|Podophyllum 'Spotty Dotty', on my wish list for a year now, suddenly, I am discovering that I should have bought more when I had the chance.|
I can hear my brothers now. 'It's Super Bowl Sunday and where is Matt? He's at a crazy Podophyllum lecture eating cookies and sipping tea". Actually, I was. Our local North American Rock Garden Society has a quiet little sub-group called the Hardy Plant Group which meets monthly in the winter at various locations where members show and share either plants, or share images. Each meeting has a theme, and everyone who attends is encouraged to share and participate. Yes, tis a bit geeky, but then again, that's really what this is all about. And although not for everyone, the themes are often challenging and always very interesting. In the past themes have been Cruciferae, or early spring bulbs, or even our favorite winter blooming shrubs. Today, the subject was Podophyllum, along with a discussion on other plants within the Family Berberidaceae.
I can admit here that I do indeed have an obsession with Podophyllum. Today's talk was lead by long-time Friend Darrell Probst, who shared with us his many images of his own seed collections, crosses and new species which he collected on expeditions to China along with Daniel Hinkley way back in the 1990's. We are very fortunate here in the Boston suburbs, as our members are passionate and even included some well known names in the plant world. Members today included Ellen Hornig - past proprietor of the now closed Seneca Hill nursery, of course, Darrell Probst, noted epimedium and now coreopsis breeder. Our audience also included Roy Herald and Helen Herold ( Roy, Hosta breeder and active member of the Pacific Bulb Society, NARGS and the Cactus and Succulent Society, and his wife Helen, past president of the N.E. NARGS chapter). Oh yes, and the Onion Man himself - Mark McDonough I really can't think of a nicer group of friends.
Best thing of all? The talk today was not held at a library or in a conference room - today, it was held in a home - the cozy home of another well known plant couple - Jan Sacks and Marty Schafer, owners of Joe Pye Weed gardens, the well know iris breeders and nursery. We just kicked our snowy boots off on their cold, glassed in porch which housed an amazing collection of sassanqua camellias, citrus and pelargoniums, and grabbed a steaming cup of coffee from the stove, a comfy chair in their living room and watched the power point presentation as the snow fell in huge, fluffy flakes. It was perfectly set, and perfectly cast. Interesting friends, great talk and fascinating inspiration. It reminded me of when I was a child, and would go to a friends house to play while their parents perhaps watched a football game.
I left with a new, and even more enhanced knowledge about the genus Podophyllum, and...a little sad ( if not crazy) since many of the great selections and clones that have appeared in the market over the past couple of years, are now gone, with little hope of new ones coming in since the genus is notoriously challenging to micropropagate and division is slow. In the wild, populations are being depleted in China as Chinese nurseries are raping the woodlands, stripping out every clone they can find, and now that medical researchers are looking at the genus as a possible cancer treatment, new plants being imported is even less likely.
And now, off on my mission to find out more about this genus. I have a few plants already, perhaps one of each species available in most catalogs in the past, but now that I know that there are different populations, and different secections as well as crosses between Chinese species and American species, as well as this deficit of some very choice plants such as Podophyllum delavyi 'Spotty Dotty' which Terra Nova introduced last year, but which is impossible to find today, as well as some fine Heronswood selections from the past ( Damn - if only I had money then!). Some other selections such as P. ' Kaleidoscope' are equally scarce today in the trade. So, I am on a mission to find and collect them all. ( Oh, jeesh - another plant to collect more of), and who knows - if I don't heat my greenhouse next year, maybe I will dump my Clivia collection and start breeding Podophyllum. Or better yet, take a trip to western China.