form and foliage

Year round garden interest with minimal care


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Touring with Talon: Buchholz & Buchholz Up Close and Personal

evergreen plants, conifers, foliage plants

We were greeted by Talon Buchholz – and a riot of foliage color!

When we set out to tour the iconic nurseries of the Pacific Northwest, we confess to having been a bit nervous that they would not live up to the folklore that has been created and nurtured by the conifer cognoscenti.  Our third stop, Buchholz & Buchholz, continued the theme of exceeding our expectations!  Talon Buchholz, whose eponymous nursery is responsible for almost as many plant introductions as the Garden of Eden, met us upon our arrival and gave us a personal tour.  His affection for the plants and their histories made this one of our favorite stops on our road trip.

conifers, evergreen plants, Buchholz & Buchholz

Cupressus nootkatensis stand guard over the display plantings in the Flora Wonder Arboretum

Talon’s nursery includes a wonderful, quasi-naturalized display garden, the Flora Wonder Arboretum, which exudes more personality than most commercial settings.  A number of the plantings have clearly been in the ground for many years, and elements of whimsy and creativity abound.  Conifers, maples and other woody specimen plants are Buchholz’s specialty, which is one of the reasons that we were eager to visit.

Weeping larch

Larix deciduosa ‘Pendula’

It’s clear that Talon has a sense of humor; the weeping larch in the above photo looks like some kind of mythical creature and there is even a weeping Douglas fir that has been pruned in the shape of an elephant.  The interplantings of conifers, maples and other deciduous specimen trees and shrubs is both artful and natural.  There is no pretension here–the plants speak for themselves.

conifers, evergreens, foliage plants

Mixed conifer border at Buchholz & Buchholz

It was a joy to see specimens in the ground, obviously carefully placed and planted.  Talon knows each plant–each specimen, actually–and tells the story of how it came to be – and be included in the Buchholz & Buchholz repertory.  His nursery covers many, many acres and yet he speaks of the plantings with more personal connection than do most gardeners with infinitesimally smaller lots.

Japanese maples at Buchholz & Buchholz

Japanese maples at Buchholz & Buchholz

The Japanese maples in the gardens were amazing–a wild array of colors, shapes and textures.  It was instructive to see so many mature specimens in the ground; so often we are reduced to seeing small plants in pots or recent garden plantings.  The maples were beginning to take on fall color when we visited, we can only imagine what they look like in spring with new growth.

mixed foliage, evergreen shrubs, conifers

Mixed foliage border at Buchholz & Buchholz

As the border above illustrates, the Flora Wonder Arboretum is an homage to the concepts of form and foliage; Talon interplants conifers, maples, ginkgos, natives and grasses with an easy hand. The plants are given enough space to demonstrate their shapes and architectures.

Ginkgo biloba, Buchholz & Buchholz

Ginkgo are some of our favorite trees

Many of the Flora Wonder plantings have been in the ground for decades – it is a great spot to see specimens that have attained some size, such as this Ginkgo.

maples in containers, Buchholz & Buchholz

Flora Wonder pumice planters

The greenhouses abound with specimen plantings beautifully displayed in cedar boxes – Japanese maples, conifers, etc were arrayed in soldierly rows.  We were particularly taken with the pumice planters, in which single plants or combinations were attractively nestled.  It was at about this point that we tried to figure out if they would fit in our luggage.

Weeping purple beech, fagus sylvatica 'Purpurea Pendula'

Weeping purple beech

We thoroughly enjoyed our visit and took our leave only because the staff was trying to close for the day.  Talon’s website has hundreds of beautiful images and if our review of our visit piqued your interest, go on a virtual tour with Talon at Buchholz & Buchholz Nursery.  You won’t be disappointed!

Next stop: The Oregon Garden’s Conifer Collection, Silverton, OR

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Up Close and Personal

We tend to refrain from posting close-ups of plants.  In fact, whenever possible, we feature plant combinations and groupings as we find it most useful to replicate what one sees the majority of the time when viewing a garden.  However, sometimes it pays to take a closer look!

Leucadendron (Conebush) 'Jester' (syn 'Safari Sunshine') involucral leaves, or bracts

Leucadendron (Conebush) ‘Jester’ (syn ‘Safari Sunshine’) involucral leaves, or bracts, in winter, when their pinky-red color is most pronounced.

Other than specialized assignments to photograph particular gardens, most “plant” photography is what is called “macro” photography.  Macro photographers use specialized lenses, tripods and other equipment to capture exquisitely close images of flowers and other intimate perspectives of plants.  Many of these images are actually shot in a studio setting where there is no risk of a blurring breeze and where the backdrop and lighting can be carefully controlled.  The purpose is to realize the artistic beauty in the color and form of the subject, whose function as a plant is essentially irrelevant.

Chamaecyparis obtusa (Hinoki False Cypress) 'Tetragona Aurea'

Chamaecyparis obtusa (Hinoki False Cypress) ‘Tetragona Aurea’ branch tip, glowing gold

Macro photography is extremely challenging.  The power of the image results from a perfect depth of field (shallow or deep, depending on the artistic intentions of the photographer), exposure and composition.  Also, with the advance of digital technology, creating an image that is distinctive is extremely difficult.

Chondropetalum elephantinum (Large Cape Rush)

Chondropetalum elephantinum (Large Cape Rush)

Once a photographer has mastered the technical aspects of macro photography, it is an enormous challenge to produce images that don’t look like all of the others.  There truly are millions of images of perfect red roses; the challenge is to have your rose evoke something the others don’t.  Not easy!!!  Great photographers, such as Mike Moats, make a living shooting “tiny landscapes”, looking for a “story” in each image through  imperfections or other evocative elements.

Callicarpa bodinieri (Beauty Bush) 'Profusion'

Callicarpa bodinieri (Beauty Bush) ‘Profusion’, graced with gossamer on a winter morning.

The alternative approach to photographing gardens is to treat them as  landscapes,  using perspective, depth of field, natural light and exposure to evoke  beauty and mood.  Jan’s view of garden photography is that it falls somewhere within the mix of architectural photography and large and tiny landscapes.

Cryptomeria japonica (Japanese Cedar) 'Mushroom'

Cryptomeria japonica (Japanese Cedar) ‘Mushroom’, wearing its burnished winter coat of bronze and taffy, with highlights of lavender and mauve.

Jan has the added challenge of photographing what  Sara wants to reveal about the garden.   Jan is often attracted to a subject because of color and composition that has nothing to do with the point Sara wants to make and illustrate. This results in much discussion and interpretation, generally resulting in heightened appreciation and understanding by both, but sometimes in gales of laughter.

Cornus mas (Cornelian Cherry) 'Golden Glory' flowers in February

Cornus mas (Cornelian Cherry) ‘Golden Glory’ flowers in February

We also grapple with the issue of realism, especially regarding color saturation.  Jan firmly believes that being a photographer has sensitized her to light and color, whereas non-photographers often filter out (no pun intended) those details while appreciating the overall scene.

Garrya elliptica 'Evie' (Coast Silk Tassel) in bloom in February

Garrya elliptica ‘Evie’ (Coast Silk Tassel) in bloom in February

However, it is not uncommon to find images in garden books that are so supersaturated as to appear surreal.  We’re looking for something much more the way Jan and Sara, together, see the sight.  It’s a constant learning experience.

Pinus thunbergii (Japanese Black Pine) 'Shirome janome'

Pinus thunbergii (Japanese Black Pine) ‘Shirome janome’ with its stunning variegation readily visible. As beautiful as any flower.

So, with that background, we hope that you have enjoyed these more intimate perspectives of the garden.

Copyright 2012 by Form and Foliage