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GardenSMART Episode

Show #30/5704. Where Do Trees Come From

Summary of Show

Propagation Greenhouse
We start in the greenhouse. This is a PROPAGATION GREENHOUSE, an area very near and dear to Eric's heart. This is what he did for nearly a decade of his life and a great place to see where a lot of it starts. The vegetative cuttings are grown from cuttings or tissue culture cuttings. The first plant demonstrates about two months worth of work. They propagate really quickly. At J. Frank Schmidt they have the systems down and have a lot of different varieties ready to go out for fall planting. Eric points out a tree lilac which he believes demonstrates very well the process here.
For More Information Click here

Seedlings And Cuttings
They also have significant seedling blocks too. Eric would like to talk a little bit about the difference between SEEDLINGS AND CUTTINGS and why one might utilize a cutting instead of a seedling? Seedlings are propagated naturally through tree sex. With that method you will have genetic diversity, thus a lot of variation. And, variability is great. There are reasons for both.
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Taking The Trees Outside
Nancy and Eric discuss the next step in this process. The workers right now are starting to take the containers OUT OF THE GREENHOUSE. The largest ones will be fall planted in the fields where they will be lined out in the spacing in which they'll be grown for several more years.
For More Information Click here

Growing Good Roots Is Very Important
It's really important to GROW GOOD ROOTS and that's something that starts right here with trimming and transplanting. People see the tops of trees and think that's it, but what's underground is every bit as important, maybe more so. Nancy would go so far as to say that you will never have a truly healthy top without excellent roots. So at this stage all the work goes into building a quality root system.
For More Information Click here

Two Year Old Trees
Eric and Nancy go out into the field and will follow the rooted red maple cutting all the way from the green house to a mature tree. They're next looking at a tree that is TWO YEARS OLDER than the rooted cuttings, it's about two years from the point where it was in the little container in the greenhouse. After it left the greenhouse it was transplanted into a transplant bed where it was grown for a season and then fall planted. So fall two years ago it was planted out here and then grown for a whole year just as a shrub. And in that year they develop roots. They call that the zero year because they are just growing roots because that's really as important as growing the tops.
For More Information Click here

Selecting Buds
It's going to grow maybe ONE,TWO OR THREE BUDS. They pick the strongest one knowing that with this big root system already built, what you're going to get is a plant that will grow like a rocket. They put all their energy into one bud and off it goes. Rocket is a good description. So how do you keep it straight because the branch is going to naturally want to form more at an angle but these are are pretty much completely parallel? In the trade, it's called a dog leg. When that bud emerges it wants to go out sideways and then up. To prevent that, the Schmidts, cleverly, about 40 years ago, invented the grow straight. The grow straight is just a little piece of metal. They set it on a stubbed off bud, put it in the ground next to that bud, the bud comes up, it follows the channel right up. When it gets up about a foot they take out the grow straight then put in a stake.
For More Information Click here

Three Or Four Year Old Trees
We have been looking at two year old liner trees, Nancy and Eric next look at the field that has THREE OR FOUR YEAR OLD TREES. These are nice straight trees with a good root system. The next step requires putting them into wider spacing. What are the objectives here? Where they're standing there previously had been an additional row. They've harvested every other row and now these are on wide row spacings. These will be the biggest trees they grow. This tree will be about an inch and a half and three quarters caliper. The objective is to have a finished tree to send out to growers.
For More Information Click here

Spacing
The SPACING is very important as they matriculate through every year of the tree. When it's young, it is appropriate to keep them very close, about like a pine forest, that way they have nowhere to grow but up and that's what keeps them very, very straight since the light that the tree is getting is mostly coming from the top so it only has one direction to grow.
For More Information Click here

Selecting Structural Limbs
At this point they're starting to SELECT STRUCTURAL LIMBS of the tree. From about five and a half, six feet up, it's very important to pay attention to what the bones of the tree are going to be? What does that mean from a standpoint of the way they prune this tree at this age? These trees have been pruned their final time. This past winter they come through with tractors and platforms, nipped the top bud out and then taped it to keep that central leader. That pruning promotes balanced branching. They are going in and selecting specific scaffold branches. They'll have taken out every other branch to make sure that there is a good rotation and no crossing branches.
For More Information Click here

