January 28, 2009

Newly discovered Species that you can own

Xanthocyparis vietnamensis recently discovered and classified by the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew.

For those of us who are over-curious, who crave discovery, especially with plants, the news that new species are still being discovered somehow is a bit reassuring. Two new everygreen plants, recently discovered are rather interesting, especially since the specimens discovered we’re rather mature. I am one who periodically o a bit romantic about the nineteenth century century botanical explorers, or even the modern day botanic explorers like Dan Hinkley. (oh, if only.), but the realities of modern life requires many of us to work daily, do home repairs, pay the mortgage, etc, and the fantasy of taking off for six or so weeks to go exploring for new species in China or New Zealand has little chance of becoming a reality. Believe me, I keep trying to get invited on one of these ventures, hopefully one that would require perhaps 2 weeks, but nothing had become a reality, yet.

The discovery of truly new species are not not uncommon in the world of Instects, but major discoveries in the plant world ( trees, for instance), especially those with ornamental or commercial value, is rarer still. Take these two recent ( in the past ten years) discoveries, Xanthocyparis vietnamensis from Vietnam, and Wollemia nobilis, from New South Wales, in Australia.

Xanthocyparis vietnamenis, Vietnamese golden cypress, is a newly discovered,
critically endangered conifer only known thus far from a restricted area of limestone
mountains in Ha Giang province in Vietnam, close to the Chinese border. The already
small population was believed to be threatened by selective logging. Sound familiar? But recent findings suggest that the population exists in a micro ecosystem on the highest ridges of the mountain range, and are in fact somewhat isolated from the dangers of both logging and fire. I know little beyond on-line research regarding the conservation status, but feel free to discover more for yourself here.

This species is being introduced for testing at various Botanic gardens and research centers such as Kew. It has some promise as an ornamental, especially when young, since it has the curious morphological feature of having two different types of foliage, one when immature, and another when mature. It appears that although more tender than others in the Xanthocyparis clan ( Xanthocyparis nootkatensis, the Alaskan Cedar, for instance formally Chamaecyparis nootkatensis), this species does show promise as a container plant in colder areas ( such as USDA zone 5), but this tree should do well in the Pacific North West.

Wollemia nobilis from the Wollemi home page/University of Hamburg.
The other new species is the Wollemi Pine, which can now be found at a few on-line retailers, in the US, try Plant Delights Nursery.

January 24, 2009


Last year, I listed some of my favorite current reading lists, and since it is winter, and cold, perhaps it's time again to get a wish list together and order some more books. In addition to these current titles, there are a few yet-to-be published titles that look interesting.
Some forthcoming titles are worth looking out for.

The Genus Jasminum in Cultivation

Peter Green and Diana Miller
Publisher Kew Publishing, 2009
Description Expected March 2009

This new Kew Magazine Monograph looks terrific, it is edited by Martyn Rix, from the Kew Website " destined for gardeners, nurserymen, botanists, and lovers of botanical art. The Genus Jasminum details the historical and cultural use of jasmine, its role in perfumery and medicine, cultivation in temperate and tropical gardens, and taxonomy, including a key to cultivated species. Full colour illustrations, photographs and maps illustrate the tex.t".

166pp. 244 x 182mm. 35 colour botanical paintings. 30 colour photographs. 18 line drawings. Hardcover.

ISBN 978 1 84246 011 5
Price £0.00 $0.00
This soon to be published work also sounds great....I can't get enough tropical or species Rhododendron inspiration, but this may make me broke.

Pocket Guide to Hardy Rhododendrons and Azalea Species
J F McQuire and M L A Robinson
Kew Publishing, 2009
An enthusiast's guide, which profiles all the hardy Rhododendron and Azalea species in temperate zones throughout the world. At the heart of the book are 750 colour photographs, used to illustrate every aspect of the plants together with succinct descriptions which include flower colour and flowering time, habit, height, performance, and, critically, leaf characteristics to aid species identification when the plants are not in bloom.
Based on the acclaimed descriptions of H.H. Davidian, the book nonetheless takes fully into account modern taxonomic revisions to the genus.

Provisional publication date: April 2009

ISBN 978 1 84246 148 8

This yet to be published book on my list, which I am most excited about is an Alpine Plant monograh entitled: Alpines from Mountain to Garden, but I could not find a cover image for it yet.

