Propagation: Western Conifers In The Midwest

Discussion in 'Gymnosperms (incl. Conifers)' started by fredmcain, Jul 17, 2017.

  1. fredmcain

    fredmcain Active Member

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    I would like to revisit this discussion since I recently took delivery of six seedling of pinus lambertiana. It has been rated as hardy only to zone 7 but I suspect this may be incorrect.

    The guy at the Sugar Pine Foundation (SPF) told me that sugar pines are growing at Truckee, Calif. I did a quick check and discovered that the record low temperature at Truckee is -32°F. That is way too cold to put Truckee in zone 7.

    Additionally, I also found out that there was a sugar pine growing at the University of Idaho’s arboretum at Moscow that had thrived there for at least 80 years before it died. The guy at the arboretum, however, did not know what killed it. The record low at Moscow, ID is about -42°F, again, too cold for zone 7. That temp was, incidentally, recorded quite a number of years before the tree died so I suspect something else did it in very likely white pine blister rust.

    However, the guy at the arboretum also told me that more than anything else it is actually the hot and very humid Midwestern summers that doom some of these western conifers. This only confirms what Michael had stated in his earlier post.

    I suspect the real answer is that the heat and humidity weaken the trees over the summer then they go into the winter in an already weakened condition and just don’t make it.

    We’ll have to see what happens to my seedlings. I did read a post by a guy on another forum who had successfully planted one in Wisconsin. So, we’ll see. I’ll try and provide an update next spring.

    Regards,
    Fred M. Cain,
    Topeka, IN
     
  2. Michael F

    Michael F Paragon of Plants Forums Moderator 10 Years

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    I don't hold with using the F-word so those temperatures are meaningless. But bear in mind the difference between average minimum (what the USDA zones are based on) and absolute minimum (what those temperatures are). In a severe winter, zone 7 locations can get down to around -30°C, possibly lower, even though the average minimum is -12°C to -17°C.
     
  3. fredmcain

    fredmcain Active Member

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    Michael,

    Are you sure about that? I was under the distinct impression that the absolute lowest temperatures that one could expect to have were used to determine the zone. If you are right about that and the AVERAGE lowest temps are used to determine the zone, then USDA zones tell me very little and are of little or even no use to me.

    As a case in point, I supposedly live in zone 5 (USDA has me in zone 5b). So, according to their map, that tells me I can expect lows in the range of -15°F and -10°F. However, if that’s the AVERAGE low that I can expect but it drops to -25 or -30°F every ten years then that actually means that a plant cannot live here which cannot tolerate temps below -15°F.

    So, from my standpoint at least, it would be really nice to know what the absolute lowest temperature would be that I could ever expect to get here.

    At the end of the day, I am beginning to see more and more that if a person wants to know if a certain species can live in his or her zone, there is only ONE way to know for sure. Try it and see!

    Well, I am guilty of using the “F” word simply because I grew up with it and relate to it. I guess I like it better for weather because it’s more accurate since it takes almost TWO “F” degrees to equal ONE “C” degree and weather is not measured in fractions.

    Celsius is far superior for the laboratory where one might be freezing and boiling water but I don’t like it as well for weather. But, that is nothing more than a personal preference.

    One interesting point I learned (or, more accurately was reminded of), in the U.K. weather temps are given in “C” degrees, “petrol” (gasoline) is sold in liters but speed limits along their highways are actually given in miles per hour – NOT kilometers per hour. Figure that out once. Once again, I guess it makes the most sense to use what people are accustomed to in the place where they live.

    By the way, here is a neat piece of trivia for anyone who might not know. How do you get the degree mark after the “F” or the “C” as in 23°C? Simple! Hold the “alt” key down then type “0176”. It works on most keyboards (except Macs-Apple prbly has their own set of symbols).