A Mature Tree 10 Years Later
We now FAST FORWARD 10 YEARS and find ourselves under the shade of an amazing red maple. One can readily see the impact of all of the hard work that went into that strong, straight trunk, great root system and getting those scaffold branches correct. It's a beautiful tree. The trees we looked at last were about the size of this tree when it was planted here. It was a bare root tree. This shows what can be done in 10 years by choosing a tree of that size and then planting it. This is 10 years later. Eric asks - between then and now, how much work has gone into this tree from a maintenance standpoint, how much effort has gone into maintaining this big tree?
For More Information Click here

LINKS:

J. Frank Schmidt
J. Frank Schmidt & Son Co. Wholesale Tree Growers

Oregon Garden Resort
A Rustic Hotel Retreat in Silverton, Oregon - Oregon Garden Resort

Plant List

Show #30/5704. Where Do Trees Come From

Transcript of Show

In this Episode GardenSMART visits one of America's premiere in-ground tree farms and goes behind the scenes to learn what it takes for a plant to go from from cutting to market. For 70 years J Frank Schmidt and Son Co. has been growing new ideas. They are the originators of the well-known Red Sunset maple and have introduced more than 100 other patented or trademark cultivars. Their company is known as a premier source of up-to-date deciduous tree cultivars and new introductions. More than 500 varieties and cultivars of deciduous trees are carefully grown on their rich Willamette Valley soil in the heart of Oregon, the nursery state. Nancy Buley is our guest host in this Episode and she takes us on a behind the scenes tour of what a typical day looks like at J. Frank Schmidt.

Eric welcomes Nancy. Thanks for joining us and welcome to GardenSMART. Nancy thanks Eric and GardenSMART for visiting J. Frank Schmidt. Eric comments that often when we go to our retail garden center and see that beautiful five gallon container containing that wonderful plant we've always wanted in our garden, we may not know how much work and effort goes into that tree, especially when we're looking at really big trees that were field dug. There are years and years and years of hard work that go into that tree. Eric would like to walk through that whole process. Nancy is grateful that we came to visit because there really is an incredible amount of work that happens behind the scenes, over a lot of years, to bring that five gallon tree to the garden center.

We start in the greenhouse. This is a PROPAGATION GREENHOUSE, an area very near and dear to Eric's heart. This is what he did for nearly a decade of his life and a great place to see where a lot of it starts. The vegetative cuttings are grown from cuttings or tissue culture cuttings. The first plant demonstrates about two months worth of work. They propagate really quickly. At J. Frank Schmidt they have the systems down and have a lot of different varieties ready to go out for fall planting. Eric points out a tree lilac which he believes demonstrates very well the process here. They use just a very small piece of stem material, dip it into a rooting hormone, then stick that into a tray. There are misters in the greenhouse that provide just little doses of fog or water to limit the transpiration of the leaf. The whole goal with propagation is to allow this little guy the time needed to survive long enough to put on roots. Nancy calls the little leaf at the top the solar panel. There's a bud at the bottom and a solar panel at the top and the leaf is what powers the rooting.

They also have significant seedling blocks too. Eric would like to talk a little bit about the difference between SEEDLINGS AND CUTTINGS and why one might utilize a cutting instead of a seedling? Seedlings are propagated naturally through tree sex. With that method you will have genetic diversity, thus a lot of variation. And, variability is great. There are reasons for both. With cultivars you have consistent quality, one knows how that tree is going to perform because it is from a one parent tree. Other ways to maintain the consistency of a cultivar would be through budding and grafting and there's a lot of that that goes on here as well. They grow about 500 different varieties and cultivars of trees, mostly deciduous, and each one has a different process. They utilize the process that's best for the tree and they've found over the years the best way to propagate particular trees. As an example, oaks are grown mostly from seed. When touring the nursery one sees all the different processes, the many ways they bring trees to market. Budding and grafting are both clones. They bud and graft in cases where the plant doesn't really like to be rooted vegetatively. Nancy shows us an example with a red maple. It is just two months old and look at the roots it's put out already. It has strong roots, some trees don't have strong roots when planted vegetatively. So those trees will be grown from seed. Each tree has its own formula for success.

Nancy and Eric discuss the next step in this process. The workers right now are starting to take the containers OUT OF THE GREENHOUSE. The largest ones will be fall planted in the fields where they will be lined out in the spacing in which they'll be grown for several more years. The smaller ones will probably go into one of their transplant blocks, meaning they will have another year here and then go to the field. With the seedlings they're growing right now, at some point in time they're going to run an undercut, they're basically going to be excavated or bare rooted and they will ultimately end up being lined out in the field as well. There are so many variations and each variety is different. Some they need to slow down their growth by undercutting them, then transplanting and others they'll keep in the greenhouse longer so that plant has a better chance of success once it gets in the field.

