A Plant Entrepreneur Saw a Use for the Unused

(p. B1) In the summer of 1978, Allen Wilke slammed the brakes.

He did this often. A true plantsman, he observed everything but the road itself. He would spy a flowering prickly pear in the ditch, a wild grapevine. He would double back without warning, often sending his son and daughter — half-asleep in his gutted cargo van’s backseat — tumbling forward with their luggage.

This time, the plantsman was alone. He was puttering through the Sandhills on Nebraska Highway 91, a mile (p. B2) west of Taylor, when a tall, skinny evergreen — like an Italian Cypress, he thought — punctured his periphery. He slammed the brakes. He doubled back. And like he had so many times before, the owner of the Wilke Landscape Center in Columbus knocked on a stranger’s door.

“Would you mind?”

Rancher Marlin Britton led the plantsman to that eastern redcedar on the hill, rising like a steeple behind snot-nosed cattle. To Britton, the tree wasn’t remarkable. But to Wilke, scrambling up the bank for a closer look, it was a perfect fit for Nebraska’s landscaping industry. He took a few 10-inch cuttings, shook Britton’s hand and hit the road.

By the early 1980s, Wilke began retailing this new type of tree he called the “Taylor Juniper,” a play on both its origins and its naturally tailored appearance.

. . .

. . ., the Taylor Juniper is ubiquitous across Nebraska, from the town square in Taylor to the capitol grounds in Lincoln; from The Gardens at Yanney Park in Kearney to the track at Hastings College. They fill the nurseries come spring and sell out come fall — each a perfect clone of that single mother tree in Britton’s pasture.

For the full story, see:

Carson Vaughan Flatwater Free Press. “Tale of the Taylor Juniper, Tree That’s Everywhere in Nebraska.” Omaha World-Herald (Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2022): B1-B2.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story was updated Nov. 15, 2022, and has the title “Taylor Junipers stand tall across Nebraska.”)

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