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In Cahoots with ‘Icebreaker’ (13 Replies)

Posted November 14, 2013 at 6:19 pm

You have no idea of the wrangling that goes on behind the scenes with the ACS volunteers trying to make our database as accurate as the the changing world of plant taxonomy will let us (See: The Problem with Taxonomists. ) The recent inclusion of Abies koreana ‘Kohouts Icebreaker’ as one of our Collectors Conifer of the Year for 2014 is still a matter of some contention. In looking at the record in the database I can see that, so far, it’s undergone 53 revisions! I trust that the beat will go on…

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Posted November 15, 2013 at 9:25 am

I was just talking with Larry Stanley and he agrees with me that the picture you are showing of ‘Icebreaker’ isn’t a good representative of what this fine cultivar is really like. Here is a photo I took of it in Kohout’s display garden in Germany a while back.

Expect to hear from Larry later today.

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Posted November 15, 2013 at 11:43 am

Yes, I agree that Dave’s plant in the Conifer Database is outside the range of what I have observed. I saw some older plants in the Netherlands and some had thrown up a leader, but they were were not as open as Dave’s but they were still very silvery. Have heard that some people suspect that, given enough time and left on their own, Kohouts Icebreaker will eventually get conical.

The CCOY article in the Fall 2014 Conifer Quarterly covers the potential for a sporadic upright shoot and the effects of pruning or not. The photos in the article are representative of a typical Kohouts Icebreaker that would be found in the trade and reflective of the general form that members would receive through the CCOY program.

Marketing has historically been through CQ but now the website is figuring into the mix. Maybe Dave can provide some insight on the appearance of his specimen. — Dennis

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Posted November 15, 2013 at 12:21 pm

I beamed into the site this morning to see the new Collectors Conifers of the Year but was very disappointed by the picture of ‘Icebreaker.’ It’s very unlike all of the ones I have ever seen. I know all of the ones for sale from ACS are not upright but prostrate, which may pose a problem with buyers thinking they got the one without a leader.

So I went out in the garden this AM to show you what I think it should look like. The early morning lighting was not good and it was misting but I took a picture of one of the 2 plants I have that are in the landscape. This may not be the picture you need either. Oh Well ! Just trying to help. — Larry Stanley

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Posted November 16, 2013 at 8:22 pm

Thank you for including me in the discussion on how ‘Kohouts Icebreaker’ develops over time. Over the past several months, I’ve had the opportunity to see several “older” specimens growing in gardens here in the Northwest. More are closer to resembling my 2006 vintage plant than that fabulous specimen Bob Fincham shot in Jörg Kohout’s garden or that nice globose specimen at Larry’s place. Bob and Don Howse both recently told me that they think older plants are destined to grow more like Abies koreana ‘Silberperle.’ During the ACS(WR) Conference, attendees saw the plant at Will Fletcher’s Hobbiton Garden which pushed nearly a foot this year. I truly expect my plant to do something similar next year.

How can I explain what’s going on here? I can’t be sure, but there could be a number of factors at work:
First, I believe it’s a function of a cultivar that simply hasn’t been around that long for anybody to know for certain what it’s going to do as it matures. Secondly as we all know, certain trees exhibit different behavior if grown as a grafted specimen in the Pacific Northwest, which brings me to the third possibility that a rooted cutting may have a better chance at remaining globose, prostrate and tight. Larry Stanley says that he is interested producing this plant via rooted cuttings when he has more cutting material available. His wife and business partner, Marlene, is quite the “Queen of Cuttings.” Might be worth a shot. In a recent message with Larry, he also reminded me that any of the Silberlocke-type Korean Fir cultivars will unravel their needles if they are too happy, i.e. too much water, fertilizer . . . Here is my plant showing both the transformation to dwarf conical form and “uncurling of needles” in places.

As we do more research and gather more opinions, maybe our advertising needs to say something like, “buyer beware, this cultivar may be prone to reversion and judicious pruning is recommended.” I won’t be cutting leaders out of my plants because I’m want to know this for certain rather than delay an inevitability.

best regards,
Dave

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Posted November 18, 2013 at 10:19 pm

Hello gentlemen,

I can add some to this discussion though I fear my photos will only make things a bit more mysterious. I have been growing three specimens in my garden, two since 2009 and another, on standard in 2010. All three are from Coenosium Gardens so I would assume are on the same understock.

The two oldest specimens, perhaps seven years old now show wildly different habit. One plant is in full-full sun(12+ hours) while the other gets 3-4 hours of direct sun and a lot of indirect light. The specimen in full sun(pictured first) began pushing a strong leader in 2012 and exploded with 7-8 inches of apical growth in 2013. I am going to leave this specimen as is though I intent on removing(and having grafted) the secondary leader.

The slower growing specimen is in my backyard, gets 3-4 hours of direct sun at most and has slowly grown more laterally with no sign of a leader. Both can be seen, in growth progression in the post below.

-Will

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Posted November 19, 2013 at 10:34 pm

Ok, so with some help from Dave tonight, I can contribute three specimen photos. The first is in full sun and has really exploded upwards with two strong leaders, the largest being some seven inches long. Original graft source was Coenosium Gardens/Bob Fincham.

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Posted November 19, 2013 at 10:36 pm

This next specimen is in my backyard which receives dappled sun only until about 10 and then more dappled shade from a maple next to it, which also may be robbing it of some water. At about noon it receives about 4-6 hours of direct sun, at most each Summer. It’s clearly growing more laterally with no sign of a terminal, upright leader thus far.

This second photo (below) shows a specimen grafted onto standard that is about two years younger than my older two specimens. It is showing some similarities to Abies koreana ‘Silberperle’, which tends to form a squatty, upright mound with a terminal, apical leader(or more than one). It’s in full sun.

–Will

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Posted November 20, 2013 at 9:57 am

It is so refreshing to read a discussion where all contributors are correct and their responses have merit. Abies koreana ‘Kohout’s Icebreaker’ will definitely grow at different rates depending on climate, understock and care. The climate in the PNW (as well as the Netherlands) provides an incredibly long growing season and infrequent temperatures above 90F with high humidity. This ideal climate for Korean firs can catapult what would be a 2-3″/yr fir in the Midwest or East Coast, into a 4-6″ or even 6″+/yr fir in the PNW. In their young (2-6yr old) state, and grafted fairly low (1-6″ tall), they will grow as a low bun to nest shape. Having a sneak peak into the CCOY stock at my friend’s nursery, they all look incredible and uniform. This is a photo of plants with similar shape, though about two years older than the ones slated for CCOY (photo below is from a nursery in the Netherlands):

By year 6 or 7, under ideal conditions, Icebreaker can transition into a broad pyramid. Here is a photo of an Icebreaker developing a leader that is about 9 years old:

Grafting a dwarf or miniature variety on a standard can further accelerate this growth and encourage even an upright ovular form. If you wish to have a low form, simply remove the branches with an upright tendency as they develop.

All forms and growing conditions, regardless of nest, broadly pyramidal, etc. look incredible and what make this variety so deserving as the 2014 Collector Conifer of the Year.

As a final note, I’d like to show how a single specimen 6-7yrs old will look in the landscape:

-Brent

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Posted November 23, 2013 at 4:10 pm

Nice discussion! Will are you intending to let the plants grow as they wish or are you inclined to snip the leaders? Or experiment with one of them? Mine is still in a #1 in my greenhouse so I will not be adding to this photo gallery!

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