Winter pondering on spruces, lichens and more

Winter pondering on spruces, lichens and more

Winter pondering on spruces, lichens and more

Winter is upon us, with a future of spring flowers months away, reminiscent of a mild autumn and early winter a few weeks in hindsight. That said, I must note the recent mildness that forsythia blooms out of season at the Secrest Arboretum in Wooster as late as mid-December and in New York City the week after Christmas, where snap dragons and honeysuckle, asters and abelia, roses and forsythia bloomed, albeit sparsely. Now for a winter wonder:

Plant selection revealed. Before the holidays, I attended a lecture at the Ohio State University Green Industry Short Course by Jason Veil, curator of OSU’s Secrest Arboretum in Wooster, on “Proven Performers at Secrest.” It was eye-opening for some of his observations of the 3390 plant taxa (unique types, from species to cultivated varieties) at the arboretum, which he describes as a “slow-moving zoo.”

Secrest is home to over 170 crab apple taxis, three more than the second most varied collection in the United States, at the Morton Arboretum near Chicago. As Jason notes: “Plant breeding is in hyperactive” right now, attested by a new Secrest trial with over 61 different panicked hydrangeas. Other experiments include these crab apples, clover flowers and most recently nibark (Physocarpus).

Spruces are single-needle conifers with upright cones.

So let’s from time to time this New Year with trees and shrubs in the almanac take a look at some of Jason’s observations. This time, consider spruce (Genus) Abies). Spruces are single-needle conifers with upright cones. White spruce (Abies concolor), native to the western mountains from the Oregon Cascades to the California Sierra Nevada area to Mexico, proves to be well adapted to the heat of Ohio and is much better suited to Colorado spruces (which are in another genus, Picea).

Grown from seeds are white spruces varying in needle color, ranging from blues similar to Colorado blue spruce to green. Grafted cultivars provide reliable blue color and include “Blue Cloak”, a semi-dwarf tree with upturned needles, “Candicans Nana” with powder blue needles and a size of 4 by 6 feet and “La Veta” with upturned needles that are very decorative.

To make status. My wife and I celebrated our 45th wedding anniversary on the New Year, and she brought back old times with some cut flowers from Buehler’s – Matthiola incana – also known as “gilly-flower” or “stock.” It has now lasted for over two weeks, thanks to the floral preservatives that florists use to have a long life, just like our marriage.

Note: the traditional stone for the 45th is the sapphire, which is derived from the mineral corundum. Traditionally, sapphires are red, but depending on the geographical area, some give corundum violet, red and pink shades.

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