Springtime blues

I can remember way back when I was a young lad, just beginning to learn about the amazing beauty of conifers, and specifically blue conifers. When I think of blue conifers, I immediately think of different cultivars of the Colorado Blue Spruce (Picea pungens). Although there are other groups of conifers that do have a few blue colored members, I think the most common and most prolific producers of stunning blue plants are the Colorado Blue Spruce. There are incredible full-sized trees such as, Picea pungens ‘Hoopsii’, ‘Fat Albert’, ‘Bonny Blue’ and ‘Avatar’ to name a handful, but there are stunning dwarf forms as well. One of the most popular is ‘Montgomery’, but other great dwarf forms are, ‘Sester Dwarf’, ‘Lundeby’s Dwarf’, ‘St. Mary’s Broom’ and ‘Procumbens’ which actually has a fairly vigorous growth rate, but it sprawls along the ground creating a bright blue ground cover.

A new dwarf, globe-shaped blue spruce in the foreground is being evaluated while Picea pungens ‘Avatar’ grows nearby. Picea pungens ‘Montgomery’ can be seen in the distance in another section of the Jean Iseli Memorial Garden.

Since the vast majority of plants available for our gardens have foliage which is essentially some shade of green, the inclusion of additional color creates a lot of interest and helps draw the eye (and feet) into and through a garden—which really is the point of having a garden anyway, right? Even yellow, gold and variegated plants can appear as just different shades of green and adding a stunning, bright blue conifer can break the monotony, add a wonderful contrast and increase the feelings of well-being that gardens naturally tend to induce.

Picea pungens ‘Montgomery’ is a stunning blue addition to a garden filled with green and yellow conifers and other colorful plants.

A few blue conifers placed some distance apart along a visual plane can draw the eye, and the viewer’s interest, deeper into the garden. With a well thought out design, this technique can also give a deeper sense of depth to the garden while providing several focal points to a vista view. Interspersed with other conifers of dark and light greens, yellows and golds, and the red foliage of Japanese Maples, Beech, or other ornamental plants, the blue conifers are a perfect complement to the well-planned, colorful garden.

This detail shot of the lush, soft, fresh blue foliage of Picea pungens ‘The Blues’ shows off the delicious color of the springtime blues.

This time of year, as the many cultivars of Colorado Blue Spruce push their fresh, colorful new foliage, is perhaps when the blues are at their peak, before the harsh summer sun hardens the foliage and autumn and winter rains slowly erode away some of the white waxy coating which gives these amazing plants their intensely beautiful blue color. The springtime blues are a happy blues!

Ed-
Conifer Lover

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2 thoughts on “Springtime blues

  1. Hi Ed,
    I stayed away from blue spruce, from a previous bad experience. I had a blue spruce once, could be the Colorado Blue Spruce, which was affected by spider mites. Heard that it is common problem for blue spruce. Any advice on how to overcome my reluctance to blue spruce? Thanks.

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    1. Hi Sok – I have several blue spruce, and have yet to have a spider mite problem on them. I have seen spider mite damage on Picea glauca ‘Conica’ and some of its dwarf cousins. Thankfully, I have not yet needed to spray them with chemicals. I do spray with tap water from a fairly high pressure hose at least once a day if I ever see any hint of damage. The little spider mites prefer a dry climate and seem to move away using this technique. I would think just going to you favorite independent garden center and looking at the assortment of blue spruce available would be the best way to overcome your reluctance to try them in your garden. Blue spruce to like a cold winter and like me, do not thrive in high humidity.

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