Part 6. Growing Conifers can either be done indoors, or directly outside on a balcony, garden or estate. There are a few factors to look out for. The purpose of growing them could be for planting a green living fence, or for creating a small forest on a quarter hectare.

On a larger scale it might be for greening cities, and the reforestation of landscapes. The latter two require more knowledge and practical experience, but that is outside the scope of these articles, as these are primary focused on people managing hectare-units. (Picture: Avito Russia ~ Man holding a young Siberian Pine. This juvenile tree is around two years old).

Lay people
Actually, that was precisely the reason why these articles came about, because although there was a wealth of information online on Conifers, it oftentimes appeared a bit chaotic and sometimes contradicting. Hence the search for a layperson raised only more questions, so it took a lot of time to find certain answers! And although the author still hasn’t much of a practical experience with growing trees, the drive was there to get all information clear and uncluttered and to create an overview of where to start. But why would lay people want to grow Conifers, one might ask.

But why?
Due to climate change, trees and forests experience more difficulty in retaining their balance with their water cycles. Especially in times of prolonged heat and drought, the trees might dry out, with the consequence of having their green foliage turning yellow and falling off, while leaving the branches arid and barren. As long as the trees are mature, and still have a significant amount of green coverage left, they will survive, although they might have visibly lost some of their natural zest and beauty.

Worst case scenarios when it comes to climate change, as we have seen over the last few years is that forests even burn down to the ground, in which case it’ll be very hard to recover the soil in these area’s, for new forest growth. We have collectively witnessed this in the year 2018, which is internationally recognized as a significant marker of acceleration, which continued in 2019. And in the first week of 2020, vast areas in Australia burned down, leading up to devestating loss of forests, wildlife and people’s residencies and habitats.

Even under less dramatic circumstances however, and with less severe drought, young saplings might get in trouble earlier, as their rootsystem isn’t completely developed, which then do not reach the deeper layers in the soil, where more groundwater is available. When not taken care of, they will definitely die. Therefore it is important when circumstances of climate aren’t coöperating, for these trees to get a helping hand from humans. This might even take up a timeframe of 7 to 9 years, as the initial growth of these trees is very slow.

It is odd in a way, when you think about it, because as long as our planet Earth has been turning around the sun, lets say for many billion years or so, nature never ever needed a helping hand from humans to survive and reproduce itself. But now humanity is faced with this challenge.

Let’s face it
So what can we do? Actually, can we do anything at all? And if yes, where will we start? Well, these are difficult questions to answer, as we don’t know all the factors involved with climate change and the disturbed watercycle worldwide. Also, regarding the reproduction of Conifer trees isn’t a lot of practical experience among the common people, nor is their much online information available.

Therefore first of all, for those who would like to start, -no matter what, where or when-, one has to determine their choice of Conifer from the 600+ species that are out there, which must be suitable for the landscape and climate one lives in. For this article, how to grow a Conifer, we’ll take the Siberian Pine as an example, as these naturally grow in large forestmass covering many rural areas on the northern hemisphere.

Ancient varieties
For the ancient Cypres and Cedar varieties though, that are probably 2000 to 3000 years old, which are described in the previous article (Conifers – Families), it should be mentioned that these very old trees no longer grow cones, as they’ve left their reproductive age behind. It might be a good idea to take a look at these ancient families, and if they can be preserved somehow (which might be a topic for another article). If I understood well, it is possible with a specific method to cultivate these trees by grafting their young branches on a rootstock.

It is also of equal importance to contemplate on the choice of reforestation on the public domain inside hectare villages, as well as outside the villages. We might wonder, are these only decisions for the academically educated people out there? Who quite often seem to differ in opinion as well, when it comes to classification and other related topics to trees? Who seem to agree to grow vast forests of non-reproductive cultivars instead for commercial logging? Or does finding the right answers matter to all of us?

There are so many factors to consider regarding the choices to make. What purpose do the trees have? Do they provide food?, shelter?, an evergreen outlook throughout all seasons?, a habitat for birds and animals?, can they procreate naturally?, etcetera, etcetera. Therefore, proper namegiving (as mentioned in previous article) might also be interesting for understanding the trees better, as well as determining certain characteristics.

For example, Cypressus are beautiful to look at, and provide food and shelter for birds and the animal kingdom. The argument for biodiversity is probably in favour, to make a broad selection of a different variety of trees and vegetation. When it comes to ones’ own plot of land, a family or farmer can decide for themselves, while the choice for trees with the purpose of reforestation on common ground, should probably be democratically chosen among the people. In our new world, that is.

Under optimal conditions, Pines grow into puberty within 20 years. At this age, the tree will have reached a hight of around 17′ feet (5 metres) and will start developing the cones in order to reproduce itself. The tree will still continue to grow and reaches it’s mature height of around 100 to130 feet (30 to 40 metres) with the trunk up to 72 inches (1.8 meter) measured at breast height, with a dense conical crown. Its maximum lifetime is thought to be 800 to 850 years.

Naturally, Conifer trees grow as one species in a forest, and are therefore considered a homogenous group. When humans will reforest areas with Conifers, it is important to imitate these natural circumstances as much as possible. For instance, Conifer trees do not tolerate contact with the branches and leaves of deciduous trees.

When the different types of leaves of the trees touch each other, even more so when strong wind is moving the branches, it causes a certain friction, which results in the Conifers losing their leaves at those irritated spots. The Conifers will continue to grow however, but after a prolongued time the tops and a part of the Conifers might dry out and won’t be able to recover their previous form and beauty.

From an esthetical point of view, when conifers are grouped together they look more decorative, either in hedges or parks. The trees can also be very well placed in between hectare villages, on connecting roads to other villages, surround large areas of agricultural land, and ofcourse, be planted as vast forests. Due to the edible seeds which are very nutritious, the blissful resinous scent that the trees spread, and the ever green look they provide all year round, these trees are a blessing on all terrains. When commercially grown for timber, the trees will also provide a great quality wood in the long run.

Sprouting the seeds requires a bit of knowledge and practice, and time, as it sometimes takes several months under the right conditions for the seeds to germinate. But they can also sprout in a week time. First of all, the seeds must be heirloom and of good quality. Make sure the seeds do not belong to the so called ‘Cultivars’ and when imported from other countries, have been protected from irradiation at the customs.

Therefore, only pick the seeds from older-, and native-, self sustaining-, reproducing, primeval forests, or buy them from a reliable source. Also it is important to set up the right environment for the Conifer seeds in order for them to germinate. They can be placed in a container with sand, which gives better ventilation for the roots, to prevent mold. Also a proces of cold stratification can be used.

© 2019 | Margreet Wilschut

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