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Blue Spruce dying from bottom on up

Posted by diy_rook MI (My Page) on
Thu, Aug 22, 13 at 10:56

Hey all - I have many Blue Spruce on my property and all seem to be dying from the bottom up. I thought lack of sunlight might be the issue for some that have become surrounded by bigger trees but even Blue Spruce's on their own with plenty of sunlight as affected. For some that had many clearly dead lower branches - I have been cutting the branches off. Is there a way to revive them? Is cutting the dead branches the best thing to do? I'm not painting the stubs after I cut them.

Thanks


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Blue Spruce dying from bottom on up

hey... here in MI... there is a disease on older pungens... of which.. it is untreatable ... well let me put it this way.. it isnt worth the money .... to have them sprayed .. as the neighbor did for 5 years running with no effect ... someone else will address such ....

anyway..

the other thing is that these are.. technically.. forest trees .... they have the inherent genetics.. to lose lower branches.. as they develop into the telephone poles they are ...

look at your pic above.... if you were to trim all the branches off to say 6 feet.. you have a nice compact tree up there ...

your base problem is.. with the shade and all.. that the lower part of the tree... just isnt going to look like it used to ...

but frankly ... with the disease.. the issue for me comes down to whether i can remove a tree that size for free.. with my chainsaw.. or if i mess around with it for 10 years.. then have to pay hundreds of dollars for removal ....

if you were to cut that thing.. flush to the ground.. it will be dead... no need to stump kill nor grind ....

and you could plant something else... a few feet away .. more attuned to the new shade levels...

no tree is forever

ken


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RE: Blue Spruce dying from bottom on up

I have an older one that looked the same then even worse,had a hortculturist check it ,she said malnutrician.Started feeding it heavily and its is recovering remarkably.


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RE: Blue Spruce dying from bottom on up

Ok thanks - it is worth a shot. What did you use or recommend, fertilizer stakes?


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RE: Blue Spruce dying from bottom on up

The problem with that tree is most certainly NOT malnutrition.......in fact, malnutrition seldom manifests as interior and lower branch dieback. Not sure I'd give much credence to the horticulturist......

Colorado blue spruces are prone to a number of problems, both disease and insect. Without seeing inperson, that looks suspiciously like a combination of needle cast and spruce aphids (adelgids). Treatable for sure, but when the interior foliage is gone like that, it never comes back - you just have that little tuft of new growth on the ends. Silly.

Cultural conditions also come into play and can affect how easily these trees contract disease and pest problems. They are NOT "forest" trees naturally - they grow right out in the open and full on sunlight suits them best. Typically they have lower limbs that sweep the ground and usually do not become "telephone poled". They also have some rather distinct climate preferences - cold winters, hot, dry summers. It is rare to see a healthy mature blue spruce in the PNW for that reason - too mild, too wet and that combination of unfavorable conditions just causes sufficient stress to weaken the trees and make them most susceptible to insect and disease issues.

And you never want to fertilize a stressed tree - it just increases the distress and the plant is not able to metabolize the nutrients properly. Most established trees, especially conifers, seldom ever require fertilization (and any horticulturist worth their salt should know it!!)

This post was edited by gardengal48 on Thu, Aug 22, 13 at 15:39


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RE: Blue Spruce dying from bottom on up

The Horticulturist I mention is the in charge person at Whiteflower Farm ,Very well known nursey in CT.Large Bluespruce deplete the nutrician unless nuturally added supplemental feeding is required.My tree was much bigger tree than in this case and in 2 years of feeding it looks like a new tree.


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RE: Blue Spruce dying from bottom on up

if you insist.. just fertilize your lawn properly ...and the tree will get more than it ever needs.. which is nothing ...

you arent feeding those larger trees behind.. so why would this one.. mysteriously need such????

and as far as spikes go.. just send me the money.. and i will pray for you.. and that will do as good as spikes ...

its needle cast and age ..... and there is nothing you can do...

ken


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RE: Blue Spruce dying from bottom on up

Common sense helps solve these mysteries.Trees in a natural enviroment get natural feeding ,leaves,limbs etc,etc.Trees in an unnatural setting ,a front yard where natures debris is removed regularly ,whos roots go under side walks ,streets ,sand fill with no nutrician need to be fed.You can go to the bank with that .Tree spikes are certainly not very efficent.I use natures fertilizer.It works wonders,As a fellows says "keep it simple stupid"


