Large growth rate changes in a Norway Spruce.

chester_grant(6)June 16, 2007

A Norway Spruce planted as about a 9 footer in November 2005 grew 6 inches in 2006 (and had multiple little purple cones in early spring which made me think it might be an Acrocona). This year, 2007, the tree grew 18+ inches together with foot long candles all over - but had no cones at all. Question - will the tree look "unbalanced" in the future with such a large discrepency in the structure of the branches that will develop over time? Should I trim the leader and candles back to a say 6 inches to make the tree more balanced and encourage it to become bushy and stronger?

BTW my theory is that the tree settled in nicely over 2006 as it was well watered and was planted in excellent "woodland" type soil, and so grew much more than when under sever stress the prior year - when it would have been stressed from being uprooted etc. This also ties in with the theory that animals and plants under stress tend to try to propagate more.

Any observations?

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You've nailed it right on the head with the exception that you should not prune it.

Strength will come along with leaving it be as is and yes while I agree that you may overall get a larger tree as a result of pruning, or at least a bulkier tree, you'll have weakened it in the long run and will have disfigured it creating weaker "crotches" among limbs and so on and so on...

Certainly anything that is living and thinks it will die will reproduce, except me, is a good theory... however, 'Acrocona' I've never thought of until your mention of it - coning every year like clockwork, yet I don't know the answer, so I will wait for the big boys to comment on that one. However... it's 'the work of the good almighty supreme "it" ' that produces 'the unusual', the different. And ya, that's the answer I would assume.

You have certainly intrigued my mind this morning. 'Acrocona' is an interesting plant. A good conifer to mess with for hybridization. And... I believe recently I read where one guy is doing this.

'Traits'... that's what makes a tree not only appealing... but also, like anything else... it's that drive to produce that Kentucky Derby winner.
A larger heart, possibly a more sleek body rather than a 'bulky' muscular-type. The ultimate Thoroughbred.

There's no doubt in my mind that 'breeding' is an unconscious matter all the way around, no matter how it happens.


    Bookmark   June 17, 2007 at 8:34AM
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I love Norway spruce as they grow naturally. Depending on where you are and the quality of your soil, these trees can grow quite fast with long candles. Occasionally my Norway spruce in a forest environment grow well over three feet in a given year.

Also, Norway spruce have considerable variation in form, with some tending to be quite open--good space between the branches.

Maybe you should have chosen a spruce or other conifer that is naturally more dense and slower growing. Black Hills spruce may have been a better choice, or perhaps one of the Thujas.

Pruning it is not really a good idea. First, I think it would disfigure the tree, and second, you will have to keep pruning it every year or it will resume its fast growth with the crown opening up, and as it gets larger and larger that can be a real headache. For many years I sheared some really, really big yews into globe shapes 15--18 feet in diameter. What a job! But yews take pruning, and these things as I sheared them were, if I do say so myself, spectacular!

You just got the wrong tree for what you want.


    Bookmark   June 17, 2007 at 9:12AM
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Spruceman, I dont know why you suggest that I got the wrong tree "for what I want"! I merely am concerned about the very different growth rates in different years.........

    Bookmark   June 18, 2007 at 12:20PM
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pinetree30(Sierra Westside)

The idea that a tree tries to reproduce because it senses it is under stress and may not be able to reproduce in the future is an old husband's tale. It's basically unscientific because it can not be falsified, and belongs in the area of faith.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2007 at 4:04PM
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"It's basically unscientific because it can not be falsified"

Is it really not testable under controlled experimentation?


    Bookmark   June 18, 2007 at 4:55PM
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Well, maybe I misunderstood. I would never describe a typical Norway spruce as "bushy." Although there is considerable variation and some cultivars are bushy, the more typical norway spruce is conical in shape with a more or less open crown. My own preference is for the growth form that is relatively open and which has weeping secondary branches--quite graceful, I think. But I know some people don't think a tree like that is attractive--they want a more solid crown.

Also, you seemed concerned that the tree was growing too fast. If you want a tree that will continue to grow 6 inches a year, the typical Norway spruce will grow too fast. The longer each year's shoot, the better, as far as I am concerned. I want my Norway spruce to get as big as possible as fast as possible. But I know this is not what everyone wants in a tree, especially the bulk of the people who visit this forum who love the dwarf and semi-dwarf conifers.

