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GardenSMART Episode

Show #52/5413. Rare And Unusual Trees

Summary of Show

Incredible Collection
The Cox Arboretum is a labor of love that is nearly 30 years old and is very reflective of Tom's incredible passion for plants. It boasts an INCREDIBLE COLLECTION of a very diverse range of species. Basically what got you excited about putting this collection together? Tom has always loved plants ever since a child. When they had the opportunity to buy the land, and this was raw land, there was nothing here, no road, just a blank slate they set out here to create really a Noahs Ark of plants.
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Arboretums Vs. A Garden
ARBORETUMS from the standpoint of vision and scope really are different than a garden. Eric would like for Tom to talk about what that difference is. If one thinks of a garden, of a botanical garden or a botanic garden, they are more for the display of plants, more flowers whereas an arboretum - really the word arboretum is tree. Arbor is tree and -etum is place. So a tree place, thus it's really focused on the display of trees as well as preservation and evaluation. If we look at the great display gardens of the world they are design oriented, they are very customer facing, if you will.
For More Information Click here

Medicinal Plants
We spoke earlier about the importance of preserving all of this rare, important germ plasm and in very few spaces is it more important than in the world of MEDICINAL PLANTS. Especially as the rainforests are being destroyed and many other forests are being wiped out, the hope for many cures for cancer and many other diseases that humanity struggles with, might well be dying with those very plants that are being destroyed. In Tom's collection there are some wonderful examples of medicinal plants that have been important in medicine in the past. The first is a plant out of China called camptotheca. Camptotheca has a compound in it, camptothecin that has a property that is being using to fight ovarian cancer in China.
For More Information Click here

Extremely Rare Plants
There are so many rare, unusual plants in Tom's collection Eric was wondering if Tom could, out of all these thousands of plants, maybe touch on a couple of the really, really EXTREMELY RARE PLANTS that he finds to be particularly fascinating. The first one is very rare, it's the rarest maple on earth. Acer pentaphyllum that being five lobes of the leaf, it's only found in one area in China. And that area unfortunately is going to be wiped out with the construction of a dam. At one time, there was only one plant in America and it's been there since the 40's at the San Francisco Botanical Garden.
For More Information Click here

Rare And Unusual Forms
As we walk the grounds of the Arboretum it's impossible not to notice all of the super RARE AND UNUSUAL FORMS - almost everything one can imagine across the entire spectrum of super upright plants to all these rare weeping versions of plants that would otherwise be upright, recumbent plants, super dense little witches brooms. Tom guesses every gardener shares this, but every plant has a story behind it. The first he would like to talk about is the Weeping Chinese Hackberry. It has a unique story, it came from a shrine in Japan, it had a fence around it, an iron fence and was one that was not supposed to be collected.
For More Information Click here

Tom's Favorites
As Tom thinks about the thousands and thousands of plants he's interacted with over decades, it is difficult to narrow down his FAVORITES. But Eric would love for him to give some thought to certain plants that over the years have held a very warm spot in his heart and have risen to the top of that list. As we've traveled around the world in this journey today we've seen plants from Iran, China, Japan,Tasmania, New Zealand and more. But every time they return, come right back here to home, several always come to mind. One of his very favorites, top five trees, is actually his favorite native tree. It's American Yellowwood.
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Brent Markus - Conifer Kingdom
BRENT MARKUS has made a name for himself in the world of conifers and maples. He started a rare tree nursery in 2007 at the age of 24 in Silverton, Oregon. As a grower, landscape designer, and retailer, Brent specializes in unusual and unexpected varieties and colors for the landscape. Brent grows roughly 700 varieties of dwarf conifers, plus an assortment of Japanese Maples which he sells though his rare tree nursery called Conifer Kingdom.
For More Information Click here

How Are Conifers Produced
Brent has worked a lot with Tom and many, many other arboretums and gardens across the U.S. preserving plant genetics by basically cloning trees or shrubs. It's a very important part of making sure that the legacy of these plants survive. There are many, many very rare and endangered plants that he has worked with. There are three different ways that ORNAMENTAL CONIFERS ARE PRODUCED. One would be from seed, utilized if you're looking to produce a straight species.
For More Information Click here

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Show #52/5413. Rare And Unusual Trees

Transcript of Show

In this episode GardenSMART visits one of the most interesting arboretums in the world and speaks with its curator about the wild world of unusual plants.

The Cox Arboretum and gardens is a private estate located in Canton, Georgia in the foothills of the Piedmont Range. Numbering over 4,000 living specimens the plantings display one of the largest private collections of temperate flora in the U. S. The property is bounded by several large wetland habitats where many migratory and native foul make their home. It's situated on 13 acres in the middle of an old grove southern deciduous hardwood forest containing many large oaks, hickory, popular and sweetgum some of which are over 100 years old. Tom Cox started his arboretum as a blank slate and simply began hand clearing the site and installing plants that excited him. With no clear design nor vision for what it was to become he was simply guided by his passion for unusual plants. Today he continues to collect plants from all over the world as well as giving lectures on the subject to pass along his passion and knowledge to the next generation of gardeners and conifer enthusiasts.

