Friday, January 19, 2018

Words, Names and Languages...

My first blog of the 2018 new year noted that Americans and the British toast by saying “cheers.” In Japan they say “kanpai,” in Portugal “saude,” in Thailand “chokdee” etc. Biagioli Alessandro greeted me with, “Buon anno Talon!!” which was easy to decipher. Petra wished for me Boldog uj evet or “Happy New Year.” She wrote in Magyaral, egeszsegedre which I think translates in Hungarian... “To your health.” Magyar is “Hungarian,” a member of the dominant people of Hungary.

Thank you Petra. I started to look up Hungarian words, and one slang (szleng) phrase I liked is from kolbasz for “sausage,” and that phrase is kolbaszolni meaning literally “to sausage,” to be “walking around in a place with no specific destination.” Tokolni is from tok for “pumpkin,” and tokolni is "to pumpkin,” or “to be pumpkining” which means “to waste time.” Tejelni is from tej for “milk,” and tejelni is literally “to milk,” or “to be milking” which means “to pay money.”

When I started my nursery 38 years ago – and had very little money – I didn't buy a full piece of shade cloth for one of my first greenhouses. The shade was attached from the bottom at the south side and went only two-thirds the way over to the north side. My ex-wife demanded to know why, certain that I was making a big error. I responded that the sun was never in the north. She was incredulous, certain that I was either crazy or just wanted to make an argument. She was a college graduate in horticulture from California, but had never tracked the placement of the sun. Indeed, if the sun ever shows up in the north sky I will hurry to a mental institution.


With that in mind, the Hungarian word for “north” is eszak (from ej(szaka) for “night,”) as the sun never shines from the north. “South” is del (“noon”) as the sun shines from the south at noon. “East” is kelet (“rise”) for the sun rises in the east. “West” is nyugat (“set”) because the sun sets in the west.

Acer crataegifolium 'Eiga nishiki'

Norm Jacobs from Arbutus Garden Arts ( – buy something from him! – gifted me a plant of Acer crataegifolium 'Mueri no ofu', a variegated form of the “Hawthorn maple.” He warned me, however, that the cultivar name was probably misspelled.* I presented the challenge to my Japanese wife to figure out the correct name, and out of a sense of national pride she accepted th task and grabbed her smart phone with access to the Japanese language. I had looked previously in Yano's Book for Maples and in Vertrees/Gregory's Japanese Maples, but neither had a listing of 'Mueri no ofu'. Hmm... Haruko said the name was “almost” Japanese, but definitely not. She left the room and headed to the kitchen to start dinner, and all the while I could hear her muttering to herself. Ten minutes later she returned, “Ha! I have it. It should be 'Meuri' ofu' (not Mueri) and the “no” [of] is not necessary.” She claims that meuri is the Japanese name for the crataegifolium species, so in a sense it is redundant to have it follow Acer crataegifolium. Ofu means “big variegated.” As Norm describes, “Hawthorn shaped leaves display striking variegation in green, light green, white and pink...” So, big and variegated then, but I told Haruko that the species' leaves are relatively small. Was it big leaves that are variegated, or was it perhaps a big amount of leaves that are variegated? She, somewhat deflated, retired to her purpose in the kitchen, and I almost regretted receiving the damn maple at all.

*For that matter, “misspelled” is frequently “mispelled.”

Acer crataegifolium 'Awa uri nishiki'

The crataegifolium species is known as the “uri maple” (urikaede), meaning “melon maple” due to the bark pattern resembling the skin of a melon. This “snakebark” can be rooted or grown from seed, and also can be grafted onto any snakebark species such as A. davidii, A. rufinerve, A. tegmentosum etc. It is native to the mountain forests of central and southern Japan, usually as a small tree or shrub, and was introduced by Charles Maries in 1879. The species is supposedly hardy to USDA zones 5-6 (-20 degrees to -10 degrees) but I doubt that the cute variegated cultivars would be as hardy. It was Siebold and Zuccarini, both Germans, who coined the “hawthorn-like” specific name, but then the leaves resemble only some species of Crataegus, so I'm partial to the “melon maple” name.

