To grow a Monkey Puzzle Tree in the West Kootenays...

Discussion in 'Araucariaceae' started by zusman, Jan 16, 2007.

  1. zusman

    zusman Member

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    ...is this plausible?

    My parents have a house and some lakefront property in the West Kootenays around the town of Burton (somewhere between Nakusp and Fauquier). They seem pretty keen on me bringing them home a young Monkey Puzzle Tree or two come springtime, but I'm not entirely convinced that they could grow them there outdoors. Although the temperature doesn't get particularly low there, the summers can be pretty hot and dry at times. They are getting an irrigation system put in early in the spring this year, but I still don't know. Besides which, there's quite a bit of cloud cover and snow during the winter there.

    Here's a climate summary I found on the internet for nearby Nakusp:

    "Climate. The climate of the area is characterized by a cool, snowy winter and a relatively warm summer. Valley level cloud cover is quite extensive throughout the winter months. As a result of the mountain topography there is considerable local and sub-regional micro-climatic variations over short distances (Rain in town can quickly turn into several feet of snow a few miles down a side road). Mean annual temperature at Nakusp is approximately 7.3° C, with a mean maximum of 12.3° C and a mean minimum of 2.3° C. Mean annual precipitation is 601 mm. The distribution of precipitation is fairly strong year round, with a notable increase in precipitation days per month during the winter. Snowfall in the valley bottom at Nakusp is common from late November to early March, whereas rainfall is possible throughout the year. There is enough snowfall on the surrounding mountain tops to support a viable Heliskiing operation daily, from December through to March. Vegetation growth is lush, providing the area with thick forest and extensive wildlife habitat (CORE, 1994; MoF, 1994; Wilson, 1973)."

    I wish I could find more weather information specific to the area, because it is relatively mild compared to its surroundings. I have never seen a Monkey Puzzle Tree being grown in the area, but there are those who grow kiwis in town (albeit quite likely the more winter-hardy variety) as well as a variety of other fruits like cherries, strawberries, apricots, apples, etc.

    I know that the lake they live on (a stretch of the Upper Arrow) never freezes, if this is indicative of anything important and the garden area has very little gain in elevation from the beach.

    Anyways, all and any advice would be greatly appreciated.
     
  2. 4moreaction

    4moreaction Member

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    ...i think that they can easily try them there, since i know examples of monkey puzzletrees growing in souther scandinavia... where the winter is allways much harder than in your area... lakes freeze yearly and temeratures fall sytematically under -10 C every winter - with occational drops down to -25 C... sogood luck... ;O)
     
  3. Michael F

    Michael F Esteemed Contributor Forums Moderator 10 Years

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    Sounds ideal to me on the climate as given. What's the absolute minimum temperature? (coldest ever recorded)
     
  4. 4moreaction

    4moreaction Member

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    ...hmm... that would be about -30 c

    so quite promising for you, don't you think? ;O))
     
  5. Michael F

    Michael F Esteemed Contributor Forums Moderator 10 Years

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    That's a bit too much on the cold side, they tend to get killed by anything below -25°C. But you could have it for many years before a bad winter hits it.
     
  6. Just Curious

    Just Curious Active Member

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    zusman:
    I was born and raised in the Nelson area and don't ever recall seeing one. My dad would always point them out whenever we came to Vancouver on holidays.
    You can try them but I suspect that, in order for them to have a chance, they will need serious winter protection for many years. It can be cold there in winter.
     
  7. LPN

    LPN Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    Araucaria araucana are hardy only west of the Cascade range. Even there, only on the outer coastal regions within 50 miles of salt water. These trees are native to Chile and are somewhat exacting in their requirements.

    But...all gardeners experiment and perhaps you can be the first to grow Monkey Puzzle beyond the know limits. Give it a go!

    Cheers, LPN.
     
  8. growest

    growest Active Member 10 Years

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    There's at least one good sized one in Agassiz...that must have seen close to -17C if not colder in it's lifetime, with good outflow winds there.

    That's the furthest inland I've noticed one.

    The Scandinavian experiences are interesting...sounds similar to parts of the Kootenays.
     
  9. VanIsleGardener

    VanIsleGardener Member

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    I love the look of these trees, and would have one if I had the space, though be warned, they drop bits of themselves all the time, and on a hot sunny summer day their seed pods suddenly explode and shower seeds, which is quite alarming the first few times it happens, then just entertaining and fun. You need to plant them well away from buildings; well away from your patio and vehicles; well away from your pathways and sideways; well away from everything! This tree needs space. A big one will be 20-25' across. NOTHING else should be using the cone created by the tree.

