It’s that time of year again! After the heat of summer has come and gone, fall is a breath of fresh air. As the days grow crisp and cool, the spirit of the season really begins to come to life. Landscapes transform dramatically as trees and plants take on rich hues of red, purple, yellow, and orange, creating a stunning display that simply can’t be experienced any other time of year. We hope the Trees, Accents, Spirits, and Fringe in our 2018 fall lookbook will inspire you!
Colonel William H. Jackson, a professor at the University of Georgia, loved his White Oak so much that he deeded the eight feet of land surrounding it to itself! It soon became known as "the tree that owns itself." The tree that stands at that spot today, at the corner of Dearing and South Finley in Athens, Georgia, is actually the "son" of the "tree that owns itself." The original tree fell in 1942 and the current one was then planted from one of its acorns in that very spot. Today, you'll find this tree surrounded by a fence with a plaque that reads:
For and in consideration of the great love I bear this tree and the great desire I have for its protection for all time, I convey entire possession of itself and all land within eight feet of the tree on all sides . - William H. Jackson.
Dr. Alden “Denny” Townsend is who we have to thank for this fine selection. Dr. Townsend worked for the USDA for many years (he’s now retired), breeding new varieties of trees, which were then introduced to the public through the National Arboretum. He is best known for his work in developing Elms that have a natural resistance to the dreaded Dutch Elm Disease, but he also worked with other species, like Red Maple. To get Sun Valley, he pollinated a Red Sunset® Maple (a female) with ‘Autumn Flame’ (a male).
Red Maple is a familiar and colorful part of the native landscape throughout much of the eastern U.S. Brandywine, a special selection of Red Maple, was developed by Dr. Alden “Denny” Townsend of the USDA. Dr. Townsend is best known for his work in discovering American Elms resistant to the dreaded Dutch Elm disease, but he introduced some other fine trees as well. He produced this Maple by crossing the brilliant October Glory Red Maple with Autumn Flame Maple, hoping to get a tree with foliage that was radiant in fall and also resistant to leafhoppers, a pesky insect that causes stippling of the leaves. It was a rousing success!
In 1933, a man named Oliver Freeman, working at the National Arboretum, made the brilliant move of crossing our native Red Maple with the native Silver Maple. Many of the offspring inherited the best assets from each parent—the lightening-fast growth and tough constitution of the Silver and the fiery autumn foliage of the Red. These types of crosses became known as “Freeman” crosses, and in the late 1960s, Glenn Jeffers of Fostoria, Ohio developed his own Freeman hybrid, naming it Autumn Blaze®. It went on the market in 1980.
In the early 1900’s a Sweetgum tree at Kittyhawk stood quietly by watching Wilbur and Orville Wright develop flight as we know it today. I imagine the young tree rooting (no pun intended) for them as they experimented with kites, gliders and eventually airplanes. Perhaps the tree even cheered as they successfully flew the first heavier-than-air powered plane on December 17, 1903 in that field in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. The first commercial flight was scheduled in Tampa, Florida in 1914. Today at the Museum of Science and Industry in Tampa, a seedling from the original Sweetgum tree was planted in honor of the Wright Bros.
With no living relatives, the Ginkgo is one of the oldest trees in the world. Sometimes called “a living fossil," it appears unchanged from fossils found 270 million years ago. When the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima in 1945, six Ginkgo trees were found to be the only surviving plants. Soon after the blast, they began to bud without any major deformities and are still alive today. Thus, Japan regards the Ginkgo as “the bearer of hope."
East meets West in the Rutgers Hybrid Dogwoods, thanks to the pioneering work of Dr. Elwin Orton. Plants from opposite sides of the globe were brought together to engineer new trees with built-in disease resistance. To create Stellar Pink®, the only pink-flowering tree of the series, Orton crossed Japanese Kousa Dogwood with a red-blooming American Flowering Dogwood named ‘Sweetwater.’ Fast-forward to the 21st Century, and a nurseryman named Dennie Hill discovers a variegated branch on one of his Stellar Pinks®. The gardening public falls in love with Stellar Pink® all over again!
In the early part of the 20th century scientists were perplexed by fossils of mysterious “redwood-like” trees that they found throughout North America and Asia. It wasn’t until 1941 when a Chinese forester discovered a small grove of unusual trees in Central China that the puzzle would be solved. A few years later, specimens of this tree would be sent to Professor Hu Hsen Hsu in Beijing. Professor Hu remembered reading an article about the redwood-like fossils and realize they had found a living specimen of that tree. He began shipping the seeds around the world to preserve the species, and just in time. Shortly after, the Communist Party took over power in China and closed trade with the United States.
It was a sort of happy accident that brought Prairie Fire to life. In 1945, an alliance was formed among Purdue, Rutgers, and the University of Illinois, called the PRI initiative, with the goal of breeding new Apple varieties with built-in disease resistance. The researchers involved wanted to give orchard owners varieties that wouldn’t require as many expensive and time-consuming pesticide applications. Dr. Daniel Dayton, an Illinois transplant from New Hampshire, is credited with the introduction of this stellar Crabapple that came about as a sideshoot of the PRI program 1982.
Oakleaf Hydrangea is a Southern belle, growing in moist woodsy areas in the wild from Tennessee to Louisiana and Florida. It is happy in many Yankee landscapes as well, tolerating temperatures down to -20ºF once established. In its typical form, Oakleaf Hydrangea makes a grand, spreading plant. Bold leaves clothe chunky stems, which are topped by big cones of white flowers that turn pinkish as they age. Discovered in Alabama, Pee Wee was chosen for a habit that is much more compact than usual. This mini-Oakleaf isn’t lacking in drama, however. It has all the eye-appeal of the original—just in a smaller package.
Arborvitae means “Tree of Life,” referencing a story that goes back to the sixteenth century. In 1535, French explorer Jacques Cartier and his crew were stuck in what is now Quebec for the winter and were starting to die of scurvy (caused by a vitamin C deficiency). They were saved only when the local Iroquois people gave them some Arborvitae tea. (We’ll stick to orange juice!) Highlights® is a selection of Eastern Arborvitae, the same species that saved Cartier’s men. It was discovered in a nursery in Poland in 1999 and was introduced into this country in 2010.
The story of the Blue Prince Holly is a remarkable one. It began on Long Island, where an amateur gardener named Kathleen Meserve lived. Meserve had a special fondness for Hollies, but most of the Hollies available to gardeners in her day weren’t dependably cold-hardy. They were English Hollies, adapted to the mild climate of that country, not the icy winters of New York. Most gardeners would have simply given up on Hollies, but Meserve had another idea. She learned how to breed them and hybridized her own cold-hardy new varieties! She bred Blue Prince in the 1950s; it was introduced in 1972. Today it’s one of the most popular male Hollies in the country.