Friday, July 12, 2019

Growing Plants for the Heck of It

One of the best perks of a horticultural operation such as mine is that I can collect plants on a whim and write them off as a business expense. I grow hundreds of bushes just for the heck of it, when I know full well that I'll never propagate or sell any of them. In fact, that is the whole point of Buchholz Nursery: to grow and sell some plants as an excuse to be around others. Buchholz Nursery and the Flora Wonder Arboretum is an incredible place – and I say so without boasting – because while I am not so great, the plants certainly are.

I hate walnut trees. I detest the acrid fruits, and the sloppy smelly trees are a big mistake planted next to a house. I know from experience, and the five or six trees on the Buchholz Nursery property were quickly dispatched. You see, I grew up with walnuts as a youth in Forest Grove, and my mother was always crabby when we tracked the slimy leaves and rotten nut hulls into the house. And what teenager needs another payless job raking walnut leaves? I considered it a blessing when they all blew over in our famous Columbus Day Storm of 1962, when winds exceeded 100 miles per hour.

Platycarya strobilacea catkins in May

Platycarya strobilacea nuts in July

Platycarya strobilacea nut in October

In spite of these harsh walnut ruminations, I have absolutely fallen in love with a member of the Juglandaceae family, Platycarya strobilacea, a tree native to eastern Asian in China, Korea and Japan. It is a medium-sized deciduous tree with green pinnate leaves which turn to yellow in autumn. I first encountered it last fall in North Carolina at the Charles Keith Arboretum, and I was particularly attracted to the fruits which resembled conifer-like cones. I went online and found a company that was selling them, and bought three trees for a reasonable price. This spring erect male catkins developed, and they were curious little guys. Now light green nuts are appearing which I know will turn to a mahogany color by autumn. I don't understand a thing about walnut sex, but the fruits exist at the same location as the pollen flowers, and in one case a female cone has enveloped itself around the male flower. One wonders what goes on at night when I'm not there to watch. I've always stayed away from drugs to help manage mountain sickness when I have been in the Himalaya, but one doctor and another trek member used carbonic anhydrase inhibitors, and the diuretic properties can be found in Platycarya. Commonly called the "Broad Nut," an extract of the flower can be used as an active ingredient in anti-aging cosmetics as well. More about Platycarya can be found on the Flora Wonder Blog, A Carolina Wrap-up from November 22, 2013, but finish this blog first.

Ensete ventricosum 'Maurelii'

Ensete ventricosum 'Maurelii'

Ensete is the "Abyssinian Banana" and is so-called because it is native to Abyssinia, or what we refer to today as Ethiopia. I have seen it listed as Ensete ventricosum and as Ensete maurelii and as Ensete ventricosum 'Maurelii'.* It really doesn't matter to me – and one of the very few times for that – because it is just a fun red banana that I'll never grow to sell. Ensete is only hardy to 20 degrees F and so it is hauled into our no-profit house, GH20 for the winter. Last winter we had a heater malfunction and both of my Ensete specimens died, so I replaced them with two new ones this spring. I'm somewhat ashamed to admit that I bought them for cheap at the local box store, where a 3-4 foot plant had a Wow! $17.99 sticker on the pot. I replanted them immediately into a larger pot and grow them in full sun; and stand back for you can almost watch the movement of growth. Ensete can be grown from seed but they usually only flower in hot tropical regions. Mine were propagated via tissue culture and originated from a large bankrupt wholesale nursery with locations in Oregon and California, a company that doesn't seem to be bothered by failure. Bankruptcy as a business strategy absolutely irks me, because in the case of H. Nursery they never go away; they screw their suppliers and keep on going. Maybe my heater in GH20 failed last winter because I was cursed for buying from a box store supplier.

*The maurelii name honors J. Maurel who drew the attention of French authorities in Ethiopia to the red bananas. In 1853 the British Consul in Ethiopia sent seed to Kew Gardens, and mentioned the local name "ansette," but before, in 1769 the Scottish traveler James Bruce wrote that its local name was "ensete." The English so love Ensete that it gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit.

