The past couple of winters I have enjoyed adding a few new conifers to my collection through the process of grafting. Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to graft thousands of new conifers, professionally and just for fun. Although, for an assortment of reasons, my grafting years came to a sudden halt some time ago. In recent years I have enjoyed propagating a few sought after treasures in my little hobby greenhouse.
I planted a number of those treasures in my garden this past summer, and I am terribly excited to watch them grow and become mature specimens. One of those new conifers to my collection is one I have been interested in for a number of years. It has a very unique texture in its growth habit, and is one of the finest of the silvery/blue/greens to be found due to its prominent white stomatic lines on the underside of each needle, which are held on their branches in such a fashion as to light the tree up with their bright waxy brilliance.
The Serbian Spruce is known for this feature of bicolored foliage, and its cultivars, in their various shapes and forms, all display it to one degree or another. Picea omorika ‘de Ruyter’ is unique in its growth habit on this otherwise relatively “normal” broad, upright conical form. Each year the terminal cluster of buds – whether at the apex of the tree or at the tips of each branch or branchlet – will push forth a dominant central extension of new growth. At the base of this six or seven inch terminal growth are a thick cluster of buds, which also burst forth their new growth, becoming smaller branchlets of just two to three inches in length. All of this new growth is covered with varying lengths of blunt-tipped needles, longer at the base of the branch, held at an outward angle, while becoming shorter and lying more closely to the branch as they approach its tip.
My little tree is essentially just a terminal stem and its first cluster of branches at this point, and it will be many years before is becomes a notable specimen in my garden.
Although grafting is not for everyone, I intend to add a few new cultivars to my collection each year. I suppose I should begin to make my list for this winter’s fun!