I have been watching a relatively new conifer for several years now. When I had my first encounter, I thought the specimen was nice, but it didn’t jump out and grab my attention like some plants have over my lifetime. Now that I have observed a few specimens growing in the Jean Iseli Memorial Garden for the past five years, I must say that I am quite enamored with Picea pungens ‘Waldbrunn’.
This unique form of Colorado spruce is definitely a dwarf, growing an average of 3-4 inches per year. Its needles seem to be in perfect scale with the size of the plant – not growing too long or too short – they are stiff and sharply pointed as one might expect with this species of spruce. Growing with a low, spreading, mounding habit, ‘Waldbrunn’ can fit into today’s small landscapes and yet be an attractive and useful addition to larger gardens. Its unique, steel blue color sets it apart from other dwarf spruce choices. The Nest Spruce types are dark, rich green in color while other dwarf Colorado spruce forms are usually a brighter, more powder blue.
Recently I was talking with a friend about a gardening challenge that he was trying to solve in a portion of his back yard. His neighbor’s property must be a full 15 to 20 feet above the house-level of his back yard. There is quite a steep, tiered slope which makes the transition from the neighbor’s property down to the more level ground of my friend’s place. There is a good amount of rockery which lends to the nicely layered tiers of planting spaces but, toward the top, near the border is a partially open slope that had been planted with a combination of Tam juniper and English ivy. Over the years, several of the Junipers have died and the Ivy has made a strong attempt to take over as much real estate as possible. My friend has been working hard to eliminate the Ivy and desires to replace it and the remaining junipers with something more attractive.
I thought it might be fun to create a “checkerboard” effect with Picea pungens ‘Waldbrunn’ and Picea abies ‘Elegans’. ‘Elegans’ is a medium green color which pushes early in the spring with very bright green new foliage. It is also a slow growing, mounding, spreading form. Planting several of these, along with ‘Walbrunn’ in a checkerboard pattern along the top sloping area will create a fun, low maintenance solution to my friend’s problem. To ensure success, he will install drip irrigation so that each of these new plants will receive ample water – even on this steep slope. In many years, the plants will spread and begin to mingle creating less of a checkerboard and more of a mottled, colored tapestry which will hold the ground and prevent erosion, all while providing a lovely garden conversation piece.