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Rhododendron ABC's #22

In this issue, I should like to mention some rhododendron companion plants that are in the treelike category. Owing to the size and volume that these plants will occupy, it is of utmost importance, especially for enthusiasts whose gardens are of limited dimensions, to choose wisely and well! There are literally scores of candidates from which to select and it is difficult to say which particular tree is preferable over another. However, after many years of observation, I have found several, which I believe are outstanding and which can add a lot of class and beauty to a rhododendron collection.

There are three deciduous trees which, in my opinion, are very desirable and attractive. I recommend them highly. The first is the Paper Bark Maple, Acer griseum, a native of China It is relatively slow growing, but eventually may reach 40 feet in height. This tree, in all its forms is outstanding. The tri-partite leaves turn bright orange to crimson in the Fall. Its best feature is its peeling outer bark which flakes and leaves a shining mahogany-colored stern. It can prove to be a real center of interest in the garden.

The second deciduous tree is actually a conifer, which has the trait of losing its needles in the Fall. This tree, the Dawn Redwood, Metasequoia glyptostroboides, is a living fossil and for many years was known only in fossils, millions of years old. In 1941, it was found growing in Western China and is now relatively easy to obtain. The best form is fastigiate (upright and slender) and the needles turn to golden yellow in Autumn before the stems and needles are shed. It is an amazing, and somewhat incredible, sight to see the litter of needles and compare them to rock fossil samples from the Miocene or earlier Geologic Epochs. You'll see an exact comparison!

My third deciduous tree selection has to be from the Birch genus, Betula, especially from those that have peeling bark, reminiscent Of the paper bar maples. The Chinese Paper Birch, Betula albosienensis, is very good but, for a really striking effect, I choose the Himalayan Betula jacquemontii. This tree in its best forms, has beautiful, dazzling white bark that peels in a very showy manner. The best whites are relatively hard to find, but are surely worth seeking out.

In the available space, it is hard to mention all of the fine deciduous trees that are available. For example, there are many other maples and birches, in addition to those mentioned above, that are worth growing. There are also many other Genera listed in references and catalogs. If one has available space, I suggest some research to find unusual and worthwhile specimens.

As an example, one may find another Chinese fossil tree that is also known in the fossil record. This is the Maiden Hair Tree, Ginko biloba. Certain forms produce exceptional Fall colors and the tree is easy to grow. Once again, it is amazing to compare its fallen leaves with fossil impressions millions of years old.

I have listed Mostly Chinese and Asian trees, but there are plenty of our Western trees which are attractive. Certain forms of our Vine Maple, Acer circinatum are easily available and are very attractive.

In the next ABC's I should like to describe, briefly, some flowering trees which are of much beauty and interest. I originally felt I could summarize tree-like companion plants in one issue, but it now appears that I will have to devote an issue to flowering trees and another to evergreen trees, As always, I emphasize that I can only touch on a few of the many possibilities--ones that I have found to be of major interest.

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Dave Goheen