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RE: Blue Spruce dying from bottom on up

What gardengal said.
I've seen many a spruce look like this in the DC suburbs on the lawn of a McMansion with a kelly green lawn, golf course quality, that was clearly pumped full of nutrients and irrigated. it's not a lack of nutrients. It's just that blue spruces don't belong in the east coast climate, end of discussion. Maybe they do better up in the high plains & mountains of the Appalachian and Blue Ridge. Some people get lucky and they look acceptable for many years, decades even. It's very rare. I know a very wealthy guy in the suburbs of PA with a huge (Mc)Mansion on several acres - he came from Colorado. He's been struggling to establish CBSs (& Doug Firs) but they keep dying on him. Probably because his landscaper buys a huge one, B&B and then plants it in very rich PA bottomland soil, then fertilizes all the liriope and perennials planted around them. It slowly kills them.

"The Horticulturist I mention is the in charge person at Whiteflower Farm ,Very well known nursery in CT"
Well, this was good for a laugh. If fertilzing helped your CBS, consider yourself very lucky.


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RE: Blue Spruce dying from bottom on up

  • Posted by beng z6 western MD (My Page) on
    Sun, Sep 1, 13 at 11:40

Typical. Almost every older BS in this area looks like that, or worse. Simply not appropriate for east US climate, except maybe the Canadian border or upper midwest. Yet the retail stores/nurseries persist in selling them, and they get bought.


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RE: Blue Spruce dying from bottom on up

Common sense helps solve these mysteries

You're right!! And common sense dictates that a tree accustomed to a rather arid climate with some very distinct seasonal temperature extremes is not going to fair well in a climate that does not offer similar. And as to the need for nutrients in a cultivated garden, that is somewhat up for grabs - if other plants are healthy and with a lush, green lawn (most likely fertilized from time to time) adding nutrients is often unnecessary. Regardless, plant "malnutrition" does not manifest itself by the dying off of inner foliage from the ground up. Period. And that's an opinion coming from a degreed and certified horticulturist - me.


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RE: Blue Spruce dying from bottom on up

"Typical. Almost every older BS in this area looks like that, or worse."

Although the funny thing is, once in a blue moon (no pun intended!) you see ones that look ok. In my parent's yard the house builder had piled some surplus fill up into a berm, maybe 3-4' high, to block a view of a big ugly VEPCO transformer. My parents planted a couple BS as a further screen on top of that berm. As of them selling the house in the early 2000s, they'd been there at least 30 years, were about 25'-30' tall, and still full to the bottom. They had good drainage and were never coddled...I'm sure my parents never messed with fertilizing our lawn which was an undistinguished mix of crabgrass & bermuda grass.


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RE: Blue Spruce dying from bottom on up

I have to laugh at all this back and forth.

This pungens is slowly dieing.

No amount of anything will save it.

30 max years out of their normal habitat is about it. Most will cut and run before then. Yes I know their are exceptions. There always are.

Dave


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RE: Blue Spruce dying from bottom on up

Just some random comments in case anybody has anything else to add to this subject. We are in SouthEastern Michigan, south of Detroit, in Ann Arbor, and every Colorado Blue Spruce in our yard is either gone or on its way. They were probably mostly planted from 1956 on. The one I planted in the middle of the front yard about 24 years ago is the reason I came to this particular forum. It has been "on its way out" for a few years now and I asked our tree person to cut it down to the ground and I plan to plant something nearby, maybe a Norwegian (sp) spruce, maybe something else. I read several years ago that these guys should never have been planted in this part of the country (we're in the Ohio Valley and that means very HUMID summers), that they are definitely Colorado-type conifers, loving the wind, sun, and drier conditions. The humidity that we get is the reason all CBSs got a fungus that has simply spread and it cannot be treated. Trouble is, our "tree guy" won't cut it down because he says he cannot cut down a live tree for moral reasons. I understand where he is coming from because i go beserk when someone cuts down one of the 200 year old trees in our neighborhood, but I told him that this CBS is DISEASED. He doesn't care. He wants to dig it out (from under our massive oaks and maples) and move it to his yard and bring it back to its former glory. Honestly, I want to cry. This once-beautiful blue spruce is huge and a shadow of its former self and I fear what digging it out would do to our other trees, whose roots run right into and under it. Now I've got to find someone who will cut it down.

