Adam’s Notes from the Garden
Our refurbished greenhouse.
Beyond the non-stop botanical excitement in the garden, the big news of late is that we have an upgraded greenhouse with efficiently running climate control equipment and other professional features! This will make a tremendous difference in our ability to maintain important conservation and educational collections as well as optimizing propagation for our plant sales. Thanks to Greg Woolsey and crew of the Fort Worth based L.J. Design and Construction for all the quality work. Our expanded mist propagation benches are set up in their new location and we are currently making additional benches to fill out the rest of the growing space. 
It has so far been a rather mild winter with only a few light frosts, so many things in protected areas of the garden are experiencing a prolonged growing season. Spring is still a long way off, and I expect we will get a sudden arctic blast at some point in the next month or two. Until then, we have a few tender plants still looking great and even flowering, including several Salvia species as well as a late-blooming Hedychium. 

Our tree-sized Mahonia chochoca in full flower.
The winter flowering shrubs have begun blooming, beginning with Camellias and Mahonias. On cue among the Mexican Mahonia species are M. chochoca and John’s narrow-leaved collection that has yet to be described. The fragrant Mahonia gracilis will soon follow, along with our several species with cream-colored flowers. The Asian Mahonia species and hybrids have also added additional golden accents throughout the garden. Several of the early blooming cultivars of flowering apricot (Prunus mume) are opening, with the unusual, kinky-branched selection ‘Contorta’ always being the first. Plenty more are budded up nicely and politely waiting their turn to show off. 
It was a great to have Mark Weathington, director of the J.C. Raulston Arboretum in Raleigh, NC as our December guest presenter for our monthly lecture series, wowing us with the dizzying assortment of plants encountered on his collecting expeditions through Asia. Formerly held in the evening, switching the start time of the lectures to 11am on Saturday seems to have increased our attendance. 
Mark Weathington presenting at our December lecture.
Continuing our offerings of renowned authorities in the plant world, I am very excited to have Sean Hogan from Cistus Nursery in Oregon as our next guest speaker. Details on his January 19th talk are in our events section. I am nearly finished compiling an outstanding lineup of high-caliber guest speakers for 2019, and so far, we have an exciting assemblage of visitors from near and far.
January and February Dates to visit Peckerwood Garden!
January Peckerwood Garden Insiders Tour
January 5th, 10 am

Viewed from afar during our general open day tours, this unique part of the garden is only available for tours on a quarterly basis. This is your opportunity to see the winter highlights in this area as well as the iconic Blue Wall and a host of unusual plant species.

There will be one tour at 10 am.
An undescribed species of Mahonia from Mexico.
Sean Hogan: Owner of Cistus Nursery and Design, Portland, OR

Saturday, January 19, 11:30 am, with a tour at 10:00 am.

Come join Sean in exploring how various plants native to Texas, northern Mexico, and adjacent regions of the southwestern US have proven surprisingly adaptable in the gardens of the Pacific Northwest. Sean will discuss his adventures collecting plants in these regions, including his trip to Mexico with Peckerwood founder John Fairey and Yucca Do’s Carl Schoenfeld.
 
Sean Hogan is renowned in horticultural circles as the owner of Cistus Nursery near Portland, OR, a premier mail-order source of unusual collector plants, many from his frequent collecting expeditions in the Pacific Northwest and southwestern regions of the US as well as various international locations. His design and consultation firm has created some outstanding private and city landscapes utilizing his distinctive style and plant palate. He also He formerly curated some of the amazing plant collections at U.C. Berkeley Botanical Garden. He is also author of “Trees for all Seasons: Broadleaf Evergreens for Temperate Climates” published by Timber Press in 2008. 

There will be a tour at 10:00 am, followed by a lecture at 11:30 .
January 26, 10 am - 3 pm
Special winter highlights will be showcased for our January Open Day. Surprisingly, the garden in winter is full of unexpected ornamental interest including flowering magnolias, mahonias, camellias and other surprises. Join us for a walk through the garden, with tours leaving throughout the day. 

