Planting spruces in Rocky Mountains 7500'

bluepenny(6 IN)June 11, 2012

I have been a half- year resident in the Rocky Mountains at 7500' for several years. I live in Indiana the other half of the year where I have been an native plant garden for over 20 years and pretty much have that nailed. Here is a different universe! My main question at the moment is proper planting and watering of Blue Spruce Trees. And also tips for the most successful spruce at this altitude. Thanks in advance!

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david52_gw

Blue spruce will work - they need a fair amount of regular watering for the first three years until their roots are established, but after that, a few good waterings a summer will see them through.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2012 at 6:41PM
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bluepenny(6 IN)

Thanks David 52 about the watering of spruces - now I'm afraid I might be over-watering them. On one tree the new "fronds" (I have no idea what they are called) are yellowing and a slight bit twisted. They're are a lighter shade than the shade of new "fronds". Is there a way to tell if the trees are being under-watered or over-watered? Thank you in advance. JWD

PS I will gladly accept all spruce suggestions!!

    Bookmark   June 12, 2012 at 8:04PM
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david52_gw

I water all my baby trees once a week, tapering off in mid summer to once every two weeks.

For the blue spruce, now that they're 6-8 feet tall, I water them copiously once every 3 weeks.

Those growing tips that are changing color might also be some sort of bug - there's a whole host of bugs that eat the growing tips of conifer trees, at the link is just one.

Here is a link that might be useful: Link

    Bookmark   June 13, 2012 at 10:02AM
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treebarb Z5 Denver

Are you looking to plant and then leave for 6 months? That's a very tough way to get a plant established. With new plantings I put a finger in the soil near the root ball twice a week to check for moisture. I do that for several weeks to get a feel for how much water the plant is taking. The soil is so variable around here that I think it's the best way to make sure I'm not over or under watering.

The key with new conifer plantings here is fall and winter watering the first year. If you let them dry out, you'll lose them. Spring or early summer planting is best at your altitude. Fall plantings may not have enough time to establish before winter kicks in.

Abies concolor (white fir) and Abies Lasiocarpa arizonica (corkbark fir) are similar to spruces, but are more narrow if that's something you're interested in and should do well at your elevation. There are a few good cultivars of blue spruce like Bakeri, Montgomery, Fat Albert and Baby Blue Eyes. Check them out and see what makes your toes curl, as one of the folks on the conifer forum likes to say.

Have fun and good luck!

Barb

    Bookmark   June 13, 2012 at 8:09PM
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bluepenny(6 IN)

To david 52 and tree barb ; Thanks to both of you for your advice. I'll be looking for those bugs tomorrow, and I never gave it a thought that being away for 6 months would be a problem - I had hoped they would be established before we leave in October. In fact, I had assumed they would be. It's all a matter of learning a different climate!

    Bookmark   June 14, 2012 at 1:53AM
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david52_gw

As an aside, when we bought our place there was a 4' high blue spruce planted in the shade of several globe willows, and I thought I could move it safely. Started to dig it up, and the tap root, instead of going down, had taken off to the east for about 20 feet towards the irrigation canal.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2012 at 8:22AM
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bluepenny(6 IN)

Very smart blue spruce! Did it survive the move? We are close to a river, so maybe. . . . !

    Bookmark   June 14, 2012 at 4:05PM
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treebarb Z5 Denver

david52,

That tap root was incredible. Mama nature finds a way. Did you move or leave it?

bluepenney,

What I should have said above was that if we have a dry fall/winter with little or no snow cover the trees will need supplemental watering. If you get good snow that stays around a long time the trees might not need any water over winter. If your place is near enough to the river that the soil absorbs it, that's a plus.

Far be it from me to discourage anyone from planting a tree! Although, I have killed a bunch myself.

I forgot to mention a blue spruce cultivar called Hoopsii. It's gorgeous!

How many are you looking to plant and what have you planted so far? Can you post a pic of the tree with the yellow, twisted buds (fronds)? Is that a newly planted one?

Water the heck out of them before you leave, lol!

Barb

    Bookmark   June 15, 2012 at 12:06AM
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david52_gw

No, I managed to kill the tree

    Bookmark   June 16, 2012 at 7:56PM
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bluepenny(6 IN)

Hello to david52 and treebarb,

The 12 spruces we planted in the spring seem to be doing fine. Should I have expected new growth by now, if any? About how much? Treebarb, your suggestion to feel the soil a couple inches down from the base of the trees is the method I used for watering. david 52, the yellowing on one of the spruce was "solved" by me cutting off the yellowing branches. It has not reoccurred and that may be dumb luck. The tree looks good so far.

Now I have a new question about other native trees. I would love advice for our 7500' altitude, lovely trees and fast growing. Do these exist? How about lovely oaks? I expect they would not be fast growing judging by our mid-western oaks. There are fast growing junk trees out there that I would not be interested in. I guess what I should say is that I am looking for good-looking, hedge-forming trees (or even shrubs), tallish.

Thank you in advance.

bluepenny

    Bookmark   August 27, 2012 at 7:08PM
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treebarb Z5 Denver

bluepenny,

You put in 12? No messin' around. Good job!

No I wouldn't expect new growth just yet. They'll probably spend this season putting down their roots and may take a few years to get going. How was your weather this summer? It seems like the mountains got more rain than we did down here. I'm glad you're using the finger watering method. It sounds like it's working. If you've not seen anymore yellowing on that one tree, it may have been a damaged branch and it's good you cut it out.

What varieties did you plant? The straight species, picea pungens? The reason I ask is that some of the cultivars grow more slowly. The straight species Colorado Blue Spruce will grow a foot or so per year, once it establishes. I would mulch and water the trees well before you leave in October.

Cut and paste this site. it'll give you good information on the types of trees and shrubs that'll like it where you are.

http://www.ext.colostate.edu/pubs/garden/07423.html

Let me know what grabs you.

Barb

    Bookmark   August 27, 2012 at 11:36PM
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david52_gw

What Barb said - :-)

    Bookmark   August 28, 2012 at 6:55PM
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