Firs are slow growing hardy evergreen trees valued for their graceful and symmetrical form. Natives of Europe, North America, northern Asia and north Africa, they are members of the Pinacae, a section of the conifer family, Coniferae. Beautiful trees with an upright growth habit and, for most varieties, a slightly upswept branching, they make wonderful specimen and landscape trees, reaching many times a height of 200 feet or more.
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Firs are easily grown in deep moist well drained soils and most do not do well, as a rule, in a dry climate, or in area with heavy air pollution and they tend to flourish in area with high humidity near water. The roots of the trees tend to be rather shallow which renders them unsuitable, as well, for areas with heavy winds, but this fact makes transplanting easier. Best planting times are early spring or early fall. They need little pruning due to their naturally symmetrical growth although only one main central leader should be allowed to grow for best form.
Firs are best propagated from seeds, which should be sown thinly in late spring or in the winter in a cool greenhouse. A 30-60 days cold moist stratification is required before planting in order to break seed dormancy and some types have a higher germination when submitted to warm-cold-warm stratification. Seed should be sown in a sterile medium, kept moist, but not soggy at about 70F. Seedlings should emerge in about 4-6 weeks, though certain varieties can take a bit longer. Young seedlings are light sensitive.and should be kept out of stong sunlight and drying winds until they are two or three years old.
Rarer types are usually grafted to the more vigorous common kinds. These grafts are then placed under glass or in a mist house until they can be transplanted to pots or to their permanent location.
Firs have been used for lumber and furnishings for hundreds of years. The wood is odorless, varying in color from white-yellow to reddish-brown, soft and easy to work, finishes with a smooth surface and takes paint well. It is used in interior home finishes, in making paper and for making containers for absorbent foods like butter and cheese.
In some cultures, the inner bark of these trees is cooked and used as a thickener in a variety of dishes, the tips of the leaves are used to brew a tea, and the resin is chewed like chewing gum. The resin also has antibiotic properties and is used to treat wounds and burns, as well as sore throat.
Just a tree? I think not.
(Plant heights are given at maturity)
Balsam Fir - Abies balsamea - Conical growth habit with dark green aromatic needles. Makes dense shade and so is a good screen or wind break. Best grown in moist, well drained soil. Hardy to -40F (-45.5C); height: 50ft.
|#873 Packet, Approximately 100 seeds $7.99|
|#P873H 12-15in. seedling $19.99|
|#P10-873H 10 trees $70.00|
Borisi - Abies borisii - Conical open growth habit with horizontal branching. Good specimen or shade tree. Hardy to -40F (-40C); height: 50 ft.
|#1522 Packet, Approximately 100 seeds $15.95|
Canaan Fir - Abies balsamea phanerolepis - Excellent specimen that grows quickly and buds late in the season. Heavy lateral branches are highly aromatic. Often used for Christmas trees and cut boughs. Well adapted to cold, poorly drained sites. Hardy to -40F (-45.5C); height: 70ft.
|#P2636H 12in. seedling $19.99|
|#P10-2636H 10 trees $70.00|
Corkbark Fir - Abies lasiocarpa - Narrow conical shaped fir with blue-green needles. Grows very slowly. Hardy to -40F (-40C)
|#1541 Packet, Approximately 100 seeds $7.95|
|#P1541H 12in. seedling $19.99|
|#P10-1541H 10 trees $70.00|
Douglas Fir - Pseudotsuga menziesii glauca - Medium length soft blue green needles and its naturally symmetrical pyramidal shape make this a perfect candidate for a Christmas tree. Grows best in a humus rich soil in an open location. Hardy to -30F (-34.4C); height: 40-80ft.
|#P915H 12in. seedling $19.99|
|#P10-915H 10 trees $70.00|
|#1520 Packet $9.95, Approximately 100 seeds|
Frasier Fir - Abies fraserii - This variety has soft, waxy blue green needles with a silvery underside and purple cones. Grows best in moist well drained cool soil. Wonderful fragrance. Hardy to -30F (-34.4C); height: 40-80ft.
|#P916H 15in. seedling $19.99|
|#P10-916H 10 trees $70.00|
Frijsenborg Blue Noble Fir - Abies procera - Lovely fragrant blue-green needles and a naturally conical shape make this a perfect specimen. Hardy to -20F (-28.8C); height: 80ft.
|#P1058H 12in. seedling $19.99|
Grand Fir - Abies grandis - Dark green needles and a natural conical shape make this an excellent choice for Christmas trees. A tall giant when grown to maturity, it makes a great windbreak or specimen tree. Hardy to -30F (-34.4C); height: 200ft.
|#916 Packet $16.95, Approximately 100 seeds|
Korean Fir - Abies koreana - The variety has a graceful tighly packed growth habit with dark green needles. Hardy to -10F (-23.3C); height: 45ft.
|#1539 Packet $29.95, Approximately 100 seeds|
Nordmann Fir - Abies nordmanniana - Soft dark green needles and symmetrical cone shape. One of the largest of the firs. Hardy to -20F (-34.4C); height: 135ft.
|#917 Packet $7.95, Approximately 100 seeds|
|#P917H 9in. seedling $19.99|
Shasta Red Fir - Abies magnifica 'Shastens' (Silver-tipped Fir, Mt. Shasta Fir) - Vertical needles on open branches. Beautiful specimen. Best fir for warmer climates. Hardy to -10F (-23.3); height: 150ft.
|#1542 Packet $10.95, Approximately 100 seeds|
White Fir - Abies concolor - Excellent ornamental tree with good drought resistance. Soft silver-green needles and graceful growth habit. Hardy to -30F (-34.4C); height: 120ft.
|#1527 Packet $10.95, Approximately 100 seeds|
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