On Canadian Hemlocks

Canadian Hemlocks have always been one of my favorite conifers for numerous reasons, despite its many drawbacks. More shade adaptable than most evergreens, it tolerates most soil types except extreme wet feet, has a fairly rapid growth rate, and nice feathery foliage, all making this a nice choice for an evergreen tree in landscapes. In fact, Mike Dirr goes as far as to say, “If I was forced to select but one conifer for my garden it would certainly be Tsuga canadensis.” A pretty strong statement, in my opinion.

Hemlock, unfortunately, have taken a major hit in recent years due to Hemlock Woolly Adelgid (HWA) killing huge numbers of this tree in the northeastern and mid-Atlantic regions of the U.S. In landscapes, control of HWA is not terribly difficult if caught at the proper time, but is certainly a high risk. In naturalized areas, where treatment is next to impossible, thousands of acres are being killed. As a result of HWA, far fewer hemlocks are grown in nurseries and planted than 20-30 years ago. Both the most widely used Canadian Hemlock and the less used, but attractive Carolina Hemlock, are susceptible, plus other species not used in New England. At one point it was thought that northern New England was too cold for HWA, but the insect was able to acclimate to our climate.

Now present in 17 states and southeast Nova Scotia, since HWA arrival in 1951, hemlocks have been virtually eliminated as a marketable ornamental tree in the eastern U.S. HWA was first discovered in Maine in 1999 on nursery stock shipped from Connecticut. In 2000 it was found in New Hampshire. Quarantines have existed in both states for several years. Both growers and landscapers have shied away from hemlock as they should have.

The USDA began research around 2000 to develop a resistant variety. After crossing Tsuga chinensis and Tsuga carolina, the Traveler Hemlock hybrid was introduced and has now been in the testing stage for 20 years. Traveler Hemlock has been grown at the U.S. National Arboretum and no signs of HWA have shown up, and it is now ready to be marketed to the trade. In 2020 a Plant Patent was Applied For (PPAF), so Traveler can only be propagated and grown by licensed growers. Also this hemlock must be grown from cuttings because it doesn’t produce seeds. As a result of these two factors, Traveler Hemlock can’t be produced quite as quickly as Canadian Hemlock and it will take a few years to get production off the ground, but the future looks very bright.
Hopefully, in the not-too-distant future, Hemlock will once again become a practical evergreen tree that we can see planted in the landscape.

by Phil Caldwell

— Phil Caldwell is a past president of NHLA (1989) who now lives and works in Maine.   


What is UNHCE and How It Works with the Landscape Industry

UNH Extension (also known as Cooperative Extension) and the NHLA have a long history of working together. We realize that some members of NHLA may not know what Extension is or what we do, so we would like the opportunity to introduce ourselves.
In 1914, Congress created the Extension system partnering the USDA with land-grant universities (including UNH) to apply research and provide education in agriculture. Since that time, Extension in New Hampshire has helped the University know what new understandings were needed by NH’s farmers and industries and has helped NH’s farmers and industries do what they do more profitably and sustainably through science-based education and consultation.

One of UNH Extension’s Program Teams is the Food and Agriculture Team. This team is further broken into Area of Expertise groups, one of which is your Landscape and Greenhouse team. This team works to bring education and programming to the Green Industry in NH, as well as to perform research immediately useful to green businesses in our state. We are happy to meet directly with growers and landscape providers to consult at no charge. We have also been working in the realm of workforce development, showing the youth of NH the many opportunities our industries present and working with technical and agricultural high schools to help advance their horticulture and landscaping programs.

Some of the ways in which you may have interacted with us are: classes for pesticide or Certified Landscape Professional recertification credit, Twilight Meetings, the Spring Landscapers Conference and Joint Winter Meeting, presentations on wildflowers or nursery research, consultation with your business, and diagnosis of plant problems.

We’d like to take a moment to introduce (or re-introduce) the members of this team.

A State Specialist has a PhD and focuses on research or diagnosis and programming in particular areas. Our State Specialists are:
Dr. Muhammad Shahid is our new State Specialist in Greenhouse and Nursery production. He is based in Durham and has begun a research program to solve problems facing NH growers. He can be reached at Muhammad.Shahid@unh.edu.

Dr. Cheryl Smith is our veteran Plant Health State Specialist, and in addition to teaching and programming, she runs the Plant Diagnostic Lab where you can send your plant samples for accurate diagnosis of disease and disorder. She can be reached at Cheryl.Smith@unh.edu.