Sarracenia wrigleyana 'Scarlet Belle'

Sarracenia wrigleyana 'Scarlet Belle'

I have also squandered company resources on carnivorous plants. Maybe someday I will propagate and sell, but that was never my intention when I acquired them. I originally bought a few for my daughter's birthday, as I imagined she would be intrigued by them. A few years ago she is on record as saying "I hate boys. They're like bugs: you just can't get rid of them." I thought Harumi would enjoy watching plants that devoured bugs, and I was right. Occasionally a yellow-jacket will be lured into her pitcher plant, a Sarracenia wrigleyana cultivar named 'Scarlet Belle'. He doesn't perish without a struggle though, however futile, as part of his head poked through the side in an attempt to eat his way out. As you look at the pitcher traps sideways with the sun as back-light, you can see a black mess of dead critters, with a few buzzing bugs that have yet to die.

Sarracenia flava

Our Sarracenia hobby has even extended to the nursery, where we keep a few bog tubs by the office. The myth that they are difficult to grow and require a terrarium is nonsense. They thrive in full sun and you only need to keep them wet. They will not be happy, however, unless your water source is free of excessive minerals. They catch insects by producing nectar along their pitcher rims. The bugs try to get more by going further into the pitcher, and oops! they lose their footing and fall in. Insects cannot climb out because the inside walls are too smooth, and they cannot fly out because there is no airlift. They are trapped! and die from heat or dehydration while the evil carnivore absorbs nutrients from the bug-mush.

Sarracenias are easy to acquire, for we have Sarracenia Northwest in Oregon, a company that Harumi thoroughly enjoys to visit. At age eleven now, she has softened somewhat, and allows that some boys are ok...just not the annoying ones, and she is known to spend an hour in front of the mirror to make sure her clothes and hair are proper before heading to school. Some mornings are quite tense when things don't work right, but I escape to the nursery in that event.

Rhododendron keiskei 'Yaku Fairy'

Rhododendron keiskei 'Yaku Fairy'

I have acquired a classy – I won't say world-class – Rhododendron collection, partly through my Rhododendron Species Garden membership, and largely through friend and plantsman Reuben Hatch who used to grow them for a living. His nursery property in Vancouver, Washington was undergoing development and I rescued many of his prized specimens. For example I have a large R. keiskei 'Yaku Fairy' from his garden, and Rhododendron aficionados would be hard-pressed to find one larger. I do propagate from that plant and sell liners, but most of Hatch's Rhododendrons are simply here to look pretty. It's nice to have plants this way: they exist for my pleasure only and do not become crops to worry about. Many times I wish that my plant involvement was not commercial, that my living was not based upon crop outcome. In fact, I sometimes dream of going cold-turkey and cultivate nothing. I would live in a condominium in the city and dotter daily to the nearest park and swat the dandelions with my cane. Or I would live in a mountain shack, surrounded by native flora only, and I wouldn't care if ice storms, record heat or cold came my way. However, I'm not there yet. I came to work early this hot Sunday to make sure my plants are all right, that the watering crew actually showed up...which they did. I guess I am not really ready for retirement just yet, but I am tired.

Rhododendron campanulatum ssp. aeruginosum

Rhododendron campanulatum ssp. aeruginosum

The Rhododendrons I like the best are usually straight species, not the hybrids that are bred to impress with large gaudy flowers. My preference is for plants that intrigue me regardless of their flowers, in fact sometimes the blossoms are a distraction from the plant's beauty. One of my favorites is R. campanulatum ssp. aeruginosum. It is a species occurring in the Himalayan alpine regions of northern India, Bhutan and Nepal, and is recorded at 12,000 to 14,500 feet. No photograph can adequately capture the beauty of this species. On a spring day you gasp when you encounter the blue foliage, as it has something to do with the light on that particular day. The flowers are bell-shaped, hence the specific name campanulatum, while the subspecies aeruginosum refers to the Latin word for "rusty," the color of the leaf's underside. This species is practically perfect in the garden. It is slow-growing and compact and truly unique for the blue mouse-ear type leaves.

