Pollinators appreciate the showy flowers as well.

Plant of the Day – Sassafras tzumu, Chinese Sassafras

ARB-LogoBFin

One of our most loved eastern North American trees is the sassafras (Sassafras albidum).  Much less well known is its Chinese counterpart, Sassafras tzumu.  Growing across much of southern China, it makes a tall tree to over 100′ tall in open woodlands and forest edges.  In cultivation it typically is more of a medium sized tree, growing to 35′-60′ in 20 years.  When grown in the open, it has a distinctly tiered habit, much like some species of dogwoods.  Late winter to early spring flowers are clusters of small gold blooms at the tip of each branch.  In full flower, Chinese sassafras is as showy as any spring flowering tree and resembles a large Cornelian cherry (Cornus mas and C. officionalis).  The leaves emerge with a touch of burgundy before becoming large and green with the typical sassafras foliage shapes – ovate, mitten-like, and tri-lobed.  Sassafras has separate male and female plants so the blue-black fruits are rarely formed unless 2 trees are grown in proximity to each other.  On occasion, typically male plants will put out some female flowers and form fruit.  Fall color is spectacular and among the best for southern gardens.  After the leaves drop, stout yellow-green branches provide some measure of winter interest.

A Chinese sassafras in full flower is hard to beat.

A Chinese sassafras in full flower is hard to beat.

Pollinators appreciate the showy flowers as well.

Pollinators appreciate the showy flowers as well.

Fall color can be spectacular.

Fall color can be spectacular.

Sassafras tzumu growing wild in the Nanling Mountains in China.

Sassafras tzumu growing wild in the Nanling Mountains in China.

A snowfall highlights the tiered, open habit of Chinese sassafras.

A snowfall highlights the tiered, open habit of Chinese sassafras.

The blue fruit of Sassafras tzumu.

The blue fruit of Sassafras tzumu.

Follow me at @jcramark because life is too short for boring plants.

Check out all the happenings, see more images, and learn more at the JC Raulston Arboretum where we are Planting a Better World.

Dan Hinkey (center) with J.C. Raulston (right) in the halcyon, hair days of 1991.

Last Chance to Register!

This is your very last chance to register for one of the very few spots left open for An Evening With The Explorers – Trials and Triumphs of the Plant Hunters this Friday evening, March 6 at the JC Raulston Arboretum!

You’ve procrastinated long enough and now you’re in danger of missing out on this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to rub elbows with some of the leading explorers in this modern golden age of plant exploration.  If getting to chat up folks like Dan Hinkley, Scott McMahan, Ozzie Johnson, Andrew Bunting, and Greg Paige isn’t enough, there’s more:

Heavy hors d’ouevres and noshes

Open bar with great NC craft beer and wine

Silent and live auction with extremely rare and choice plants including:

  • Weeping persimmon (Diospyros kaki (Shibamichi Weeping) – from the garden of Akira Shibamichi!
  • Cathy catkin yew (Amentotaxus cathayensis) – One of the rarest of all conifers
  • Vietnam golden cypress (Xanthocyparis vietnamensis) – Dan Hinkley’s wild collection
  • Five lobe maple (Acer pentaphyllum) – The world’s rarest maple
  • Asian chain fern (Woodwardia unigemmata) – Incredible red new growth
  • Red lotus magnolia (Magnolia insignis) – A red-flowered evergreen magnolia
  • Red-fruited helwingia (Helwingia sp.) – A Dan Hinkley collection of an unknown species!
  • Japanese maples, evergreen spicebush, dwarf linden & ginkgo, and many more

Plus there will be an opportunity to bid on a 2 night stay with Dan Hinkley at his gorgeous home on Bainbridge Island in Washington.

Register now or live with regret.

All proceeds from this fundraiser go to support plant exploration.

Weeping Asian persimmon (Diospyros kaki 'Shibamichi Weeping' from the garden of famed Japanese nurseryman, Akira Shibamichi.

Weeping Asian persimmon (Diospyros kaki ‘Shibamichi Weeping’ from the garden of famed Japanese nurseryman, Akira Shibamichi.

Special thanks to event sponsor Bartlett Tree Experts and speaker sponsor Spring Meadow Nursery.

Dan Hinkey (center) with J.C. Raulston (right) in the halcyon, hair days of 1991.

Dan Hinkey (center) with J.C. Raulston (right) in the halcyon hair days of 1991.

Visit us at jcra.ncsu.edu for all of the many happenings at the JC Raulston Arboretum!