    Regards,

    Fred M. Cain

    Topeka, IN
     
  4. JT1

    JT1 Contributor

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    In addition to min temperature over Winter, heat and humidity over Summer, I want to add one other stress/killer. In the Midwest we get those long stretches below zero and then in the middle (with no snow cover) we get a -10F or below day that the sky is deep blue and all day bright sun. (Usually occurs in January or February when the ground is completely frozen) This seems uneventful at the time, but then the end of March comes and many sensitive conifers start to show the damage, turn brown and collapse. Snow cover can prevent damage from occuring as it serves as a blanket keeping in ground heat and acts like a shade cloth for the foliage. Snow cover makes all the difference between life and death. Overcast vs clear skies can make a huge difference too.

    If snow cover or cloud cover does not exist something simple like frost cloth can make all the difference on those extremely cold and sunny days when size of conifer allows for covering.
     
  5. fredmcain

    fredmcain Active Member

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    JT,

    Those kinds of days you describe where the ground is frozen and the sun out, I have actually seen that happen in my area as late as early March. That can quite possibly be even more damaging since the sun is really *HOT* by then.

    But, what exactly is a “frost cloth”? Can you tell me where I can get some? Or, was that something that you just made yourself? I have tried putting heavy layers of straw down in Jan when the ground was frozen around my peach trees but that was more of an effort to keep the ground from thawing too fast so that they wouldn’t bloom too early. Unfortunately, it had mixed results so I wasn’t sure if that was really helping or not.

    Regards,
    Fred M. Cain
     
  6. JT1

    JT1 Contributor

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    It's marketed under frost cloth, plant protection fabric, N-Sulate Polypropylene. It comes in a variety of sizes. Also used for seed starting in early gardening. I use it to protect Japanese maples from early frost and to protect my conifers growing as bonsai for the entire Winter on the West side offering protection from wind and direct sun exposure during Winter. They can also be put over landscape conifers as temporary protection during those extreme cold/sun events with no snow or cloud cover. I get my cloth (in the size that works best for my use) here:

    Westward Plant Protection Fabric, 10 x 12 ft. 31NG33 | Zoro.com

    Mulch helps protect the roots and minimize temperature swings too. But when we hit those days as I describe in my above post it's just not enough for those sensitive or marginal conifers.

    Also a great Winter insurance policy for protection when establishing marginal conifers.
     
    Last edited: Apr 24, 2019
  7. fredmcain

    fredmcain Active Member

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    J.T.,

    Is this cloth something you're putting on the ground or are you covering the entire tree with it? Also, do you think that if used on "landscape conifers" that the trees will be O.K. without it after they get a little bit older?

    Regards,
    FMC
     
  8. JT1

    JT1 Contributor

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    I cover the canopy and use it as a wind / sun break on known sensitive conifers in exposed locations. Also as a once in a while for conifers that I know will get damaged from the extreme cold/sun event. You know when they are coming because it's all they talk about on the local news. They never mention conifers just the human and pet dangers.

    For me it's any conifer that turns yellow for winter, any cryptomeria, and Sciadopitys (Japanese umbrella pine)

    The weather ingredients have to be right to cause damage. Once you identify those ingredients that need to come together, you can predict those days that cause damage. You either decide to act and protect or do nothing, cross your fingers, and kick yourself come March.

    As an example of what happened when I didn't follow my instincts this past winter. We had an "event" that warranted protection. Our Pinus mugo 'aurea' got burnt pretty bad because we didn't act. Most uneventful winter's it comes out of winter with a bright yellow glow, same as when I protect it from extreme cold/sun "event". If it had snow cover it would have not needed protection. Here is a picture that doesn't show the brown you see when up close, but it gives you an idea of what can happen and how it looks this time of year. Also all our Ophiopogon japonicus got burnt for the first time as seen tucked in at the base of the mound (center of photo)

    The ingredients don't come together very often. It used to be rare but it's now happening more frequently. We went over 20 years without one but then it's happened a few time over the past ten years. Remember we used to get snow in November and had to wait until March for it to melt. Now we get those random warm days that melts the snow. Then we can get a prolonged period below zero F with no snow. Polar air breaks down for a few days and it's so cold and dry that their is not a cloud in the sky. Sometimes what snow you have evaporates through sublimation. Then sensitive conifers get destroyed under the bright sun on that extremely cold and dry day.
     