Eric welcomes Tom to GardenSMART, thanks so much for joining us, welcome to the show. Tom in turn thanks Eric and GardenSMART, it's a pleasure to have you here today. The Cox Arboretum is a labor of love that is nearly 30 years old and is very reflective of Tom's incredible passion for plants. It boasts an INCREDIBLE COLLECTION of a very perse range of species. Basically what got you excited about putting this collection together? Tom has always loved plants ever since a child. When they had the opportunity to buy the land, and this was raw land, there was nothing here, no road, just a blank slate they set out here to create really a Noah's Ark of plants. He started it little by little with no thought about organization, no thought about the needs of the the plants nor how big they were going to get. They had been in over 50 countries and were able to make a lot of connections and bring a lot of plants back through various means. They visited a lot of nurseries and they always seemed anxious to share things - Here take this, try this, see what you think about this, let us know how it's doing down in the south, et cetera. That's kind of how it got started. Tom has amassed thousands of different species, this is one of the largest collections of species in the United States. Tom agrees it really is and there are a lot of unusual plants here. Not just species. They've traveled around the world and looked latitudinally at what might work here. They're doing a lot of work with Mexico as well as many other countries. Visitors come here and are amazed at the number of unique and perse plants, many of which have never been tried anywhere in America. Cox Arboretum provides the gardener a wonderful opportunity to see things that really we would never see in our lifetime. And that's what makes this place so special.

ARBORETUMS from the standpoint of vision and scope really are different than a garden. Eric would like for Tom to talk about what that difference is. If one thinks of a garden, of a botanical garden or a botanic garden, they are more for the display of plants, more flowers whereas an arboretum - really the word arboretum is tree. Arbor is tree and -etum is place. So a tree place, thus it's really focused on the display of trees as well as preservation and evaluation. If we look at the great display gardens of the world they are design oriented, they are very customer facing, if you will. The arboretum serves a very important role in all of this where it's basically protecting, in many cases, these species that would otherwise go extinct or maybe just be ignored. And it is very important that that germ plasma is preserved. There are many, many advantages in having that around from a standpoint of breeding and just making sure that we continue to have persity in our flora. There are countless examples of that. One of which is the Canadian Hemlock, Tsuga canadensis which is being ravaged now by a pest that comes out of Asia, the wooly adelgid. The Asian hemlocks are impervious to that. That's where the insect came from and the tree developed an immunity. By cross breeding these plants oftentimes we can preserve the species or find a species that will live here. One will often find populations at risk, a good example is the American elm which was at one time, the street tree in America. But then the elm blight just pretty much wiped them out. There are trees that were around that for whatever reason are resistant to elm blight. So finding those, preserving those, keeping that germ plasm going is important. As well there can be compounds in those plants that we're finding work for pharmaceutical purposes. So we need to keep that in mind. Eric realizes that there are way more trees at Cox Arboretum than we could even see in a week. So let's jump into it.

We spoke earlier about the importance of preserving all of this rare, important germ plasm and in very few spaces is it more important than in the world of MEDICINAL PLANTS. Especially as the rainforests are being destroyed and many other forests are being wiped out, the hope for many cures for cancer and many other diseases that humanity struggles with, might well be dying with those very plants that are being destroyed. In Tom's collection there are some wonderful examples of medicinal plants that have been important in medicine in the past. The first is a plant out of China called camptotheca. Camptotheca has a compound in it, camptothecin that has a property that is being using to fight ovarian cancer in China. It's native to Tibet and China only. Another example of a plant they have grown here, not doing it now, it didn't survive here is the pacific yew. It had a drug called taxol. Taxol is very promising in the treatment of breast cancer. Now they've synthesized it and are no longer using the bark from that tree because the tree was becoming extinct. Now they're using a synthetic form. But if these plants were not kept then the compounds found in these plants would not be available. Native people used plants like these for centuries. Another example is witch hazel, which is in no danger of being extinct but witch hazel is one of those old plants that's got an interesting history. It's a native plant in the southeastern United States. Witch hazel is used as an astringent. Back when Tom was a kid, you would go to a barber shop and that's what they put on your face. It's used on sores and various other things. Another plant that has a very interesting history is a southeastern native called pinkneya pubens, Georgia Fever Bark. It's a tree that grows along the coastal part of the U.S. It's very rarely seen, not that many out there, but it was used during the civil war as a quinine substitute for malaria and yellow fever. It has quinine properties in it, it has a pretty unusual poinsettia like bloom. Those are some of the plants, there are many more here that have interesting compounds. And who knows what's out here that hasn't yet been discovered. And that underscores this whole point and why we need to preserve all of these plants because when they're gone, they're gone and with them the compounds that may actually end up curing a disease, the next disease.

