‘Gingerbread’ Is Not Just For The Holidays!

‘Gingerbread’ Is Not Just For The Holidays!

Social medias are growing on me. Once apprehensive and skeptical about these viral outlets, I have grown to like them and find them purposeful and educational at times. I still feel that they are used as a popularity contest, by some, trying to acquire as many friends as they can on the likes of Facebook, however, I have come to find my groove with them, using social medias as an invaluable tool to educate and inform others about plants.

Last month I took a field trip with a fellow colleague, John Stella, and a customer of ours to our deciduous tree grower in the middle of Pennsylvania. The goal, that day, was to find and hand tag, as we do with all our plant material, two fastigiate trees that would frame the entranceway to our customer’s home. During our expedition we happened across a small grove of a more unusual, yet up and coming, deciduous tree named ‘Gingerbread’ Paperbark maple (Acer griseum x nikoense ‘Ginzam’). Here we were in the middle of a field, surrounded by some 800 acres of trees and I had the opportunity to film this exquisite tree. After filming the attributes and describing the tree in full detail I was able to upload the experience to our website and YouTube channel and offer the experience to the world. More specifically though to our customers and other plant enthusiasts.

Acer griseum x nikoense ‘Gingerbread’ is a four-season tree, having visible attributes in every season! What most have come to expect from Paperbark maple (Acer griseum) is the reliable exfoliating bark that seems to tear and fold over in sheets while maintaining a polished, smooth, copper-cinnamon color throughout the tree. A trait that is most notable in the winter when the tree is undressed, however clearly visible year round. Acer ‘Gingerbread’s’ bark, however, is visibly different. Here the bark is fissured, that is to say torn lengthwise with vertical furrows as it matures and this persists all the way through the head of the tree. However, during its adolescence unbelievable markings help identify and punctuate its impressive bark. Standing in the middle of Pennsylvania, that day, looking carefully at rows of ‘Gingerbread’, muscular, ripples were clearly evident along the trunk, even from a distance, whereas the bark seemed as though muscles were being flexed from within the tree creating an almost crosshatch pattern. ‘Gingerbread’ is a small to medium tree in stature, with mature specimens expected to grow 20-25 feet high and 10-15 feet wide. The overall habit is rounded to slightly oval, with trifoliate leaves that go from green to remarkable hues of red and orange in the autumn. Appreciating full sun to part shade, ‘Gingerbread’ is drought tolerant once established, however appreciates occasional attention. Expect less than 12 inches a year in annual growth from this deciduous wonder.

Mentioned earlier, ‘Gingerbread’ is a hybrid between Acer griseum and Acer maximowiczianum (formerly Acer nikoense). Both trees are indigenous to Central China with Nikko Maple being slightly more cold hardy than griseum. However, both trees, academically, will survive in zone 5 easily. Suitable for small yards, both trees have been used as specimens; however a grove of Acer griseum’s I once saw in Hoboken, New Jersey still remains with me. Relatively pest free, the stigma that both are fiscally unobtainable to most has been overshadowed, as availabilities have increased. So who is credited for finding this faster grower than the species? Well, kudos go out to Girard Nurseries in Geneva, Ohio. After a lengthy search to find out whose tree this actually was, I came across a garden forum that identified Girard Nurseries as the finder of the tree. A quick phone call to the nursery confirmed what I had found and I was introduced to Jeff Forinash, one of the owners of the nursery, who told me how the tree came about. Apparently seed was picked in Rochester, New York in the early 1960’s by Girard’s grandfather and the original tree, standing some 25 feet tall, is outside their facility still today.

Our field trip was successful by many accounts. We did manage to find and tag two Zelkova serrata ‘Musashino’s’ standing some 22 feet tall, with 5.5” caliper trunks, weighing in at 3,500 pounds fulfilling our customer’s request. And while that may seem impressive the “sleeper” of the trip was clearly the ‘Gingerbread’ block we happened across. A small block, albeit, those 5-6” caliper ‘Gingerbread’s’ will forever hold in my mind. A multi-season tree with outstanding bark, fall color, trifoliate leaves and a small stature, even a suitable bonsai candidate… you see, you can enjoy ‘Gingerbread’ all year long.