Liquidambar styraciflua 'Slender Silhouette'

Last week I mentioned a great plant, Liquidambar styraciflua 'Slender Silhouette', although that's a lot of letters to cram onto a label. It was Linnaeus – who's real name was Von Linne, but he chose to Latinize it to Linnaeus – who provided the generic and specific name of the American “Sweet gum.” For some reason both names refer to the liquid sap of the tree so I feel he could have been more creative, or to have scientifically referred to another feature of the tree. The cultivar name 'Slender Silhouette' was given by plantsman Don Shadow of Tennessee for his narrow-growing discovery. Slender it is, but a silhouette not really. A silhouette is the image of a person or object, usually black, which is featureless in the interior, and it is presented against a white background. The word originates from the French finance minister, Etienne de Silhouette, who was forced to impose severe economic burdens on the French people due to a credit crisis during the Seven Years War. Therefore anything done cheaply, such as a silhouette profile, is traced back to his name and policies. As children we have all probably put on a shadow play, with some kids being very creative with making finger animals. In photography one can create a silhouette image, especially when there's not enough light to do anything else.

The word slender is from Middle English sclendre or slendre, and that from Anglo-French esclendre. A skinny person is one without anything extra, and “the skinny” or “what's the skinny” or “that's the skinny” means the simple truth without any extra spin. During the Great Depression the skinny was slang for ten cents, as in “one thin dime.” If you go skinny dipping you go with only yourself and no clothes, unless others go also, and that's the naked truth.

Illicium parviflorum 'Florida Sunshine'

Anise is a Mediterranean umbelliferous plant, Pimpinella anisum, which blooms with clusters of yellowish-white flowers which produce licorice-tasting seeds. The anise word is ultimately from Greek anison. Coincidentally anise – no jokes here – is a specific name for an evergreen genus with aromatic leaves and fruits in the Schisandraceae family, as with Illicium anisatum, a Japanese aromatic shrub. Illicium verum is from northeast Vietnam and southwest China, and it is commonly called the “star anise.” The spice is obtained from the fruits which produce an oil used in cooking and for a number of other uses (like toothpaste). The fruits often contain eight points, thus its Chinese name is literally “eight horns.” One shouldn't cook with just any Illicium species for some are highly toxic, such as I. anisatum and I. parviflorum from southeast USA. It was Linnaeus who chose the generic name Illicium, from Latin illicio meaning “entice.” We grow Illicium parviflorum 'Florida Sunshine', obtained from Plant Delights Nursery, and I bought it based on their lively description of “Screaming yellow” leaves. Can an Illicium plant be illicious – like something badly delicious? Very goodly delicious are/were springerle – they were quite licious (permissible) – a German anise Christmas cookie baked by my Grandmother that puffed up into dusty-white rectangular pillows.

Pinus cembra 'Glauca'

Pinus cembra is a welcome species in the Flora Wonder Arboretum, and we have, or have had, about thirty different cultivars. It is a slow-growing 5-needle species from high altitudes in central and eastern Europe. It is an edible nut pine, but the cones never open without the intervention of man. Birds and other critters eat the nuts (seed) when the scales rot. Sadly I have never seen it in the wild, but in the garden the larger cultivars (like 'Glauca') grow into formal pillars and gleam with silver-blue needles. The species was named by Linnaeus, but I'm not certain if he ever travelled to find them in the wild. I don't know how the locals pronounce the species but in America we say “scem bra.” Cembra is a municipality in Trentino in northern Italy, and one common name is Arolla pine, and that is a village in the canton of Valais in Switzerland.

Pseudolarix amabilis

Specific plant epithets were given for a variety of reasons: for example for geographical locations, for honoring people, for describing plant growth habit etc. I like some happy names where the botanist was obviously in a good mood. Amabilis means “lovely,” and some examples are Abies amabilis, Kolkwitzia amabilis and Pseudolarix amabilis. I don't care for the generic name of the latter, though, which means “false larch.” If its so lovely why must it be named in context with another genus? In fact I think Pseudolarix is far more beautiful and interesting than any larch. Its name is a curse which actually limits plant sales because the uninitiated assume that it will grow into a big ugly deciduous tree. It is deciduous, but not big and ugly.