We had them lining our property when we moved in about 25 years ago and the shades of blue were something to behold but they are now gone. I appreciate the reassuring comments above about there being nothing that anyone can do -- that's why I came here -- to find out. We just don't have the money to treat any that are remaining to see if they will come back.

Pat


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RE: Blue Spruce dying from bottom on up

Blue Spruce can handle our higher rainfall here in the East, since much of the tree's native range covers the wetter side of the rockies, where rainfall is over 30" annually due to the upslope effect (the actual word escapes me at the moment).

The HUMIDITY in the air, however, is a different story. They always look horrible here in MD by the time they get to around 40'. When I lived in Ohio they lasted maybe 10 years longer but still died the same way.


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RE: Blue Spruce dying from bottom on up

I'm glad to hear others in the East confirm this. Of all the conifers I have grown so far, the only one that looks terrible is Picea pungens. I have outright killed 1, returned 1, and have 2 remaining that are losing their needles.

This is my favorite species, but they just can't seem to handle our whether. As hairmetal said, all of them over 10 years old start to look like the above picture. I always thought it was due to shade, but I am convinced it's due to our humid weather. They end up getting Rhizophaera Needle cast or other fungal diseases. This is made worse if they are in the shade and if you water on the needles.

I normally don't spray chemicals, but would really like to recover my 'The Blues' and 'Glauca Pendula', so I sprayed them with Daconil as I am 90% they have Rhizophaera Needle cast. Will be sending a sample in for testing shortly, but can't wait to spray, as it must be done when the needles are 1/2 way budded...I'm told timing is critical


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RE: Blue Spruce dying from bottom on up

Picea pungens species are good for about 30 years in eastern KS.

I think some of the smaller cultivars do quite well and last longer as opposed to the species.

At any rate needle cast is what diy rook is dealing with.

Dave


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RE: Blue Spruce dying from bottom on up

There seems to be some confusion. gamekeeper was originally talking about what happened to *HIS* Colorado Blue Spruce, which looked vaguely similar (to his eyes). Not having seen the tree and knowing nothing about the conditions, I'm willing to take his word for it that *HIS* tree was malnourished...no doubt there are a million things that can go wrong with a tree, and occasionally it's bound to be something weird and rare.

I'm worried by the talk about Blue Spruces in the northeast. I just planted a bunch because I heard they were slightly salt tolerant, spruce seem resistant to some local diseases, they look pretty, and the local soil conversation office sold them cheap. davidrt28, if Colorado Blue Spruce don't do well in the East Coast, what can you recommend as a replacement?

This post was edited by edlincoln on Tue, May 20, 14 at 22:45


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RE: Blue Spruce dying from bottom on up

Although not identical in appearance, the best "blue" conifer I can think of for the East Coast is probably Cedrus atlantica glauca, Blue Atlas Cedar.


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RE: Blue Spruce dying from bottom on up

Abies concolor (White Fir) is often cited as a good (blue) alternative to Blue Spruce in the east as well... mine is too new to tell, but so far it looks good. Should also mention that there are some mature 30'ft specimens near my house that look to be in excellent condition, full right to the ground.

This post was edited by SC77 on Wed, May 21, 14 at 9:35


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RE: Blue Spruce dying from bottom on up

After 35 years our Blue Spruce has developed a fungus that causes lower branches to drop needles. Although it has not been fatal, this year it has developed a white heavy "goo" seeping from the trunk and where branches have been removed. This I've been told is the second phase of this fungus and the tree has to or should come down. It is 25 ft. tall and has served a home to many birds over the years.
I fear for the wildlife getting caught in this white sappy goo as it is extremely sticky. A horticulturist in our Zone 4 area has confirmed this. I see many Spruce in Upstate NY with this problem. I will miss the tree after all these years.


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RE: Blue Spruce dying from bottom on up

"Abies concolor (White Fir) is often cited as a good (blue) alternative to Blue Spruce in the east as well."

