Published on 02/28/13

UGA horticulturalist releases gardening book focused on conifers

By Merritt Melancon

Anyone who moved into a new house between 1995 and 2008 is probably familiar with the fast-growing, super-screening workhorse of the conifer family — the Leyland cypress.

But while the Leyland cypress might be the most popular conifer in Georgia landscapes, there are a whole host of conifers that will grow just as well in home landscapes.

“When you mention a conifer people thought of either junipers or pine trees in plantations and I am interested in introducing them to all the options and the diversity that is out there” said University of Georgia horticulturalist John Ruter.

Conifers are good choices because their structure adds architectural detail to a landscape, and they provide year-round color and visual interest, Ruter said.

He and Tom Cox from Canton have put together a complete guide to selecting and caring for conifers for Georgia gardeners. “Landscaping with Conifers and Ginkgo for the Southeast” will be available in April through the University Press of Florida. It’s available for pre-order now on Amazon.

Ruter’s part-time job in high school was raising Christmas trees for sale, so his conifer fixation started early. Cox is a former president of the American Conifer Society and grows an amazing collection of conifers at his Cox Arboretum in Canton.

After years of advocating for the trees, Ruter and Cox are seeing more Georgians embrace conifers and gingko trees. They wanted to provide a good, consumer-oriented guidebook for people who want to experiment with the trees.

Ruter and Cox were frustrated that there wasn’t a complete set of care guidelines for the plants. There was very little information, for instance, about how to select and care for conifers in the southern half of the state.

The new consumer guidebook details selection and care guidelines for areas ranging from southeast Texas to Appalachian Virginia.

“This guide includes essential information about what to buy, where to plant it, and how to maintain it,” Cox and Ruter wrote in the description.

Merritt Melancon is a public relations manager with UGA's Terry College of Business and previously served as a public relations coordinator for the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and UGA Extension.

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