Many of you know that ACS represents the American Conifer Society. Through my association with this group for the last ten years, I have come to realize ACS really stands for Addicted Conifer Syndrome. The Central Region is well known for the Support Group offered to those phytoholics with a unique weakness for the search and research of mutant conifers. At the 1995 ACS National Meeting in North Carolina, there were even meetings for the families of those who are addicted (mainly at shopping malls). Many people ask "Can you get hooked on these trees the first time?" Absolutely! When analyzed, there are several levels of addiction to those who are powerless about these plants.
Level I: Awareness This is the initial phase where in some way, garden conifers are brought to your attention. It could be a magazine article on Ed Rezek or maybe a television program on the Victory Garden about Ed Rezek. Perhaps you were visiting a place that featured interesting conifers. Rich and I literally stumbled into the Hidden Lake Gardens and found 'The Harper Collection of Rare and Dwarf Conifers' by accident. Needless to say, it changed our lives.
Level 2: Research After the initial awareness, you start researching conifers. This is not an easy task for there is no one book or place to obtain all the information. It may start out innocently, reading about the Redwoods, Giant Sequoias, Bristlecones or Ginkgos. You join the American Conifer Society (ACS) for information and eventually the ACS Bulletin becomes the most exciting magazine you get! Krussmann, van Hoey Smith, Swartley, and Welch appear on your Christmas list.
Level 3: AcquisitionReading about these conifers is simply not enough. You must have them! You try your local garden centers and perhaps you find a dwarf Alberta spruce at K-Mart. Tree dreams are common at this level. You find yourself driving longer distances to get to nurseries to purchase unusual plants. Many people are extremely willing to drive a whole day to buy one tree! Family vacations are arranged around these places and addiction is evident by the vacation photos where there are more plants than people in the pictures. The ultimate rationalization occurs before the ACS Auction. On your way to the auction you say "I'm not going to spend much at the auction this year." On the way home you mention, " The money went for a good cause."
Level 4: NetworkingNow you have a small collection started but you are still not satisfied. The ACS leads you to other people who have the same affliction. Beware of those who have lifetime memberships. There are two types of family members of those with A.C.S. The 'enablers' take care of business or family matters at home so the addicted can network alone at the meetings. The 'co-dependents' come to the meetings with the addicted and they blend in with the coniferites. Problems begin to occur when you attend a family wedding in Washington D.C. but you arrive to the reception late because you had to go see the Gotelli Collection one more time!
Level 5: Reading the LandscapeNow that you are integrated into the conifer network, you start reading the landscape and looking for witches brooms in nature. Driving becomes more dangerous for 'Baby Broomers' as you are looking for brooms instead of watching traffic. Add plenty of extra travel time on trips so you can stop at every cemetery between here and there. It is devastating when another coniferite comes into your territory and instantly finds a broom you missed in your own neighborhood. Observation skills are developed.
Level 6: PropagationPerhaps the ACS Seed Exchange excites you and you write for seeds. Or you find a great broom. You can't continue to just admire it...you want to know "Could this be a new cultivar of the future?" This is where graft and corruption set in. At this level, there is 'mail-bonding'. There are packages coming and going in the mail at all level of urgency: UPS, FedEx, Overnight, Priority Mail. You start grafting or rooting conifers.
Level 7: Going into BusinessYou have now reached the pinnacle of the addiction. You have made your hobby your livelihood. Now any tree purchase can be justified! It's a stock plant! Now there is satisfaction in helping distribute these beauties to the addicted.
Level 8: BenefactorAt this level you have spent a big part of your wallet collecting conifers. Now you start relocating your collection and you buy conifers to give away. This is the 'Harper Predilection' and difficult to explain to your wife. Whatever level you are, join in on the fun and JUST SAY YES!
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