Register ahead or purchase tickets onsite.
Tours are held rain or shine.
Phlebodium pseudaureum with Camellia
February Peckerwood Garden Insiders Tour
February 2, 10:00 am

Though it is the dead of winter, Peckerwood Garden provides several upcoming opportunities to see a wide variety of hardy winter-interest plants, showing that proper plant selection can provide plenty of year-around color and interest when most people are waiting for spring. Among many surprises appearing by the day, winter blooms of various Mahonia species, Camellias, and possibly some early Magnolias, along with various colorful holly berries of species not normally seen in our area. The leafless canopy casts more light into the wooded areas, to the benefit of Trilliums and other winter growing perennials, while more broadly revealing the architectural beauty of the garden difficult to visualize in the warmer months. 

There will be one tour at 10 am.
Calendar
Plant of the month: Diamond-leaf or Princess Persimmon ( Diospyros rhombifolia)
By Adam Black
The fruits remain retained into the new year long after the foliage has fallen.
Always garnering attention when in fruit, few visitors initially will guess that the orange fruits they are pondering on our shrub in the perennial border are related to the more familiar edible persimmon. When quizzed, many think the elongated fruits hint towards some sort of hot pepper, but upon revealing the identity, most instantly make the connection. The inevitable follow-up question is always of their palatability. Yes, they are edible, but aren’t worth the trouble, and best left dangling on the plant for their ornamental qualities. 
A native of China, this dense shrub is deciduous, with the fruits persisting long into winter after the leaves have dropped. It will produce root suckers which can be cut off or selectively left to produce a colony. Those carefully removed with a section of root can also be established in a pot and later planted elsewhere. 
Most Persimmons are dioecioius, but there is some indication that Diospyros rhombifolia, or at least some individuals, may be self-fertile. Not thinking they weren’t supposed to be fertile, I once germinated seeds off a lone specimen, and I have heard of other similar reports. I should try again with our plant, and pay more attention to the small, insignificant flowers to see if one or both s exes are present. Interestingly, every specimen I have seen (a half dozen or so) in cultivation produces fruits of varying sizes, shapes ( round to elongated with a tapered tip) , and colors from pale yellowish orange to dark reddish orange. I am not aware of any males, but maybe they are out there. Popular in Asia as bonsai subjects due to their naturally compact habit and fruit production at a young age, I see reference to a red fruited cultivar called ‘Miyakobeni’ that may be worth seeking out. I recently propagated my plant in Florida that has small spherical pale orange fruits that will eventually join our current clone in the garden.
Above: A ligher orange, spherical fruited form.
Below: Our elongated form.
As far as care, it seems quite adaptable in acidic to neutral soils, and is fully hardy without winter damage into USDA Zone 7b at least. We have rooted propagations of our Peckerwood specimen currently available in our nursery while supplies last.  
Fall Collecting of Deep East Texas Denizens
Clematis glaucophylla seeds.
Since Andrew McNeil-Marshall had similar interests, we coordinated a trip together. Andrew is the arborist at Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center and has been amassing a wide array of native tree species from throughout the state to include in the Wildflower Center’s Arboretum. We met up at Stephen F. Austin University in the afternoon where he had been visiting and exploring their campus gardens with Dr. David Creech. With a few hours of daylight left, we decided to check out a botanically interesting spot north of Nacogdoches with a dense floodplain forest bordering a clear flowing creek that incises through contrasting open dry sandhill scrub environment. 
We entered the forest where the clear stream passes under the road. The water was alive with flowing emerald ribbons of American Bur-reed foliage ( Sparganium americanum ), which is interesting as it can grow with an upright, stiff, grass-like habit along shorelines, or when submerged, as was the case here, it grows long flaccid streamers undulating in the current. Further away from the road, it was sad to see that the population of Grass-of-Parnassus ( Parnassia asarifolia) that Peter Loos had told me about was still missing from the destructive rooting of feral hogs. This was the first time I had noticed the dwarf chestnut or chinkapin ( Castanea pumila) at this site, bearing its spikes of seeds enclosed in spiny coverings. These trees were clearly dying back and resprouting from repeated infections of the chestnut blight fungus that wiped out its ecologically important relative, the American Chestnut ( Castanea dentata) once dominant in the Appalachian forests to the east. 