 

Join Us for an Intimate Evening with the Plant Hunters!

I just returned from a fantastic trip to Seattle where I was able to spend time with some of the best of the modern day plant hunters to talk for 3 days about the genus Mahonia.  It may be hard to believe but this is a group of folks who could make a long weekend discussing green plants with yellow flowers fascinating.

The organizer of this “1st Biennial Orphaned Genera Summit” was none other than the acclaimed Dan Hinkley of Heronwood Nursery fame.  Among the highlights of this trip were visits to Dan’s personal garden and home, Windcliff, and Heronswood which is rapidly being restored to its former glory.  By far the largest contingent of participants were the JCRA/NCSU scions including Tony Avent of Plant Delights (see his post about the event here), Ian Simpkins (Vizcaya gardens), Todd Lasseigne (Tulsa Botanical Garden), Jon & Adrienne Roethling (Highpoint University & Paul J Ciener Botanical Garden), Todd Rounsaville (University of Kentucky), and NCSU’s Tom Ranney to name a few.

Our speakers, Dan Hinkley and Scott McMahan admire the new Heronswood totem with event panelist Greg Paige and former JCRA staffer, Todd Lasseigne.

Our speakers, Dan Hinkley and Scott McMahan admire the new Heronswood totem with event panelist Greg Paige and former JCRA staffer, Todd Lasseigne.

Interestingly, all of the speakers for the JC Raulston Arboretum’s upcoming “Evening with the Explorers” were in attendance.  This event, coming up quickly on Friday, March 6, is an intimate get together to share some of the trials, tribulations, and of course triumphs of plant hunting over tasty noshes, good wine, and excellent NC craft beer.  Dan Hinkley will be headlining the event and if you’ve never heard him speak, don’t miss your chance!  We’ve scheduled plenty of time for you to chat up our speakers before and during the program so can get to know them personally.

Dark of night is no match for a dedicated plant lover.  Dan Hinkley has been a long-time JCRA friend.  Photo by J.C. Raulston on a 1994 trek to Heronswood.

Dark of night is no match for a dedicated plant lover. Dan Hinkley has been a long-time JCRA friend. Photo by J.C. Raulston on a 1994 trek to Heronswood.

The event is strictly limited to 100 attendees and the poor weather over the past week has opened up a few spots (10 seats are available as I write this on March 2).  If you’d like to register, act quickly as these seats will be snapped up by folks who want a fun-filled evening, perhaps even a date night.

I’ll be talking a bit about my month-long stay with the Chachi people in the rainforest of Ecuador, my first foray into plant exploration.  They say the Inuit have 100 words for snow – I’m not sure if that is true but the Chachi have no word for privacy in their language, Cha’palaachi.  Scott McMahan will give a tour of his Asian collecting trips, and Dan will talk about how his collections have helped him create a truly unique garden on Bainbridge Island.  We’ll wrap up with a panel Q&A with our speakers and several other collectors who travel with us.

A typical Chachi house in Ecuador.

A typical Chachi house in Ecuador.

This is a fund-raising event to support plant exploration by the JCRA and our other speakers so come prepared to bid early and often on a range of drool-inducing plants including the rare Cupressus (Xanthocyparis) vietnamensis collected by Dan in Vietnam and a possibly new species of Helwingia with red fruit.  The highlight of the auction is a 2 night stay for 2 (or maybe even a 1 night stay for 4) at Dan’s incredible home (all that time spent with Martha Stewart has paid off) including a gourmet meal provided by Dan and Robert.

A photo from my 2010 pilgrimage to Windcliff.  A chance to spend 2 nights with Dan and Robert at their amazing home and garden is a truly once-in-a-lifetime opportunity available in our silent auction.

A photo from my 2010 pilgrimage to Windcliff. The chance to spend 2 nights with Dan and Robert at their amazing home and garden is a truly once-in-a-lifetime opportunity available in our silent auction.

Special thanks to event sponsor Bartlett Tree Experts and speaker sponsor Spring Meadow Nursery.

Visit us at jcra.ncsu.edu for all of the many happenings at the JC Raulston Arboretum!

 

Former JCRA Intern is Heading to Edinburgh!

We are very excited to announce that Amanda Wilkins, 2011 JC Raulston Arboretum intern and volunteer, has been accepted into the University of Edinburgh’s Master’s program in Biodiversity and Taxonomy of Plants at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh.

Amanda volunteering at a JCRA children's program event.

Amanda volunteering at a JCRA children’s program event.