By whom, pray tell? Depends on how you define "east". There might be a few OK looking Abies concolors in the Philly area, but I certainly wouldn't mess with them myself unless I were in New England, the Appalachian mountains, or far upstate like Rochester. So they are only a valid substitute in those areas. In DC or points south, fuggedaboutit.

(If they were grafted onto Abies firma, you might be better off. But it's unlikely this will ever been a standard commercial nursery practice, so it's kind of an esoteric recommendation)

The same applies to Douglas Fir btw. Probably does better than CBS right around the NYC metro, eastern PA, but likely to have the same problems as CBS anywhere south of the Mason-Dixon.

The only real substitutes in the Dixie part of the east coast...and horticulturally that includes Washington, DC...for something blue and christmas-treeish looking are going to be: Cunninghamia lanceolata 'Glauca', blue Cedrus obviously, and perhaps some rare Asian spruces. Although I think the jury is still out on those: the bluest are probably from very high elevations and although they will not have the same issues as CBS, might have other adaptability issues. (perhaps the opposite: sensitivity to our droughts instead of sensitivity to our wet spells. That also applies to Cunninghamia of course, which is why I planted mine 10 feet away from a small brook that never runs dry.)


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RE: Blue Spruce dying from bottom on up

BTW - in theory there could be a blue form of an Asian Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga sinensis et al.) - those would do well in the Southeast. But I don't believe such a thing is known to western horticulture, yet.


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RE: Blue Spruce dying from bottom on up

BTW part 2!
Maybe the Meyer's Spruce is a fairly adaptable CBS substitute after all. In that case, let's get the word out there so punters east of the Rockies refuse to buy CBSes anymore, so we can stop looking at their dying remnants everywhere!

Here is a link that might be useful: http://www.exoticconifer.com/news/Abies_vs_Picea.pdf


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RE: Blue Spruce dying from bottom on up

  • Posted by beng z6 western MD (My Page) on
    Wed, Aug 13, 14 at 10:29

***
Posted by hairmetal4ever Z7 MD (My Page) on
Mon, May 19, 14 at 23:29

where rainfall is over 30" annually due to the upslope effect (the actual word escapes me at the moment).
***

Orographic rain.


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RE: Blue Spruce dying from bottom on up

  • Posted by SC77 6b (My Page) on
    Wed, Aug 13, 14 at 15:50

The OP is from Michigan, this is right from U of Michigan PDF Alternatives to Blue Spruce for MI

University of Maryland says the same Good alternative to blue spruce with no
serious pest problems, the best fir for the east
and mid west

There are many, many other Universities and or Arboretums that cite Abies concolor as a good alternative for the east and north.

"One of the best firs for Tennessee due to heat and drought tolerance. " U O Tennessee

I'm in New England and Arnold Arboretum says it's one of the best trees they have grown over the past century, but did not handle our hurricane's too well.

"In the Arnold Arboretum Abies concolor seem to have been particularly vulnerable to hurricanes. The records show that of 64 specimens introduced since 1874, 41 are no longer with us; of those, 21 were uprooted in the hurricanes of 1938, 1954, and 1985."

**Also, Camellia Forest often grafts onto Firma. Weston Evergreen will do specialty grafts of your choice on firma as well. ** Then you can grow these in z8

This post was edited by SC77 on Wed, Aug 13, 14 at 16:22


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RE: Blue Spruce dying from bottom on up

I'm in new england too- MA. I tried growing a few white fir- but they all died. not sure if the fact they were B&B had anything to do with it. I liked the look of them too. maybe I will be some small ones online if I can find them and give it another shot. I planted a small serbian spruce which so far seems to be doing fine after two years.


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RE: Blue Spruce dying from bottom on up

  • Posted by SC77 6b (My Page) on
    Wed, Aug 13, 14 at 19:34

Starting with smaller, container grown typically have a higher success rate. In MA you shouldn't have issues. I've actually found concolor growning in the woods in MA. They like it here, but need good drainage. If your failed, its was most likely due to poor draining or over watering.