Castanea pumila.
Tetragonotheca ludoviciana
Walking up the sloped edges o f the creek bottom, the enclosed woodland suddenly transitions to open sandhilll scrub spotted with sand post oak ( Quercus margaretta), bluejack oak ( Quercus incana) and pines. Peter Loos had previously introduced me to the rare hawthorn Crataegus nananixonii here, where the plants suffered badly during the extended drought over five years ago. The few resprouts from the remaining skeletons bore no fruit unfortunately, as this is one we need to preserve in cultivation. Though the curious-looking Penstemon murrayanus had also not produced sufficient seed, we did find seed on the beautiful Clematis glaucophylla, amazing even when not in flower due to its large round blue-gray leaves. Also loaded with seed and also still flowering was the low growing obligate of sandy soil, Tetragonotheca ludoviciana, or more easily referred to as Louisiana Nerveray. This member of the aster family has a nice compact habit with broad leaves and yellow button-like flower heads. I am joining Dawn Stover at SFA Gardens in her efforts to promote this plant as a great xeric native for incorporation in low-maintenance landscapes. 
With the daylight waning and sandspurs removed from our socks and flesh, Andrew and I headed down to Jasper County for the night. After sunrise we met Peter Loos who was our access to what may be Texas’s only remaining population of Arkansas Oak, Quercus arkansana. It is also unusual in that it is quite far from the next known populations in north central Louisiana and southern Arkansas. There are herbarium records from northeast Texas but these all appear to be misidentified, juvenile or shaded leaves of Quercus falcata. I had collected from this Jasper County population with Peter and Beatrice Chasse last year but was hoping for a better crop to get more genetics represented in cultivation and distributed around to other conservation-oriented botanic gardens. 
Of conservation importance - Crataegus nananixonii.
Isolated on the crests of some sandy ridges persisting among the planted pines, it quickly became apparent that it was a great year for acorns, and we collected many from several individual trees. At least one looked like a hybrid with water oak, Quercus nigra, and was intriguing from an ornamental standpoint. We also found some more Castanea pumila bearing seed, which was also welcome.
Peter and Andrew looking for acorns on Quercus arkansana .
After a successful collection of this oak we decided to check out a waterfall I had been hearing about, which proved to be quite impressive by east Texas standards. Nearby was a population of Louisiana Scarlet Catchfly, Silene subciliata, another plant of sporadic occurrence in deep east Texas and adjacent Louisiana. Missing the peak flowering period meant seed was present along with a few of the fringed, scarlet flowers remained for photographs. Along the stream above the falls, Peter pointed out an unusual Viburnum individual that looked like V. nudum but with quite jaggedly serrated leaf margins from which cuttings were collected. 
Silene subciliata.
 It was sad to see most of the Yucca cernua population crushed under vegetation debris.
One of the few Yucca cernua that avoided damage.
Andrew and I parted ways with Peter and headed south to see a few more of the region’s noteworthy plants. Yucca cernua is a conspicuously blue-grey species that looks more like something you would see in the western half of the state rather than its current holdout among pine plantations and along roadside clearings near Jasper. Only officially described as recently as 2003, colonies usually stick out like sore thumbs along one particular stretch of road, but I was not initially seeing them where I remembered them to be. I then noticed that the trees encroaching into the powerline easement had recently been cut back, and saw crumpled remnants of the yuccas sticking up from beneath the strewn debris left on site. Looking closer, many of the buried plants had also been flattened by the vehicles outfitted with whirling saws that the utilities companies use for hacking back the tree branches. Like many southeastern Yucca species, Y. cernua is adapted for fires and other disturbance, so it will regenerate from the underground root system, but flowering and fruiting will still be set back for a number of years until the resprouted plants attain a mature size once again. 
Andrew collecting Yucca seeds.
Though I had seen Magnolia pyramidata in the eastern parts of its range, I was eager to finally see it at its westernmost extent. Unlike the sheltered ravine habitats where I was used to seeing it in Florida and Alabama, here it seemed to be growing in a quite different environment - high up on well drained, sandy ridges. The forest structure was clearly altered over time, but judging from the young and old trees, the population appears to be prospering. Withered cone-like fruits among the leaf litter showed we had missed this year’s seed crop. 
