“Getting into The Weeds”

02 Sep “Getting into The Weeds”

     Every year, for the holidays, I come up with a custom made Ginkgo-themed gift and share it with friends and colleagues in the industry. A gift that has so much meaning, passion and thought behind it, I often say, “it’s only the worthy.” What I mean by that is, it’s only for those who truly understand me and have a deep appreciation for plants and life.  Dexterous gifts that usually have those who receive it saying, “Bob, you can’t outdo this year’s gift!”. That, of course, is what drives me to push the envelope even further. This year’s gift, which took four prototypes to get correct, had me having in-depth conversations with an artist in Maine. As we were going through the possibilities he explained to me, in some detail, the limitations of metal and heat, a hint for those receiving my gift this year. Nicholas, my metal worker/artist said, “we’re really getting into the weeds now.” There have been a few interpretations of this expression, but my take away was that we were dealing with small, but important details in metal working. Couple this with the important, minute details of a Ginkgo leaf and you can begin to understand why “we were so far into the weeds”, we needed a sickle to get ourselves out.

     This past summer I visited nearly all of our growers, handpicking nursery stock for Spring 2021. Following my conversation with Nicholas in Maine and while visiting one of our unique tree growers, I thought about his words looking at various blocks of cherry, crabapple, dogwood, ginkgo, magnolia, oak and redbud. The question I asked myself, standing in the thick of all these gorgeous tree types and their respective cultivars, was how many people truly understand and appreciate the subtleties of not only a genus and species, but also each individual cultivar? Now before you panic with botanical nomenclature, let me make things easier. Over the years, many people I speak with initially struggle with the words, genus, species and cultivar. My analogy, to make things easier and quickly understand and appreciate the vernacular, is comparing trees to that of Bayerische Motoren Werke AG (aka BMW). Imagine, for a moment, BMW as the company and understand that they have manufactured planes, cars and motorcycles over the years. Now consider each model of plane, car and motorcycle the company has produced. Consider BMW as the genus, planes, cars and motorcycles as the species and each model of plane, car and motorcycle as a cultivar and you’re nearly there. After all, how many of us can appreciate the difference between a 525i and 530i BMW? Is the added horsepower and “beefier” engine worth the extra cost? Don’t they both look the same? The answer, I believe, is for the discerning customer who appreciates the details.

     Again, standing in those gorgeous blocks of cherry, crabapple, dogwood, ginkgo, magnolia, oak and redbud I asked myself… how many will appreciate the subtleties of these cultivars, offered today in the marketplace, and will they equate value towards them? When you shop at your local independent garden center are size and price the deciding factors? Will traits like genetics, quality and professional advice have enough intrinsic value? Looking at various blocks of dogwood you can easily see how some are larger than others. Going further, some may have variegated leaves, be more disease resistant, flower at different times or have ascending or weeping branches, making them better candidates for smaller spaces.

     Standing in open fields, looking at huge blocks of different cultivars, the details become magnified very quickly. The subtlety of flower color, the texture, size or patina of a leaf, the overall habit of a tree (spreading vs. fastigiate), even the bark and fruit a tree type produces becomes quite distinguishable. And this is just deciduous trees I’m talking about. Imagine the diversity that exists within annuals, perennials and conifers? As I said, “we’re really getting into the weeds” now, but isn’t that what makes life so interesting?