Presidential Conifer

acs_webeditorDecember 13, 2013

Quick! What species has been elected to the White House to serve as the nation's Christmas tree more than any other?

Here is a link that might be useful: And the answer is...

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tsugajunkie z5 SE WI

The last few years I think its been a fake one...

tj

    Bookmark   December 13, 2013 at 7:47PM
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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

Right on for 5 years

    Bookmark   December 14, 2013 at 8:59AM
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acs_webeditor

Oh, yee of little faith; humbugs all.

(But this year it's a Doug Fir from PA)

Here is a link that might be useful: And 'Yes, Virginia; there is a real tree in the White House

    Bookmark   December 15, 2013 at 12:41AM
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ishcountrygal

There's the White House Christmas tree, there's the Capitol Christmas tree, and then there's the National tree, which I think is a living tree. Are there any other important-DC-tree wannabes out there?

This year's Capitol tree, an 88-foot Engleman spruce from Washington state, spent 25 days enroute across the country, taking a southern detour through Texas. The tree had a water-filled bladder afixed to its base. It was equiped with temperature sensors and accompanied by Forest Service technicians who took twig samples for measuring moisture. Seems they made a big deal out of this move.

Here is a link that might be useful: Big tree still has about 90% moisture after 25-day cross-country trip

    Bookmark   December 16, 2013 at 1:35AM
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pineresin

"Here is a link that might be useful: And the answer is..."

The map on that page is very misleading! Doesn't show where the species is native, nor the areas best suited to its cultivation.

Resin

    Bookmark   December 16, 2013 at 8:27AM
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acs_webeditor

Misleading? I would disagree.

This post was edited by ACS_WebEditor on Mon, Dec 16, 13 at 13:55

    Bookmark   December 16, 2013 at 1:32PM
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acs_webeditor

Misleading? I would disagree.

The maps on all the conifer records in the ACS database are dynamically generated based on the USDA hardiness zone that is generally agreed upon for that species/cultivar and is part of that record. (Surely you agree that the Zone data on plants in the trade is neither definitive nor accurate for all locations.)

When your cursor hovers over a section of the map it highlights that region in the US and will generate a detailed regional USDA zone map so users can examine that hardiness range more closely.

In hovering, a javascript is generated that says "USDA data suggests that the limit of cold hardiness for "name species/cultivar" is USDA Zone X"

Further, the link for USDA Zone goes to a lengthly essay on the Zone maps and how users need to be cautious in relying on them.

It also notes that there is no reliable heat zone data such that we could calibrate a range best suited for cultivation and that users really need to consult with reliable local sources to ensure that the cultivar they intend to buy is viable for their location.

Considering that there are thousands of records in the system and growing daily, we think we've provided a pretty good resource for the general public.

While the ACS is made up of conifer enthusiasts, some of whom are very knowledgeable with professional credentials -- not a few of whom are important voices in this forum -- the ACS website is designed to appeal to the general public and provide them with not just accurate information but a welcoming place where they can learn about conifers, build their knowledge base and, perhaps join our ranks where they can meet others in the field, visit their gardens and nurseries, attend regional and national meetings and have access rare cultivars (some offered with an ACS discount) and therefore grow the field of conifer collecting.

    Bookmark   December 16, 2013 at 1:33PM
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Sara Malone Zone 9b

If I can chime in here, the key word in the ACS response above is 'welcoming' Remember that the ACS is a volunteer organization made up of people donating their time and energy to educate the public about conifers and how to use them in the garden and to enjoy them. We strive mightily not to be pedantic or academic but to bring newbies into this exciting realm.

Constructive suggestions are always welcome; that is how we make our offerings - and ourselves - more informed and useful.

Sara

    Bookmark   December 16, 2013 at 2:31PM
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ishcountrygal

First of all, I really like the new conifersociety.org website. Well organized, nice and clean looking, striking banner photos, and a potentially extensive conifer database.

....However, I think Resin makes some good points. I would have scratched my head less if the map on the Abies fraseri page were at least labelled "Limit of cold hardiness". Without a label, I guessed that the map was either a distribution map or a map of where the conifer can be grown.

