Columnar Norway Spruce

lovesbirds4November 17, 2010

Can anyone offer some advice about the columnar norway spruce? We are looking for a fast growing, TALL border off our back deck/back yard, so our deck is about 15 feet off the ground and we are already up on a hill, and the area we want to cover up is below this height, so the trees have to grow fairly high. I want to be sure that these trees grow tall enough, I read different reviews of them, some say they grow as high as 40 feet. They are suppose to be deer resistant, but I read a comment where deer ate some of these trees. My main concern is that about 12 trees will grow wide enough to cover about an 80 feet wide space and MAINLY, that they will grow TALL enough to actually grow 40 feet, as some websites say they do--we need to cover an area below us, so they need to grow tall enough. Also, how much sun do they need? Again, I see websites that say full sun is needed, to websites that say only a little sun is fine. They seem fairly disease resistant, has anyone found this not to be true? Any information you may have to help out in this matter is most appreciated, again mainly height/growth issues is really what we need to learn about.

Thank you so much.

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In time, they will grow quite high.
Picea abies 'Cupressina', fastigiate Norway spruce at Denver Botanic Gardens.
At the back, along right side of path.

That's a Picea engelmannii on the left.

    Bookmark   November 18, 2010 at 5:19AM
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gardener365(5b Illinois USA)

Yes, 1' per year is the growth of Picea abies 'Cupressina'. Something else will need to be used.

I recommend for similar shape:

Thuja occidentalis 'Wintergreen' aka 'Hetz Wintergreen'. It will grow (when established on young plants) 3' per year and as much as 5' per year, later.

Picea omorika with a growth rate of only 12-24" per year but more in the category of 18" per year.

Abies x phanerolepis (Canaan fir) probably growing 18"-24" per year. I'll link you to a thread with big-seedlings for very cheap.

Far left is Canaan fir - the rest are white pines. About 1.69 I paid each for the minimum order of 25 trees of kind.


Here is a link that might be useful: Treehaven Evergreen Nursery 2011 Order Form

    Bookmark   November 18, 2010 at 7:30AM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

I've never seen a Thuja occidentalis grow 3'-5' per year, even an 'Aureospicata'. In a circumstance where a Serbian spruce was somehow making 18" per year, year after year the cypress spruce could also be expected to grow faster than 1' per year.

Leyland cypress has become dominant because it roots from cuttings and grows so much faster than usual. 'Green Giant' arborvitae is held up as a superior alternative, with the same claims of 3'-5' per year being made for that as being made here for 'Hetz Wintergreen' but I have seen no evidence for this behavior in any stock encountered here.

A previous thread came around to the unusually fast growth of 'Green Giant' claimed being based on greenhouse conditions.

    Bookmark   November 18, 2010 at 12:58PM
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gardener365(5b Illinois USA)

Well, fortunately for the poster, I've seen 'Wintergreen' in person growing that rapidly at Bickelhaupt Arboretum; Clinton, IA.


    Bookmark   November 18, 2010 at 1:22PM
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I would say that a Norway spruce 'Cupressina' can grow 18 inches or a bit more per year. I have been growing two. I am growing another more or less columnar Norway spruce that was called "Columnaris," but I am not sure this is a proper cultivar name. Same growth rate. But how fast these trees grow depends on your soil, etc.

Norway spruce are just about as deer resistant and disease resistant as any tree I know. I have seen Serbian and Oriental spruce get some moderate deer damage, but never Norway. Little seedlings may have their leaders nipped occasionally, but larger trees are not affected. Buck rubbing, however, can be a real problem for trees when they are small. Protection advised.


    Bookmark   November 18, 2010 at 1:34PM
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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

Good post...I'm in the EXACT same boat.

A buck and doe ran through my backyard the day I moved in. Neighbor said there are a ton of them around. I wonder if I have to rethink my choices. The "majority" of what I was going to put in was going to be a mix of Picea Omorika and 'Green Giant' arborvitae. Narrow and TALL choices.

Is this the deer damage thread you were talking about?

    Bookmark   November 18, 2010 at 1:52PM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

I had a planting of Serbian spruce spoiled by bucks trashing them with their antlers. A superior ornamental species to be sure, but like all trees it has its parameters. There is also a susceptibility to wind and exposure that more common spruces are not prey to.

