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  • Jane Shellenberger

March 2024 Newsletter

New Plant Select list for 2024 & Tree Diversity Conference Wrap-up


It seems fitting to wish you Happy Almost Spring on the cusp of the biggest snowstorm so far this winter. Maybe all this precipitation will satisfy my daughter temporarily. She moved back to the Front Range a year or so ago after eight years in Oregon where she could walk into a tall forest with miles of public trails just a few steps from her house in town. 


She’s been grousing about too much sun and the lack of trees here. I used to feel that way at first when I moved here eons ago, but no more.


On the Front Range we live in a semi-arid grassland steppe, not a woodland. Old photos show clearly that very few trees are native to the plains and those that are, grow in riparian areas. (The late Dr James Feucht, Horticulture Professor Emeritas at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, told me there were just three: willow, cottonwood, box elder.) Our urban trees were all planted and they have a lot to contend with: lack of humidity and regular precipitation, compacted, poor and high pH soils, improper planting and care, heat stress, rapid extreme temperature swings, pollution. All these stresses make them more vulnerable to insect pests and diseases. The tough trees that survive were, understandably, overplanted and this lack of diversity contributes to their vulnerability. The arrival of the Emerald Ash Borer in Colorado in 2013 underscored that fact.


I recently attended the annual Tree Diversity Conference, virtually this year. The brainchild of conference chair Sonia John, it brings together experts from around the country and the world to present their research in Denver and to explore the connections between species diversity, landscape design, and horticultural practices.


The high point for me was a presentation by Henrik Sjöman, Senior Researcher at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences & Scientific Curator at Gothenburg Botanical Garden.


He is co-author of The Essential Tree Selection Guide for climate resilience, carbon storage, species diversity, and other ecosystem benefits. (Long title but good description.) I’ve tried to summarize some of the conference discussions below.


But first, here’s a look at this year’s list of new plants from Plant Select.

~ Jane Shellenberger


p.s. Look for an article on season-extending cold frames by Idelle Fisher on our website soon. Idelle is our web designer and an avid gardener. Her blog is called Good Environmental News.

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