I would prefer distribution maps, but these don't apply to cultivars, only to species/subspecies/varieties.

    Bookmark   December 17, 2013 at 1:14AM
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acs_webeditor

You hit on the same problem we faced in constructing this: cultivars donâÂÂt conform to the generally accepted wisdom of distribution and ACS members are mad for cultivars.

Further, I was very careful to use conditional tense and be less definitive due to the fact that micro climates, soil conditions, exposure, rainfall, etc., etc., influence hardiness and distribution. We say repeatedly that this USDA info is only a guide and that local experts (growers, nursery operators, conifer collectors, etc.) are the best source for growing conditions in your garden. Distribution maps are less reliable, particularly at the scale at which they exist.

As previously stated, the new web site is outward facing, aimed towards the general public who donâÂÂt (yet!) have the expertise found in this forum. WeâÂÂre very conscious of bringing newbies into this field. If they are spending $100 on a unique cultivar that doesnâÂÂt make it through its first year, that is not good for them and, ultimately, bad for all of us.

This post was edited by ACS_WebEditor on Tue, Dec 17, 13 at 11:43

    Bookmark   December 17, 2013 at 11:28AM
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maple_grove_gw

Interesting story...I wonder who gets to pick out what species of tree it'll be.

I would agree with ICG - I love the new website, it's been well executed and transformed into a visually appealing, easy-to-navigate resource with plenty to offer to the general public, collectors, and professionals alike.

I also agree that the map is misleading. It's a map of USDA Zone 4 - which has little to do with Abies fraseri (other than the obvious yet not very relevant fact that it's the nominal hardiness limit). It would be hard for a casual reader not to misinterpret that map, since they'd likely assume that it does have something to do with Abies fraseri. Sometimes less is more, and with the best interests of the site in mind I most humbly suggest that the page could be improved by removing the map.

Alex

    Bookmark   December 17, 2013 at 12:43PM
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acs_webeditor

Thanks for your suggestion. Will take it into consideration when we next do user testing.

Keep in mind that we do tell users that the map is USDA, that the area generated by the record "suggests the limit of cold hardiness," link to an explanation of what the USDA maps represent and how they need to be used as only a guide in determining the viability of that plant in their landscape.

Newbies see a plant tag with the Zone number and take it for gospel; the map in our plant record is a quick and easy way for them visualize the concept, learn what it means and how that data relates to them.

For many novices plant tags are inherently misleading; we're not going to change industry practices but we can help the consumer start to figure out what plants might work in their gardens.

    Bookmark   December 17, 2013 at 2:49PM
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pineresin

I can see the point for the "suggested limit of cold hardiness", particularly for less hardy conifers (say, Araucaria araucana). But for Abies fraseri - which likes a climate colder than where most people live - it doesn't work so well. More often, people here are asking "Why does this always die in my zone [7 / 8 / 9 / etc]? How can I get this to grow successfully here?". In cases like this, a warmest safe zone would make more sense. Unfortunately, that's not easy, as this depends more on summer heat, than winter minima - Abies fraseri grows well in zone 9 in western Scotland with cool oceanic summers, but is a failure in zone 5-6 in parts of the US midwest because of the continental summer heat there.

I'm going to guess its potential growing range in N America is going to be something like this.

Resin

    Bookmark   December 17, 2013 at 7:10PM
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fairfield8619(Zone 8 NW LA)

Also, Keteleeria is listed as zone 3, pretty far off I think.

    Bookmark   December 18, 2013 at 12:10AM
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liopleurodon(Z8)

How about a system where users can input known occurences of a species? I think that that would give (together with the known native range) interesting data for where a species can survive.

I agree that the current picture can make it look like that's the only area where such species can be planted, while it's just the lowest hardiness zone for it.

    Bookmark   December 18, 2013 at 5:08AM
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pineresin

"Also, Keteleeria is listed as zone 3, pretty far off I think"

Very far off!! Zone 8, or possibly zone 7 for the hardiest origins.

"How about a system where users can input known occurences of a species? I think that that would give (together with the known native range) interesting data for where a species can survive"

Interesting idea, but very prone to errors, from (a) mislabelled plants, (b) data entry errors by inexperienced editors, and (c), people adding their plants before they've been adequately tested (reductio ad absurdam, someone in Calgary plants a Wollemia, and adds it to the database a month later, because it hasn't died just yet . . .)

