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I think the darker wood is from the top layer of the pack that has been exposed to the weather, can you see the other side ? Is it a lighter colour?, the ''mildew / mould is probably residue from the treatment process.
The short variety I grow is called Goblin, it has always survived the winter for me.
I have a load of Leylandii that I cut down last year, I was told to season it for 2 years & then only burn a few bits now & then along with hardwood logs as the soot from the Leylandii will tar up the flue.
I have grown them from seed, the taller types are floppy so I only grow the dwarf types now, they bloom for ages if you keep deadheading.
The second one is called Mary Evelyn
A few more of mine.
I use Oakland_gardens & Elixirgardens both on ebay. for my pots, both companies supply good quality pots.
My black tomato's
They had black strawberries on there earlier in the year along with rainbow roses,
usually from Chinese sellers, trouble is a lot of people believe they are real.