What to plant under a large Spruce?

dagnee(5)February 12, 2005

We recently moved into a new home and I'm looking for planting ideas for a large space under a Spruce tree. It's a huge one (40-50 ft tall) and the ground space under has a 10 foot circumference. The lowest branches are well above the ground by 10 feet or so. Currently there's nothing growing just a carpet of needles. I've heard the ground may be acid and not much will grow. I'd like to border the area with recessed brick and create some kind of "garden". Any suggestions? I was thinking of a green ground cover with something like Liriope or ferns and Lily of the Valley throughout. Any ideas? Do you think they will grow?

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Hostas would grow very well. If you are new to hostas, check out the Hosta Forum. It is a great addiction.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2005 at 6:49PM
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Thanks Trudy,
I had quite a few Hosta's at my previous home. I'll check out the Hosta forum as you suggested.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2005 at 8:26PM
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I would take an entirely different tack and treasure this diamond in the rough. You would never be able to recreate this natural "carpet of needles" if you tried and so I would take advantage of this gift.

You are unwittingly falling into this design dilemma that I call "perimeter paralysis". Why is it that we always fall lockstep into planting around the perimeter of everything -- BORING!!! Instead of clumsily following the perimeter of this tree, why don't you feature it and its wonderful carpet of needles as part of a much larger bed that utilizes the tree as a focal point? Place the bed so that the tree is offset by about a third (Please -- not dead center.) and create a wonderful space in your landscape.

Try to visualize the impact this will have on your landscape as a whole. Remember that you are not creating just a garden bed but rather you are creating a landscaping space. Remember to see the "forest" and not just the tree.

We have to learn to work with our landscapes and not always attempt to conquer them. The area under this tree is barren for a reason -- it is a hostile growing environment. Nothing is growing there because nothing will grow there! Oh sure, with large infusions of constant water, amendments and continuous labor you can force things to grow there. However, does that really make any sense? You will wind up with a clunky little bed that circles a tree -- just like everyone else. Nope ... I think you have a wonderful opportunity to proudly display your "carpet of needles" and I think it would be a terrible loss if you didn't do just that. You have stumbled across a diamond in the rough that just needs a little polishing.

Don't worry about nothing growing in that space. That will actually serve as a design asset. We often make the mistake of trying to cram way too much into our landscapes. Our eyes occasionally need a rest in order to fully appreciate the everything else. In design, this is called "negative space" -- which is anything but a negative term. As Martha would say, "It's a good thing."


    Bookmark   February 17, 2005 at 1:56PM
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Depending on how much sun it gets, I have found that you can grow most anything. This picture doesn't show it very well, but this bed encompasses two spruces. One is trimmed up and the other isn't. You do have to be careful of the roots as they are shallow.

    Bookmark   February 17, 2005 at 4:37PM
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Maude_IA(z5-SE Iowa)

My 2¢ worth ~

I have a pine tree between two driveways - ours and the neighbors - total width may be about 20 feet. We trimmed the lower branches of the pine just a few years ago because the tree was brushing the car as we backed out. The carpet of needles was thick and spongy all the way out to the drip line.

I've put a few crocus bulbs at the edge of the needles on the sunny side, but left the rest untouched. I have to weed the needle area about once every two years, and then just a little. It's serene, unusual, and almost completely care-free (more time to spend in the other parts of the garden.)

Listen to your Mother (Earth) - she knows how it's s'pozed to be.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2005 at 8:36PM
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Thanks for all the input.
I particularly liked the comment:
"Listen to your Mother (Earth) - she knows how it's s'pozed to be."

We've decided to take a minimalistic approach as far as planting. I'm orinially from New England have spent many a year foraging and exploring the evergreen forests. I may ( key word MAY) attempt a fern or perhaps a few wood sorrels around the perimeter..... It's also been suggested that a wrap around settee constructed of natural material like willow might create a lovely place to relax.....

either way....
Thanks you all....Ironbelly ...a bit of food for thought I did find in your post....I may after all just let it be....

I'll have a great time this summer with this area.....

    Bookmark   February 20, 2005 at 1:57PM
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My goodness what a big tree! Your scenery most be beautiful! I take it your in the country?

    Bookmark   February 20, 2005 at 3:34PM
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Believe it or not just south of Des Moines. We are the very last house on the outskirts of town...actually in the County. We actually had deer running through the back this fall.

I do love the trees. There are some majestic ones. I had never seen a Spruce that large...especially on a front lawn. I miss the woodlands though ( being from New England) but have grown fond of the midwest countryside during the summer.....

Lately, It seems as though everyone is always cutting down the trees around here.... sigh....

I'm looking forward to the Spring to see what blooms everywhere.....

    Bookmark   February 20, 2005 at 9:59PM
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