Alpines from Mountain to Garden
Richard Wilford (edited by Robert Rolfe)
Kew Publishing, 2009
To be published in the Kew Botanical Monograph series, this book explores the geography, history, botany and cultivation of alpines and rock garden plants from around the world. The story of the discovery of alpine plants and their introduction into our gardens is a tale of exploration, adventure and perseverance. The book is arranged by geographical region, from Europe and North America, to China, Australasia, South America and Africa. Plant portraits look in detail at particular genera and species, accompanied by colour photographs and botanical illustrations.
£0.00 $0.00

A Botanist in Borneo - Hugh Low's Sarawak Journals

R H W Reece & P J Cribb (ed.)
Natural History Publications (Borneo), 2002
An attractively presented book, consisting of the first publication of the plant-hunting diaries of the botanical collector, Hugh Low, who visited Sarawak during the years 1844-1846. The work includes 66 fine colour reproductions of plant portraits which prove Low's ability as a botanical artist, and the scene is set by a useful introductory chapter about Low's life and work.

212pp. 160 x 225 mm. Hardback, with dust-jacket.

ISBN 983 812 065 0

£27.00 $37.80

Exploratrices Intrepides
This book is more art book than Monograph, but it looks inspirational.

Kew Publishing, for the Mona Bismarck Foundation, 2007
A richly illustrated catalogue, produced to accompany an exhibition of works by the two talented botanical artists and travellers on display at the Mona Bismarck Foundation in Paris from May-July 2007. Many of the paintings were previously unpublished in book form, making this an essential addition to the libraries of all interested in the work of Marianne North and Margaret Mee. The text is bilingual French/English.

Marianne North was a remarkable Victorian painter, who, a hundred years ago, documented many of the plants which came to Kew from explorers.

184pp. Colour illustrations throughout. Paperback.

ISBN 9781842462119
£19.95 $27.95

Genera Euphorbiacearum
A. Radcliffe-Smith
Kew Publishing, 2001
This taxonomic account of all 339 genera currently recognized in the family, is illustrated with 50 full-page line drawings. Many of the generic descriptions are based on the work of the late Dr John Hutchinson, but the classification follows that of Webster as modified by the author.

464pp. 245 x 155mm. Paperback

ISBN 1 84246 022 6
£45.00 $63.00

Another Key monograph,tops on my list and now ordered....

The Genus Cymbidium

David Du Puy and Phillip Cribb
Kew Publishing, 2007
Description from Key site:
Cymbidiums are among the most important and popular orchids in horticulture. Starting in late Victorian England, the variety of form and colour in the species encouraged hybridisation that has provided a great diversity of novelties for the nursery trade over the years. They are versatile plants, marketed as cut-flowers, buttonholes and as pot plants, producing many large, long-lasting flowers.

Cymbidium growing in the Far East can be traced back to the time of Confucius (about 500 BC), but the first species were only introduced to Europe and China at the end of the 18th century. Relatively few species were seen in cultivation in Britain until the time of the Industrial Revolution, which provided both the leisure time and the money for an explosion of interest in orchid growing. From the mid-19th century onwards, extensive exploration and collection of new species took place. The genus Cymbidium currently comprises some 52 species distributed throughout south and east Asia, the Malay Archipelago and north and east Australia.

A revised classification of the genus and an assessment of specific delimitation and nomenclature within the genus are presented in this monograph. The evidence from DNA data has clarified the relationships and classification of the species. The resurgence of interest in Cymbidium species has highlighted the taxonomic questions that still remain in the genus. The recent rush of new species names in the literature is assessed and nomenclature is clarified.

Extensive fieldwork in tropical and subtropical Asia, the Malay Archipelago and Australia has allowed the examination of many species in their wild habitats, contributing valuable information concerning the ecology, natural variation of wild populations and conservation assessments for Cymbidium species, and are provided here for the first time.

Cymbidiums are easy to grow, undoubtedly one of the main reasons for their popularity in horticulture. Suitable environmental conditions and composts for cultivation are recommended, while detailed cultivation techniques for the species are discussed by Michael Tibbs, a leading commercial orchid grower.

369pp. 254 x 185mm. 38 full colour paintings. 200+ maps. Hardback.

ISBN 978 1 84246 147 1

£47.50 $66.50

And another book on the remarkable flora of Mount Kinabalu in Borneo, the amazing National Park where the infamous Paphiopedilum sanderianum ( a species with three foot long sepals which collectors kill over and which brings FBI agents into greenhouses if one has a wild collected form), this book seems like a must have even though it may sound obscure. Since my greenhouse is cool, many of the plants in my collection happen to be from Mount Kinabalu, from Vireya species of tropical Rhododendrons, to Paphs and other orchids.

As a companion to the other Mt. Kinabalu/Borneo book above, this book is pricey, but looks interesting. It has other companion books which address other genus. Since this is the most costly, since it has more color photos, it moves to the top of my list since I think it will be hard to find soon.