Dr. Cathy Neal is our State Specialist in Nursery and Landscape Horticulture (Emeritus). Although Dr. Neal has retired from this position, she still lends her expertise to the team on certain topics.

A Field Specialist is located in a county and, in addition to general duties for agricultural providers in the county, has state-wide duties in his or her area of expertise. Our Field Specialists are:

Jonathan Ebba is the Field Specialist in Strafford County, providing generalist work there while providing assistance statewide in his expertise of greenhouses, ornamentals, garden centers, and hydroponics. He can be reached at Jonathan.Ebba@unh.edu.

Emma Erler is the new Field Specialist in Hillsborough County, and her expertise for statewide application is in Landscape Horticulture. While many already know Emma Erler as a fixture of UNH Extension’s home garden outreach and education, we are delighted to have her in her new role where she will provide research-based programming and technical assistance to Green-Industry businesses throughout the State. Emma writes, “I am very excited to have the opportunity to work closely with NHLA to provide programming and resources for landscapers in NH. I got my horticultural start working for a NH landscape company and I’m thrilled to now be in a role where I can help the industry be successful.” She can be reached at Emma.Erler@unh.edu.

The UNH Extension Landscape and Greenhouse team has some new faces on it, and we are all excited to be working with each other and with you, the professionals of our state, to continue to advance understanding and application of science and technology for the betterment of our industries and of New Hampshire. We encourage you to sign up for our Landscape and Greenhouse Horticulture News to be informed of upcoming events, workshops, and more. Sign up at unhoutreach.tfaforms.net/217780.

We wish you a successful season and look forward to working with you all.
The UNH Extension Landscape and Greenhouse Team

by Jonathan Ebba

Hardy Applause Welcoming Emma Erler

After graduating from UNH, with her degree in Ornamental Horticulture, and a varied, meaningful set of experiences in horticulture over the past seven years, Emma Erler takes on a new role with UNH Cooperative Extension as the Hillsborough County Field Specialist. And what does that mean for NHLA?

Emma web
Emma Erler

Emma explained that her position is designated as being 25% for Hillsborough County, with the other 75% of her time to be dedicated to the rest of NH. So, we’re in luck that we can access her interests, enthusiasm, and expertise in many ways to everyone’s benefit! Emma has already shown her interest in networking and helping share research, best practices, advice and energy, with NHLA by joining our Education Committee. (We are welcoming new members to this committee – contact crisablackstone@gmail.com to be on our distribution list for meeting announcements and learn ways you can help.)

Your clients may already know Emma Erler through the Master Gardeners Info Line, where people can submit questions about plant problems, pests they’d like identified, advice about turf care, pollinators, weeds, and so much more! With several years’ worth of time at the Info Line office in Goffstown and this year, by remote, she’s seen and heard so many things from homeowners that she can share these trends with landscapers so they can understand more ways to link and click with clients. Erler said she’s seen homeowners losing a bit of interest in large expanses of lawn, and wanting more information on edibles in garden settings, and more on ecological means to tackle weeds and pests. For landscapers, these trending questions mean there are ways to analyze your business models and maybe consider adding the construction of raised beds and developing soils for raised beds in your skill sets. Raised beds shouldn’t mean taking lawn care out of your revenue stream, but can mean adding maintenance and care for the plants in the raised bed. Keeping up with what clients are seeing on social media is essential. These changes are not to be ignored or disparaged, and should embraced.

Emma Erler has served in several dream jobs that have given her special insights and strengthened her background for the ways she will be helpful to landscapers. Imagine being an intern for twelve weeks, at Longwood Gardens, in Pennsylvania. Her internship there came in a lighthearted way, as she was going to nursery and garden centers in New Hampshire after college, and one of the garden centers she visited hoping to land an interview ended up in a lengthy conversation and the proprietor suggesting Emma may be particularly interested in Longwood – since that’s such a mecca for ornamental horticulture enthusiasts. Never having given an internship like that a thought, she was immediately intrigued. She checked it out online, applied, and within a short time found herself accepted and involved in the program. There, she was able to see firsthand indoor production, work in the historic conservatories, and outdoor production. Between field trials, and regularly scheduled maintenance, her love of the woody ornamentals really took off.

