Kayoichou Park is situated in Kasuya Town on the edge of Fukuoka City on the island of Kyushu, Japan, and is host to a wide variety of sports facilities, public green spaces, and gardens. The park is arranged around a large central reservoir with a number of peninsulas, coves, and even a small island, all accessible by large, paved pathways. The park is famous for its cherry blossoms in spring, and on the lake’s largest promontory there sits a 1,300 square meter (~14,000 sq. ft.) rose garden boasting 180 rose varieties, comprising 2,600 individual plants. Founded in 2001, it has quickly become a favorite local flower viewing spot.
The plants are in peak flower from early to mid May, with a second, less spectacular flowering period occurring in October. Summers in Fukuoka are too hot and wet to allow good flowering for roses, and winters are too cold. The garden is situated in a zone 9 climate, but overall experiences annual temperatures comparable to Atlanta, Georgia or Charleston, South Carolina.
The garden features several rose tunnels, a number of smaller rose gardens scattered around the lake, many standard (tree) roses up to 2 meters tall, as well as the main garden itself consisting of tiered beds of plants easily accessed by paved trails throughout.
Roses in the garden are of many types including hybrid tea, floribunda, grandiflora, miniature, polyantha, and large flowered climbing varieties. All in all the hybrid tea and floribunda types seem to steal the show. This article is the first part showcasing some of the roses you can see at this modest sized, yet comprehensive garden.
Type: hybrid tea Flower characteristics: double Size: 8-10 cm Fragrance: mild, fruity Color: light pink Parentage: Evening Star x Seedling Comments: Lovely, large flowered, upright growing shrub. Hardy to USDA zone 6 and colder with winter protection.
Every spring throughout Japan the most beloved flower of this island nation shows its beauty, and is celebrated with ohanami, literally meaning “blossom viewing”. The flowers in question are of course the world famous flowering cherry trees, known as sakura in Japan. The star of the show is somei-yoshino, known in the west as the Yoshino cherry, Prunus x yedoensis. People gather anywhere they can find a flowering tree large enough to hold an impromptu party under its flowering boughs. They eat, drink, and take in the fine weather of early spring under their favorite national symbol.
The taxonomy of the genus Prunus is problematic at best, containing no less than six subgenera, comprising a wide range of trees. Many are grown for their fruits (plums, apricots, peaches, and of course cherries), and one species, P. dulcis, is famous for its nut, the almond. Some authorities persist in separating these groups into different genera, creating yet more confusion.
Most Prunus that are enjoyed for their flowers are in the subgenus Cerasus, the cherries. The complexity of naming them all is compounded by the extreme variation in flower forms that have been developed over the years. Ironically, most of the cherries enjoyed for their flowers are derived from a relatively few species: Prunus campanulata, P. incisa, P. jamasakura, P. serrulata, P. sargentii, P. spachiana (syn. subhirtella), and P. speciosa (syn. lannesiana). The amazing number of flower forms they can assume however, is astounding – some the result of wild hybridization, and others selected and bred by people, many with their origins lost to time.
What follows is a gallery of photos showing a few of the more common cherry trees in Japan. So with out further comment, here they are…
Every spring Japanese people of all ages eagerly await the flowering of Yoshino cherry trees in parks throughout Japan. Ohanami nowadays is simply having a party under the flowering trees, always accompanied by food, and most folks drinking alcoholic beverages – beer, sake, and shouchu, a clear distilled liquor. The celebration pictured above is in Maizuru Koen, Fukuoka City, Kyushu, Japan.
The most commonly planted flowering cherry tree in Japan these days is Prunus x yedoensis, a presumed natural hybrid resulting from the crossing of P. speciosa and P. spachiana f. ascendens. Trees are commonly planted along rivers, streets, and in parks, but only rarely in private yards. Here is a lovely row on the Ino River in Hisayama Town, Fukuoka Prefecture, Kyushu, Japan.
Japan’s most famous fall flower surly is kiku, known in the west as the “common garden chrysanthemum” or more simply mum. As with virtually anything Japanese, kiku are neither truly Japanese in origin, nor simple to talk about. It is said that they were first brought to Japan from China as a medicine, coupled with a tale about them bringing long life (we’re talking 100s of years).