There are so many rare, unusual plants in Tom's collection Eric was wondering if Tom could, out of all these thousands of plants, maybe touch on a couple of the really, really EXTREMELY RARE PLANTS that he finds to be particularly fascinating. The first one is very rare, it's the rarest maple on earth. Acer pentaphyllum that being five lobes of the leaf, it's only found in one area in China. And that area unfortunately is going to be wiped out with the construction of a dam. At one time, there was only one plant in America and it's been there since the 40's at the San Francisco Botanical Garden. So virtually every plant that was propagated was propagated from that one plant and only one set of germ plasm. Not good. A few years ago with the help of a gentleman at the Quarry Hill Botanical Garden in Sonoma, California he brought seed back. They were given two of those and have those here. So they're proud to say they have one of the rarest, if not the rarest maple on earth. And it's a different germ plasm from what was there originally from the San Francisco Botanical Garden. Quite an unusual plant not terribly showy but a beautiful, rare plant. The other he would like to talk about is Acer Diabolicum, devils maple. Interesting name it has a little horn that protrudes from the seed coat. It's another Asian plant. Unusual and most of the seed produced in that maple are not viable. It's very unusual to find seed that will germinate. Again very rare they got it last year from the Dawes Arboretum in Ohio.

As we walk the grounds of the Arboretum it's impossible not to notice all of the super RARE AND UNUSUAL FORMS - almost everything one can imagine across the entire spectrum of super upright plants to all these rare weeping versions of plants that would otherwise be upright, recumbent plants, super dense little witches brooms.Tom guesses every gardener shares this, but every plant has a story behind it. The first he would like to talk about is the Weeping Chinese Hackberry. It has a unique story, it came from a shrine in Japan, it had a fence around it, an iron fence and was one that was not supposed to be collected. Tom didn't collect it, to be clear. But somebody got some wood out of that plant and it got distributed. They actually acquired their's from a nursery in North Carolina. It's Celtis sinensis "Green Cascade," Weeping Chinese Hackberry. It's one of the signature plants, you'll note where they put it was around a bend, where as soon as one makes the turn there's this surprise, a huge weeping plant. It's a great feature. The next is an unusual Camellia, Quercifolia or Fish Tail Camellia. The leaves look like a tail of a fish. It was gifted from a nurseryman who had been to Japan, brought the plant back, propagated it and shared one with Tom. Very unusual. Visitors come, oh and ah, where can I get this? The last one is a Contorted Mullberry, Morus bombycis, Unryu. It's unruly, probably. It's a Japanese name, big bold leaves, yellow color in the fall. Love the tree. They give it again, a prominent location. In conclusion, they take great pride in having an array of quite unusual plants. Everywhere they go, they're looking for something that's a little bit different than the norm.

As Tom thinks about the thousands and thousands of plants he's interacted with over decades, it is difficult to narrow down his FAVORITES. But Eric would love for him to give some thought to certain plants that over the years have held a very warm spot in his heart and have risen to the top of that list. As we've traveled around the world in this journey today we've seen plants from Iran, China, Japan,Tasmania, New Zealand and more. But every time they return, come right back here to home, several always come to mind. One of his very favorites, top five trees, is actually his favorite native tree. It's American Yellowwood. It's an old tree that's, again, not

commonly seen in collections, beautiful bark, it's a well adapted tree, it likes lime. Every other year it gets these long pinnacles of late blooms, it seems to bloom every other year. That's certainly one of his very favorite trees. He loves the bark and loves the outline of the tree. Another tree and it is very new in the market. He's excited, they just got the first one of these from a nurseryman in Tennessee, Ray Jackson. It's called Raging Red. It's a Cornus florida American Dogwood, Raging Red. Tom got a chance to see this tree in the fall this year and the foliage is just bright red. He has pictures of it in the summer and it's a dark red, almost black. Again, bright red and it's got the deepest, darkest, red flower of any dogwood he's ever seen. It is going to be a winner, believe me. Another one is one called Euscaphia. The great Don Shadow the nurseryman named it Sweetheart Tree. It comes out of Korea. It's a relatively new tree, was found on one of the expeditions with the National Arboretum and they brought this tree back. The real selling point, which he thinks is why it's called Sweetheart Tree is after the bloom it gets this red Calyx that forms and in the red Calyx, which is just this bright red, real sweetheart red, there's a black seed and it's just dark black against this red Calyx which makes an unusual tree. The next tree he wants to mention is really a shrub. It is called Disanthus, cercidifolius. Cercis is red bud and cercidifolius would mean something that's like a red bud leaf. This tree is a standout year round. But in the fall the colors of the leaves, which are very thick almost leather-y, those colors are almost translucent. There are yellows, reds, and orange. So fused with all these colors on one plant the leaf makes it a very beautiful shrub. Eric thinks that it's the persity in a garden that makes it exciting. There's nothing more boring than a garden that basically only has three different species planted. It's exciting to see Tom's passion for all these plants and we really appreciate Tom sharing these amazing, unusual plants with us. Thank you. Tom appreciates GardenSMART visiting. He will say this in closing. He thinks a good garden has successional bloom. Too many gardens plant for everything to happen at one time. There used to be a singer named, Peggy Lee, and Peggy Lee had a great song called - "Is This All There Is" - and when you get everything blooming at one time and then when summer is over and there's nothing people can say, "Is That All There Is" or "I shaved my legs for this?" Anyway, Tom has appreciated GardenSMART being here, this was a lot of fun.