Rhododendron daphnoides

Rhododendron daphnoides

Rhododendron daphnoides is another slow-growing plant with small glossy-green leaves. I actually do like its blossoms, whatever that color would be, and the swallow-tails love them too. I have an old 10' tall by 10' wide specimen that I can see out the office window. Something bothered me about it though, it was a big green blob that stood in the way. One winter we "treed it up," which means to make more tree-like by pruning out much of the lower portions and exposing the trunk. That did the trick, and I am much happier with it now. Apparently there is still no consensus among Rhododendron experts whether daphnoides is a species or a hybrid. It was "developed" by T. Methven and Sons in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1868.

Chinese market products

Other "useless" plants, from an economic point of view, is my collection of Pleione species and hybrids. I have never sold one in twenty years, but at least I have had the pleasure to give a few away. My favorite species is probably P. forrestii, a gorgeous yellow orchid from Yunnan, China, which is not so easy to cultivate. I have twice had it for a year or two but couldn't keep it alive. The species is on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species and I know why. I was plant hunting in Yunnan in the 1980's, and our group was resting on a grassy hillside at 8,000-10,000 feet elevation. Over the hill came a loud group of Hans with their sacks full of Pleione bulbs. I don't know for sure if they were grubbing the forrestii species, or if they were gathering another, but the Chinese can be quite ruthless with their native flora. As you would guess, Scottish plant explorer George Forrest was in our exact area about one hundred years prior, so it was probably P. forrestii that they were gathering. The bulbs are harvested in summer and autumn and they are boiled until they are cooked to the core, then are dried for future use. They are not used for food, even though sweet and slightly pungent in flavor, but rather medicinally to clear away heat to expel toxic substances and to relieve inflammation. Pleione is used for treating carbuncles and cellulitis, malignant tumors, scrofula and subcutaneous nodules, and poor Biblical Job could have used it to treat his sores and boils. And, if you combine Pleione with ground beetle, pangolin scale and mole cricket, the compound softens the liver and spleen and aids in the recovery of the hepatic functions. One of the most fascinating experiences about rural China – at least it was in the 1980's – was visiting the markets, where a whole lot of medicine was going on. I have a beautiful photograph of some P. forrestii blooms in a hanging basket, but unfortunately they are still in slide form and I haven't been energetic enough to convert it to digital. Finish this blog first, then go online to see the rich beauty of P. forrestii.

Pleione 'Alishan'
Pleione 'Ridgeway'

Pleione 'Versailles'

Pleione hybrids are generally more easy to cultivate, and in England they are known as "windowsill orchids." Bring a pot into the house in February, and by March you will be delighted with the pretty flowers. I particularly like the cultivars 'Alishan', 'Versailles' and 'Ridgeway', but a photo of the sweet white purity of 'Claire' is also stuck in a shoebox of slides like P. forrestii.

Wollemia nobilis

Wollemia nobilis trunk (left), "polar cap" (right)

Wollemia nobilis male flower (left), female flower (right)

Seven or eight years ago I acquired a Wollemia nobilis* and I keep it in GH20 because I doubt that it would survive a harsh Oregon winter. Wollemia was recently discovered (in 1994) in the Wollemi National Park in a steep canyon just 100 miles northwest of Sydney, Australia. Previously it was only known through the fossil record. This evergreen conifer is not a true pine, but rather a member of the Araucariaceae family. A small population exists in a secret location as it would probably be fatal if the public knew where it was. It is an odd tree with black bubbly bark and a "polar cap" (white sap) on the terminal bud. Wollemi will root, but not to great success, and just as well as it is only hardy to about 20 degrees F. My tree survived in GH20 even when the heater failed and temperatures dipped to about 10 degrees F for a short period. Ultimately it will hit the greenhouse roof and I will look to sell it, and maybe start again with a little tree...or maybe not.

*The species name nobilis honors David Noble who discovered the grove. Wollemi is an Aboriginal word that means "look around you, keep your eyes open and watch out."

With my no-profit tree collection I behave like a wealthy aristocrat. Thanks to Buchholz Nursery and its customers for funding my folly.

"Oh Talon, I love what you're doing."

Friday, July 5, 2019

A Japanese Primer

Wabi sabi is an unusual concept for foreigners (Gaijin), and I suspect that every Japanese person (Nihonjin) would view it differently too. For some it defines “bitter-sweet,” and the related term mono no aware (ah-wah-ray) means “pity” or “sorrow” and refers to the “sadness of fading beauty,” or in Buddhist terms: the bittersweetness of fading beauty. I'm not one to cry over the fallen blossoms of an old Camellia – unless I've drank two cups of warm sake on a cold night in a Saitama, Japan bar – but I can somewhat relate to the transience, imperfection and finality of things, especially as I get older.