Over the centuries kiku became popular garden plants and their status grew, to the point that the kiku flower even became the crest of the Japanese royal family by the Kamakura Period. Through the intervening centuries this plant has been cultivated across the world with whole societies devoted to its care and appreciation. In this article I will focus on the plant mostly from a Japanese perspective, with special emphasis on the wonderful kiku festivals, called kiku matsuri, that pop-up around Japan every fall.
First a bit about the plant. A name batted around a lot in the literature is Chrysanthemum x morifolium. According to Kew this is an unresolved name (though oddly they accept C. morifolium as valid) and synonymous with Dendranthema x grandiflora. Regardless, this name is the one most often applied to “common garden mums” as well as kiku. Looking at the flowers any fool can see something is up however, given the extreme variation in their form and size.
Regardless of taxonomic difficulties, it is well known that hundreds of mum varieties exist, spanning an incredible range of flower and growth forms. In the west no less than 13 classes of flowers are recognized, and within Japan at least 7 basic types exist (with numerous sub-classes). More broadly, the genus contains somewhere around 40 accepted species, all Eurasian in origin, with their center of distribution in China.
Interestingly, though the plant has been bred in the far east for centuries, it is well known that they are strongly self-incompatible (common within the Aster family), meaning you cannot self pollinate a plant to produce viable seeds. Nevertheless, most of the range of flower types known today were developed using traditional techniques (e.g. selective breeding). Also interesting is that despite the fact that C. x morifolium cultivars are polyploids (hexaploid, 2N=54) the precise origin of this type remains unknown.
The large flowered types are called ougiku (large kiku), and are grown and displayed as single flowers. The most common Japanese classes are atsumono, kudamono, and ichimonji. Other flower types include chuukiku, kogiku, pottomamu, and kotenkiku based on flower size, breeding and form, and historical context. These flower types should not be confused however with the training styles mentioned below: fukusukezukuri, sanbonjitate, darumazukuri, senrinzaki, kengaizukuri, bonsaizukuri, and kikuningyo.
The most massive type of flowers are known in Japan as atsumono (literally meaning ‘thick object”), also known as the “irregular incurve” class in the west. These are the giants of kiku flowers, with each up to 20 cm across. To achieve this flower size, only one flower can be allowed to form per stem through a process called “dis-budding” (the removal of all buds except the terminal one). Furthermore, there are different styles of how the plants are trained to grow. In one case just a single stem is allowed to develop with just one terminal, giant blossom on a very small plant (fukusukezukuri). Another taller form has three flowers growing on three stems per plant (sanbonjitate), each balancing the others according to old Chinese belief. Each flower represents one vital aspect – heaven (ten), earth (chi), and human (jin). A smaller stature version of sanbonjitate is called darumazukuri.
During their development these flowers are painstakingly hand crafted, by manipulating the flower parts (florets) with thin sticks, thus bending and training them into the desired shape (often upward, creating a dense ball). In the west large flowered types like these have been given the unfortunate name of “football mum” – such a base name for a flower as regal as these!
Hengduan Mountains Biotechnology operates two nurseries in China, one in the high mountains of northern Sichuan, and the other on the hot Sichuan Plain on the outskirts of Chengdu city. The high mountain nursery is located nearly within the boundaries of Huanglong National Park in a deep valley at around 3000 meters elevation. Here the winters are cold, long, and dry, extending from November through March uninterrupted. Summers are cool and wet with most days overcast and temperatures rarely, if ever, above 25 C.
In this climate Holger and Wenqing Perner have their temperate ladyslipper orchid nursery. Several long shadehouses containing thousands of Cypripedium seedlings as well as adult stud plants make up the bulk of the nursery. Native Chinese Cypripediums flourish in these conditions. In late June 2013 I visited the nursery on one of Wenqing and Holger’s botanical tours of the region. What follows is a pictoral essay showing what was in bloom at the time of our visit.
