Decorative Woody Florals Learning Circle
PROJECT DESCRIPTION AND WORK ACTIVITIES
The Decorative Woody Floral Learning Circle met several times and made several trips during the years 2004, 2005 & 2006. Our first trip was to the Minnesota Arboretum and Horticultural Research Center (HRC), October 7, 2004. At the HRC, we were given a propagation demonstration by Steve McNamara. He demonstrated how to start dogwoods from softwood cuttings at the HRC greenhouse. After the demo, we went over to the Arboretum to hear a report from Danya Crow, a research student, who did a marketing study on decorative woody florals. Danya was a student of Dean Current’s from CINRAM and she did her report as part of her student work at the UMN.
We met next on February 9, 2004 in Montevideo to discuss the details of the grant and to decide on what plant material to order. At that meeting we scheduled a cuttings demonstration by Paul Wymar, a grant participant with a master’s degree in agri-forestry. We ordered plant material for spring 2005 and set the Paul’s demo for March 7, 2005. In March, Paul showed us the difference between starting soft and hardwood cuttings. The group met at Paul Wymar’s home and checks for were distributed to those in attendance.
Our plant material was ordered in January, arrived in the spring and was distributed to the group. Bare root cuttings from arrived from Lawers and Meadow Lake Nursery in April.
In February, 2005 we found out from Sue White that we could get additional willow and dogwood cuttings for the Arboretum and grow the cuttings in misting bed at the UMN Saint Paul campus misting beds. We met April 4, 2005 and collected cuttings from willow and dogwood species at the Arboretum with the help of Steve McNamara. We then traveled to the UMN St. Paul campus and with the help of Chad Giblin; we started the hardwood cuttings in flat trays with sand and placed them in the misting greenhouse. See photo, Willow Cuttings at Saint Paul campus. We collected about 900 cuttings and many of them rooted. My husband and I picked up the cuttings in May 20, 2005 and distributed them to the group.
The group met again on May 25, 2005 at the Dennis Gibson farm. Dennis has many different species of trees and enjoys giving tours of his farm. Dean Current, Sue White and Nick Jordan from the University of Minnesota and others met to discuss our progress so far and what we want to do in the future. There was an informal group discussion about some of the issues (challenges) related to making cropping system changes. University researcher’s talked about the work they are doing, especially with woody perennial species and got feedback from the woody floral group including identifying future research needs. One of the problems identified during that discussion was weed control. Dean Current stated he would try to find a student willing to do a mulch study.
University student, Kaia Yngve, conducted a mulch study with Chad Kingstrom, Paul Wymar and John Schmidt. Weed control is and issue with alternative perennial species. My husband and I planned our dogwood and willow species in fabric but others in group were having trouble with weed competition. Kaia set up mulch trials at Paul and Chad’s sites on the 11th and 12th of June, 2005. Kaia, Dean Current and another student returned later that month and set up a mulch trail at John Schmidt’s.
The next time we met was in Montevideo, January 24, 2006. Sue White, Dean Current and Nick Jordan asked the group some questions about our experiences regarding the decorative woody floral learning circle. After answering questions from the University the group met to discuss plans for the spring. Several in the group were not sure what species were going to make it through the winter months so we agreed to delay a year and access our plant material to decide what we need more of. So no ordering was done in 2006.
We did meet with Kaia Yngve and Dean Current on July 6, 2006 to hear her report on the mulch trials. We met at my home and toured my willow and dogwood planting. I placed my plant material in the Minnesota River Valley which is flooded for a quite a while in the spring. I had a lot of plant material die. The only species that seemed to make it were Flame and Streamco willow which was very disappointing. If I want to grow some of the other species like Curly willow I will have to find a new site.
A visit to Nebraska to meet with Troy Pabst was set up for March 1 and 2, 2007 but a snow storm prevented us from going. We are now gearing up for our final order this spring. We met on March 16th to discuss what we want to order for the spring.
Our first field day took place Saturday, March 24, 2007 at Chad Kingstrom’s woodlot near Sacred Heart. Chad showed the group his 2 year old woodlot and described his harvesting and marketing experiences so far. I gave a demonstration on how to start hardwood cuttings and we collected cuttings and brought them to Chad’s parent’s house where the cuttings were either potted or prepared for planting.
We learned a great deal about starting hard and softwood cuttings. Several people in the group have had good success starting plants from cuttings. We plan to share plant material as needed to help one another establish plantings.
We’ve discovered that different species seem to thrive in different locations. Our growers range from the South Dakota border to Hutchinson, MN, from flood plain to prairie. Because conditions vary, some plots are thriving and some are struggling. Even though these species are willow and dogwoods and are able to tolerate wet conditions this does not mean they can survive in the flood plain of the Minnesota River Valley and be under water until June. These are hybrids and are not as tough as their wild cousins.
Mild winters have made it difficult to assess the hardiness of these species thus far. Weed control and watering are important for these plants especially during the first year.
We’ve ordered plant material for this spring. Picking our favorite five of those we’ve tried so far. We’ll try to go to Nebraska in August and/or November. In August, the field day will focus on growing and maintenance and in November they will demonstrate harvesting. We will meet to discuss what pruners and harvesting tools we prefer and will tour sites we have not yet visited as a group to see which species are doing well at each site. We will be meeting with Dean Current soon to discuss our marketing plans and how we might structure a marketing group.
Our field day on Saturday, March 24 was on the Land Stewardship Project web site and distributed through press releases to area news papers. It was incorporated into Farm Beginnings Field Days and offered to Farm Beginnings students. A notice was sent via email to past Farm Beginnings graduates and to a regional grape growers group. As people have expressed interest in the project through out the past 3 years, they have been added to a growing email list. At the field day, I passed out Danya Crowe’s market report and a handout describing how to start hardwood cuttings. Anyone at the field day was asked to sign up for email notices on decorative woody florals.