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).
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.
We had forgotten this lovely fragrant flower that Laura used to know well when she was the coach of the flower judging team at Ohio State University’s horticulture department. Old-fashioned flowers and an old-fashioned competitive Big Ten team that traveled all over the country, providing great times and training for budding flower growers.
If you Google the judging team at OSU, the meat judging team and dairy judging team of the College of Food Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, along with most obviously have defense strategy judging teams, but unfortunately no flower judges.
“Stock” flowers come in many shades, including the bright purple shades of our purchase. Many are doubles. Matthiola (in the mustard family, the Brassicaceae) is native to southern Europe with one type native to Scotland and includes some that are annuals, some biennials (vegetative one year and blooms and dies in the second year), and some perennials. Cultivation records date back to the 16th century. Vivid, vibrant, the sweet scent of perennial romance. But of course.
The nature of the names. Still fascinating are the various names of plants. I was reminded of this recently when I saw Hubacher’s Originals at the Carpenter’s Cup coffee shop in Smithville. Jon Hubacher is a true craftsman and artist of wood; one of his American chestnut tables adorns my daughter Anna’s living room in Brooklyn. I admired Jon’s design of an Ambrosia maple table: cream-colored wood with swirling stripes that give unique designs, intact bark of cut along the edges of the table. Really wonderful. But which maple is the Ambrosia maple?
First, maple is in the genus Acer, over 130 species and thousands of cultivars of plants in the northern hemisphere worldwide. Examples of maple species include sugar horn (Acer saccharum) and red maple (red maple). A further popular delimitation is the term hard maple (such as sugar maple) and soft maple (such as red maple). Hard maple is used for finished wood products such as floor coverings and billiard cues, where uniform oars and strength are needed. Soft maples are used for materials such as railway binders and veneers.
So names based on botanical classification and names of wood products. But again, what does “ambrosia maple” refer to? According to Jon Hubacher and wphardwoods.com, it is a “soft maple with a cream-colored background that hosts a series of greyish-blue to brown streaks caused by an attack of the” ambrosia “beetle. The beetle digs itself into the tree and leaves a fungus on its way, which is what creates the discoloration in the wood and creates a unique pattern in each board. ” A name with any other name …
So what about birdseye, maple, curly maple, quilted maple, split maple? For that matter, why is red maple also known as swamp maple? Let’s save it for another time.
I’m Lichen My New Year’s resolution. One of my favorite answers from a student years ago in my “Fleshy Woodland Fungi” class, an answer to my question of “Why did you take this course?” was “I want to know more about the environment around me. I’m pretty good at birds. And insects. And wild flowers. And trees. Now mushrooms. “Good thinking. So my decision for 2022, especially since I was asked to give a lecture in October on” The Many Lives of Lichens “, is to make this year my personal year for the laity.
A teaser to start the year? Low are extreme: They are not only considered extremophiles for their tolerance and adaptability to extreme heat, cold, dryness, pressure from outer space, but also extreme in their reduction of interdependence and mutual symbiosis. Lichen is a partnership between certain fungi, algae, cyanobacteria and often other companions.
As naturalists regarded them in the 19th century, the fungi were considered to enslave their agricultural partners to their own advantage, but all partners benefit: the fungi actually harvest the energy produced through photosynthesis from their partners, but their algae and bacterial symbionts enjoy good of minerals obtained and adhesion to the substrate, be it wood bark, tombstones, concrete, etc. of the fungal symbionts. And that’s just the beginning.
For now, let’s end with a quote from the revolutionary geneticist of the 20th century Lynn Margulis: “Lakes are remarkable examples of innovation arising from partnership.… The association is far more than the sum of its parts.” Or what about this from Henry David Thoreau: “I find myself in inspecting small granules, as it were on the bark of trees – small shields or apothecia springing from a thallus – such is the mood in my mind – and I call it studying … ”Join the year of Lava.