    They grow quite well here in Victoria, so I suggest you look up our climate vs yours and see if they're extremely different. I don't know, not having been to your part of BC. I think, if you can give it good soil to start, protect it from extreme cold the first few years (make a bubble of good heavy vapour-barrier-type plastic sheeting if you have to, in a snowstorm), and give it good water supply (don't drown, but don't let it dry out) in the spring/summer/fall, you'll be rewarded with a magnificent specimen tree that is quite hardy once established (after the first 5 years).

    The big killer here, and I saw this kill a large, beautiful (about 60-70' tall) tree on our neighbour's property, is drought. This was such a beautiful monkey-puzzle that the Scenic Drive double-decker tourbuses used to stop in front of the neighbour's house to give their spiel about the tree. (They never turned off their motors, and I didn't like the bus exhaust nor did the neighbour, which maybe explains what happened next, though I think he was only stupid.)

    Anyway, the idiot neighbour wanted to control surface weeds in his yard (he was a very lazy gardener so had a lot), but was too cheap to buy proper weed-control fabric (which allows water to flow down but blocks weed roots from reaching it); so he laid down plastic garbage bags (slit open; just a cheap way to provide a plastic layer) and covered with cedar chips, ALL AROUND THE TREE to 10' beyond the drip line. Magic way to suddenly prevent any rain from reaching the tree's existing roots, and done INSTANTLY in a hot summer, with no tree watering, so that the fall rains couldn't reach the tree. (Remember, though, that our summers here are not hot by interior standards; if it gets to 80 degrees F, about 25 C, we just about die). I did warn him, when he did it, about the need to get water to the tree, but he ignored that (so maybe he did want it gone; never admitted it if so). Anyway, the poor monkey-puzzle died in one season, it was very sad to watch. The only consolation is that their property then looked like hell, so they had to pay to remove the dead tree, and they lost a packet on their house when they sold (because they no longer liked the house without the tree) a year later.

    Anyway, I say go for it. But do it at a time that someone can really tend and nurture the tree for the first few years. I'd plant in the early fall. Avoid drought that first summer; lethal. And plan on high-maintenance for the first five years; be vigilant about cold and summer drought those first few years and you should be ok.

    Post back here if it works!!
     
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2007
  10. David Peters

    David Peters Member

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    I can attest to at least three Monkey Puzzle trees growing in Nelson. I myself have a 1 metre tall tree at 6-Mile just outside of Nelson. It experienced minus 17 celcius -much lower with the windchill in its first season. It browned off a little but bounced back immediately in the spring. The largest specimen that I am aware of in the west Kootenays is in Castlegar, and it is somewhere between 15 and 20 feet tall.
     
  11. Ian

    Ian Active Member

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    I'd say not guaranteed to succeed, but certainly plausible. There is a ~20' one in the Tri Cities of Eastern Washington. Other surprisingly cold places I have seen them include Gold Bar, WA, Weed, CA and Mt. Shasta City, CA.
     
  12. M. D. Vaden

    M. D. Vaden Active Member 10 Years

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    I've seen some large ones in Portland and the suburbs, and I think they were old enough to have seen at least 10 degrees Farenheit.

    A few, probably were around when Portland got its near 0 degree Farenheit winter, in the 1950's.
     
  13. Michael F

    Michael F Esteemed Contributor Forums Moderator 10 Years

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    What's that in real measurements?
     
  14. VanIsleGardener

    VanIsleGardener Member

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    F is real enough, but:
    10 F = -12 C
    0 F = -18 C

    Note that at -40 the scales converge, -40 F = -40 C
     
  15. Michael F

    Michael F Esteemed Contributor Forums Moderator 10 Years

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    Thanks!

    Those temperatures are no great hardship for Araucaria araucana; damage happens below about -20°C, and death around -25°C.
     
  16. LPN

    LPN Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    Good grief! I would have imagined it to be about 5 centigrade warmer for those figures. (Damage at -15c and death around -20c.) Fortunately, I personally don't have to deal with those temps.

    Cheers, LPN.
     
  17. ceejay

    ceejay Member

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    [here on vancouver island they actually grow very well and do produce seeds.]...is this plausible?

    My parents have a house and some lakefront property in the West Kootenays around the town of Burton (somewhere between Nakusp and Fauquier). They seem pretty keen on me bringing them home a young Monkey Puzzle Tree or two come springtime, but I'm not entirely convinced that they could grow them there outdoors. Although the temperature doesn't get particularly low there, the summers can be pretty hot and dry at times. They are getting an irrigation system put in early in the spring this year, but I still don't know. Besides which, there's quite a bit of cloud cover and snow during the winter there.