I love the notion of Kyouka suigetsu, meaning “flower in the mirror; moon on water.”  Neither the flower nor the moon can be touched, and really – can anything be completely held? I have “touched” my wife many times...but I've never been able to fully grasp her. I couldn't anyway; just her reflection is overwhelming, and I doubt that I could handle her full reality.

My wife celebrates komorebi, or “sunlight filtering through the leaves.” The Japanese characters literally mean “tree-leakage-sun,” and you have an Oriental example of what isn' actually what is. Clearly my wife sees a different tree than I do, but I absolutely appreciate her perspective (even though I can't make a living on the concept of “leaking light.”)

Hanafubuki means “flower” or the “petal of the cherry blossom (sakura),” and literally refers to a blizzard or snowstorm when the petals come floating down as if in a snowstorm.

The Japanese phrase, Ichi go ichi e is a Zen-Buddhist proverb meaning “one time, one meeting” which can be translated as “one chance in a lifetime,” or “value all things” for they might not ever reoccur. Obviously, nothing reoccurs even though we long for it/them to do so. Every breath is already in the past, placed in the old breath museum. We dredge up the memories for sustenance I suppose, but be careful that you don't fall too far behind. “Old breath,” indeed.

The following Japanese words and phrases can be interesting:
Ten men, ten colors for “all people prefer different things.”

How about: The weak are meat while the strong eat...which describes “survival of the fittest.”

Beautiful person, thin life suggests that a beautiful woman is destined to die young, or more realistically it means that “beauty fades.”

Even monkeys fall from trees is a fun notion, for it implies that “everyone makes mistakes.”

I like, as the father of five: Giving birth to a baby is easier than worrying about it. I remember reading, about twenty years ago, that a famous classical pianist – I forget just who now (Horowitz or somebody) – fathered a child in his mid-or-upper eighties. “So what?!, I thought, he nailed his young attractive wife – I could do the same – and his old swimmers got the job done. But, let's face it, we all know that an old geezer can “make” a child, but did the oldster ever lift a hand to actually “raise” the child? I think not.

Like many of us, the Japanese people love to collect quotes, for example “Ningen ni totte saidai no kiken wa, takai mokuhyo settei shite tassei dekinai koto de wa naku, hikui mokuhyo o settei shimaukoto da.” Basically it means “the greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it,” and that missive was rendered by Michaelangelo centuries ago.

I can relate to Baka wa shinanakya naoranai which literally means, “Unless an idiot dies, he won't be cured,” also known as “you can't fix stupid.”

Mizu ni nagasu is “let flow the water,” or “forgive and forget, it's water under the bridge.”

“Ippai-me wa hito sake o nomi, nihai-me wa sake sake o nomi, sanbai-me wa sake hito o nomu.” It means, “With the first glass a man drinks wine, with the second glass the wine drinks the wine, with the third glass the wine drinks the man.”

Kuchi wa waza no moto means that a “mouth causes trouble,” another way of saying that “silence is golden.”

Makeru ga kachi suggests that you “don't compete over shallow matters” or that “walking away from a challenge can be the best decision.”

Jigou jitoku means that what you get in life depends on what you do, or “you reap what you sow.”

Shio means “salt,” which sounds like shi, but don't say it at night because it is the Japanese word for “death.” When we were newly wed my wife was troubled that I wanted to sleep with a fan on a hot summer night. She changed the steady fan to movement-mode, where the air goes back and forth across the room. She informed me that constant air would lead to death...and why in hell didn't I already know that? Hmmm – since she is usually right – I don't sleep with any fan now.

For Japanese people the number four is not good. For example, you can plant one, two, three or five trees in a landscape, but never four. Hospitals do not have an elevator that goes to a fourth floor, as that (shi) would suggest death. You should also avoid ku for “nine” because it rhymes with kutsuu which means “pain.”

Also, don't take a picture of three people side-by-side, because Japanese superstition insists that the person in the middle will die before the other two people.