BRENT MARKUS has made a name for himself in the world of conifers and maples. He started a rare tree nursery in 2007 at the age of 24 in Silverton, Oregon. As a grower, landscape designer, and retailer, Brent specializes in unusual and unexpected varieties and colors for the landscape. Brent grows roughly 700 varieties of dwarf conifers, plus an assortment of Japanese Maples which he sells though his rare tree nursery called Conifer Kingdom. His plants are utilized in landscape operations that serve customers from Chicago, Boston and beyond. Brent shares his knowledge and passion of plants with us as we continue our discussion on growing conifers.

Eric thanks Brent for joining us, welcome to the show. Brent is glad to share his knowledge and expertise with the GardenSMART audience. Brent has worked a lot with Tom and many, many other arboretums and gardens across the U.S. preserving plant genetics by basically cloning trees or shrubs. It's a very important part of making sure that the legacy of these plants survive. There are many, many very rare and endangered plants that he has worked with. There are three different ways that ORNAMENTAL CONIFERS ARE PRODUCED. One would be from seed, utilized if you're looking to produce a straight species. The second would be from a vegetative cutting, with this one is essentially taking a clipping, dipping it in a rooting hormone, then allowing that clipping to develop roots. But the most popular method for preserving exact genetic copies would be grafting plant material. The reason we graft is that, it's a genetic duplication of the parent plant. If we look at ornamental conifers, stuff that you would want to plant in your garden or in your

landscape, odds are the ornamental conifer has been produced using a grafting method. They're standing in front of a fir that happens to thrive throughout the east coast, even in the south east. This is Abies firma which happens to be a momi fir, a Japanese fir. It's quite a large specimen thriving here in Georgia. It was the J.C Raulston Arboretum that figured out that, although most firs could not tolerate the heat and humidity of the south, the Momi Fir could. Here one can see the parent plant and below in a small pot they've essentially grown these seedlings. It doesn't look like much, but it doesn't have to. We're really just using this plant for what's below ground, for it's root stock. We're actually going to use this to graft and produce unusual, beautiful fir varieties for landscapes. Eric asks Brent for those of us that are not familiar with how the grafting process works and what it looks like, walk us through that whole process. One starts with an incredibly healthy seedling. The roots are simply thriving in the pot. One can see it has beautiful white root development, a nice fibrous root system. Then essentially we're taking a cutting from a variety, this happens to be a Golden Spanish Fir, Abies pinsapo Aurea, and we're mating it based on the correct size of the cutting and the diameter of the root stock. We then bond them together. Over the course of a couple of months, the cambium, the living, growing tissue will join the root stock to the cutting and the new plant will eventually take over. What happens, fast forward a year, all of the foliage from the root stock is removed and the new plant will be thriving. It's a bit of an art and a science because we're trying to line up the cambium, which is only two to three cell layers deep and it's very, very thin, the thin layer between the xylem and the phloem, the bark and the wood of the plant, it translocate's the nutrition, if you will, the nutrients in the plant. It is something that home gardeners can learn to do. But Eric is always fascinated when a horticulturist like Brent, who has gotten really good at it because it's not an easy thing to do. If the sizes don't match, nothing is really going to happen. It has to be beautifully lined up and then also after care of the grafts is really important. And that's really when the second level of the art comes into play, the temperatures they keep the plants and how they care for them thereafter. It's fascinating. Eric really, really appreciates the wonderful work that Brent does to preserve all these amazing plants. Thank you very much.

In this episode we visited with two experts in the field of rare plants and conifers, Tom Cox and Brent Markus. We were introduced to some unique and beautiful plants and picked up from them some wonderful tips on propagating plants and growing them. Hope you enjoyed the show. Be sure to tune in next week as we GardenSMART.

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