The Plants of Mount Kinabalu: 4. Dicotyledon families Acanthaceae to Lythraceae

John H. Beaman, Christine Anderson and Reed S. Beaman
Natural History Publications (Borneo) in association with the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, 2001
The Plants of Mount Kinabalu provides an inventory of all vascular plants in the flora of Mount Kinabalu. Volume 4 contains historical aspects of plant collecting on Kinabalu, a biographical sketch of two of the most important collectors, Mary Strong and Joseph Clemens, analysis of the collections, and enumeration of half the dicotyledons (83 families, 430 genera and 1575 species, subspecies and varieties - just over a quarter of the total Kinabalu flora). The book is particularly authoritative because of the collaboration of 25 noted specialists in various plant groups.

Forty-five plates (containing over 170-colour photographs) enhance the text.

588pp. 250 x 160mm. Hardback, with jacket

ISBN 983 812 051 0
£67.00 $93.80
All are available at the Royal Botanic Gardens web site for Kew Books.

January 21, 2009

Birthdayweek Amaryllis

Amaryllis 'Sweet Lillian'
January is becoming busy. I've been trying to catch up with posting, since last week was my birthday ( 50!), and I had to deliver a keynote speech in Florida, we had two snowstorms, I changed four flights in two days, had the furnace break down twice, and then there is work...and, of course, a new President which I spent celebrating by watching the inaugural on the back seat TV of a Jetblue plane for five hours. Amazing.

The Amaryllis continue to bloom, with these two newer cultivars of the "Cybister-type', those with spidery form which are much nicer, I think , than the showier standard Dutch forms which we are so familiar with. The first, 'Rosado' has such a dark center, that it is difficult to capture it's lushness on screen. Believe me when I say that there should be a lipstick color named this. We have received so much new snow ( 13 inches in two days) that when the sun came out on Saturday, the greenhouse literally shrieked with joy ) or from melting ice on the glass) which made the Amaryllis inside, glow so brightly.

The second new cultivar is called 'Lillian', and it is strikingly gorgeous, it looks more like a Crinum than an Amaryllis, and it's colors are complex and even more interesting when viewed at a close distance.

Short post this week, since the tub is running, and I need to pack for another trip tomorrow. Hopefully, I will catch up this weekend, but for now, this will have to do. At least be assured that I am not wasting time, I am busy on-line ordering new plants from the many catalogs that have arrived, especially Plant Delights Nursery. Maybe that is what I will share later - my list.

Some pottery I made, ready to fire

It's a snowy weekend, snowed in and missing two flights, so I decided to fire up the kiln so I can make more pots. These are pretty poor looking, but I thought that I should at least fire them so that I can fire the nicer ones that I threw this winter. Joe was at the National Pigeon show, ( notice the feathers!) so he stored some of the California pigeons in the studio which is wood heated, because of the cold temps outside for a few days. It was so cold, that we lost one of the ducks, the black one named Jack. RIP Jack. I'm sure there will be more, egg laying season will start soon with the Indian Runners.

Last image - some of the Primula malacoides seed which I brought back from Japan last year is starting to bloom. Early, and since the house is cold, they are small, but soon there will be more. By next week, the sun will begin to feel warmer in the Greenhouse, and by Feb. 14, I can really feel the difference.
For now, we are suffering an amazingly cold winter, with this weekend bringing below zero (F) temperatures again. So far, the greenhouse furnace is plugging on......

January 11, 2009

Getting Buff for the New Year

Cymbidium 'Massachusetts Sunset'

Color is a curious thing. It can be so universally beautiful, collectively agreed upon shades of tints and tones which everyone loves. Then, there are those of us who are more individual. Who prefer unusual shades which either surprise us, shock us or simply, stimulate us in some way. And so it is, with shades of buff.

Currently, in my greenhouse two plants in particular are blooming, each in a similar hue, that of buff. Or beige, or is it brown? Either way, I think the color is exciting, and quite pretty actually. The first, a new hybrid Cymbidium which we purchased this autumn at our local Orchid society annual show, ( at Tower Hill Botanic garden, in Boylston, MA), a Cymbidium cross which we spotted under a salesmans table, in bud. He sold us that it was a new cross entitled 'Massachusetts Sunset' or 'Mass Sunset" as the tag reads. I don't know too much about it, perhaps I shall Google it and find out, but regardless, it has now bloomed and I am including a few photos here which show how different the color looks during different times of day, and the light in which it is photographed. Reminding us all.....to never choose paint color at the Home Store under florescent lights, (unless you are painting a room washed in florescent light). A pet peeve of mine, happens to be watching homemakers on Saturday morning either choosing colors for their living room by matching a swatch or a pillow, or, those who simply choose a color without testing it painted on the wall. Think - "Green grass in the summer reflecting light in" or " Snow reflecting white light in" or...OK, forget it, I will leave this rant to my design blog...but look at how different this orchid looks in each shot.