It's never a good idea to cut your fingernails at night, as the kanji word for that can also read “quick death.”

Some Japanese superstitions are down-right silly...but, you never know. If you're trying to predict the weather you just throw a shoe in the air. If it lands on the sole the weather will be nice. If it lands on its side it will be cloudy. If it lands upside down it will rain.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

End of June Swoon

Swallowtail butterfly on Rhododendron daphnoides

Everybody knows, “April showers bring May flowers,” and I remember both Grandmothers saying so when I was about five or six. I've heard the saying dozens of times, and even the weather lady spouts it coyly as if she invented the meteorological observation herself. May is long gone and most blossoms have petered out. I look out the office window at Rhododendron daphnoides and see a few lavender-purple blossoms, but mostly I see hundreds of withered brown smudges on the thick 8' tall and wide bush. It was embarrassing in a recent blog that I identified a butterfly on the R. daphnoides flower as a Monarch, when in fact it was a Swallowtail. I know that, after all I've been to the Monarch's migrational grounds in Mexico, and I hope my brain lapses are not going to increase.

Roscoea beesiana

A month ago we nearly hit 100 F – a record for the date in Oregon – and that cooked the crap out of the flowers of Iris, Cardiocrinum and most Rhododendrons. We're in an End-of-June swoon, what with chicken, beer and the Fourth of July just around the corner, but there are still some wonderful blossoms to be seen. Roscoea x beesiana is growing lustfully in our old basketball court and dozens of creamy yellow-white flowers rise above the dark-green foliage. This herbaceous perennial is a possible hybrid of R. auriculata (from the Himalaya) and R. cautleyoides (from Yunnan and Sichuan, China), allegedly developed by the English plant nursery, Bees Ltd., but there is no positive evidence that Bees performed the cross. Anyway the genus is in the ginger family (Zingiberaceae) and was named for William Roscoe (1753-1831) who founded the Liverpool Botanic Garden. Even though the x beesiana name is horticulturally invalid – being Latin, coined after 1958 – nevertheless it received the Award of Garden Merit by the RHS in 2011. Roscoea flowers, to the novice, would appear to be like a cross between an Iris and an orchid and it's hardy to USDA zone 6 (-10 F).

Lilium formosanum var. pricei

The Roscoea flowers are far more demure than a nearby specimen of Lilium formosanum var. pricei, the “Taiwan lily.” The lily features cream-white trumpet flowers with brownish-red outside stripes, which kind of remind me of Rhododendron dalhousiae var. rhabdotum which I saw earlier in the conservatory at the Rhododendron Species Botanical Garden, and I wonder if those linear markings serve some purpose, as in an aid to pollination. I don't know how var. pricei differs from the type because it is the only L. formosanum that I've ever grown. In any case the blossoms are highly fragrant – maybe so much so that they're overpowering when brought into the home.

Lilium regale

Lily box at the nursery

Actually many of my lilies are in flower now besides the L. formosanum, one being the impressive L. regale that E.H. Wilson collected over one hundred years ago in China. I have eight 4' x 5' boxes with hundreds of bulbs, most of them hybrids. Over the years when the crew weeds or cuts off the old foliage in autumn...well, let's just say there's no thought to the lilies' identity. Most labels went into the garbage – the sick reality of a plantsman with mindless employees. Oh well, my grandmothers didn't label their plants; they just enjoyed them for the pleasure they brought, but then they didn't try to make a living from them either.

Lilium nepalense

A final lily* that I'll mention is L. nepalense. It is native to lower Himalayan foothills and surrounding (non-hardy) regions, and that's why I have never grown it outdoors. Some would consider it temperamental and so do I. Furthermore we transplanted bulbs a few years ago, but very few sprouted; I don't know – maybe they were overwatered. It's a beauty though, with yellow-lime green petals with a significant deep purple-red throat. Interestingly the flowers are mostly without scent during the day, but are heavily scented after dark.

*Lilium is a Latin term that was derived from Greek “leirion,” and its root is one of the first name for a flower. The lily represents purity and the beauty of youth, or it can mean motherhood and fertility. Ancient alchemists considered it a “lunar” plant with feminine qualities, while in Traditional Chinese Medicine many varieties of Lilium are said to produce a cooling and soothing effect on the body.

