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Sequoiadendron giganteum (13 Replies)

Posted July 20, 2017 at 8:33 am

Hello,
I live in semi-rural northeastern Indiana and a number of years ago I started some giant Sequoias. One lived around 8 years and another around 12 years. In both cases they succumbed during a very hard winter. Since the last one died, I have wanted to try again but only *IF* I could find a strain that was more cold hardy. Yesterday I discovered there are some strains of Sequoiadendron like that. One is known as “Hazel Smith” or something but there might be more. Has anyone else on the forum had any experience with this? Is there a strain of Sequoiadendron that could survive in zone 5a? It seems to me that there COULD be since mine almost made it. Close but no cigar as they say.
Regards,
Fred M. Cain,
Topeka, IN

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Posted July 20, 2017 at 10:23 am

Hi Fred . . .
I wish you the best of luck in your quest, especially given all the issues that challenge your chances of success. ‘Hazel Smith’ is definitely the hardiest cultivar of Sequoiadendron giganteum that I’m aware of. I also recommend that you take of look at what University of Idaho may be up to. They have a very strong horticulture department that does a lot of work tweaking the hardiness of western conifers.

Another issue that you may not be aware of is the climate that best suits this species. Giant sequoia is native to California’s high Sierra mountains where the summers are searing hot and bone-dry, meaning very little if any rain and extremely low humidity. Despite the daily heat, the nights typically cool down into the 50s. I feel that exposing this plant to the heavy air, hot nights and muted sunlight of the midwest may set plants up for fungal issues and decreased vigor which will result in less strength to withstand a deep freeze in winter.

Nonetheless, I wish you the best in finding the “perfect cigar.”

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Posted July 20, 2017 at 11:45 am

Dear Conifereditor,
I believe you are correct about the weather in the Midwest promoting fungus. The fungus that causes “juniper rust” is, as I discovered, deadly to Sequoias. Actually, I need to back up a bit in my history here. The first time I tried to grow some, I bought a bunch of small tube seedlings off of a special offer on the back of a cereal box. They were promoted as able to “grow anywhere even in Milwaukee” or some such wording.

So, I got about a half dozen of them. They lasted about two seasons. They were really vigorous in the early spring but over the summer the needles lost their color and curled. Somehow I came in contact with a guy from Alabama who had been trying to raise them there and he told me about the fungus. As I remember it, what he told me was that the fungus is destroyed by ultra violet radiation and is almost never an issue above an elevation of about 2,000 – 3,000 feet. (More UV light leaks through the atmosphere the higher up you go). He recommended spraying them with a good systemic fungicide.

So, I ordered two more from a nursery in California and planted them and kept them sprayed. They did really well. One of them grew to about 18 feet and had a six inch diameter trunk. Then, in 2010 we had a bad winter. It hit -20 F with a high wind. By spring the one was dead but the other was still struggling. Over the next four years the lone survivor began to recover. I noticed that the wood was dead on one side of the trunk that stretched about 50% of the way around the trunk. Nonetheless the injury was slowly healing when disaster struck.

2014 was the hardest winter in even a lot of “old timers” memory. Needless to say, the poor thing was toast. But the fact is that I ALMOST succeeded. That’s why I was thinking that maybe a somewhat more cold hardy strain might make it.

It’s interesting to note that what little evidence I have suggests that the cold didn’t kill the roots but the cambium layer inside the bark.

One final issue is worth noting. In California Sequoias are celebrated for their resistance to virtually all insect pests. But here in the Midwest, “Japanese” beetles just LOVE Sequoias (and dawn redwoods too). They swarm like bees and can quickly strip a tree – any tree not just a Sequoia! Although I am reluctant to mention this, I discovered that spraying trees with “Tempo” keeps beetles off for at least 3 weeks. I use it on my fruit trees but NOT within 60 days of a harvest.

Regards,
Fred M. Cain,
Topeka, IN

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Posted July 21, 2017 at 3:27 pm

Hi Fred, We live in Columbia CT and have a Hazel Smith Sequoia. We planted it in 1988. Last time it was measured was 2012 and it was 53 feet tall. At the time we planted it we were considered zone 5b. Since then our part of CT we have been upgraded to 6a but I do not agree with that. It has done pretty well in general. Some winters there is more browning than others. It was planted in a raised bed but in an area where the water table is pretty high. It has lost about 12 feet of its lower limbs. I am going to guess we are lucky it has done so well. We started with a 5 foot tree. Maybe the first few winters were kind and it got off to a good start. Maybe there are more pluses than minuses with having a high water table. We did lose the top of the tree two years ago. I am assuming it was due to insect damage. It has not formed a new leader yet. It has a nice blue/green color in the morning sun.

