Back from the dead

Early last year I was given a great new conifer by a local grower friend. He had been growing this particular dwarf Sitka spruce for a number of years while harvesting scion wood off of it for his propagation purposes. My friend was in the process of re-working a large area of his landscape where this specimen was located, and since I had admired this particular plant for some time, he dug the plant and plopped it into a plastic pot as a special gift for me. I had been out of town at the time and about a week or so after he dug the plant I picked it up and brought it home to plant.

Of course, it was very cold and rainy, and I put off getting this great specimen into the ground for a couple of months. Once planted, I was careful to make sure it had plenty of water. Late last spring it finally pushed a small grunt of new growth. I was happy to see that it had survived, not expecting much from it that first year – especially since it had been neglected from the time it was dug.

Picea sitchensis 'Silberzwerg'
Tough as nails, Picea sitchensis ‘Silberzwerg’ has a great dwarf habit, excellent color and is useful in gardens throughout the country.

We had a bit of a hot spell, and I must not have put quiet enough water on this new planting, because most all of the new growth suffered from sun-scorch. I mentally kicked myself a few times and did my best to give this dwarf spruce better care through the remainder of the year. Unfortunately, as the year progressed, the worse it looked.

It seemed unchanged through the winter and then as my other conifers all began to push this spring, my poor neglected spruce just sat there. I looked the plant over carefully, and it did seem to have some viable buds – they just weren’t swelling yet. Time went on, and it continued to decline. I thought I had lost this new friend.

Then, seemingly overnight, as if it had come back from the dead, my Picea sitchensis ‘Silberzwerg’ popped its first bud, and then another, and another until the plant was covered, somewhat sparsely, with newly pushed foliage! Somehow, through my neglect, this great specimen has survived. I am even more determined to see to it that my ‘Silberzwerg’ not only survives, but puts on a good bud set for next year.

Picea sitchensis ‘Silberzwerg’ is rather new to the nursery trade and I think it will prove to be a great garden conifer. When healthy, it should put on 4-6 inches of new growth per year. When young, it will grow in a mounding, globe shape, but as it matures, I believe it will put on more definite top growth and become a very broad rounded upright mound of green and silvery-blue. The undersides of its very sharp needles have a prominent waxy covering making them near pure white, while the needle tops are a bluish-green color. With a great percentage of the undersides of the needles turned upward, exposing their bright undersides, gives the plant an overall silvery-blue appearance.

Dwarf habit, great color, Hardy to Zone five (and the ability to withstand some neglect on my part), I think ‘Silberzwerg’ has the potential to be an excellent addition to any garden.

Conifer Lover

4 thoughts on “Back from the dead

  1. I got one from Iseli in spring of 2009. That year we had a mild spring but a period of frost well into the spring. In addition to damage to other plants, the Sitka spruce was badly affected. (Coming from the west coast to Maine, the new foliage was too advanced to take a late spring cold snap. I kept picking off brown stuff into the summer. Having gone through this spring with no frost since mid-April, it is doing just great. Bud break was much later than on your coast, so even if we had a late cold snap it would have been OK.


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