Hemerocallis 'Kwanso'

Hemerocallis 'Kwanso'

“Daylilies” are not in the Lilium genus; they are Hemerocallis in the Asphodelaceae family, and the name is from Greek hemera for “day” and kalos for “beautiful.” Generally I don't care for them – there are thousands of cultivars – but I acknowledge their toughness and ease to grow. The genus is native to Asia, however the species fulva (the orange or tawny daylily) can be found along roadsides in the United States and is considered invasive. I do have one cultivar, 'Kwanso', which features interesting variegated leaves but I don't care for its brownish-orange flowers, besides it is known to revert to just green leaves. The Gardener's Chronicle in 1867 says that it was introduced by von Siebold under the name Hemerocallis Kwanso flore-pleno. If that is true, then my Japanese wife suggests that Siebold botched the spelling, as there is no “w” in the Japanese language.

Aquilegia longiflora

Aquilegia longiflora (or longissima) remains my favorite “Columbine.” Its butter-yellow flowers feature extremely long (over 10cm), slender spurs and the lucky hawkmoths that jump on them have tongues with lengths from 9-14 cm long. The rare perennial is native to northern Mexico, Texas and Arizona* and is found in oak-pine woodlands in shaded canyons. I keep my one plant in the greenhouse where it has faithfully flowered for over 20 years, as I'm not sure of its hardiness outside.

*From the Big Bend region of west Texas and in the far south of Arizona on the Baboquivari Mountains.

Leucothoe keiskei

Leucothoe keiskei

Keisuke Ito
Leucothoe keiskei is a wonderful species but beware of L.k. 'Royal Ruby', especially if you purchase the latter from a long-time but dubious mail-order nursery from Oregon. 'Royal Ruby' may be a hybrid – I don't know – but it has larger and more green leaves than the true L. keiskei. With the specific epithet of keiskei you know that it is a Japanese native, the same with Rhododendron keiskei, and the name honors Keisuke Ito, the Japanese physician and botanist who studied the Japanese flora and fauna with Phillip von Siebold. He put his doctor skills to good use by developing a vaccination against small pox, then went on to become professor at the University of Tokyo in 1881. “Ito” is the name used as the author when citing a botanical name, and he is commonly referred to as the Father of modern Japanese botany. Concerning the growing of L. keiskei, I have learned (from failure) to site it carefully: in moist but well-drained soil, and in Oregon PM shade is absolutely necessary. It's urn-shaped pale-white flowers are evident today, but for me the rich mahogany-colored winter (evergreen) foliage is the main appeal.

Inula royleana

Inula royleana is an herbaceous perennial in the daisy family. Even when not in flower it is impressive for its huge green leaves, then all the better when the golden-orange flowers rise above the foliage. I knew nothing about the genus until I encountered in the Himalayan foothills about 25 years ago at 9-10,000' altitude, then when back in Delhi I bought a copy of The Flowers of the Himalaya and could identify what I had seen. We used to have a vegetable garden in the back yard and I placed an Inula at the edge. Since we don't garden there anymore, the daisy was left with no irrigation for the past 12 years. My one plant self-seeded and now I have 5 or 6 vigorous, healthy plants. Its flowers are hermaphrodite (having both male and female organs) and are pollinated by bees, flies and itself, so the plant is self fertile. Don't mess with it though, because it – I don't know what part – is used as a disinfectant and insecticide. The name is derived from Latin Enula campana meaning “elecampane” + campana “of the field.”

Inula ensifolia

Inula ensifolia is far more dwarf than royleana and it is actually smothered with blossoms, though much smaller. It is commonly called the “Swordleaf Inula” due to the narrowly pointed leaves, and it is native to Europe and Asia. My one plant hugs a large rock where it stays neatly put, and my only worry is that the crew might mistake it for a weed before it flowers and spray it out – they have done that with other things (in spite of the label in front). Every employee walks past it in the morning and evening, but apparently thoughts of drudgery overwhelm them in the AM, while thoughts of happy liberation engulf them at quitting time. I doubt if any employee has walked the ten steps over to it when it flowers to check out its identity.