Just couple kilometers up the highway from the nursery is Huanglong Valley, home to literally thousands of Cypripediums, especially C. tibeticum, C. flavum, and C. bardolphianum. For this reason it isn’t surprising the local climate is perfect for growing Cyps. The plants are grown in a mix of four to five parts perlite to one part sedge peat taken from the alpine grasslands of the region. In this mix the plants flourish in beds overlain with conifer needles. Lets take a look at some of the plants we saw at the nursery the day we visited.
This lovely white based colored C. tibeticum is one of their stud plants at the nursery. As you can see, this form lacks the white rim around the lip orifice. Flowers of this type are the largest of the this variable species. If you buy plants from them, then expect flowers similar to this one.
C. flavum is a common, yet endemic orchid of western China, found only the cool wet conditions these high mountains can provide. Flower color is highly variable form pure yellows, to near white flowered ones, as well as spotted flowers such as this lovely plant at the Huanglong nursery.
A challenging group of Cypripediums to grow are the spotted leaf types (Sections Trigonipedia and Sinopedilum). Here are clumps of C. sichuanense (left) and C. bardolphium (right, out of flower) growing with abandon. These plants cannot withstand wet conditions in winter and so must be protected from winter rain and snow.
With their home-base in the capitol city of Chengdu, Sichuan, Wenqing and Holger Perner own and operate Hengduan Mountains Biotechnology, LTD. – a real boon to those interested in the native orchids of China and southern Asia. Currently, no other private company can offer what Hengduan Mountains Biotechnology does.
They sell (with proper documentation) a wide array of orchids from China including many Paphiopedilum and Cypripedium species. They also lead botanical tours into the wilds of China featuring incredible landscapes, a dizzying array of native plants with particular focus on orchids, delicious local cuisine, and of course the cultures of the people who live in these far flung places. And that’s just for starters, so why don’t we have a closer look at this truly unique company.
Dr. Holger Perner is a world known German botanist and orchid specialist, and has worked at Huanglong National Park in northern Sichuan as senior consultant since September 2001. Wenqing, his wife, an accomplished businesswoman and linguist, is fully fluent in English, Japanese, German, and of course her native language, Chinese. They met in Sichuan in 1997 on a botanical tour, were married a year later, and moved to Sichuan (Wenqing’s homeland) full time in 2001. They have two lovely daughters, Stefanie and Isabell.
Since 1999 Wenqing and Holger have been leading botanical tours to see western China’s rare plant flora. In 2010 these tours were extended to the subtropical and tropical mountains of southern China where a number of Paphiopedilum species can be seen. In May of the same year they finally got the go ahead to export CITES protected orchids (both Appendix II and Appendix I) out of China, making it possible for people to legally possess such species as Paphiopedilum hangianum and P. tranlienianum (both Appendix I) for the first time outside of their native lands. Wenqing and Holger also travel extensively throughout the world attending orchid shows, and giving talks to local orchid societies.
I have had the great fortune of personally knowing both of them for some years now. In the summer of 2013 I took it a step further by attending one of their botanical tours to northern Sichuan where I got to know them even better. The experience was beyond my expectations. We were treated to 10 eye popping days in the Min Mountains of Aba Tibetan Qiang Autonomous Prefecture, followed by a visit to their nursery on the outskirts of Chengdu and to the ancient town of Huanglong Xi on the last day.
From June 20th-30th myself and 11 other plant enthusiasts from around the world were escorted around northern Sichuan by Holger and Wenqing personally. A typical day was spent traveling by tour bus to highly varied habitats in the deep valleys that are made by the massive northern Hengduan Mountain Range on the very eves of the immense Tibetan Plateau. We stopped whenever something of interest was seen – everybody would then file off the bus and the cameras would come out. In addition to these frequent stops, we visited no less than six botanical Edens on the tour, spending an entire day at each of the most choice places. Continue reading “Hengduan Mountains Biotechnology, a China based orchid plant nursery”
Washingtonia robusta, the Mexican fan palm, is perhaps one of the most commonly planted palm trees around the world, and yet its native home in northern Mexico is limited to a relatively few water canyons scattered here and there in Sonora and Baja California. Rows of it’s dizzyingly tall, slender trunks topped with a relatively small crown of fronds are the icons of southern California’s older neighborhoods – it’s hard to find a photo of Hollywood that doesn’t include at least a few. So how did this relatively scarce palm become so widely grown throughout the world’s warmer climates? The answer is simple – this is a very tolerant, fast growing palm.
