Sunday, July 6, 2014

Impromptu Visit to Jack Johnston's Otto Property

"It is always a pleasure and a stimulating learning experience to go out with Jack and I, once again, came home with plants. My Royal Ferns are planted and still alive. Jack says they are quite hardy so maybe I won't kill them. Jack is potting more cuttings from stewartia and by next summer will be looking for people interested in planting them. Jack showed us his plantings on his property and how successful they are so we got an idea of the light requirements and soil for them." Karen Lawrence

 "I was lucky enough to spend the whole day with Jack - beginning with the search for the rare Stewartia ovata in the wild, sponsored by LTLT. I've been on this annual walk at least five times and there's something new each year. This year we climbed up the bank beyond Needmore Road to discover a "grove" of Stewartia - very encouraging. Later Jack trimmed a Stewartia on the Bradshaw property that extended into the road and shared cuttings - and detailed instructions for rooting - with us. We ended the morning with a visit to Brent and Angela Martin's garden to see their mature Stewartias - from Jack's tiny seedlings - in full and glorious bloom. There's evidence of Jack all around their wonderful garden: Stewartia malacodendron which had already bloomed, Franklinia and several species of Magnolia, among others. The visit to Jack's Otto property was inspiring. It was wonderful to see the many Stewartias he's planted that are thriving, and his discussion about habitat requirements gave me the courage to think about trying them again. Of course Jack has also filled this beautiful wooded property with Magnolias (60+ varieties), unusual conifers and other rare specimens. It's a living laboratory - and shows us how we can help Nature along with preserving these amazing gifts." Jean Hunnicutt

 Several of us were able to make the impromptu visit to Jack Johnston's Otto property. What a treat! As anyone who knows Jack would expect, this 9 acre tract of land is a smorgasboard of botanical treats. Here is Jack's list of what is currently existing on the property. Deciduous conifers: Pseudolarix Mexican cypress Bald cypress Pond cypress Dawn redwood Evergreen: Atlantic white cedar Fall color: Nyssa biflora Stewartias: S. malacodendron S. ovata Magnolias native to site: M. fraseri M. acuminata Personally, I was mesmerized by the expanse of ferns: Polystichum acrostichoides (Christmas fern), Thelypteris noveboracensis (New York fern), Osmunda regalis (Royal fern), Osmunda cinnamomea (Cinnamon fern), Athyrium asplenioides (Lady fern) and Dennstaedtis punctilobula (Hay scented fern). It is my goal to duplicate the look at my house.

 Jack also gave us directions on obtaining seeds from Magnolia fraseri:

 Seeds of Magnolia fraseri are desired for northern European gardens due to the tropical look of the leaves and hardiness of the species. Seeds are collected before falling from the trees and this date is late August for most locations. Some high elevation areas may be a week later. The procedure for handling seeds is to cut the mature fruits from the tree with extension pruners which typically reach only the lowest ones. M. fraseri tends to set fruits heavily in full sun at the top of the trees. Three days of drying dehydrates the fruits and makes manual removal of the orange seeds easier. A float test in water determines how many heavy ones sink. These are the keepers. The floaters are discarded. The seeds remain in water for 2 days, have seed coats removed, are washed in a drop of liquid dish detergent, dried for 30 minutes then stored in slightly damp peat in a ziplock bag in the refrigerator. If magnolia seeds dry out, viability is quickly lost. If storage is too wet this is not good either. Following storage until spring, the seeds are planted after danger of frost is past. A well draining mix is needed since M. fraseri is the easiest of the native magnolias to rot in pots. Supply of properly cleaned and stored seeds never meets demand. Botanical gardens request them through a seed exchange program sponsored by The Magnolia Society.

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