    Here's a climate summary I found on the internet for nearby Nakusp:

    "Climate. The climate of the area is characterized by a cool, snowy winter and a relatively warm summer. Valley level cloud cover is quite extensive throughout the winter months. As a result of the mountain topography there is considerable local and sub-regional micro-climatic variations over short distances (Rain in town can quickly turn into several feet of snow a few miles down a side road). Mean annual temperature at Nakusp is approximately 7.3° C, with a mean maximum of 12.3° C and a mean minimum of 2.3° C. Mean annual precipitation is 601 mm. The distribution of precipitation is fairly strong year round, with a notable increase in precipitation days per month during the winter. Snowfall in the valley bottom at Nakusp is common from late November to early March, whereas rainfall is possible throughout the year. There is enough snowfall on the surrounding mountain tops to support a viable Heliskiing operation daily, from December through to March. Vegetation growth is lush, providing the area with thick forest and extensive wildlife habitat (CORE, 1994; MoF, 1994; Wilson, 1973)."

    I wish I could find more weather information specific to the area, because it is relatively mild compared to its surroundings. I have never seen a Monkey Puzzle Tree being grown in the area, but there are those who grow kiwis in town (albeit quite likely the more winter-hardy variety) as well as a variety of other fruits like cherries, strawberries, apricots, apples, etc.

    I know that the lake they live on (a stretch of the Upper Arrow) never freezes, if this is indicative of anything important and the garden area has very little gain in elevation from the beach.

    Anyways, all and any advice would be greatly appreciated.[/QUOTE]
     
  18. Michael F

    Michael F Esteemed Contributor Forums Moderator 10 Years

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    Yes.

    They also do so freely in Britain, where the climate is similar.
     

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  19. smilingbluedog

    smilingbluedog Member

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    Hello all, this is my 1st post, and I have spent over 2 hours reading (mostly) about Monkey Puzzle Trees... great info...Thankyou! Especially Mic hael F.
    I live in the West Kootenays, BC and over the years I've only seen 3 monkey puzzle trees here. One in New Denver, and 2 in the Nelson area (one is in a wooded area without getting any water/care from the renters who didn't even know it was there!). It was love at 1st sight!
    Not finding any at the local greenhouses, (and not willing to steal the unappreciated tree) eventually I tried to purchase one on-line, from a nursery in the USA , only to learn that they were not allowed to import them to Canada because they are like an endangered/threatened species! I was a little upset about that... (it's not like I was planning on killing it!) Anyhow, I'm getting side-tracked.
    Two days ago, I FINALLY found & was able to buy one (from Nanaimo, on Vancouver Island). Now that I've got it home, I'm worried... can I really grow a Monkey Puzzle tree in the Kootenays??? We still have lots of snow (about 2ft). I will
    try & post a photo, and we'll see what happens.
    It's nice to know there are lots of other people interested in these unusual trees.
    Any pointers will be greatfully received!
    Angie
     
  20. LPN

    LPN Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    "can I really grow a Monkey Puzzle tree in the Kootenays??? "
    Your question seems to be answered by your earlier comment ...
    "I've only seen 3 monkey puzzle trees here."
    Personally, I'd never have imagined it possible as winters can periodically be quite severe. Are these long standing specimen with some history or short term efforts?

    Cheers, LPN.
     
  21. smilingbluedog

    smilingbluedog Member

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    I should have highlighted the "I", part.
    Anyhow, the trees I saw were not mature size, and it's been a couple of years since I've seen them. I will try & get out to see them sometime this spring and let you know more.
    Here's a photo of my baby Monkey Puzzle tree.
    IMG_5395.jpg
     
  22. Michael F

    Michael F Esteemed Contributor Forums Moderator 10 Years

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    Give it a try, but be prepared to give it special protection (or lose it) if severe cold is forecast!
     
  23. David Peters

    David Peters Member

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    To Smiling Blue Dog: Hopefully my attached photo is successful. The picture is the largest specimen Monkey Puzzle tree in the West kootenay that I know of. It is located in Castlegar. There is also another small tree out at Bealby Point road just outside Nelson. As well, I have one growing at the 6-Mile area and there apparently is another specimen out at Balfour. I am sure there are more out there.

    You can purchase small specimen trees at numerous Garden Centers in the lower mainland from $30 to $50 range. I paid $14 on sale for a 30cm tall specimen 4 years ago which is now approaching 1 metre in height. In its first year it was exposed to -25 celcius with wind chill unprotected, has been transplanted twice, and I severed a main root which in the long term...if there is one... would have girdled the main stem. So all in all it has had a tough go of it but is currently performing well.
     

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  24. LPN

    LPN Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    That is an amazing photo David! Truely one I never thought possible. Obviously this Araucaria araucana is proving otherwise as well as the others you know of. Thanks for posting this great photo!

    Cheers, LPN (Barrie).
     
  25. David Peters

    David Peters Member

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    This is a remarkable specimen for Canadian Zone 6 - USDA Zone 5. I never had an opportunity to query the owners but I suspect this tree was here in 1989 when I was going to College when a brutal Alaskan artic air mass moved down and wind chill temperatures were -50 Celcius +. Either the the tree was very lucky or it was well protected at the time.
     

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