Washingtonia robusta is a denizen of water canyons in otherwise desert to semidesert regions. It is one of the tallest palms in the world, commonly topping 15 meters, with exceptional specimens growing an additional 10-15 meters higher. Its unbranched gray trunk is generally quite slender, usually not more than 30 centimeters in diameter, but swells considerably at the base. It is ringed by close set leaf scars and in tall trees tends to curve a bit as it ascends in long, lazy arcs.
The glossy fronds are palmate in form, are rich green in color, and have hanging leaflet tips not unlike Livistonia chinensis, though not as pronounced. The fronds are quite large, a bit longer than wide, with mature fronds growing up to 1.5 meters long. They form a large round crown, and tend to remain attached to the trunk even after they die, creating the tell-tale skirt common to this genus. The petioles grow up to a meter long and are host to rows of large orange hook-shaped sawtooth spines.
In spring and early summer long sprays of tiny white flowers are produced on hanging branched flower stalks that grow beyond the limit of the crown, each extending up to 3 meters in length. By the fall thousands of small dark brown fruits are produced on them, making this palm a potential weed in the right climate.
The Mexican fan palm is found in nature in seaside facing water canyons and oases near the coast of Sonora (generally north of Guaymas) as well as Baja California. Its range is by no means continuous, but rather highly scattered, suggesting a remnant distribution from a time when conditions allowed it to be more widespread. Its northern distribution is close to its sister species, Washingtonia filifera, but apparently they never are found growing naturally together.
In spite of its rather restricted native distribution, this palm is far from rare these days, in fact in many places it is considered a potential pest. In parts of central and southern California it has naturalized itself such that the California Invasive Plant Council considers its impact on native ecosystems a “moderate risk”. Many people who have grown this palm and let it go to seed have found out just how easily it spreads, sometimes forming “lawns” of seedlings. It is not uncommon to see young trees growing literally in the cracks of concrete walls and sidewalks. Continue reading “The Mexican fan palm, Washingtonia robusta”
China’s Hengduan Mountains are home to a host of endemic lady slipper orchids with Cypripedium bardolphianum being among one of the oddest. This dwarf plant stands at most hand high, and while its flowers are hard to describe as showy, the plant has appeal in many respects nonetheless. Certainly it is more attractive than its moniker would suggest, being named after a warty nosed Shakespearean character. It is one of three species in Section Sinopedilum, all being confined to the mountains of western China.
Cypripedium bardolphianum is a dwarf herbaceous terrestrial orchid of mossy, thin woodlands in high mountain valleys. The plant appears to have an even pair of broad leaves borne opposite to each other, but in fact only one is a true leaf while the other is a oversized floral bract. They are nearly hairless, usually are no more than 5-6 centimeters long each and half again as wide, and grow at ground level. They can be pure green, lightly spotted with purple-black, or flushed with purple (usually near the leaf margins). Growths are produced along a branched, creeping rhizome with new buds initiated several centimeters apart. For this reason they form extensive, loose colonies.
The single flower sits at the end of a short stalk, just a bit taller than the leaves which tend to stand upright during flowering, with the whole plant typically not being much more than 10 centimeters high in total. Since the second “leaf” is in fact the floral bract, the flower is presented unaccompanied at the end of the stalk. The flower is small, around 2 centimeters across, and has a strong, astringent smell. The lip is cup-shaped with the outermost end pointing nearly directly upwards. The lip orifice is depressed giving the flower a bowl-like shape, uncharacteristic for a Cypripedium. The staminode is large and broad. The sepals and petals are quite stout and broad, and all cup around the lip, as though protecting it. The ovary is often adorned with purple hairs along its ridges, especially in dark colored flowers.