Anyway, if what you want is what a Norway spruce typically offers, don't prune back any growth, unless a serious fork (double leader develops), and I would not be in any hurry to prune off anything like that--90% of the time these resolve themselves within three years and require no pruning to correct.



    Bookmark   June 18, 2007 at 8:38PM
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Spruceman, actually the tree in question has had a split leader for each of the past two years - I could see where one of the twins had been pruned before I purchased the tree and then last spring it developed a 50/50 split yet again. So as it seems to have propensity to split I pruned one of the leaders back by 75%. This year there was no split and last years pruned bit just looks like an ordinary branch.

BTW the leader now is more like 2 feet. It has quite a few little "bumps" along its length every couple of inches - I presume these are the "buds" which will sprout branches next spring?

    Bookmark   June 19, 2007 at 12:28AM
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"I presume these are the "buds" which will sprout branches next spring?"



    Bookmark   June 19, 2007 at 4:46AM
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I think are are a bit like me--I observe the growth of my trees, especially my Norway spruce very closely.

So let me tell you a little more about what I have observed. First, the shoot elongation. You will know when your shoot has just about finished growing when the needles on the top third are spaced as they are on the bottom third. Your tree is doing very well, considering it is just its second year of growth after planting.

A little more about forks/double leaders. I said that I usually wait three years before cutting out double leaders because they tend to resolve themselves. Well, considering how closely you are observing the growth of your tree, let me tell you a little more of what I have discovered after many, many years of NS growing.

If you want a tre with perfectly regular form, cut out any forked or double leader immediately. If you are like me and don't really care about "perfection" of form, here are my guidelines:

If the two tips of the double leader are separated by 5 or six inches (depending on total length) the chances that one will take over and the other move to be a side branch (although at a more accute angle) are very great. I do nothing. If the two tips of the double leader are very close after the second year, you will most likely have to cut one out, even if one is somewhat shorter than the other.

When you cut out one of two leaders, especially if they are the kind with the tips close together, it is best to cut it out right at the base. These leaders react as if they were separate trees, and when cut off they try to re-grow quickly to make up for the loss. If one is growing out at a bit of an angle to the taller one, shortening can help the tree develop more regular form without cutting it out completely. I usually don't do this with my spruce trees, but it is OK.

Well, I hope this helps. Your tree will grow faster in some years, slower in some others. This is not always because of differences in the weather. There are internal tree dynamics that I am not sure anyone understands. So I if your tree does not grow quite as much next year, don't think about it.

Also, sometimes a large bird can perch on the top of a spruce tree, breaking off or bending down the leader. Don't worry too much about this. By mid to late August the leaders will turn upright. If the leader is broken, usually one, sometimes two of the side shoots will turn erect and take over as leader, although with some loss of length. Usually if two side branches turn erect, by the second year one will take over. If not, you may have more pruning to do.


    Bookmark   June 19, 2007 at 9:01AM
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pinetree30(Sierra Westside)

Spruceman, you are confusing "faster or slower" growth with "more or less" growth. Remember, you are talking about growth of a year. The amount of growth in a year -- which means one growing season in the context of a spruce -- is determined mainly by the wealth of the bud's contents that formed last year. The rate of that growth is a matter of how long it takes that shoot to fully elongate. In a warm spring the elongation of a given shoot will be more rapid than it would be in a cool spring, but the amount will be the same.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2007 at 8:24PM
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Yeah, poor choice of words--in my own mind when I talk about fast growth, I mean amount per year, or per 10 years, etc.


    Bookmark   June 20, 2007 at 8:27AM
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Well last year this tree grew 3 feet of leader - so far in 2008 that leader has filled out side branches. But once again it has showed a propensity to have twin leaders - there are two leaders which have grown about a foot each so far. As they are now about 15 ft up its going to be harder and harder to prune one of the leaders in half so the tree just has just one leader!

    Bookmark   July 2, 2008 at 9:34PM
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Half the Norway Spruce in question (and a lot of nearby trees) were taken out by a neighbors tree crashing across my border during Hurricane Sandy. So much for expensive landscaping!
While the leader is intact I have planted a small hemlock to camouflage the sheared damage to the side branches over time.

    Bookmark   May 11, 2013 at 4:16PM
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