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Northern Minnesota Nursery

12017 Eagle Rd

 Floodwood, MN 55736

 

Phone: 218-476-2162

Toll Free 888-883-5580

Fax: 218-476-2162

Email: mikelaine@

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EXOTIC COMMITTEE UPDATE

We are enjoying a mild winter again so hopefully our exotic plantings will get through another winter in good shape. So far the Korean, Siberian, and Meyer Spruce have shown the most promise of being viable trees for Christmas tree growers in Minnesota. This spring we will be trying three new trees: Abies Nephrolepis or Manchurian fir and a Doug fir variety-’Glauca’ Kaniksu, and a cross between the Veitch fir and a Balsam fir recently purchased from Itasca Greenhouse. The Manchurian fir is native to China. I have had it in my nursery for two years and so far it has done well considering there has been so little snow cover. Bob Girardin had had good luck with it and recommended it to me.

The Doug fir is a variety selected by Lawyer Nursery in Montana. They have it listed as zone 4 hardiness and being very adaptable. It has a nice blue color so it would make a nice Christmas tree. North Dakota State University has made some other selections of Doug Fir that have shown some promise, so maybe there is a variety that will make it there.

We will be trying these new varieties at five new farms. They are Neil Kruegers Sprucegate Farm in Lake Elmo, Wolcyn’s Tree Farm in Cambridge, Happyland Tree Farm in Sandstone, Turck’s Tree Farm in Litchfield and Terry Howard’s farm up in Orr. Along with with Doug Hoffbauer’s farm in Proctor, these sites should give us a broad range of soil and climate types. These are all experienced growers and should be able to manage the trees well.
We would like to try Korean x Balsam and Korean x Corkbark fir in the future, along with a trial of various Balsam fir seed sources to evaluate which has the best qualities for Christmas tree production.

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The winter of 2002-2003, the acid test for exotics
Mike Laine, Northern Minnesota Nursery, Floodwood , MN
Located in northern Minnesota , west of Duluth

Well there is always something good that comes out of bad situations. It was hard to find anything good after seeing a field of orange trees. My seed bill has been getting larger every year trying out the different trees, but now there are some trees that I just won't have to bother with anymore.

Here is a list of trees that we had planted and how they fared.

  • Bornmueller Fir: Grafts I did with Bob Girardin's trees didn't survive and 1-0 seedlings died.
  • Canaan Fir: This tree did the poorest 3-0 seedlings were nearly all wiped out. Transplants had a lot of  aborted  buds. May do better once it gets larger.
  • Concolor Fir: Had a lot of winter burn but some survived. Tree needs well-drained soil.
  • Fraser Fir: Larger trees did better than young ones.
  • Korean Fir: Did very well. Had trees from 1 year to 6 years old that had very little winter damage. I have trees in pots now that are as green as any tree. Needs fertilizer or it will be yellow.
  • Nikko Fir: Grafts had damaged buds. New growth was small. It did survive though. Expensive seed.
  • Kingham Fir: Plugs I had planted did very well – no burn at all. Tree has needles that are sharp maybe detriment for Christmas tree. But if people buy Blue Spruce they will love this tree.
  • Nordmann Fir: I am giving up on this tree. It was winter burned in November.
  • Nova Scotia Balsam Fir: Tree did ok.
  • Sheet Harbor Phanerolepsis Fir: Like the Canaan fir this tree did not do so well, but it was better than the Canaan fir. Elevation does make a difference in hardiness.
  • Siberian Fir: Did great, no damage.
  • Veitch fir: This tree did all right, not as good as the Korean fir. Grafts came through without any damage.
  • Veitch x Balsam Fir: survived.
  • Korean x Balsam Fir: did well. These will be interesting to see how they look when they are bigger.
  • 4886 eastern Balsam Fir: from Bill Sayward at Itasca Greenhouse had no damage at all.
  • Meyer Spruce: This tree did the best of all the trees. No damage whatsoever. If we can get it to grow a little faster when it is small it will be great. I have a tree near me that has grown over a foot a year the last 3 years and is as blue as any Blue Spruce.
  • Blue Cook Balsam Fir: it did the best of the Balsams.
  • Abies Siberica: Siberian Fir Native to Russia and Eastern China. Very hardy to - 40 Zone 2. Needles are light green and soft up to 1 1/2" long. The Siberian fir has a good aromatic 0 fragrance and holds its needles very well. Can handle heavier soils and is very drought tolerant. It does break bud a little earlier than some firs so it is best not to plant in low areas. Slow growth to start out but will put on over a foot of growth once established. Due to where it is native to it has a short growing period so fertilizer must be applied early for tree to get good growth. This tree has good potential with growers getting premium prices for this tree.
  • Abies Koreana: Korean Fir Native to South Korea. Hardy tree to - 30 Zone 3. This tree breaks bud very late, good for frost pockets. Needles are dark green if fertilized well. The undersides of needles are white which makes this tree stand out. When the sun is right a field of them will "shine". This tree also has a good aromatic fragrance and holds its needles as well as a Fraser. Unlike the Fraser it will handle wetter conditions. I have trees in a silty loam soil that are doing excellant. Korean Fir prefer a lower PH down to 4.8. Lower PH will give this tree a better color. Only fertilize this tree early in the year as it will keep growing too late into the year and will put on excessive growth if fertilized during summer.
  • Abies Fraseri: Fraser Fir Native to West Virginia and North Carolina. Hardy tree to -30 listed as zone 4 and 5 but I have trees that have seen  -50 and have survived. The Fraser is known for its great needle retention and late bud break. Needles are deep green and shiny with a white underside. Does best in well drained soil with low PH. This tree needs fertilizer to put out good growth. Like the Korean it will put on growth late into year if fertized to late. This tree will not tolerate wet conditions at all.
  • Abies Balsama var. phanerolepis: Bracted Balsam Fir Native to Nova Scotia coast. Hardy to -30 zone 3 not as hardy as inland Nova Scotia balsam. Tree has dark green needles with Fraser fir characteristics. It has medium to fast growth rate and will tolerate heavier wetter soils. This tree has a medium to late bud break.
  • Abies Balsama: Cook Blue New Hampshire seed source. Hardy to -40 zone 3. This is a proven Christmas tree from the eastern US. This tree has a nice blue color as its name implys and the color seems to come out later in the trees life. Not all trees will get the blue color but the remainder have a deep green color. This variety has good bud development and fills out nice. It has nice heavy branches for ornaments with good needle retention.
  • Picea Meyeri:  Meyer Spruce Native to China. Very Hardy to -40 Zone 2. Needles are green to light blue and blunt unlike most spruce. Tree has great needle retention as good as Fraser firs. Can break bud early not good for frost pockets. Tree does well in a wide range of soils but prefers lighter soil similar to Blue spruce. The Meyer spruce can be slow to start out but will put out over 12" per year once established. Basal pruning bottom branches when young will help push growth to leader. Very little shearing required of this tree it has a dense growth habit.
  • Abies intermedii: Canaan Fir native to West Virginia. Hardy to -30 zone 4. Tree breaks bud very late with a medium to fast growth rate. Needles are dark green. Will tolerate heavy soils, does not tolerate drought well.

I would like to add that this winter was very unusual and this situation may not happen again for many years. We also lost a lot of Blue Spruce and the native balsams also had winter injury.

One last thing – deer like all fir trees.

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