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    Last edited: Apr 24, 2019
  9. JT1

    JT1 Contributor

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    One "event" happened for the first time in Michigan's upper peninsula in late winter 2017-2018. They lost all arborvitae except those located near lakes and rivers or shaded from Winter full sun. The hemlock and most spruce showed little or no damage. But majority of cedar was wiped out. Talking to locals in their 60's who lived there their entire life never saw anything like it. They always had snow cover going through the coldest part of Winter. But the 2017-2018 Winter had very little snow cover but was extremely cold. Much of the time they have cloud cover being between Lake Superior and Michigan. They got some dry polar air, full sun, no snow cover and it wiped out some very old cedar that never saw the perfect weather "ingredients" come together until the odd Winter of 2017-2018.
     
  10. fredmcain

    fredmcain Active Member

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    JT1,

    This has indeed been a most interesting discussion. Where exactly are you located, anyways? Michigan?

    Last spring I planted four specimens of abies procera that I’d acquired from Welker’s nursery in Calif. Two of them looked really GREAT last summer but the other two appeared to struggle just a bit. They did not put out quite as much new growth nor were they the lustrous green that the other two were. Guess what? Those two weaker specimens were lost over the winter. Or, well, one is quite dead but the other might sprout out yet. The two that looked better last summer got some brown needles over the winter but I think they’ll be O.K. One rule of thumb that I have, if the buds are viable, they can push new growth to replace the damaged growth from the year before but if the buds are damaged or destroyed they’re toast.

    And, so it was for the specimen in your picture. It looks very bad indeed but if those buds were not damaged, it might pull through.

    Regards,
    Fred M. Cain, Topeka, IN
     
  11. Michael F

    Michael F Paragon of Plants Forums Moderator 10 Years

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    Yes; the USDA zones are based on the average of winter minima. So if a place reached -25° C in winter 1, -20° C in winter 2, and -30° C in winter 3, then its average setting its zone is -25° C, and not the coldest -30° C.

    @ JT1 - cedars are only hardy down to about -27° C, except for the hardiest origins from Turkey (Cedrus libani var. stenocoma) and the far NW Himalaya (Cedrus deodara selections like 'Eisregen'), hardy to about -30° C or just a little lower. Losing them in Michigan's UP is inevitable.

    @ Fred - good point about buds; worth digressing here that Pinaceae conifers (pines, spruces, firs, cedars, etc.) have winter buds, but most Cupressaceae don't (exceptions being baldcypress, dawn redwood, and a few junipers, which do have winter buds). Buds give better protection from winter desiccation.
     
  12. JT1

    JT1 Contributor

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    In this forum I should have been clear and not used the common name cedar. It was Northern White Cedar (Thuja occidentalis) that got burnt out and killed.

    @fredmcain I am in NE Ohio just South of lake Erie and NE of Cleveland. We were zone 5 until the past update to zone 6. I happen to spend a couple of weeks every year during most of my life visiting the Upper Peninsula zone 5b.
     
    Last edited: Apr 24, 2019
  13. JT1

    JT1 Contributor

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    I think that will be the case, it will just look terrible for the next two months. We have lots of garden tours and groups through out the growing season so it's hard to let something look so bad. It will make for a teachable moment to discuss when to protect and how most Winter's it doesn't need it.
     
  14. fredmcain

    fredmcain Active Member

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    J.T.,

    You mentioned that you were once in zone 5 but that has now been revised to zone 6. That is no doubt to reflect the effects of “global warming” and “climate change”. *BUT* (big BUT here), is there any real hard-core evidence that that is actually “happening right now” as one very famous president once quipped?

