Happy Foliage Follow-Up Day, everyone! My post this month is part ongoing (possibly resolved?) plant mystery, and part search for a very elusive exclusive. At a trip to Heronswood last September, I snapped a picture of a gorgeous shrub with wavy, sort of undulating, waxy leaves – a fabulous texture. It stopped me in my tracks – absolutely beautiful! I didn’t even know where to begin in identifying it, but it also caught the eye of my friend Loree, of Danger Garden fame. She joined in the search for answers… We went through a few options:
As part of Monrovia’s Dan Hinkley collection is a hardy Shefflera. At first, because I saw this shrub at Heronswood, I thought it might make sense since Dan Hinkley was involved, but the Shefflera photos weren’t really showing what I wanted to see. In fact, although the leaves seemed reasonably similar, the Shefflera has a much airier look about it, whereas the mystery shrub seems denser, and less “layered”. It’s hard to tell from photos, but Loree who is better acquainted with Sheffleras than I am said ‘Naah’. Even I – at least occasionally – listen to authority, so the search continued. Being nowhere near certainty, Loree posed the problem to the numerous readers of her blog, and from a commenter she got the answer that is probably the closest one yet – a dwarf ornamental peach tree – Prunus persica ‘Pink Peachy’. So far, so good! It looks an awful lot like it – and for a brief moment this was really exciting! That is, until I realized that I was looking at a Czech website. Go figure… Oh well, if they have it over there, you’d think they’d offer it over here too… right? Well, back in September of 2013, I couldn’t find anything about it, and just now (June 2014) I checked a couple of plant databases again – Plant lust, as well as OAN’s. Sad to say, but NOTHING!
Once learning how unobtainable this darn peachy little thing is, but not quite ready to forget about it, one subconsciously trains oneself to be on the constant lookout for those wavy leaves – or anything that comes close – in the event that one, by happenstance, might happen to stumble upon one. In this case it happened sooner than I thought.
Just over a month after our nursery tour of the Kitsap Peninsula, I visited a small but mighty little nursery I had only heard about through other garden geek friends – a little place in far NE Portland called Viscaya. This was also the first time I met William – the owner of this little gem. Quite unusual, the first thing I saw of the nursery were tables set up in what was mostly a parking lot. The tables held nursery pots filled with a plethora of interesting and uncommon plants. The tables continued along a path, flanked by tables winding through a garden planted with all kinds of unusual fare. In the various pots, I recognized several favorites I already had growing in my garden, and almost instantly, I started rearranging the ranking order of Favorite Portland Nurseries in my head.
I should have realized something was going on – the prices of the plants were ridiculous, and I bought far more than I had intended – both for me and to give away to friends and neighbors. As winter was drawing near, the stated reason that no greenhouse existed seemed a passable explanation for the mega-sale , albeit a little strange – but hey, I bought it! Greed can justify anything, right? With a car loaded full of plants, I drove home, determined to tell all my garden-nut friends about the unbelievable luck of having discovered such an amazing place. Anyway, long story short – one of the featured plants in the garden had literally made me jump! It wasn’t quite as showy as Pink Peachy, but it had great foliage with somewhat wavy edges. Progress!!! If Viscaya had it, maybe this nice William-dude I had just met could point me in the direction to where I could find it?
Well, as you probably know, things are rarely as good as they seem. After the customary, yet shallow, vote of support (as in a “like” on Facebook) I started to see updates indicating that Viscaya was going out of business. I was mortified, but it all made more sense now. When the post indicating that whatever was planted in the garden was up for grabs for a spit-shine appeared, I swallowed my sorrow, and greedily went back. Amazingly, the wavy shrub was still there, and William helped me dig it up. It sat unplanted, all winter long, lodged together with another rescued treasure – Indigofera kirilowii – in a large nursery pot in my little unheated garden shed until the first warm rays of sun this spring when it finally got to put its chilled toes into the thawing ground. All I knew, was that it was some kind of “panax” something.
It wasn’t until my friend and fellow plant geek Jane came over for a visit, that I got the full name of it. She called it a Nothopanax delavayi. Excited to have a full name, I googled it to find out more. That’s where the real confusion started. Even the experts disagree on this one…
The most enlightening info I found on the matter was this from a Mr. Douglas Justice, Associate Director and Curator of Collections at UBC Botanical Garden and Centre for Plant Research. I learned a few vital things from him:
1) “… all Nothopanax species are tropical plants and exhibit pinnately compound leaves….”
2) “… those of the more temperate Metapanax (and Eleutherococcus) produce simple to palmately compound leaves: M. davidii with primarily simple and three-lobed, occasionally compound, three-foliate leaves, the usually unstalked leaflets more than 2.5 cm wide, and M. delavayi with simple to five-foliate leaves, the usually stalked leaflets generally less than 2.5 cm wide.”
3) “… the two temperate Chinese species previously referred to under Nothopanax are now (after considerable to-ing and fro-ing over the last 120 years), correctly, species of Metapanax…”
Well, this is about as far as I have come in my quest for a Prunus persicaria ‘Pink Peachy’. My eyes are still peeled for the real thing, but I have no real hope of seeing it anytime soon. If any of you would run into one somewhere, please let me know how I can get one. But, until that magical day, why not click over to Pam Pennick’s blog Digging and get inspired by what other marvelous foliage is appearing in gardens the world over.