Check out this video of Cyps in the wilds of northern Sichuan, China. Plants featured include C. bardolphianum, C. calcicola, C. fargesii, and C. sichuanense… to mention a few.
Livistona chinensis is one of the more cold hardy palm trees commonly in cultivation, and yet ironically is native to the essentially frost free subtropical islands and coastlines of China, Taiwan, and southern Japan. This palm is better known by its common names, the Chinese fan palm and the fountain palm. The former name comes from its palmate leaf structure, while the latter is due to the frond’s hanging apical lobes that create a falling, fountain-like appearance. Without a doubt, this palm is the most commonly grown Livistona species in the world, and given its beauty and cold-hardiness, it deserves a closer look.
The Chinese fan palm is a tall trunk forming palm of coastal and island forests amidst warm, subtropical seas, commonly forming monospecific groves. They typically stand no more than 10 meters tall, but large specimens can approach 15 meters. The gray to brown trunk is usually not more than 30 centimeters in diameter and is essentially naked since the petiole stubs tend to fall away quickly once old fronds are shed. The fronds are costapalmate (having long costa extending up the center of the palm-shaped leaf), up to 200 centimeters long, nearly as wide, and can number 50 or more forming a dense crown. The thin, long apical lobes hang perfectly downward giving the crown a pleasing, fountain-like appearance. The petioles are stiff and highly serrated with sharp brown spines, and are 150 -180 centimeters long. The trunk is unbranched and strong, being quite capable of withstanding intense typhoon winds that haunt this tree’s native shores.
This palm is hermaphroditic, bearing both male and female flower parts. The subglobose (nearly spherical) yellow-green flowers are born on relatively short, branched flower stalks in the early summer. These never grow beyond the confines of the crown, and so remain relatively unseen during flowering. The blue-black olive-like fruits range from subglobose to ellipsoid and usually are fully ripe by early winter. Seed production can be copious, making this species a potential weed under the right conditions.
In nature this stately palm is never found far from coastlines, in fact its habitat is restricted to the sandy southern shores and islands of the South China Sea, northward to the East China Sea, and east to the immediately adjacent parts of the Pacific Ocean. Historically it was found from southeastern China (Hong Kong, Hainan Island, and Guangdong Province), Taiwan, many of Japan’s Nansei Islands (Yakushima, Tanegashima, Okinawa, Iriomotejima, and Ishigakijima), northward to the Korean Straight (Okinoshima), along the Pacific coast of Kyushu (Aoshima), a few coastal areas of Kyushu (Cape Sata and Cape Toi) and Shikoku (Ashizuri Peninsula), as well as the Bonin Islands (Ogasawara Islands) in the Pacific Ocean.
It also is native to Uotsurijima of the Pinnacle Islands (called the Senkaku Islands in Japanese and Diaoyu Islands in Chinese) where apparently it forms near continuous stands on much of the island. The fate of this population is uncertain given the hotly contested status of this tiny island chain, but it seems that the non-native goat population poses a more immediate threat for the entire island’s ecosystem. This palm has suffered range restriction due to human activity throughout its native distribution, particularly where it is found on mainland areas.
Despite its relative rarity in the wild, Livistona chinensis has been naturalized in many places throughout the world including Bermuda, Mauritius, La Réunion, Hawaii, southern Florida, New Caledonia, Fiji, Vietnam, and Java. In Florida it has been listed as a category II plant by the Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council – a designation for species that potentially can become an invasive pest. To date it has not been found to be aggressively invasive there, and is even recommended as a yard specimen in the northern half of the state by the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS). Continue reading “The Chinese fan palm, Livistona chinensis”
In the mountains of western Sichuan, China there exists a curious dwarf form of Cypripedium tibeticum with self pollinating flowers. For years this plant has been shrouded in mystery, initially being given the name C. amesianum, and more recently has been assigned to at least two different accepted species, C. yunnanense and C. ludlowii, by two different authors. Hopefully, I can shed light on this diminutive little plant – what makes it distinct and perhaps even delineating its logical position within the known species of the region. It should be noted that there is no clear name for this plant at the moment, nevertheless I will refer to it as C. tibeticum v. amesianum.