Magnolia pyramidata.
The shrubby, sandhills form of Castanea pumila with chalky white undersides.
We began looping back to Jasper for our last night in the region, but first I wanted to revisit an interesting roadside spot. I was guided here last year by some detailed directions that Lynn Lowrey had written in one of his books we are fortunate to now have in Peckerwood’s developing library. In the old book “Louisiana Trees and Shrubs” by Clair A. Brown, Lynn had scrawled the directions next to the description of the now-unrecognized “ Castanea alnifola” (Running Chinkapin). Now considered simply Castanea pumila – the same chinkapin we had seen at two previous sites, this particular individual matches others I had seen in more exposed sandhills in other parts of the south with smaller, thicker, glossier leaves, a low, shrubby “running” habit, and striking, silvery white undersides of the leaves. The spines on the fruits were also in a very different arrangement than those we had collected at the other sites, which were more tree-like, had larger, thin, dull leaves dark green above, subtlety light green below. Whatever it is, we collected seeds and it will be interesting to see if they hold these attractive traits in cultivation in comparison to our other collections. 
The other thing that had drawn me back to this location was a dwarf running white oak I had noticed previously. There are debatable historic records of Quercus boyntonii occurring in Texas at one site about 30 miles north – a species otherwise restricted to a few sites in northern Alabama. It has never been seen again in Texas, yet this thing I had briefly looked at earlier seemed to recall the features of this species, resembling a miniature, running post oak. Our current visit revealed that the low stems had put on many feet of vigorous growth over the past year and Andrew and I both agreed that these were simply sand post oak, Quercus margaretta that were perhaps resprouting after being cleared in years prior. Perhaps the original collections from long ago that were attributed to Q. boyntonii were a similar situation, or perhaps it is still out there, waiting for someone to rediscover it in Texas. 
The beautiful foliage of Quercus arkansana.
Gaillardia aestivalis var. winkleri.
The site’s final item of interest was only noticed once we diverted our focus from the shrubbery to the perennials growing at ground level. Winkler’s blanketflower ( Gaillardia aestivalis var. winkleri) is quite different from the familiar red, orange and yellow firewheel blanketflower that carpets area roadsides in the warmer months. In contrast, the Winkler’s blanket flower is usually has rays of a single, though highly variable color ranging from white to yellow to purple, with the central disc of florets being yellow, rusty or purple. This population was predominantly white with purple centers, but some were pale yellow with purple centers and intermediate shades between the two.  
On our last morning we first decided to check on another mysterious Texas oak. The bottomland post oak, Quercus similis, is reported through the eastern half of the state growing appropriately enough in bottomlands. I have tried to track down accessible plants based off herbarium records, and every individual has been a perfect match not for Q. similis but instead for the familiar common post oak, Quercus stellata. These individuals attributed to Q. similis are growing in lower fertile areas that do receive some inundation during exceptionally wet periods, but not in the regularly flooded zones. Perhaps assumptions were made based solely on habitat that differed from typical well-drained post oak habitat. Having since seen forests of typical Quercus similis in Louisiana that match the species description, I now question the majority of specimens recorded in Texas. These mesic growing individuals do look different from the common upland post oak, but perhaps this is a reflection of the more fertile, consistently moist conditions. The “post oak complex”, which also includes the aforementioned Quercus boyntonii and Quercus margaretta, could very well be interbreeding, and there could be variations or regional forms we are trying to unsuccessfully categorize for our own satisfaction. 
One interesting tree that seems to bridge the gap between Quercus similis and Q. stellata is growing in a floodplain very close to the Louisiana border in Newton County, TX. The acorns are far larger than “typical” Q. similis and appear consistent with Q. stellata. Leaves do tend toward that of Q. similis as I’ve seen in Louisiana, but are much thicker like Q. stellata and also pubescence, bud morphology, etc create more questions. It will be interesting to see how consistent or variable the seedlings are, especially in comparison to those seedlings originating from the more convincing Q. similis populations in Louisiana. 