Alnus formosana
Lilium formosanum

Leycesteria formosana
Pleione formosana

Corydalis 'Blue Panda'

Formosa is a happy name too, and it means “beautiful.” We grow a lot of formosa or formosana such as Alnus formosana, Lilium formosanum, Juniperus formosana, Leycesteria formosa, Pleione formosana and Corydalis formosa. The generic name of the latter is due to the spurred flowers, from Greek korudos for “crested lark,” from korus for “helmet” or “crest.” I first became aware of the Corydalis genus because my Grandfather smuggled out a plant of it – maybe C. flexuosa – from the Panda Reserve in China, long before the Chinese wised up to the potential to reap millions from the pandas. He would divide from the original and sell plants to his retail customers. Later a cad with a penchant for tissue culture propagation patented* the selection and has since sold many thousands. I grow it too but I don't honor the inappropriate patent, so if you buy them from me I encourage you to divide and disseminate as many as you want.

*You cannot patent a plant unless you have full control of it, and 'Blue Panda' was on the market for at least five years previous. And, I don't think you can patent a plant that was collected from the wild.

Abies procera 'Silver'

Alfred Rehder
David Douglas discovered the “Noble fir” in 1825, then five years later he collected seed to send to England. To him the true firs were considered “pines,” and so was his Douglas fir, Pseudotsuga menziesii. I like to pull out my 1858 copy of George Gordon's The Pinetum to see how things were classified in the old days – and that's part of their interesting history. Synonyms to Douglas's Pinus nobilis are Picea nobilis Loudon and Abies nobilis Lindley. By 1900 Veitch's Manual of the Coniferae lists it as Abies nobilis. At some point Alfred Rehder (1863-1949) of the Arnold Arboretum changed the specific name to Abies procera, but I wasn't around then to argue about it. Why didn't the Douglas name stick? I have not discovered the scientific paper that Rehder certainly must have presented to accomplish the name change. At least the common name is still in use. What does procera mean anyway? One guess is that it might have something to do with the needle arrangement. Or perhaps due to the large erect cones. Rong. Procera (or procerum or procerus) simply means “very tall,” so that's not a very exciting epithet. To Rehder's credit Abies procera is the tallest of all Abies, and one specimen in Washington state soared to 278' (85m). That was in the 1960's, but the area around it was clear cut and it still stands on the edge, but in decline. It lost its top by 50' and I hope the loggers are ashamed at what they did.

Juniperus procera

Another tall conifer is Juniperus procera, the “East African juniper.” Yes! – a tall juniper from the mountains of Africa – who would have thought? This is the only juniper that extends into the Southern Hemisphere and obviously it is not very winter hardy. Look at the map – it's native from Saudi Arabia to Zimbabwe. You can see from the photo above that the green leaves are awl-shaped on juvenile plants. Generally speaking I am not a juniper aficionado, so if J. procera was native to China or America, or somewhere like that, I wouldn't mention it at all.

I'll never see these junipers in the wild because I'll never step foot on the continent, although South Africa is tempting. You see I have a premonition that Africa would be my demise: a lion would eat me, or more likely a snake would bite me to death...or maybe a 13 year old with a machine gun would twitch his trigger finger and blow me away. Oops, sorry.

The name Africa was used by the Romans for “land of the Afri,” but they were only familiar with the northern portion, so the Afri were possibly a Berber tribe. Another theory is that it is derived from the Greek word aphrike which means “without cold.”

Juniperus cedrus

If I do have a favorite juniper I suppose it is J. cedrus, a species native to the Canary Islands off the coast of Africa; and yes, it really does look like a Cedrus. I have a few specimens in the Flora Wonder Arboretum and they have survived winters at near 0 degrees F. I propagate by grafting onto J. scopulorum 'Skyrocket' so maybe that assists with sufficient hardiness. J. cedrus is a fast-growing upright conifer with silvery weeping branches, and it makes for a very graceful landscape tree which is especially attractive in winter.

The narrative has wandered from Hungarian slang to African junipers, with words, name and languages the only theme. Sorry if we've been pumpkining.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Sharing Plants

I don't have a problem with Chinese products for sale in America; obviously no one forces us to buy them. I did perk to attention, however, about ten years ago when Japanese maples began showing up in Oregon nurseries. Ultimately I think their market fizzled because our economy was beginning to gasp for breath at that time and there was a significant oversupply of maples. Maybe there was simultaneously some American governmental regulations that stymied the Chinese, such as in The Netherlands when bad bugs were discovered in maple shipments. Another problem for the Chinese was that they were peddling maples that were not true to name, and I saw a group of these for myself at another nursery.