Out here spruce aphids thin out the lower branches markedly some years, but other spruces are also buggy here. Colorado and Norway spruce can develop marring completely bare sections.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2010 at 1:15AM
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gardener365(5b Illinois USA)

This is a very good discussion. I would say although it's part-guess that Picea abies Cupressina planted with a 1-gallon size root-system, will be only six feet tall within 10 years. I think it's a great tree, but for a screening plants I would only purchase trees that are already in the 5' tall-range. Correct me if I'm wrong.

Regarding omorika - I'd say the exact same thing about the potential for wind concern... (whaas) I did think about this (in your prior thread) but all things considered... I'm still going to say it will not be of concern to you. You might have minor wind damage (remains to be been) however, I can't see it happening where you are in Wisconsin. (tsugajunkie) sort of already confirmed this.

The three things in common about the trees I listed above is that they all have shade-tolerance.

I certainly don't intend to steer you(whaas) or anyone wrong, and I'm glad I learned something about the growth rate of............ Cupressina.


    Bookmark   November 19, 2010 at 7:18AM
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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

Hopefully I'm not stealing the OP's thunder.

Its good that I can at least be aware of potential issues and avoid them by planting in the "right" spot.

I appreciate that you (Dax), Ken, tsuga and others take the time to answer my sometimes repetive boring questions. In the end your not just helping me, your helping everyone I talk to as well. As a young gardener I hope to share my experience and knowledge for generations to come and you folks do your part in supporting that. I only have 5 years under my belt...but I'm on my 3rd home so I sure planted alot, made some great plantings but not without mistakes as well.

I have a layout of plantings and pictures I plan to post in a seperate thread this weekend.

1 Like    Bookmark   November 19, 2010 at 10:03AM
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You are right--with Norway spruce (and some other conifers) it is good to start with larger trees. That can save a lot of time. With Norway spruce trees generally--the species--growth can be rather slow until they reach at least 4.5 feet, based on research at SUNY Syracuse. I think most of the larger sized cultivars will behave the same way. If you start with an 18 inch graft, it can take 4 or 5 years, or more, to get to 4.5 feet, when the growth rate will be closer to what it will be for the next 15 years or so. So get a larger tree, plant it carefully and tend it properly, and save a lot of time!

Of course I have seen some small NS grow a bit more rapidly when they are very small, but this is not common.


    Bookmark   November 19, 2010 at 10:27AM
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I appreciate all of your comments, suggestions, and advice, as well as the helpful photographs. Thank you all so much! I was also wondering, are there any specific evergreens (that grow tall, and not too slowly) that seem to attract birds more than other similar trees? I imagine dense growth is what matters for good winter cover?
Well, thanks again.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2010 at 11:25AM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

Native species will be preferred during the day, when foraging. When dodging hawks or roosting at night, yes, density is an attraction.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2010 at 11:33AM
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gardener365(5b Illinois USA)

spruce, etc-, all:

Picea abies Columnaris: Possibly the most narrow of the Norway spruce selections, this plant makes Cupressina look wide. It is fast growing and when Bob saw an old plant at Foggy Bottom, it was 10' high and about 2' wide with dark green foliage. It grows well over 1' per year. (zone 3)

Fincham, Robert L. - Coenosium Gardens âÂÂCatalog of Rare Plants For The Discriminating PersonâÂÂ; Catalog Number Seventeen, January 2006.


    Bookmark   November 28, 2010 at 12:39PM
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coniferjoy(z7 The Netherlands)

Yep Dax, Bob is right, the 'Columnaris' is much more narrow the the 'Cupressina'.
I grow both at my nursery, much for export to the colder European countries with a lot of snow in winter.

    Bookmark   November 28, 2010 at 1:23PM
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Marilyn Clark

I have the opposite problem. I love the shape of columnar norway spruces, but I don't want it to get too tall, because it would block a spectacular mountain view. As it grows, could I shear it down so it doesn't get too tall, keeping it in a slender conical shape? Or would that ruin everything?

    Bookmark   March 17, 2015 at 1:21PM
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gardener365(5b Illinois USA)

If you are shearing and you cut off buds on any given branch they will not produce new buds so the branch will die out.

Topping it will forever destroy it's shape.

I'd say you have the wrong tree, unfortunately, when you need a shrub.


    Bookmark   March 17, 2015 at 4:26PM
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