Out on a Limb

Posted on: February 11, 2020

By Ronda Roemmelt Sneider, Ruppert Nurseries

Trying new things can often times be scary. Uncharted territories can make us vulnerable. They can make a person who might seem endlessly confident ill at ease, uncomfortable in his or her own skin. The older we get, the harder it is to try new things, to live outside our comfort zones. As hard as it is to take a walk out onto a limb, it’s important to recognize that growth at any age is useful. Poll any group of 100 year olds and I would venture a guess that most of them were risk-takers and tried new things well into their elderly years. The late George W. Bush is an excellent example of this. He celebrated every 5th birthday with a skydive; the last one was at age 90.

Those of you who know me well, know that I am a dedicated Yogi. I practice 4 to 5 times per week and make my practice a priority in my life, scheduling time for it like I would any other appointment. My fitness, my flexibility, my ability to concentrate and my life have improved dramatically from my practice. I did not always practice yoga. In fact, I long held the opinion that yoga was boring, too slow, and not for me. A friend convinced me to take a hot yoga class with her and I was hooked! I have been practicing regularly for about 5 years now. I was forced to take a break two years ago due to a back injury, but I am back at it and more committed than ever.

The thing about yoga though is this. Not only is it hard, but it doesn’t get easier. Sure, as flexibility develops, so does the ability to get deeper into a pose. But as you progress into a pose, a new door to an even more difficult one opens. There are a lot of challenging poses that I am grateful for the strength and flexibility to get into. There are however, a far greater number of poses that I cannot yet do. I do however keep trying, despite the fact that every time I always end up “falling out” and winding up on the floor, sometimes atop my yoga neighbor in a collapsed pile of failure. Possibly, my most confounding pose is called Firefly. Roughly described, this pose asks the yogi to put the back of your knees on your shoulders like a backpack with your arms straight and legs lifted. I cannot do this. Literally. Can. Not.

In my dreams which look like the picture to the left, I can fly my legs upward and hold this pose, even if for only a few strong seconds. But the reality of my firefly pose is that a millisecond after I get the back of my legs onto my triceps, my butt is on the ground and I am left looking like a squashed firefly instead of a graceful one. I swear if I ever master this pose I will tattoo a firefly somewhere on my body to commemorate this momentous feat. (This will be a huge deal as I have made it this far through life with no ink) Further still, should I master this firefly nemesis, it’s probably not out of the realm of possibility that I’ll bust into it at random times; just to show off my skill. (PSA of the day, do not do yoga while or after drinking. The results are ALWAYS catastrophic. Your body and your brain are not nearly as coordinated after cocktails) I may or may not have some experience in this department!

In the nursery business, people always ask us how we decide what to grow. A shrug and a smile is probably as accurate an answer as any other but the truth of the matter is that what we grow is a bit of a wild guess. It seems no matter what we grow, it is never enough of the right thing or too much of the wrong thing. What about those new varieties that seem to crop up on so many lists? Nyssa sylvatica ‘Green Gable’, Prunus ‘Akebono’, Aesculus cornea ‘Ft. McNair’, Gymnocladus discus ‘Espresso’. Are these plants as great as their patenters claim or will they end up a bust? Incredibly hard to say but we do know that if we don’t at least dabble in the trends, we will get left behind. When someone asks what new plants are you growing, you can’t very well say, “None” and expect to call yourself innovative. But back to the original question, “What to grow?”

These are truly out on a limb decisions. Too many and we’ll end up first discounting them, maybe transplanting them in the hopes they may someday sell or worse still pushing them over. Too little and we’ve created a demand that we cannot meet. We know that we can sell 250 Red Sunset and 250 October Glory Red maples per year but what about Redpointe red maple?

Here’s what J. Frank Schmidt Nursery has to say about their patented Redpointe Maple , “Brilliant red fall color plus upright, broadly pyramidal form make this Schmidt introduction a standout. The refined form and foliage of the best Acer rubrum cultivars combine with the faster growth rate normally found in Acer x freemanii. A straight and dominant central leader results in strong branch angles that make it easier to grow.”

Ok, I’ll bite. But will the consumer? I dunno. I do know that we currently have about 100 available in 2.5” and 3.0” sizes with several hundred more on the way behind them. So, we shall see if the marketing prowess of the big Oregon growers is enough to generate a fire that will result in sales.

Similarly overwhelming can be the process of deciding where to spend our money each year. At Ruppert Nurseries, we are currently working diligently to fine-tune our 2020 budget. Once complete, we will work both as a team but also individually to monitor our respective budget categories. I am certain that there are many people reading this blog who assume that as a Ruppert Company we have plenty of money to spend. The reality is that we are budget-minded, perhaps to a fault. We agonize over how much to spend on what and work hard to make sure that outside of the unforeseen truck breakdowns or outside equipment repair that we live and die by what the budget dictates.

But how do we spend our money? Do we budget for flat sales in an election year or do we go big or go home and plan for a banner year knowing that we have more trees for sale this year than ever before? Do we buy a new truck, replacing the one that causes us so much pain or do we try to limp by for one more year, attempting to watch those pennies? This time spent out on a limb is uncomfortable. It requires thought and careful consideration. In the end, we hope that our time spent deliberating will help us come to the right decision.

So this year, I am committing to getting my firefly off the ground and to making bold choices that will help Ruppert Nurseries move forward in a responsive and innovative way. What about you? Will you move out of your comfort zone and try something new? I recommend stepping out on the limb as far as you can go. In the words of the immortal Mark Twain, “Don’t be afraid to go out on the limb. That’s where the fruit is.”



Ronda Roemmelt Sneider, CPH

ISA Certified Arborist