By Melanie Mathieson
The Gardening Guru
If you are looking for an evergreen tree to add beauty to your landscape, then consider a spruce.
There are many spruce species that are well-suited for growing well and surviving the winters in our zone.
Spruce trees should be planted in a full sun to partial shade location. They appreciate moist, fertile soil that is on the acidic side.
Just make sure in the first year they are planted that you provide plenty of water until the roots have adjusted to their new location.
Spruce trees can be planted in rows to form windbreaks or hedges (you see this quite often in Northwestern Ontario). But they also can make effective trees to add to any landscape.
In general, all spruce trees are deer resistant. Hungry deer, however, may nip at the new growth in the early spring if they do not have anything else to eat.
The following are some recommended species suitable to our growing zone to try in your landscape:
•Colorado blue spruce (Picea pungens “Glauca” or “Fat Albert”)
Colorado blue spruce trees typically reach a height of 30-60 feet and spread out 10-20 feet. So make sure your site has adequate room and is away from foundations, septic and sewage pipes, and hydro wires.
They are fairly fast-growing for a long-lived evergreen, so after the first five years they will start to offer significant shade.
Their silvery-blue needles are prickly to the touch and aromatic. The Colorado blue spruce has the classic pyramidal Christmas tree shape so it is very aesthetically pleasing.
The “Fat Albert” variety is available in dwarf and full-size varieties, and has a deep blue colour.
•Dwarf Alberta spruce (Picea glauca “Conica”)
The dwarf Alberta spruce works well in flowerbeds with perennials or in areas where you do not have much room.
They eventually may reach 12 feet in height, but only over a long period of time (growing just two-four inches per year). They also have a classic “Christmas tree” shape.
The green needles have a tight, densely-packed growth habit that gives dwarf Alberta spruce trees a “fuzzy” look.
The trees require very little care, although they sometimes are the victims of spider-mite attacks, unfortunately. But their slow growth rate means they hardly ever have to be pruned.
Read the tag carefully when selecting one of these to ensure you are buying the variety and size you want.
I have to admit I’ve not had any success with these spruce in either Fort Frances or Thunder Bay as mine always have suffered severe frost kill in the winter, but I have seen many other gardeners have success.
•Norway spruce (Picea abies)
Although not native to Canada, this European spruce variety does quite well in the Canadian climate up to zones 3 and 4.
This species grows very tall and has a large basal area (circumference of the branches), but is very ornamental with its drooping branches. Along with the drooping branches, the nice deep green colour and softer needles makes it easy to decipher from the spruce species.
Is slow growing in the first few years until the deep roots are established, then it develops into a large shade tree quite rapidly.
•White spruce (Picea galuca)
The white spruce is native to Canada and is known as the giant evergreen of the boreal forest. When bought as a horticultural variety, the white spruce maintains its large stature, characteristic Christmas tree shape, and general good looks.
Similar in stature to the Colorado blue spruce, it also grows very large.
Planted together, they contrast off each other because the white spruce has a silvery green colour versus the silvery blue of the Colorado variety.
•Black spruce (Picea mariana)
Not recommended for landscape planting, but great for adding forest trees to excess land. Native to the boreal forest, they grow well in our area in both swampy and well drained sites.
There are some new hybridized dwarf varieties now available that have used the black spruce as the genetic parent.
These can be suitable for our area, but read the tag carefully to ensure you understand what you are buying.
As you can see, there are some great species from the spruce family that you can add to your landscape. I encourage you to even try some of the dwarf varieties to enhance your entrance way or perennial gardens.
Take note that some of these dwarf varieties may need a little extra winter maintenance, so do you research before you buy. I have used spruce in my landscape in both Fort Frances and Thunder Bay, and have not been disappointed with the results.
Just remember that most become very large trees so plan for the future, not the size it is when you bring it home!