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RE: Blue Spruce dying from bottom on up

OK, it's always good to cite sources. I stand corrected with regard to what those sources say...alas, sources can be wrong. Sometimes, very wrong. Even those from .edu -land. "Best fir for the east and midwest" is patently ridiculous, unless your definition is only areas north of a line between Chicago and Philadelphia. I have a 35' Abies concolor, in my yard, that just died because of the hot summers of 2010, 2011, 2012. If it were the "best" fir for the east, it would have survived that. And my 2 Abies firmas did, they thrived.
So sorry, I will be very skeptical until I see a picture of a large, healthy looking concolor in Tennessee. Heck, I'm pretty sure I've never seen a really good looking one in the greater DC area...and Tenn. is discernably hotter and more humid in summer, except in the mountains.

A couple more obvious points: the relative paucity of most intermountain confers in the east, period. The habitat of Abies concolor is really not so different that Colorado Blue Spruce. Generally speaking the western conifers that grow well in the east are the exceptions to the rule. (and leyland cypress proves time and again it isn't one of the exceptions) Second, if they were groweable in the upper south, there would be a mature one at the NCSU arboretum; there is not. There's a dwarf that might have been grafted onto A. firma; JC Raulston was definitely one of the first to popularize that concept.
http://jcra.ncsu.edu/horticulture/our-plants/results.php?search=abies

So, someone feel free to prove me wrong. Post a pic of a healthy Abies concolor anywhere south of Philly (where there are a handful of good looking ones, but they are by no means common; Nordmann fir is probably more common) or south of the Great Lakes-adjoining states.


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RE: Blue Spruce dying from bottom on up

So, here's something to do. Longwood Gardens: standard of plant care as high as can be found in the western hemisphere. Go to Longwood's plant explorer and compare the pictures of their mature Abies concolors to their Abies nordmannianas. Tell me which one appears to be growing "best" on the east coast. It's a no brainer. Yes, if you have to have blue foliage, you will have to have the scraggly, anemic looking Abies concolors. But Abies nordmanniana and various other firs I remember seeing there look much healthier. I mean, how is this so hard to understand? The freakin blue foliage is adaptation to conditions that don't occur here. Unless a sudden continental uplift moves us to 5000' of elevation, it's always going to be true.


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RE: Blue Spruce dying from bottom on up

thetman, SC77 has said before he's in an area with sandy rocky soil; surely not all of New England is that way? If you have heavier soil that sould explain why the Abies concolors were hard to establish.
In any case to clarify SC77, I'm sure Abies concolors to grow well for you in New England - other than not being able to deal with hurricanes which is obviously something they don't encounter in their home territory. But I just don't think they are common at all in places that got really hot, humid and wet. In fact now that I think about it, the place I've seen the most of them by far are the suburbs of Chicago. The classic Lake Forest mansion seems to always have one out front. Well, they can be hot and humid, but their averages are much more comfortable than Tennessee or even the southern tip of Illinois. Cairo is 89/69 Chicago O'Hare's only 84/64 and places near the Lake are probably cooler.


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RE: Blue Spruce dying from bottom on up

  • Posted by SC77 6b (My Page) on
    Thu, Aug 14, 14 at 12:45

I concede... my statement was made based on readings and not first hand experience. I have seen members of this forum talk about growing this species successfully in southern locations such as Alabama and N. Texas, but I think the key to success with this species is elevation in the warmer regions. Concolor dominates in the mountain ranges of Cali, Arizona, ect.. but that is because of the elevation. In NE we don't have elevation, but do have fast draining soil and cool night time temps, which must help in their success.

Although they do grow in the same habitat as Picea pungens, their preference for our conditions is much better. I have all but given up on growing Blue spruce successfully around here, but concolor, despite being non-native will actually grow in the woods around here randomly. I assume these have grown from seeds of ornamental trees planted by home owners, maybe dispersed by birds. Engelmannii is also considered nearly identical to blue spruce, but again, they do significantly better here than blue spruce. I thought these were just my observations, but later confirmed these findings in papers written by the Arnold Arboritum dating back to the early 1900's. In fact, they (incorrectly) predicted that Picea engelmannii would actually become the favorite ornamental tree instead of Blue spruce in years to come. That prediction was made in 1919.... but people continue to torcher themselves and plant Blue spruce that look good for a couple years before dying.