It's really important to GROW GOOD ROOTS and that's something that starts right here with trimming and transplanting. People see the tops of trees and think that's it, but what's underground is every bit as important, maybe more so. Nancy would go so far as to say that you will never have a truly healthy top without excellent roots. So at this stage all the work goes into building a quality root system. Thus the plant is root pruned over and over and over again. When these plants are trimmed, before they go out to the field, all the edges will be trimmed off and trimmed down, then more roots will break providing a much better, more fibrous root system. And that's what they're looking for, nice fibrous roots. And after trimming this plant it will take right off when planted again.

Eric and Nancy go out into the field and will follow the rooted red maple cutting all the way from the green house to a mature tree. They're next looking at a tree that is TWO YEARS OLDER than the rooted cuttings, it's about two years from the point where it was in the little container in the greenhouse. After it left the greenhouse it was transplanted into a transplant bed where it was grown for a season and then fall planted. So fall two years ago it was planted out here and then grown for a whole year just as a shrub. And in that year they develop roots. They call that the zero year because they are just growing roots because that's really as important as growing the tops. At this point, after the roots have grown, the tree likely looks a little bit like a shrub because it's just a rooted cutting. It might've had two or three branch breaks on it. It will be about 3-4 feet tall in a year. So what do you do from there? After the leaves fall off they have a whole field of shrubs, shrub maples. In the wintertime when they've got a dry spell they come out and mow the whole field down to about 1 foot tall. Then the next spring they will make a precision cut, cut it just above a bud that's really close to the ground. and then they'll let the tree grow. In February, this was just a field of little stubs, trunks about 6-8 inches high. Then in one year they will grow to 4-6 feet tall. The idea is that if they have a big root system that's already developed when you lop the top off there's now an imbalance between the root system and the top. So what's the plant going to do?

It's going to grow maybe ONE,TWO OR THREE BUDS. They pick the strongest one knowing that with this big root system already built, what you're going to get is a plant that will grow like a rocket. They put all their energy into one bud and off it goes. Rocket is a good description. So how do you keep it straight because the branch is going to naturally want to form more at an angle but these are are pretty much completely parallel? In the trade, it's called a dog leg. When that bud emerges it wants to go out sideways and then up. To prevent that, the Schmidts, cleverly, about 40 years ago, invented the grow straight. The grow straight is just a little piece of metal. They set it on a stubbed off bud, put it in the ground next to that bud, the bud comes up, it follows the channel right up. When it gets up about a foot they take out the grow straight then put in a stake. Nancy shows a slender metal stake on a tree. They then start taping. Tape, tape, tape, what they're trying to do is keep a very straight trunk. So every couple of weeks the workers come through with their tape guns, clip the old tape and add new tape. The objective is to make sure the tree trunk doesn't bend because if you let that bend get in there, it stays. If a week or two weeks behind on your taping that bend is going to stay with that tree for the rest of its' life. By disciplining the tree in its' youth it will be a nice straight stick. So that's what they're trying to do. The first year get a nice straight whip. The red point maple branches really well so they have quite nice branching on them even in this first year. Eric likes the cleverness of using a very flexible stake because it's important in the development of a young tree to build strength and build caliper, which is the thickness of the trunk. If they were to use a stake that's super rigid, say like a bamboo stake, the tree is not going to move. It's the motion of that tree bending in the wind that helps build strength. We can bend this tree a lot and that bending is what strengthens that cambium and it also builds caliper. Leaving the lower leaves is also helpful, they've cut off about half of them, but left half. That will draw energy into the roots and builds caliber. So if you clean up the trunk too soon and use a rigid stake you'll end up with a tree that when you take it off the stake the tree is basically going to flop over. And that's not good. The goal is to make the tree thick and strong as well as to develop a tree that's got the right kind of structure. They want to keep the central leader going up and going up straight. The branches will eventually all take off, if a street tree. Really, what they're growing and selling is roots and straight trunks. And that is why this step is so important.

We have been looking at two year old liner trees, Nancy and Eric next look at the field that has THREE OR FOUR YEAR OLD TREES. These are nice straight trees with a good root system. The next step requires putting them into wider spacing. What are the objectives here? Where they're standing there previously had been an additional row. They've harvested every other row and now these are on wide row spacings. These will be the biggest trees they grow. This tree will be about an inch and a half and three quarters caliper. The objective is to have a finished tree to send out to growers. Most of these will go to other growers in states like Illinois, Kansas or Kentucky, really all over the country. They will dig these as bare root trees. They have a digging machine that drives over the top, there's u shaped blade that goes underneath and uproots the trees, they are then picked up, graded, stored and shipped, generally in refrigerated trucks. They go to other growers who will put them out in their fields to grow to three, four, five or six inch caliper for another three to sometimes seven, 10 years depending on how big they want the finished tree to be. As well a lot are shipped in containers. A lot of the container trees go to the southeast or California where they'll be shipped bare root to other markets then grown locally in their local conditions.

