Spruce Recommendation?

thisismelissa(z4a-S Twin Cities MN)July 9, 2011

BACKSTORY (fast forward to the question below if you dislike verbose backstories!):

Well, you may remember my post a few weeks ago asking for an ID on a Black Hills Spruce. Thank you all who helped me zero in on this ID. My next door neighbor (an original owner) confirmed that she remembered the previous owners putting in Black Hills. These are putting on growth super fast.... new growth being nearly a foot in all directions.

We're constantly correcting the previous owners landscape mistakes. We have 2 of these trees in our backyard. The left one is in too much shade (mostly by trees owned by neighbors) and is getting ugly on the inside of the tree. So, I did get hubby's ok to take this one out by next spring. This will be replaced with a shrub that can handle part shade.

The one on the right is quickly outgrowing its spot.

Hubby will not let me expand the boundaries of the garden that it's now coming out of. He said he didn't think the tree was growing this fast and didn't recall that just 2 years ago, it had 18" of space between it and the edge of the border. I'll had to show him pics!

So, in the short term (this week), I'll probably limb up this tree so you can mow the border around it. In the long term (within a year or two), we'll have to look to replace it.


The bed is about 12-15 feet wide. What kind of options do we have for a replacement? I guess I'd want it to stay smallish like that for at least 10-15 years. I was kinda thinking about a Colorado Blue Spruce? The neighbors have them and they do look lovely.

Last month, I saw Picea mariana 'Golden' (Golden Black Spruce) at a nursery and really like it. The tag said slow growing, 10-15' wide. Is that what is pictured below:



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dcsteg(5 Shawnee, KS.)


First of all that is a very nice landscape setting you have to work with.

I hate to think that the removal of that beautiful conifer is necessary but as you say it is quickly out growing its space.

Forget about limbing up. That look you will not be happy with.

I would again talk to Hubby to let you expand that circle 2 ft. In my opinion that will not destroy the design and buy you some time to think about a replacement. Take him out to dinner if he still is not receptive.

If you want to go with a blue conifer, Picea pungens, then my first thought would be Picea pungens 'Sester Dwarf'. 15 ft.X 6ft. wide in 10 years give or take depending on your micro-climate.

Check out my post...Picea pungens 'Sester Dwarf' photo gallery posted yesterday or Google it.

There are others in the mix if you don't like this one

Picea pungens 'Glauca 'Pendula' a weeper also comes to mind.

Now you have something to think about.


    Bookmark   July 9, 2011 at 1:03PM
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I would hate to sacrifice a beautiful tree like that for the sake of some turf grass. You shouldn't have even asked 'Hubby' about widening the bed. If he didn't notice the tree out-growing the bed, he probably wouldn't have noticed a little widening of the bed.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2011 at 3:45PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

hey mel.. slummin in the conifer forum??.. lol

review the link.. pay attention to annual growth rates.. and understand.. as trees .. they will grow at that rate.. for the rest of your life.. your lids life. and grandkids ...

ALL size estimates.. in regard to conifers.. are in 10 years.. and in 20 they will be twice as big..

so that tag you saw ... 10 to 15 feet in 10 years.. means it will ... ONCE ESTABLISHED .... grow one to 1.5 feet per year ..

in other words.. will be as big.. if not bigger.. than the one you want to get rid of ...

back to the link.. i think you should look for dwarfs ... that grow 6 inches or less per year... so that in 10 years.. it will be 5 feet.. then 10 feet... etc ...

once i get you to this point.. i ask.. what color would please you??? .. and then i would ask.. why a spruce... is there a reason you would forgo any other size appropriate conifers???

finally ... the next planting time for conifers.. is mid to late fall.. so you have plenty of time.. to get the plan all set ...

WTH ??? why do you have a janet mills pic of a hosta.. isnt she the publisher of the AHS journal???


ps: plain old blue spruce are GIANT forest trees .. not for your backyard .... but there are some glorious dwarf versions ...

Here is a link that might be useful: link

    Bookmark   July 9, 2011 at 5:53PM
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Check out some of the dwarf forms of Abies concolor or Abies lasiocarpa (see link) if you like blues. I prefer them over the blue spruces, but are harder to find around town.