This plant is an herbaceous terrestrial deciduous orchid of sparse woodlands and shrub thickets in high mountains. The plant’s habit is very similar to the more typical forms of C. tibeticum except in stature – often standing no more than 20 cm tall. Beyond that, its most salient feature are the flowers, which are borne one to a stem, and rarely exceed 4-5 cm in natural spread. Their color is fairly normal for a yellow based flower of C. tibeticum, with the lip evenly suffused with a wine red color and striated sepals and petals with a similar hue. The lip tends to be a bit more round than most C. tibeticum, rather than laterally compressed. The lip orifice is lightly toothed as well.
Other than size their most distinctive feature is that the flowers are obligate self pollinators. The reason is easily seen when looking at the pollinia which grow directly onto the stigmatic surface of the column. The result is 100% of the flowers forming pods, though of course not all necessarily come to full term.
It appears that this odd little plant is confined to the Hengduan Mountains of western Sichuan Province, and adjacent areas of extreme northeastern Yunnan at elevations between 3000-3500 meters. Here it is found growing in open woodlands, shrub thickets, scree slopes, and travertine formations throughout the region often alongside other Cyps including C. bardolphianum, C. calcicola, C. farreri, C. flavum, C. guttatum, C. shanxiense, and C. tibeticum v. tibeticum. When vigorous it can form large clumps, but also grows singly.
The existence of v. amesianum has been known for nearly a 100 years. It was first described as Cypripedium amesianum by Rudolf Schlechter in 1919 based on material from two collections made by another famous plant collector of the time, Ernest Henry Wilson, in the vicinity of Wenchuan in Sichuan. Since then plants fitting this type have been found throughout the high mountain valleys of western Sichuan and just over the border in neighboring Yunnan.
Unfortunately, the confusion surrounding its taxonomic status has had a more sorted history. After looking at the AMES herbarium specimen, Phillip Cribb (1998) considered it conspecific with C. yunnanense, another diminutive species with C. tibeticum like flowers from the same general region. Then in 2009 Wolfgang Eccarius published it under the name C. tibeticum ssp. ludlowii, thus reassigning the accepted species C. ludlowii, to this varietal status. Continue reading “Cypripedium tibeticum v. amesianum, a mysterious self pollinating slipper orchid”
Slipper orchids are primitive orchids which all share one obvious feature – the lip, or labellum, is pouch shaped. They range across the world, from temperate to tropical regions of every continent except Africa and Australia. What follows is a list of videos I’ve produced about them, focusing at this point on the genus Cypripedium. Enjoy and share them!
Lady slipper orchids: what to look for when buying them – in this video you see the difference between healthy and unhealthy Cypripedium stock. With an already difficult group of plants to cultivate, there’s no point in buying plants that are likely to fail regardless of your attention.
Cyp. farreri – See this rare endemic slipper orchid of the Hengduan Mountains in western China, known from only 4 locales. I am one of the very few people to have witnessed it in flower in the wild and now you can see them basically as I did.
Cyp. tibeticum – In this video you get to see this highly variable Cypripedium common to western China’s high mountain valleys. It also is one of the most beautiful of the entire genus in my opinion. Here we get to see many different forms of this lovely plant.
Cyp. flavum – This rare yellow flowered endemic Cypripedium of the Hengduan Mountains is featured in its native habitat. This plant is similar looking to its North American cousin, C. reginae, but as you’ll see it is quite a different plant.
Cypripedium photo blitz! – In this gallery of 69 photos you’ll see the best of my shots of these wonderful plants in the wild. All were taken on a trip to Sichuan, China in June 2013. There is no sound track, just the photos and an index at the end describing each photo and where it was taken.
Assorted Cyps from Sichuan – in this video I show a variety of Cyps seen in the wilds of northern Sichuan, China in June 2013. Plants featured include C. bardolphianum, C. calcicola, C. fargesii, and C. sichuanense… to mention a few.