Maybe the Chinese plant producers will eventually establish themselves in America – I wouldn't be surprised to see cheap maples in the box stores for example, where poor quality and shoddy identification are trumped by low price. In 2017 I had two different Chinese companies visit my nursery with a desire to purchase starts of nearly everything: “for our domestic market, for our domestic market only.” Yeah, right. I declined but added that they could have everything they wanted, but they would have to purchase the entire nursery. “Oooh.” In both cases they stumbled onto the Buchholz website where we appear highly prominent, in spite of the reality of our small size. They travelled to Oregon primarily to do business with Buchholz Nursery, and left feeling surprised by rejection.

The problem with our website – in particular the photo library – is that plantsmen world-wide peruse it with the assumption that all plants depicted are in production and for sale. Rong! When one clicks onto Our Plants they are warned in lurid red type: Although our Plant Library contains thousands of interesting and hard to find plants, please understand that we do not necessarily offer all of these for sale. Please consult our availability listings for current stock. The library is a record of all that I have seen, my autobiography as I have stated before. The majority of plants contained are not even grown at Buchholz Nursery. Sorry for the confusion, but pay attention.

Recently I received a plant request email from Korea, from a Mr. Kim Pungkil of the Milim Botanic Garden. No doubt he spent hours looking at my photos and making a desire list. I groaned because even though I'm not opposed to helping his institution, I don't have many of the plants, and besides: the logistics of international plant sales are time consuming and daunting. We keep an inventory of all plants on our sales list, but not for all the plants in our collection. Pretty much I am the only one here with a clue as to their whereabouts, so it's a task that I cannot delegate. I'm well occupied with keeping the nursery afloat, with my duties as father and husband, and with being an awesome employer for my crew, and it would take hours trying to find plants or scionwood from his list. I don't know what I'll do – maybe try to find a few things to send to him. By the way, this Mr. Kim Pungkil is undoubtedly responsible for the superb Acer palmatum cultivar of the same name.

After first scoffing and grunting and tossing away Kim's list, I picked it back up to analyze his requests one by one.

Acer 'Red Flamingo'

Acer 'Silver Cardinal'

Acer 'Red Flamingo' – we used to propagate it by rooted cuttings in the summer under mist. It was a pretty selection but sales were weak because it wasn't very hardy. One winter the trunks were damaged on my stock plants which were in an unheated poly house. Eventually I tired of looking at them and they were dumped...and I immediately felt better. The nomenclature was murky with 'Red Flamingo' anyway. In the Hillier Manual of Trees and Shrubs it is described as an Acer x conspicuum (A. davidii x A pensylvanicum) which should be hardy in Oregon. It is said to have originated as a sport of A. 'Silver Cardinal' which Hillier also lists as A. x conspicuum. Then Hillier backtracks by suggesting that 'Silver Cardinal' – which we also grew and discontinued – “is said to be a seedling of A. pensylvanicum but appears close to A. rubescens.” This A. rubescens Hayata was formerly listed as A. morrisonense Li, therefore a native to Taiwan, so no wonder my plants were not hardy. Maple authority De Beaulieu doesn't acknowledge the A. rubescens species, nor does he with A. morrisonense. Anyway, no 'Red Flamingo' for Pungkil.

Acer x conspicuum 'Phoenix'

Hmm...Acer x conspicuum 'Phoenix' probably is a true A. davidii x A. pensylvanicum hybrid, and over the years we have grown a few thousand of them. One can propagate it by grafting onto any stripe-bark maple such as A. davidii (USDA zone 5), A. tegmentosum (USDA zone 4), A. rufinerve (USDA zone 5) etc. It has been called “tricky” to propagate (Blue Bell Nursery, England) but we do fairly well with winter grafts when the scionwood is sufficiently hardened. I was interested to discover about 15 years ago that another Oregon nursery was offering plants propagated by tissue culture. Did these produce the same red winter bark, were they as hardy on their own presumptive roots, would the trees grow as vigorously etc.? I haven't heard anything further about those I just continue producing mine the old fashioned way, and we have no trouble selling out our inventory. A nurseryman mustn't grow too complacent, however, because there are always companies more intelligent and industrious than you, and you might suddenly find yourself in the slow-lane of commerce.

