check it was also used as a contraceptive.

In ancient Greece Libya could mean all of Africa,* or at least the Afro-lands west of the Nile. The modern nation acquired the name in 1934 when Italy held it as a colony, and it became formally independent in 1951. Libya was first mentioned in the Egyptian 12th dynasty (1991-1786 BC), in the historical story Prophecy of Neferti.

*The Greek Herodotus (484-425 BC) wrote: "As for Libya, – [Africa] – we know it to be washed on all sides by the sea, except where it is attached to Asia.

Asia Minor

The name Asia is also attributed to Herodotus, from the Phoenician word asa which means "east" and the Akkadian word asuwhich for "to rise." So Asia means "the land of the sunrise," but first it only referred to the east bank of the Aegean Sea. In Latin an inhabitant of Asia Minor was an Asianus, but these days that could refer to the people of China, or at least to their Communist dictatorship. Romans used the term oriens for the east because they had a Eurocentric view of geography, as if they were placed in The Middle, and indeed the Mediterranean Sea means "middle earth," or "the body of water in the middle of the earth." Another meaning of orient is "a pearl of great luster" which would apply to my Japanese wife, and sometimes I tease her by calling her my "Little Ornamental." If she is slow to awaken in the morning I remind her that the day is almost finished in the Orient. She groans, and wonders why she married this old American who pops with jokes that only he thinks to be so funny.

Ok, back to China – how did that name originate? As is typical, nothing is certain. The name might come from Sanskrit literature where Cina could refer to the inhabitants around the origins of the Indus River, but I guess that would be an Indocentric concept. Later the Latin word Sina would become the origin of Sino or Sinae, which too has its origins in Sanskrit. In its official language China is known as Zhongguo for "central state," a horrible concept when in the wrong hands. More pleasantly it could be Zhonghua for "central beauty" or Huaxia for "beautiful grandness" or Shenzhou for "divine state." More realistically, today, Han and Tang are common names for Chinese ethnicity, and now the People' Republic of China is Zhonghua Renmin Gongheguo...but I promise that you won't be tested on any of this. The Japanese use the term Chuka Jinmin kyowakoku, but I was afraid to ask my wife the literal meaning of that, for one must be careful to not push the wrong buttons. Anyway, I've been to China only once, I guess it was about 1987 – if you exclude Hong Kong a decade earlier – and in those pre-Tiananmen days I was impressed with that  country's energy, its potential, but the world has definitely soured about its existence since then. The Chinese have long considered themselves to be at the middle of the earth, and in fact China's classroom maps present their country in the center, and the kids are taught that all lands surrounding China are fit for only barbarians.

Marco Polo
Pakistanis would disagree, as their country's name means "land of the pure" in Urdu and Persian. Once home to the prehistoric Indus Valley civilization, it was conquered by Aryans in about 1500 BC. Eventually the British ruled it as part of India, then it became a separate Muslim state in 1947, where it has been largely dysfunctional ever since. Today's Pakistan used to be called West Pakistan to distinguish it from East Pakistan, with the latter now existing as Bangladesh ("Land of the Bengals"). The Bengal name is for its people, said to be from Banga, the name of a founding chief, and Marco Polo mentioned Bangala in 1298. Some speculate that it came from the word Bonga meaning "Sun god." I've been at the borders of both Pakistan and Bangladesh but I never officially set foot in either country, and I'm sure that I never will. Way too hot!

Robert Gray
Closer to home, I find it amazing that no one knows for certain the name origin of my home state of Oregon. I have dozens of word-origin and place-origin books in my basement library – pre-internet you see – and the only ones I trust are the books that state the uncertainty. Some authors stridently declare their theory about the name, but another book can provide a completely different theory. We know that in 1500 Spanish sailors returning to Mexico from the Philippines were the first white people to see the Oregon coast, and in 1578 Sir Francis Drake maybe touched shore, looking for a passage between the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. In 1792 Robert Gray sailed up the Big River which he named the Columbia after his ship's name. The Columbia River at one time was called the Ouragan which means "hurricane" in French, so perhaps during a winter's bluster the great river was called "the river of storms," hence Oregon. Another theory posits the Spanish origin of Orejon from the chronicle Relacion de la Alta y Baja California by Rodrigo Montezuma. In 1598 he made reference to the River. Another suggested that a plant in the oregano family which is found in Oregon led to the name. On and on...

Las Sergas de Espladian

Queen Calipha
Our neighboring state of California has more certainty about its name and it's a fantastic story, but I suspect that most of that state's denizens have no clue about it. When the Spanish invaded the New World they were aroused by a mythical island named Califa which was inhabited by a black race of warrior women. The gals even had their left breast removed so they could better draw their bows. This fantasy was described in Las Sergas de Esplandian by Garcia Ordonez de Montalvo, written about 1510. When Spanish conquistadors first discovered the Baja California peninsula they believed it to be a large island, east of the Indies, ruled by a Queen Calipha. The author conjured the name from Arabic Khalifa (leader), or else he was influenced by the term Califerne in an 11th century French epic The Song of Roland.