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RE: Blue Spruce dying from bottom on up

SC77...thanks, I did not realize that CBS was difficult as far north as Boston. I vaguely feel like i've seen them up there, but they would not be something I'd be looking for. I'd have to be literally hit in the head with one. The couple of times I've been at the Arboretum (Arnold!) I was admiring other things, like the Cedrus.
Another thing going on here is that perhaps recent climate patterns (I certainly would not call it "change" for what a short period I'm talking about, and also to avoid baiting people into a stupid OT digression) have made latent problems more serious. After all, as of let's say 7 years ago, my parents former house still had a couple health CBSs in front, planted on the highest part of the property, in northern Virginia. Even years ago I realized they were a lucky exception. This garden (my current one) had an Abies concolor that was reasonably healthy seeming in the front yard. Then there's the worst string of consecutive summers since the 1930s, of 2010, 2011, and 2012. Now a species that might have at least been "a fairly good choice" for the part of the east around Philly and DC, no longer is. The CBSs where I grew up are totally dead; my Abies concolor finally became a carcass as the last live bits of it died off this spring and I'll be cutting it down the next time I have my tree guy out. A friend who follows weather & climate told me he believes we might be in for an oscillation back to more reasonable summers for more than a decade, and this one could be the start of that. I certainly hope so.

This post was edited by davidrt28 on Thu, Aug 14, 14 at 16:21


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RE: Blue Spruce dying from bottom on up

no- not all rocky in new england ( some parts) my ski was partial clay like- but green giants, nor ways, alberta spruces in the area all are thriving. so maybe just a bad batch. the white firs budded real nice that year but quickly started to brown out and then drop their needles quickly. I git credited for them from the nursery I frequent- but still it would have been nice.


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RE: Blue Spruce dying from bottom on up

Well, I have green giants and norways growing in the clayey-ist parts of my yard, and they love it. Granted the clay here is not the same as clay in DC and points south. It's brownish, loamy clay, not a red brick clay. But still, the Abies concolor would never put up with that. Whoever planted it back in the 70s or so was trying to do it right. They put it on one of the highest points possible in the yard. It just wasn't high enough when I had almost 40 inches of rain in the 40 days surrounding hurricane Irene in 2011. I think that was a big turning point for its decline.


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RE: Blue Spruce dying from bottom on up

  • Posted by beng z6 western MD (My Page) on
    Sun, Aug 17, 14 at 12:01

David, I've posted this Concolor before in Hagerstown, so you're prb'ly tired of it, but the point may be that it's on the top of a fair hill. Interestingly, there are limestone outcrops all around, but that doesn't mean the soil is alkaline -- generally it's still acidic other than on top of an outcrop:


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RE: Blue Spruce dying from bottom on up

  • Posted by beng z6 western MD (My Page) on
    Sun, Aug 17, 14 at 12:02

Here are the Concolor's needles:


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RE: Blue Spruce dying from bottom on up

Few comments:

Conifer Kingdom also grafts some stuff on A. firma, at least last year they had started to.

I may try a concolor on firma myself.

I was in MA and NH earlier this summer and saw tons of ABSOLUTELY FLAWLESS A. concolors up there. BIG ones, too. Soils are pretty well drained, sandy loam for the most part, which I'm sure helps, plus the somewhat cooler summers. There were some nice CBS there too, but the concolors seem to look a bit better overall.

When I lived in OH - the CBS there declined after a while, too, and concolor did OK, but the heavier soils (compared to New England) probably weren't ideal. I seem to recall the dougfirs around doing better than either CBS or A. concolor in Ohio.

Final note: Stanley and Sons lists a Picea pungens x meyeri on their website. Has anyone ever tried one?


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Spruce trees in SE Michigan

We have 32 Norwegian spruces dying in our yard. My husband has been cutting them down. I tried to find out why starting 5-6 yrs ago and no one knew. The answer I received recently was from Ohio State ext.
It is called "Conifer Crash" and they aren't sure why. We did try spraying them a little in the beginning but of course they are too big and too many. Our Western Pines and Austrian Pines are also dying. Sad. We were in a beautiful secluded forest. Well, planning something new now.... as soon an he gets them all cut down.


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