Acer palmatum 'Beni kawa'

Acer palmatum 'Japanese Sunrise'

Acer palmatum 'Japanese Sunrise'

Acer palmatum 'Beni kawa' (“red bark”): I have some plants around but we haven't grafted it for a few years so I don't have anything but scionwood to send. 'Beni kawa' is another one of the 'Sango kaku' look-alikes along with 'Japanese Sunrise' and 'Red Wood'. Various maple growers and collectors prefer one over the others on the basis of more hardiness, or for more red bark, or for leafing out later etc. I don't know – I can't tell any of them apart without their labels – but for some reason we have singled out 'Japanese Sunrise' for our production.

Nyssa sylvatica 'Autumn Cascade'

Nyssa sylvatica 'Autumn Cascade'

Nyssa sylvatica 'Autumn Cascade' was selected as a seedling at Yamina Rare Plants in Australia by Arnold Teese. It is a vigorous, strongly weeping cultivar and we prune the top and bottom annually to keep it in bounds. Fall color varies between yellow, orange and red, and leaves are attractively shiny green in summer. My one specimen resides happily along the main road into the nursery but we have never propagated it. Pungkil says “I order it as a plants[sic]. If it is out of stock please give me a scion wood.” Does he really have rootstock ready to receive anything from his list as scionwood? I just wonder...who he is, who is he?

Nyssa sylvatica 'Zydeco Twist'

The reason I don't propagate Nyssa is because they are a tough sell, even for an attractive weeper I'm supposing. One exception to that is N.s. 'Zydeco Twist' which is odd enough to command a market. For me it is a compact bush with ebee-jebee twisting stems that give the grafter a fit to find a straight section. The origin of the word zydeco is not certain, but possibly from Creole French pronunciation of French les haricots (“the beans”), part of the title of a popular dance tune, Les haricots ne sont pas sales. When spoken in the Louisiana Creole French it sounds like “leh-zy-dee-co nuh sohn pay salay.” Literally it means “the snap beans aren't salty” which implies “I have no spicy news for you,” due to the speaker's lack of energy. There are other theories, but zydeco music (Swamp pop) involves a swaying movement like the plant's stems.

Cupressus glabra 'Picasso'
Cupressus glabra 'Chaparral'

Pungkil wants three different cultivars of Cupressus glabra: 'Picasso', 'Raywood's Weeping' and 'Chaparral'. The 'Picasso' plant I don't have and the photo was taken elsewhere. I remember it as an ugly plant not worth pursuing. 'Chaparral' was nice, but again the photo was taken elsewhere and I've never had one. 'Raywood's Weeping' I could do – I have one tree left in the arboretum. I discontinued it years ago because the tops of the grafts grow too fast and the less vigorous roots could never keep up. What will Pungkil graft onto anyway? Does he have Cupressus glabra – or the closely related Cupressus arizonica – rootstock? Other rootstock can be used, such as Thuja, Juniperus and x Cupressocyparis but the graft unions will be unsightly as the top outgrows the bottom.

Quercus cerris 'Variegata'

Pungkil wants a Quercus cerris 'Variegata', sometimes known as 'Argenteovariegata', and I'd like one too. The photo of the “Variegated Turkey oak” was taken at Arboretum Trompenburg in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, and I have never seen it offered for sale in an American nursery. Q. cerris is a large deciduous tree that is common and has naturalized in much of Europe. The word cerris is from Latin cerrus which is probably from Proto-Indo-European kar meaning “hard.” The wood may be hard, but since it is prone to cracking and splitting it is not preferred for building.

Parrotia persica 'Vanessa'

Parrotia persica 'Vanessa'

Parrotia persica 'Lamplighter'

Parrotia persica in Iran
A genus also noted for hard wood (Ironwood) is Parrotia persica, and the cultivars 'Vanessa' and 'Lamplight' [sic] were on his wish list. 'Lamplighter' is the correct name for the variegated selection but I don't grow it because it frequently reverts. I have some large 'Vanessa' in the landscape, a form with a more narrow and compact habit than the type. It was a seedling selection from The Netherlands and was introduced in 1975. We discontinued it in favor of an even more narrow Parrotia, 'Persian Spire'. The genus name honors F.W. Parrot, a German naturalist who visited Persia (Iran) in the early 1800's. While there he climbed Mt. Ararat (16,854') in 1829 which was the first recorded ascent, but some insist that Noah's Ark was parked there long before. The photo to the right was taken in Iran where Parrotia is used to fence in livestock.