Regards,
Ed Williams

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Posted July 24, 2017 at 7:37 am

Hi Ed,

This is interesting since I used to live in Connecticut. When I was a very small child we lived in the Norwalk/Wilton area. That was in the mid and late 1950s. Although it was a long time ago, I still have some nice memories of it. Then about 35 years ago I was in the Middletown area. I think I can safely say that Connecticut is just a little bit milder than northern Indiana where I now reside.

I agree with you about the revision of your hardiness zone. I think they did that in my area, too. Not long after they did it, it hit -25F with a thirty mile an hour wind.

Where did you get your Hazel Smith? I am also trying to find a source for “Idaho Endurance” but have been unsuccessful so far. A guy at the University of Idaho referred me to Buchholz & Buchholz nursery in Oregon but they’re not interested in propagation.

I’m not sure what killed the top of your tree but it could’ve been any number of factors. If it’s 53 feet tall, lightning cannot be ruled out. Heat and moisture stress is also likely. The only insects I’m aware of now that would attack a Sequoia are “Japanese” beetles. But they would be unlikely to kill the top. I know that Connecticut has a terrible time with “Gypsy” moths, too. Not sure if Gypsy moths would attack a Sequoia or not but I have seen them strip and kill picea pungens so that possibility cannot be ruled out.

But I have some possible good news! Usually when the top of a conifer dies, there is a good chance they will grow a new top once the stress that caused it has passed. It’s when they start dying from the bottom up that you’re in real trouble. Once they start doing that you’ve probably lost them!

Regards,
Fred M. Cain,
Topeka, IN

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Posted July 24, 2017 at 11:40 am

Hi Fred, Another interesting twist is that I was living in Lebanon Indiana in the 50’s to early 60’s while you were here. Anyway, we got the tree at a small CT nursery along the Long Island shore that has since gone out of business. We are guessing they got it from the Watnong Nursery where the original seedling was planted. Sorry I do not know of another source. We had the gypsy moths pretty bad here and they did not bother the sequoia. They liked everything else. I had not thought about stress killing the top but we had a very dry and hot summer that year so you might be right there. Good luck with your hunt.
Regards
Ed Williams

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Posted July 24, 2017 at 3:37 pm

Ed,

Thanks for the info but the news for me does not look promising. I tried to “Google” for “Watnong Nursery” and they, too, appear to have gone out of business. It is my understanding/assumption that Watong was the one that came up with the Hazel Smith strain in the first place. Therefore it would appear that it is no longer available. So, you are probably very lucky you got one! If anyone learns of another source of Hazel Smith (or “Idaho Endurance”) please let me know!

Regards,
Fred M. Cain

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Posted July 27, 2017 at 10:16 am

Fred,
I got an email from John Mohr who is the Iseli rep. for the Northeast. He said there are 45 available for spring in the #6 container. This is a very limited supply so the chances of scoring one may be slim. You should work with a local nursery that deals with Iseli and see if they can order one for you.
Regards,
Ed Williams

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Posted July 27, 2017 at 10:55 am

Ed,

Well, that IS good news (sort of). Won’t Iseli sell to the public? I asked them that and they didn’t really answer that. I live out in a rural area and I don’t know who could order this for me. I wonder if a mail-order nursery like Arbor day or Joe Welker could order them for me possibly as a “drop-ship”. Could you please ask Mohr if he knows of someone who can do this?

Regards,
Fred M. Cain

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Posted July 27, 2017 at 11:02 am

Fred it is the bane of every conehead’s existence that Iseli won’t sell retail. Nohow, never. The ACS Western Region went to visit them in June as part of our regional meeting and even with 100 of us there (who as a group would certainly have met whatever their minimum order is) they would not sell to us. They did give us little plants in 2 1’2″ pots, but that was it. I am guessing that they do not want to in any way compete with their clients. Retailers can get steamed if they find out that a wholesaler essentially cut them out of a sale. Let’s hope that their rep can help! The only other thing that I can think of is to ask someone who has access to ‘Hazel Smith’ like Doug Wilson in the Portland area to send you some cuttings, as I believe this can be grown from cuttings. Someone who knows more about probation of this species should chime in; I may well be wrong.

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