An Ode to Provenance – On the occasion of Mom’s 80th birthday

imageHappy birthday Mom and Dad.

My Mom (1935) and Dad (1929) were born on the same date, six years apart.   Shortly after moving into their Tennessee home in 1964, Dad dug a small oak seedling up from somewhere on the property and planted it in the new construction debris that made up our front yard (Despite the impoverished site, it became a majestic tree; until a truck rumbled through a few years ago and cut it in half lengthwise to keep it out of the power lines. But hope springs eternal — as we shall see). Upon Dad’s passing in 2000, Mom put a small plaque on the tree and sprinkled his ashes around. Apart from beauty and shade the tree was now . . . important. With this newly christened treasure, I set about to preserve it for all time.

So how does one immortalize an oak tree? Why, collect the acorns, of course. Plant ’em. Help ’em grow.

So I did. The result is three young trees in Ankeny, IA , the largest of which is a strapping thirty-foot teenager. Despite its Tennessee provenance it has thrived through Iowa’s extreme winters with no trouble at all. Dad would be proud.

As we proceed further into a changing climate, these offspring oaks, in Iowa ground and of Tennessee provenance, may have more to give. Iowa may become progressively more like Tennessee (map). Some plant species adapted to Iowa’s past and current climate will struggle or fade away. Indeed, the very notion of “native” species will be turned on its head: what does “native” mean when the “native” environment is repeatedly swept away on timescales of a single human lifespan? The assumptions that “native” plants and plant communities are tougher and better become more uncertain.

“Resilient” will come to more accurately describe plant specimens, species, and communities that are tougher and better in a constantly changing climate. And the clearest path to resilience is diversity. The notion of planning and planting diverse tree communities for resilience to change has precedent. In reaction to the devastating effects of diseases and pests that destroyed virtually every American elm and American chestnut (and other species), a rule of thumb called the 10/20/30 rule has long been suggested: no more than 10% of plantings should be within a single species, no more than 20% within a single genus; and no more than 30% within a single family (original article). The risk of a disease or pest wiping out every tree is greatly reduced.

To hedge against the new “pest” of climate change perhaps we can sprinkle a mindfulness of provenance into our genetically diverse plantings. That is, let’s deliberately move some plants from South to North. So, my oak tree may indeed have more to give. And maybe my bald cypress, which seems to thrive as well on a well-drained Iowa hillside as in a Louisiana swamp. Or my Osage Orange ‘White Shield’ — plucked from arid western Oklahoma — but from a species which achieves its highest densities in repeatedly flooded “bodark swamps.”

I’m looking for more. Mindful of provenance. Plant Resilient.


Matthew Bailey

July 21st, 2015




Introducing Heuchera ‘Verdant Glory’

'Verdant Glory'
‘Verdant Glory’

Introducing Heuchera ‘Verdant Glory’

I have two jobs. My first job is breeding ornamental plants for commercial markets through my company, Steadfast Plants, LLC. For the past 15 years I have been breeding Heuchera (otherwise known as coral bells or alumroot). The first nine years I labored as a hobbyist; for the past 6 years as a full-time professional. My primary breeding goal is to develop Heuchera varieties here that are not only ornamental, but also durable and vigorous in the harsh Iowa climate. Many Heuchera varieties on the market today do not meet this standard. While they have showy — even spectacular — leaves ????????????????????????????????????? and flowers, they do not survive or thrive for long in Iowa. I have made progress in breeding Heuchera hybrids that combine attractiveness and commercial marketability with durability and vigor. However, my cheap nfl jerseys most durable Heuchera selections to date are from seed collected from wild populations of Change Heuchera villosa ssp. macrorhiza in Middle Tennessee.

Ten years ago I named one of these durable species selections as ‘Verdant Glory.’    It has darker green leaves than other Heuchera villosa species selections such as ‘Autumn Bride.’ It also has mildly shiny leaves, particularly in spring and early summer. The plant cheap nba jerseys from seed has survived and thrived for thirteen years in the shade at my home in Ankeny, Iowa. It has 2011 never been lifted and divided, although a few offsets have been taken over the years for propagation. As of this writing on July 15th, test 2015 it is about three feet across and a foot high with a large, yet compact, growth habit. The flowers are small (even for Heuchera) and not showy, as with most species selections of Heuchera villosa. This plant is not a viable commercial variety. It does not have patterned, bright foliage or showy flower displays that entice customers in retail settings. It does combine a certain paradoxical boldness of size and form with an understated green elegance in a shady garden setting. And again, it as tough cheap jerseys in Ankeny, Iowa in a shady setting as any Heuchera I have grown (among many thousands). I think it is a great plant for someone.

So, back to the “two jobs” thing. I have added the plant sync to my activities at Steadfast Plants, LLC. It occurs to me that the plant sync is an ideal way to distribute durable, new plant varieties that are worthwhile to someone, but do not meet commercial criteria. I have three specimens of ‘Verdant Glory,’ one a of which is available on 7/15/2015 and another later in the summer or early fall. ‘Verdant Glory’ is the first in the Steadfast TM series of Heuchera from Steadfast Plants, LLC. It is not patented and may be freely grown, divided, sold, or given away by anyone.

Whoever receives this plant from my Facebook offer: I hope you enjoy it. Please Grow-Share-Repeat. And pass its name along as divisions become available .

Matthew Bailey


Plant Sync – What’s in a Name

plant sync” — What’s in a name?

Well . . . maybe more than you think.

In the first instance, the “plant sync” is a play on words. On the one hand it refers to the ability of plants to act as a biological “sink” for carbon dioxide. On the other hand it refers to the local sharing of plants ; i.e. the “syncing” of plant selections among participants ( See Grow-Share-Repeat). Also, in today’s world, the term “sync” is most used to refer to management of electronic information, and has a technology ring to it. The plant sync is dependent Yeah! on the internet and social media technology to have any kind of broad impact.

And wholesale jerseys there’s more . . .

In modern usage, the informal term Zone” “sync” has come to mean more than aligning events exactly in wholesale jerseys time cheap nba jerseys (e.g., synchronize your watches!). Change It now means a good match or a harmonious relationship of any kind (e.g.; the shop manager is “in sync” with her customers).  So, the plant sync seeks to develop relationships among people and plants that maximally promote prevention and mitigation of, and adaptation to, climate change. While the main focus of the plant sync is immediate and direct action to fight climate change, we also know that plants provide many other interconnected services.*  So the plant sync will acknowledge and integrate actions around these services as we go.

Finally, “plant sync” refers to all participants as a whole — sharing common cause against climate change. We are all — together — the plant sync.

Matthew Bailey

July 15, 2015

* You know, little things like test oxygen, food, clothing, shelter, recreation, beauty, etc.

Climate Change