This past Friday my friend Ann and had the pleasure of participating in Arbor Day festivities at USC Upstate. Arbor Day is the first Friday in December in South Carolina. Our weather is mild enough that this is one of the best times of year to plant trees and woody shrubs. The featured speaker was Dr. Michael Dirr. I know! We were pretty excited to see him. There was a presentation in the morning by Dr. Dirr. His topic was "In Praise of Noble Trees". The slideshow was filled with photos of wonderful trees and peppered with fun quotes--my favorite? "The road to hell is lined with Bradford Pears". For those who are not acquainted with Dr. Dirr, he is a well known author and educator. He has published more than 300 books, both scientific and popular publications. Many of us have a copy of his Manual of Woody Landscape Plants: Their Identification, Ornamental Charateristics, Culture and Propagation and Uses on our own bookshelves. He has retired from academia but still is involved with research and plant developement. He is one of the founding partners of Plant Introductions, Inc. where they are working on breeding and evaluation of new woody plants. Many of the new breeds of Magnolias and Hydrangeas have been due in part to Dr. Dirr.
The handout was filled with descriptions of many trees. A few of the ones he focused on included new cultivars as well as old favorites. In alphabetical order, here are some of the ones he mentioned.Corylus -- C. fargesii, an exfoliating bark specimen, C. jacquemontii, a large tree with broad pyramidal / oval shape, and a hybrid of C. colurna and C. maxima-- 'Te Terra Red' which is a redleaf with beautiful bark. I like the sounds of the last one!
Fagus grandifolia-- the American Beech. One point he made with this one was the myth of difficulty in transplanting this native tree. He said he never has had a problem with this.
Gymnocladus dioicus-- Kentucky Coffeetree, a native that I know of from the Learning Garden, the York County Master Gardener garden I worked in while we lived in Virginia. Dr. Dirr says there are some good examples in the Milliken Arboretum in Spartanburg. I need to learn more about this tree. The one in the Learning Garden was pretty young.
Liriodendron tulipifera-- Tulip poplar....one of my favorite spring flowering trees. Dr. Dirr is also quite fond of this grand tree. All the tiny seedlings that sprout up from the samaras that twirl down from the seedheads up high should be shared with all your friends! He advocates planting as many tulip poplars as you can.
Nyssa sylcatica---Blackgum or Tupelo tree, apparently a Dirr favorite. There isn't enough praise for this tree. I love the bold red fall color.
Quercus---Oaks are the go to tree. There are so many species that are native to North America. Q. bicolor is one species he spoke a great deal about....especially a newly discovered upright-columnar Swamp White Oak. Look for it under the name of Q. bicolor 'Beacon'. Oaks are so vital to the life of over 534 species of caterpillars. The acorns are a food source for all sorts of wildlife. The oak grows to such a grand height and provides shade, truly a noble tree.
There were many other trees he talked about ....many with new varieties coming on the market with better disease resistance or new colors or new forms. Be on the lookout for many new Ulmus americana cultivars like 'Princeton', 'Jefferson', 'Valley Forge' and 'New Harmony'.
After lunch and a talk by Kevin Parris (also a interesting plant breeder/ horticulturist) we had a walking tour of the Susan Jacobs Arboretum, led by Dr. Dirr. This was a smaller group of folks and we were able to interact a good bit with Dr. Dirr as well as Kevin Parris. We were introduced to many trees along the tour, quizzed as to which one it might be and given a good lesson on tree identification. One tree that I was THRILLED to see was this one on the left-- the infamous Franklinia altamaha! I really would like to have this rare tree in my garden. Kevin Parris said this is the third one that was planted in the Arboretum. This native tree is no longer found in the wild. If you want to try this tree, make sure it has super drainage and is protected from cold winds. I will be going back up to Spartanburg to see this tree in the growing season.
I am so happy we were able to go to this function. Hearing Dr. Dirr and walking through the Arboretum with him was like a dream come true for this tree fan.
I know I haven't posted much lately. I could say I have been busy, but I don't know, looking back, what I have been busy doing. I plan to get back to regular blog postings and reading your postings.
Hope your Arbor Day was as great as mine!
©Copyright 2011 Janet. All rights reserved. Content created by Janet for The Queen of Seaford. words and photos by Janet,The Queen of Seaford.