To hear her tell of her time there is fascinating and among the many stories she can share, one was when Longwood Gardens hosted a benefactors’ dinner party during the American Public Garden Conference held in Philadelphia that year. Imagine being in the expansive greenhouses, decked with the meticulously curated orchid collections, lavish floral arrangements, string orchestras, cellists in the various nooks and crannies between tropical plants and then… the meal itself – multi-course – and the conversations with table mates also dedicated to the work of public gardens! When Emma shares these, and other stories, you really start to look forward to visiting public gardens for relaxation and inspiration, when travel is safe and Covid-19 is under control.

Emma Erler’s stories don’t stop with her Longwood experiences. She was involved in a program at the Morris Arboretum in Philadelphia. Hearing about her rigorous program expectations there, when she talks about walking the arboretum with their world class plant curators and students, you can feel the intensity of the program. Participants were individually assigned plants to research and prepare plant talks to present weekly, after in-depth study and research of their assigned plant. You can tell how she developed the skills we see now in her Face Book Live events where she shares tips, talks pests and problems, and encourages best management practices for landscapers and homeowners to implement.

Just about when you think her history with dream jobs couldn’t get any better, she is reminded of her time on staff in Sandwich, MA, at the Heritage Museums and Gardens. While discussing those gardens, she really is animated, since they are woody ornamental havens dispersed over several specific gardens. With the Dexter Rhododendron Garden and the North American Hydrangea Test Garden, Emma cites with excitement, the ways in which those areas of Heritage in interest her. With the Dr. Michael Dirr connection to hydrangeas and hydrangea research, she is fascinated by the hybridizing and sourcing these plants through the suppliers we know and respect such as Bailey Nurseries (creators of the Endless Summer hydrangeas), Star and Roses Plants, and Proven Winners.

Asked about her favorite tree (after learning that her favorite woodies include these plants) she can quickly answer “cercidiphyllum” and goes on to explain the two species of plants as the only members of that genus. This is the Katsura, and is also a favorite of Dr. Michael Dirr, with outstanding four-season interest and similarity to redbud leaves, and a distinctive scent many people can detect, of cotton candy coming from the tree after the first frost. So, for hydrangeas and Katsura, Erler and Dirr are connected. We’re in good company!

Rapid fire questions concluded the interview time with Emma – what’s trending for landscapers to be aware of, in her view; what tech is available that landscapers can use effectively to help crews in the field; what ways can landscapers stay ahead of the trends and cultivate customers?

With Emma’s fluency and confidence, she shares that landscapers should be aware of people wanting edibles in their landscapes – whether small veggies in containers to planting some peach trees or a small orchard. She has heard a lot of questions about those things since the pandemic and people experiencing food shortages or concern about food supplies.

Tech available? She wants landscapers to realize smart phones can offer nearly instant connections between crews and supervisors, so use that connection to trouble-shoot and resolve situations in the field quickly and efficiently. Citing many apps available to help identify plants or pests on a property, she wanted to remind us that sending digital photos to the UNH labs will net quick results, and moreover, the answers will be valid and vetted specifically for our region.

Landscapers staying ahead of the trends and cultivating customers? She suggests getting familiar with what is going on with Instagram, Facebook, or Pinterest, since that’s where today’s clients are looking for their ideas and inspirations. From seeing what’s going on with those sites, landscapers can “market their responsibility,” which she elaborated on. Marketing surveys show that people are keenly interested in ecology and the environment. You can increase your customer confidence and word-of-mouth referrals by making your customers proud to have hired a landscape company that uses Integrated Pest Management, scouts techniques for pests, and avoids grub control “just in case” grubs appear on that lawn! Erler hopes to share ways to Market your responsibility to the earth, to the property you are hired to care for, and to BMPs and up-to-date research during one-on-one exchanges, workshops, presentations, conferences, and other ways we may have yet to define.

With this introduction to Emma Erler, UNH Coop Extension Field Specialist, we have an opportunity to tap her extensive experiences. We will see how world-class gardens are taken care of, highly regarded research is conducted, and personable exchanges about plant selection, placement, care, and design work can be conducted.
Emma can be reached by e-mail, emma.erler@unh.edu, or through her Hillsborough County Office, 603-836-4934.
Welcome to your new role with the Extension Service, Emma, and here’s wishing you many meaningful connections to NHLA members in the coming years.

by Cris Blackstone, NHCLP