Golden black spruce is not all that slow growing, but seems to stay rather slender.

Here is a link that might be useful: Sub Alpine Fir

    Bookmark   July 9, 2011 at 9:03PM
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thisismelissa(z4a-S Twin Cities MN)

Dave, I do like the Sesters Dwarf you suggested. I wonder if I could find a local source for it? And thank you for your kind words about my landscape. Just 4 years ago, it was just lawn, bare dirt and some poorly placed trees. Again, correcting the previous owners mistakes.

Donn, hubby and I have an agreement that garden care is MY thing, lawn care is HIS. He's one of these yahoos that likes to have a nice big lawn, yet he doesn't really like to care for it. *rolls eyes*. We do, however, have a 5 year old and are hoping to adopt another child soon, so we do need to have some lawn...enough to kick a ball around. I am going to widen the hosta bed by a few feet, but that area where that healthy Black Hills is, he's kinda protective over it since the space between it and the birch in the foreground is open space to the neighbor and there's a little room for the ball to spill into their space. And, unfortunately, in order to get rid of the grass, he'd have to know about it... he'd see it in process. I could, however, let the tree kill the grass. It's happening with another Black Hills in the front yard.

Ken... Slummin? Hardly! I just don't have the conifer bug like y'all do here! But you sure are smart folk! K.
I guess, in 10-15 years time, if the tree was the matures size as on the tag, that would be fine. By then, with kids maturing and going to college and hubby in his 60's, it won't be as necessary to have ball kickin' space! The problem exists NOW. If it were 10-15 years from now, it wouldn't be a problem. Ok, size, you know what I need. Color, I do like a powdery blue. It goes nicely with the burgundy and chartreuse that I have going on in this bed (just out of view). I would also be up for something bi-color or gold. Why a spruce? Well, I don't usually care for pines and the others, I don't know that much about, I suppose. I'd even consider a shrub, I suppose, if I liked it enough.

RE: Janet Mills pic. This was distributed with the Online Hosta Journal last December. You could download it as a desktop background. I've been looking at that pic for 6 months wanting to know what the tree is. Do you know?

ginkgonut... I didn't know that firs look so much like spruce. Perhaps I should give them more consideration.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2011 at 12:01AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

now this cracks me up.. i didnt even see the pine needles in the hosta picture ... lol ...

but that one is not powdery blue ...

so you want a blue.. and a dragon eye [golden ghost if you can find it] .. thats two ... lol ..

how far are you from chicago .. and the place at the link??? .. forget about the web.. time for a road trip .... go see them.. feel them .... smell them .. etc ..

next proper planting time is fall ...


Here is a link that might be useful: link

    Bookmark   July 10, 2011 at 8:51AM
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gardener365(5b Illinois USA)

That variegated tree looks like Douglas fir, of, a variegated selection.

A replacement "blue spruce" ideal is
Picea engelmannii 'Bush's Lace'.


    Bookmark   July 10, 2011 at 12:27PM
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thisismelissa(z4a-S Twin Cities MN)

Well, like I said, Ken, I like powdery blue, but I also like golds and bi-colors. And it appears that these variegated red pines fall into the bi-color catergory.

Chicago is about 6-7 hours away. I wonder if there's a conifer specialist closer by. I have a feeling that this could be a tough search, even to find a dwarf blue spruce.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2011 at 2:53PM
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A few others you might consider are R H Montgomery, Baby Blue Eyes, Misty Blue and Spring Blast for that springtime pop. I'm also a big fan of the aforementioned Picea engelmannii 'Bush's Lace'. I think it's a gorgeous tree.

One last consideration of a tree with bright blue color but has more of an open feel would be one of the narrow blue deodoras like Sander Blue. Many can be found with as electric a blue color as any spruce but most have more of a whispy pendulus form than the rigid spruce. In time it will spread, but as you said 10-15 years from now that may not be an issue.


    Bookmark   July 11, 2011 at 10:10AM
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dcsteg(5 Shawnee, KS.)

deodoras for zone 4a would be short lived.

Dax choice of Picea engelmannii 'Bush's Lace' would be a knockout.