Map of California (1666)

I'll quote an excerpt from Montalvo's novel:
"Know, then, that, on the right hand of the Indies, there is an island called California, very close to the side of the Terrestrial Paradise, and it was peopled by black women, without any man among them, for they lived in the fashion of the Amazons. They were of strong and hardy bodies, of ardent courage and great force. Their island was the strongest in all the world, with its steep cliffs and rocky shores. Their arms were all of gold, and so was the harness of the wild beasts which they tamed and rode. For, in the whole island, there was no metal but gold.

Diego Gutierrez, the Americas, published in 1562

In 1562 Diego Gutierrez published the first map using the name California. Of course gold was eventually discovered in Coloma, California at Sutters Mill which led to the Gold Rush (1848-1855) which immediately brought 300,000 people to California. The state's logo name is The Golden State, but that has nothing to do with gold or the Rush, rather it originated when the Spanish explorers noticed from their ships gold-cladded hills which turned out to be the flowers of the native poppy, Eschscholzia californica.

George, Washington

George Washington

To Oregon's north is Washington state and that was named after America's first president, George Washington, but that may change by those wishing to cancel culture, and who are toppling his statues because he kept slaves. I won't weigh in on any of that because I don't want to anger stupid people. But I will report that there is a dinky town named George, as in George, Washington, and I had breakfast at its one cafe which also doubled as a tourist shop where you could buy cups, plates and t-shirts. My omelette and hash-browns were pretty good too. I didn't stick around for the annual July 4th celebration where the world's largest pie is baked every year, weighing 1,000 pounds.

Hyndman Peak, Idaho

Shoshone man
The last place name that I'll discuss is the state of Idaho, most notable for its potatoes and as the birth-place of me. It is a beautiful land of forests, rivers and mountains such as the Twelvers where a number of peaks exceed 12,000' in altitude. What does the word Idaho mean? Unfortunately it was an invented name that mining lobbyist George M. Willing proposed to Congress for an area around Pike's Peak (in present day Colorado). He claimed Idaho was the Native American Shoshone name – E Dah Hoe – meaning "Gem of the Mountains." By the time the deception was discovered Idaho was already in common use. Perhaps some would suggest that my entire career is fraudulent too, that I take all of the credit while my employees do all of the work.

So, hopefully you have enjoyed our geographic journey. It was certainly easy as you sat in your chair, and your sojourn came at no expense.

Friday, July 31, 2020

Blessed by The Hands

Young Buchholz in the 1980s

Not just engaged in horticulture, but actually inventing it. That thought applies to certain innovative, intelligent and experienced plants(people), and I consider myself fortunate to have known many. All the better if they're somewhat humble and don't preach about how great they are, but I can even tolerate some amount of boasting if the idea, method or plant factoid has merit. Upon the summation of my career – no, not yet – I can imagine another nurseryman, a detractor, conclude that “Old Buchholz basically copied others and just put his own spin on it.” And I would agree with that sentiment: I haven't invented anything; I haven't honed horticulture to a higher level either. Sure, you can learn a few things from me, but remember I've already copied from someone before. Certainly, though, I have set a human record for how much one can worry and still remain alive.

So, where am I going with this blog? I guess nowhere. You can consider it an unnecessary blogette. Even though we're sizzling in the mid-90s I'll go out and cut maple scions this evening – that's what I feel like doing. Keep pushing the plants through the pipeline. The best part is that the bagsful of maple sticks are set on the ping-pong table in the garage, while I go inside and collapse in my chair with a well-deserved cold beer. Then later at night this old farmer's two daughters prepare the scions. They do a perfect job and keep the labels straight, and none of you can begin to keep up with them. Just think: every maple you buy from Buchholz Nursery these days has been blessed by the hands of a beautiful woman. Maybe that's why I am still in business.

Friday, July 24, 2020

Dog Daze

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.

Acer maximowiczianum

Betula maximowicziana

Rhododendron schlippenbachii

Rhododendron schlippenbachii

Karl Maximovich
The variety L. l. maximowiczii honors Karl Johann Maximovich – no stranger to the Flora Wonder Blog – the Baltic-German-Russian botanist who discovered interesting new species and named many others from the Far East. Named in his honor include Acer maximowiczianum, Betula maximowicziana, Populus maximowiczii and more; but more impressively, plants named by him include Acer mono, Acer miyabei, Berberis thunbergii, Rhododendron name just a few of the most notable. Herr Max was esteemed for his botanical acumen, while I was most impressed that his square head supported the most prodigious set of white sideburns in all of horticulture. Make no mistake, Max was highly connected in the world of science and he graduated in biology from the University of Tartu, Estonia in 1850 and was a pupil of Alexander von Bunge of Pinus bungeana fame. From 1859 to 1864 he visited China, Korea and Japan and became well-versed in the flora of Japan, following in the footsteps of Carl Peter Thunberg and Philipp Franz von Siebold. Max's assistant in Japan was Sukawa Chonosuke whose name was commemorated with the flower Trillium tschonoskii, and though equally difficult to pronounce, with Acer tschonoskii.

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'

Charles Plumier
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

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'

Ellen Willmott
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?

Ginkgo biloba 'Mariken'

Ginkgo biloba 'Mariken'

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'.