A respectable waterfall for east Texas.
Another oak mystery at this site was a member of the red oak group that I at first assumed to be the common laurel oak, Quercus laurifolia, but the more I looked at it, the more it reminded me of shingle oak ( Quercus imbricaria), and closer examination showed pubescence on the leaf undersides which the latter has and the former does not. If it is Q. imbricaria it would be the southernmost record, but as we have shown, this part of the state often harbors disjuncts from points beyond. I still need to scrutinize the specimens we collected and see if the offspring we grow from its acorns carry the same fuzzy leaf undersides. Foliage of juvenile Q. laurifolia are often quite prominently lobed, so that may also give some insights as to the parent tree’s identity. 
Less of a mystery were some oaks we visited once we started heading back west. I was told last year of some Quercus oglethorpensis that were discovered near the rural community known as Dam B. Having last year collected from what was assumed to be the westernmost population of Oglethorpe Oak in north central Louisiana, I had since confirmed that these Texas individuals were instead Quercus sinuata var. sinuata, commonly known (for reasons I still have not heard an explanation for) as “bastard oak”. Nonetheless, this beautiful species is patchy in its distribution and always nice to see. 
After admiring these roadside oaks and snagging a few acorns, I noticed the purple flowers of an Agalinis species with thin, linear leaves that resembled the rare endemic Navasota False Foxglove, Agalinis navasotensis. I had recently become familiar with this species which was at first only known from a sandstone outcrop not far from my home outside of Navasota, TX. Since its discovery, one other population was found nearly a hundred miles to the east in Tyler County…where we happened to be. This plant was in an unexpected growing situation so I was hesitant to think it could be A. navasotensis. I snapped a few photos and grabbed a specimen to examine closer later. 
The beautiful foliage of Quercus texana , aka Q. nuttallii.
Andrew needed to start making his way back to the Austin area, so we aimed toward our last planned collecting destination of the trip. He wanted to collect Blueberry Hawthorn ( Crataegus brachyacantha) and I wanted to collect from one of the few native populations of Nuttall oak. Fortunately both were near each other in the Trinity River valley northeast of Cleveland, TX. Peter had given us a location for the hawthorn, distinctive in being the state’s only native species with striking blue instead of the usual red fruits that indeed resemble blueberries. We searched the area Peter directed us to on the east side of the river but came up empty handed. 
We then made the quick run to the west side of the river and easily found some very large, beautiful Nuttall Oaks. Following the running trend with our target species, the small population along the Trinity River is quite distantly separated from the species' main range (mostly southeast AR, northeastern LA, and into MS). Despite its isolated occurrence in Texas, what was always known as Quercus nuttallii was controversially renamed Quercus texana, confusingly a name formerly used for what got changed to Q. buckleyi (quite widespread in central Texas). There is much more to the naming debacle that is up for debate, resulting in a resounding resistance among seasoned naturalists and horticulturalists to use the "accepted" Q. texana over the deeply engrained Q. nuttallii
Whatever you want to call it, I consider it one of the state’s most beautiful and stately of the red oaks, and the large, bullet shaped, boldly striped, acorns are works of art. After precariously balancing on the rails of my truck bed wielding pole pruners over my head in attempt to knock down seeds from the lowest branches, we soon had enough for ourselves and to distribute, and Andrew and I parted ways with our haul of various species that have since been shared with a variety of botanical gardens around the country. 
Upon returning home, I took a closer look at the Agalinis specimen and photos, comparing it with the description of A. navasotensis. Being that the original site is conveniently near my house, I visited it the next day for an even better comparison. It appears to be a match, and therefore may represent a third known site. I pressed my collection into a herbarium specimen for additional specialists to confirm the identity of. The second site from which this species was confirmed is about 20 miles northeast of where we found this plant, so assuming this specimen we collected pans out to be Agalinis navasotensis, it will be interesting to explore the area further as it may be more widespread than previously thought. 
Possibly a new record for Agalinis navasotensis.