    I have been a weather buff and have been fascinated by the weather all of my life and have watched it carefully with interest and, quite frankly, I don’t see that. In the last few years it’s gotten just about as cold as it ever has in the upper Midwest. In the last few years there have been some very hot summers (namely 2012) and the last few years it has also stayed remarkably warm well into the fall but on the other hand, there have also been a couple of record breaking cool summers during the last 10 years so it’s hard to pinpoint anything on climate change.

    The absolute hottest summer that has ever been recorded in the upper Midwest was way back in 1934 – long before anyone had “global warming” on their minds.

    It is an indisputable fact that glaciers have been in retreat but this has actually been going on for a long time. Even John Muir discussed this back in the late 1800’s.

    So, is our climate really warming? My Sequoias that I’ve planted cannot talk and therefore cannot argue or discuss this but, in the end, they might just let us know. If it’s STILL too cold here for “Hazel Smith” or “Idaho Endurance” then that will tell me a lot. Sadly, the scientific community would probably ignore it even if I were to write a dissertation in an attempt to make them aware of it. But still, it's a great experiment, though.

    Regards,
    Fred M. Cain
     
  15. Michael F

    Michael F Paragon of Plants Forums Moderator 10 Years

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    Wrong to call it a cedar, fullstop! Whitecedar, not White Cedar, as the latter is a clear statement it is a species of Cedar Cedrus.
     
    JT1 likes this.
  16. fredmcain

    fredmcain Active Member

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    I don’t think there are any true cedars indigenous to North America, are there? As discussed, the eastern red and white “cedars” are not really true cedars. They are either Thuja or juniperus (not sure which).

    Then there is the huge western cedar that can reach heights of over 200 feet but I don’t think those are true cedars either.

    I thought that true cedars actually belong to the pine family (pinaceae) and live in the Atlas Mountains in North Africa. Then there is the “cedar of Lebanon” which I think is a true cedar then there is the Himalayan Cedar but are there any native to the western hemisphere?

    -Fred M. Cain
     
  17. JT1

    JT1 Contributor

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    Great information! Now we need to get a public statement to the rest of the world or at least to N America as the term cedar is used incorrectly almost everywhere, .gov, .com, lumber suppliers, even .edu sites.
     
  18. fredmcain

    fredmcain Active Member

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    I just double checked and true cedars are, in fact, full fledged members of the pine family (pinaceae) whereas eastern “red cedar”, I believe belongs to the cypress family.
    According to the American Conifer Society, cedrus is a rather small genus with only four full-fledged members. Cedrus / cedar | Conifer Genus | American Conifer Society I did not realize it was that small.

    Here is a rather stunning photo of cedars growing in the wild. That is one beautiful forest! The Only True Cedars. I’m not sure if the pruning of the lower branches in this picture is natural or did someone do that.

    Regards,
    Fred M. Cain
     
  19. fredmcain

    fredmcain Active Member

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    I would like to mention that I planted several species of conifers this spring that people do not grow around here – or at least I haven't seen any.

    I now have three specimens of abies grandis that are doing very nicely and one of them looks exceptionally vigorous. I also planted two more abies procera specimens that I got from “Porky Farm” Japanese Maple Tree, Arborvitae, Douglas Fir Tree, Balsam Fir, Pine, Oak Tree Those were both bare root stock and seem to be growing nicely although one is more vigorous than the other.

    The abies grandis, however, came from Plants of the Wild along with one ponderosa pine, a Doug fir and two Engelmann spruces. Conifer Trees Those trees were container grown and shipped in gallon pots. I would like to recommend this nursery. Their stock has shown real vigor and the specimens arrived most professionally packaged. They are no longer shipping this season but I might just get a few more things next year.

    Regards,
    Fred M. Cain,
    Topeka, IN
     
    Last edited: Jun 4, 2019

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