October 1, 2016

Roadside shape sparks memory and muse

Sentinel elms

Lee Ann Knudsen JUST DRIVING ALONG, have you ever been surprised to spot an elm? It happens occasionally to me in southern Ontario. Every time it happens, surprise elms bring two thoughts
to mind.

The first is nostalgia — immediate because emotion happens that way. Readers from generations after mine won’t feel the same, but elms were part of my childhood. They seemed to populate most farmsteads, and elms lined the streets of both small-town and city neighbourhoods. They met overhead in a cathedral arch. I remember summer shade, not heat.

The other thought is really a muse: Why did this tree survive Dutch elm disease? A simple search could quantify the disease’s destruction; the story I remember is a major tree species wiped out. Singles here, a rural town’s entire canopy there. The sound of cicadas morphing into chainsaws.

But survivors persist, and I can’t help but wonder about each one spotted. Was this one somehow isolated? Did that property owner take some successful measure? Or does this one specimen carry a genetic resistance that could shade landscapes for kids growing up in the 2100s?

Speaking of genetics, Landscape Trades again presents our annual survey of new plants with this issue. Starting this year, our new cultivars are publishing in October, moving up one issue from the past. The annuals, perennials, roses and woody plants are an exclusive roundup of new introductions to the Canadian market.

The selections are interesting on many levels. The first level is respect, because plant breeding is an expensive and slow undertaking. Interesting also because “New” drives sales in retail, no question. Genetic improvements are important to grounds management contractors, who must pull every advantage to keep properties sharp.

Thanks are due to editor Scott Barber, who spent day upon day sourcing, vetting and editing the selections. We also appreciate receiving horticultural guidance from editor emeritus Sarah Willis. Art director Kim Burton brought it all together in a lovely visual presentation. And thanks go out to the plant breeders as well. Perhaps cultivars featured in this issue carry genetics destined to fill voids in future landscapes.