Resin

    Bookmark   December 18, 2013 at 7:40AM
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maple_grove_gw

Resin's map showing a potential growing range for A. balsamea would certainly be more meaningful than the map of USDA Zone 4. It should be noted that most if not all of the individual entries for each and every species and cultivar contain this map showing the coldest zone in which they are reportedly hardy. Updating each entry with a meaningful distribution would be a very large undertaking.

"For many novices plant tags are inherently misleading; we're not going to change industry practices but we can help the consumer start to figure out what plants might work in their gardens."

Sean, I completely agree with the principle of this statement. We as experienced gardeners understand that cold hardiness is a small piece of the puzzle but when looked without considering other factors, it can often be misleading (esp. for conifers!). Yet this is the information typically communicated by the nursery industry to connote whether a plant is appropriate for the consumer. Sure I agree that we are not going to change industry practices, and that this is not the point here. At the same time, we don't need to jump on the bandwagon and and give ACS support to this oftentimes flawed (or at the least incomplete) approach. By showing the zone information in the form of a map and placing it at the top of the page, we're placing a high value on this information and and giving it the full backing of the ACS. It would be better to remove the map and simply list the zone lower in the page so as to "deprioritize" this information. It would still be present on the page, just not front and center.

The map is designed to inform the general public. I'll play along with this for a moment. If I were to state what the general public should take away from a glance at the map, it would go something like this..."This plant will not survive north of the area shown on the map. It might survive in the area shown on the map, or south of this area, but to know that for sure I would also need to consider heat, humidity, soil conditions and other relevant factors which I'll need to look up elsewhere." I can't help but feel that part of this will get missed.

    Bookmark   December 18, 2013 at 9:57AM
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Sara Malone Zone 9b

These are all good points. If the ACS had a staff and a real revenue source, we could take them up and devise a system that was potentially state of the art.

Fortunately, for ACS members, the real benefit of society membership is not access to maps but access to people. For the newbies and seasoned pros alike, other members generously offer their time, their expertise and their support. We are organized by region so that smaller groups that share similar growing conditions have repeated opportunities to meet informally and share stories and issues. For example, two of our most active members, Tom Cox and John Ruter, recently published a book called Landscaping with Conifers and Ginkgo for the Southeast. Both are available to members and give generously of their time. I have benefitted enormously from picking the brains of some of the most experienced conifer growers in the world, who have welcomed me into their homes, their nurseries and their lives.

It would be wonderful if we could have the most accurate maps possible. The USDA zones are awful - they were designed for crops and in many cases are misleading and useless. One is reminded of Churchill's supposed remark about democracy: it's a terrible system, it just happens to be better than anything else we can come up with!

Sara

    Bookmark   December 18, 2013 at 10:01AM
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fairfield8619(Zone 8 NW LA)

I certainly applaud you for a massive task and will be joining sometime in the near future. I do wish for some way to indicate heat hardiness for those of us who have to deal with the hot, humid, wet and even sometimes dryness- ironically, they seem to go hand in hand very often. Perhaps a map for high minimum night temps.

    Bookmark   December 18, 2013 at 12:08PM
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mowglismom

I think the suggestion towards heat hardiness is excellent. Perhaps other issues mentioned above could be circumvented by the database requiring pictures and original date of planting. With everyone brainstorming perhaps a very valuable resource could be created. This would certainly have saved me a few dollars in the earlier years.

    Bookmark   December 18, 2013 at 6:58PM
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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

How many conifers have heat issues besides Abies?

I had to check out the fuss on these maps. I'm not the sharpest, nor the dullest tool in the box but those are extremely confusing. The note doesn't help either in my opinion. Sorry, just my two cents.

    Bookmark   December 19, 2013 at 8:27PM
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pineresin

"How many conifers have heat issues besides Abies?"

Others from high latitudes / altitudes - most larches, several spruces, a few pines. And most southern Chilean and New Zealand conifers.

Resin

    Bookmark   December 19, 2013 at 9:00PM
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