Mike and I were walking through the nursery yesterday discussing what we wanted to shoot our next “Mondays With Mike” video about. As we walked past a row of plants in the container area Mike said, “Hey Amber, check out the arborvitae”. As I walked closer to the grouping of evergreens tagged as Arborvitae ‘Emerald Green’ I noticed a slight color variation.
Uh Oh. Something is wrong.
Most arborvitae have a deep green coloration. Emerald Green Arborvitae have a slightly lighter color with a tinge of gold to it. About 3/4 of the grouping matched that description, but scattered amongst them were are few who’s color looked “off”. They had the deeper green color typical of other arborvitae.
As we pulled a plants out of the group, it was clear that the shape of the plants were different as well. Emerald Green Arborvitae are sought after for their shape and growth habit. As I’ve heard Mike say before:
All pyramidal Arborvitae are not created equal!
Emerald Green Arborvitae have a distinct narrow shape. They grow tall, but not too tall- maybe 10-12 feet. They are dense and keep a tight spread of about 3 feet.
Now something like Dark Green American Arborvitae will get 15-20 feet. They are less dense and will spread to 4 or 5 feet.
Both arborvitaes are similar, but if you were planting a hedge and accidentally interchanged one or two of them the difference would very noticeable. This is important because Emerald Green Arborvitae is something that landscapers and homeowners who come to our nursery ask for by name. We’ve worked hard to build a relationship with them. They trust that they will get good advice and quality plants from us. That is what keeps them coming back. Bad advice or mislabeled plants will break that trust.
Both of these arborvitae were potted up last summer. They came from two different suppliers and were sold as Emerald Green Arborvitae. A large order came from a reputable wholesaler. The smaller group was purchased from a backyard grower. In the process of putting down nursery ground cloth and re-arranging plants for sale, the two groups were combined. At that time they looked the same. There was no cause for concern. A few months later…look at the difference!
This is an important lesson for all plant propagators!
It is so important that you know the exact variety of the plant that you are taking cuttings from. It is never okay to guess. Just because a plant looks like one specific variety does not mean that it will preform like that variety. Arborvitae is a great example of this. Virginia creeper, poison ivy and ginseng all have similar leaves…but act very differently when ingested! Just as you would be sure not to eat an unknown plant, you must be absolutely, positively sure of which plant you have before you propagate it.
A funny thing about us plant enthusiasts: We love to identify plants. We point out the Chinese dogwood in the park, comment on the purple leaf sand cherry outside the bank and stop to admire the euonymus outside of the Olive Garden. We know our plants. Even so, we cannot in good faith look at the weigela in our neighbors yard and declare it a ‘Java Red’. There is no definite way to determine the exact variety of a particular plants just by looking at it. It is never okay to guess. You cannot take cuttings from that weigela, root them and then sell them as Java Red Weigela. For all you know, it could be a patented variety and you just found yourself in a heap of legal trouble for propagating it without permission.
We are are certain that the seller did not intentionally send us the incorrect variety, but its important that we bring it up. Mistakes like this can cause a huge chain reaction if they go unnoticed. Imagine this scenario: We get 50 incorrectly labeled plants and take cuttings from them. Then we have hundreds of incorrectly labeled plants rooting. Let’s say 400 of them root. We sell 300 to 5 other growers and keep the remaining 100 to take more cuttings from. The other growers take cuttings.…now there are thousands of incorrectly labeled plants circulating. It would literally be plant propagation madness!
If you’ve not read Mike’s warning yet The Most Important Thing You Need to Know Before Starting Your Backyard Nursery its worth checking out. Click here to read it.