Cotinus coggygria 'Daydream'

We no longer produce Cotinus cultivars, due to a lack of demand really, but nevertheless I'm happy with a few specimens in the Flora Wonder Arboretum. I had forgotten about C. coggygria 'Daydream' that a few years ago I bought 20 of the patented cultivar – meaning that I can't propagate it – and that I sold 19 and kept one for the collection. I noticed on my drive to the house how brilliant its “smoke” flowers were, glowing in the evening light, as this was the first year that it has looked so good. But let's face it: I would have given the thumbs-down to the patent and I don't think the discoverer has garnered much income from it. As I drive into town, just past the Hispanic grade school, is a seedling Cotinus that I have noticed for years that is quite similar to the 'Daydream'. I won't belabor my aversion to patented plants – I've done that enough before – but I concede that 'Daydream' was given a catchy name. Probably most of you don't know that Cotinus is in the Anacardiaceae family, which I didn't know either until I just looked it up. The generic name is from Greek kotinus meaning “olive,” and the specific epithet comes from Greek kokkugia meaning “smoke tree.” Some Cotinus cultivars are much more purple than 'Daydream' however. The genus is native to southern Europe and Asia, and if you're in Beijing, China in October-November you can see it ablaze with autumn color along the Great Wall.

Pelargonium endlicherianum

Our Pelargonium endlicherianum is delightfully blooming at this time, and thanks to office manager Eric for the excellent photo. Actually Eric is like me: we are both mediocre photographers...but we are surrounded by great things. Pelargonium is commonly known as a geranium*, but botanically it's not, although both genera are in the Geraniaceae family. Another common name for P. is “storksbills,” and the generic name is derived from the Greek pelargos for “stork” because the seed head looks like a stork's bill. Hey, wait a minute – Eric collected seed from our one plant last fall...whatever happened to that project?

*Geranium was named after a crane, from Latin gerania or geranos.

Kniphofia thompsonii 'Triploid Form'

Kniphofia thompsonii var. snowdenii

I grow both Kniphofia thompsonii 'Triploid Form' and K.t. var. snowdenii. Both were given to me by Far Reaches Nursery in Washington state (if I remember correctly). Anyway, check out their website and absolutely buy something from them – you won't be sorry. As they look alike, and I received them at different times, I wonder if they are one and the same. I describe the 'Triploid Form' as a cultivar, but of course it is not and it's just a way to document it into the collection. On the Buchholz Nursery website I describe it as: “A perennial with a spreading form. Long narrow grass-like leaves are bright green. In late summer flower spikes produce beautiful orange-red flower tubes. Hummingbirds will not miss them!” Instead of “orange-red” I probably should have described them as pink-orange?

Eucryphia lucida 'Ballerina'

Hmm...what else is blooming now? Actually quite a lot, but I'll finish with Eucryphia lucida 'Ballerina'. First of all I admit that she's a touchy bitch to grow, just like it is raising my teenage daughter...who is a career ballerina. But, the beauty of both overwhelms me, with thanks to my wife's genes for the latter. A British Nursery's website,, describes 'Ballerina' as a “frost hardy, columnar, densely branched, evergreen tree with oval, glossy, dark green leaves and, in summer, fragrant, saucer-shaped, pale pink flowers with crimson eyes.” Wow! I know that I often over-whrite myself, me and I etc., but I've never encountered a plant description with shootgardening's plethora of comma's and adjectives, but, every, one, of, them, is, spot...on.

Dahlia 'Mystic Illusion'

The above account lists probably only a couple of percent of what is now flowering in the collection, but then I count “flowering” as parts which now exist and which will continue to develop. Flowers are fascinating...things: they're a “mixture” of structural functions to procreate as well as possessing the ability to fascinate.


The word “flower” is an English name for a blossoming plant which is derived from Old French, that from Latin flos. We can have fun with the various names for “flower,” for example:
1) Floortje in Dutch.
2) Fleur or Florette in French.
3) Flora or Fiorella in Italian.
...Oh, “Fiorella,” my favorite...
or maybe not, I'm torn:
How about SSSpanish with Flora, Florina and Florinda?
No, I still choose Fiorella.

I think you'd better stick with Flora, Talon.”