Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Happy Arbor Day

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.


  1. What a great opportunity to hear Dr. Dirr. I have only heard him once, but his books are constant companions, at home and work. That quote about Bradfords is priceless.

  2. It was very fun reading about your exciting Arbor Day. You lucky lady you to here some very well known speakers! It's also a great idea to celebrate Arbor Day in the fall for sure.

    Happy Holidays to you and yours!

  3. Hi Janet, Happy Arbor day! This sounds like it was a great opportunity to learn more about trees. I wish I had been there, because apart from the tidbits of information that I have picked up from your blog postings, I know very little about trees.

  4. Wow, what an exciting day! Nothing like learning about choosing new trees than from the expert himself! And what a great way to celebrate Arbor Day. I was a bit confused at first--Arbor Day is celebrated at the end of April in Illinois; I didn't realize its date varies from state to state.

    I've been behind in blogging lately, too, and I chuckled at your comment--I often look back at a "busy" month or week and wonder what it was that kept me so busy:)

  5. seems rather slow in blog world, so i would say you haven't missed too much janet. i'm so glad to hear about your time with dr. dirr -- i figured (hoped!) you would write about it here at some point. it sounds like it was a great day, and a rare opportunity. all those wonderful trees are a great reminder to stop planting bradford pears, aren't they? i'm glad to hear about the new cultivars of american elm...blight resistant chestnut is on the way, too. looking forward to that.

  6. @ Les, yes, it was super seeing him. Think you and I have talked Dirr books in the past.

    @tina, lucky indeed! I was thrilled.

    @Jennifer, before I started the tree posts I knew very little about trees. It was the postings that made me learn more. Think I will start them again...I do have some more photos of new trees.

    @Rose, think we are two peas in a pod...who knows where the time goes. I was confused about different Arbor Day dates too, amazing the little things we learn.

    @Daricia, sorry you weren't there, it was a wonderful day, very educational. Oh to have a new Chestnut tree...makes me think of the poem. :-)

  7. I bet you loved this! It is right up your alley and a great way to connect with others who love trees as well.
    Good post!

  8. I love Michael Dirr! One of the few authors who could make a reference book entertaining. I agree, the road to hell is indeed paved with Bradford Pears. I'm envious you got to see him in person!

  9. Janet, I always learn something new from your postings. For me, you are the best 'tree' blogger!

  10. You seemed to have found so many interesting endeavors and events in your new community. Nice Arbor Day post. Sorry that I'm late to read it!

  11. @Rosey, it was very much 'up my alley'! Was a great time.

    @Sweetbay, He is fun to listen to as well. He is very unassuming.

    @Tatyana, you are most kind! I learn something doing the tree posts for sure!

    @Freda, I have been finding all sorts of great things here in SC. Retirement is grand!

  12. Janet, I'm awfully jealous of your wonderful arbor day activities. I laughed out loud at that quote - despite the huge amount of bradford pears available nobody seems to like them much!

  13. I had the distinct pleasure of meeting Professor Dirr a couple of years ago when he spoke at a nurseryman's conference here in Kansas City. I couldn't afford tickets and he most graciously sent me two and made sure I sat up front and center. We both share our love of the same flowering tree -- Chionanthus virginicus (American Fringetree)

    Will never forget "The road to hell is lined with Bradford Pears".

    Thanks for a great post that brought back some great memories, My Queen.

    1. Hi Patrick, thanks for digging into the archives. Dr. Dirr's talk was a great treat for me. I too am fond of the Chionanthus virginicus...planted a few this year as a matter of fact. And yes, the road to hell IS paved with Bradford Pears. :-D


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