    Bookmark   July 11, 2011 at 11:39AM
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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

Yep, that one is on my wishlist for next spring.

So, what I want to know (and its problaby killing Ken right now) is how do you have that many hosta growing under a silver maple (at least it looks like one)?

    Bookmark   July 11, 2011 at 1:54PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

yeah.. i confused MN with WI ... that would be one heck of a car trip.. lol ...

half of my collection came mail order ...

i like girards nursery ... but root surgery will be necessary.. so next proper planting time is when the leaves fall off the other trees ... so you have plenty of time to research.. and remove.. etc ...

the links above and below mail orders ... though july/august is not the best time ...

will has posted reviews of various mail order firms..

i dont leave my pix up forever.. should you ever see something i posted under the latin name .. and wish the pic back up .... just bump up the post with a request.. i will get the pic reposted ...

i know you are hardcore.. garden-wise .... the thought that you would limit yourself to a green tree that is sold at the bigboxstore is an anathema to your collector genes ... you have succeeded as a REAL gardener .. when the hosta peeps come on a tour .. and ignore the hosta .. to look at all the other things that are so unusual ... then you have a top of the line garden ... [at the national a few years back.. what inspired all the southern folks... was the great diversity of conifers that they cant grow.. they said they had seen so many hosta gardens.. that the other stuff was much more interesting ...]

a few of my faves:
Abies koreana Silver Show or near the same as A. k. silberloche

Abies concolor Conica -- the color is much bluer than the pic suggests ...

Abies lasiocarpa [var. arizonica] 'Compacta' -- the color is much bluer than the pic suggests ... you can see.. if you look close.. the annual growth rate of about 4 to 6 inches ....

Here is a link that might be useful: link

    Bookmark   July 11, 2011 at 2:10PM
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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

With a recommendation there goes a no vote as well. I had too many strikes on one order to ever order from them or suggest them.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2011 at 2:24PM
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Oops, I didn't see that zone 4......


    Bookmark   July 11, 2011 at 4:10PM
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tsugajunkie z5 SE WI

Have you been to Gertens in Eagan, MN and looked at their conifers? I've never been there but recall having heard they have a nice selection. Even if not to buy from, at least to get some ideas.

BTW Tsuga canadensis 'Vermeulen Wintergold' would go nice in that shadier spot. Though listed at 6 inches per year, your climate would give it more like 4 inches a year. Gold in winter and light green by summer's end (a different type of two-toned effect).


    Bookmark   July 11, 2011 at 5:28PM
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thisismelissa(z4a-S Twin Cities MN)

Gertens is about 25 minutes from me. I've been there 2-3 times already this year, but not in the last 6 weeks of so.

Maybe a quick trip up there is in order. Or, at least a browse of their online catalog. I bought a tree-form Diablo Ninebark there last year, and besides the powdery mildew, it's growing fantastically!

you have succeeded as a REAL gardener .. when the hosta peeps come on a tour .. and ignore the hosta .. to look at all the other things that are so unusual ... then you have a top of the line garden ...

Ken, thanks for the kind words. I don't think my garden would ever be worthy of the national AHS convention. It's said that you need to have 45 minutes of interest to be on the tour. And while one or two of the eight on tour here in MN last year failed in that regard, I don't think I could beat them. I do not care for "ordinary", other than the Colorado Blue. But a dwarf blue may be my best solution.

whaas... on the far left of the pic is a silver maple. They line my entire back lot. My hostas seem to grow in spite of them. I'm starting another garden under a huge silver maple (out of frame) and will likely put those hosta in SpinOut bags. The tree in the middle of the pic is a Box Elder.... I HATE those trees! But this one is on the property line. Last year, I took out another Box Elder (my portion of it anyway) and asked the neighbors if they wanted me to take out there portion... 4 pathetic trunks at a 45 degree (or less) angle to the ground. They declined. So, now, I'm stuck with a suckering stump. I digress.

All, I appreciate your zeal for weeping types like Picea engelmannii 'Bush's Lace', but they are not for me (or hubby, for that matter), at least, not in this spot. For this location, I want to stick with something more upright.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2011 at 11:43PM
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