She starts her year-long studies in September where she hopes to gain a better understanding of plant taxonomy and perspective on international public horticulture. She hopes to one day be a curator at a botanical garden. Amanda graduated from N.C. State with her bachelor’s in horticultural science in December 2013, and has since interned at the Polly Hill Arboretum on Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts.

Amanda (far right) and co-workers at Polly Hill Arboretum working hard.

Amanda (far right) and co-workers at Polly Hill Arboretum working hard.

She was just added to the staff at the Mobile Botanical Garden as curator of collections where she’s developing plants records for the camellia and azalea collections. She would like to thank all of the wonderful folks, staff and volunteers alike, at the J.C. Raulston Arboretum for all of their support over the last few years.

If you would like to donate to Amanda’s scholarship fund, please visit: http://www.gofundme.com/gradschoolinuk.

See what’s happening at the JC Raulston Arboretum!

Quarryhill manages to capture the serene beauty of a wild Asian mountainside.

Our Favorite Places – Quarryhill Botanical Garden

ARB-LogoBFin

Every garden is different but few public gardens are truly unique.  Quarryhill Botanical Garden is certainly an exception to this rule.  Quarryhill’s goal of “advancing the conservation, study, and cultivation of the flora of Asia,” has led them to create a beautiful garden that displays one of the largest collections of documented wild-collected Asian plants in the world.  The plants are displayed throughout much of the garden in naturalistic settings unlike most gardens that strive to create order out of nature.

Quarryhill manages to capture the serene beauty of a wild Asian mountainside.

Quarryhill manages to capture the serene beauty of a wild Asian mountainside.

The garden began in earnest in 1987 when the founder, Jane Davenport Jansen, sent the first of many expeditions to Asia.  The young plants were planted on the hillsides above the vineyards of wine country in California.  The garden was the former site of a series of quarries giving rise to the garden’s name.  The abandoned rubble and rocky ground is certainly a challenge for gardening but the beauty of water-filled excavation sites and waterfalls provides a picturesque backdrop for the collections.

The beauty of the land is only enhanced by the plant collections.

The beauty of the land is only enhanced by the plant collections.

Leading the efforts of the garden for most of its existence has been Bill McNamara a well-known expert on the flora of Asia who straddles the divide between botanists and gardeners bringing the best of both disciplines to bear on his work.  Bill was made a field associate of the Department of Botany, California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco, and an honorary researcher of the Scientific Information Center of Resources and Environment of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in 2000. In 2001 he became an associate member of the joint Chinese-American Committee for the Flora of China. In 2006, Bill was made an international advisor for Curtis’s Botanical Magazine. He has been the curator of the Crombie Arboretum since 2003. Bill has a Master’s degree in conservation biology and is also a member of the San Francisco Botanical Garden at Strybing Arboretum Horticulture Advisory Committee. He received the Garden Club of America’s Eloise Payne Luquer Medal in 2009 and received the prestigious 2010 Scott Medal and Award from the Scott Arboretum of Swarthmore College. He was the recipient of the California Horticultural Society Annual Award in 2012. In 2013, he received the Award of Excellence from the National Garden Clubs.

Bill McNamara has spent 26 years studying and collecting plants in Asia.

Bill McNamara has spent 26 years studying and collecting plants in Asia.

We are thrilled here at the JC Raulston Arboretum to have Bill back to share some of his collected wisdom, keen insights, and dry wit for our Winter Symposium.  Bill was one of the highlights of our 30th Anniversary celebration and participants have been requesting his return.  Bill and I have had several conversations over the years about the diversity of roses throughout Asia and their potential to transform the modern landscape rose.  Quarryhill has created perhaps the only garden dedicated to the wild roses that have given rise to our modern selections.  As the JCRA celebrates the soon-to-be-finished Finley-Nottingham Rose Garden, I could think of no better person to be here for our “Stop and Smell the Roses” symposium on February 21, 2015.

Jiang Entian Chinese Heritage Rose Garden at Quarryhill Botanical Garden was dedicated in 2012.

The Jiang Entian Chinese Heritage Rose Garden at Quarryhill Botanical Garden was dedicated in 2012.

Follow me at @jcramark because life is too short for boring plants.

Stop and Smell the Roses all through 2015 at the JC Raulston Arboretum.

Stop and Smell the Roses all through 2015 at the JC Raulston Arboretum.

Check out all the happenings, see more images, and learn more at the JC Raulston Arboretum where we are Planting a Better World.

Tibetan prayer flags add to the Asian ambiance of the garden.

Tibetan prayer flags add to the Asian ambiance of the garden.