The SPACING is very important as they matriculate through every year of the tree. When it's young, it is appropriate to keep them very close, about like a pine forest, that way they have nowhere to grow but up and that's what keeps them very, very straight since the light that the tree is getting is mostly coming from the top so it only has one direction to grow. That's important when it's small, that kind of agriculture makes sense. The bigger they get though, you've got to start adding more and more space. So here we're on a three foot spacing. And that provides the interior branches sunlight too and it will grow in a nice rounded way, balanced.

At this point they're starting to SELECT STRUCTURAL LIMBS of the tree. From about five and a half, six feet up, it's very important to pay attention to what the bones of the tree are going to be? What does that mean from a standpoint of the way they prune this tree at this age? These trees have been pruned their final time. This past winter they come through with tractors and platforms, nipped the top bud out and then taped it to keep that central leader. That pruning promotes balanced branching. They are going in and selecting specific scaffold branches. They'll have taken out every other branch to make sure that there is a good rotation and no crossing branches. It's really important not to have crossing branches. They've opened up that canopy so that it's a really nice balanced canopy. Opening up the canopy also allows more light to come in. Structurally building something at his stage is very important and pays dividends when that tree is a big 25, 30 foot tree. It's important the thought process that was put into that young tree. They want that tree to be structurally correct. Crossing branches when a tree is small is not that big a deal but you fast forward five, six, seven, eight years those crossing branches can be really problematic. So every year these trees get a winter pruning and they're always cognizant of that good structure.

Remember the younger trees had branches down close to the ground but those have gradually been taken up as the tree grows. It's important as a young tree to help build the caliper so they've taken the branches up to about 5 feet so that they can either go straight into a landscape or be planted out to be grown on. At this point the trees don't require a stake they've already built a strong trunk. They want as much wind motion as possible so the trunk will get really, really stout. These trees are not root pruned at this phase but the year before the young trees would have been root pruned. But some of the more vigorous trees like the liriodendrons are root pruned at this stage. These trees are a little better mannered. The goal at this point would be to have a really, really furry intense root system, a straight trunk and a nice central leader. So these trees are ready to go out. They'll provided good shade.

We now FAST FORWARD 10 YEARS and find ourselves under the shade of an amazing red maple. One can readily see the impact of all of the hard work that went into that strong, straight trunk, great root system and getting those scaffold branches correct. It's a beautiful tree. The trees we looked at last were about the size of this tree when it was planted here. It was a bare root tree. This shows what can be done in 10 years by choosing a tree of that size and then planting it. This is 10 years later. Eric asks - between then and now, how much work has gone into this tree from a maintenance standpoint, how much effort has gone into maintaining this big tree? Or were you able to just let it go at that point? They did let it go. Their arboretum is 10 acres it's a lot to take care of. Thus they don't do very much pruning or little to none because they really want to know how the trees are going to perform on their own. So this tree was planted and it hasn't been pruned. All that structural training that they put into it when growing it to be planted out here has paid off. This really underscores the importance of doing it right when the tree is young. The fact that someone would buy a tree at that size and is able to basically plant it and then walk away from it and it looks like this, is amazing. Basically water and a little bit of fertilizer. When one plants a tree keep an eye on its structure and prune out crossing branches. But if you've bought a high quality tree, there won't be crossing branches. One can really plant it and enjoy it.

In this Episode we've taken a walk through the fields of one of America's premier tree nurseries and learned a lot about what it takes to produce some of the best trees in America. Eric thanks Nancy for spending the day with us, we learned so much. It was an awesome day following our little red maple from its infancy all the way up to adulthood and seeing all the things that happened along the way. Thank you so much for spending time with us. Nancy in turn thanks GardenSMART and Eric for visiting she enjoys showing off J. Frank Schmidt and their nursery.

LINKS:

J. Frank Schmidt
J. Frank Schmidt & Son Co. Wholesale Tree Growers

Oregon Garden Resort
A Rustic Hotel Retreat in Silverton, Oregon - Oregon Garden Resort

Plant List

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