Light is critical in choosing color or in photographing color for accuracy. I love the color of sunsets in winter, and this show proves how the Cymbidium "Massachusetts Sunset' earned its name.

Cymbidium 'Massachusetts Sunset" has a fragrance which I think smells exactly like dried orange peel. Scent is such a powerful memory, that everytime I smell a large, standard Cymbidium, I am transported back to when I was in high school, and I had to go on an interview for my first job, a work-study position as a gardener for a Fletcher Steele garden, here in Worcester. Helen Stoddard, who's estate it was, had brought in a large cut spike of a brown, standard Cymbidium and had it in her parlor. The memory of the March light, the color of the flowers which then, to me, we're quite exotic since the only Cymbidium one saw normally in my town came in acetate corsage boxes at Mother's Day. Today, my favorite color in this genus of orchids that are terrestrial ( grown growing) and cool greenhouse growers, are the green and brown flowers strains. I just love them.

A new Hybrid Amaryllis, Exotica® with a unique color which actually has a hint of yellow in it.

A new variety which I found in the White Flower Farm catalog, was this Amaryllis variety called 'Exotica®', a registered variety which is a bit more pricey than the average Dutch varieties, but has a color which is most interesting, which shades of yellow, mustard, lime and pink in it. Or, is it raw veal? Anyway, I do like it, and, if the cost seems steep, the Amaryllis from WWF are worth it, since each will produce at least 2 of not 3 stems, so one bulb can be in bloom for most of the winter.

January sunset colors on the greenhouse Friday, before another snow storm arrived. Next week, we are being warned that temperatures will reach -5 below zero F! I can't imagine that my gas furnace, which explodes ever time it ignites, will ever make it. We shall see! I am in Florida next week speaking at a conference, maybe it is best if I do not know what happens while I am gone.

An Eastern Grey Squirrel trying to stay warm in our sub-zero temperatures.

January 6, 2009

Inkadate - Rice Field Art

Rice farmers in Inkadate, Japan plant rice pictures, some are amazing.

Others are commerical, but awesome.

WIshing everyone a wonderfull great New Year.
I'm busy working on my gardening book ( more on that later), and back to work this week, so I've been behind ( or I took a tiny leave) from the Blog posting. To hold you all over, here are some interesting photos from Flickr of inkadate, a rather new trend in Japan of planting rice varieties which grow in different colors, in rice fields. Farmers either rent their fields out as advertising, or they hire artists to make an installation. Rather nice, but so typically Japanese-ly strange.

Here are what some have written about the trend in Japan.

In the Japanese village of Inakadate in the Aomori prefecgture,villagers plant ancient varieties of rice. The green areas are tsugaru-roman, the local variety while the purple yellow and red areas consist of kodaimai, or ancient strains of rice.

Inkadate Rice Fields is rather new, trend-wise. Not unlike corn paintings and crop circles, the ingenious farmers from Inakadate started planting artistic rice fields in 1993 after one farmer started and gained much publicity. While the INKADATE has earned the title of the most popular town when it comes to decorating rice paddies, the small Japanese town is not alone. Farmers in Yonezawa, from the Yamagata Prefecture, as well as farmers from Nishio, in the Aichi Prefecture, plant artistic crops as well. Their works are incredible, but still pale in comparison next to the portraits painstakingly planted by the Inakadate farmers.

Most Rice fields in Japan, and throughout much of Asia, are much more than a simple place to grow food. In some cultures, whether or not a farmer owns land on which to cultivate rice is symbolic of his stature in the class system and overall social hierarchy. They spend hours of time not only in the fields, but also blessing and decorating the granaries within which they’ll store the rice once it has been harvested.

Today, modern technology has replaced some of the older traditions. Farmers aren’t as likely to conduct religious rituals in the fields or harvest their crops by hand. They instead embrace their culture by spending countless hours planning the layouts for rice fields that, in some cases, challenge the dedication of some of today’s finest modern artists.
In the case of Inakadate, however, the project originally simply came about as part of a revitalization effort designed to help enhance the beauty of their small village- checking in with only 8,700 residents. They started with simple designs, such as a picture of Mount Iwaki, but later began challenging themselves as their skills grew and they became more confident in their work.
In 2007, they attempted to recreate some of the famous woodblock prints created by Katsushika Hokusai in his series known as “Fugaku Sanjurokke,” which translates to “Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji.” There are not enough words to describe the results of their marvelous efforts.
So how do they do it? Japanese farmers commonly grow a variety of rice, called tsugaru-roman, which buds with green leaves. In order to design their crop art, they include kodaimai rice, which grows with purple and yellow leaves and provides the contrast needed to create lines and depth within the work of art. Some farmers incorporate brown and yellow rice into their field art as well.