Dear Santa…

It’s been a very long time since I have written a letter to Santa Claus. I remember one of the first times I wrote to Santa – it was a cold and rainy day, I was probably being fussy (as small children can get when the big holiday gets closer and the days are shorter, colder and wetter). I suppose I was five or six years old. I remember trying to write the letter, getting frustrated with my ability and going to Mom for help. She ended up doing most of the writing while I dictated my Christmas wishes to her, trusting that Santa would approve.

Picea omorika 'Kamenz'
Picea omorika 'Kamenz' is an excellent spreading specimen.

This year there are three conifers on my Christmas list that I am hoping Santa will find a way to deliver on that special morning. I’ve been admiring these three for a number of years during my visits to the display garden at Iseli Nursery. I love a good conifer hunt, and these three may still be rare out in the independent garden centers, I know I could make a special order through my favorite retailer, but I just haven’t done it yet. So, Santa, it’s up to you.

These are a few of my favorite things – all three are forms of Picea omorika, the Serbian spruce:

First on my list is a low, spreading, dwarf form named Picea omorika ‘Kamenz’. The one I’ve been admiring at Iseli is four or five feet across and about 10 inches tall. It has the typical two-toned needles of Picea omorika, with its green top and silver-coated underside. The needles radiate out from the branches in a way that they catch the light very well and seem to almost shimmer as the sun moves across the sky. This one looks to be a great choice for where a sturdy ground cover is desired as well as being a distinctive specimen in its own right.

Picea omorika 'Minima'
Picea omorika 'Minima' captivates my attention.

Number two is Picea omorika ‘Minima’. This enchanting little globe is covered with tiny, thin, two-toned needles giving ‘Minima’ a soft or delicate looking texture. Being the Serbian spruces are hardy to Zone 4, they are anything but delicate. Growth rate is still within the Dwarf range according to the chart published by The American Conifer Society, but it is on the slower growing end of the scale, creating a captivating, small globe-shaped plant that I have a difficult time taking my eyes off of when I am near.

Picea omorika 'Silberblue'
Picea omorika 'Silberblue' is a stunning beauty with silvery-blue needles and a perfectly symmetrical form.

Picea omorika ‘Silberblue’ is the third item on my wish list. This is a large growing tree with a perfectly symmetrical Christmas tree shape. It’s two-toned needles give the tree a silvery blue color that shines in the sun capturing the attention of anyone in its vicinity. Should Santa come through with this one, I’ll place it in a prominent place with room to grow and plan on it becoming a featured tree for future holiday decorations.

That’s it – my entire wish list for 2010. I’m hoping Santa reads my blog.

Ed-
Conifer Lover

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8 thoughts on “Dear Santa…

  1. How wonderful to live close to the Iseli display gardens!I think I would be there every other day! I am within a couple hundred miles of the Bickelhaupt Aboretum which has a wonderful 14 acre conifer collection in Clinton, Iowa, It’s been awhile since I’ve visited. I believe that is where I met Chub Harper who has been so well known in conifer circles here in the midwest and sadly passed on in 2009… what a generous wonderful man he was.
    In reference to the picea omorika varieties… I’ve installed a few new cultivars in the past couple years and notice needle loss after the first winter on these small plants… any thoughts? They are well within the appropriate climatic needs I believe… Thanks, Larry
    p.s. I hope Santa has been very pleased with your behavior this year!!

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    1. Hi Larry – We had an opportunity to visit Bickelhaupt a couple years ago – I loved it! A fantastic collection of dwarf conifers there. My initial thought on the needle loss the first winter is… wait and see what happens this coming year. Seriously, my first suspicion would be desication from cold, dry winter wind on young plants that are not yet fully established. On the other hand, you folks are probably burried in snow most of the winter, which would protect from that. I’ll ask my mid-west friend what he thinks.

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      1. Hello Ed and Larry – I think that Ed is right about some winter desication. If the damage showed up first thing in the spring, that would tend to confirm that. Newly planted conifers will sometimes suffer a bit of damage their first winter or two, even if they are zone hardy, because the roots are not established enough to provide adequate moisture when the root zone is frozen solid, and the needles are exposed to frigid temps and bright sunshine, especially when reflected off of snow. These past few winters have been particularly tough, too. Established conifers are much more resilient to the challenges that winter can dish out here in the Midwest than newly planted ones. So, like Ed said, give it another season or two, and see how it responds. Also, conifers with very small, fine needles are generally more susceptible to desication than are those with larger, thicker needles, for example Alberta Spruce (Picea glauca ‘Conica’) compared to most Colorado Blue Spruce varieties (Picea pungens). If they have very fine foliage but are rated as zone hardy for your area, you might plant them to the east or north of a building, a fence or some trees. This way, they won’t be in direct, bright, winter afternoon sun. This can make a big difference to some of those more sensitive conifers. Remember too, that with the low angle of the winter sun, they don’t have to be planted right next to the structure providing the shade, but can be several feet away. I hope this helps!

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  2. I think Santa will be delighted that someone wants conifers for Christmas instead of the latest X-box.

    Do you have a “Berliner’s Weeper?” — a weeping serbian spruce? I’ve got a one-year-old on my fire escape, which I know Jack about, and he seems to be a really slow grower. His trunk also goes off in a zig-zag. A leader appears to be taking shape, but who knows. He also doesn’t seems to have the 2 colored needles you describe in your serbian specimens? Do you think the nursery sent me one from Chernoble?

    Bryan

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    1. Hi Bryan – No, I don’t have a ‘Berliner’s Weeper’, but from what I’ve seen doing a Google search, it looks like my Christmas wish list has just grown by one plant. Thanks!

      Sounds to me like your plant is off to a great start – developing into a wonderfully unusual form.

      Ed-

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