Parrotia persica 'Pendula' in Europe

Parrotia persica 'Pendula' from the Arnold Arboretum

Parrotia persica 'Pendula' – I have a form of it but mine is not nearly as pendulous as what I have seen in Europe, or maybe it's that my form is the same as in Europe but just too rambunctious in my garden. We used to root and grow it staked to about 6'. There it was topped, but not much evident weeping ever occurred, and I don't care for any 'Pendula' that doesn't weep at a reasonable age so we discontinued it. My start came from the Arnold Arboretum of Boston, an institution noted for correct nomenclature.

Liquidambar styraciflua 'Slender Silhouette' (First propagule on the left)

Don Shadow


Also on the list is Nyssa sylvatica 'Slender Silhouette', but certainly he means Liquidambar styraciflua. The splendidly narrow “Sweet gum” is my imagination of the perfect landscape tree, especially for the smaller garden. The species features green maple-like leaves but the genus is in the Hamamelidaceae family. Autumn color is amazing for 'Slender Silhouette' as it is for the entire species, ranging from yellow to orange to burgundy, and the leaves persist for weeks. This fantastic cultivar was discovered and introduced by the noted plantsman Don Shadow of Tennessee, and thankfully he never got around to patenting it. Strangely – or not? – the mother tree was cut down, and one wonders if someone was trying to corner the market by eliminating future propagules. I have seen the first graft of this cultivar at Shadow's home landscape, so that's as close as I'll get to see the original. Besides plant introductions Shadow is famous as a zoologist who keeps about 800 exotic animals from 60 different animal species. Don drove me through the southern Tennessee countryside where I could see wild donkeys, emus, tapirs, camels etc. on his extensive properties. When someone asked him what was his favorite – plants or animals? – he responded that it was plants when the new grafts were growing, but animals when a camel was giving birth. Actually I hate animals, the stinky creatures, though I'm willing to see them in a zoo or under someone else's care. Plants occupy a more elevated realm in my opinion, for they are more quiet and elegant and their copulations are more discreet.

Quercus robur 'Butterbee'

Pungkil wants a start of Quercus robur 'Butterbee', and it was the second request this week; that's odd because one can go years, decades even, before anyone shows any interest in some of our plants. The other 'Butterbee' request earlier in the week was from someone in the Oak Society and I sent him a couple of scions. It was supposed by this society member that, while similar to the better known golden cultivar, 'Concordia', 'Butterbee' displayed better color and was less prone to sun burn. I don't think it is better at all, except for maybe a more fun name, but I sure was hopeful when I first discovered it as a random seedling. The reason we discontinued Quercus production is because both 'Butterbee' and 'Concordia' don't shape very well (for us) in containers. And, in the field, they both burn the first few years; and besides the growth rates vary with field-grown plants where some take off and prosper while others linger as runts their whole life. I suspect that chip-budding in the field would produce better crops versus planting out the side-grafts that we do, but the problem is that I have no employee left in the company who has ever performed a chip bud. I have done a few with other species so maybe I'll try it.

Pinus bungeana at the University of Tennessee Botanic Gardens

Pinus bungeana 'Temple Gem'

In trying to research Kim Pungkil the internet was of no use, though one can connect on Facebook with Jesus Pungkil, a teacher at the University of the Philippines. Also the Milim Botanic Garden on his letterhead leads to nothing from the internet. I do have Kim's email, so maybe I'll contact him and we can send some plants to an address in America and they can figure out how to get them to Korea. Or I could just drop it and not respond, but that would be lazy and maybe even bad karma. The success of Buchholz Nursery is due to the hard work of my employees, but also due to the generosity with plant starts from other growers and collectors. I've never been to Korea, but who knows: maybe one day I can visit and see my plants there. A few years ago I was visiting the University of Tennessee Botanic Garden and I was surprised – but very pleased – to see my introduction of Pinus bungeana 'Temple Gem'. I didn't send it to them but somehow it got there.

Back to the Chinese visitors who I wouldn't accommodate, if they would have asked for just a few plants I would have agreed. Or buy the entire nursery – it's always for sale.